“How then can we deal with our tendency toward worldliness?” asks author Jerry Bridges in his book The Practice of Godliness. It is an intriguing question as we often struggle to live righteously in a wicked world. His answer might surprise you.
“It is not by determining that we will not be worldly,” Bridges asserts, “but by committing ourselves to becoming more godly.”
While we might parse his answer and point toward various “Thou Shalt Not” commandments in the Bible, I think his point is well taken. A positive focus on who God wants us to be and how He desires that we live will crowd out the carnal impluses in our hearts.
Our word of the week is godly.
The word translated godly in the New Testament, according to Dr. Vine, means “to be devout,” and “denotes that piety which, characterized by a Godward attitude, does that which is well-pleasing to Him.” He further suggests it is a “piety which characterizes the inner being, the soul, in its attitude towards God.”
To be godly is to be in awe of God. To possess an attitude of piety, devotion, and reverence. To focus our energy on serving Him. To direct our activity in spiritual pursuits.
In a world of ungodliness Paul’s 1st century exhortation is still relevant today. “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” (Titus 2:11-13).
A spirit of ungodliness will result in us following the wisdom of the world, pursuing our fleshly passions, and living in a way that satisfies our lusts. A godly life is a disciplined life. Trained in virtue. Committed to righteousness. And transformed by God’s grace.
Achieving godliness demands that we pursue a relationship with God. Dr. Charles Stanley correctly observed, “The time you spend alone with God will transform your character and increase your devotion.”
Indeed being godly is about character development. It is a process. It is a commitment to discipleship. To following Jesus. And to becoming more like Him. It is learned through reading, studying and meditating on His Word. It is cultivated in prayer. And is it punctuated by our daily practice.
It is difficult, if not impossible, to be a godly person in a vacuum, apart from other Christians. God created a Church Family so we could experience fellowship, enjoy encouragement, and receive “godly edification” (1 Tim. 1:4). Our mutual faith finds commonality in godly living. To this end the Bible offers this exhortation in Hebrews 1o:22-24.
“Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”
Unfortunately, not everyone will appreciate our attempt to live a godly life. Paul reminds us, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12). However, when the allure of the world seduces us to ungodliness, Peter promises, “the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations” (2 Pet. 2:9).
However, when we do find ourselves on the wrong side of righteousness, it is “godly sorrow” that pricks our conscience, produces repentance, and prods us back to the way of holiness (2Cor. 7:9-11).
It is a constant challenge. But never forget. Each day God calls us to be godly.
–Ken Weliever, ThePreacherman