Reviews and Reflections: The Practice of Godliness (part II)

The practice of Godliness by Jerry Bridges – 1983

In the introductory chapter, Bridges introduces us to the essential elements of devotion to God, without which there can be no growth in Godliness. In the second chapter he presents a simple triangle diagram to help visualize these essential elements of devotion to God. ‘Fear of God’ and ‘love of God’ together form the foundation for devotion and are found on the two bottom corners, whereas ‘desire for God’ is found on the peak and represents the height of devotion to God. This simple diagram is valid representation of the true character of devotion to God; there are a handful of scriptures given (and more that came to mind as I was reading) that confirm it to be so, perhaps most notable verse given being Acts 9:31, where the church was experiencing peace and growth and was ‘walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit’.

The remainder of this second chapter is spent expanding the three elements of devotion. Fear of God, though quite possibly an antiquated term in the minds of many, is an absolute necessity. Given the nature and Character of God this should not be difficult for us to grasp, yet the influence of sin/self is so prevalent and powerful in our time that habits of worldly and earthly comfort easily displace the sense of fear and awe that accompanies that glories and testimony of God and his Christ. Godliness cannot flourish in the being who does not recognize God as worthy of fear.

Fear of God is given equal status with Love of God in the foundation of the devotion triangle, although fear of the Lord is often the precursor to a right appraisal of the love of God. The first sentence of the section on the Love of God reads: “Only the God-fearing Christian can truly appreciate the love of God.’ So too in that sentence do we see that the ‘Love of God’ in the devotion triangle does not have our love for God in view, but rather his great love for us. And his love for us is manifest in this, that his perfect son, in whom for 33 some years was found not a trace or hint of sin or evil, would be given up to suffer and die in the place of wicked and evil men like me. In this is love, not that we have loved God, but that God has loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins – 1 John 4:10. Bridges reminds us that because the love of God for us is bound up in what has taken place in history, it is an unchanging fact that we can do nothing to add to or take away from. Therefore, as Paul says in Romans, nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

Thirst for God is the shortest of the three sections, perhaps because it is the most self explanatory/has the least amount of confusion associated with it. Paul and David both expressed a thirst for God in words that reveal both a spiritual need of God and also a desire for growing experience of God. As the deer pants for the streams of water, so my soul longs for thee, O Lord. How many other Psalms could we quote with a similar theme? Likewise Paul expresses his desire for God, his thirst for God in many ways, but in several places his desire is stated simply: “I want to know Christ”.

Reflections

My personal devotion triangle likely has a fairly broad and established base between my understanding and experience of the Love of God for me and also the Fear of God that he has taught me. Yet my desire for God is not so strong it seems; and so my devotion triangle is shallow you might say. Reflecting on this chapter has helped me to see that. Probably the reason my desire for God is not as strong is that I do not apprehend regularly, or renew my awareness of the Love of God for me. I sense that God’s love does not affect me as it ought to. Oh Lord, as i read this book and reflect on my own life, please renew my awareness of the love you show me and help me see in my daily day to day life what it means to walk in the path of your love. Thank you for your precious and holy Son, Jesus.

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