The Meaning of Godliness

The Meaning of Godliness

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Godliness. The word itself has so many connotations that we could probably spend quite a while unpacking what that word means to each of us. One of the first connotations that comes to my mind is a “holier than thou” attitude that makes me feel like someone else is trying to be more spiritual when they talk about pursuing godliness.

In our Bible study last week, I was challenged to think carefully about how I view godliness. Our assignment before arriving at Bible study was to read two chapters in Jerry Bridge’s book Respectable Sins (an excellent book about the “acceptable sins” we turn a blind eye to – I highly recommend it). One of the chapters was entitled, you guessed it, "Godliness." The short definition that the author gives of godliness is "dependence on God." In our daily needs, our conversations and the tasks we have before us, how often do we find ourselves turning to God for His strength and power to guide us through our day?

One of the areas of misunderstanding that Bridges points out is our tendency to think of pride as the root of all sins. Bridges describes it this way:

"I believe that all our other acceptable sins can ultimately be traced to this root sin of ungodliness. To use a tree as an illustration, we can think of all our sins, big and small, growing out of the trunk of pride. But that which sustains the life of the tree is the root system, in this case the root of ungodliness. It is ungodliness that ultimately gives life to our more visible sins."

This analogy was helpful to me as I thought through the areas of my life that are ungodly – and how pride is a natural outgrowth of that ungodliness (not the other way around).

But how does one go about addressing their ungodliness? One of the questions Bridges poses for consideration is, “How ungodly am I”? He suggests that we’re all somewhere on a continuum of godliness/ungodliness. As a Christian, I shouldn’t be on the far extreme of total ungodliness, but neither will I be on the side of complete godliness.

This explanation helped enlighten my thinking: Rather than feeling depressed about all the ways I am ungodly, or compare myself to others so I can feel like I’m doing well in the godliness area, I have the ability (with the Holy Spirit as my guide) to assess how I’m doing. By looking carefully at the various areas of my life, I can determine how much I’m depending on God versus how much I’m relying on my own strength. And with the Holy Spirit’s enabling power, I can grow in dependence on God – in godliness.

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  • This is a nice article and something I have been thinking about recently. I've always related to the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus says "blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness" because that person is me. I have to be careful to look to Jesus for my righteousness though, or I'm apt to judge others, pity myself, doubt my salvation, punish myself, etc. in pursuit of a righteousness on my own terms. That attitude SEEMS nice and Christian, but actually it comes from my inability to trust that I have a righteousness from God and depend on Jesus, rather than on my emotions, for justification. That self-righteousness got the Pharisees some of Jesus's harshest rebukes. Thanks for the reminder to think of myself with "sober judgement" and rely totally on God.

  • There are some who think they will achieve a demi-god status in the coming days. These are well-dressed and hard-working individuals. They do more good than many who have cried before God in secret, saying, "I need you more." Yet, each person looking to be godly needs to becareful that his efforts are not to become (or replace) God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit. The same is true for so-called athiests and so-called Christians.

    We need to have the intimate prayer on the forefront of our thinking and evident in our actions: "Lord, if you are willing, you can..." (Matthew 8). Godliness begins by submiting oneself to the Lord of Lords.

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