Isa. 5:20 π Lk. 17:1 π Lk. 23:34 π Col. 2:6 π Heb. 11:6
There can be no soul more miserable than that of the one who, possessing a "form of godliness," denies the power thereof.
Look at this closely and you will find all the ingredients for misery and unhappiness stirred in liberally. In front of this person dangles the ultimate prize - eternal life, peace, joy, contentment, wisdom to confound your enemies, love for your enemies who spitefully use you, and even peace with a holy and righteous God, no longer needing to fear His judgments. But all these wonderful things dangle just out of reach because this person has merely the form of godliness and none of the substance. O how futile and empty this existence is! Can there be any place this side of the great divide that is closer to Hell? Can one think of a more miserable position than to intellectually know the truth and not be experientially set free?
One of the greatest handicaps that comes to our western culture is the truncated concept of wisdom. To a Greek mindset, the forerunner and foundation of much of our culture today, it was enough simply to have intellectual knowledge to be considered wise. But to the oriental, the Hebrew mindset, knowledge without application was worse than ignorance; it was sheer foolishness. Foolishness, to a Hebrew, was to structure one's life as if there was no God at all - no accountability, no consequences, no repercussion, no possibility of offending a sovereign, moral Deity. One's actions could then be based on the fleeting whims of one's emotions and on one's perceived "needs" of the moment. There would be no need for absolute truths and moral strictures; whatever satisfied your own wants and desires in that moment would be the right thing to do. And thus we have situational ethics, existentialism, relativism and nihilism - today's worst philosophical and intellectual woes.
Added to that we have had the modern prophets of selfishness who have told us that our vices are our virtues, that our selfishness is of great value. Isaiah spoke in warning of these false teaches when he said, "Woe unto those who call evil good and good evil!" ( Isa. 5:20; top ) But few there are these days who indeed listen for the still, small voice waiting patiently to be heard as they read from the pages of the Bible.
Through decades of impersonal religious facade and hours of misguided, erroneous and even heretical teaching from so many sides, the body of Christ is about to capitulate and forfeit her role in the world as its preserving salt and illuminating light. No longer is it a necessary prerequisite of Christianity to be different, to be obedient to Christ to the point of carrying one's cross to the executioner's hill and dying to self, now it is sufficient to have been born into a so-called "Christian" country to consider oneself a "Christian." Being a "Christian" has no bearing whatsoever on conduct in the modern scheme of life and has especially no influence on those socio-religious gatherings on Sunday morning we call "church."
Often, the modern Christian, speaking of the genuinely born again but poorly discipled variety, lacks the power of being godly because he is not taught the need for personal godliness from the increasingly wicked pulpiteers who fleece and beat their sheep rather than feed them the pure and undiluted truths of God's Word. "Offenses will come," Jesus said, "but woe unto the man through whom they come!" ( Lk. 17:1; top ) These false teachers and false shepherds would do well for their own souls, not to mention the souls of those entrusted to their care, if they would just step down from these positions of influence until the Holy Spirit of God has done an inner work in their own hearts.
But even those who do see the need for personal godliness often see no way to attain it. Let's face it, if it was an old work that the Holy Spirit wished to do in our lives, we would know how to go about doing it. We could read an instruction manual about it somewhere and be off and busy doing it. But it is exactly because it is a new and a fresh work that He wants to perform within each of our lives that we are required to have faith in His gentle touch. If we knew everything that He wished to do, every nuance of the procedures involved, and the timetable upon which this new work was to be done, we would attempt to do it ourselves. But it must be a work done by the Holy Spirit and not by human mechanics or methods. And the thing that we must first realize is that without faith in Him, we are not pleasing to our holy and awesome Creator. ( Heb. 11:6; top ) If you knew the requirements, the procedures, and the timetable required to conform your life to the image of Christ, you would not have or need faith; you would have knowledge. Unfortunately, however, knowledge puffs up while faith simply trusts.
As you have come to know Christ, so grow in Him. ( Col. 2:6; top ) You did not seek out God; God sought you ought. You did not know of your need for forgiveness and a Savior until God's Spirit convicted you of your sin and of your need for righteousness and of your destiny to be judged guilty of heinous crimes against God. You did not know what real love was until God showed it to you through His Son or through similar selfless acts by another person in your life. God, who owes you no debt or obligation, humbled Himself to take on physical form. He endured temptations and trials and yet committed no sin. He died a horrible death on a Roman torture stake outside of Jerusalem and asked His Father to forgive His accusers and tormentors for "they knew not what they were doing." ( Lk. 23:34; top ) His love and selflessness are incredibly poignant to even the most hardened of individuals as He was more concerned about His mother's welfare and that of His disciples than about His own escape from the torturous death He was to endure.
How do you come to know Christ? Faith. Belief that He is who and what He said He was, a belief proven by consequent actions of obedience to what He tells you to do. And all this is found in the Bible, that often dusty gargantuan decorator of living room tables, copiously replete with the deaths, births and marriages within our family tree. But if you will open it and read it for what it is, listening for the voice of God with an open heart intent upon obeying His commands, you will soon find the power of godliness and leave behind the frustration of its mere form.
O Lord, Sovereign Lord, deliver me this day from all my hypocrisies. Leave me not to wallow in the filth of my own self-righteousness and self-effort. Forgive me of the sin of leaving your word untouched, unread far too long. Forgive my callous heart for having been content with mere forms of godliness and not having pressed into Your presence to know You personally and intimately. Help me to love Your truth and obey Your commandments. Enable me to walk in the light and truth and power of Your Holy Word. As I surrender all that I am and do to You, give me all that You are. Amen.
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