Today's post goes hand-in-hand with my thoughts and opinion on Sunday's Scripture, Mark 7:13. When we follow the traditions of men, instead of the Authority of the Word, then we are, as the Apostle Paul expressed in 2 Timothy 3:5, having a form of godliness, but denying the power of the faith [we] claim to embrace.
He is writing from prison to encourage Timothy that he will soon face growing opposition, yet great opportunities to witness of the Power of God in a person's life. The same holds true for us today, even as Paul's forecast of what mankind will become reflects our current society: lovers of self [narcissistic, self-focused], lovers of money [impelled by greed], boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy and profane, [and they will be] unloving [devoid of natural human affection, calloused and inhumane], irreconcilable, malicious gossips, devoid of self-control [intemperate, immoral], brutal, haters of good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of [sensual] pleasure rather than lovers of God.
Yet what is the response of Christians? Are we coming together as one Body to counter these influences of the Enemy in the world? Do we put the stability and advancement of the Kingdom of God [on earth] before our own security and peace of mind? Or do we sit silently in our church buildings, cleaving to the belief that we are saved, are sealed with the Holy Spirit, and just have to keep waiting expectantly for Jesus to appear in the sky and whisk us to heaven?
That train of thought has been prevalent among Christians who reject any thought of preparing for "a worst-case scenario". When the Prepper movement gained momentum a few years back, there were those among the faithful who denied the need to make any kind of provision in case of catastrophic emergencies, whether it be political, social, or natural disaster. Their theology convinced them to think like this: "I trust God to take care of me; If this is the end, I will be raptured out of here, and all that prepping will be for nought". But here's the thing ... the Bible doesn't promise that. In fact, it presents a picture of the world sinking into pandemonium before Christ's return.
Furthermore, the Bible states explicitly that it will be the Body of Christ; the Believers; the Church who will suffer the most. It will be necessary for us to cry out to the Lord to endure the coming troubles and times of persecution. And I don't think we Christians in the West have any idea of how that will look. You see, I'm not sure we adequately understand that we are, first and foremost, a spiritual creation in the form of a flesh-and-bone body. We are too comfortable in the body and we wrap our materialism around us like a protective shield, while not doing enough to fortify our spirit. We are ignorant that our power lies in our spirit, and not in what we have in this world.
You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you. That is the same power that indwells you and me when we accept Christ into our hearts as our Savior. And without the Holy Spirit and the power He brings, we experience spiritual death, and the works of the body are dead, too.
So, what does it mean to have "a form of godliness"? I would submit that it is attention to the details God has asked us to do in acting out our faith; the ordinances He has commanded us to do. Scripturally, that is Baptism and the Lord's Supper. But does every person who gets baptized or partakes of the Lord's Supper godly? Are they God-fearing? Do they exhibit a spirit of the power of God that produces fruit for the Kingdom?
Another form of godliness is answering the Lord's call to associate in worship. We have church buildings full of people who congregate together in the name of Jesus. But is the power of the Holy Spirit felt in those buildings? Or are they just "the form" without "the power"? You can have two or three gathered together in His Name, or you can have thousands, but if the house of God is only full of outward religious talk and empty activities; devoid of "heart faith", then the Holy Spirit and His power have left the building.
I fear we have become too casual about accepting the appearance of godliness. It is easy to put on that form of which Paul speaks: we tell ourselves we come from generations of Church-goers; it's almost a hereditary right to call ourselves godly. Or we find ourselves with prestigious titles of Pastor, Deacon, Elder, Sunday School Teacher; all forms of influence which can take on the appearance of godliness. And how many people who have "walked the aisle" or answered an altar call, did so because others did, or it was expected of them by family, or they felt pressured by a well-meaning Church member or teacher? That constitutes a "form" of godliness without the true power of God.
After all, a form of godliness brings respect and a feeling of belonging; and the Enemy whispers to us that it's okay to pretend we're godly ... Jesus won't turn us down at the Pearly Gates because we fit all the outward requirements. Well, we may fool men, but Jesus and the Devil aren't fooled! Without the power of the Holy Spirit indwelling our hearts, we don't exhibit the life and the force of Jesus in our daily walk. He tells us in Matthew 7:22, Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ Certainly, they were doing what Jesus had commanded them to do, and could be called "godly", right? And yet, Jesus says He will deny them when He returns. They were exhibiting a "form" of godliness, but lacked the power of the "heart relationship" with Jesus; that's where the power resides. Sadly, today, we don't even measure up to that form of godliness -- we don't follow His commands to do those things He did, and we don't even know we have the power to do them!
I want to conclude by giving us a picture of what godliness with the blessed power of the Holy Spirit looks like. A truly Godly man recognizes his state, repents and asks for forgiveness. A Godly man seeks God with all his heart and desires to serve His Kingdom above all else. A Godly man partners with God and the Holy Spirit to see His power manifested on earth. In short, True Godliness incorporates spiritual power, not just external "forms", or outlines, or appearances of godliness. When we add the "power of Jesus" to our godliness and obedience to His ordinances and commands, we are unstoppable. We literally have the power to heal the sick and to cast out demons; and the gates of hell will not prevail against us! The Enemy recognizes that we aren't just a shell of religious devotion; that we actually have the power of the God of Heaven in us and behind us. We need to stop denying who we are and the power we have been given!
2 Timothy 1:7 "For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control".