Confirmation-The Seven Fold Grace of God-Piety/Godliness

Confirmation-The Seven Fold Grace of God-Piety/Godliness

 

What is Piety?

 

Put simply, piety is living a fruitful, obedient Christian life. It is one of the seven fold gifts of the Holy Spirit that, initially, is magnified in us at our confirmation. There are sixteen references to piety, (or godliness depending on which translation is being read), in Scripture. All of them are in the New Testament, and most of them occur in 1 Timothy and 2 Peter. Let’s examine what it is, what it’s not, its prerequisites, its barriers, and its potential influence in our lives. Then we’ll consider how to grow in godliness through personal application.

 

Characteristics of Piety

Characteristic #1: Piety is the proof of our faith.

Godliness is being faithful to our calling by doing the good works for which we were saved. I Corinthians 4:2 says, “Here now it is required among the dispensers, that a man be found faithful.” Our good works demonstrate our salvation, and they help our faith continue to grow.

The initial act of faith and the proof of faith are different, but related. The book of James explains this relationship through the example of Abraham:

Was not Abraham our father justified by works, offering up Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou, that faith did co-operate with his works; and by works faith was made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled, saying: Abraham believed God, and it was reputed to him to justice, and he was called the friend of God. Do you see that by works a man is justified; and not by faith only?

(James 2:21-24)

Abraham was justified by grace through faith, but his faith did not remain alone. True faith is always accompanied by works produced by the grace God gives to us to do those works. When he placed his son on the altar, Abraham demonstrated absolute faith in God. His obedience proved his righteousness.

Characteristic #2: Piety is the example of our faith.

By following Christ’s example, we make Him known to a lost and dying world. Jesus prayed these words to His Father: And the glory which thou hast given me, I have given to them; that they may be one, as we also are one: I in them, and thou in me; that they may be made perfect in one: and the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast also loved me. (John 17:22-23). Christians who follow Christ’s example share His values.

Our commitment to piety becomes evident in our "words, in conversation, in charity, in faith, and in chastity." (1 Timothy 4:12). When we study Scripture, we are prepared to encourage other believers. Piety—thinking rightly and acting rightly—is a powerful witness to those around us.

Characteristic #3: Piety is the action of our faith.

Unless we make a choice to pursue piety, we "let them slip", which in the Greek is a nautical phrase for a sailing vessel that has been loosed from its moorings (Hebrews 2:1). Even mature Christians battle the temptation to drift. Our natural desires and the Holy Spirit’s desires are contrary to each other, so we are instructed to follow the Spirit’s leading each day. Diligently following the Holy Spirit’s guidance is the only way to overcome sinful desires. "I say then, walk in the spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the spirit: and the spirit against the flesh; for these are contrary one to another: so that you do not the things that you would." (Galatians 5:16-17).

Have you ever heard the quip, “You have to walk the walk and talk the talk”? It’s an apt representation of the Bible’s admonition to “walk in the Spirit.” Walk is a present-tense verb that indicates a way of life. It requires a daily habit of continual obedience. Here are eight specific instructions for walking our walk:

  • Walk in good worksEphesians 2:10

  • Walk honestlyRomans 13:13

  • Walk by faith2 Corinthians 5:7

  • Walk in loveEphesians 5:2

  • Walk as children of the lightEphesians 5:8

  • Walk worthy of GodColossians 1:10

  • Walk worthy of the vocation in which we are calledEphesians 4:1

  • Walk as Jesus walked1 John 2:6

Counterfeit Piety

One of Satan’s most powerful tactics is planting tares or cockles in the Church—not literal cockles, but false teachers who dilute the Word of God. This is the essence of Jesus’ parable about the wheat and the cockles in Matthew 13:24-30. The original word Jesus used to describe these cockles wasn’t as broad as our English word. The Greek word referred to a variety of worthless "weeds, tares, or cockles, that resembles wheat so closely it cannot be distinguished from true wheat until harvest time. Through this parable, Jesus was warning His followers that false teachers can be hard to identify. In 2 Timothy 3:5, the apostle Paul described peopleHaving an appearance indeed of godliness, but denying the power thereof.”

If these false teachers are so hard to recognize, how can we avoid them? Paul offers these instructions:

If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to that doctrine which is according to godliness, He is proud, knowing nothing, but sick about questions and strifes of words; from which arise envies, contentions, blasphemies, evil suspicions, Conflicts of men corrupted in mind, and who are destitute of the truth, supposing gain to be godliness. (1 Timothy 6:3-5)

False teachers deviate from God’s truth in some way. Drawing from the wheat parable, we are able to evaluate the fruit of a person’s life. Is it yielding love, joy, peace, and other fruit of the Spirit? If not, if his life is producing streams of arguments, corruption, greed, and other troubles, the Bible says we should have nothing to do with him.

 

God’s Word provides detailed explanations of heavenly wisdom, which leads to godliness, and earthly or demonic wisdom, which leads to corruption. The following chart compares their fruit.

 

 

The Way of Piety—Heavenly Wisdom

The Way of Corruption—Earthly Wisdom

Teaches Christ’s death and Resurrection (2 Timothy 2:8)

Speaks profane and idle babblings that spread like cancer (2 Timothy 2:17-18)

Pure, peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy (James 3:17)

Bitter envy, self-seeking, boastful, deceitful (James 3:14)

Submits to God, draws near to Him (James 4:7-8)

Unrighteous, sexually immoral, wicked, covetous, malicious; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness. Whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful (Romans 1:29-31)

Not quarrelsome, gentle, able to teach, patient (2 Timothy 2:24)

Lovers of self and money, boasters, prideful, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power (2 Timothy 3:2-5)

Corrects unbelievers humbly (2 Timothy 2:25-26)

Always learning but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth; corrupt (2 Timothy 3:7-8)

Follows sound doctrine and godly examples with purpose; lives with faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecution, affliction (2 Timothy 3:10-11)

Deceivers who are deceived (2 Timothy 3:13)

Thoroughly equipped for good works through knowledge of the Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Secretly brings in destructive heresies, blasphemes the truth, exploits others with deceptive words; walks according to the flesh, despises authority, presumptuous, self-willed, not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries; entices unstable souls; lewd, slaves of corruption (2 Peter 2)

Produces the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23)

Produces works of the flesh: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful desires, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties (Galatians 5:19-21)

 

Some characteristics of earthly wisdom are obvious—things like sexual immorality, sorcery, and murder. But other characteristics like gossiping, being headstrong, and holding grudges, are subtle. Walking in godliness requires that we guard against worldly wisdom in our own lives and in our churches. Second Timothy 3:6 commands us to withdraw from every professing Christian who strays from sound doctrine.

Prerequisites to Piety

Prerequisite #1: We cannot live lives of piety  without repentance and baptism for the remission of sins.

By our standards, non-Christians do good deeds. However, it’s impossible to meet God’s standard of righteousness without putting our faith in Jesus Christ and being "Buried with him in baptism, in whom also you are risen again by the faith of the operation of God." (Colossians 2:12) “We are all become as one unclean, and all our justices as the rag of a menstruous woman: and we have all fallen as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. (Isaiah 64:6). Trusting in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ and desiring to entering in to the sacramental waters of baptism is the only way to wash our filthy rags clean. After we do that, piety is one of the seven fold gifts the Holy Spirit will add to our faith that will make us fruitful and effective as Christians (2 Peter 1:6-7).

Prerequisite #2: We cannot live pious lives without God’s grace.

In his letter to Titus, the apostle Paul explained, For the grace of God our Saviour hath appeared to all men (2:11). Grace is the vehicle of salvation, and it imparts piety to us. Piety teaches us that “Instructing us, that, denying ungodliness and worldly desires, we should live soberly, and justly, and godly in this world, Looking for the blessed hope and coming of the glory of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ, (Titus 2:12-13).

Prerequisite #3: We cannot live pious lives without the Holy Spirit.

When we are baptized in Christ, we are baptized by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13), which enables us to walk according to God’s will rather than our own (Galatians 5:16). Willpower cannot prevail against temptation. Finding our identity in Christ is the only way to “crucify the flesh,” and living in the Spirit is the only way to reap the fruit of piety (Galatians 5:22-24).

Barriers to Piety

Barrier #1: Our humanity keeps us from Piety.

According to Galatians 5:17, the flesh lusteth against the spirit: and the spirit against the flesh; for these are contrary one to another: so that you do not the things that you would. What is the flesh? The flesh is everything you are … minus God. It is everything you were before Christ became Lord and Saviour of your life—everything that distracts you from thoughts of heaven and Christ’s return. (Philippians 3:19-20).

Barrier #2: Our culture keeps us from piety.

The Christian life isn’t compatible with the world in which we live. The world strives for glory, but our model is servant-hood. The world puffs up with pride, but our response is humility. Intolerance and hatred fuel the world’s conflicts while patience and love govern our relationships. The better we understand this contrast, the closer we will walk with the Lord. We must not be “ conformed to this world; but be reformed in the newness of our mind, that we may prove what is the good, and the acceptable, and the perfect will of God.(Romans 12:2).

Barrier #3: Our enemy keeps us from piety.

Paul’s letter to the Ephesians says, For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and power, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places. (Ephesians 6:12). Satan and his demons rule this present world, and they rule our hearts until we uproot them by placing our faith in Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior of our lives. Satan’s army will stop at nothing to deceive us (Revelation 12:9), murder us (John 8:44), tempt us (Matthew 4:3), lie to us (John 8:44), and accuse us (Revelation 12:10). If we’re not being attacked, we must be doing something wrong because we’re not a threat to the enemy’s plans.

The Influence of Piety

Growing in piety has the power to influence every area of our lives by shaping our souls into conformity with God’s good and perfect will. We can expect spiritual growth to affect our relationships with authority, with our peers, and with money.

Influence #1: Piety influences our relationships with authority.

The Bible instructs us to pray for all men and, specifically, for “all that are in high station." That is all who are in authority (1 Timothy 2:2).

Let every soul be subject to higher powers: for there is no power but from God: and those that are, are ordained of God. Therefore he that resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God. And they that resist, purchase to themselves damnation. (Romans 13:1-2)

Earthly rulers derive their authority from Almighty God. If we don’t like the way they rule, that is more reason to pray for them! We should pray for their wise and peaceable rule, also for their salvation.

Influence #2: Godliness influences our relationships with others.

When we employ heavenly wisdom and exemplify its characteristics, we grow in unity with other believers. We serve. We give. We love. We choose humility—avoiding anything that detracts from our relationship with God (1 Timothy 2:10)

Some relationships, that we have with others, may be broken by our devotion to Christ … and that’s okay. Insincere believers mislead immature believers, taking advantage of their weak morals and ignorance. The Bible tells us to turn away from these impostors (2 Timothy 3:5; 2 Thessalonians 3:13-15). Believers must guard against any teaching that glorifies self and denies Almighty God. It’s less damaging to break off a relationship with one or two false teachers than to allow their teaching to flourish.

Influence #3: Piety influences our relationship with money.

Our relationship with money says a lot about our relationship with God. True piety means trusting God to provide for our needs while being content with what He supplies (Matthew 6:24-34; Philippians 4:11-13). When we have faith in God’s presence and provision, we experience the peace of knowing we have everything we need. The Bible says, “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6). Being satisfied with what we have is one mark of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives.

Contentment is God’s expectation for every believer. In fact the love of money, is a form of idolatry. Some people believe the Bible teaches that money is evil, and that’s not true. Scripture says, “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10). It is not wrong for Christians to have money—even a great deal of it—as long as that money does not have them. According to Paul, the real problem is greed. Materialism leads to sin, but piety prompts us to flee from discontentment.

For the Christian, anticipating the world that is to come helps us keep our priorities in proper perspective.

Growing in Piety

Spiritual fitness requires daily training in the same way physical fitness requires regular exercise. Paul says toBut avoid foolish and old wives' fables: and exercise thyself unto godliness. For bodily exercise is profitable to little: but godliness is profitable to all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. (1 Timothy 4:7-8). As Christians, we should devote ourselves to spiritual fitness with the same enthusiasm body builders devote to working out at the gym. The best time to begin is right now!

 

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