"Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." 2 Peter 1:5-8

Moral excellence and religious legalism are two completely different things although they may, in fact, look alike. Faith in response to grace and forgiveness is the foundation of a morality that is the natural expression of a transformed heart. Conformity in fear of punishment or rejection is the bedrock of socially compliant behavior yet may mask a dark heart. Both seem to be "good" but only one is reflective of life in Christ. The Apostle Peter challenges us to consider these qualities of a transformed life as "true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Holiness is not about "trying" to be good; holiness occurs when we persistently respond to the God within us who wants good things for His children. Holiness is the fruit of abiding (John 15). God knows that when His children respond to the Spirit who comforts, convicts, and guides us; we will naturally get better as we walk with Christ.

The first three years of my life as a Christian were spent trying to be good; the next thirty-five have been about opening my life to a God who wants good things for me. My early years as a Christian, in particular, proved that I cannot be "good enough"; but I CAN take my heavenly Father's hand and walk through life daily.

Somehow, when you hold closely to the One who loves you deeply, sin becomes less attractive. If He loves me this much, then why wouldn't I want to take care of myself and respect others? I want to please my Father who cares so much for me. There is a reason behind every rule He gives. He doesn't want His children to get hurt. That is how loving parents are; they sometimes say "no" to keep their children safe. This is also the heart and nature of transformation; paying attention to our Lord helps us make better decisions. Naturally, when we spend time with Him, we begin to take on His characteristics, traits and perspectives. Holiness pursues us. Our responsibility is to respond.

Let's look at this scripture a little closer. 

Diligence... paying close attention to the things in life that move us in the direction we want to go. 

Moral excellence... humbly living in obedience to the One who desires only good things for His children.

Knowledge... awareness and insight into the mind of God through His Holy Scriptures.

Self-control... recognizing that the difference between temptation and sin is huge; sin is a decision to act upon ungodly impulses.

Perseverance... remaining faithful to our calling regardless of the struggles, trials, and tribulations that we face.

Godliness... yielding to God's Spirit who desires to shape us more and more into the image of Christ.

Brotherly kindness... friendship that expresses itself as a willingness to serve and care for others who need a gentle word.

Love... entering the lives of others full of "grace and truth" and intertwining our journey with the path of others.

Diligence... moral excellence... knowledge... self-control... perseverance... godliness... brotherly kindness... love.

"For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." 

We are called to live holy lives in reflection of our Lord who is without sin. Yet we are sinners. The only way to shine these qualities in our lives is through abiding to the vine, Jesus. Our efforts will not be useless; they will not be unfruitful. We begin this process by "applying all diligence". In other words, we must make a serious decision to live our lives in response to God's call in us for holiness. We desire for these qualities to be ours and increasing, for we share in the true knowledge of the Lord.

As you go through this week, turn your focus away from your efforts to be good and towards the God who loves you so passionately. When your thoughts wander and you realize you heart has gone the wrong place, turn back to your Loving Father and say "Thank you for calling me back to you." Don't waste time trying, trying, trying to be good. Spend time opening your heart and mind to the One who draws you into holiness.

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