What is godliness?

What do you want most?

There are a lot of things to want out there, and you are going to have to make choices.

Choosing one thing, means not choosing another, If I do this, I can’t do that.

And so you have to choose between your wants. You always are choosing between your wants. You want to do this, but you want to do this more, and what you want most, is going to be the way you end up making the decision.

What you want, what you really want, is what you most often do.

People are funny, you know. We do something and we are like I don’t know why I did that, but almost all the time, if you trace it back, the reason you did that is because you wanted to.

That’s just the truth.

What you want is like a spark that starts the fire, and that’s a problem because a lot of times we are not wanting what we should.

It’s like we are wanting machines.

We are constantly wanting, wanting, wanting, and that wanting machine is broken in all of us, and so we are constantly wanting the wrong things or wanting the right things the wrong way.

We are broken people.

We’ve got all these problems with our wants. And what makes it worse is, we’ve got this whole world out there telling us to want all the wrong things as well.

So we absolutely have to stop and think about what we want.

We have to ask ourselves.

What do we want most?

What should we want most?

And ultimately, we need to go back to God and say, God what should I want?

Because God is not broken. God knows what you should want. And God does want something for your life.

He has a path He wants you to follow.

What does He want most?

Now, obviously there are lots of places we might go to answer that question.

It’s a big Bible.

But I want us to look at the counsel Paul gives Timothy in 1 Timothy 4.

He’s talking to a young pastor who is under a lot of pressure with all these false teachers and false spirituality infecting the church, this is a church, under attack, and so as this young pastor is serving God in this very confusing place, Paul writes to give him some very important counsel.


You might say.


In verses 7 and 8 of chapter 4.

It’s like, “Let’s get our priorities straight.”

In these two verses, he tells Timothy.

1.) What he should want.
2.) Why he should want it.
And 3.) How he can get it.

And we are just going to talk about what he should want because I think this applies to all of us.

Not just Timothy. Not just pastors.

This is number one.This is the one thing.

If you think of your life like a table, and everything you have got to do this year is on that table. Go to school. Get a job. Eat. And someone tells you have to take everything off the table, except for one thing.The one that matters most.

This is your one thing.

It is to be godly.

As Paul talks to Timothy in 1 Timothy chapter 4, he urges him, ‘train yourself for godliness.’

And Paul loved Timothy.

They had a relationship like father and son, and that’s probably how we should hear this, a father talking to his son.

And so obviously he wanted what was best for him, and what was best for him, and for us.

Isn’t complicated.


To be godly.

In fact, I like how one pastor has put Paul’s exhortation in his own words.

He says, “You will do the thing of greatest value, if with all your zeal and ability, you devote yourself to godliness alone.”


That’s big.

And so he explains, “Godliness is the beginning, middle and end of Christian living, and where it is complete, there is nothing lacking.”

It’s one thing that changes everything.

Which is why.

If you are a baby Christian. You are at the beginning of a Christian life. What should you want?

To be godly.

If you have been a Christian for a number of years now. You are in the middle of the Christian life.What should you be pursuing?


And if you are near the end of your Christian life here on earth.What should you hope to be?


Godliness is that important.

It’s the one thing on the table.

And yet talking about the importance of godliness is not as helpful as it could be because we actually, all have a number of different ideas, that come into our minds, when we think about what godliness is.

Partly because godliness is not a word we use that often anymore.

Where do you hear people talk about being godly?

Also, because we grew up in different places with all these ideas about what it means to be a godly person.

So we can’t just talk about why it is important or how to become godly we have to make sure we know what it is.

What is godliness?

And that is really an important question because one of the most common ideas people have about godliness is totally wrong.

When many people think about being godly, they think in terms of EXTERNALS.

The outside.Looking spiritual. Doing spiritual things.

So for example, we might think of some important preacher as godly. What does it mean to be godly, we get this image, of someone speaking in this powerful way.

Doing something that looks powerful.

Hand on the head. People falling over. Is that godly?

If we get close to him, are we godly?

Others think of godliness, as an emotional experience at church.

So going to a church where there’s really good singing and we feel something, we raise our hands, we dance.

Is that godliness?

For others, it’s rituals. People think this is what godliness looks like. Having certain water that’s been blessed by a certain man, and then using that water, to experience breakthrough. That’s what people think of instead of godliness. A breakthrough, deliverance. An experience, where somebody does something to me. Or maybe even a vision. Or being able to speak in tongues. Is learning to speak in tongues, the same as being a godly person? 

One thing all those different ideas are missing, you’ll notice though, is what?


The emphasis is on the outside. And that’s the mistake people have been making for a long time, actually. Like, back in Paul’s day. In 1 Timothy, before Paul even says train yourself to be godly, he’s warning Timothy about this false kind of godliness, that was becoming popular in the church in Ephesus, where people who were talking about godliness as if it were a matter of being able to argue about genealogies and other ancient myths and not enjoying the good gifts God gave.

And that wasn’t just a problem in Ephesus actually. In the church over in Colossae there were people who said if you wanted to be godly, you needed to follow these rules they had made up.

Do not handle.Do not taste. Do not touch. And if you didn’t eat these certain foods at certain times and if you didn’t keep the Sabbath and these other festivals they had established, you didn’t have a chance to be godly.

Even in Jesus’ day, the Pharisees, thought of godliness as keeping all these rules they had made up and then, avoiding all these things, that they said were bad.

There’s a kind of godliness out there, you might think of, that’s not godliness, it’s about me, myself and I, it’s not about God, in fact if you look at it very closely, you should call it manliness, because it’s not about God.

It’s about man.

It’s not about God’s Word. What does God say?

But man’s opinions. What does this man think?

It’s not about pleasing God. It’s about getting approval. It’s not about getting your heart right before God. Like dealing with this stuff in the heart. It’s about the performance of all these religious rituals.

It’s not based on what God has done through Jesus, and what God has promised to do but on what man does instead.

And that kind of godliness is not worth pursuing at all.

Getting really good at arguing these small details that aren’t connected to the main point of the Bible at all. Being super passionate about stuff that doesn’t matter. Getting great at all these extra rules somebody added to the Bible. Learning to talk about God a certain way, with this deep voice, that sounds so spiritual. Even being able to do these certain acts that people think are miraculous.

That kind of godliness has got no absolutely no value.


Godliness is not doing all this stuff that makes you look religious on the outside.

And it’s not simply biblical behavior either.That’s another mistake. It’s a better mistake. I’d rather make that mistake. It’s closer.

You find, when some people use the word godliness, they are using it to describe a person’s behavior and so they think of godliness, as reading your Bible, or praying, or avoiding certain sins.

In other words, for them, godliness is the same as righteousness or holiness.

Which is kind of right, because, godliness does have to do with your behavior.

In fact, even in 2 Peter chapter 3, verse 11, Peter uses it that way.

He says.“Since all these things (and he’s talking about the world in which we live) are thus to be dissolved.” He’s talking about the future, where the world, as we know it, comes to an end, there is a day of judgment, and so, “what sort of people ought you to be” Peter asks, “in lives of holiness and godliness.”

Emphasis on lives.

Godliness, has to do with the way you live, obviously. But, it goes deeper than that. It starts deeper than that.

It’s a little like looking at a house.

Thinking of godliness as primarily actions is a little like looking at a house.
Because when you look at a house, you see the foundation maybe, you see the windows, the doors, the walls, you see the roof. And defining godliness as just the good stuff you do or the bad stuff you don’t do, is a little like looking at a house, and calling the roof the house.

You know what I mean?

Because, the roof is a part of the house, obvious, you can’t argue with that, but it’s not the whole house, either.

If you are going to understand godliness, you can’t think rituals, and you can’t just think actions.

You have to think heart.

That’s where you have to start.

One author puts it like this.

“The New Testament word for godliness, in its original meaning, conveys the idea of a personal attitude toward God that results in actions that are pleasing to God.”

Did you catch that?

An attitude.

That results.

In actions.

If you look the word Paul uses for godliness up in a dictionary, you’ll see it has to do with worship.


It’s made up of two Greek words actually.

Good and worship.

So godliness is “good worship.”

And of course, we think of worship, strictly in terms of God, that’s a religious word for us, worship. So, like we wouldn’t talk about worshiping a president, we worship God, but in Paul’s day, they used this word, godliness, more generally.
In terms of respect or reverence.

This word godliness meant “giving the appropriate reverence to those one has a duty to honor.”

So like, there’s a certain respect your parents should have because they are your parents, there is a certain respect your president should have because he is your president, and there’s a certain respect God should have because He’s God.

And Christians picked up this word that people used and applied it specifically, to our relationship with God.

So when Paul talks about godliness he’s talking about showing proper respect and reverence for God in our lives.

Another word you might use is awe.

A godly person is in awe of God.

He’s amazed by God.

He’s astonished.


Awe is kind of a hard word, to define, if you think about it.

You more know it when you have it, but basically, it’s that sense of wonder and amazement and astonishment you get when you see how big or beautiful or magnificent or perfect something is and how small you are as a result.

It’s a little like fear, actually.

If you are going to think of a word that’s close to.


You could almost use those two words as synonyms.

Only we normally think of fear as having to do with something that is going to bring pain or suffering into our lives.

So we use fear in a negative sense.

Fear makes you want to run away from what you see.



“Unlike fear doesn’t make us shrink back from what we are seeing, but, makes us want to run towards it. “

And adore it.

And worship.

That’s why awe is a word you can use with love.

You can be in awe of something, and love it and, when the Bible talks about godliness, you always have awe and love together.

In fact, I like how John Calvin has defined it.

He says, godliness “is the union”

And that’s when two things come together. Like marriage. Godliness is the marriage.

“of awe and love”

It’s not just awe or astonishment, by itself, when a person is godly, they revere, they are amazed by God and they love God.

And that awe and love of God is produced by, and this is important, a knowledge of God and a knowledge of God’s benefits.

If you want to kind of sum godliness up.

You start with a mind.

That’s learning truth about God.

Which causes the heart to respond with awe and love.

Which leads to action.

To hands that work, and seek to do what God wants.

In other words, when awe and love get married, they go to work.

You have got this normal every day person who starts learning more and more about who God actually is and what God as done.

Maybe first, as he wakes up and he’s looking out at this world.

Because, the Bible says the whole world is designed to be shouting out God is glorious. And so, he’s looking at the world, and he’s starting to see, the way it point him to someone greater. He’s looking at the mountains, and he’s like wow, that’s the work of God’s fingers. And he’s looking at flowers, and he’s thinking, man the mind of God.

And, he’s not just looking at the world, he’s studying God’s Word.

Because the word is where He reveals His glory most clearly.

And for him, this book is like a book of wonders.

Especially, the most wonderful way God’s revealed Himself through Jesus and Jesus’ work on the cross, and godliness is being alive to all that.

Like awake.

Jesus is God and man.

The Trinity, you know. God the Father. God the Son. God the Holy Spirit.


The wisdom of God in making a way for us as sinners to be saved, without compromising His holiness.

They are not just words to him.


You see God’s glory in the world and in the word, and you trust, it’s true, and applies to you, and you respond, in a way that makes sense, given what the world, the word and Jesus are telling us about God.

All this information, it’s not just going into your head.

It’s going down into your heart.

And, you are amazed and you are astonished.

And you want to know more and you want to have a deeper relationship with God and you want to please Him.

In every area of your life.

One old Puritan defined the godly person as:“Someone who cherishes God as their most precious treasure.”

I like that word.


He cherishes God.

“And regards Him as the being of the greatest magnitude and glory in the universe.”

And, I think, what these writers are trying to say is when you think about what godliness mean, you need to think of GOD in these huge bold print capital letters.

And then ‘liness.’


Is about GOD.

The person who is godly has a life that has God right where he should be.

At the center.

His life revolves around God.

How about yours?

If there’s nothing more important than pursuing godliness, are you actually pursuing God?

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