Godliness, by Rene Milner
It has always struck me as a follower of Christ that we as a body tend to throw around Words and not really know what they mean. When I was a child, I thought like a child, but this is also when I learned my primary language. In truth most people will tell you that the easiest time to learn a language is when you are a child. This is likely because children have a lot of God given capacity to learn. But, undoubtedly, they also are not distracted by many other facts that we as adults have to wrestle with. Things like, did I get the word rite? Is it in the write context? Do different ages (years old or people long ago?) here the word differently? You can see from just a few short words how crucial context and understanding are, not to mention spelling. So, this is what makes me such a pain to study the Word with. (Especially when I am alone with God) I can’t help but ask:
1. What does the word mean?
2. What did it mean when it was first penned?
3. What does it mean today?
4. What does it mean to me now?
If I can answer those “simple” questions, I feel that my study has been fruitful. For me that is. Whenever I study Scripture with a heart to know Him better, it is fruitful from God’s eyes, no matter the outcome to me.
One of my favorite words to study was Grace. Can you think of a word we as Christ followers use more? What does it mean? What did it mean to the followers of Jesus? What do we commonly use it for today? Working through this word a number of years ago I came up with a personal definition that I have found helps whenever I use this word. Remember that this is not the literal, God given definition, this is my understanding that helps me apply this word in my day to day living and conversation.
Grace–The power of God in the heart of man to do the will of God in the hand of man. For me this personal reflection on the word helps. (There are likely times when it is off the mark enough that it can hurt, but that is another pondering)
So what does this have to do with Godliness? We talk about this all the time. People say I want to be more Godly and we all nod. We talk about godliness as something we all agree we should seek after. So what does it mean? I actually am not going to work through it for you. What I am going to do is ask enough questions to hopefully stimulate some thoughts in you to work through it yourself. (In full disclosure I have not gotten peace over my answers personally enough yet to share them usefully.)
A quick view of Godly and Godliness in the Biblical uses will show that it is definitely a description of the people of God. There are some who are His “Godly ones”. Godliness is also set up as something that is desirable. The word godliness in the NT means good/devout worshipper of God. Strangely it does not show up in the Old Testament. Godly, however does show up in the OT. There it is often used as an adjective describing the people of God.
Current Miriam/Webster’s definition. The quality or state of being spiritually pure or virtuous.
Contrast this with Webster’s 1848 dictionary–Belief in God and reverence for His character and laws.
You can see the change. We have moved from a condition of a person owned by God (a Godly one) to a personal condition of being spiritually pure or virtuous.
As I try to work through this on my own I am left with this question that I would like to leave you with. And, when you answer it I would love to hear (not here, but hear, anytime and anywhere) your Godly thoughts on the issue.
Is Godliness something we seek to achieve through our actions and behaviors or could it be some sort of position or condition that we are found to be in. Simply put, can we become Godly or are we found to be Godly? It may seem like a subtle difference in answer but I would contend that it may be as vast as the difference between Heaven and earth.