You don’t drift into Godlikeness. You don’t automatically become godly just because you are a Christian. For many years, I thought this way. I thought that God would pick me up and toss me into a place called “godliness.” Since I was justified by faith alone, surely I’d be sanctified by faith alone. After all, I didn’t want to be accused of believing in works-righteousness. So, it took many years of frustration, heart-ache, and re-orientation for me to realize the error of my thinking.
A journey to godliness involves desire, vision, intention, and means. I’ve written about the first three components already.
Three Basic Practices
I am learning that these basic exercises do wonders in moving me more towards godliness. Why these three?
- These three basic practices are taught by Jesus, the Apostles and the early Church moving forward. Unfortunately, they’ve fallen on hard times. Modern Christianity has reduced Christian living to less helpful and more convenient practices. Struggle and “long-suffering” have lost their necessary place in a psychologicalized and superficial Christianity.
- You will become more and more godly as you take up these simple challenges. For these practices to aid your journey to godliness, they must be…well…practiced. Growth comes as you struggle and persevere in their practice. You do what you don’t want to do in order to accomplish what you want to be.
1. Prayer – Quietly commune with God in your heart and mind. This is not an incessant chit-chat with God. It’s more like a meaningful conversation filled with listening. Jesus teaches us to do this by his own example. He often went out to a secluded place to commune with his Father. Training yourself in the art of prayer is the first step to godliness. You become like the One you spend time with. Begin by praying: “Lord, teach me to pray.”
How does prayer help you become more like God? The persons of the Trinity are in communion with one another always. So much so that they probably do not even use words to communicate. They know one another. Christians in silent prayer also allow for this God-like kind of communion.
2. Fasting – Abstaining from what is good so that something better will result. This is the practice of letting go of what you think you “need” in order to learn to rely on God’s provision. Jesus, in his humanity, fasted. By fasting, you confront your mind’s faulty perceptions of certain foods and activities as absolute essentials to life. And, you discover new places for God in your life.
Fast from certain foods – meat, sugar, fast food, caffeine, or dairy and see what happens. Or, fast from certain activities – watching TV, listening to the car radio, going to movies, talking, interrupting a conversation, complaining, criticizing, or spending so much time on your computer.
Exercise yourself by fasting and you will experience what a hold these things have on you – how attached you are to them. You will learn how little you trust God. You’ll get a glimpse of how weak you are and how much you need to experience God.
Fasting helps you become more like God as your inner passions and the world lessen their grip on you and as the life of God finds more room to operate in your life.
3. Almsgiving – Offer something valuable for the good of another and yourself. Give what you have for the good of others especially if it’s inconvenient or sacrificial for you. I’d recommend giving to people to whom you wouldn’t ordinarily give. God sends rain on the good and the evil. Jesus teaches us to bless our enemies as well as our friends.
Give money to the man holding the sign at your exit. Ask his name. Pray for him later by name. You don’t know what he’ll do with the money. Don’t presume you know. Give without judgment, like God.
Find something you value – a collector’s item, books, clothing, time – and give it to someone you don’t like all that much. Do it anonymously if need be. Offer hospitality to a stranger.
You become more like God as you give graciously and sacrificially to others. God gives to sinners and saints alike. God-like love grows in you as you care for the poor. God continually gives of himself. When you imitate him, you become more like him.
Prayerfully pick a practice. Determine how you will implement it. Begin today.