Thursday, May 2, 2013

Doctrines of Godliness – 1 Tim 6:3-5

If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself. (NKJV)
Teaching Otherwise
Paul has spent most of the six chapters of his first letter to Timothy instructing him about teaching and teachers. In the ESV and NIV translation, the words teach and teaching are in every chapter with fourteen occurrences throughout the book. He starts the book warning about false teachers and puts a bookend on his instructions here in chapter six. Clearly, when he is talking about teaching otherwise, he is including all that he has written to Timothy. However, Paul also includes the words of Jesus specifically about doctrines (teachings) about godliness.
So what are Jesus’ teachings about godliness? How could I possibly sum up His teaching about godliness without writing a huge book? I think Jesus summed it up when He opened His Sermon on the Mount with the Beatitudes. Many have written volumes and preached extensive sermons on the Beatitudes and I can’t come close to any of these but will attempt to tie them together with the basics of godliness.
·         Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
·         Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
·         Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
·         Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
·         Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
·         Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
·         Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
·         Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
·         Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
(Matt 5:3-11 KJV)
Poor in Spirit – Being a godly person begins with being poor in spirit. My own spirit was dead (that’s pretty poor) before I came to Jesus (Eph 2:5). There is no way for a person to be godly without first acknowledging this. Once a person has admitted this and has been reborn, God’s Spirit lives in us. My spirit is still poor and weak but when I yield it to His Spirit, then I can live a godly life. Even after becoming a Christian, I must admit how poor my spirit is, otherwise I become proud, obsessed with arguments, and all the other things Paul mentioned.

Mourn – We mourn what we lose, whether it is a loved one, a prized possession, an ability, or health. I’m quite sure that Jesus wasn’t talking about any of these things. When Jesus comes back, we will see some mourning that is in line with this beatitude.
Look! He comes with the clouds of heaven. And everyone will see him— even those who pierced him. And all the nations of the world will mourn for him. Yes! Amen! (Rev 1:7 NLT)
This isn’t mourning because Jesus died, it is mourning because He is alive. While nations will be mourning, it will be individuals (Zech 12:10-14) because each person will suddenly realize his or her own sinfulness and what it cost Jesus on the cross. Even though Christians know our sins are forgiven, we will understand the cost even more when we see Jesus coming on the clouds. Unbelievers will mourn because their sin will be exposed and they will have the double weight of realizing that they rejected Jesus.
It is best for anyone to mourn now at his sinful state and give it up. This is a mourning that leads to a loss instead of a result of a loss. This is why it leads to godliness.
Meek – This is a very misunderstood character trait. Proud and strong people see it as a detriment, thinking it means a lack of initiative or will. Others see it as positive showing mildness or a quiet nature, but still a negative in a society that honors assertiveness. To understand meekness it is imperative that we see what the Bible says. Two people are mentioned in the Bible for their meekness.
Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth. (Num 12:3 KJV)
It may seem surprising that Moses was described as meek. He killed a man and fled to the desert. He confronted Pharaoh and led the people out of Egypt. He burned with anger and broke the first tablets of the Ten Commandments when Israel sinned. However, he was called meek when his brother and sister criticized him and wanted to be equal with him. Moses didn’t let them rattle him. He remained calm and let the Lord do His work. He interceded for Miriam when the Lord disciplined her. Moses’ meekness didn’t develop all at once; it took time for the Lord to transform him. If we want to be godly, we need the same transformation (2 Cor 3:18).
Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over him who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!
But the meek shall possess the land, and delight themselves in abundant prosperity.
(Ps 37:7, 11 RSV)
Moses demonstrated meekness when he let the Lord deal with his siblings. We often face situations where we see evil being carried out. We see it in our nation when godly people are punished for sticking to their convictions about abortion issues (Hobby Lobby vs. Obamacare’s mandate to provide morning after pills[1]) or same sex marriage (Arlene’s Flowers refusal to sell flowers for a same sex marriage vs. Washington State law[2]) to name just two examples. What is our response? Sometimes we have to defend ourselves as in these two cases. However at the heart of it is the inward attitude and peace to wait patiently for the Lord. Between Ps 37:7 and the promise of possessing the land in Ps 37:11, is the warning that our fretting only leads to evil and the reminder that in a little while evil people will be no more.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. (Matt 11:29 KJV)
Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass. (Matt 21:5 KJV)
Jesus is the other person who is described as meek. He said it of Himself and it was prophesied about His first coming. When we are meek we can be like Jesus, a person with whom we can find rest. Paul described the quarreling, strife, constant friction, and controversy that surrounds people who are not godly. Think about that the next time drama occurs around you or your family. Who is being ungodly and who is being meek. Do people flock to the unruly person?
Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem on a donkey demonstrated meekness in that He wasn’t going to go outside of God’s plan to get His way. He knew that He would have to suffer first and die on a cross before He would come again as conquering king. Meek people don’t rush things but rely on God’s timing.
Meekness leads to godliness when we acknowledge that God is in control. His plan and His glory are at stake if evil succeeds and that is much more important than our pride or rights. Sometimes, he uses our circumstances to win the battles through us and other times there is a bigger picture that we don’t understand. Meek people don’t obsess over controversies and arguments. They take godly stands and wait on the Lord.
Hunger and Thirst after Righteousness – If we are truly seeking God and have admitted our sinfulness, then we will want to live holy lives. Hungering and thirsting for righteousness is the constant desire to be more and more like our Savior. Instead of succumbing to envy, strife, and other things, we will have an inner desire to stop and do what is right.
Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; And you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk Without money and without cost. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And delight yourself in abundance. (Isa 55:1-2 NASB)
That desire to do what is right can only be satisfied when we come to God. We can’t buy it; we can’t work for it. When we spend our lives looking for that satisfaction in other religions or the happiness that the world offers, we are not going to get the bread that satisfies. Jesus said He is the bread (John 6:35) and that the only way to come to God is through Him (John 14:6).
When we do we will be delighted in the abundance of life. This isn’t a promise of material blessings. Jesus said we will be satisfied with a righteous life. Satisfaction in life with our walk with the Lord will produce a life that is in direct opposition to the one Paul was warning us about when we don’t adhere to the doctrines of godliness. We will not envy those in the world who don’t know Jesus, instead we will be satisfied in knowing Him.
Mercy – When we show others kindness, compassion, and forgiveness, we are being merciful. From a legal standpoint, we may have every right to get even with the person. From the world’s perspective, we may have the right to make the person miserable who has offended us. When we view this from God’s perspective, He has every right to punish us for our sins. We have offended the maker of the universe, the One who made us. Yet He has mercy on us.
You may think that because Jesus paid the penalty for our sins, He has to forgive us. Not so, our sins caused Jesus’ death. God has the right to punish us for Jesus’ death. But God is merciful. He has the power over us and has chosen to have mercy on those who accept Jesus’ offer of forgiveness though His death. If we don’t show the same kind of mercy to others then God is not obliged to show His mercy to us (Matt 6:14-15). Mercy is tied to godliness it demonstrates God’s own character.
He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? (Mic 6:8 KJV)
When we see Jesus, the exact representation of God we see mercy and that is what He has shown us. He wants us to love mercy because He is merciful and to be like Him. There is no mercy in ungodly living that produces slander and gossip.
Pure in Heart – What does it mean to be pure in heart? I hear people quoting Jer 17:9 that says the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked. They also quote Matt 15:18-19 where Jesus says that all sorts of evil comes out of our hearts. They make it sound like there is no hope for a person to live a godly life until they die and go to heaven when they will see God. Of course there is truth in this. We won’t be perfect until we are done with these mortal bodies. However there is a progression of purifying our hearts that starts here on the earth and we can have hope of living godly lives now.
A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. (Ezek 36:26 KJV)
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (2 Cor 5:17 KJV)
God promised to give us a new heart because He knows we can’t see Him with the old heart still in us. When we receive Jesus Christ into our hearts, we become a new person. If this doesn’t happen, then there is no conversion and the person who claims to be a Christian without this conversion is lying. They may be hoping in Christ only to escape hell but have no desire to have a pure heart. These are the ones that Jesus says He doesn’t know when the judgment comes (Matt 25:12). He doesn’t know them because He has never been in their hearts.
A pure heart is the opposite of a corrupt mind. Our hearts are pure when Jesus lives in our hearts by faith (Eph 3:17). If Jesus is in my heart, then it is pure. It doesn’t mean I’m perfect, but with Him in my heart and by the Holy Spirit’s power, I’m putting the old sinful habits behind and developing a new godly life.
Peacemaker – I’ve always wondered what kind of a person a peacemaker is because there is a negative connotation to peacemakers. When talking of family dynamics, there is usually one person in the family that will do anything to try to restore peace. Unfortunately, doing anything is not always a good thing and causes the peacemaker (and the people he wants to help) significant dysfunctional behavior when conflicts need to be resolved instead of swept under the rug.
This isn’t what Jesus was talking about when He said peacemakers will be called children of God. A child of God brings to mind a person that is so close to God that he looks and acts as his Father does. I know that Jesus wasn’t talking only about Himself, but He is the ultimate peacemaker.
For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. (Rom 5:10 KJV)
Jesus was willing to do anything to bring peace between God and us. That “anything” was death on the cross. He gave His life so that we could be reconciled to our worst enemy. It sounds a lot like the peacemaker in a family that is willing to pay the consequence of taking the blame for an accident or misunderstanding so that there would be peace in the family. The difference is that in a family, there is no power imparted to the guilty parties to change when the blame is taken by the peacemaker. When we turn to Jesus for reconciliation with the Father, He gives us His Holy Spirit and we are cleansed from our sins. Another difference is that Jesus’ consequences were temporary. He has risen and He doesn’t go on in life as a dysfunctional person. In fact, when He returns, the difference will be obvious in the way unbelievers will no longer have the opportunity to have peace with God.
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Cor 5:20-21 ESV)
We are peacemakers when we appeal to others to be reconciled to God. While being a peacemaker among family members, other groups, and even nations is noble, it will not earn the title of being a child of God. The only way we can say that a peacemaker is a child of God is first becoming His child by being born again into His family by faith in Jesus Christ. Then, as His children, we extend the invitation to others.
Isn’t this a huge contrast to the ungodly teaching that produces conceit and dissentions?
Persecuted for Righteousness and Jesus’ Sake – Many people today are persecuted but it isn’t because of righteousness or for Jesus. It may be for ethnic, religious, appearances (over or under weight), or other behavior such as homosexuality. There is no excuse for persecution; however Jesus combined righteousness and His sake as the reasons to be blessed when persecuted.
Some people who live outwardly godly lives are persecuted, bullied, or scorned. They don’t fit the mold of the permissive society that is around them. However, many of them don’t know Jesus or they follow an imposter Jesus. Others are called Christians because they grew up with the label. Both groups may consider themselves blessed when persecuted but in reality they aren’t; eternally, they are worse off than atheists because they think they have the right path to God but will end up in the wrong place as Jesus said when He explained the judgment (Matt 25:12).
Persecution only produces godliness when it is a result of true faith. Peter talks about this faith that is proved genuine during persecutions and trials (1 Pet 1:3-7). It is from a new birth that results in hope based on Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. He then describes the personal relationship that born again Christians have with Jesus.
Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:8-9 NIV)
Righteousness comes from Jesus living in us, not because of the things we do. We persevere through trials and persecution because we love Jesus and want to live godly lives for Him. When we are going through trials, we need to know the truth – godly doctrines. If we are basing our faith on bad teaching, we will most likely fall away when the trials come. Many have. We certainly look forward to His return in glory when all the suffering and persecution will end, however we continue because of His love for us and our love for Him even though we have never seen Him.
Godliness Not a Means of Gain
People who think that godliness is a means of gain are described as having corrupt minds. They are either immoral or dishonest. Sometimes they are both. What is going on in the mind of a person who attends church only to make business contacts? They try to appear outwardly godly so that they can influence others who are godly. Sometimes they don’t even appear all that godly. I remember an elder in a church who served until being elected to some political office then wasn’t seen again. I would say this one was simply dishonest.
The corrupt ones are the one ones that prey on people in their congregation for sexual reasons or perhaps misuse church funds for personal use. It’s interesting that God puts both sexual sin and greed in the same category and calls it idolatry (Col 3:5).
We often think of church leaders in these categories. They make the news when a cult is busted or a seemingly good church crumbles when the pastor is caught in adultery or embezzlement. We shouldn’t think that it is only leaders or salesmen who are in this category. Anyone who believes the prosperity gospel believes that godliness is a means of gain. They look at the beatitudes only as a way to please God so that they will in turn be blessed with material wealth. They skip the last two beatitudes about persecution because that could lead to loss of possessions and in their minds would demonstrate a lack of faith – the opposite of what Peter said was to prove their faith genuine.
They are destitute of the truth. Destitute means to be completely out of something. How unfortunate! They don’t have any truth at all.
Withdraw
The solution for a godly person is to withdraw from people who are exhibiting all these characteristics of ungodliness or teaching incorrect doctrines. That is quite harsh but is consistent with what God has said in the past. This doesn’t mean that we run off and become monks living away from practically all of society.
I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. (1 Cor 5:9-11 KJV)
The principle is quite clear that we should examine the belief and lifestyle of those we call friends, not facebook friends, but people we really know and admire. We should be careful about who teaches us from the Word of God. What does our church teach? If these people are showing the characteristics that Paul mentioned either in this study or in the passage above, we should withdraw from them. If the person is not a Christian, we can be friendly to them but they will not be our BFF (best friends forever). If our church is teaching unbiblical doctrines then we should seek one that sticks to the Bible.
Where do you stand in all this? Can you identify yourself with the characteristics of those who teach or believe in doctrines that are not in accord with the Beatitudes? Do you have a desire to live as described in the Beatitudes and are you progressing toward a godly life? If Jesus is in your heart, then you can.

[1] Bradford, Harry. "Hobby Lobby Lawsuit over Obamacare Morning After Pill Mandate Sparks Backlash [UPDATE]." The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 21 Sept. 2012. Web. 26 Apr. 2013. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/21/hobby-lobby-obamacare-lawsuit-morning-after-pill_n_1903472.html.
[2] Riley, Kate. "Editorials / Opinion." The Seattle Times. N.p., 16 Apr. 2013. Web. 26 Apr. 2013. http://blogs.seattletimes.com/opinionnw/2013/04/16/eastern-washington-not-unanimous-on-same-sex-marriage-or-ag-fergusons-lawsuit/.

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