Godliness is unity in complexity.
For example. One the one hand we must be content with the works God chooses to perform in our lives. The cross indicts us on all of our working and striving for a goodness of our own. That’s a hard pill to swallow, but if the Christian life is by grace alone, that’s the truth. All works are God’s works and whether he works or not, or how he chooses to work, is his sovereign choice. God can even go the whole way. “He can bring on the ultimate suffering of doing no works through believers in order to bring them lower still” (Forde).
But on the other hand, Jesus gives a promise that those who believe in him will do the works that he does, even greater works. “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12)
So we have on the surface two competing truths. 1) The Christian life is by grace alone, and since it is our successes (i.e. good works) are independent of us, they are God’s alone. 2) The promise of great works. So which is it? It’s both. Both are true. Instead of competing, they stand juxtaposed, in tension with one another.
Dying to self necessarily means being content with the ways and means by which the Lord moves in us. Living for righteousness necessarily means desiring to see the Lord move significantly. Both can and should increasingly exist simultaneously in the same heart. When these kinds of juxtaposed truths do exist together, they prevent us from becoming a “superficial, simplistic, lopsided people” (Piper). And in this, we grow in godliness.