Garry continued his series from 2 Peter 1 this morning, looking at godliness (or holiness: to give dutiful regard, respect or reverence, piety.) Essentially, becoming holy or godly is to become like God. Historically, there are two extremes people have gone to in their desire to pursue godliness: firstly, to believe that the body is evil (hence, the self-flagellation of the monks in mediaevel times) or, on the other hand, to believe that because only the spiritual counts, it doesn’t matter what we do with the body (a view Paul corrected in 1 Corinthians – see 1 Cor 6:19, for example, when he reminded the church that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit). The ‘Holiness movement’ of the 19th century also took the view that we no longer have to sin to extremes, believing in ‘sinless perfection’ in this life. The fact remains that we do still sin, but God has made provision for us when we sin (see 1 John 1:9)
Jesus remains, as always, our perfect example of godliness. He appeared in the flesh (1 Tim 3:16) and yet lived a perfect life. He showed us how life should be lived, even though he lived among sinners. He even drank wine! He showed us that life is not just about keeping rules, but about that relationship with God which motivates us from within. In the Sermon on the Mount, He went beyond the outward letter of the law to show that heart attitudes are what count (see Matt 5:21-28). Rules are actually the easy way, but they can never cover every eventuality and can never be the definitive last word. Paul shows us that we have to go beyond rules when he discusses meat sacrificed to idols in 1 Cor 8. It is not a question always of who is right, but of letting love be our motivator and being determined not to put any stumbling-block in another brother’s path.
How do we become godly, then? 1 Tim 4:7-8 tells us “Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. 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.” We have to train ourselves to be godly – the word in Greek being the root of our word ‘gymnast’, and we all know how hard gymnasts have to train! A godly life takes time to develop and needs commitment; ultimately, it arises out of our desire to please God and is based on relationship. As Augustine said, ‘Love God and do whatever you want.’ If we truly love God, we will want to please Him (just as in a good marriage, we are motivated to want to please and help our spouse.) Augustine’s words can obviously be distorted (as can the Bible – see 2 Pet 3:14-16), but the key to godliness is loving God whole-heartedly so that we aim to please Him in all we do.