Why There is No Imitation without Impartation


August 14, 2021

1 Timothy 4:7-10 (NIV)

7 Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. 8 For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. 9 This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. 10 That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.


I love how Scripture often makes analogies to every day ordinary things to teach about the deeper realities of how God works in our lives. Today’s text provides an apt illustration.

[T]rain yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.

Godly. What does this word mean to you? Have you ever heard someone referred to as a godly man or a godly woman? When I hear this description I think “morally upright” or “super religious” or “well respected in the church,” or something like that. It’s funny how I don’t think about God in any of those ways. I think of God as being glorious, holy, loving, beautiful, righteous, awesome, just, merciful, pure, peace-filled and powerful. To be godly, or God-like, doesn’t mean to be super religious. It means to be holy, loving, beautiful, righteous, awesome, amazing, pure, peace-filled, and powerful. Oh how I long to be godly. You too? 

In today’s text, Paul exhorts his apprentice, Timothy, (and by proxy us) to “Train yourself to be godly.” He doesn’t say train yourselves to be glorious, holy, loving, beautiful, righteous, awesome, amazing, pure, peace-filled and powerful. A person can fixate on becoming holy and become the very opposite of godly (i.e. see the Pharisees), but one cannot focus on becoming godly without also becoming holy. Are you tracking with me? It’s why when the Scriptures call us to holiness they say something like, “Be holy as I am holy.” It is not holiness that makes us like God, it is God who makes us holy. 

I think this the point I am trying to make here. There can be no imitation without impartation. God imparts himself to us which empowers us to become like him. We must have God himself if we are to have God’s nature. This is the miracle of Jesus and the gift of the Spirit. In Jesus, God shows us himself in perfection in human form and through his Spirit he puts his very nature inside of us.

We have come through a long season in the life of the church where “training in godliness” essentially meant believe and behave. The emphasis, at best, has been set on virtue instead on God himself. Notice he doesn’t say train yourselves to be “good people” or even “virtuous.” He says train yourself to be God-like, or godly. God is virtuous but virtue is not God. God is love, but love is not God. 

More commonly, training in godliness has focused on vices and on amending bad behavior. Certainly this is needful, but focusing on bad behavior doesn’t tend to beget good behavior. In fact, focusing on good behavior rarely begets good behavior. The shortcoming in this approach is focusing on behavior which ultimately eventuates in the slavery of the Law, aka legalism. This only increases the gravitational pull of sin. (see Romans 7) It is the cultivation of a comprehensive focus on God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—that changes everything. This is how the gospel shifts the center of gravity from the law of sin and death to the law of the Spirit and life. (See Romans 8)

The second half challenge, indeed the Christian life is not a believe and behave program, as so many of us have been taught. To be trained in godliness means learning a glorious life of beholding and becoming. 

[T]rain yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.

We will pick back up here tomorrow with what that training might look like. 


Lord Jesus, I am weary of the old way of training. It hasn’t worked. I am all for imitating you, but I must have impartation from you. Take me into this way of beholding and becoming. I want to be truly godly, which is to say like you. Come Holy Spirit, and draw me into the gravity of Jesus and impart to me his very nature. Train me to be godly. In Jesus’ name, amen. 


Do you resonate with this shifting from “believe and behave” to “behold and become”? What does this mean to you? What does it stir in you? Where do you find yourself in it? 

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt

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Comments and Discussion

One Response

  1. I think I see where this line of reasoning is leading. The “believe and behave “ mentality is especially a work of the flesh, whereas the “behold and become” approach is essentially the work of the Holy Spirit. I believe that this truth is revealed in Scripture: “His divine power has given us everything we need for a Godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires” (2 Peter 1:3-4). “ Behold the man upon the cross, my sins upon his shoulders; Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice call out among the scoffers. It was my sin that held him there, Until it was accomplished; His dying breath has brought me life – I know that it is finished.”

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