What virtue in a world of corruption.
Are you godly, youthful reader?
True, we would have to scale the heavenly heights to comprehend so great a concept. Godliness is a reflection of God, it is a bit of heaven while we lie in the midst of a sin-cursed world. It is a wonder of grace.
Let us consider the main elements in this heavenly virtue.
To be godly means that we know God. This knowledge involves more than knowing about God; it includes this to be sure. God comes to us in the revelation of His Word; and if we are to be godly, we must know all that God tells us about Himself, who we are, and what our calling is. You understand that many have this knowledge and still are not godly. With this knowledge, we must learn to love God. Godliness is a matter of the heart; we rejoice in God as the God of our salvation. We never cease to wonder how it is that God loves us; and the more we meditate upon this, the more we conclude that it is of free grace alone. How can we not love Him Who loved us even unto death? It is our sincere desire to be drawn closer to God all our life as we anticipate our being near to Him in glory.
Godliness also includes proper response to God, viz., reverence. Many youth pride themselves in their brashness. It seems the quickest way to go on an ego trip is to act differently from others. To one it is dress, to others it is hair, to still others it is actions. The more brash the more successful. The pity is that some young people treat God this way: they think the more boldly they act toward God, the more meaningful is their relationship to Him. They use slang in their prayers; they sing songs that border on the edge of blasphemy; they defy God while they pretend piety. This is the opposite of godliness. One that truly loves God is shocked by this behavior. Rather, he stands in holy awe and reverence to think that God loves him. He knows that his response must be that of the humble subject standing before the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. He is dust while His God is Creator. He is sinful, while His God is Light! He knows what he is to take his shoes off, for the place upon which he stands is holy ground.
Thirdly, godliness includes obedient service. We have a purpose in life. And that purpose is not determined by us; it is laid out for us by our God. Are you conscious of this? God is the Sovereign Lord, and He is the one that gives command. It is our duty to obey. The more godly we are the more obedient we become. We realize our purpose in life is not to live without God, or to put God on the pulpit in church and leave Him there; it is to know God’s will and act accordingly. This applies to our school work, our dating, our sports and recreation, our life’s work, our marriage, all our time and energy.
Paul writes Timothy in Chapter 4 of his First Epistle, “Exercise thyself rather unto godliness.”
In the context he tells him, “If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou has attained. But refuse profane and old wives fables.”
He tells Timothy to exercise himself unto godliness in two ways. First, by refusing profane and old wives fables, but instead nourishing himself unto good doctrine. The other is by exhorting him unto godly living, as he did in the preceding context.
Godliness is expressed in our faith.
Think of that a moment. What is your faith? What do you believe? In summary, it is all the truth revealed to us in the Bible. This is first and foremost. It stands to reason that godliness includes a proper attitude toward God’s Word. There are those who say that God’s Word is in the Bible, and it is up to us to “discover” it. Imagine what a proud idea this is. God doesn’t know how to communicate to us, we have to uncover His Word in the Bible. How can such people call themselves godly? Or consider this idea, that proud man knows so much through his scientific discovery that he concludes that the earth has evolved in a process of billions of years. Some are so influenced by this observation that they throw away the first chapters of Genesis and deny their historicity in favor of man’s knowledge concerning origins. Are such godly? Lately we are told that students have to possess a certain “Philosophy”; and unless they possess this, they cannot read the Bible properly, nor can they learn truth. We need man’s philosophy in order to understand God’s revelation. Again, such are not godly! Godliness enables us to have a deep reverence for God’s Word, to conclude that it is the truth, and that it is our calling to apply it to our lives.
For Reformed young people, this means that you have a deep love and respect for the truth that our forefathers handed down to us. The Bible teaches and true Reformed churches proclaim double predestination, man’s total depravity, God’s particular love for His people and not for the whole world, Christ’s death on the cross as a payment for His elect people, sovereign grace, and the perseverance of the saints by God’s loving care. This is our heritage. To be godly means that we appreciate these truths, and that we are offended when Arminianism creeps in the churches, schools, or homes. It has been and is today the arch-enemy of our faith. The older we become the more we appreciate and love the historic Reformed faith. It is the only truth faithful to our God.
Godliness also affects the way we live. You can discern whether you are godly by your attitude toward holy things, the use of God’s name, the reading of His Word, your prayer life, your attitude toward worshipping God, your values in life and how you spend your time and what you do. Yes, all this indicates whether we live our life consciously before God or whether we think only of pleasure and sin. Here too, godliness is not sinlessness, but the daily struggle to do what is right. This includes the prayer for forgiveness and the desire to increase in obedience.
Such godliness comes only in the way of concerted effort. Paul tells Timothy, “Exercise thyself unto godliness.”
The word he uses is the same word we have in our English language, gymnasium. This places Paul’s counsel in the context of sports. If we may take the liberty, Paul tells Timothy, “Gymnasticize thyself unto godliness.” Now we know there is no instant athlete. If you go to the gym, whether at school or in your town, you know it smells of sweat. This is true because the bodily exercise of a sportsman involves physical conditioning. Muscles must be toned, flab has to be worked off, the body must be in peak condition to function properly in sports.
It is even more so for our Christian godliness. There is no instant godly Christian. It only comes through hard work, toning of the heart to get rid of hatred and replace it with true love, enlightening the mind to understand the truth, strengthening the will to resist evil and seek the good, subjecting the body as God’s temple unto the service of God and not to serve Satan. Yes, we must sweat and groan in the process of conditioning ourselves unto godliness.
Four things are worth noting in this connection.
First, a “coach” makes a great deal of difference. For those of you who have had experience in athletics, you understand this. A coach can take a mediocre team and make something of the fellows or girls. The coach has the strategy of the game, he details the disciplined training sessions, he instills the confidence and morale so badly needed. You see how important it is for us as Christian young people to have the right coach, leading us unto godliness. Reverently speaking, He is Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord. He is the One Who gives us the spiritual motivation, the direction, the guidance we need as Christian young people. He uses means, your parents, your teachers, your ministers, your counselors. What a difference it makes if these instructors are themselves godly. A godly parent, teacher, minister is the only one qualified to impart that godliness. You see, young reader, it is of eternal value to you that you have such godly instructors. Appreciate them and respect them, but above all, listen to them: for they seek after your souls.
Secondly, as Christian young people, we must also work for development. An athlete doesn’t become an instant success over night. It takes the slow process of daily work-outs, after five push-ups, ten come easily, and soon twenty, and so on. The same is true spiritually. The harder we work at godliness, the more correct it seems and the easier to practice. If we deny ourselves certain television programs consistently, it soon becomes easy to control the television; but if we give in and watch anything that is on, we lose control. It takes prayerful, diligent, daily work to understand God’s Word and to be able to apply it to our lives.
Thirdly, exercise unto godliness requires persistence. An athlete cannot practice basketball two weeks in December and then forget about it until he plays in a game in January. Every week, perhaps every day, he must develop skill and stick with it. Thus also as Christian young people. We must seize upon every opportunity that will enable us to give expression to our faith. Sometimes this means that we have to discipline ourselves and have a long talk with ourselves. Other times it means we have to discuss things with our close friends. As young people we have to wrestle with many problems amongst one another. Then again, it is time to talk with our parents and seek their guidance. There may be moments you have to talk to your teacher or minister. The stratagems of Satan are often baffling; and by daily striving to overcome them we develop spiritual muscles that enable us to resist the devil and see him flee from us, and we in turn draw nigh to God:
Finally, exercise takes motivation. The sports hero is motivated by the acclaim of men and the self-satisfaction of having achieved. Paul warns, “Bodily exercise profiteth little.” He isn’t knocking sports, he is simply putting them in their proper place. He says: look at the athlete, he works long hours, sweats and groans, is self-disciplined, so that his game is not adversely affected by anything he does; he eats well, sleeps properly,—all for sports. How much more should we who are godly young people devote ourselves to the exercise of godliness. The advantage of such exercise is “profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.” The fruit of godliness is that you have a blessed and meaningful life now, and in the end you enter into all the glory of life everlasting.
It stands to reason that such spiritual power comes not from men, but from our God. The strength to exercise, as well as the spiritual durability that follows, is God’s gift to His children. It is the amazing fruit of the grace of the Holy Spirit.
Are you godly?
If not, are you doing something about it?
Exercise thyself unto godliness.