In my last blog post, I introduced a series aiming to describe the importance and implications of the Gospel Culture we pursue together at Living Hope Church and within Sovereign Grace Churches. Last time we looked at the value of Humility, this post will be on the value of Godliness.
The great 19th-century pastor and author J.C. Ryle wrote in his essential book Holiness:
Doctrine is useless if it is not accompanied by a holy life. It is worse than useless; it does positive harm (J.C. Ryle)
The good Bishop Ryle is telling us that Gospel doctrine without Godliness is hypocrisy. It brings reproach to the name of God because it makes the grace of God look cheap and ineffectual. That means we should take the pursuit of Godliness very seriously. Let’s take a moment to look at why we pursue Godliness and then briefly examine how we can pursue Godliness.
Why Pursue Godliness?
Christianity is supernatural. When we trust in Christ alone for the forgiveness of our sins we aren’t simply changing our religious affiliation, we are resurrected from spiritual death and born again into a living hope by the Holy Spirit of God. We have a new nature with new desires and affections. Out of a place of divine acceptance, forgiveness, and love, the born-again man or woman has a God-given desire to grow more and more like the Savior whom we love. We pursue Godliness because we are accepted and loved by God, NOT so that we can be accepted and loved by God. Because he loves us and we love him we make it our aim to please him in all that we do.
How We Pursue Godliness
In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he provides instruction about the pursuit of Godliness, instruction that we do well to heed. Paul exhorts us:
 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires,  and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,  and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:22-24)
In the previous verses (4:17-19) Paul reminds the Christian of our former condition. He says “you used to be darkened in your understanding, living in ignorance and godlessness. Now you are light in the Lord so walk as children of the light. Live like you have been saved and sanctified!” This looks like “putting off” and “putting on.” We begin by putting off the sin associated with our former way of life, our “old self” by seeking to kill it in the power of the Spirit but we don’t stop there. As Matthew Henry says “it is not enough to cease to do evil, but we must learn to do well.” We are instructed in these verses to put off the sin and corruption of our old self and also to put on the new self — to actively go after godly, biblical virtues. We don’t only put off lust, we put on serving others. We don’t only put off sinful anger, we put on kindness. We don’t only put off gossip, we put on encouragement. This is the divinely ordained rhythm of godliness.
Let’s Do This!
The pursuit of Godliness can feel like a serious battle, but it is a battle worth fighting. Our pursuit of godliness pleases God, affirms the reality of the Gospel, and brings glory to the risen Christ of Calvary. And, my friends, there is good news for us in the struggle! God is on our side! He is full of grace, his love is steadfast, he is eager to forgive, his Spirit is within us, and he is working in us that which is pleasing in his sight. So let’s be a church that pursues godliness because of the grace of the Gospel so that we live with integrity and adorn our doctrine with the lovely garments of godly lives.