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  • Writer's pictureWilson Lim

Developing In Godlikeness



Michael Jackson was a music visionary.  He was famous not only for his songs but his dance moves.  Some of his moves such as moon walk or slide circle are some of the most imitated steps in the world.  So many people try to sing like him, or dance like him. He was imitated because people thought he was cool.

 

As I thought about how much people desire to imitate him, it made me think how much do we desire to imitate the One who is really important?  How do we desire to imitate Christ Himself?  Thomas a Kempis recognised this and wrote the classic Christian book called the Imitation of Christ.


Godliness is living a life pleasing to God, out of a heart of devotion to God.  To develop in godliness it is important to develop both God-centredness and Godlikeness.  God-centredness is devotion to God.  Godlikeness is about Christian character.

 

What is godliness?  Godliness is living a life pleasing to God, out of a heart of devotion to God.  To develop in godliness it is important to develop both God-centredness and Godlikeness.  God-centredness is devotion to God.  Godlikeness is about Christian character.

 

Our reverence for God may be expressed in our heart worship and heart orientation, but we demonstrate the genuineness of our devotion by our sincere efforts to be like Him.  Just as those devoted to Michael Jackson imitate him!

 

How can we practically develop in Godlikeness?

 

TAKE PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY

 

1 Timothy 4:11–12 (NIV) 11 Command and teach these things. 12 Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.

 

Paul’s instructions to Timothy put the onus of responsibility squarely upon his shoulders.  These things Timothy are to do, to be an example, to develop in.  To train in godliness it is important to realise that we must first take personal responsibility for our progress.  The Scriptures tells us to pursue it in 1 Timothy 6:11.  However, it is important to see the balance between responsibility and dependence.

 

Responsibility and dependence


Devotion to God is the only acceptable motive for actions that are pleasing to God.

In taking responsibility we must get our motives right.  Devotion to God is the only acceptable motive for actions that are pleasing to God.  Do you realise that we could do all the right things for the wrong motives?  When Joseph was enticed by Potiphar’s wife, he did not refuse her because he was afraid of being found out.  Rather, his convictions are, Genesis 39:9 (NIV) “How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” 

 

His primary concern is not to sin against God.  His motives were right!  In all that we do, we should ask ourselves what our real motives are.  Is it for ourselves, for convenience, or is it truly out of devotion to God?


We need divine enablement to live a godly life. 

 

Besides the right motives, we must also realise that we need divine enablement to live a godly life.  We are totally unable to live the godly life by our own strengths.  We need God’s grace.  That is why Scripture records in Colossians 1:29 (NIV) To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.


We are totally dependent on Christ for the power to live a godly life. Yet we are also totally responsible for developing and displaying that character.

 

Indeed, Jesus brought out this truth in John 15:5 (NIV) “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” Hence we must remain connected to Christ to be enabled through the Holy Spirit.  To sum it up, we are totally dependent on Christ for the power to live a godly life. Yet we are also totally responsible for developing and displaying that character.

 

This seemingly conflicting principles are found in Philippians 2:12 - 13 (NIV) 12Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,  13for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

 

You work out your salvation.  God also works in you to will and act according to His good purpose.  Imagine God provides us an aeroplane, with fuel and the flying instructor.  You have never flown before.  Now God has provided you everything you need to fly but the plane will not fly unless you fly it!  On the other hand, no matter how much you want to fly, you cannot without a plane, fuel nor the instructor.  But if you work with what God gives you and follow the instructor’s instructions – you will fly!


God has provided everything you need to be godly.  But you must take responsibility to apply all that God has provided to grow in godliness.

 

God has provided everything you need to be godly.  But you must take responsibility to apply all that God has provided to grow in godliness.  Some people make the mistake of thinking it is all God only.  It is like our role in flying the plane is redundant.  God has an auto-pilot so we just sit back and relax.  God will make us godly, we just have to pray.  Others, make the opposite mistake of thinking it is all about us.  If the pilot runs out of fuel for the plane, the plane will crash.  Or if there is no plane, he cannot even fly in the first place.  Without God’s provision, we can get nowhere in terms of godliness.

 

Aim for balanced progressive growth.

 

We should aim to grow in all aspects of the fruit of the Holy Spirit.  Not just in aspects that we are more comfortable in.  Otherwise, we may end up focussing on select areas only and neglect the areas that God specifically wants us to grow more in.

 

As I work with many leaders and try to help them develop further, I realised that the biggest limitation to a leader’s success is often his personal weakness.  No matter how great they may be in key areas, yet eventually it is their significant weaknesses that pulls them down. 

 

Did you know that Moses’ greatest downfall is his bad temper?  When he came down from Mt Sinai and saw the Israelites committing idolatry, he lost it!  The stone tablets that God had personally written the 10 commandments – he was so upset he smashed it!  Then he ground the golden calf into powder and made the Israelites drink it!  It was the same temper that caused him to hit the rock for water when he was supposed to speak to it.  It was this incident in Numbers 20:1-13 that caused him to miss out of the Promised Land!  King David’s greatest downfall is his love for women.  He married at least 8 wives and had many concubines.  He fell in adultery with Bathsheba. 

 

Some leaders may be great in their compassion for others but their bad temper eventually drives people away.  Some leaders may be great in training and inspiring others, but their inability to manage their finances eventually came back to bite them.  People lose trust in them because of shoddy finances.

 

Usually different temperaments will need to grow more in areas that they are weak in.  A sanguine will usually need to grow more in faithfulness in responsibilities.  A phlegmatic may usually need more joy.  While a choleric may need more patience and gentleness.

 

As a phlegmatic, I had to grow to be more decisive.  Not to be so laid back.  I even had to challenge myself at one stage as a young pastor to make small decisions within 5 minutes time limit!  phlegmatic do not like to upset people, but I had to learn to make decisions even when I knew some people would not be happy with it!

 

How can we change?  How can we grow?  It is important to understand that growth should be progressive and continual.  Philippians 3:12 (NIV) Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 


When we stop growing, we start backsliding. 

 

Even the apostle Paul realised that he had much more to grow in.  Yet not in a defeated mentality but with a deep sense of faith and hope in what God seeks to develop in his life and ministry.  So there is always room to grow, for we will not reach perfection.  Growth in godly character is not only progressive and always unfinished, it is actually critical for spiritual survival.  When we stop growing, we start backsliding.  Just like our muscles.  Once we stop exercising it starts going flabby.

 

Our character and spirituality do not remain stagnant, it either goes forward or goes backward.  When I do not spend as much time praying, I realise that I become less spiritual. The filth of the world starts to accumulate on my heart and my attitudes.  As a university student, I once had a vacation job working in a factory line.  The environment just sapped my mental agility.  I found my brain slowing down.  The employees used a lot of foul words and I found it stuck unto my mind, even though I did not use those foul words.


When we get our attitudes right, we tend to do the right things.  And when we do this consistently enough, we tend to develop the right character.

 

In growing in godliness, we should develop the right attitudes, consistently behave with the right actions and focus on having the right character. When we get our attitudes right, we tend to do the right things.  And when we do this consistently enough, we tend to develop the right character.

 

I grew to love people more as I focussed on the value of each person before God.  I began to appreciate them much more with their flaws and everything.  I practised the Scripture which says “love keeps no record of wrong!”  So I decided to forgive immediately.  As I changed my attitude, I also began to act more lovingly to individuals.  As I determined to love people around me intentionally, over time I began to be more loving in my heart. I am still growing in this area, as I encounter more challenging people!

 

LEARN FROM OTHERS

 

1 Timothy 4:12 (NIV) set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.

 

Timothy was instructed to be an example to others, so that he may be a role model and also to teach and instruct others in godliness.  There is so much we learn from others on the road towards godliness.  Many have been on the journey longer or further.  If we are humble enough we can gain from their insights, from their life.  Proverbs 24:32 (NIV)  I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw:


My attitude is to learn as much as I can from any situation or people. 

 

My attitude is to learn as much as I can from any situation or people.  Why make mistakes that others have made?  Why not learn from the positive characteristics of others?  Why not be inspired by them?


“Set an example for believers in speech...”  Have you made it a point to observe those who speak with wisdom, gentleness, love, positively, etc?  I used to live with a housemate, a deacon in the church.  Although he had many tough challenges in his life, yet I never saw him complain.  He was realistic about his problems, but he did not mumble or grumble.  He did not grumble about his lot in life, about leaders, about church, about work.  I learnt what it meant to be contented and not grumble.  He went on to serve the Lord faithfully as a pastor.

 

We ought to observe the life of godly people.  Do they live with courage, with integrity?  Are they joyful?  One of our former leaders, when she returned to Bangkok, she faithfully attended church even though her mother, a Buddhist, was very upset with her faith and many times beat her.  Yet she always maintained a joy in the Lord.  She did not falter.

 

Observe their faith.  Do they trust God fully?  Do they step out in faith in obedience to God?  I love to hear stories of faith because it inspires me and challenges me to be bold in my faith.  Observe their attitude.  Do they love?  Do they have humility? Are they contented?

 

Be humble enough to let others speak into your life. Perhaps they can help bring some corrections or adjustment that will help you on your journey towards godliness.

 

DEEPEN IN THE WORD

 

1 Timothy 4:13 (NIV) Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.


Scriptures provide us an understanding of what God is seeking in godliness and how we can pursue godliness.

 

Timothy was exhorted to devote himself to reading, preaching and teaching the Scriptures.  A key aspect to grow in godliness is the Scriptures.  Because Scriptures provide us an understanding of what God is seeking in godliness and how we can pursue godliness.  Titus 1:1 (NIV) Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness.

 

The more we understand God’s truth, the more it will open our eyes to godliness.  So often our understanding can be shallow and superficial, but as we study God’s Word we gain more depth of appreciation what godliness is all about.

 

How do we know what each aspect of the fruit of the Holy Spirit is all about?  Unless we study deeper to understand what each aspect is truly about.  Unless we read the stories that illustrate to us how it is lived out. How do we know what the extent of love can be until we understand what Jesus did on the cross for sinners like us?  It is through God’s Word that we more fully come to see Christ’s life in the Gospel.  By observing and meditating about Christ’s life, we can learn so much and be inspired by His example. 


Godliness will be closer to our hearts when the Word of God is imprinted upon our hearts.

 

May I challenge us to be a people of the Word.  Let it soak into our hearts and minds.  Godliness will be closer to our hearts when the Word of God is imprinted upon our hearts.

 

CONCLUSIONS

 

God desires us to grow in godliness.  We need to put feet unto our desire and the key is to take personal responsibility.  While we take responsibility, we must recognise the importance of being dependent upon God.  We should also learn from others.  We should deepen in the word and allow it to impact us.


 

Copyright©️2024 by Wilson Lim. All rights reserved. Materials are free to be distributed in whole or part as long as proper acknowledgement is given to the author and not sold for profit.

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