I recently finished reading The Practice of Godliness by Jerry Bridges. The book first defines godliness and then runs through biblical traits of godly character and defines them from a biblical perspective.
I’m not meaning for this post to be a book review, but this book did help me to refocus my mind. What is at the core of Christian living? Is it evangelism? Is it love? Is it theology? Is it morality? All of these things definitely are a part of Christian living, but they are not central to the Christian life.
At the heart of the Christian life is Jesus. This sounds simple, and it’s the answer every Christian would give, but I’m not sure if it’s truly what they believe or live. This book challenged me to once again commit to living selflessly with my motivation for doing so rooted in the grace I find in Christ.
We should first focus our eyes on Jesus. This reminds us of our sin and what we deserve and the grace God has had on us. We find joy and motivation in the love and grace of God. This then should motivate us to turn from constantly taking for ourselves to constantly seeking ways to give of ourselves. This self-sacrifice or giving of ourselves is called love, and this love should be completely fixed on God. Some people get this confused and think that if they love God, He will and should give them what they want. The problem with that thinking is that the love is focused on self, not God. It is impossible to say you love God if you view Him as merely the means to an end. God is both the means and the end. He is the reason we are in pursuit, and He is the one of whom we are in pursuit. God is the one who graciously gives us the desire and strength to pursue Him.
And how do we love God? We love God by self-sacrifice. Remember, love is self-sacrifice. We sacrificially live a life of purity and self-discipline in our mind and thoughts. We live in obedience to Him. When we live in obedience to God, our relationships are affected. Loving God is not a cold-hearted, law abiding morality. A major area of obedience is in our love for others.
I don’t like what the phrase, “Allow God to work through you” has become because I feel it causes people to think of this as a mystical experience. I know the intentions behind the phrase are good because the wording gives God credit for our good deeds. With that, I agree. However, we shouldn’t wait to be empowered to do acts of love for others, we already are empowered. Allowing God to work through us is an action we must take. I view our actions of loving others in two categories: passive and active. Passive is when someone provokes us. Someone causes us to feel impatient and causes us to feel bitter or tempts us to retaliate in some way. When we think of the grace we have received because of Christ, then we can have grace on the people around us. Active love is when we are actively looking for ways to meet the needs of those around us, especially our brothers and sisters in Christ. This is the motivation that should color every interaction we have with people. We should have an attitude of grace and service.
Too many times I have had interactions with others where I am only seeking to gain something for myself. This only shows a lack of trust in God’s provision. I am not saying we should not receive anything from others at all. There would be no point in giving of myself if I thought people were not allowed to receive any kind of loving action or gift. What I believe is that our focus should be on the benefit of others, and we should trust God to bring people into our lives who will also be servants and benefit us. We cannot force another person to love us, and we should not manipulate someone to love us. Only God can cause a person to selflessly love another person.
I’m going to post more on this topic soon, but I’m going to end this post with a quote from page 201 in The Practice of Godliness:
“But true goodness does not look to the recipients, nor even to the results, of its deeds for its reward. It looks to God alone, and, finding His smile of approval, it gains the needed strength to carry on.”