Before we continue our series on godliness, let us review: what is it? Godliness is ours when we have been recreated in Christ, in union with Christ we have His righteousness, and the indwelling Spirit makes us more like Him. See here; and here.
Godliness with contentment is great gain! It is not wrong to consider this gain, and then to want this godliness with contentment. If you have not yet considered what true Biblical contentment is, I highly recommend Jeremiah Burrough’s book. He reminds us that Paul begins his writing on contentment in Philippians by saying he learned it. It is learned, it is not something we will have innate within. Contentment is not a disposition, or personality trait. Neither is godliness.
We hold to a form of godliness but deny its power when we:
Look inward for strength, peace, meaning, identity…
Believe we are capable of righteousness of our own
Attempt to find identity apart from Christ
Feel stuck, and believe it is because He will not help
When we do not believe His Spirit dwelling in us will be fruitful
When we grieve the Spirit by turning away, with a lack of willingness to follow and to obey; He leads us–are we following or trying to lead?
When we do not consider everything apart from Christ rubbish, but take pride in appearances, and in achievements (see Philippians 3)
When we are whitewashed tombs (Matthew 23:27-28)
(This list is not exhaustive…)
We hold to the true form of godliness, full of power, when we find our lives hidden with Christ in God, knowing we live in Union with Christ. When we live in continual communion with Him, as a branch attached to the Vine. Living as His beloved, as one who can say “My Father! My God!” and as one who has confident access, boldness to approach, knowing we will receive grace…
We continue in prayer, abiding in prayer, devoted to prayer, as Paul gives us example in Colossians 1 “fill us with all power according to His glorious might for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience.” Paul closes that chapter by revealing how he endures in his difficult work–working according to the power of God at work in him.
This too is how we will endure, persevere, and live the abundant life here. Yet, at the same time, we groan for the what lies ahead, our true home.
Let us not deny the power, but pray for it, and believe that the power of godliness is real. Will we be perfected on this side of heaven? No. But we cling to the Vine, who pours His life into us.
When Paul told the believers at Corinth to avoid, He meant brothers mixed up in these things. Here too we must understand, these are not blatant unbelievers that we are to avoid–these are so-called Christians. They claiming to follow Christ without holding fast to His words; they have their own version of what it means to be of the faith–but no obedience of faith, no walking in the Spirit.
They do not fit Paul’s description in 2 Timothy: 3:10, “you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance, persecutions, and sufferings…” Paul taught others to imitate him, to practice what they learned from him. The writer of Hebrews also teaches us imitate the faith of our teachers.
We deny the power of godliness when we strike off on our own, disregarding the faith of those who have walked before us. Are we so arrogant as to think that we alone have figured out how to be Christlike? Can we really do this apart from His Word, and His Body? The Holy Spirit tells us to avoid those who deny what God has made plain in His Word, what He has revealed.
Pray, and Persevere
Shall we disregard the training, create our own system, our own form of godliness? Perhaps we should even give up the word ‘godliness’–it is pretentious, right? It is arrogant to consider myself godly, right?
No, beloved; the godly ones are delighted to admit they belong to Him, they abide in Him and He in them. The godly ones are delighted to sit at His feet, and to be led by streams of living water, and to be given the Bread of Life to continually feast upon. They do not want one bite, or even one meal, they want the continual feast He offers. The godly ones press on, knowing they have not achieved perfection, but desire to lay hold of His resurrection power!