Once you’re in God’s family, you find there are a lot of words thrown around that everyone just seems to “know” what they mean. At least it appears that way, as often as you hear Christians use words like faith, justification, hallelujah, and salvation.
One of those terms is godliness. Other than being told as children that is was close to cleanliness, we make the general assumption that godliness means some sort of “god-like-ness”, where we imitate a certain aspect of God as we meet Him in the Bible. Honest, though…that definition still feels a little vague, doesn’t it?
In his first letter to Timothy, Paul uses the word godliness eight times in 113 verses. That’s a pace of about one for every 14 verses. By his heavy usage and what he says about it, we can see that Paul considered godliness an important point for Timothy and those under his charge. Here’s an example:
1 Timothy 4:7-9
But have nothing to do with irreverent and silly myths. Rather train yourself in godliness, for,
the training of the body has a limited benefit,
but godliness is beneficial in every way,
since it holds promise for the present life
and also for the life to come.
This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance.
So Paul considers godliness something we have to be trained in and something that is beneficial both now and in eternity future. If that’s the case, then we need to fully understand what the word means!
But recognizing the importance of godliness doesn’t clarify the word’s meaning. It can still feel a little vague. A few verses back, Paul validates this feeling:
1 Timothy 3:16
And most certainly, the mystery of godliness is great
Right after saying something like this, I would expect Paul to give a definition or explanation of the mystery of godliness…but instead, he jumps straight into a description of Jesus:
1 Timothy 3:16
He was manifested in the flesh,
justified in the Spirit,
seen by angels,
preached among the Gentiles,
believed on in the world,
taken up in glory.
What Paul is getting at here is that if we want to have a “god-like-ness” that is valuable in the present life and in the life to come, then we need to train to have a “Jesus-like-ness”. Jesus is our best example of how we are made to imitate and live like God designed us to.
So, practically speaking, what are some attributes of Jesus that we can imitate? I suggest these three:
· Jesus knew the Scriptures – He quoted Deuteronomy 8:3 Man must not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. Often, during His teaching, Jesus would reference the Scriptures by saying “It is written” or asking the question “Have you not read?”
· Jesus was totally focused on His part in God’s plan and kingdom – He was on mission, would not be deterred. In John 6:38, He said “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My will, but the will of Him who sent Me.”
· Jesus knew both the Scriptures and His mission well enough that He could impact the lives of others – He cared for others, met them where they were, and pointed them toward God the Father.
Paul’s message to Timothy was that godliness is something infinitely valuable – and that Timothy could develop a “god-like-ness” by training to be like Jesus.
Will we follow Jesus’ example? Pursuing a “Jesus-like-ness” will beneficial…for the present life and…for the life to come. Will we trust God and choose to make the eternal investment in the here and now?