Godliness – Worship, Serving God, Prizing Christ, Weeping

Continuing with Thomas Watson on characteristics of the godly person:
(All italics from Thomas Watson:  The Godly Man’s Picture)

A godly person cares about the worship of God.  This isn’t to say that he enjoys worship, but that he is careful about it.  A godly man reverences divine institutions, and is more for the purity of worship than the pomp.  This means we revere the church service where we gather to worship and we are jealous to guard the purity of the worship.  We don’t market the service with gimmicks.  We don’t add anything with the intention of novelty or emotional manipulation.  Rather we are careful to promote those practises which are biblical and focus on Christ.

A godly person serves God, not men. This person rejects all others, even his former master sin to serve a new master (Rom. 6:22-23).  We don’t live to serve ourselves or others.  We do owe men a civil service (we may have a boss) and we may owe them a religious service (2 Cor. 4:5), but we do so out of a greater devotion and service to God and his approval rather than to them and their applause.  Rather we are at the disposal of God and satisfied with the allowance of our heavenly master.  Whether we have more or less, like Paul we are content (Phil. 4:11).

A godly person prizes Christ.  Jesus Christ is the pearl of great price (Matt. 13:46).    He is our treasure that we forsake all to gain (Phil. 3:8).  He is precious in his person, in his offices as priest, prophet and king, and in his benefits which he lovingly and graciously lavishes upon us (Eph. 1:8).  There is none on earth that we desire besides him (Psalm 72:25).

A godly man weeps.  Have you heard that grown men don’t cry?  They may or may not, but a godly man certainly does.  He is as Thomas Watson puts it an “evangelical weeper.”  He grieves that he carries that about him which is enmity with God.  He weeps over his remaining indwelling sin, for the clinging corruption that he cannot shake.  How much more heinous is it that we who know Christ and partake of him sin than those to whom Christ is foreign? How often are we overcome by that corruption?  Having experienced the sting of sin, we enter into it again.  He weeps over his lack of holiness.  It’s not all negative weeping, though.  He also weeps out of an overwhelming sense of God’s love which is the answer to his sin.

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Godliness – Knowledge, Faith, Love, God Likeness

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Thomas Watson, in “The Godly Man’s Picture”, puts forth 24 characteristics of a godly person.  The first is that they are spiritually knowledgeable.  This knowledge is grounded in the faith (Col. 1:23).  It is one that esteems God and energizes (enlivens) the spirit.  It is applicable to our sinful nature and transforms that nature (2 Cor. 3:18).  It is a knowledge that doesn’t puff one up, but rather is self-emptying.  As Watson says, “The more he knows the more he blushes at his own ignorance.”  This knowledge contributes to our growth (Col. 1:10) and is highly practical.  “True knowledge not only improves a Christian’s sight, but improves his pace.”

A godly person is also one who is moved by faith.  “Faith is the vital artery of the soul (Hab. 2:4).”  All other spiritual living without faith is dead.  Faith is “the mother of hope and the ground of patience.”  It is by faith that we have both a hope for a good future and by which we persevere in the present.  Without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6).  Faith is what propels our godliness.

The godly person is “fired with love to God.”  We burn with a love for our heavenly Father.  “The sun mellows the fruit, so love mellows the services of religion and gives them a better relish.”  Love for God makes our service to him a pleasure and a delight.  This love causes one to rejoice to “think of His appearing (2 Tim. 4:8).”  Even if a man “is reduced to straits” this love exists independent of his circumstances.

Finally, a godly person is God-like.  He has the same judgment, thinks the same things, and has a God-like disposition as he partakes of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).  He is like God in His holiness which “is the intrinsic purity of his nature and his abhorrence of sin.”  This is revealed in our actions regarding sin.  A godly person will abstain from every kind of evil (1 Thess. 5:22).  His attitude in regard to sin is that he “will not go as far as he may, lest he go farther than he should.”  He will not only be holy but will be an advocate for holiness.  “Holiness defends the godly and they will defend holiness.”  They will “wipe the dust of a reproach off the face of religion.”  A godly person will pursue holiness and speak up when holiness or purity is denigrated.

(All italics are quoted from The Godly Man’s Picture by Thomas Watson)

What is Godliness?

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(All italics are quoted from The Godly Man’s Picture by Thomas Watson)

Have you ever thought to yourself, “He is a godly man” or “She is a godly woman”?  While there are some unique expressions of godliness in a biblical understanding of manhood and womanhood, there are many common characteristics of a godly person.

But what are they?  Is godliness just a vague notion that is hard to define?  People may strike us as godly, but many of us would be hard pressed to come up with a handful of characteristics that would define the godly person.

In a series of blogs, I would like to investigate the qualities that Thomas Watson (1620 – 1686) puts forth in describing the godly man.  I would like to briefly work through the characteristics in his book, “The Godly Man’s Picture” (1666).

What is godliness and why is it important?  Thomas Watson says this:

It is the highest point of prudence to make preparations for another world… Godliness consists in an exact harmony between holy principles and practices….Godliness has the promise of the present life and of that which is to come (1 Tim.4:8)…Godliness puts a man in heaven before his time.

It is a real, supernatural work that is extensive in scope.  “A person who is godly is good all over.  Though he is regenerate only in part, yet it is in every part.”  It results in great stirrings of the spirit in holy affections and is lasting, always yours once you have it.  As it is tied to a circumcised heart and the regenerative work of the Spirit, once “godliness has taken root in the soul, it abides to eternity.”

The apostle Paul has a fair bit to say about godliness.  First, godliness does not consist of our good works.  It is something that we are.  Yet, good works profess the existence of godliness (1 Tim. 2:9-10).  Secondly, it is a quality that we are to pursue and train for which means that while we have it as a Christian, it is a character that we can grow in (1 Tim. 2:9-10; 6:11). Finally, godliness should not be a means of personal gain.  Godliness itself is our gain for we will take nothing out of this world except that which accords with godliness (1 Tim. 6:5-7).

Peter remarks on the kind of people we ought to be in holiness and godliness in 2 Peter 3:11.  What will characterise you as a godly person?

Stay tuned.

Time Flies

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Time flies regardless of how much fun we are having.  True, it seems to fly by faster when we are having fun or doing the things we enjoy, but in reality, time flies regardless of how we perceive its passing.

I was hit again with this recently when my daughter asked me how old Steve Tyler (of Aerosmith) is.  I knew he was older but most of my memories of him were from my early days when he was still young, so I added a few years on for good measure.  I answered with what I thought was a reasonable guess – in his fifties.  Actually he is 64.  I was hit with a sense of my own mortality and middle-agedness.

Does anyone ever wonder what happens to the New Year’s Babies we make so much N Babyabout?  They grow up quickly.  By the next New Year’s Eve, we are already anticipating the next New Year’s baby.  This baby on the cover of the 1937 Saturday Evening Post, cute then, would now be 76 and in his twilight ye

Time waits for no man (or woman), and so we need to use the time we’ve been given.  English writer, cleric and collector Charles Caleb Colton (1780-1832) once wrote that, “Much may be done in those little shreds and patches of time which every day produces, and which most men throw away.”  Of course, we can be so driven that we don’t rest and feel guilty when not every minute is productive.  The point, though, is we need to be conscious of how we are using our time.s.  The young quickly grow old.

For the Christian the rationale for using our time wisely includes the fact that the days we live in are evil.  “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:24)  There are many things in our world which would cater to our selfish, worldly pleasures and we often choose those things over profitable Christian conduct and so we need wisdom in how to use our time to God’s glory.  Also, there is the ring of judgment in Ephesians 5:24.  The days are evil.  We know that they will come to an end and Christ will return so we need to live with a sense of urgency.  Our lives, also, are short which intensifies the sense of urgency.  Time is running out quickly for all of us.

In this New Year, may we be conscious of our time.  May we be wise in how we conduct ourselves in our pursuits.  When we do have the little shreds and patches of time that Colton writes about, rest if that’s what you need and if you want to accomplish much in a short time, pray.  That, indeed, is time well spent.

Vengeful and Saving

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Recently I had the opportunity to listen to a wonderful choir concert.  One of the songs that was sung was “Your God Will Come.”  It is a song about the eschatological hope of the believer.

A member of the choir spoke to the audience before the song was sung.  He presented the song as one in which Christ was portrayed as bringing comfort and peace as he saves his people.  He argued that the idea of “God coming in vengeance…with divine Holy Fire” didn’t fit in the song.  Having looked at the Latin roots of the word vengeance he said he felt better knowing that the word meant “to set free” and “to claim”.  This, he felt, was more in line with a loving, caring, saving God than a God who destroys.  In fact, we were told explicitly that God doesn’t come to destroy.  He is a saving God.

I have two thoughts in response:

1) It is true that God is a God of comfort, a God who saves, but this is reserved for those who love him.  It is clear, even from a cursory reading of scripture, that God is also vengeful.  He is a God who destroys the wicked.  His saving love and comfort is not universal although it is universally available.  No one who comes to him is excluded.  In Isaiah 63 we read that the Lord is “mighty to save” (vs. 1).  Then the question is asked, “Why is your apparel red, and your garments like his who treads in the winepress?” (vs. 2).  God saves and his vengeance is part of that equation.

2)  A God of vengeance, as the word is commonly understood, is totally in keeping with an eschatological hope.  In fact, I would argue that it is necessary for such a hope.  My question is what are we saved from?  Many would say we are saved from ourselves.  This is, however, to think too narrowly.  We are saved from everything that stands in opposition to God, everything that is fallen.  This includes ourselves, but also includes Satan, demons, and the wicked.

In Revelation 22 we read that the gates of the News Jerusalem will never be shut by day and that there is no night.  In other words, the gates will never be shut.  They will be open continually (Isaiah 60:11).  There will be complete security and peace in the new heavens and the new earth precisely because Satan and all who oppose God will be no more. This necessitates God’s vengeance on the wicked.  Because he executes vengeance, we will have total peace and security.

Do we take pleasure in the death of the wicked?  Certainly not.  Neither does God (Ezek. 23, 32).  Does our eternal peace and security depend on it?  Absolutely.

The Booth of David

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I recently finished and preached a series of sermons on the book of Amos.  They can be found online at Calvary Grace Church in Calgary (resources-sermons-July 1-29, 2012).   Probably one of my favorite images in the book is the booth of David, found in Chapter 9.

If you recall during the Feast of Booths, Israel was to live in booths for 7 days so that people would know that the LORD commanded them to live in booths when they left Egypt (Lev. 23).  The importance of the booth is that it was a temporary structure, the significance being that they were not to settle down until they got to the Promised Land.  They were a people on the move.  The Israelites would have understood the booth imagery.  The significance was not in the temporariness of the booth, but in the fact that the situation they were in when they were called out of Egypt was temporary.  They were on the move to the Promised Land where they were to settle.

The house of David had fallen into disrepair.  The Israelites no longer reflected Davidic ideals. They were no longer a people, who like David, were a people after God’s own heart.  Yet, God would re-establish his promise to deliver Israel through one who would come from the Davidic line.  This we understand to be Christ.

And so in Amos, Christ is the restored booth of David.  Some would like to say that the restored booth of David is restored as a house or a temple signifying that which is permanent and secure.  While the blessings that are ours in Christ are permanent and secure (thus the house or temple imagery), to do this is to do an end run around the message to the people of Israel…. and to us.  The Israelites mentioned in Amos had settled for the things of this world.  They didn’t have any taste for coming judgment or for the things of God.  Instead they were busy satisfying their worldly lusts, often on the backs of the poor.  They were busy building security in this world with little thought of God.

Jesus is the booth of David, but we need to retain the temporariness associated with the booth as understood in the Feast of Booths (Lev. 23).  The temporariness of the booth imagery should not suggest to us that Jesus is temporary.  To be sure, this booth is a place of permanence.  Jesus is not a means to an end.  He is the end.  He will be all our joy and delight in heaven – the ultimate Promised Land.  The booth imagery, though, should remind us that we are on a journey to that land and that this world is not our home, just as the Israelites were on a journey to the Promised Land when they were brought out of Egypt.  We are not to settle here.  We find shelter in Christ even while we live in this fallen world, but we are a people on the move to a better land where the booth of Christ will be transformed into a home.  As Pastor Terry mentioned, it is the principle of the now and not yet.  What we are assured of now, will one day be fully realized.

In the meantime, let us understand the temporariness of the booth which is a shelter for people on a journey, a people on the move.  It is a beautiful image.  Let us appreciate the booth imagery as we travel as strangers in this world.

Dead Plants Don’t Grow

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I am horrible with house plants. They invariably get thirsty and die.   If I am growing something outside I at least get some help from the rain.  Plants are too quiet.  If they were more like my children they would not let me ignore them for long.  I have tried to revive some of the dead plants that I have had by giving them much needed water, but when they are dead they refuse to grow.

I have read Luke 13:6-9 before, but not often and not for a long time.  It was almost fresh when I read it yesterday and my attention was piqued.  I couldn’t just gloss over it as something old and familiar.  I love that.  In this parable the owner of the fig tree wants to cut it down because it isn’t fruitful.  The vinedresser answers that he will care for the tree by putting manure around it and then if it doesn’t bear fruit, it could be cut down.  There was, for a time, patience and grace extended to the tree.

What amazed me was the deadness of the tree.  While not clear from the English, apparently the Greek construction of the text suggests that this last attempt to get the tree to bear fruit will also fail.   Even after much skilled care, there was nothing in the tree that would respond.  The dead tree would have to be granted life before it could respond to the care of the vinedresser.

Not much later in Luke 13:22-30 Jesus exhorts his followers to strive to enter through the narrow door for many will seek to enter and not be able.  People will object and highlight their familiarity with Christ (they drank in his presence and he taught in their streets).  Just as grace was shown to the dead fig tree by giving it care, hearing and seeing Christ was a grace shown to these people, but it wasn’t enough.  The Lord would reply that he never knew them.

And so, in our churches let us never assume that we are “preaching to the choir”.  Let us always put forth the Gospel.  This is the fertilizer that results in the continued growth of the trees that are living.  It is also important for the trees in our midst that are counting on their familiarity with Christ and his church to save them.  Make no mistake, we have these people in our midst.  The Gospel is the condition under which these dead trees will live if ever the Lord is gracious to grant them life.

Practical Theology For Kids

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This past Sunday at Calvary Grace Church we finished a series of sermons on Colossians.  As we looked at the fourth chapter of Colossians, the point was made that very often Paul’s letters can be thought of as being merely theological.  Indeed his letters are packed with theological considerations, but as we get to the end of his letters we are reminded that theological implications are worked out practically among real people.  Theological truths are worked out in a relational context.  And so, as in Colossians 4 we find that Paul’s theology is not abstracted from his heart for those whom he cares about.

I was thinking of this in relation to family ministry.  While many may work from theological truths to practical implications, in our ministry to our children this process may best work in reverse.  Children, especially when young, grow up in a very relational and practical context, but do not yet have a firm grasp of theological truths.  Yet, as parents we want to be diligent in shaping their view of God, deepening their understanding of the gospel, and cultivating godly attitudes and desires.  How do we best do this?

Certainly we need to teach our children good theology.  We need to read and discuss the bible with them daily, drawing out practical implications.  At the same time, however, we can work backwards from practical, every day experiences and relationships to the theological principles behind them.  As we teach our kids to make wise choices and how to conduct themselves in this world, we need to be sure to provide the theological basis behind the teaching.

We may, for example, teach our kids to say no to a party where excessive drinking or drug use is suspected to take place, even if they assure us they won’t take part.  The reason?  While we are to live in the world, we have been called out of the world and are called to reflect God’s holiness.  This necessitates a carefulness in our associations.

Our kids are relational.  From the day they are born they start to learn to relate to the world around them.  As parents we need to take advantage of every opportunity to point them to God through Christ.  This means that we need to teach them about God in an intentional and deliberate way, but we can use daily situations and experiences toward that glorious end.

We Have Seen His Glory

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“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  John 1:14

In days of old the glory of the Lord was apparent as it covered the top of Mount Sinai (Exodus 24). Then the same glory filled the tabernacle (Exodus 40) and later the temple when the ark of the covenant was brought into it (1 Kings 8). The glory of the Lord was known and seen by Israel to the degree that God allowed them to see it. Unmistakably, God was glorious and he was in their midst.

Then in John we read that, Jesus the very son of God, tabernacles among man and God’s glory is beheld once again in Christ. John says they have seen his glory.  Certainly his glorious power was beheld through his many miracles. John was also at the mount of transfiguration when Christ was seen in his glory together with Moses and Elijah. The risen Christ was beheld by John and John saw him ascend into heaven. John beheld the glory of God in Christ making very clear that Christ is himself God (John 1:1).

As I read this verse I caught myself wondering what it would have been like to see the glory of Christ.  In my wondering I relegated this event, this beholding, to something in the past. How wonderful it would have been to behold Christ and get a glimpse, even, of his glory.

Then it occurred to me that I have seen his glory, glory as of the Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. When I put my trust in him it was because I beheld his glory. That’s what drew me to him. That’s what I found compelling. He was God. In fact whenever anyone puts their faith in Christ it is because they find him glorious and see him as worthy of their praise and worship. When our hearts are drawn to Christ, it is because he is a man like no other. He is the God-Man and glorious to behold. If he wasn’t, I could probably take or leave him.  Would a mere man have anything to offer a sinner like me?

I have beheld his glory, the glory as of the only son from the Father, full of grace and truth. If you love him, it’s because you have seen it too.

Tick Time

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When I see the kids in my grade 6 class next, we will be going on a hike to Mt. Yamnuska. As part of a guided hike, there were a number of things that we were asked to cover with the kids.

I stressed the importance of bringing enough water, wearing sturdy shoes, dressing for the weather…and then I mentioned ticks. There are ticks in Alberta and some have been known to carry Lyme disease although the incidence of Lyme disease is considered low in the province. Consequently, it is important that students know how to prevent picking them up and what to do if they find one on their body when they get back.

My students didn’t know what they were so I described them and the fact that they feed on blood. I explained that they bite, latch on and feed. I explained that they need to be removed with tweezers by grabbing the head and pulling gently so that the mouth parts don’t break off. I explained that it was important to do a check when they get back because ticks can carry Lyme disease.

At that point the excitement over the hiking trip turned sour. They all started talking at once:

“Do they hurt?”
“What does the bite look like?”
“How much blood do they drink?”
“Can they kill you?”
“I don’t want to go on the trip anymore.”

You would think that I was taking them into a forest with a thousand blood sucking vampires. My colleagues thanked me later. Apparently the conversation didn’t end when the kids moved on to other classes. I fear that instead of helping created active kids eager to reconnect with nature, I inadvertently contributed to creating the next generation of couch potatoes.