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Thanks for joining me today. If you are new to the show, I want to invite you to do two things. The first one is to start this series with Part 1. That will be super important for your ability to understand and apply what we’re going to discuss today.
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And now let’s move into the 6th evidence of spiritual life.
II Peter 1:5-6, “Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness.”
God gifts us faith which we exercise to trust Him. When we do that, we are imparted Christ’s righteousness and equipped to actually live a life that glorifies Him. From there, it’s important that we grow in our knowledge and understanding of God’s Word so that we can exercise our Spirit-control to persevere in our sanctification.
And it’s that sanctification—really, it’s the entire process we’ve been outlining—that will result in our godliness. The Greek word translated “godliness” refers to an internal devotion to God that exhibits itself in behavior that is in accordance with God’s expectations.
What’s interesting about this list—as I mentioned earlier in the series—is that these topics overlap each other in many ways, but they also lead to each other. However, even though there are two more traits listed after this one, those last two are actually finer, more specific points that expand on the topic of godliness.
So, this part of the list is unique in that it’s the culmination of the list (even though it’s not the end of the list), but it’s also unique in that it’s the first item on the list that is impossible to do in our own power. And we’re going to talk about that more in a minute.
However, we want to start with this . . .
1. The Nature of Godliness
A. The Difference between Moral Excellence and Godliness
Now, perhaps you’re wondering how godliness is different from moral excellence? They sound like they could be two different words for the same idea. Moral excellence is a broad term that encompasses all self-control, love, perseverance, brotherly kindness, godliness, and the other biblical commands. In a similar way, love, self-control, and the like are also part of what it is to be godly. So why did Peter choose to use this word? Is He just being repetitive?
Consider II Peter 1:3, “His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness.” Generally speaking, our becoming godly is God’s ultimate goal. We were dead; He made us alive. We were sinful; He made us righteous. We were self-worshippers; He made us God-worshippers. We were fleshly; He makes us godly.
God gave us faith so that we could experience positional and practical moral excellence. He also gave us knowledge about Him so that we could learn to grow and persevere in our Spirit-control. As we continue to resist the devil and draw near to Him, we are being conformed into the very image of Christ. Romans 8:29 says, “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son.” II Corinthians 3:18 reveals, “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord [the knowledge of God in the Bible], are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit [Spirit-control].”
So, moral excellence or virtue is part of what it is to be godly just like self-control and perseverance are. Moral excellence is also a position and possession, but godliness is the ultimate goal and expression of moral excellence.
B. The Fleshly Version of II Peter 1:5-6
What’s interesting about this godliness is that it’s the first item on our list that requires submission to the God of the Bible.
Let’s look at this realistically. An unbeliever can trust in a worldview that encourages morally excellent behavior like philanthropy. Such people can grow in that philosophical knowledge as well as develop the self-control necessary to persevere in charity and kindness to those in need.
There are people who devote themselves to religious systems—they have faith in Islam or Buddhism or Humanism—and they are pursuing excellence in that system by constantly growing their knowledge and applying self-control so they can persevere in the system’s teachings.
This fleshly shadow of the spiritual realities we’re discussing is evidence in any and all decisions people make. Let’s consider what would be considered a negative application. A criminal believes that his lifestyle is best. He pursues excellence in his craft by practicing and studying. He exercises self-control in how he chooses his targets. He may be adept at lock picking or manipulation. And he perseveres in his lifestyle because he works hard to be good at it.
But nothing I just illustrated will result in godliness.
Even someone who grew up in a baptist church who trusts the “Christian lifestyle” of nominal American Christianity, who really enjoys being morally excellent as opposed to the wickedness they see in the world around them, who studies the Bible in order to know how best to control their choices in order to persevere in their moral superiority . . . they won’t achieve godliness either. They are identical to the pharisee in Luke 8:11 who “stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’”
Jesus then contrasts him with the tax collector and says, “13 But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Yes, true faith that leads to moral excellence in Christ that pursues knowing God from His Word that results in genuine Spirit-controlling that perseveres no matter what temptations come against it will produce godliness every single time.
But just because you trust something, are excellent at it, are constantly studying it, changing your behavior to fit it, and consistently growing in it doesn’t mean that’s from God or glorifying to Him.
None of that pleases the Lord because it’s motivated and empowered by self.
Godliness is impossible without the Lord because it’s the direct result of His working in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13).
So, what about you? Are you trusting in certain lifestyles and worldviews in order to live how you think is right, growing in your knowledge of such lifestyles, developing self-control, and persevering in those worldviews, but falling short of true godliness because it has nothing to do with a desire to obey what God has commanded in His Word?
Can you give even one example of an area of your life that is truly godly—an area where—because of your love for and devotion to God—you trust in the Lord and experience Spirit-control as you steadfastly submit to the things you’re learning about God?
I hope so.
But since it’s so easy to deceive ourselves, let me ask this question. Are there any mature, Bible-saturated, Spirit-controlled individuals in your life who would say that you are godly?
If we’re looking for a more legitimate evidence of spiritual life, godliness is it, since it’s so easy to exercise the other traits in our own fleshly power for our own fleshly ends.
2. The Goal of Godliness
In I Timothy 2:2, the Lord presents a truly simple and beautiful goal for the Christian life: “so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.”
And II Peter 3:10-11 asks, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. 11 Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness”?
“Holy conduct” or moral excellence is a facet of godliness, and nothing matters more in the whole world than to be godly. In fact, in I Timothy 6:6 we learn that “godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment.”
But we must be careful because it’s easy to see the benefits of godliness and pursue it for selfish reasons. II Timothy 3 describes individuals who are unloving and disobedient and lack self-control and hate good, and yet verse 5 says, “holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power.” These people believe that a certain set of behaviors constitutes godliness even though their lives are filled with the ungodliness that comes from sinful self-control.
And I Timothy 6:5 describes “men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain.”
If you superficially submit to the Scriptures in order to receive the blessings promised by God, you’re no different than the Israelites. After King Saul sinned, Samuel proclaimed to him, “Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices As in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams.”
And in Psalm 51:16-17 David wrote, “For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.”
Did God want His people offering sacrifices? Yes. He commanded it. And yet, external obedience without a genuinely godly broken spirit and contrite heart is sin which God despises.
I would encourage you sometime to study what the Bible means when it talks about a broken spirit and a contrite heart. They are powerful terms that carry great weight and significance as they are divine expectations for our lives.
3. The Process of Godliness
So, we’ve seen that godliness is conformity to the character of Christ that grows from a devout faith in Him. The entire purpose of our lives here on earth is to grow in our sanctification, and as we do so, shine the light of God’s glory to the world.
But how are we to become godly?
In I Timothy 4:7-10 we read, ”But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; 8 for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. 9 It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance. 10 For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.”
Becoming godly requires 4 key steps.
A. Ignore worldly philosophy.
You cannot grow in obedience to the wisdom of God when you’re filling your mind with the foolishness of the world.
B. Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.
Discipline refers to Olympic training. Training doesn’t happen to you, it happens as you participate with the trainer. Again, we see that godliness is the result of personal investment in God’s will for your life.
C. Discipline requires for you to labor and strive.
Godliness requires hard, often uncomfortable work empowered by the Holy Spirit for the purposes of being able to discern good and evil. (Hebrews 5:14)
D. You are to labor and strive to be just like the living God.
The standard of our godliness and moral excellence is the living God Himself.
But why does godliness have so much work?
It’s hard work because living like God is the exact opposite of living like a human. I Timothy 6:3-4 says, “If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, 4 he is conceited and understands nothing.” And I Timothy 1:9-11 describes the opposite of sound words: “Those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers 10 and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching.” And Galatians 5:17-21 goes into even more detail about natural, fleshly behavior.
On the other hand, Titus 1-3 gives a snapshot of what it is to live according to sound doctrine. When I’m going through this material with a counselee, I give them a spreadsheet I created based off Titus 1-3. It lists out all of the character traits that are to be in the life of a man or woman of God.
And I encourage them to mark all the descriptions of godliness that legitimately describe them on a daily basis. I tell them to make sure they’re judging themselves according to true godliness that grows from a heart of submission to God and not mere external behavior that can be called “godly” by casual onlookers.
I encourage you to read through Titus 1-3 and compile your own list and compare your life to it.
And then I give my counselees a goal. I say, “According to this short list of character qualities, which three would you like to start striving and laboring toward first?”
There is nothing more practical than that.
For example, in Titus 2:2 we read, “Older men are to be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance.” For the sake of my own life, I would choose to pursue greater and deeper temperance. This word refers to sober moderation, but not merely in food or drink, but in character.
And so I would then turn to the Scriptures to better understand the moderate sobriety with which God would have me live my life, and as I learn and understand what it means, I would need to actually put those things to practice in my life.
So, let’s finish with a look at I Timothy 6.
Trust in God (faith) equips us to live righteously (moral excellence), and increased knowledge of God along with submission to the Holy Spirit (self-control) produces perseverance in our conformity to Christ (godliness). And we need never fear that we can’t know what kind of life Christ lived. Not only do we have multiple accounts in the Gospels of His earthy life, the Old Testament beautifully reveals the character of God and our responsibility to Him, and the rest of the New Testament provides more direction than we could ever hope to achieve in a single lifetime.
So, let’s finish this short study in godliness by reading I Timothy 6:11-21. I Timothy uses the word “godliness” more than any other single book of the Bible, and Paul’s final words to Timothy are instructive for all who desire to discipline themselves for the purpose of godliness. If you’re reading this on our blog, take special note of all the bolded words. If you’re listening, I’ll try to highlight them. These words represent the labor and striving necessary to pursue true godliness.
“But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who testified the good confession before Pontius Pilate, 14 that you keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which He will bring about at the proper time—He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen. 17 Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. 18 Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed. 20 O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called “knowledge”— 21 which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith. Grace be with you.”
So, I just asked you to consider three areas in your life where you would like to pursue godliness. Based off I Timothy 6:11-21, what are some practical steps you need to take to discipline yourself in those areas?
Asking, answering, and applying these to your life is the only way to continue maturing in your spiritual life.
Please share this episode on your favorite social media outlets so that God’s people can learn what it is to be godly. And if you need assistance in growing your Christ-likeness, please write us at Counselor@CelebrationOfGod.com.
And join us next time as we seek to better know, love, and worship God and help the people in our lives do the same.
To that end, we’ll be discussing the first of two specific applications of godliness.
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