Thursday, February 23, 2012

Add to your perseverance, godliness

Last time, we covered perseverance. Now God, through Peter, tells us to "make every effort" to add godliness to our perverance.

2 Peter 1:1 Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,
   To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours:
 2 Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

Making One’s Calling and Election Sure
 3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.  5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.
 10 Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 

So, what is godliness?

Godliness: eusebeia {yoo-seb'-i-ah}
1) reverence, respect 2) piety towards God, godliness

It is a very important characteristic in these end times. Paul says to Timothy:

1 Timothy 4:7 Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. 8 For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.

How is godliness different from goodness, which was earlier in the list? Goodness was the very first thing after faith, and meant "a virtuous course of thought, feeling and action, moral goodness, and any particular moral excellence, as modesty, purity." A simple way to put it, is that goodness is being good rather than evil. The very first thing to do after being made alive through faith, is to get untangled from your grave clothes. Put off the things from your former life that hinder you. All of us have a list of those. Maybe it was sex outside of marriage or lustful thoughts, partying, drugs, being dishonest. Maybe, like me, it was mystical books or books that are practically pornography. Get rid of all that. That's what it means to "add goodness."

So, what is different about godliness? And, why is it so much further down the list - meaning much more difficult to get to? Godliness is having a reverence toward God, but it is also becoming more like God. This is not to be confused with becoming gods, which is idolatry at its worst. Remember, that was Satan's first temptation for Adam and Eve as the King James puts it, "Ye shall be as gods." No, God doesn't want you to try to take His place - either through literally trying to "become a god" as in the New Age, Mormonism or Christian Science - or more subtly, through trying to control your own life and circumstances and that of others. No, He wants you to become more like Jesus. That was His original intent, after all, as Father, Son and Holy Spirit said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness." (Genesis 1:26)

We are meant to become like Jesus, to be Christ-like:

Ephesians 4:22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

2 Corinthians 3:12 Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. 13 We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. 14 But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. 15 Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect[a] the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 

Colossians 3:10 put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

So, how do we obtain godliness? It seems to come through the Spirit as we spend time in God's word and learn about Him. This very section that we're studying says that:

2 Peter 1:3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.
And, it says that elsewhere as well:

1 Timothy 3:14 Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, 15 if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God's household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.

1 Timothy 6:3 If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, 4 he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions 5 and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.

Titus 1:1 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God's elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness
So, the Spirit uses God's word to work godliness - Christ-likeness - in us. God's Word has power:

John 17:17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.  

That word "Sanctify" means to purify, to bring in line with holiness. You can study it more here.  "Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth."  What is this saying? It is saying that God's Word will bring purification; God's word will bring holiness. God's word will bring this Christ-likeness that we want.

Here, in John 17,  Jesus is praying to His Father before He faces His crucifixion. You can imagine that what He prays, in this last prayer before the cross, is very important. In this verse, the word "sanctify" is in the aorist tense, which means that, in a sense, it is outside of time all together. There is no real English equivalent. The verb is active. It is Jesus who is doing the action of asking and God the Father who will do the action of sanctifying. In other words, we're not doing the action here at all. If we are in God's word, HE is the one who makes it work in us. So, in this verse, He's asking God the Father to make the Word live in us, change us, transform us. He's really doing even more than that, though. The verb is also in the imperative. That means that God the Son is actually commanding God the Father to do this in us. So, does spending time in God's word actually change us? If it does not, than God the Father did not answer Jesus' prayer.

It is possible to have "pretend" godliness - such as you might see in the Jehovah Witnesses, the Mormons or even in Christian churches that have strayed into legalism. Things done in the flesh are not pleasing to God, even if they appear right and good to other men and even if they appear right and good to other Christians.

2 Timothy 3:1 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God- 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.

Romans 8:8 (NKJV) So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

So, godliness comes through our knowledge of God - and knowledge of God comes through His word. It is real, it is powerful and, through the work of the Spirit, it will create in you all that God wants for you.

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