PART 8 GOD’S ABUNDANT LIFE

Wed, 10/19/2022 - 11:45am

PART 8 GOD’S ABUNDANT LIFE

Do You Think That This Teaching Is Malarkey?

So, you might believe that what I’ve said pertaining to experiencing God’s abundant life could be just malarkey. How can what I’ve communicated to you be proven true? There’s only one basis that I can think of. On the basis of the Word of God. Do you believe that God’s Word confirms what has been presented in this study?

As far as the Word of God goes, consider these verses concerning how we can experience God’s abundant life.

Colossians 3:10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:

We’re instructed to put on the new man (the new person), we’re now in Christ; in whom a new character in course is being formed by means of knowledge (knowing our self in the light of God) so that we (in our soul) reflect, like a mirror, the wisdom, righteousness, and goodness58 of God.               

Ephesians 4:22-23 That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;

We’re told to put off (like the metaphor of taking off clothes) the former conversation (manner of life) the old man (the person whom we used to be) whose former habits were the result of being dominated by the totally depraved nature, the lusts of which were excited by deceit, i.e., by deceitful influences seducing to sin, and instead, choose to be renewed in the spirit of your mind, i.e., to be spiritually transformed, to take on a new mind. This renewal of the mind, this spiritual transformation, takes place when we put on the Word of God.  In other words, we’re made anew in the attitude of our mind when we choose to appropriate God’s perspective.

Psalms 119:11 Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.

As we hide (memorize; store up) God’s Word in our hearts, committing sin in our mental attitude, speech, and subsequently in our behavior will lessen.

1 John 2:5 But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.

And if we keep on keeping God’s Word (all that He has made known to us as His will in regard to our conduct), then the love of God will be produced in us by the Holy Spirit and perfected (manifested) toward others.

    

How will we know when the spiritual reality of operating in God’s love has taken place in our lives?

Our thoughts about ourselves, others, and the circumstances in life will be different. We’ll replace negative thoughts and feelings concerning our [lives] with uplifting scriptural thoughts. We’ll look for and think encouraging thoughts about others. We’ll take difficult situations to God in prayer.

Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

There’s one more thing you might be wondering about. Aren’t we supposed to perform good works? Shouldn’t this be what our Christian life focuses on?

Initially, no. This is what most churches will talk about from the pulpit. Do this, do that! Don’t miss church! Get involved! Give finances sacrificially! Don’t sin!

The problem is that many Christians will try to comply. They want to be accepted by their fellow believers and leadership. They give financially. They attend most if not all of the church functions. And they try to behave better.

But there’s little or no teaching on the confession of sin, recovery, and the renewing of the mind. Therefore, the ministry of the Holy Spirit remains inoperative. And all that we’re doing is being accomplished in our own effort devoid of divine perspective, power, and motivation - what a sad state.

1 Timothy 2:3b-4 …God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.

Do you want to know something? You don’t have to remain in this [quandary.] You know what you need to do so that your walk with God is rich in His abundant life. Don’t let anything interfere with [it] and enjoy God’s inner blessings forevermore.

And when someone asks you [what] the evidence of the Spirit-filled life [is,] what will you say? If you’re still not sure, I’ll leave an article with you to read, which will remind us of what this is.

 

[WHAT EVER] HAPPENED TO PURSUING GODLINESS?

In my [experience,] most Christians aren’t very interested in godliness. That’s a strong statement, but I remain persuaded that modern evangelical culture has a real problem here.

My experience is that calls to godliness among modern Christians are largely met with silence and slowly coasting tumbleweed. Sadly, this appears to be just as true at the ministry conferences and pastors’ retreats as in churches. It doesn’t excite or interest us much. The Bible tells us endlessly to “be holy, be godly, pursue righteousness.” But that doesn’t get our hearts racing. What excites us are new ministry strategies and initiatives. That always produces excitement and an eagerness to get involved! Evangelicals are activists. We tend to get excited about outward actions, not personal renewal or repentance.

In so [doing,] we miss much of what the Bible says. The Bible [says “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified”] (1 Thessalonians 4:3). Read that again. This passage declares God’s will for your life! Why doesn’t that get us excited? Why doesn’t it produce a buzz? Don’t you want God’s best for you? Why don’t we want to talk about that and explore every facet of it?!

But, to our shame, godliness doesn’t get us excited. If you want to get a church excited, announce a new church building project. Worldliness, it seems, is far more exciting than godliness.

 

The Practicality of Godliness

During my studies [I’ve] had the privilege of spending a lot of time reading the writings of Christians from the [sixteenth and seventeenth] centuries ([i.e.,] Reformers and Puritans). One of the things that has repeatedly struck me is that they were obsessed with godliness. They knew that God’s purpose for us is not only our justification in [Christ] but our transformation into his image (Romans 8:29). The Bible’s call to holy living is reflected in the priorities of early Reformed authors in a way that I [don’t] see reflected among Christians today. They had their own problems and blind [spots,] too, obviously. But they were clear on the priority of godliness.

If they were obsessed with godliness, today [we’re] obsessed with pragmatics. [We ask, what will produce the best results?] I suspect that’s the problem. Perhaps godliness just seems impractical to us. Perhaps we fear that it threatens to make us “too heavenly minded to be of [no] earthly [good,”] as the saying goes. But the Bible claims the opposite:

…train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. (1 Timothy 4:7-9) [New International Version]

The [practically minded] among us should pay attention: godliness is of immense practical value in the here-and-now. Furthermore, godliness is valuable for everything. [It’s] the most practical thing you can pursue.

 

Five Roadblocks to the Pursuit [of] Godliness

Allow me to offer five observations of things I think prevent us [from] pursuing godliness as we should:

 

1) Godliness is often redefined as involvement in ministry

Godliness is not pursued because various activities often stand in as an effective replacement for it. For many of [us,] a “[godly Christian”] is someone who goes to church and Bible study each week, does their quiet times [regularly] and serves in a rostered ministry at church. But what is their character like? That’s the relevant issue when it comes to godliness. Church involvement can give the impression of godliness without [a] changed life (cf. 2 Timothy 3:5).

Similarly, godliness is often practically equated to involvement in mission. Someone [who’s] heavily involved in evangelism is [“godly.”] A pastor who is a good preacher and leads evangelistic work is [“godly.”] In each [case,] the person will be assumed to be godly on the basis of their ministry commitments. However, godliness is primarily about character:

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23) [NIV]

Godliness is about a [regenerated] heart that deeply desires to be righteous in every way and will be satisfied with nothing less (Matthew 5:6).

 

2) We often act [as] the only sins of consequence are a handful of top-tier sins

For many [evangelicals,] the only sins of any consequence are a handful of obviously serious sins, such as adultery or various criminal actions. This is an extension of the first point. If someone is involved in church life and doesn’t commit one [of] these select few sins, [they’re] considered [“godly.”]

But what if [they’re] a liar and make a practice of deceiving others? What if they gossip? What if they have an anger issue and take it out on others? What if their sins are less obvious? What if their actions seem good but are motivated by jealousy, [envy,] or selfish ambition? Some of these sins are hard to [detect; even] when [they’re noticed, it’s] easy to treat them as relatively insignificant. However, the Bible says that these things are serious enough that those who continue in them are in danger of being excluded from God’s kingdom (Galatians 5:19-21).

 

3) Repentance has become a dirty word

The Reformation began with Martin Luther (1489-1546) nailing his 95 Theses to the Wittenberg church door in 1517. His first point in that document was: [“When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent” (Matthew 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.”] For [Luther,] repentance was the bread-and-butter of the Christian life. Thomas Cranmer (1484-1556), the author of the Book of Common Prayer, believed the same thing. His liturgy led English people to engage in repentance for their sins as part of every church service.

The contrast between this Reformation emphasis and today is striking. [I’ve] found that many Christians today are deeply embarrassed by the idea that we might need to call a fellow believer to repent. The word doesn’t roll off our tongues comfortably. It’s like we think repentance is something that happens at the beginning of the Christian life but not afterward. I’ve even had many church leaders respond with astonishment at the suggestion that someone needs to be challenged to [“repent”] of a sin that [they’ve] committed. We much prefer to use softer, less moral and [“judgmental”] language: they “stuffed-up” or “made a [mistake.]” No need to make a fuss!

All Christians have substantial evils remaining in their lives, both known and unknown to them. Love will lead us to carefully identify and expose these things to those [sinning] and to call upon them to repent (James 5:19-20Ephesians 5:11). If [we’re] to pursue [godliness,] we need to be well-practiced in repentance. Christians must ever seek to identify the sin remaining in their thoughts, words, and deeds and turn away from them.

 

4) Confrontation and Rebuke are avoided at all costs 

[I’ve] previously written on my concern that church discipline rarely happens today. For many of [us,] this is a culturally challenging topic. [It’s] difficult for many of my own Anglo/English/Australian culture: we don’t do confrontation, much less rebuke. We avoid. We [minimize]. We run away. We allow small problems to grow into big problems or to develop into long histories of unchecked toxicity.

[There’s] nothing ungodly about confrontation. Of course, confrontation can be done in a very ungodly way (!), but confrontation is an important part of the Christian life. One of the things that Scripture equips us to do well is to rebuke others (2 Timothy 3:16; 4:2). There are countless examples of godly rebuke in Scripture ([e.g.,] Matthew 23:13-39Galatians 2:14). Our discomfort with confrontation and rebuke should not be mistaken for these actions being wrong. Our culture might tell us that these things are rude, needlessly unpleasant, or a failure to be [“nice,”] but that doesn’t make them ungodly. Our discomfort with rebuke and confrontation is a cultural challenge that we need to overcome for the sake of the godliness of our churches and of ourselves.

 

5) Christian Maturity is often redefined as the mere acquisition of skills

Evangelicals often talk about being [“equipped” or “trained”] for ministry. What is usually meant is the acquisition of new skills and competencies so as to ably perform various roles in the church. You can learn how to lead Bible studies, give a Bible talk, teach children, explain the gospel, or serve in any other number of ways. All these things are [valuable,] but [they’re] only tools.  The Bible [emphasizes] training in godliness, not just skills and competencies:

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God frmay be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17) [NIV]

The real equipping for ministry is growth in righteousness. When teaching the Bible is reduced to mere learning of [content,] we miss God’s bigger purpose of [character transformation]. [It’s] God’s will that you be sanctified. That is far more important than learning new skills!

 

Conclusion: What Do You Want to See at a Conference?

Over the course of my time as a Christian [I’ve] been to many conferences, both as a [churchgoer] and as a pastor. I [don’t] believe [I’ve] ever been to a conference dominated by the theme of godliness. This is a very serious oversight. We should be talking about this topic all the time!

This is even true of conferences for pastors. [I’ve] heard a lot of good input of the [“how-to”] variety. I’ve learned very useful things over the years about leading, budgeting, [evangelizing, new programs] and initiative ideas, and instruction on more aspects of ministry than I can recall. However, [I’ve] heard very little on cultivating a lifestyle of [the] insatiable pursuit of godliness. [I’ve] heard nothing on thinking through how to help our churches actively repent of sin and pursue godliness.

Perhaps [I’ve] just been to the wrong conferences. But I doubt it. It seems plain to me that modern evangelicals greatly undervalue godliness. May God renew our hunger to be more like Jesus!59

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this study as much as I have in writing about it. May all of us grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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Endnotes

58Calvin's Commentaries Pc Study Bible version 5, 2006, 16 Dec. 2016 ˂http://www.biblesoft.com>.

59Matthew Payne. “WHATEVER HAPPENED TO PURSUING GODLINESS?” 19 December 2021 <https://bit.ly/3sfmySd>.