Do Not Make This One Major Mistake On Your Journey Towards Godliness

Godliness Calls For Grace and Effort

Tomorrow I head for a conference in Birmingham. But I’m getting nowhere unless there’s gasoline in my car. A sailor is adrift unless his sails are filled with the wind. An energy source is needed for vehicles to work. The vehicle and the energy source work together resulting in movement.

Your journey towards godliness is not ONLY by grace but is ALWAYS by grace. A major step on your journey towards godliness is to experience the reality that you have a role in becoming like God. AND, your primary role is to participate more and more in the grace of God that is already active in you. HOW you learn to participate in God’s grace is what Paul means when he says, “train yourself unto godliness.” Training yourself by God’s grace in godliness is a description of the Christian life. It leads you to “become by grace what God is by nature.” (Athanasius, c. 296/98 – 373)

I am not saying you can become a god or become like God in His essence. But, you actually can become more and more God-like as I described in my last post. The Apostle Peter describes this “becoming more and more God-like” as: “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1.4). Learning to be “partakers” is the quest of the Christian life.

Grace?

The notion of “grace” is greatly misunderstood. It is not a “thing” given to you. Grace has its source in God and is therefore the very vitality of God in you. “Grace” is one way of describing God’s life and activity flowing in you. The Father’s life. The Son’s holiness. The Spirit’s working. All are grace.

It seems that when I challenge people to put in some effort to become godly, somebody raises the issue of grace. It’s as if they are saying, “We don’t need to do anything to become godly because it’s all by God’s grace.” Or, “You’re talking works righteousness and we know Paul condemns that.” Their theological notions get in the way of reality.

Grace and Effort?

Reality is: you become godly through training yourself by grace. In other words, godliness comes through grace-infused training.

St. John Chrysostom (349-407) writes:  “It is not just what we want that matters. We need God’s grace to complement our efforts and ought to rely not on them but on God’s love for us.”

Becoming godly is not simply a matter of deciding, planning, and implementing. Those efforts must be directed and filled by the always-active grace of God.

Try to become godly without experiencing God’s grace working in you and you’ll end up a frustrated legalist or self-satisfied do-gooder.

Try to become godly apart from exercising yourself and you’ll end up paralyzed in passivity, weighed down by intellectual notions, or grasping at the wind of barron ideas.

Here’s my point: you can only become godly by grace AND you can only become godly by training yourself. It’s not either/or, it’s both/and!

Learning to participate in God and His grace is the first step to godliness. Don’t try to become godly without participating in God’s grace.

How are you learning to participate in God’s grace? Or, is this a new idea for you? Share your thoughts below. And share this post with those you care about. 

Dr. K

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

6 thoughts on “Do Not Make This One Major Mistake On Your Journey Towards Godliness

  1. Dallas Willard said something like “grace isn’t opposed to effort; it’s opposed to earning.”

    Keith, what conference are you going to in Birmingham?

    • Hi Tim. That now “famous” quote was in the back of my heart as I wrote this post…though I wasn’t really addressing the “earning-effort” issue. I did want to make it clear, before I waded into the “training” aspect of godliness, that grace is mandatory/essential in our efforts. I have certainly relied too much on my own human abilities in my attempts to become more Christlike. I’m learning that is so much “more God, less me” without it being “all God, no me.” The three-lecture “conference” (actually a lecture series) is in Birmingham, Alabama, held at Beeson Divinity School. There is a Birmingham, England, right? :-). The speaker is Dr. John Behr, the Dean of St. Vladimir’s Seminary. In January I finished his book, “The Mystery of Christ” and thought the timing was great to try to meet him. I’ll use it as a mini-retreat. Then high-tale it back home to celebrate Valentine’s Day with my lovely bride. Blessings to you, brother! Thanks be to God for all things! Keith

  2. I agree with your point – it is only by the grace of God, and we need to cooperate with what He is doing. Yesterday it looked like this for me. I got an email, made assumptions and imposed emotions on it, and was tempted to take offence. Realizing that what I was feeling was not the peace of God, and knowing the character of the emailer, I recognized the test or trap. So I prayed and God gave grace to turn away from being offended. Then the Spirit reminded me of Eph. 4:3 – endeavoring to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace. Had I clung to the imaginations of my mind and the feelings of my heart, I would not have been training myself for godliness. Please don’t think I’m bragging on the outcome; rather, I’m confessing my faults in hopes that others will be encouraged. It’s little victories, one at a time, that make up the training. All Glory to God for all things.

    • Thank you for sharing your story. Training comes in all forms. That you listened to the Spirit of God is probably a result of earlier “training” in other areas of your life. Training involves, as you say, “little victories” so that when we face the bigger challenges we are “in shape” to deal with them. I hope your story encourages many. Thank you for engaging. You are a blessing to many. Dr. K

    • Hey Chris! Great to hear from you. Happy to have you on the journey with me. I miss seeing you regularly. I hope you’re experiencing God’s grace in everything. Thanks be to God for all things!! Keith

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