Godliness Is Impossible Without God.
1 Chronicles 29, 1 Thessalonians 4
O Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, our fathers, keep forever such purposes and thoughts in the hearts of your people, and direct their hearts toward you. – 1 Chronicles 29:18 ESV
Over in 1 Thessalonians 4, Paul writes, “God’s will is for you to be holy” (1 Thessalonians 4:3 NLT). In other words, it is God’s deepest desire that His children live lives that are set apart and distinctly different than the rest of the world. The lifestyle of the believer in Jesus Christ is to reflect their relationship with God as His children and the reality of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit in their life. Peter writes of this. “By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:3 NLT). It is God’s will that we experience His ongoing sanctifying work in our lives, and He has provided the means necessary for this to happen. The key is that we must recognize our own inability to transform our own lives in our own strength. But as Jesus said, “With God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26 ESV).
David, the great king of Israel and the man after God’s own heart, knew that the people of Israel were totally dependent upon God for their well-being and ultimate success. He also knew that his young son, Solomon, who was ascending to the throne of Israel in his place, would need the help of God to be the kind of king God desired him to be. Which is why he asked God, “Grant to Solomon my son a whole heart that he may keep your commandments, your testimonies, and your statutes, performing all, and that he may build the palace for which I have made provision” (1 Chronicles 29:19 ESV). Solomon was going to need God’s help just to be faithful and to accomplish all that lie ahead for him as the king of Israel. David could provide Solomon with all the resources and plans for building the temple of God, but God would have to provide the internal fortitude and spiritual stamina necessary to accomplish the task in a God-honoring and holy way.
What does this passage reveal about God?
God is fully aware of man’s weaknesses. He knows that we struggle with faithfulness and are ill-equipped to pursue a life of holiness. Which is why He has always provided the means by which holiness can become a reality in our lives. Holiness, in its most simple form, is set-apartness. It speaks of a character of life that is radically different than the norm. When God had called Abram out of Ur of the Chaldees and promised to make of him a great nation, His intention was to create a people who would reflect His character and live according to His righteous standards. They would be set-apart for His service, and would be His prize possession. As such, they would be expected to live differently. God told them, “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:5-6 ESV). God had provided them with His Law, making it abundantly clear just what His standards of conduct were to be. Then He provided them with His sacrificial system, because He knew that they would find it hard to live up to His righteous standard. The sacrificial system was a means by which they could be restored to a right relationship with Him, receiving forgiveness for their sins through the atonement made possible through the shedding of blood.
God did not call His people to holiness, then leave them on their own to pull it off. He did call them to live obediently and faithfully, but He knew that they would struggle to live up to His standards. So He provided everything they would need to receive His forgiveness when they sinned and enjoy His ongoing presence and power in their lives. The key was that they remain fully aware of their total dependence upon Him. They were helpless and hopeless without Him.
What does this passage reveal about man?
Man has a strong independent streak. Ever since the fall, we have been wired to act independently and fend for ourselves. We want to be in control of our own lives and do things our own way. But as God’s people, we must constantly remind ourselves that the only thing that sets us apart is our relationship with Him. In and of ourselves, we are nothing. We have no strength of our own. We have no wisdom of our own. We have no righteousness of our own. All that we have and all that we are, we owe to Christ. Jesus Himself reminds us, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5 ESV). Paul wrote, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13 ESV). The key is dependence. We must recognize our non-negotiable need for God in our lives. Even Jesus Himself lived in complete dependence upon God the Father. “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me” (John 5:30 ESV). This does not absolve us from responsibility or mean that we have no role to play in the process. It simply means that we must recognize our need for God in our lives and constantly turn to Him for the strength, wisdom, and resources we need to live holy lives in the midst of an unholy world.
How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?
Trying to love the godly life without God’s help is like trying to drive your car without gas – it’s impossible. Not only that, it’s ridiculous and a total waste of time. Yet how often do we as believers find ourselves trying to pull off godliness without God’s assistance. Too often we attempt to replace the Spirit’s power with a bit of elbow grease and a good work ethic. David spent years preparing for the construction of the temple. He drew up the plans (with God’s help), he appointed all the workers, he assigned all the duties of the priests, he collected all the materials, and he willingly and generously gave out of his own pocket the financial resources necessary to make it all happen. But David knew that nothing he had done was really his doing. David admitted as much to God: “But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you” (1 Chronicles 29:14 ESV). David was simply giving back to God what was rightfully His in the first place. Any gifts David had given had first been given by God to him.
We are completely dependent upon God. He must save us, because we cannot save ourselves. He must sanctify us or continually transform us into the likeness of His Son, because we are totally incapable of doing it on our own. He must also one day send His Son to come back for us. We can’t earn or work our way to heaven. We can’t climb our way into His presence. Jesus Christ will come back for us. Paul reminds us, “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 ESV). God has provided for our salvation, sanctification and, ultimately, our glorification. It is all His doing. We are completely dependent upon Him. But what a great place, what a safe place, what a totally worry-free place to be.
Father, may we learn to lean on You more. May we learn to be content being dependent upon You. Life lived in our own strength is exhausting and disappointing. But when we willingly rest in Your strength and live according to Your power, we find the rest and peace that Jesus offered. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men