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.[featured-image single_newwindow=”false”]
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.
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.