The Christian Virtues, Part 6: Godliness.

October 10, 2014.

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. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
(II Peter 1:5-8)

Faith, diligence, moral excellence, knowledge, self-control and steadfastness. Is it starting to get a little overwhelming? I understand this feeling, the feeling of trying to do everything at once and get everything right. It can be a daunting task to keep up. But I don’t think that is the point of these virtues. The point isn’t to overload us with so much to do and keep track of, but rather to build our relationship with the Lord and to walk in His will and in His light as opposed to our own. This is the hurdle we must jump before adding these virtues becomes a very doable task. Once we realize that we are not doing this out of pure obligation (though I do believe there is some obligation involved), we can do them out of genuine will and have a honest desire to build our character in such a way that it reflects Christ to all who see. This is the goal in studying these virtues. If you are overwhelmed, don’t worry. Don’t try to take everything on at once. I would suggest starting at the beginning and really working on one at a time. You might find that in mastering one, you master a few without realizing it. These posts will be here as reference, not as a timeline of when you should have these virtues down pat. I am far from applying each of these to my life daily. I am writing on them in effort to build them into my character. I encourage you to do the same.

That being said, today we are going to discuss the fifth virtue in the list which is godliness. Godliness is a bit ambiguous to me as it seems very close to moral excellence, so I decided to look up a more specific definition of godliness. As I guess I should have deduced, godliness has more to do with reverence, devotion and worship to God as opposed to being a moral person, though I still think there is some overlap in the two definitions, and that overlap comes from living by God’s standard.

Following along the pattern, it makes sense to me that godliness is put here for a reason. For one to be devout, devoted to God and walking closer to Him than be fore, you need to have established steadfastness. Godliness needs to have good roots, else it will quickly disappear. This reminds me of the parable of the sower. In this story, a man goes out to sow seed and the seed lands on different kinds of soil. It is explained thus:

“Hear then the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”
(Matthew 13:18-23)

When we don’t have perseverance, we are like the seed that fell on rocky or thorny ground. Godliness cannot be sustained without perseverance and self control (or discipline). It will last for a while and may even look promising, but without root it will surly fail. With this in mind, we need to remember that the way we live our lives is considered our spiritual worship to God, relating the themes of diligence, faith, and moral excellence supplemented with knowledge to godliness.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
(Romans 12:1-2)

As we start to put all these virtues together, we see a character that is being forged through fire to be like the Almighty. A character that reflects Christ on this earth and seeks to do His will. Godliness is an important component of this character. Often in today’s society it is hard to tell the difference between humanitarianism and godliness. When people think of Christian mission work or helping people in other countries, they mostly think of the humanitarian side of it. The reverse is also true. When people do humanitarian works to help people, they think of it as godliness. Don’t misunderstand me, I think humanitarian works are very noble indeed, and I do believe that they can be considered a part of godliness, but the terms are not interchangeable. A humanitarian seeks for the good of people. Godliness goes beyond just helping people from the standpoint of improving their lives on this earth. Godliness is concerned with the soul. A humanitarian mission and a Christian mission can be very different things, though they don’t have to be.

So, we know that godliness has to do with our worship and devotion to God. This can apply to many aspects of our lives and there are many things we can do to build our godliness. One thing that I know I should work to do a better job on is praying. Perhaps you may want to have more devotional time with God, setting aside a portion of your day for Him. Singing, praying, reading, studying- they all go into this concept of godliness. It is wonderful experience indeed when we are able to reach the point of the Psalmist:

I was glad when they said to me,
    “Let us go to the house of the Lord!”
Our feet have been standing
    within your gates, O Jerusalem!”
(Psalm 122:1-2)

Are you glad to go into the house of the Lord? David was no doubt referencing a specific place of worship to the Father. Though we don’t necessarily have a mandated physical location to worship the Father (ref. John 4:23-24), we do have a specific purpose to worship the Father. Why? The reason comes with understudying who the Father is. When we start to learn who He is, worship is almost a by-product. His very essence demands worship. God speaks through Isaiah to say,

“Turn to me and be saved,
    all the ends of the earth!
    For I am God, and there is no other.
By myself I have sworn;
    from my mouth has gone out in righteousness
    a word that shall not return:
‘To me every knee shall bow,
    every tongue shall swear allegiance.’”
(Isaiah 4522-23)

One day, when we fully experience God face to face, everyone will worship Him. There will no longer be a choice in the matter, for the essence of God will demand our worship. Now don’t ask me for all the details and implications about this, because I simply couldn’t tell you. My finite mind is not sufficient to fully grasp this glory. Will there be free will in the resurrection? I tend to think there will be some level of free will, but I could not tell you for sure as we know that sin and death will be destroyed. But I am getting a bit off topic here (perhaps another day…). The point is, the glory of God demands worship. One day we all will worship, but His children get the opportunity to do this now, and then forever more.

So how do we gain godliness? Honestly, this is probably one of the easiest answers that has the hardest implementation. The easy answer? Apply the previous virtues that we have been talking about. The hard answer? Apply the previous virtues that we have been talking about. Of course, this is not fully sufficient, as godliness implies more. I would suggest setting aside time each day to have a individual devotion to God. Meditate on His word, pray from an honest heart and grow closer to Him. As I have written about before, however, Christianity is not an individualistic religion. It is a religion of fellowship. Aside from setting personal time with God, one of the best ways to practice godliness is to do so with other Christians. Get a group together and do a devotional or a bible study. Sit around and discuss the word. Worship God by fellowshipping with the children of God. Having a Christian community is vital to your spiritual health. If you are in a place where this type of community is impossible, consider forging one. Is that not our duty anyway? To spread the gospel? I know this is easier said then done, however I didn’t claim this would be an easy journey though these virtues.

Take time to be holy, as the song says. Apply godliness to your life. Keep Christ at the forefront of your mind and do the things that He would have you to do in your everyday walk of life. Sure, this might be hard, and people indeed will mock you for displaying godliness, but that shouldn’t stop you. To often has the fear of what other people will think if I bring up God stopped me from doing that very thing. It is almost conditioned into us from a young age not to talk about God in public by society. If we are going to apply these virtues, that is going to change. The whole point in building this type of character is so that people will notice that there is something different about us and want that difference. In this way can we share Christ. Godliness is the next step in this process. Don’t be ashamed to be godly. Live your life in such a way where your light shines bring before the sons of man so that you may indeed point someone to Christ. We have good news. Let’s share it.

But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.”
(I Timothy 6:6-7)

Suggested Daily Reading: Philippians 1-4.

Grace and peace.

-Walter

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