Wednesday, February 06, 2013

The Full-Grown Man - A Man of Piety

Part of the work of grace is to help grow us up, to help us to become full-grown men and women of God, to grow us up to share in the inheritance of the saints.
"And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified." (Acts 20:32)
This grace, or favor, from God expresses itself in many ways, but one key way is in teaching us how to live.
"For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds." (Titus 2:11-14)
This is consistent with the ministry of grace working through the apostles' lives.
"We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me." (Colossians 1:28-29)
Some have viewed grace as simply a pass, a pass from sin, but grace is much more than that. It is by God's grace that we are forgiven of our sins, but it is also by His grace that we are taught how to live free from sin. God desires that we would be free from sin, free from the patterns in our lives that keep leading us back to sin, and one of the greatest tragedy in our lives is that, with each time we sin and repent, we never learn how to live differently and how to avoid sin in the first place. We fall and get up only to fall again and we never learn to stand; stand in the face of temptation and sin. Grace has appeared unto all men to teach us how to live; to teach us to live differently, to teach us how to live a life that is free from sin and pleasing to God.

To live soberly, righteously, and godly is what it means to live piously. The full-grown man and woman of God is a man and woman of piety; they live a life that is pious before God and man. One aspect of piety is to live a life that is pleasing to God. This was the kind of life Jesus led,
"And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him." (John 8:29)
This is also the life the apostles lead,
"Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him." (2 Corinthians 5:9)
And it is the kind of life we are encouraged to live.
"Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more." (1 Thessalonians 4:1)
One of the maturing processes of a child is to learn what is pleasing to their parents, and in this case, for us, it is to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.
"Therefore do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord." (Ephesians 5:7-11)
We could spend an entire life learning what it means to please God, but here are a few things we know for sure.
"For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God." (Romans 8:5-8)
One of the ways we can please God is to become increasingly more concerned about heavenly things than earthly things. While we live in the earth, our true home is in heaven and we should live like it even on this earth. We should live our lives always with eternity in mind; not living for temporal gain but living for what has eternal rewards. Those who live for the things of this earth cannot please God but those who live for the true rewards of heaven please Him and find favor with Him.
"No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier." (2 Timothy 2:4)
We can become so consumed with the cares of this life that they can actually choke out the life of God within us. There are so many things competing for our time and attention. However, if we let those things steel our attention and affection away from Christ then our lives will be spent in the pursuit of the worthless and we will miss the blessings of Christ. Even worse, we will find ourselves unable to please Him as all our time and effort is spent on the things of this world rather than on the things of His Kingdom.
"And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him." (Hebrews 11:6)
Its not faith that pleases God but the works of faith. When we refuse to live by what is seen and live by what is unseen then our faith pleases God. Living by faith is living according to the revelation of God, both in how we look at the world, in what we believe and hope  is possible with God, and in how we respond to the commands of God. When we live life like it is all true, in our confidence and obedience, then we are living by faith.
"and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight." (1 John 3:22)
Jesus said, "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments." (John 14:15) What pleases God is when we respond to His love by loving Him back. Obedience is one act of love we can show God for all the love He has shown us. Jesus is not just looking for people to be born again but people to be born again to a virtuous life. Tertullian put it this way,
"For it was not merely that he might live the natural life that God had produced man, but that he should live virtuously, that is, in relation to God and to His law. Accordingly, God gave him to live when he was formed into a living soul; but He charged him to live virtuously when he was required to obey a law." (Tertullian, Against Marcion, Book 2, Chapter 8)
Obedience is not only our duty but also our love-response to God.
"And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased." (Hebrews 13:16)
Finally, to love God's children is to love Him and to serve God's children is to please Him. Jesus Himself said, "Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me." (Matthew 25:40) Serving and preferring others is a mark of the full-grown life and brings pleasure to God.  Even God, in being born a man for our salvation, did so without regard to His own needs, wants, and desires (as if God could want or need for anything). His salvation was focused on our needs and wants, it was a selfless act to save those who could not do it themselves. As God proved Himself to be selfless, so should we.

A life of piety may no longer be considered "vogue" but it is one of the hallmark characteristics of a full-grown man and woman of God. In closing I want to consider what Clement wrote describing a life of piety.
"Let us therefore earnestly strive to be found in the number of those that wait for Him, in order that we may share in His promised gifts. But how, beloved, shall this be done? If our understanding be fixed by faith towards God; if we earnestly seek the things which are pleasing and acceptable to Him; if we do the things which are in harmony with His blameless will; and if we follow the way of truth, casting away from us all unrighteousness and iniquity, along with all covetousness, strife, evil practices, deceit, whispering, and evil-speaking, all hatred of God, pride and haughtiness, vainglory and ambition." (Clement of Rome, Letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 35)
If we learn to do this, then we will learn to do well.

David Robison

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