The Power of Godliness

“For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying it’s power…” 2 Timothy 3:2-5

That is quite a list. Sounds like our world today, doesn’t it? Ever noticed how disobedience to parents is on the same level as abusive or reckless…I guess Paul wanted to drive home a point…we are all guilty. The phrase that really stuck out to me was “having the appearance of godliness, but denying it’s power…” What about godliness requires the acknowledgment and use of power? Have you ever thought about godliness as a power source? Why does godliness need to be powerful? How is it powerful? These are interesting questions. Perhaps we should answer the how first. The power that godliness provides is the power to be godly. How does this work? Our godliness only comes from one source, that being Jesus, the Son of God. Our godliness, and therefore, the power to remain godly, is through our connection to Jesus Christ. He used an analogy of a vine and it’s branches. Jesus is the vine; we are the branches. We receive our strength, our power to produce fruit from Him. Our godliness is not our own. We receive is from Jesus. So then, the good fruit we bear (godliness) is dependent upon its power received from the vine (Jesus). Without the power we would not and could not be godly. The answer to the why question becomes self-evident. There must be a power within godliness, or ultimately, we would not be godly.
So what was Paul getting at? If one can’t be godly without the powerful connection of Christ, what was he condemning? Notice that Paul uses the word “appearance”. The greek the word is morphosis. I’ve decided I do not like the translation here. The word means form or semblance. I think a better rendering would be “having a semblance of godliness…” Now my reason for this is the definition of semblance. It means to appear to be something in form when reality is something different. That’s what Paul meant here. Most likely, appearance is chosen over semblance, simply because more people know what appearance means than they do semblance. However, I think semblance is a more precise rendering of the text. Paul was trying to emphatically state that their godliness was merely external. It is very possible that Paul is saying the same thing Jesus did when he challenged the Pharisees. Repeatedly, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees, using strong words at times. The reason for the rebukes was their blatant hypocrisy. He called them “white-washed tombs“, “blind guides” and “brood of vipers.” He admonished them to “clean the inside of the cup.” The problem with the Pharisees was that their hearts were dirty and disconnected from God. They had a semblance of godliness. The externals were more or less there. But Jesus knew their hearts. They did not believe in Him. They denied the very power by which they might be truly righteous…truly godly.
This is what Paul is getting at. There will be a time (and I believe, is now here), that people will show the external acts. They will appear to be godly. They will perform these acts to be seen as godly…not because they are. They will love the praise of man over the praise of God. They will have denied the true power source and become a sham and a hypocrite.
May it never be said of us that we had a semblance of godliness. Let us be godly. Let us hold fast to the one power who can change us and make us godly. Hold fast to Jesus and you will never be left powerless!
~sdg

Fruit and Salvation

There are seven guys in my life group. So we decided that each guy would have a day to share a devotion with the rest of the group. The following is my devotional. I hope that God might use it powerfully in your life.

7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. – Matthew 3:7-10

 

This passage was in my daily reading last week and I had planned to use it today for my devotional. I thought it was interesting that Johnny chose to talk about the well-watered tree from Psalm 1. Verse 3 of Psalm 1 says that the tree yields its fruit in season. Here we find a warning from John the Baptist to the “trees” of Jesus day regarding the fruit that they are yielding. 

As I read this I thought back to our conversation last Wednesday when we talked about how good fruit is something that comes out naturally. Good trees produce good fruit. Bad trees produce bad fruit. To remind ourselves what I mean by fruit, let’s look at Galatians 5:22-24:

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

 

So that leaves me with a question. How do fallen, depraved and sinful people produce good fruit? We know that our human nature is bad, it is for sin, according to Galatians 5:17.

17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.

 

Ephesians 2 is more explicit:

1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

 

So how do bad trees produce good fruit? They become good trees.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. – 2 Corinthians 5:17


and

3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into hismother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of theSpirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” – John 3:3-8

 

There is a fundamental change. The word Paul uses is Metmorphoo. Which is where we get the English word metamorphosis. We go from ground crawling worms to winged butterfly. We are completely changed.

I believe there are many implications behind this. The first being that the modern western church is in trouble. Many who attend it’s services on the weekend are not saved. They are churched, not changed (if I can quote Jon Weece). And church (used in its generic Sunday morning service sense) will not save you. If anything, it will make you a mean spirited, closed-minded fool who drags the name of Christ through the mud.

I think the second implication is that we need to watch ourselves very closely. If we do not see the fruit listed above in Galatians, we need to ask ourselves some serious, sobering questions. Daily, we should be examining ourselves, looking for fruit. Remember, the axe is laid to the root of the trees not bearing good fruit…fruit in accordance with repentance. Jesus’ words in Luke ring loud and clear:

34 “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” – Luke 21:34-36

 

Praying that I stand with you all on the last day,

~sdg