I’m currently rereading the book The Practice of Godliness by Jerry Bridges with a small group of ladies from my church. In the first chapter of the book, Bridges talks about devotion to God being the motivation for godly living. He says:

Devotion to God, then is the mainspring of godly character. And this devotion is the only motivation for Christian behavior that is pleasing to God.

This motivation is what separates the godly person from the moral person, or the benevolent person, or the zealous person. The godly person is moral, benevolent, and zealous because of his devotion to God. And his life takes on a dimension that reflects the very stamp of God.

It is sad that many Christians do not have this aura of godliness about them. They may be very talented and personable, or very busy in the Lord’s work, or even apparently successful in some avenues of Christian service, and still not be godly. Why? Because they are not devoted to God. They may be devoted to a vision, or to a ministry, or to their own reputation as a Christian, but not to God.

This really struck me when I read it. It made me ask what is my motivation for serving God? Am I devoted to God wholeheartedly all of the time? These are soul-searching questions. I pray that as I grow as a Christian I will become more devoted to God and everything that I do will truly be for His glory and not driven by some other self-serving motivation.

Bridges goes on to say that devotion to God is a desire for God that comes forth from a fear of God coupled with a realization of God’s love for us in the cross of Christ. The fear of God for a Christian is “veneration and honor, reverence and awe” and focuses on the “majesty, holiness, and transcendent glory of God.” Bridges says that “only the God-fearing Christian can truly appreciate the love of God.” That is so true. Not until you begin to see who God is will you see your sin for what it is. And not until you see how awful your sin is, will you see how immensely God demonstrated his love towards us in the sacrifice of his son on the cross.

As I read this book, I couldn’t help but think of churches where the gospel is not clearly preached or not preached at all. I thought of Joel Osteen’s motivational “sermons” about “living your best life now”, where God presumably exists for man’s benefit. I’ve never went away from one of Osteen’s messages reflecting on the “majesty, holiness and transcendent glory of God”. I thought of seeker churches where any method imaginable is used to lure people to a worship service (how can an unbeliever worship?), music is more about entertainment (“man, wasn’t the band rockin’ today!”) than worshiping a holy God, and messages bearing catchy, and sometimes lewd, suggestive titles consist of “shock jock preaching” in an attempt to be “relevant”. And then I hear of “testimonials” from such churches along the lines of “my husband is coming to church for the first time now”, “I’m reading my Bible every day”, “my marriage has been saved”, “I’ve gotten help for my porn addiction”, etc. Such testimonials are then given as evidence that all of the above is somehow justified because people are “coming to know God ” and their lives are “changed”. Even on the last episode I listened to of “Way of the Master” (Jan 18th), there was such a testimonial from someone about Joel Osteen’s ministry.

Now I don’t know if these people are saved or not. I don’t know any of them personally, and I don’t know their motivations. But I do know this: someone can’t be saved unless they hear the gospel. The true gospel. So how do we account for “changed” lives when God’s Word has not been preached to these people? (I could go into how many a Mormon can testify to a changed life, but then this would be super long.) This is where the “motivation for godliness” comes in, which is the main purpose of this post.

Proverbs 13:15 says “the way of transgressors is hard.” Sin has consequences that many do not want to face. Most people don’t want their marriages falling apart. Most people have no desire to lose their job over their porn addiction. Most people don’t want the ruin that sin can bring into their lives. 2 Corinthians 7:10 says

 

For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. (NAS)

People can feel bad about their sin for the very reason that it’s not working out for them. This is a very self-centered sorrow. People want answers. They want to know how to be happy. In general, they want a happy marriage. Some, in listening to the “prosperity gospel”, want riches, blessings and whatever benefits they can squeeze out of God. Some will go to church to try to “get help” because their lives are a mess. Some will serve heavily in a church in order to do something significant in their lives. The list could go on. It could be endless. But the bottom line is this: any motivation apart from glorifying God is self-focused and not pleasing to God. You won’t glorify God in everything you do unless you’re devoted to him. And you can’t be devoted to him if you don’t know who He is, who you are in his sight, and what He did on the cross. You can’t be a Christ-follower if you don’t know what that even means.

We were created to glorify God. We can live our lives to God’s glory or we can live for ourselves. Living for God’s glory has its benefits (although it doesn’t promise to make you rich!) and living for self has it’s consequences. Trying to live a godly “changed” life because one wants the “benefits” is not living for God’s glory. It’s living for self.

A person doesn’t have to be neck-deep in heresy and false teaching to be lost. Sometimes, you can only have your feet wet in some half-truths and deceptions and that little bit will blind you to who God is and it will lead you to think you’re living for God, when in fact, you’re going in the opposite direction. One day God will say to you “I never knew you. Depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.”

So to any who happen to come upon this post, what is your motivation for godly living? Are you a Christ-follower because you fear God and love God, or do you just want to make your life better? Are you devoted to God? Bridges ends chapter 2 of his book with this description of devotion to God:

This is devotion to God–the fear of God, which is an attitude of reverence and awe, veneration and honor toward Him, coupled with an apprehension deep within our souls of the love of God for us, demonstrated preeminently in the atoning death of Christ. These two attitudes complement and reinforce each other, producing within our souls an intense desire for this One who is so awesome in His glory and majesty and yet so condescending in His love and mercy.

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