Sep 29, 2023
How does the Lord grow us in godliness?
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Philippians 2:12-13
As we see in Philippians 2:12-13, there’s an interesting dynamic. Paul told the believers at the church of Philippi (and now us) to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” but he adds, “for it is God who works in you.”
When I read these verses and as I ponder the opening question, two words come to mind.
Method and Mystery.
We will take mystery first.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5
There’s no doubt that God is at work in the heart of the believer, even giving the initial faith needed in order to be restored, by grace, to God. And, without an abiding relationship with the Lord, there is no spiritual growth. In fact, there’s simply no spiritual fruit at all. We can clean up our lives a bit and we can put on a show (both for a little while) but true spiritual growth and fruit require a work of the Lord.
And, here’s why this is a mystery. We don’t often see God working in our lives. We may not even “feel” that He is working. We may believe that He works in us, but typically, we don’t realize we are growing even as we are growing. If often takes reflecting back on our lives, maybe after a few months or years, to see that God has indeed grown us.
In many ways, it’s similar to watching our children grow. We don’t see the incremental inches as they grow taller with each passing day, but when we look back over the 10 years from 6 to 16, we are overwhelmed by the growth in their lives.
So, where does method come in?
As the Lord works in our heart, He begins to change our desires. Our appetite for the world and its pleasures wane. Our hunger and thirst for righteousness grows. If we are a part of a strong local church, which we are at Restoration Church of Sanford, we begin to see opportunities to grow offered by the church or observed as we watch other believers engage in spiritual disciplines as they work out their faith.
As we begin to engage in new habits: Bible study, prayer, worship, serving, evangelizing and more, the Holy Spirit uses these disciplines of the faith to bring growth that we never expected - growth that we could not manufacture.
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to ride an electric bike through Acadia National Park in Maine during the fall season. As I climbed on the bike, I expected to turn on the motor and simply start speeding around. But I quickly learned that I had to start pedaling before the motor would kick in and allow me to soar through the scenic trails.
It was a powerful lesson to me about the way God works to grow us. When we begin to step out in faith to practice spiritual disciplines, He shows up and empowers those “methods” to grow us in godliness.
He can, and He does, work in our lives through many types of circumstances. But, there is a satisfying and blessed work that He does when we show up, trusting in Him and His ways and seeking Him with the disciplines that His Word commands.
"And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him." Hebrews 11:6
As we learn about disciplines we have not yet practiced, they may sound hard. It may even feel like work as we start the practice of new habits. But, those habits soon become delight as we realize the rewards of their practice - knowing God and growing in godliness.
“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.”2 Peter 1:3-4
Our God is good. His ways are perfect. He has given us all we need for life and godliness as we walk with Him. Spiritual disciplines are a method to walk in those good gifts.
Will you join me on Tuesdays, beginning October 3, as our church learns and practices the disciplines of the faith as we grow in godliness together.