What is godliness? We talk about it a lot in Christian circles, but how is it really defined? Is it an inborn tendency to keep oneself unsoiled by the ways of the world, or is it a quality of the spirit for which we must work?
To be godly, is it important to avoid what fouls-up the external image we project as believers, or are we to be looking for experiences and insights that affect what Christ knows of our internal nature?
Should we seek to put more distance between ourselves and the world or dig deeply into how worldliness is already integrated into the fabric of our hearts before we even consider the people we hang-out with, and the influences we choose to subject ourselves to. Do we have the liberty of passing the blame to what runs to us, rather than what runs in us? Is our ultimate aim to know what is in us, or to make what others see of us the most acceptable and praiseworthy? Do we want to really boast that we must be made new in Christ or would we be content with I must appear more put-together and holy myself?
Can I justify shoving away people whose choices I disapprove of, or in a way do I draw closer to investigate why I think I am so much better than they?
Could contact with the world — this place we are supposed to be not of, yet still firmly in for the sake of the people who fill it — be the very thing God means to prick our heart and make us acknowledge our humanness still remains even with all we’re doing for Him?
I don’t like the idea of this myself. I think it would be so much finer if I could stick with measuring myself and the people around me by my own customized standards of spiritual worth and excellence — what really makes me look good. I could begin with me and never need to get around to others, or Christ for that matter. I could be the star, and others could just long to be like me — at least the ones who seemed to be looking up enough. I could be always confident that no one else could hold a candle to my discipleship. My value could remain in believing that I am Jesus’ only prized sheep.
Yet, that same Jesus asks me what I have to gain in this, because it is certainly so much less than Him. You see, I am realizing that I have to go out of my way to reject Christ’s righteousness for me to stand instead on a flighty idea of reward belonging to my own stellar performances.
Besides missing what He has for me, I miss what He has for others — I miss grace. I miss what is supposed to be shared by Christians for the sake of Christ’s glory, not ours. I miss the whole point, because I forget that I am not the point.
But, if I will get close enough, others will make that error abundantly clear. For, I’m finding that God uses people to function as reflective pools of who we truly are. I can walk around all day thinking I’m “the bomb”, yet, by openly interacting with another, I can be corrected instantly.
This is the power of God in positioning us to see ourselves for who we truly are. This is God cultivating God-liness in the unmistakably god-less. This is the Holy Spirit fulfilling in us God’s unshakable desire for us: a God-central, God-dependent life. A life in which we do not look good, but this for the sake of Christ appearing relevant. We lay off the wraps of image and prestige — and the striving for these things — to take hold of grace that unquestionably must point out it’s necessity in our failures in order to be a compelling witness to the watching world.