"But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge self-control" (II Peter 1:5,6). Peter tells us that these qualities must be added through diligence. The foundation is faith--faith in what God has done to bring us into relationship, and faith in His promise that He will complete what He has begun in our lives. All of these items must be added in faith--that is, in relationship with God. They cannot be added by self-effort. What is the difference? Self-effort says, in effect, "If I try hard enough, I can do it." Faith waits quietly before God with this prayer: "Lord, I know that separate from You I am nothing and can do nothing. I have invited You into my life to take control, and I want your life to be expressed in this vessel of clay. Open my eyes to see and my ears to hear, that I may be led in your triumph this day." I do not ask God to obey for me, but I acknowledge in the very core of my heart that He and He alone is the source of my strength.
What does God do? God sheds light into my heart. He gives "seeing"--a place to obey. He speaks words of encouragement to my heart. He speaks of His presence, His love, and His grace. He does not throw the whole book at me, but just gives me one step. By spiritual understanding, I know what to do. Now I must choose. Will I obey? Will I respond to what God is showing me? God has done all He will do. If I respond, in my obedience I will find strength beyond myself. In this place I will know the grace of God, for it is God at work within, both to will and to do His good pleasure. On the contrary, if I do not choose to obey God in the clear step before me, I grieve the Holy Spirit. I show my lack of trust in God, and I show that I do not love Him. My relationship with God begins to grow cold, and that which I saw becomes dim. We may reason in our minds to justify ourselves, but in our unbelief, we will rob ourselves of God's grace which was there all the time.
But if I respond to God, what does this do? It brings self under God's control. We call it self-control. The opposite of self-control is lawlessness. Instead of our members being under God's control, they are ruled by many other things. The salvation that is ours in Christ delivers us from lawlessness and brings us under Christ. When we are under His authority, He can lead us into green pastures where we feed in His presence. The joys are wonderful, but we do not drift into this place. It is active obedience that brings self under God's control. It takes diligent consistent obedience to see our bodily members disciplined and our "whole man" brought under the control of Christ. We may have the idea that this will happen automatically, but God does not work separate from us. He works in us, and through us, but never separate from our choice. His glory is to involve us in the process. Often we are praying for God to do something that He will not do. We must wait on God for light and direction, but once we have the direction, our time of waiting is over. Now is the time to rise up and diligently obey what He has shown us.