The Mystery of Godliness

Date Posted: April 26th, 2010

What hope is there for you and for me of a godly life? How will Christian people become what God calls us to be? Everyone is looking for the answer to that question.   We often identify salvation with “justification,” by which gain entrance into heaven. But salvation includes “sanctification,” by which we are made fit for heaven.

How do we know Paul is thinking about sanctification here? He says, “This is a trustworthy saying… (and for this we labor and strive)” (1 Timothy 4:9). Do we labor and strive for justification? No. We rest wholly in Christ. Do we labor and strive in sanctification? Yes. We put on the whole armor of God and fight the good fight. We take our stand against the enemy and His schemes.  

Paul is talking about living in a new and different way, specifically in the areas of speech, life, love, faith, and purity (1 Timothy 4:12). Notice how Paul puts two things together: “We labor and strive…” and “We put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior…” Many people are confused about how our effort and God’s power work together in the Christian life.

The “hard labor” version of Christianity
“We labor and strive…” 1 Timothy 4:9

This approach says that the Christian life is one great effort to try and live a godly life. Many people live here. There is no power or energy, and very little joy in them. These folks have an “air of defeat” about them. They feel that the Christian life is impossible, and they become discouraged.

The “no labor” version of Christianity
“We have put our hope in the living God…” 1 Timothy 4:10

This approach to the Christian life says, “There’s nothing we Christians can do. We just have to let go and let God.” Many people live here. They become passive. They do not fight against sin. They do not dress daily in the armor of God. They say there’s nothing we can do to grow in holiness—it’s all up to God. They sound spiritual, but they do not make progress in the Christian life. 

 Gospel life
“For this we labor and strive… We have put our hope in the living God.” 1 Timothy 4:9-10

Gospel life is the active pursuit of godliness through the power and presence of Jesus Christ in you. I engage in this struggle. I fight this fight. I press on towards the prize with hope. Why? Because Jesus Christ lives in me. “To this end I labor, struggling with all His energy which works so powerfully in me” (Colossians 1:29). That’s the mystery of godliness. “Christ in you—the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:28).

This week’s Scripture:  “This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance (and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of men, and especially of those who believe.” 1 Timothy 4:9-10

This LifeKey is based on the message “Gospel Life,” by Pastor Colin S. Smith on October 18, 2009, from the series “10 Distinctives of a Gospel-Centered Church.”

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