by Zac Hess
Does anyone use a map or atlas anymore? Most millennials may only vaguely remember the family road trip that required thoughtful planning with time spent pouring over a map to discuss the best route to get to a given place. Details needed to be precise. If one got lost, the only option to get back on course was to stop at a gas station and ask for help.
In a world of iPhones, even the GPS receivers from several years ago seem out of date. The process of getting to a certain place takes no more planning than the time it takes to type in the address. A road trip is no longer a thoughtful process with the end in mind, but a series of mindless turns and recalculations to get us back on track. It’s more or less assumed we will arrive at our destination.
Life for the Christian can often feel the same. We simply assume that we are making our way. In business, athletics, or academics, we are often required to make specific goals and plans for how those goals will be accomplished. We need to know the end destination and figure out the process for how we will arrive. It’s good that we make resolutions about personal and work related things, but, for the Christian, there is often something we overlook: godliness.
What if you made growth in godliness a specific goal? Jesus seems to think that following Him is a big deal, and He even says in Matthew 16:26, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?”
We often assume we will “just grow” in our love and obedience to Jesus, or we just don’t really care that much. We might explicitly believe the first part of the previous statement, which means we really believe the second. To just assume means we don’t care enough to think about it.
I have been guilty of this thinking, and that’s exactly why these words from D.A. Carson, from his devotional For the Love of God vol. II., stand out to me:
“People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.”
These are cutting words are also life giving. We need to hear Paul’s words to the Colossians, “For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you will also appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:3-4).
Paul tells us of the final destination; in Christ we will be glorified. But this provokes and motivates us to kill sin and live to righteousness. “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you…” (3:5) and “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved…” (3:12). In light of their identity with the resurrected Christ, the Colossian believers were to actively clothe themselves with godliness.
What is your goal to pursue godliness?
I encourage you to start simple and stay faithful. Start with a goal to read the Bible each week for five or ten minutes a day for five days, reflecting on Jesus and what He asks of you. You could read almost the entire Bible in a year if you did that. But let’s say you missed a day or five…pick it right back up and keep going.
We are already completely righteous through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. We have died and our life is hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3). Let us now pursue godliness with urgency, out of gratitude to reflect our Savior.
What if you’re able to say a year from now that you saw an obvious change in your love for Jesus and your obedience to Him because you stayed faithful? Maybe you didn’t read every day, but what if you could say you read more of the Bible and learned more about Jesus than you ever have before? What if you saw a noticeable difference in your love and affection for Jesus not because of the few “special” times with him, through sustained faithfulness?
Don’t assume that you’re just going to “arrive.” Be intentional and make a plan for growth in godliness.
Editor’s Note: Zac Hess is on the pastoral staff of Grace Polaris Church, a Grace Brethren congregation on the north side of Columbus, Ohio.
This article first appeared in the Spring 2016 GraceConnect magazine, the quarterly publication for leaders and members of Grace Brethren churches in North America. View the complete magazine online here or at issuu. To receive a free subscription, mailed directly to your home, click here.