Thursday, February 26, 2009

Discipline Yourselves for Godliness


Consider the following cautionary tale,

A man and his family go to church. Everything seems right this day. The sun is out, the parking attendants are friendly, and the family is 15 minutes early. Upon entering the sanctuary, the man glances up at the luminous stained glass, and his thoughts drift heavenward. Those present seem peculiarly friendly. People he's never met introduce themselves, ask him thoughtful questions, and listen intently to his answers. Gradually, the family meanders through the crowd to their respective seats, and worship begins. The choir soars to new sonorous heights, and as the voices of the congregants meet those of the choir, it's as if the heavenly cloud of witnesses has joined in too. The man begins to weep, enraptured by the mellifluous sounds. Once the singing ends, the choir and worship team quickly exit the stage, and the senior pastor solemnly approaches the pulpit. He is to deliver a sermon entitled, "The Holiness of God." His tone and elocution are flawless, his exegesis immaculate, and his personal illustrations are ever so illustrative. His preaching is replete with theological profundity, practical relevance, and white-hot zeal. Those gathered cling to the edge of their seats, and a collective sense of wonder lingers in the room. Upon finishing the sermon, dozens of people line up to speak with the pastor. The man and his family proceed to the fellowship hall. Once again, warm and friendly faces greet them. Joy and gratitude fill the family members. They have never been so thankful for their church.


And then...

they go home. The man instantly gets in a fight with his wife over something utterly inane, ignores his kids, and then assuages his guilt by going down to the den, locking the door, and perusing through some of his favorite porn sites for a couple of hours.

What has happened? The man attends a fantastic church. The worship is Christ-exalting, the preaching is expositional and practical, and the members are outgoing and genuinely concerned with each other's well-being. Why is this man not growing?

My dad's sermon this past week answers this question. He preached on how we change out of 1 Tim 4:7-8;

7 Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; 8 for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.

Information and inspiration are not enough to change us. Yes, we need to be in the Bible, and yes, our hearts need to be in the right place. However, while these are necessary conditions for growth, they aren't sufficient conditions. That's why the Bible says things like this, and this. We are creatures of habit, and if we don't cultivate new habits, we won't grow. We are new creations in old bodies, and said bodies have a lot of old habits that take time to work through.

It takes hard training to become godly. Yes it's done in the power of the Spirit, yes it's done with lots of prayer, yes it's done with the realization that apart from Christ we can do nothing, but it's still done. And it's hard work. The grace of God in Paul labors (1 Cor 15:10). Knowing Paul, I'm guessing that doesn't mean he lounged around trying to "let go" while the Spirit labored within him.

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