As the saying goes, it’s important to get things in the right order or they just won’t work. The same applies with the Christian life: Faith comes before fruit.
We know this intuitively in other contexts. If I buy a juicer (to make orange juice), sit it on the shelf, plug it in, turn it on, put my cup under the outlet and expect orange juice to come out, I’m going to be disappointed. Unless, I first put some oranges in. The analogy only goes so far, but the general idea is you need oranges to make orange juice. No oranges, no orange juice.
There is a temptation to also approach Christianity the wrong way around. We strive to live to certain standards or morals to gain (or retain) God’s acceptance and approval. If I keep the golden rule… If I love my neighbour… If I show charity… etc then God will accept, love, bless me. To pursue those things without having first received life from God is a little bit like buying an expensive juicer without any oranges and expecting juice!
In 2nd Peter, we are told that we are given EVERYTHING we need for life and godliness through knowing Jesus. Once we have received God’s gift of life we can nourish and supplement that as we grow in the likeness of Jesus. If someone gave you an orange tree seedling, you have EVERYTHING you need to make orange juice. You just need to faithfully, diligently nurture it. Having orange juice will be a byproduct of having a healthy orange tree. It doesn’t make the tree a better tree – it can’t become MORE of an orange tree.
The virtues of Jesus Christ are a byproduct, a fruit, of knowing him, experiencing his power and resting in his promises. Pursuing these qualities doesn’t make you MORE of a Christian or more loved or more accepted. We “make every effort” to add these things because we already are loved and accepted because we, “through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious” as the original Christians, like the Apostle Peter. Have you received new life in Christ or are you just a fancy juicing machine without any oranges?