Godliness, part 1 – What is it?

What is profitable for me in my life? What is profitable to you? I say I had a profitable day when I arrive home from work having accomplished a good day of classes and gotten a large amount of grading done. Then I will tell my wife that I had a profitable day. Sometimes I feel my day was wasted – of no profit. I struggled to work, classes seemed at a lower level, the students weren’t paying attention, I kept getting interrupted – I didn’t get anything done. I was not profitable.

We gauge profitability in different ways, but there are things that are profitable to us. An investment is profitable if it pays out good dividends. A workout is profitable if we feel sore, and our muscles are growing and stronger. A run was profitable if it burns the calories and energizes our body as we expect it should.

The Bible talks about being profitable too. Job asks if a man can be profitable to God – Job 22:2. Wisdom is profitable to our use of time – Eccl. 10:10. Scripture is profitable – 2 Tim. 3:16. People can be profitable to others – 2 Tim. 4:11. Good works are profitable – Titus 3:8. Bodily exercise is profitable – 1 Tim. 4:8.

[Bodily exercise profiteth little; but that means it does profit. I am not an exercise addict, and I do know that there is a danger – as in anything – of allowing something “good” to overwhelm the “best.” But exercise is good, and the Bible does say that it profits little. The comparison Paul is drawing is to something far better, and if one were to choose, then bodily exercise should be ignored. However, as we care for our individual bodies (temples of God) we should be mindful that we keep them in proper condition for His glory. This is not for our glory or looks, not because we are discontent with who God made us, but because we serve the living God.]

1 Timothy 4:7-8

But refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness. For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.

Godliness is profitable unto all things. There are things that are profitable, but godliness is profitable unto all things. I love absolutes in the Bible. It is the one place that can make an absolute statement with no higher authority to say otherwise. The Bible says it is profitable unto all things. This excites me! What is this godliness that is profitable unto all things? I can work on brotherly love, but that doesn’t help my witnessing. I can work on witnessing and that doesn’t help my relationship with my wife. (I speak as a man) But godliness is profitable unto all things! Isn’t that awesome? It is for me.

But what is godliness? What does this mean? The word only appears 15 times in the NT. 14 of them are translated from the same word. This word translated godliness is the idea of piety, reverence, respect, worship – towards God. It is the idea of being: God-ward minded – fearing, respecting, and worshiping God. It is when we are marked by reverence for God. This is what godliness is. It is all of these things. It is when we devote ourselves to God in such a way, that we are marked by it. It is obvious to others that we care about God.

Godliness is demonstrated in the fear of God. It is when we tremble before the revelation of our Judge. It is when we bow before our King. Do we fear God? Do people around us see this? People should. They should see us concerned with the fear of sinning against God. Joseph demonstrated this when he responded to Potiphar’s wife that he could not sin against God. The temptation to sin was restrained by the fact of who the sin was against.

Godliness is demonstrated in the reverence for God. It is the outward showing of our deep respect and awe for our Creator. It is when we accept with grace, patience, and thankfulness the frustrations and tribulations of life given by our Sovereign. It is the daily dependence on His Providence for our needs. These are seen over and over in the Psalms.

Godliness is demonstrated when we worship our Lord. It is when we praise our Provider. It is when we rejoice in our Savior. It is when we fellowship with our Friend. It is when we follow our Shepherd.

This is godliness. It is the outworking and demonstration of the many different facets of our relationship with God. It is the revealing to everyone in our lives that we are God’s. We belong to Him. We are His children and we proclaim that through every single thing we do. This is the essence of godliness.

This is what Paul says is profitable unto all things. When we live our lives in such a way to completely reveal Christ through us. Being godly is not something that can be hid. Being godly is being a light that shines in the darkness. Being godly is being salt. Being godly is allowing Christ to shine through us. It is removing ourselves as sinful individuals and allowing God to be seen in us in everything.

God Sent Leanness into their Souls

Psalm 106

10And he saved them from the hand of him that hated them, and redeemed them from the hand of the enemy. 11And the waters covered their enemies: there was not one of them left. 12Then believed they his words; they sang his praise. 13They soon forgat his works; they waited not for his counsel: 14But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert. 15And he gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul.

Sometimes, perhaps often, what we want is not what we need. Often times we ask God for things that are physical in nature, and we neglect Him. We neglect what we need. The Israelites wanted meat. They didn’t need meat. They complained and lusted after the physical. They were the chosen people of God who began to think they deserve it, rather than recognizing the amazing love and blessing from God. We, as Christians, do the same thing. We neglect what He has already done. And then we wonder why when He answers that prayer for what we wanted, we are not satisfied. Too often we pursue another thing instead of pursuing God.

God is the one who can fill our emptiness. God is the one who fills our leanness. God doesn’t want, and won’t allow, us to be filled with the physical things that capture our minds – so He sends leanness. God may answer our prayers and give them to us, but that  physical desire not what concerns God. God wants us to be close to Him.

Lest we think God is cruel or vindictive in this,  there is purpose in this leanness. It is that we might turn from our starvation and turn to Him – the Living Water, the One by whom all things consist, the One who brings meaning to our lives.

Psalm 63

O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; To see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary. Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee. Thus will I bless thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in thy name. My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips: When I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches. Because thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice. My soul followeth hard after thee: thy right hand upholdeth me.

This is what the leanness is to cause in us. This feeling of starvation and dehydration that causes us to follow hard after God. Like a hunter arises before dawn to pursue the prey, we are to early follow hard after Him. We are to pursue Him with all of our strength – and nothing else. Nothing is to take that place. Nothing is to be to us more of a priority than God, because it is His right hand that holds us. It is His blessing and strength that enable us.

What are you praying for today, and this week? Is it that you might know God better? Is it that you might see Him? Is it that He might open your eyes to reveal Himself? These are the things we should ask for. When we begin to plead for the physical lusts of our hearts and minds, God will send a leanness into our souls to drive us back to Him. Let us not get to that point. Let us seek Him early.

Pros and Cons of Christianity

balance scales2So, over the past few weeks we have had many discussions at my house concerning various things and the discussion has turned to the pros and cons of the subject. When discussing the pros and cons, what we are really discussing are ratios and balance.

Do the pros outweigh the cons? This becomes a matter of personal preference in many cases. The simple case of eating corn on the cob is my favorite example. I often choose not to eat corn on the cob because, though it is tasty and I enjoy it, the work of buttering, salting, and then eating and cleaning up is not worth the pro of how good it tastes. But this ratio for me is not static. Some days it sounds much better and I will go through the work to eat the corn or, like last Wednesday, I did not have the options of butter and salt so the ratio changed. The corn was not as tasty, but the work was minimal. As much as my own ratio has some variability others have a completely different take on the ratio. For them, though the items on each balance scale may be exactly the same as mine, they assign different values to those items.

We all do this everyday. Is it worth stopping for gas in the morning when it is cold outside and you need to get to work? Often times it is not worth it, however, on the day when the gas tank says empty, the ratio must shift because now there is the option of your car dying for want of fuel. Pros and cons, balance, proportions and ratios – this is how most of our lives work.

In many cases life can and does operate this way, but the idea that it is ok for everyone to have a different proportion or ratio opposes the fact that there are absolutes and therefore some ratios are right and some are wrong. Regardless of how my personal ratio balances, God has commanded me to work to provide for my family. Ideally, my ratio will line up with God’s and I will see the value, but regardless of what I see or think, there is a right and a wrong. The only conclusion then is that, though our personal proportions of life may differ and in many areas there is this freedom, the perceptions that form our ratios are not always accurate. Our personal balance that we find in our lives is often skewed by our perception. God’s view on things is the only correct view, and therefore not everything we count as a pro or con is really that.

It was almost inevitable that in all three conversations that had taken place in our house, that this statement would be (and was) made: “There are pros and cons to everything.” I made that statement myself, but I was incorrect, and about the second time I heard it, God showed me I was wrong.

There are no cons to being a Christian. Christianity is based on a relationship with Jesus Christ, and there is no con to that. Certainly there are perceived cons, but there is no real con because I am a Christian. Instead, the perception again is from our skewed perspective and God is the one who determines if there are really pros and cons. Certainly almost everyone who is saved would argue that the pros far outweigh the cons, but we would see there being certain cons to the Christian life, and therefore to having a relationship with Christ. Two equal statements made a sharp contrast for me: 1. There are no cons to being a Christian. 2. There are no cons to having a relationship with Jesus my Savior. While they mean the same, I believe Christendom as a whole is far more inclined to have a list of cons for its Christianity.

Seeing with the spectacles of faith though, will allow us to see the world and truth as it is, and in fact we will see that there are no cons whatsoever to being a Christian. I would like to look at two of the perceived cons to see what God has to say about them.

The lack of sin, the most obvious to the unbeliever, is considered a great con. When I worked at a secular business, I was often told how boring my life must be or how awful it was that I “couldn’t do this or that.” What the lost are focused on is the pleasure of sin for a season, but what many Christians do is concentrate on the word “pleasure.” They say, but there is pleasure in sin, if only for a season. This does not necessitate a con. Logically, the absence of one certain pleasure does not create a con, but what does the Scripture say? The context of the statement is in Hebrews 11.

24 By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; 25 Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; 26 Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward. 27 By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.

The context of the passage is not the normal usage of an individual sin that we might or might not want to do. It is the lifestyle of sin that Moses was choosing. He could have enjoyed the lifestyle of sin living against God, and dwelling in Egypt or He could have chosen the path of faith. The unbeliever only has the pleasures of sin, and those are only for a brief season – their life. When their life is over, that is all they ever get. There is the saying that this is the closest to heaven the lost will ever get. That is very true. The little pleasures they get for their season is their life. Not sinning is not a con for the believer.

Consider what Paul says in Romans 6.

1. We are dead to sin and freed from it. 

Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. 11 Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. 13 Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. 14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. 15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. 16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? 17 But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. 18 Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.

It is the depravity of our hearts that causes us to want to sin – not the new creature that we have become. We are new creatures. Old things are passed away. We are freed from the sin! We do not have to sin any more. Consider the lack of choice that we had prior to our salvation. Sin was not a choice before, but rather our default decision, and even though the lost want to sin, their sin does make them miserable. Sin itself is the con. Not sinning is a blessing from God. Now that we are saved we are free from that, and we are dead to sin. We are not forced to sin anymore. We have the option and choice. And with the choice comes a new desire.

Romans 7 gives us the outworking of being dead to and free from sin.

2. We don’t want to sin anymore.

15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. 16 If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. 17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. 19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. 20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 21 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. 22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? 25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.

Romans 6 says I’ve been freed from sin, and Romans 7 says I no longer want to sin. The sin that dwells in me fights and is at war with my mind because I want to do right. I do not want to sin. I am free from that. We don’t want to go back and serve our old master. We are a new creature. This is the life of the Spirit-filled believer.

You say, “Then why do I want to sin?!” Because sin is the most potent addiction. When someone leaves an addition they do not forget about it. Even when they do not want to go back, if they do not fill their lives with something else, they will go back. That is why so many Christians struggle with the same things day in and day out. They don’t want to sin, but they also don’t take the time to get in God’s Word and to pray to Him so that they have that emptiness filled. And when there is emptiness, they go to the place where they have tried to fill it before. The drunk goes back – not because he forgot the hangover, or thinks it will work this time, but because that is what he knows, and he has nothing else to fill that emptiness. As Christians we do the same thing. We go back to sin because we don’t fill ourselves with God. The new creature we have become and the Spirit of God within us hate sin. When we are walking with God we desire to never sin again. That is what we want, and so according to the Bible and God’s perspective, not sinning is one of the greatest Pros. We do not have to sin. We do not want to sin.

The issue of sin is the issue the unsaved would point out first, but perhaps the issue that Christians point out first is the suffering. “Suffering is a con.” Christ has promised us that we will suffer, and it is a con to knowing Him. The Bible speaks to this as well though, and perhaps these passages can be an encouragement to us as we encounter suffering.

Philippians 1

29 For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake;

1. Suffering is a gift.

It may be hard to understand or accept but suffering is a gift. It is not something to be shunned or feared, but when we understand that God loves us. He is our Father and He cares for us more than we can know. And then He gives us a gift, this cannot be a con. It must be a positive of being a Christian. Consider the example of a child who is given a savings account by their parents. When they receive birthday or Christmas money some of it goes in the savings account. Just because the child doesn’t understand how that is a positive thing at the time doesn’t mean it isn’t a huge blessing. Gifts from God are blessings. Suffering must be a Pro of being a child of His. He knows us, and He gives us this gift when the timing is correct.

1 Peter 4

12 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: 13 But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. 14 If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. 16 Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.

2. Suffering brings us closer to Christ and joy

We are to rejoice in our sufferings. When we are to rejoice and be happy in suffering how can we consider it a con of the Christian life? Be happy in suffering! This is a positive of our walk with God. We are walking closer to Christ. We get to walk with and partake of Christ’s suffering. This allows us to glory more when Christ is revealed. Our suffering is not a negative thing. It is not a con. It is our partaking with our Savior. Maybe your friend is working out in the yard on a hot day, and you go out to help them. And you work for a few hours, sweat pouring in your face. And you don’t do it because you enjoy the work. Maybe you don’t like it at all, but instead you enjoy the fact that you are working with your friend. That you can spend time together. And at the end of the day, what do you say? What do you recall? You say it was a good day, because you were with your friend. It wasn’t a bad day. Had your friend not been there, you may have been miserable all day. Peter speaks about what suffering is like when we deserve it and it is not just because we are Christians. And that is not fun. But the suffering that causes us to partake with Christ, and to join with Him, is to cause us to rejoice. We should be happy because we are with Him.

There are no cons to walking with Christ. There are only positives. As a new creature in Christ, I am free from and dead to sin. Not any longer forced to sin, and having the great desire to not sin – keeping myself separated and holy for God is a great positive of the Christian life. Suffering allows me to identify with Christ and partake with Him. It is a cause of rejoicing and happiness and another great positive of living for Christ.

Perhaps there are other things you would consider as cons to being a Christian. Look at what God says about them. Search through His Word. God loves us. God will do what is best, and that means that every thing to happen because of our relationship to Christ is not a con, but a pro. We need to change our perspective to match that of God’s because His is the only one that matters.

The sweetest honey from the Sword

Psalm 119

103 How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

24 Thy testimonies also are my delight and my counselors.

97 O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day.

14 I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as much as in all riches.

15 I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways.

16 I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word.

By the grace of God, we are to delight in His Word. His Word is to be sweeter to us than honey in our mouth. His words are sweet to our taste. When the word of God is read in our presence, preached from the pulpit, quoted aloud, or listened to in the quietness of a long drive – it should be sweetness to our souls. We should rejoice in it. We should find our delight – that which makes us happy and where we find our enjoyment and pleasure – in the Word of God.

18 Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.

God’s Word is wonderful. It is wisdom from on high. It is not just full of stuff, but wondrous things! It is the mine that constantly yields new treasure. It is the well that never runs dry. It is the spring of life. It is wondrous!

45 And I will walk at liberty: for I seek thy precepts.

God’s Word is freeing. We are not bound by the opinions or rules of others. We seek God’s precepts. Not our own. We do not need a priest, pastor, pope, or church to run our lives. We seek God’s precepts.

The psalmist goes on. The longest chapter in the Scriptures devoted almost entirely to speaking about the Scriptures. God’s law, precepts, testimonies – they are life to us. They are the physical gift of God to us from Heaven. We have the Scriptures in our hands. We see them with our eyes. We hear them with our ears. We consider them in our minds. We hide them in our hearts. We should delight in them.

It is to be sweet to us. The Bible is too full of its own value to sum up in a simple blog. Go to the Word. Start in Psalm 119, but don’t stop there. Read the rest of them. Read the Proverbs. Read the Gospels. Read the prophets and the OT. Read the NT. It is amazing!

By the grace of God, I’ve been blessed to have time everyday in my long commute to listen to the Scriptures. To be in the Bible more than for a few verses or a couple chapters, and to hear books of the Bible as they unfold in brilliant continuity. To hear the revelation of God in the Scriptures and have God revealed to me has been amazing. Buying the Bible on CD was one of the best investments I have ever made. My morning commute is full of the Words of God. My heart can meditate upon it. My mind can consider it.

My wife has encouraged and exhorted me through her actions to memorize more of the Word of God. It has been such an encouragement to see my wife studying the Bible to memorize it! It has been encouraging to me as I begin again to memorize – to have God’s Word in my heart, to have the Sword of the Spirit. Last year, our church noted those children who through AWANA had memorized over 200 verses in that year. Wow! The question was rightly asked of the rest of the congregation if we had memorized that many verses this past year. At what point do adults think they no longer need the same Scriptures that we are so thrilled to see the children learning?  Are we armed for battle? Are we arming ourselves daily? “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.”

Arming ourselves is not a hard duty. Picking up the sword is not a heavy burden that wearies us. It is the honey to our mouth. It is the refreshment our soul craves. What more could we ask for than for our Father to speak gentleness and kindness to us? Why do we crave the empty words of men when the eternal Word of our Father is the permanent thing that hold us?

It is the only way to bear fruit in our lives. The parable of the sower speaks of the different ground that the Word falls on. But the ending is the same for the good ground: it brings forth fruit. Consider that if you want to bring forth more anything you plant more seed. If you want more trees, corn, strawberries, plants, whatever – you plant more seeds. If you want more spiritual fruit in your life, then continue to sow the seed in your life. “Break up the fallow ground” as Hosea says. Pour in the seed of the Word of God and let God rain righteousness upon your heart that you might bring forth fruit.

Psalm 19

The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.10 More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.

Oh that God would allow us to truly taste this! Oh that God would open our eyes to the true value of His Word. It is sweeter than anything. It is worth more. Do you taste it? Perhaps it is because you have not yet acquired that taste. Delve into it. Immerse yourself in it. Pant for it as the deer does the water. You will find it sweet and soothing to your soul.