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Private Godliness Allows Us to Be Used by God in Extraordinary Ways


During the 2016 presidential campaign, George Clooney stated emphatically, “There’s not going to be a President Donald Trump.” Now, apparently, there will not be a President George Clooney.

In an interview with the BBC’s Andre Marr, the sixty-year-old actor stated that, while he’s engaged in politics, he hopes to reduce his workload rather than increase it by running for office. When asked if he had such political intentions, he said quickly, “No, because I would actually like to have a nice life.”

He has a point. In recent days, activists supporting the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion spending bill have accosted Sen. Krysten Sinema at an airport and on her way to the bathroom. Over the weekend, they announced their plan to follow her at yesterday’s Boston Marathon as well. Sen. Joe Manchin was recently at the houseboat where he lives while in Washington, DC, when a group of kayakers confronted him on the same issue.

When asked about the way Sen. Sinema had been treated, President Joe Biden replied, “The only people it doesn’t happen to are the people who have Secret Service standing around them. So, it’s part of the process.”

Tim Keller on celebrity pastors

Public service comes at a cost. Conversely, when we are filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18), we are motivated to serve. When we love our Lord, we must love our neighbor (Matthew 22:34-40). When God is working in us, he will work through us.

Yesterday we discussed the temptation of “private” sins that seem to have no public consequences but keep us from being used and rewarded fully by God. Today, let’s accent the positive: private godliness positions us to be used by God in ways we cannot imagine beforehand.

Well-known pastor and author Tim Keller acknowledged to Christian Post that he is viewed as a “celebrity pastor in some circles.” However, he also understands that if he misuses his platform, “a lot of Christians can be put to shame” because of him.

He added: “Therefore, if God gives me a bigger ‘platform,’ then I actually have a responsibility not to disappoint people. Not just to look like a great person; I actually have to be holy; I have to actually mortify my sin. I have to have a prayer life. I have to do the stuff that every Christian needs to do. I don’t have to be better than other Christians. I just need to be what God wants a Christian to be.”

While public ministry requires private godliness, the converse is also true: private godliness empowers and enables public ministry. In seeking such godliness, let’s consider a simple but paradoxical fact.

A clown shortage and a war hero

Northern Ireland is experiencing a clown shortage due to the coronavirus pandemic. This is a problem in circuses and other places where clowns are needed. Being a clown is anonymous business—the more a crowd can identify the person behind the costume, the less effective a clown that person will be.

In other news, Private First Class Desmond T. Doss of Lynchburg, Virginia, was presented the Medal of Honor on this day in 1945. He was cited for outstanding bravery as a medical corpsman, the first conscientious objector in American history to receive the nation’s highest military honor.

He served during the bloody battle of Okinawa, saving the lives of dozens of his fellow soldiers at grave risk to his own. When Mel Gibson brought his incredible story to movie theaters with Hacksaw Ridge, I was invited to a private screening followed by a time of discussion with Mr. Gibson. I asked him why he felt compelled to make the film; he explained that he felt PFC Doss’ story was one the world needed to know.

He was right. As the movie makes clear, PFC Doss served with no thought of personal advancement. He simply saw his fellow soldiers in danger and did what he could. He could have had no possible idea that six decades later, his story would make global news.

"I am not but I know I Am"

The more we seek personally to glorify God, the more publicly he can use us. This is because God cannot share his throne lest he commit idolatry. If he seeks to glorify anyone above himself, he leads us into worship of the creature rather than the Creator. As Israel’s idolatrous history illustrates, this sin only leads into further sin.

By contrast, when we say of Jesus what John said of him, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30), the Father uses us to draw more people to his Son than we could ever lead to him in our ability for our glory. When we say with Louie Giglio, “I am not but I know I Am,” we know the great I Aᴍ (Exodus 3:14) in ways that will lead others to know him as well.

God’s word states paradoxically, “The reward for humility and fear of the Lᴏʀᴅ is riches and honor and life” (Proverbs 22:4). Scripture promises, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you” (James 4:10). Solomon noted, “Humility comes before honor” (Proverbs 15:33).

The more we seek public recognition, the less God will lead us to experience it. The more we seek to honor our Lord and glorify our Savior in all we do, the more God can trust us with public ministry that will lead even more people to him.

How to "build a tall house of virtues"

Tim Keller is just one of many “celebrity pastors” in our day of global journalism and social media exposure. You could name many others. But I’m sure Rev. Keller would agree that celebrity is not enough.

As the moral decline of our culture illustrates, we need fewer personalities and more servants. Being famous is no substitute for being faithful. As we noted yesterday, we cannot save a single soul or change a single life. Only the Spirit can accomplish spiritual transformation.

So, let’s take a moment to ask ourselves why we do what we do for God. Why did I write this Daily Article? If you attended worship last Sunday, or taught a Bible study, or led worship, or preached a sermon, why did you do so? Think of your last act of service as a Christian—why did you do what you did?

If we do not seek intentionally to honor Jesus in all we do, we will honor ourselves instead. Our default position as fallen people is to be on the throne of our own hearts, seeking our own glory. The “will to power” (Nietzsche) that began in Genesis 3 continues to tempt us today. But if we ask the Spirit to help us know our motives and seek to glorify God in everything we do, he will answer our prayer.

St. Augustine noted, “If you plan to build a tall house of virtues, you must first lay deep foundations of humility.”

How deep are your foundations today?

Publication date: October 12, 2021

Photo courtesy: ©GettyImages/eyetoeyePIX

Jim Denison, PhD, is a cultural theologian and the founder and CEO of Denison Ministries. Denison Ministries includes,,, and Jim speaks biblically into significant cultural issues at Denison Forum. He is the chief author of The Daily Article and has written more than 30 books, including The Coming Tsunamithe Biblical Insight to Tough Questions series, and The Fifth Great Awakening.

The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of CrosswalkHeadlines.

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