But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Peter 1:5-8
History and Context:
The second epistle of Peter was probably one of the last letters written in the new testament. It is the first of the new testament books that seems to refer to other new testament books as scripture. There are references to Jude as well as to some of the Pauline epistles. 2 Peter identifies the deity of Jesus Christ and addresses heresy that had risen in the church at that time. The letter was written towards the end of Peter's life, probably just a few years before his eventual martyrdom circa 65-67 AD.
The text shows a progression of our faith. At the beginning all we need is faith; faith in God and His ability to save us, faith in His grace. Then as we grow in our faith we are to add virtue; an inner morality, the moral principles which we hold on to and live by. That virtue leads to a greater knowledge of how to live by these principles; which then leads us to self-control, the ability to control our actions and what we do. As we learn to control our actions we develop perseverance, and are able to push through the trial and difficult times which form us to godliness. Finally we begin learning what it truly means to be kind to our brothers, which leads us to truly love them like God loves them. This is the same path which Paul was talking about in Philippians when he said "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12). We are "saved by grace through faith" but that is only the beginning.
Again the scripture has given us steps, so the challenge for each of us depends on which step we are on. Have you noticed that it is difficult for you to love like Christ loved? Have you found yourself not truly acting in godliness, or having a difficult time going through trials with joy? Maybe you realize that you don't have the self-control that you wish you had. Often we tend to focus on the outward actions and forget that the beginning is inside. If we do not start with faith and virtue, we will never truly achieve self-control and godliness, and in procession we will never truly find ourselves in a position to love those around us. If it seems that I am describing you then forget, for a while, about the outward actions and start seeking God to change you on the inside. Once God changes you on the inside, the outside will become almost automatic.
Lord, change my heart, change me on the inside. Build my virtue, my moral beliefs, to be like yours. Build my faith in your grace. Build my understanding of who you are and what you want for me. I trust you to change me from the inside out. Even if I may continue to sin, to make mistakes, I know that you are changing me and you will not leave this work unfinished. Thank you Lord! In Jesus' name, Amen!