Torch, Winter 1987

I ~ I t f J.. The question of godliness is not purely an academic one, for we Christians are commanded to seek after it (I Tim. 6:11). And God's grace teaches us to live godly in this present world (Titus 2:l 2). The fact is that only Christians can be godly. Godliness is a lifestyle peculiar to Christians, for it has its roots in an intimate, personal knowledge of Jesus Christ and the possession of His divine nature (II Pet. 1:3-4). When we come to know God through Jesus Christ, we are provided with all the divine enablement which we need to live godly lives. This is the divine nature about which Peter spoke. What does the godly lifestyle encompass? It is an attitude of devotion to God and consequent right conduct. It manifests itself in love toward God and love toward man and those things which God loves. Thereby it honors and glorifies God, encourages other believers, elicits a verdict from the unsaved, and provides the confidence that a Christian is in God 's will. Just as godliness is a lifestyle, so is ungodliness. In fact, we can learn something about godliness from the Scriptures ' description of its antithesis - ungodliness. Paul described ungodliness as a lack of reverence toward God (Rom. 1:18). The ungodly are sinners (I Pet. 4:18). They are not equipped to live in reverence and honor to God. Consequently, they are immoral persons who deny the truth of God, especially concerning Jesus Christ (Jude 4). The deeds and words of the ungodly are charac– terized as being ungodly (Jude 15). Their doom is certain, for God reserves them for the future day of eternal judg– ment (II Pet. 3:7). The only gain for them is the righteous judgment of the God Whom they choose not to reverence. Again, can Christians be like God? Without a doubt. It is a matter of choice. To assist us, God has given Chris– tians a model of godliness to follow: He Himself has appeared in a human body and thereby has provided us with the exact pattern of godliness which we need to emulate. Jesus Christ is that special revelation. Paul wrote that there is a great "mystery of godliness" (I Tim. 3: 16). Unknown and unknowable until Jesus Christ came into the world, the mystery revealed is that godliness is exemplified in Christ. We now have the model of godliness, and an examination of some of His earthly life will clarify for us the traits we are to imitate. pattern of Jesus, godly Christians pray often, and not solely for themselves. Another of Jesus' traits was His forgiveness of those who rejected His ministry. Even on the cross He expressed God's love for sinners in His prayer for for– giveness for those who crucified Him (Luke 23 :34). The godly life demands that Christians forgive those who wrong them. Jesus exhibited great gentleness for so powerful a man (Matt. 11 :29). He rebuked two of His disciples on one occasion when they desired the destruction of a Samaritan village because of the citizens' lack of hospitality to the Lord (Luke 9:51-56). Gentleness is not sissiness. It is a virtue of godliness. Jesus' godliness was also evidenced in His concern for others and in His humble service to them. He illustrated this when He washed His disciples ' feet and instructed them to do to each other as He had done to them (John 13:12-17). Even as He hung on the cross, His concern for His mother continued as He committed her to the care of another (John 19:25-27). As He served others, He expressed His love for those the Father loved. The godly life is an other-centered life, putting self second. Jesus was truth personified. He criticized the Phari– sees for their hypocrisy. Playing religion was so offen– sive that He likened them to whitewashed tombs (Matt. 23:27). Their doctrine was unsound as they used outward piety as a means to gain God's favor. Godliness is not a show of shallow seriousness about God. Rather, sincere, godly believers tell the truth about sin to others and to themselves. Christ also refused to conform to the religious prejudices of the Pharisees which enforced separation from tax collectors, prostitutes, and other social outcasts (Matt. 9:10-11). He stated that His mission was to seek out and to save the lost (Luke 19:10). For that reason He made contact with those who were ostracized by the Pharisees. True righteousness exceeds by far the legal righteousness of the Pharisees in that only trust in Jesus Christ brings salvation (Acts 4: 12). Christ witnessed to both the Pharisees and to those scorned by them. He was not contaminated by either. The godly believer reaches out to sinners whoever they might be. Godliness has its roots in an intimate, personal knowledge ofJesus Christ and in the possession ofHis divine nature.... Jesus testified that the very purpose for His coming down from heaven was to do God's will (John 6:38). Thus, the Son of God exemplified the godly life through His obedience to the Heavenly Father. Godliness and obedience to God go hand in hand. Jesus reverenced the Father, as was evidenced by His worship and service to God (Luke 4:8). He attended the synagogue and the temple and, on one occasion, His zeal for God led Him to drive the religious merchants from the temple. A godly Christian is a reverent person who is faithful to God with his worship and his revenues. Jesus further exemplified godliness both through His own prayer life and in what He taught about prayer. Withdrawing often to pray (Luke 5:16), His prayer encompassed others, as when He prayed for Peter's re– covery from his failure (Luke 22:31-32). Following the Unquestionably, godliness has value for Christians today. At this present time, godliness brings honor to God and satisfaction to a Christian in knowing that he is doing God's will. But the godly also have hope for the future (I Tim. 4:8), knowing that they are exempt from the day of God's judgment (II Pet. 2:9). Delivered from eternal judgment through God's grace, the godly will live in the new order of things. For that reason the coming of the Lord is an incentive to live in a godly fashion today. Hence we can look forward to the future not with dread but with great expectation (II Peter 3: 11-13). We Christians indeed can and ought to live godly lives in this present world. As possessors of the divine nature of God, we have the Word of God for our instruction and the Lord Jesus ,Christ as our example. 5