I’m not picking a fight with anyone here. I’m just saying. Church culture must stop doing what Jesus told the Pharisees to stop doing – preaching “godliness” as good enough.
Do this. Don’t do that. Do this at least three times a day. Don’t do that ever, especially if it is rated R. Do this every morning for four hours or you are not practicing your spiritual disciplines. Don’t do that – don’t you know that dancing will get that girl pregnant.
You think I’m kidding. If you have never heard that stuff in church culture, then you are blessed.
Here’s the problem. Preachers have taught that if you do this good stuff, then you will godly, and you will be blessed. When this type of behavioral modification is preached, and when “spiritual disciplines” are preached as change agents for godliness, and when “favor” is proclaimed as the reward, then people begin to expect results that are rewarding. They begin to expect to be rewarded for their “goodness.” They begin to hold God like He owes them something. Maybe not consciously. But they really don’t know they are doing it until tragedy strikes.
Then, they walk away from Him, disappointed at Him when they should be disappointed in the false teachers who sold them religion instead of the Gospel of the God who came near and wants to walk with them.
Furthermore, Jesus wouldn’t even take the compliment “good.” He said only God the Father is good. He also rebuked the religious leaders who were showboating godliness but taking all the credit.
Only God can make someone “godly.” It’s not self-made. It’s not a reward. It’s not the result of a certain type of living. If it was, then Jesus died needlessly.
Further-furthermore, the only spiritual discipline Jesus ever spoke of was in Luke 9:23. Denying me and surrendering to God’s mission for my life. That’s how Jesus defined following Him. And taking up a cross is no “reward” that marketers can spin into a sell. It means death. Not favor. Not a good parking place.
Instead of preaching “godliness,” what if we preached following Jesus? What if we preached trusting Him, that what He did was enough for me “to be made right” or to be “godly” enough? What if we called people to die to themselves and commit to the mission God intended for them, even if it means literal death. Even if it means not being safe and getting “what God owes me” for my godliness.
Matt Chandler puts it well in this video clip:
May we quit highlighting responsibilities and expectations and encourage people to walk with Jesus daily, responding to Him and living in expectancy of where He will lead them next. Of whom He will lead them to love next. Not do and don’t. More a who type of thing. Loving God and loving people type of stuff. Living in freedom from responsibilities and expectations that we falter in and grow weary in. Living in the fullness of a life yoked up with Him.
Sounds weird to even say it, but may your goal not just be godliness. May it be, instead, to know God. He’s pretty godly. Enough for the both of us.