If you live in my town, you have been given the right to use the library. Far more than simply being allowed to check out books, you can take full advantage of a whole bunch of pretty cool extra services. For example, recently, on a long trip through Texas, I connected to the library with my cell phone and was soon listening to an audio book as the hours and miles flew by. Everyone who lives here has been given all those wonderful opportunities. Not everyone uses them.
Peter wrote about a similar situation for those who follow Jesus:
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. (2 Peter 1:3-4)
If you sign up for a library card, you are given free access to a long list of amazing opportunities. But they are worthless unless you use them. When you enter into a relationship of trust with Jesus, which Peter refers to as “the knowledge of Him,” you are given free access to everything necessary for the fullest and most satisfying good life. Amazingly, you are promised the ability to partake of the very nature of God! Those gifts and promises are yours. But they lie dormant and of little value unless you put them to use. So then, how do we do that?
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. (2 Peter 1:5-7)
You don’t earn the gifts and promises by doing these things; you already have been given them. But, by doing these things, you gradually learn to use what you have been given more fully. Peter’s words might sound a bit stuffy. Here’s my paraphrase:
Because you have these great promises, as you come to Jesus by faith, make a practice of getting in step with His good way of living (virtue). Intentionally get to know Him better (knowledge). Let the influence of His Spirit control you from the inside out, particularly when you are tempted to mess up (self-control). Keep at it – practice makes a real difference (steadfastness). Adjust your thinking and attitude in life to really appreciate and enjoy your interaction with God (“godliness” is a word whose component parts means enjoyable worship!) Let the joy of enjoying fellowship with God spill over into genuine love for others (brotherly affection).
Living like that, Peter says, helps us take full advantage of all we have been given in Jesus.
For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:8)