Devotion In Action

If you have been around our church the past several months or have been reading these blogs, a theme has developed around the word devotion. We’ve seen that devotion is not just loyalty. From Acts 2, we’ve learned that devotion to the apostle’s teaching, fellowship, communion, and prayer gives birth to revival families. The early church and disciples transformed Jerusalem and the world as a result of their devotion.

In the Bible, specifically in the New Testament, we see another important word. It’s used many times and it’s related to devotion. That word is godliness. The Apostle Paul used this term 13 times in his letters to Timothy and Titus. Peter used it in his letters as well. Even some early passages in Genesis give us a clue as to what godliness might be.

Do you remember the story of Enoch? In Genesis 5, we see that Enoch “walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.” In Hebrews 11, the author says of Enoch, “For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God.” Enoch walked in such a way with God that it brought God great pleasure. Because of this, God didn’t even allow Enoch to experience death. God pulled Enoch straight off the earth into his presence.

From the Bible, we can see that Enoch walked with God and Enoch pleased God. It would be safe to say that Enoch’s life was centered on God. God was the focus of his existence. We could say Enoch was devoted to God. According to Jerry Bridges, author of The Pursuit of Holiness, the New Testament conveys godliness as “a personal attitude towards God that results in actions that are pleasing to Him”. With such a definition, we could say that Enoch exercised godliness.

In 1 Timothy 4:7-8, Paul encourages Timothy, “..train yourself for godliness ; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”

In 2nd Peter 1:5-7, it says, “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.”

Enoch walked with God. Paul tells Timothy to train himself. Peter tells his audience to make every effort. What can we infer from these passages? Godliness requires effort. Godliness is devotion, in action! Godliness is not a passive, warm emotion towards God. It’s not achieved through osmosis. It’s not folded hands and piety. It’s not a state of mind. It’s kinetic. It’s action. It’s effort. 

Examine Paul’s message to Timothy: train yourself. Paul elaborates to even say that just as physical exercise of your body is beneficial to your life on earth, godliness is beneficial in this life and the next. Paul has equated training for godliness with actual physical exercise. Godliness requires exertion of energy!

Peter tells us to make every effort to supplement your faith. How can you make every effort without actual effort? You can’t. It’s not mental agreement in principle. It requires effort!

What else can we learn about godliness? Godliness isn’t good moral character. Godliness is not virtue. Look at the passage in Peter again. Peter includes godliness in his list of qualities that we should add to our faith. We are to add godliness, along with virtue, knowledge, self-control, and love. Godliness is not those qualities. It’s in addition to those things. Godliness, on top of good moral character. Godliness, in addition to love. If moral character and being good were godly, then even an unbeliever could be considered to have godliness. But, as we see, godliness is devotion to God and walking in a way that is focused on him and pleasing to him.

Let’s not think that all this effort towards godliness is of our own ability. Rather, Peter says 2 Peter 1:3, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.” God, as He always does, has made His grace available to us, so that we may walk in godliness.

Yes, God has given us his grace to walk towards godliness. But, his grace does require us to utilize effort. After Peter encourages us to add all those qualities to our faith, he goes on to say, “For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.”

Peter warns us. We must work towards increasing these qualities, including godliness, to our faith. Not doing so is like being a near-sighted blind man. We have been saved from so much and been given salvation through the greatest act of love imaginable. “Be all the more diligent”, he says! Don’t think short term. Let’s run towards the goal!

The call to godliness is a call to put God at the center of your thoughts, to make every effort to walk in a way pleasing to God. Godliness causes us to be disciplined. It changes the way we pray, read the word, worship, and even doing your most ordinary tasks. Jerry Bridges says it’s doing everything with “an eye towards God’s glory.” Godliness should change the way we act. “Is what I’m about to do going to bring God glory?”

Godliness is living ‘God-aware’ and changing the way we act. How would your life be transformed if you walked God-aware? Let’s put devotion into action!

Jeff Hughes
Connect Group Ministry Leader
NCWC

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