Godly Living: A Proper Response to God

“Cleanliness is next to Godliness.” I can’t tell you how many times I heard this phrase when I was a little girl. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized that this familiar saying – along with so many others like it – sounds biblical but isn’t found anywhere in the scriptures between Genesis and Revelation.

Christians are, however, called to display godliness or to live godly lives.

So what does it mean to live a godly life? And why should we do it?

Image Credit: pinimg.com

Godliness is how we conduct ourselves. Our godly lives are our obedient response to God’s offer of salvation and Christ’s redemptive work on the cross. When we conduct our lives in a godly fashion, we show that we understand our accountability to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We behave in a godly way because we know we will one day stand before God. Also, as we are sanctified throughout our Christian journey, we are made more like Christ. One day we will be made perfect like Him – godly living shows our desire to look like Him now.

When someone is described as godly, it is because that person behaves a certain way; They are being like God in their behavior. They have responded to God in a certain way, and that response is evident in their lives.

Godly people do certain things and avoid doing other things. Godly people act in a certain way, live a certain way, behave a certain way…in response to the gift of salvation offered by God.

When you truly believe in Jesus and what He’s done for you, you will change. First, your heart changes on the inside. Then, God, through the Spirit and the Word, teaches you how to live. The evidence of the inward change can be seen on the outside as well. People around you will know it because they can see it in your actions. The change may be fast or slow, but the result is a more godly person living a more godly life – a life pleasing to God. The behaviors you take on and the behaviors your avoid come from obedience and love – love for God, love for His Word, and love for other people.

Once we genuinely believe in Christ and the Holy Spirit comes in and begins to change our hearts, our beliefs will change. Our speech will change. Our conduct will change. Our treatment of others will change. The truth of Jesus and his love for us as shown in the Good News of the gospel will reflect in everything we do.

This new, godly life that we learn to live once we believe the truth and once the truth begins to change us – this life brings glory to God by providing a witness to others which points them to Christ. Godly conduct on the part of the Christian should eliminate reproach – no one can find fault, criticize, or blame. Godly living silences critics of the gospel and makes the love of Christ believable.

At this point, you may be wondering, Where’s the list? Where’s the list of characteristics to show me how to live a godly life?

I’m not giving a bulleted list though, because we aren’t called to strive to check off the characteristics we already exemplify and note the ones that need more work. It isn’t about striving or working to change ourselves. Godly living results from a heart change that happens when we surrender our lives to God. He does the work. He makes the changes.

This isn’t to say that the Bible doesn’t give us any indication of what godly living should look like because it most certainly does! We have godly examples; we have characteristics we can look to, but it isn’t meant to be a checklist of things to strive for. It’s meant to be something to pray about to God and to ask Him to do in our lives.

A “definition” I found that helped me understand godly living came from the McArthur Study Bible which uses the New American Standard Version translation. When I was studying godliness, I read over and over in commentary from this Bible that godly living is “a proper response and attitude toward God in all things.” So, when you live a godly, righteous, holy life, you always put God first; you always look to Him.

If I’m looking at God, if my eyes are on Him, I will live a godly life, as much as is humanely possible in this fallen world. Will I still do, say, and think things that aren’t godly? Absolutely, because I am a sinful human living in a broken world. But, with genuine faith in God, with my eyes focused on Him, and with my life obediently submitted to Him, He will work changes in my life, and the result will be godliness.

Image Credit: FirstFive.org

.P.S. If you’re like me and still kind of want a “list” – you still need to see some actual behaviors or some more specific information on exactly what godliness and godly living look like – read through the books of 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus. (The first chapters of each book in the NIV version of the Bible are linked here from biblegateway.org. You can follow the links and read each book there). In these books, Paul gives clear instructions on godly living and what it should look like.

You could also use the concordance in your Bible to do a word search for the words “godly” and “godliness”. You could also find and read verses that are cross-referenced when you do the word study using your concordance. Another option would be to study the word in the original Hebrew and Greek languages used in the Bible. I prefer the Blue Letter Bible app and the Vines Dictionary app for studying the original languages of words in the Bible.

Pray about what you read, asking God to help you understand and to make these changes in your heart and life. Write your thoughts and your questions regarding what you read. Ask questions of trusted Christians you know (or contact me. I’d be happy to talk with you about this subject. I don’t profess to be an expert in any way, but maybe I would point you in the direction of some more resources).

The bottom line is that you seek God to show you how to live according to His Word. He’ll show you the way.

What Happened Three Days After Jesus Died – Resurrection and Ascension*

{If this is your first “What Happened” post, go back to the introductory post for the survey of the major events of Holy week that we’re doing together on Servant Girl Stories during March. Then, read the post detailing Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Next, read the post about the night before Jesus died. Finally, read the post describing Jesus’ trials and crucifixion. After that, you’re ready for this post}.

The women find Jesus’s tomb empty. Image credit: 1stbiblical blog

As early as possible on the first day of the week, you gather with the other women to take more spices to the tomb where Jesus’ body was placed.

Nicodemus and Joseph already covered his body in myrrh and aloes before binding him and laying him in Joseph’s tomb three days ago. But the women agreed to take more spices as soon as the Sabbath was over, and you want to go with them.

One last chance to be near Jesus.

It seems right that he should be honored this way.

The sweet aroma of the burial spices forces you to confront the truth – their scent is meant to cover the stench of a dead body as it decomposes. Jesus is dead. You are going to anoint his dead body with these spices. You have helped anoint dead bodies of loved ones before, but you never really noticed how the spices smelled. Not so keenly as you do now. But the odor is overwhelming. Your eyes burn, and your nose and throat sting.

Thinking of him and how much you loved and were devoted to him, hot tears pour from your eyes again. You haven’t stopped crying since Friday. Since you witnessed his gruesome death. Something you will never forget for the rest of your life.

You still cannot believe the teacher is gone.

Quietly, you and the other women gather the spices and make your way to the tomb. You don’t look at each other. You don’t speak to each other.

How can he be dead? You ask yourself for the millionth time. How could someone that good… be gone?

On the day he removed the demons that possessed and tormented you for so long, you vowed to follow him to the ends of the earth.

You just never expected the end to come so quickly…and in Jerusalem.

“How will we move the stone?” Someone asks, snatching you back to the present.

You’d been blindly following the group in a trance of disbelief, despair, and devastation.

How will we move the stone? You wonder, your forehead furrowing. Panic begins to rise. We must be allowed to anoint his body! You think as your heart begins to race. Blood pounds loudly in your ears.

From the front of the cluster of your friends, Joanna gasps loudly and stops so quickly that Salome bumps into her and you bump into Salome. The other women behind you crowd close.

“Look!” Joanna’s voice is barely above a whisper.

Glancing past the women in front of you, you see it. But you don’t believe it. You squint and blink against the sun just beginning to rise over the tombs.

The stone has already been rolled away…

The empty tomb/Image Credit: istockphoto

Readings for the fourth week of March

*As you read each account, note similarities and differences.  How does each writer describe the events?  How are they similar and how are they different?  How do the different perspectives give you a fuller picture of the event?

**Always pay special attention to the things Jesus said/direct quotes.

***When you’re reading, try to imagine the scene in your head: see the people, hear the sounds, inhale the smells. Visualize the events happening as clearly as something you’ve witnessed with your own eyes. For example, with the arrest in the garden, see the soldiers’ torchlight dancing off their armor, hear the worried voices of the disciples as they realize what the soldiers have come to do…imagine you are there in the scene as it unfolds.

Sunday – Jesus resurrects and appears to various people. 

READ:

  • Matthew 28:1-20
  • Mark 16:1-9
  • Luke 24:1-53
  • John 20:1-31

Other Accounts of Jesus’ Appearances after His Resurrection

Optional Reading

READ:

  • John 21:1-25

The remaining 11 disciples speak with Jesus before he ascends.  Soon after that, the disciples return to the upper room (where the Last Supper was held) for a prayer meeting. 

Jesus ascends into heaven. Image Credit: pinimg.com

Optional Reading

  • Acts 1:1-14

Everything we have read about Jesus’ Passion week should point us to Jesus, the cross, salvation, and penitence. It should make it even more grateful for what he did and what it means in our lives.

During the week, reread the verses as many times as possible. Try to read them in different translations as well. Also, read commentary on these verses. Listen to them on a Bible app that will read them aloud. This will help you visualize everything and write the events on your heart. Journal your thoughts on the questions to consider above. Share our survey of events with a friend so you can discuss together what God is showing you as you pray and read.

I pray the Lord will show you something fresh in these familiar stories as you prepare your heart for His resurrection.

Image Credit: elevatechristiannetwork.com

How have you been impacted by studying accounts of Easter events in the 4 Gospels? I would love to hear about your experience reading about Easter week.

*Along with the Bible verses listed above, the following articles helped inform the narrative at the beginning of this study:

https://www.gotquestions.org/anointing-spices.html

https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/678-the-sweet-fragrance-of-a-subtle-argument

https://godasagardener.com/2016/03/25/aloe-and-myrrh-wrapped-body/

Giving Thanks in Suffering

“For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him.” Philippians 1:29, NLT

Read that again below…

“For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him.” Philippians 1:29, NLT (emphasis added)

You’ve been given the privilege. You’ve been allowed to do something special or important. You’ve been given a gift.

The words “given” and “privilege” stick out in this verse because of what the verse says I’ve been given – the privilege of trusting in Christ (ok, so good, so far; I can do that), and the privilege of suffering for him.

Wait? What?!

I’ve been given the gift of suffering for Christ?!

This sounds backward and crazy. I don’t know many people who want to suffer much less anyone who’d consider it a gift or a privilege. Yet this verse makes it sound like something I should be thankful for the chance to do – to suffer for him.

Let there be thanksgiving…when you suffer?

This is a challenging concept (even for many experienced believers) to grasp that it is a privilege to suffer or that suffering is a gift from God, but we must remember that God’s kingdom is upside down.

It is difficult to explain why someone should be ok with suffering, or why someone might even welcome suffering.

I can’t explain it, honestly. I can only tell you that I have to pray about it each time I go through trials so that I can glorify God through the difficult situation.

You can pray about it, too, when you’re suffering. Talk to God and ask Him to help you understand it.

Even my friends who aren’t believers or who don’t have a close relationship with God can talk to Him. He hears you. He sees you, and He wants to walk and talk with you.

Image Credit: Thebookkeeper247.com

The Bible makes it clear, over and over in Scripture, that suffering is part of the life of one who follows Christ. The Bible even tells us that this suffering is a gift of God’s grace.

Image Credit: The Wicket Gate

Maybe you’re still wondering, Why is it a privilege?

There are several good answers to this question, but the one that comes to mind right now is simple: When we suffer, we experience what God’s Son experienced.

Believers say we want to be Christ-like, and part of that is being treated like the world treated Christ. If we live like Him, we’ll look like Him, and if we look like Him the world will respond to us the way it responded to Him…with misunderstanding, fear, hatred, abuse, and persecution…suffering.

When we suffer, especially when the suffering is in Jesus’ name, God gives us the opportunity to be a part of something Jesus went through. Our suffering is His gracious gift to us.

Image Credit: Faithprayers.org

What’s Your Story?

“…And thus, I make it my ambition to preach the gospel…as it is written, ‘Those who have not been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand’.” Romans 15:20-21 ESV

Paul quotes Isaiah here to explain Paul’s own mission to the Roman Church: to evangelize. Paul fulfilled his mission in part by sharing his testimony, and we are called to continue that today.

You may think, I’ve been a Christian since I was little. Nothing exciting has ever happened in my life. I wasn’t saved from drugs or a bad relationship or anything drastic like that. My testimony isn’t terribly interesting.”

While God has given dramatic testimony to some, the stories of others are less so. But those stories are not less valuable. All our stories are given to us by God to be used for His glory. And there is someone somewhere who would benefit from hearing it.

Be thankful for your redemption story. Share it boldly. Ask God to use it for His glory. After all, that’s why He gave it to you.

{ This post was written as part of Five Minute Friday’s Link Up }

You Are Kept For Christ

Follower of Christ, did you know that you are “kept for Christ”?

In the greeting of his letter to early Christians, Jude, one of Jesus’ brothers, wrote:

“Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to those who are the called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ” Jude 1:1

The original word used for “kept” in this verse is “téréo”, and it means to attend to carefully, take care of, to guard, to keep, to observe, to reserve.

God’s Promise

We are kept for Him, guarded for Him, reserved for Him.  Even better, He’s the one doing the keeping, guarding, and reserving. This means we are carefully attended to and taken care of by God. 

Notice that the word “kept” is in the past tense; the keeping and guarding was completed in the past.  God has already set us apart to carefully attend to us for Himself.  This is a task that is accomplished when we accept salvation.

In the closing of the letter, Jude writes, “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy…” The original word used for “to keep” here is “phylassó” – another verb similar in meaning to “téréo.”  (This verb has a stronger emphasis on keeping someone or something safe).  Not only are we kept by God, for God – something completed in the past – but God is able to keep us – something He will continue to do.  He kept us in the past and will continue to keep us into the future.

Our Responsibility

Within Jude’s letter, he implores readers to “keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.” (Jude 1:21)

This implies that Christians have a responsibility in the keeping and guarding as well.  So, although we are kept by God, we are also to keep ourselves in God’s love.

kept by God – God already did it when we accepted Jesus as our Savior

God is able to keep – God will continue to do it into the future

keep yourselves – Christians continue to do it

Ultimately, scripture teaches that true believers do not lose their salvation, but that doesn’t mean we have a free ride.  We must keep our eyes on God so that we don’t fall away into sin rendering ourselves useless to God.

This brings up an important question: How do we keep ourselves for Christ?

We find clues for that by doing a Biblical word study and looking for the words “kept” or “keep” in other parts of scripture.  Here are a few examples:

In Exodus 20:6, God, speaking to Moses, uses the word to explain that He will show lovingkindness to those who love Him and keep His commands.

In Leviticus 23:32, God talks to Moses about the Sabbath, describing how the people should behave on that day.

In John 14:23, Jesus tells the 12 disciples that anyone who loves him will keep his commands.

In these passages, God urges us to live as He said, to behave a certain way, to observe His words and do what He said to do.  This is how we keep ourselves for Christ.

Still, how do we know how He said to live or behave?  We have to study the Word and pray. We have to strengthen ourselves by reading our Bibles so we will know what God commanded. Then, we have to talk with Him daily to establish an intimate relationship with Him so we can know His heart.

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Image Credit:

Say this prayer with me:

Father, I am grateful that I am kept for you and kept by you.  Thank you, Lord, that this part is finished. Done. In the past. Thank you for your lovingkindness.  But, Lord, your word also tells me that you are “able to keep,” which means that your care and attention continues.  I am grateful that, not only have you kept me for yourself in the past, but you are able to keep me today and forevermore.  You’re able to keep me from falling into sin.  I am kept, so my salvation is secure, forever.  More than ever, I want to study your Word, pray to you, and wait for you.  I want to live like I know you’re coming back.  I will keep myself in your love.

Amen

 

Everything I Needed to Know I Learned from my Grandma

“The best thing you can do to someone who is being mean to you is to be as nice as you can to them.” I distinctly remember sitting on a stool at the counter in my grandma’s kitchen one afternoon after school when she said this to me.

Seventh grade was my first real encounter with girls being mean just for spite – saying snide things about my clothes or my hair or something like that. Undoubtedly, she and I were talking about this, and her advice was to be as kind as I could in return.

That sounds crazy, right?! It definitely isn’t worldly advice. Worldly wisdom says to be mean back to those girls. The world’s advice is to get even when someone does you wrong. But, grandma was saying to be nice!

She said, “being nice in return is your best choice because it is the opposite of what the person expects. That person expects you to cry, but you don’t cry, at least you don’t cry in front of her. If you’re nice, she doesn’t get the reaction she was looking for. There’s no drama. And a lot of the time, that person will eventually move on. It’s a really good way to handle a bully. And,” she added, “it’s what the Bible says to do, too.”

At some point in the conversation, I’m pretty sure I remember the phrase “heaping burning coals on their head.”  Grandma said that was the part from the Bible… So, if the Bible and Grandma said it, it was good enough for 13-year-old me.

In my lifetime, I have come to find that Grandma was right. The best thing to do is to be kind to people even when they aren’t kind to you. She was also right when she said that most of the time, your response would make them leave you alone…eventually.

But where did Grandma get this? She told me it was biblical?

As an adult who is concerned with living a godly life, I’ve looked into this further and found that it is indeed advice from the Bible. King Solomon, in all his God-given wisdom, wrote about it in Proverbs, and Paul echoed it in his letter to the Romans.

Proverbs 25:21-22 says, “if your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head and the Lord will reward you. “

Um…what?

The English Standard Version Study Bible (ESV) explains these verses the best:

The image of the burning coals on your enemy’s head is “likely an image for leading him to repentance or shame, suggesting that he will feel inward burning pangs of guilt for his wrongdoing. In any case, the message is clearly to repay evil with good… The image of ‘burning coals’ does not imply something that harms the enemy because it further explains the bread and drink in Proverbs 25:21, which do him good, and also because Proverbs forbids taking personal vengeance… Finally, ‘the Lord will reward you’ implies a good result from ‘burning coals’ which is most consistent with leading a person to repentance.”

To understand how this works, jump ahead to Romans 12.  Verses 9-21 discuss Christian behavior and echo things many of us are used to hearing:

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them” (verse 14)

“Live in harmony with one another” (verse 16)

“Repay no one evil for evil but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all” (verse 17)

“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peacefully with all” (verse 18)

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Photo Credit: Pinterest

“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God” (verse 19)

Then, we get to verses 20 and 21:

“… if your enemy is hungry, feed him, if he’s thirsty, give him something to drink; for by doing so you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not overcome evil by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

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Photo Credit: sermonquotes.com

“There are those burning coals again,” you might think. “Heather, are you sure this is what it means to be nice to someone who has wronged me? Sounds like you’re just being mean right back. “

Well, in Romans 12:20 (above), Paul quotes Proverbs 25:21-22, but, you have to go back to Romans 12:9, earlier in the same section, to get some context and to properly seat the instructions of Romans 12:20 in the right frame for the Christian. Verse 9 says, “let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil and hold fast to what is good.”

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Photo Credit:Pinterest

That explains the whole thing.

Being nice to someone who is mean to you isn’t some weird way to get revenge.  The important thing to ask yourself is, “how do I feel about this person in my heart when I am nice to her in return?” Literally, what is the condition of your heart? What is your motive?

The point – and this is the hard part, this is where prayer comes in – is that your love for that person has to be genuine. Verses 9-21 of Romans 12 are, according to the ESV, a “description of the life that is pleasing to God.”  And the section starts off with love.

When we are genuinely kind to the person who wronged us, our motivation is love. We don’t heap coals to hurt that person; we heap coals to help that person.

When we repay evil with good, we do so in hopes that our behavior will soften the heart of the wrongdoer. Our purpose is always to point people back to God, to show people His love.

The strangeness she feels when you repay her evil with good should start something in her heart. It should cause her to stop and question: “How can she be nice to me after how I spoke to her?”

God can use that to change a person’s hearts; all He needs is a little soft spot to take hold of.

Above all, we are called to love, genuinely.

This takes a lot of prayer… Prayer for God to show us how to live. Prayer for God to change our hearts. Prayer for God to show us how to love people like He loves them.  Prayer for God to help us love the unlovable.

This is how we live the life of a believer the way that God wants us to live. And it’s what Grandma was talking about all those years ago that afternoon in her kitchen.

 

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Grandma last year on her 90th birthday with Ethan and Emery.  We celebrated her 91st just a few weeks ago 🙂

 

Does It Say That in the Bible?

Have you ever heard someone say that the safest place in the world is the center of God’s will?  Maybe you’ve said it yourself. I am sure I’ve offered it in assurance countless times – even whispering it to myself when I was afraid of something God was speaking to my heart.

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Photo Credit: Pinterest See!  Even Pinterest says so 😉

I recently read a blog post that has made me rethink this common statement.  Stacey Pardoe’s post, “Why the Center of God’s Will Isn’t Always Safe” was in the first link-up I ever participated in.  It was on the Raising Homemakers link up in April, and the title caught my attention. I clicked on it, read the post, and haven’t been able to get it off my mind.

Pardoe wrote, “In our culture, safety implies protection from danger.  It implies a life in which risk is minimal and there is little chance of pain, suffering, or injury”.

Further, there tends to be a misconception that once you become a Christian, your life gets easy or simple or you don’t have any more worries.

This is far from the truth.

Many of you have stories involving pain, suffering, and loss.  I’ve shared some of mine and begun to highlight those of some others, too.

So, Pardoe re-words the sentence by changing one, solitary word, and more firmly aligns the adage with Truth.  When we understand this familiar saying the way she has re-framed it, we can really understand what it is like to walk with God and be in the center of His will.

No, it isn’t safe.

Oftentimes, it feels crazy  or worse!

But when you’re doing His will, you’re always secure!  Thank goodness!

Take a few moments and click over to Pardoe’s post, “Why the Center of God’s Will Isn’t Always Safe.”

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Photo Credit: Pinterest

What do you think?  Does this rewording seem more accurate based on your knowledge of the Bible and of the lives of Christ-followers?

Would you share examples of times when being in His will wasn’t safe, but you were certainly secure?