Diligence and the Christian life

Some time ago I was having a problem with my e-mail.  Try as I might, I could not send e-mail.  My computer just didn’t want to talk to the server.  Yet it was retrieving e-mail just fine.  Grrrr.  This has been a problem that had recurred periodically but would then go away.  Not on that Tuesday.  Every trick I knew to make the program work failed.  Desperation prevailed.  I called the tech guys at the internet service.

It turned out to be a simple problem.  My settings were wrong.  So when my computer went to talk with the server, one was talking politics and the other baseball diamonds, and they didn’t know what to do with each other.  In essence there was a permanent disconnection between the two.  Now they’re both “talking baseball,” and everything is copacetic.

I’m afraid for many believers, there is also a “disconnect” in their spiritual lives.  Biblical and spiritual knowledge is not accomplishing its intended purpose in their lives.

In an age where information has become a highly developed industry and commodity, we have done the same to Biblical knowledge.  Never before has sound biblical truth been available in such quantity with books, research journals, Christian periodicals and news sources, radio ministries, and web sites.  We have gathered, analyzed, debated, refuted, protected, discriminated (in the best senses of the word), disseminated, and stored truth.  But for the American church in the 21st century, I am concerned that one thing is yet lacking — the application of the truth.

Truth is not only to be discovered.  It is to be ingested and used.  Knowledge is not given for the sake of knowledge alone.  It is given to be lived.  It is given to transform and change us.  In fact, Peter is emphatic (2 Pt. 1:5ff):

“For this very reason, adding your diligence [to the divine promises], employ every effort in exercising your faith to develop virtue (moral excellence and resolution, Christ-like energy), and in [exercising] virtue [develop] knowledge [understanding and application of truth], and in [exercising] knowledge [develop] self-control [holding in one’s own desires and cravings]…” [2 Peter 1:5-6a; Amplified (with some additional emphases).]

In other words, exercised knowledge (applied truth) will produce self-discipline (the restraint of self-indulgent cravings and desires) in our lives.  When knowledge is properly absorbed, it produces maturity (3:18); when it is left unapplied, it produces arrogance and dissension (1 Cor. 8:1ff).

What is significant to note is that in verses three and four, Peter had made the bold claim that in Christ, God “has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness.”  Jesus is all-sufficient for all our needs.  And yet we are not to understand that to mean that we do not need to work at our salvation, that God does all the work and that we are entirely passive.  Yes, God does the work, but we also work at our salvation.

So Peter says, be eager and zealous with extraordinary commitment to apply the truths that God has made available to you.  Verse five is Peter’s version of what Paul said to the Philippians:  “So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil 2:12–13).  You obey and work with fear and honor of the Lord, knowing that as you work, it is only because of the work of God in you that enables you to work.

So here is the encouragement:  when you are meditating on and reading Scripture, don’t set aside your Bible without first asking and pondering the question, “what are the truths in these words that can mold me to make me more like Christ today?”  To read it and study it without consciously making an effort to use it is to leave the truth of God’s Word disconnected from your life.  Work hard at applying and working out the truth of God in your life.

One writer has well said, “The battle of the intellect [and my heart] is that either my desires will conform to the truth, or truth will conform to my desires.”  Apply the truth, letting it work its work in you, and you will be transformed by it; ignore Scripture’s application, and you will twist Scripture to make it fit your own agenda.

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