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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at Life BPC 8am & 1045am Service, 2013-08-18

Text: 2 Peter 1:6

I would like to begin with a very well-known Bible story: David and Goliath. Ask any child who has attended Sunday School what they know about David, and you would probably get the same answer: He was a boy who killed Goliath! I remember the time I was a small kid in Sunday School. I used to sing the chorus, “Only a boy called David.” I am sure most of you would know this amazing story very well. Here on one side of the Valley of Elah we see an insignificant Jewish shepherd from Bethlehem armed with nothing but a sling and five stones. He was only a youth, perhaps about 20 years of age. 

Now on the other side of the valley we see this enormous giant, standing nearly 3 meters tall, a towering champion, known and feared by everyone. Goliath was a veteran soldier, a man of war from his youth. And the Bible provides a most impressive picture of this man: His head, shoulders, chest and legs were all clothed in brass – he was just one shining mass of brass in the sun. Carrying his huge sword and spear, his presence struck great terror in the hearts of all the Israelite soldiers who saw him. None of them dared to stand up to him. Everyone was terrified by his intimidating appearance and power.

Day by day Goliath came out and challenged the armies of Israel. Day by day he arrogantly defied the God of Israel, and took great pleasure in humiliating the name of God before the men of Israel. And yet, none of them were willing to put an end to his open defiance of the Lord. None of them, except for that young shepherd named David.

What was it that made David respond so differently from the rest? What did David have that all the men of Israel did not have? He had a close walk with God. He had cultivated this close walk with God during his days as a shepherd. While taking care of his father’s sheep out in the fields of Bethlehem David had spent many hours talking to God and meditating on God’s Word. Thus he knew God well and became a man after God’s own heart.

The many wonderful psalms he composed show us how devoted David was to God and how well he depended on Him to meet all his needs. It is therefore understandable that his heart should be so deeply moved against anyone who dares to cast aspersions on the God whom he loved with all of his heart, soul and might. And God enabled David to bring Goliath down with his slingshot and to slay him with the giant’s own sword.

Goliath’s challenges were silenced and God’s name was vindicated day. But since then, other challenges to God’s kingdom have arisen. Sin and ungodliness have multiplied at an unprecedented rate. Greed, materialism, self-indulgence and sexual immorality are now promoted widely by the media. Satan and his evil minions have infiltrated every level of society and polluted the minds of people. Many are misled by the theory of Evolution, which is Satan’s lie. Many are dabbling with occult practices. Many are also being deceived by false teachings and movements which claim to be of God. The Church of Jesus Christ is struggling to meet all these challenges. And that’s not all. There are the needs of the harvest: millions of souls have yet to be brought to Christ, but the labourers are so few. There is so much that needs to be done for God’s kingdom today, but few are willing and ready to do it. Why is this so?

One reason is the great lack of godliness among Christians. Jim Berg made this observation: “Many today are Christian, but alarmingly few are godly.” Most of us respond to the challenges facing God’s kingdom the same way that the armies of Israel responded to Goliath. Godliness is desperately lacking today. What God’s kingdom needs today are men and women who are godly – men and women who will rise up and respond to these challenges in the same way that David responded to Goliath – men and women who will not keep silent when evil is present and good is under attack. Godliness is the virtue that we need in order to be used of God to accomplish His work today. This is the virtue that we shall now study in detail.

Let us first consider what godliness is. To some people, being godly only means being baptized, attending church regularly and putting some money in the offering bags. They think that as long as they have met these requirements, they are godly people, and it doesn’t matter what they do or don’t do during the rest of the week. God’s Word tells us that there will be many like that in the last days. Listen to what Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:1-5 – “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof….” A form of godliness will evoke no adverse reaction from the world. It is socially acceptable. But true godliness will. As Paul said a few verses later, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” (2 Timothy 3:12)

We need to ask this question: Is it possible that what we have right now is only a form of godliness? Have we been deceiving ourselves all this time with a counterfeit godliness? Please ensure that this is not true of you. A form of godliness is not only deceitful, but it lacks the power of real godliness. It is weak and powerless. We can’t live victoriously for Christ if all that we have is a form of godliness. We need the real thing! And so we must carefully understand what godliness is and commit ourselves to cultivate it.

  Godliness comes from a Greek word (eusebeia) which means ‘worship that is worthy of God.’ It was a term for authentic piety or true religion – the kind that was consistently lived whether in the home, the church or the marketplace. This helps us to understand why it is placed after virtue (moral excellence), knowledge, temperance (self-control) and patience (endurance) in our passage of 2 Peter 1:5-7. These four virtues are essential to the cultivation of godliness in our life. Godliness is like a car engine – it provides the power that is needed to propel the car. But the engine will run smoothly only if its four cylinders are in good working order. Without virtue or moral excellence there would be no desire to pursue godliness. Without knowledge there would be no design for the pursuit of godliness. Without temperance and patience there would be nodiscipline to pursue godliness. 

Godliness is defined by Jim Berg as, “A God-fearing lifestyle that promotes righteousness and opposes evil.”From this definition we learn three things:

I. Godliness is Enjoying a Close Walk with God

It is this closeness to God that produces a lifestyle that is consistent with Who God is and with what God is doing in the world. The Bible provides many examples to follow. It tells us of men like Enoch who walked with God (Gen 5:22). So close and consistent was Enoch’s walk with God that he did not die, but God took him. Dearly beloved, do you long to have a close walk with God like Enoch had? Enoch was not the only one. Moses also had a close walk with God, spending 40 days with Him on Mt Sinai (Exo 24:18). Perhaps he would have wanted to stay longer, but God commanded him to go down because the people had sinned against him.

At the beginning of this sermon, I had mentioned something about David’s close walk with God. So close was David to God that God called him “a man after My own heart, who shall fulfil all My will.” (Acts 13:22). David’s intense devotion to God is evident in the all the psalms that he wrote. Listen to what he wrote in two of his psalms: Psalm 16:11 – “Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” Psalm 27:4 – “One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple.”

The sad thing is that expressions like these do not resonate much with most people living today, and even with many Christians today. We live in a pleasure-seeking world that offers entertainment of every kind. Seeking after God is not found anywhere on the list of what most people want to do. What would they rather seek after? They love to travel and go on overseas tours. Whenever they have any spare time they use it for a game of tennis or golf with their friends, or to go clubbing or pubbing with their peers. They would spend hours trying out some new exotic food, or shopping for new clothes and gadgets, watching the latest block-buster movies or the English Premier League. This is the accepted lifestyle that many desire to have.

We who belong to Christ are oftentimes influenced to do the same. On one hand we know that we should seek after God and spend time with Him. We want to have a closer walk with God and become men and women after God’s own heart. But on their other hand, we don’t want to miss all the fun and excitement that the world enjoys. This is when we must remind ourselves of one very important difference between the pleasures of this world, and the pleasures that are found at God’s right hand. The pleasures of this world are transient. Like fireworks, they are momentary and do not last for long. They do not satisfy. After a person enjoys them, he still feels empty and he has to keep on pursuing the same pleasure over and over again to get ‘high.’

The book of Ecclesiastes describes this phenomenon. Solomon, its writer said that he gave himself fully to enjoy every kind of worldly pleasure that he could lay his hands on with all the riches at his disposal. But at the end of it all, his frank assessment of what he had gained, was this: “Behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 2:11b)

But when you seek pleasure in God alone, you will find in Him an infinite source of delight that never ends. The pleasures at God’s right hand are pleasures that last for ever and ever, and that meet the deepest needs of your soul. Since you were made to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever, you can never be really satisfied until you are doing this. As Augustine said, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in God.”

My prayer for all of us today is that we will find the time we spend with God to be our greatest source of pleasure. Let us show the world that there is no greater delight than to walk closely with God. Let God become your greatest source of satisfaction and pleasure. Every moment you spend with Him should be special and precious to you. Treasure it, yearn for it and look forward to it throughout the day. And when the opportunity comes for you to give your undivided attention to God in prayer, pour out all your heart and soul to Him, and let nothing else matter to you but enjoying His glorious presence.

When that happens, you will experience a whole new life that you have never known before. And that is what the abundant life is all about. The abundant life that our Lord Jesus spoke about isn’t about having more weath, prestige and material blessings. It is about enjoying a close walk with God. God Himself delights in walking with us. More than anything else, He wants us to know Him, to understand Him and enjoy Him. God wants to make Himself known to us. He is pleased when we want to have a closer walk with Him.

The rewards of this are tremendous. If you have become weary and discouraged because of the stresses of preparing for your exams, then walking with God will renew your strength so that you can rise up with wings as eagles. If the pressures of work have being weighing down heavily on you, then walking with God will enable you to persevere onward to victory! Walking closely with God gives fuller meaning to every experience in life: whether it be your work or your relationships with others. It adds life to your service to God. It adds new vigour to your singing of hymns. It adds zeal to your service to God, and a fuller dimension of love to your fellowship with others.

And all this put together constitutes godliness – not just a form of godliness, but the genuine godliness that we must cultivate. Now that we have seen what godliness is, let us look at what it does. Firstly,

II. Godliness Promotes Righteousness

The closer you are to God, the more you will love righteousness, because God loves righteousness. We learn this from Psalm 11:7 – “For the righteous LORD loveth righteousness; His countenance doth behold the upright.” Psalm 33:5 – “He loveth righteousness and judgment: the earth is full of the goodness of the LORD.” 

How does godliness promote righteousness? First of all, by making you desire righteousness in the lives of others. To be godly is to rejoice whenever you see righteousness manifested in people around you. In Hebrews 10:24, we are told to provoke or stir up one another towards love and good works. Let us therefore think of ways and means whereby we can encourage one another to do more for the Lord and for others, and be ready to appreciate them and commend them when they do it.

Now, the second way in which godliness will promote righteousness, is by making you desire righteousness in your own life. To be godly is to love doing things that are good and righteous in God’s sight. The godly man will always want to do good works for God’s glory. In Ephesians 2:10, Paul says that “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

But while godliness makes you desire righteousness in your life, that does not mean that you will always be able to fulfill that desire. This is because of the old sinful nature that you struggle with at times, even though you have been saved from sin. Even the godly king David, the man after God’s own heart, struggled with the sins of lust and adultery. But godliness also made him repent of his sins and confess them to God. Paul testified of his own struggle in Romans 7:19 – “For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.”

But Paul also provides the solution to this in Romans 8:2 – “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” God has given you the Holy Spirit to make you righteous. And by walking in the Spirit and using the Word of God each day, your life is being transformed, to become more and more righteous. There is another thing that godliness does besides promoting righteousness.

III. Godliness Opposes Evil

The closer you are to God, the more you will oppose all evil and sin, because God Himself opposes them.

One word that is used very often in the Bible to describe God’s attitude toward sin is the word “abomination”. We see this especially in Proverbs 6:16-19 – “These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.” 

As this passage implies, the word “abomination” has a more intense meaning than the word “hate.” “Abomination” is a term reserved for things which are utterly disgusting, stinking, offensive to all the senses. It is like the response you would have if you were to come across a piece of rotting meat, full of germs and covered with maggots. You can’t wait to get it removed from your sight. It is an abomination to you. And that is the response that godliness will produce in you regarding sin.

And you should have the same response toward sin, whether it is in your own life or whether it is the lives of others. If there is sin in your own life, it must be an abomination to you, and you cannot wait to get rid of it, by quickly repenting of the sin and confessing it. To keep tolerating sin in your life is like wanting to keep a piece of rotting meat in your refrigerator. You see, being godly means that you do not take any sin lightly, or excuse it.

Most people have the idea that sin is limited to what the world calls “crime.” People tend to soften anything less than that as “defects,” “mistakes,” “infirmities.” And even where sin is admitted, excuses and exceptions are made for it. People imagine God to be like an indulgent old man, who gets irritated when his children are naughty, but still closes one eye at their little acts of mischief. But the Word of God reveals that He cannot tolerate even the smallest sin in your life. Therefore to be godly to be very careful with every thought you think, every word you say and every deed you do, lest you should sin and bring in something that you hate and that God hates, into your life.

The godly man sees more clearly the utter horror of his sinfulness. He is deeply stricken by the stinging guilt of his own wayward thoughts. It grieves him so much to wrong the One who has loved him most. And therefore he makes serious efforts to root out all his sinful habits.

When several people died during the present dengue outbreak in Singapore everyone began to take the ‘mozzie wipeout’ measures more seriously. Any place where stagnant water can be found had to be emptied diligently so that no mosquitoes can breed. How much more care should we exercise to ensure that there are no breeding places in our lives for sin. Let us hate sin enough to be vigilant in preventing it from growing and festering.

Being godly also means hating sin that is found in the lives of others. Only when we regard the sin in the lives of our loved ones and friends as an abomination, will we really bother to share the gospel of salvation with them, because we cannot wait to get rid of their sins, and we know that the only thing that can do this speedily and completely is the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Here is an analogy. If you know that your loved one has been diagnosed to have a very malignant cancer that and is spreading very fast, how urgently would you act upon it? I am sure that you will not give yourself rest until it is done, because that malignant cancer is an abomination to you.

Thus we have seen that godliness is a God-fearing lifestyle that promotes righteousness and opposes evil. I want to end this sermon with an appeal: An appeal to do all that is needful to cultivate godliness in your life. Listen to what is written in 1 Timothy 4:7-8 – “But refuse profane and old wives' fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness. For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.”

Cultivating godliness is like doing exercise. It requires time and consistent effort. And it is must be done purposely and progressively, just like building a marriage. When two imperfect people are married to each other, they do not naturally and easily learn to become devoted to each other. It takes time and effort. They need to spend quality time with each other. A good marriage is the result of much self-denial, commitment, communication, tears of hurt and repeated times of reconciliation and renewal.

The same thing is true of cultivating godliness – we need to spend more time with God. We need to persevere even we feel like giving up and just letting our lives gravitate naturally back to the world.

So let me urge you now to turn away from the world and all its vain attractions and amusements and spend more time with God. Take time to commune with Him daily. Find a quiet place and time when you can be alone with God. Read a portion of Scripture and let Him speak to you through it, and then respond to Him accordingly in prayer. As God exposes more of your selfishness and lusts, take careful note of them and confess them to Him. Be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s conviction and respond to it with repentance and resolve.

As you draw near to God each day, God will draw nearer to you. You will sense a deep refreshment that has come into your soul. Keep doing this, and your life will be increasingly ordered around God’s priorities rather than your own. And that will make you a man or a woman after God’s own heart. May the Lord help us to cultivate godliness in our life.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25