“. . . that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:10,11).

KNOWING GOD IS WORTH WHATEVER IT COSTS, EVEN IF IT MEANS THE SACRIFICE OF EVERY CONCERN FOR OURSELVES. For most of us, however, it takes constant vigilance to make sure our hearts are truly turned in God’s direction and we are seeking Him for His own sake. We must be careful not to “use” God. He does not exist to furnish us a means — not even the highest of means — by which we can come to think of ourselves more positively. God is not a means to anything, least of all the mere boosting of our self-image.

What, then, is “godliness” about? It may come as a surprise to some, but godliness is about more than the acquiring of godly character. We can’t glorify God as we should without living godly lives, it is true, but the reasons for which we seek to become godly have more to do with Him than with us. We do not show reverence and gratitude to Him simply because it benefits us, but because those are the proper responses of a creature to its Creator.

Our self-centered approach to godliness is one reason why our religion does not show up any more often in service to those around us. Oswald Chambers made this point in his usual terse way: “Christian workers fail because they place their desire for their own holiness above their desire to know God. ‘Don’t ask me to be confronted with the strong reality of redemption on behalf of the filth of human life surrounding me today; what I want is anything God can do for me to make me more desirable in my own eyes.’ ” Living in a culture that so openly worships self-esteem, can we fail to be made uncomfortable by words like these?

At all costs, we must move away from self-centeredness, even when it appears in the guise of a desire for holiness. This does not mean that holiness should not be a priority, for it certainly should be. But holiness, like happiness, comes as a by-product of seeking something more important than any concern for ourselves, namely the glory of God. Our principal focus must be kept on Him and on serving others in His name. The “bottom line” is not how this or that action affects the way we look at ourselves but whether those deeds magnify His eternal honor.

“God cannot deliver me while my interest is merely in my own character” (Oswald Chambers).

Gary Henry — WordPoints.com + AreYouaChristian.com

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