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Godliness: not the action only.

From my last post, you may have gathered the idea that godliness is something that cannot be defined by form only. The motive of your action has as much to do with it being godly as the action itself. In other words, where is your heart? As an example, the Pharisees prayed in public seeking the honor of men. This makes an action (prayer), which is something a godly person does, into an action that is not godly but merely a form of godliness.

It seems obvious that Godliness has to do with God. But as such it is solely a “facing God”, “directed towards God” or, “motivated by God” action. “God-ward” is a word I have seen used. You might even say “This action is dedicated to God”.

No one should dedicate something to someone which would disappoint them or with which they would disagree.

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I recently saw an episode of Undercover Boss where the CEO of the flower company named a flower display after one particularly inspirational employee. She was honored.  It was a cheerful arrangement like her. Imagine if he had dedicated a “funeral bouquet’ to her. That would not be pleasing.  Many years ago, I named a calf after a friend of mine and she was not flattered. (Lesson learned!) Likewise, we need to be equally careful what we dedicate to God.

Godliness does not take into account what other people will think, it takes into account what God will think.  David danced before the ark of the Lord as it came to Jerusalem. (God approved, his wife did not.) Abraham picked up and traveled, not knowing where he was going to wind up, just because God told him to. (I wonder what his family thought about that.) Moses left the riches of Egypt in order to serve God and deliver Israel. While the 10 commandments movie may not be accurate in all accounts, I can imagine his Egyptian family trying to talk Moses out of leaving, as they did in the movie.

It doesn’t mean that godly men are perfect men. Abraham lied twice about Sarah being his wife, David committed murder and adultery, Moses got angry without cause and the list of sins committed by our heroes can be multiplied. This is an important point to notice because we sometimes elevate these heroes and then judge ourselves by them, concluding that we cannot live up to their example. Wrong conclusion!

Godliness fits well into this list of qualities that Peter emphasizes because it brings the heart and motivation into the mix. We may have the virtue, knowledge, self-control, and perseverance but so, it seems, did the church at Ephesus. To that church, Jesus said that they still had the problem of having lost their first love: they had become ritualistic. They had the Form but not the heart.

Heart is one thing that makes up godliness. Desire is the other, desire of the right thing. All of the Godly men and women, not only wanted to serve God but had a strong desire for something unique. That unique something was not in this world but in the one that they could not see.

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them. (Heb 11:13-16)

Their mind was not set on the things of this world but on the things of the world to come. They could have gone back. Perhaps they could have said, “I want to serve God but please let me do it from where I am at”. Abraham did not do that, Ruth did not do that. Even Jesus left where he was at to serve not just God but us. Paul tells the Colossians:

If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. (Col 3:1-3)

This seems to be the heart of godly living, a focus that is on God and not on this world. We are pilgrims here and we not only need to live like pilgrims but talk like pilgrims. What we have in this world is nice, and some of us have really nice things, but what we will have in Heaven is so much more. Godliness will get us there.

Adding Godliness

Peter provided a list of 7 characteristics that he, basically, says are necessary qualities for the Christian to have in order to get to Heaven. Having worked with the first four, we now look at Godliness.

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. (2Pe 1:5-7)

There is a lot to think about with the characteristic of godliness. For example, what exactly is godliness? I like to ask that question because godliness seems to be a little vague. In the Greek, there is a word used that sometimes is translated “pious” or “piety”, in the Hebrew there is a word that started out meaning “kind”  but evolved to “religiously pious”. (I am not a Greek or Hebrew expert, mind you, I am simply using Strong’s concordance.) But to say that godliness is “piety”, a word that most of us do not use too often does not really help us.

One way you might learn what a word means is by learning what it is not. Perhaps you might remember when Gilligan was adopted by the Howell’s on the TV show “Gilligan’s Island”. Suddenly, he was not able to associate with the common folks: his old friends. In a humorous way, we see that being called by a certain name requires a certain lifestyle. The same is true for those of us called by the name of Christ.

Godliness cannot be defined by it’s form. Paul warns us about those who have a form of godliness but have denied the power of it.

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! (2Ti 3:1-5)

Appearing to be godly is not the same as being godly. Not that these people would appear to be godly if they actually acted like Paul says, so they hide those characteristics and adopt a form of godliness. Perhaps they are a bit like the Pharisees:

“And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. (Mat 6:5-7)

Both types of these prayers (of the Pharisees and Gentiles) have the form of godliness. One is done publicly, but not internally, and the other is done as if repetition alone would be of some value. Neither examples of prayer takes into consideration that there must be a sincerity that comes from the heart in order to make the actions which appear to be godly to actual godliness.

One more passage that talks about godliness and shows the opposites of it is this one:

I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness–with good works. (1Ti 2:8-10)

If I am correct, the “likewise” ties what Paul says about men and women together; both need to have godliness (even though it only specifically mentions it in the section about women). What would not be appropriate to godliness for men is “anger or quarreling” and for women focusing on “braided hair, gold, pearls, costly attire”.  The opposite then, of prayer with holy hands, and respectable apparel and good works should be considered part of godliness..

Yet, there is more that can be said about godliness. Lord willing we will tomorrow.

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