Of Discipline and Diligence

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. (2 Peter 1:5-7)

Very often there is what we must needs describe as a mystical view of faith. This certainly accounts for the trouble in many people. By a mystical view I mean a conception of faith which always thinks of it as a whole. Putting it negatively I mean that such people do not realize that faith needs to be supplemented by virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness and charity, as the apostle shows here. They have one formula only and the one formula is that you must always be looking to the Lord’, and as long as you look to the Lord’ there is nothing else to do. They say that any attempt to do anything else is dropping back to the ‘salvation by works’ position. So if you have a problem in your Christian life they say to you: ‘Just look to the Lord, abide in the Lord’.

This is a very common error.

You will find it in a most interesting form in the case of expositors who hold this view. In expounding certain passages of Scripture where much emphasis is put upon details they are obviously in difficulty, because from their standpoint you must not be concerned about details. There is only one thing to do, you ‘abide in the Lord and look to Him’ and as long as you do that there is nothing more to be done. This is a most productive cause of this kind of spiritual depression and lethargy with which we are dealing. Such people spend their time in this unhappy condition. All along they are trying to apply this exhortation to ‘just abide in the Lord’, and to look to the Lord’, and for a while all seems to be well, but then somehow or another something seems to go wrong and they do not seem to be ‘abiding’ and they are unhappy once more. The problem returns, and so the whole of their life is spent in trying to maintain this one position which they recognize…

What is the treatment prescribed by the apostle for this condition? It is just the reverse of the cause of the trouble. First and foremost he emphasizes ‘all diligence’. ‘Make every effort’— according to another translation. That is it—‘ make every effort’—‘ beside this’, ‘for this cause’, ‘in the light of these things’— the exceeding great and precious promises that are given, with all the things that appertain to life and godliness, and because you have escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust— because of all these things make every effort, give all diligence, or as it is translated in the tenth verse, be more zealous than ever before to do these things. Here is the treatment then, the exercise of discipline and of diligence…

Be more zealous, be still more active, he says. And, of course, there is no contradiction at all. The error of justification by works is in trusting to the discipline of your own soul to save your soul; but the opposite to trusting to your works is not to do nothing, it is to do everything but not to put your trust in any of it. It is not the works that are wrong, it is the faith in your works, trusting in your works. But what a subtle danger this is. It seems to me that one of the chief dangers in Protestantism today, and especially in evangelical circles is that, in our fear of the error of justification by works, we have been saying that works do not matter at all. We argue that faith alone counts, and because I am a man of faith it does not matter what I do and my life can be thoroughly lacking in discipline. Out upon the suggestion! The opposite to a false trust in works is not indolence, lack of discipline and doing nothing, it is to be diligent and more diligent, to be zealous, and to add to your faith. But all the time you must realize that your action alone will never be enough, but that God is certainly a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him…

If we are unhappy and depressed Christians it is more than likely that it is all due to that lack of discipline. Let us therefore be up and doing, and giving all diligence, let us supplement our faith and not be afraid. Let us get our ideas clear and then put them into practice, and supplement our faith with this strength and vigour, with this knowledge, with faith with this strength and vigour, with this knowledge, with this temperance, with this patience, godliness, brotherly kindness and love. Let us begin to enjoy our Christian life and to be useful and helpful to others. Let us grow in grace and knowledge and so be an attraction to all who know us to come and join with us in the like precious faith, and to experience the blessedness of these exceeding great and precious promises which never fail.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cures,  Zondervan, Kindle Edition, (207-208; 210-211; 216).

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