Thursday, January 08, 2004

True Godliness

In another installment of letting other people do my writing for me, here’s a selection from Willem Teellink. So many of the conversations I have where someone is telling me that they don’t try to be godly or obedient or practice righteousness or whatever as they believe in Total Depravity, or that since Christ is the only one who can do good, or whatever. (the number of whatever’s there shows how close I listen to this flummery—it’s all the same). And, of course, they think that because I think that Christian life is about practicing godliness, or that I think “the Scriptures principally teach what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man” (WSC Q1) I must not hold to Total Depravity, etc.

Teellink’s book hits hard with the duty of being obedient—feels at times too hard (that’d be my old man still lurking about). I wish I could think like this when I’m talking to my antinomian friends (whether they’re self-consciously so or otherwise)

First, he notes that “true godliness is a gift of God by which man is made willing and able to serve God.” Get that, a gift of God—not something we dig up from within! (Sounds a whole lot like WSC Q35 to me.)

Later he says (and this is the point the point I’ve been trying to get to):
“We must therefore begin to practice all this [godliness], not in our own strength, which means absolutely nothing, but in the power of our Lord ands Savior Jesus Christ, who is the strength of our life and by whom we can do all things. See how the godly Paul counsels us: “Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might” (Eph. 6:10). This was his own practice, as it was of all the godly in his time. He therefore says, “For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh” (Phil. 3:3). Take not that before we believed we were powerless and totally unable to do good, and after we believe we are not “sufficient [able] of ourselves to think any thin as of ourselves; but our sufficiency [ability] is of God” (2 Cor. 3:5). Therefore, the good that is in us through regeneration serves only to make us more and more inclined to expect and to cultivate the good help and power of God. He strengthens us and works all our works for us, even he who “is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work” (2 Cor. 9:8)
Take careful note of this, for surely many a man begins the practice of godliness and then gives up in discouragement and withdraws from his work, Since he began it in his own strength, he makes a mess of things. It’s exactly the same thing as when a little child, in his own strength, wants to build a big castle. It is a fact that our own strength means nothing in the building up of the Christian life. Unless the power of the Almighty comes upon us, we cannot building anything that will last. That is why we call it godliness; it reminds us that without God and his holy help we would never be able to accomplish this work.”