I want to say a few words about a common way in which we often fail to grow in godliness. As it happens, parents also sometimes make a similar mistake in raising their children, with the result that their kids go off the rails as they approach independent adulthood.
Let’s start by taking a look at Hebrews 1:8-9, which quotes Ps 45:6-7 as part of a description of Jesus, the Son of God. There’s one particular phrase I’d like to draw your attention to:
“You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness” (v. 9).
What’s intriguing about this is that it doesn’t simply talk about what Jesus does (and doesn’t do); it talks about what he loves (and hates). He doesn’t just act with righteousness; he loves righteousness. And since we’re called to be like Jesus, we’re called to do the same – to love righteousness and hate wickedness.
This is one of the most valuable lessons we’ll ever learn about growing in godliness.
It’s not enough just to do what’s right from day to day; this isn’t a sufficient safeguard for us. For the time will surely come when the temptation to sin grows stronger, at which point unless we actually love righteousness the temptation to sin is likely to be too strong to resist.
To put it another way: when the crunch comes, we don’t do what we’re told to do, but what we love to do. And unless we love righteousness, the day will eventually come when we turn away from it. (And yes, you can indeed hear echoes here of James K. A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom, and Douglas Wilson, Standing on the Promises.)
This is particularly relevant for parents in the process of raising children. It’s fairly easy to make a small child comply with the word of God. A strict and consistent regime of parental discipline will produce children who do what they’re told – at least for the time being.
But unless we raise our children to love living in obedience to the word of God, the time is surely coming when they will stop doing so.
With good reason, then, Psalm 119:97 declares, “Oh how I love your law!”