“Train yourself for godliness” (1 Timothy 4:7)
“No one can attain any degree of holiness without God working in his life, but just as surely no one will attain it without effort on his own part.”
In his book, The Pursuit of Holiness, Jerry Bridges uses an illustration of a farmer to support this quote. The illustration emphasizes how important it is that the farmer tends to his responsibilities in order to ensure a healthy crop. He must plow, sow, fertilize and cultivate.
But the farmer also knows that for his crop to be successful, he is ultimately dependent on God.
Somehow we’ve worked into our theology that God’s grace in salvation allows us to be passive as we live out our Christian lives; that daily time with the Lord is optional, that prayer is only for the major issues in life and that obedience really doesn’t matter. That’s not what Scripture teaches. It teaches clearly that we are to pursue holiness; “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14); “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13) and “Train yourself for godliness” (1 Timothy 4:7).
These verses quoted above don’t teach or even imply salvation by works; they support what is known as the doctrine of sanctification whereby Christians grow to be more spiritually mature. Sanctification means to “set apart” as holy to the Lord. It is a never-ending process in which God works in the lives of believers to make them more like Christ.
Our active role in this growth doesn’t mean we contribute to our salvation, for salvation is all of God. There are however, tremendous benefits to our disciplined pursuit of holiness. As the Holy Spirit works in our lives and we become more responsive to the will of God, we will experience more joy, more comfort, and more peace. God not only wants that to be our Christian experience, even more, He wants to be the source of those experiences.
When such is the case in our lives, He is pleased, but more than that, He receives the glory and honor that He is due. And that is what He deserves the most.