Is There a Key to Godliness?

Is There a Key to Godliness?

Whether you are in your twenties or sixties, you probably have some long-standing heart-responses you don’t like. These are like reflexes. You don’t choose them. They spring up unintentionally from your heart, usually in response to the people around you.

It may be anger, anxiety, envy, resentment, self-pity, disgust, frustration, discouragement, lust, irritability, impatience, hard-heartedness, brusqueness, unkindness, withdrawnness.

When any one of these attitudes springs up unbidden, you hate it. You have fought it for years with gospel-faithfulness, trusting in the blood of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit to cover it and conquer it.

Still it returns. You weep over it, and ask your closest friends to pray for you. There is a short season of reprieve. And there it is again stamping you. Telling you: This is who you are. You say no. In Christ, this is not who I am. His stamp is on my life. True. But O you would be done with this! O to be new, through and through! Not in such a limited way.

Is there a remedy? Is there a key?

No. There are a thousand.

The point of this post is to remind us that “every Scripture is profitable for training in righteousness” so that we might be “complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16–17). Every verse is profitable. Thousands of them.

Do Not Give Up

In other words, you don’t know what word of God will suddenly (or gradually) be used by the Holy Spirit to give the long-awaited victory. God has his reasons for why he allows us to fight so long. But he never intends us to give up on Scripture.

Owen wrote his Mortification of Sin. Ryle wrote his Holiness. Bridges has written his Transforming Power of the Gospel. Chapell his Holiness by Grace. Piper his Future Grace. And when they are all done, hundreds of verses remain untouched and profitable. God has said so much more than any of us has said.

Don’t give up the fight. God’s designs are to bring a surprising verse into your heart in a surprising moment in a surprising situation and do a surprising work of transformation.

The Immeasurable Moment

For example, you may be reading one morning and see for the hundredth time Psalm 90:12, “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” And in a way that never happened before you feel how utterly short and fragile and uncertain and precious your life is. You feel, as never before, the connection between a wise way of life and the shortness of life.

And in that surprising awareness of death — that deeply felt awareness — you recall what James says about wisdom. You have never made this connection before in your whole life. You recall that James says, “the wisdom from above is gentle and full of mercy” (James 3:17).

Then you sense what God is doing. All your life, you have struggled with being harsh rather than gentle. Your reflexes are not merciful. And now, God is touching you at a place you have never been touched before. He’s making a connection in your heart that you have never made before. The connection between your coming death and your unkindness.

Awakened to a New Possibility

And the point is not that after death you will have to give an account. That’s true. But that is not what God is doing now. He is awakening in you a new possibility of life. He is opening you to a kind of gentleness and peace and kindness that could actually begin to feel natural to you. The shadow of your death is softening you. The numbering of your days is shaping in you a humble, gentle, heavenly wisdom. Your heart is actually softening.

This long-standing struggle with the reflexes of hard-heartedness, and unmercifulness, is suddenly (or gradually) different. Death is doing a strange and sweetening and wonderful work.

Will it last? Perhaps. If not, there are 999 more verses waiting to do their surprising work. You do not know what victories await. Read on. Pray on. Believe all things. Hope all things. “Every Scripture” is profitable. God is not done with you.

“O Lᴏʀᴅ, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!” (Psalm 39:4).


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John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books.