Lest We Worship Godliness

November 2, 2009 at 1:51 am (Articles, Godly Living) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

worship godliness
Posted by Abigail

Most of the words I hear pass in one ear, bypass my brain, and float out the other ear leaving no great impact. My younger sister, Lydia, reminds me of this fact frequently when she says, “Now look at me and tell me what I said.” At the moment I can recap something of the main idea of what she told me, but half an hour later, all has vanished into the dim hallway of horrors which is my memory. But every once in a great while, a sentence, a phrase, an idea will snarl and snag and remain forever lodged in the soil of my mind and a slow germination will take place. Years ago, long before Lauren and Nathaniel had an “and” between their names, long before Lauren and I had breeched the careful gap of unspeakables that was Nathaniel, back when we were in the first flush of infatuation at having found a likeminded girl, she made a very simple statement: “Godliness without God is godlessness.”

The other day I met that phrase again, in the guise of a young woman. She was dressed very modestly, with a sweet expression on her face and a slim, gold wedding band on her finger. “What do you want to do?” I asked when she explained that waitressing was only temporary. “Be a stay-at-home wife and mom. And homeschool.” Yes, she’d been homeschooled, too. And she and her husband were hoping soon to add a baby to their happy home. I beamed, thinking how alike we were—and how rare it is to find another young woman who wants to live a godly lifestyle. So I asked, “Do you serve Jesus?” She smiled and dropped a bomb-shell. “Actually, I’m a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.” Translation: She’s Mormon.

In that one revelation I was reminded of Lauren’s words: “Godliness without God is godlessness.”

That phrase has echoed in my hallway of horrors, casting its shadow over my lurking corners of self-righteousness ever since. As I read and as I write it is easy to become caught up in the rush of religious material, holy living and set-apart lifestyles. It is easy to embrace radical holiness, while neglecting the Holy Spirit who empowers. It is easy to accept the parts of Christianity that are lovely, appealing, and nostalgic—pre-packaged for easy consumption. Especially when surrounded by folks who practice the same things. It is comfortable to settle into a lifestyle of predictability and forget about the war that rages. It’s easy to boil godliness down into a look, an act and an art.

But Christianity isn’t simply a return to history. Clothing isn’t Christian. Lifestyles aren’t Christian. Vocations aren’t Christian. Buildings aren’t Christian. Habits aren’t Christian. Need I continue? People are Christian. Hearts are Christian.

Jesus’ chief complaint against the Israel of His day was not modesty, family values or work ethic. It was this, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of these people—they honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.” Ladies, the truly unique thing about the woman of God is not her lifestyle. Sadly, many religious people ape a godly lifestyle. The truly unique thing about a godly woman is not her dress. Even some of the enemies of the true God subscribe to modesty. The truly unique thing about a woman of God is this: she is a woman of God. She belongs to God. She’s been purchased by the prodigal grace of Christ to walk in newness of life—redeemed to an intimate relationship with God. The Mormon women don’t have that, in spite of their lifestyle. The Muslim women don’t have that, regardless of their modesty. Just because you were homeschooled or you wear dresses or you have long hair doesn’t mean you have that.

The good woman who lives the right lifestyle apart from dependence on God’s grace is just as godless as the woman who shakes her fist at heaven, denies God’s existence and lives to glorify herself. One worships godlessness; the other worships godliness.

Godliness without God is godlessness.

Hebrews tells us, “Without faith it is impossible to please God. For he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of…” of what? Those who homeschool? Those who dress modestly? Those who are at-home wives or daughters? He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. The Samaritan woman brought up the age-old debate of where and how we are to worship God. Jesus responded that God seeks for worshippers who worship in Spirit and truth.

All too often, I retreat into my inner sanctum of self-evaluation, take off my haloed mask of pretense and discover that I am a hypocrite—an actor on the stage of time and history. Like the Greek actors—the hypocrites of old—I hold a mask before my face, recite lines and play a part for all to see. The audience claps, cheers, laughs, weeps. But I am only pretending.

And they smile and nod and say kind things like, “She’s such a godly girl.”

Because I wear the right clothes and do the right things and say the right words and spend time with the right people, write the right articles and uphold the right values and sing the right songs. I live a life of obedience. But ladies, sometimes obedience is easier than submission. And sometimes submission is easier than sacrifice. And sometimes sacrifice is easier than intimacy. Because obedience, submission and sacrifice can sometimes become ingrained habits. But intimacy requires a raw and open heart. And when intimacy fades—it is easier to fabricate a mask from our ingrained habits than it is to pursue the true form.

And on the days when my heart is as distant from God as eternity is from yesterday, no one knows. No one knows except for the Lord and me. Because I look the same and act the same and dress the same.

I have achieved the visual standard of godliness, regardless of my heart condition.

But godliness without God is godlessness!

Do you see what I’m saying? I’m not trashing the importance of wives at home, loving their husbands and children. I’m not seeking to overthrow teachings of modesty. I’m not tearing down marriages and families that are serving and loving each other. I’m just saying that when we elevate these ideals, when we hold them up as standards of godliness, when we focus on peddling results instead of preaching the cause, we create a false religious system. We create idols that should be the outcome of worshipping God. And the world perceives our priorities. I can’t even tell you how many people I have talked to that answer the question “Do you know Jesus?” with “I should start going to church” or “I should try to be a better person.” Godliness, pursued as an end, turns into a dead end–literally.

Every time Paul began to preach a sanctified lifestyle, he had preceeded it with an important message—the gospel! God’s saving and sanctifying work in our lives! How do we live godly? Romans 12 tells us to present our bodies living and holy sacrifices…and not to be conformed to the world by renewing our minds. Paul had spent the previous eleven chapters talking about God’s great redemption and His free gift to all who believe. How do we renew our minds? By worshipping God! By keeping the glory and grace of Yahweh before our eyes. We were redeemed to an intimate relationship with the Holy Creator of the universe! Let’s live like it! Not just outwardly, but pursuing Him, praising Him, seeking Him, worshipping Him…and talking about Him.

Do you know Yahweh? I’m not asking if you look like a Christian. I’m not asking if you live like a Christian. Do you know Yahweh intimately? Do you sit at His feet, listening to the words He says? Do you pour over the love letters He has written you? Do you get so excited you can’t stop talking about Him? As a child of your Abba, remember that the joy in obedience is in sitting in your Father’s lap. As the Bride of Christ, the joy of submission is in depth of intimacy. As lovers of God, let’s love God. As worshippers of God, let’s worship God. In pursuing holiness, let’s pursue the Holy One.

Because godliness without God is godlessness.

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11 Comments

  1. Anna Belle said,

    Wow! You have nailed something very important. “Having a form of godliness, but denying its power.” II Tim 3:5. I hope it’s OK if I repost. Thanks for this, Abigail.

    • Pearls and Diamonds said,

      Anna Belle, great verse addition. Yes, we’re happy for you to repost. We just ask you to link back to us…so folks can check us out for themselves in case they think we’re crazy. 😉

  2. Gretchen said,

    Again you blow me away. My mind doesn’t naturally go that deep unless it’s challenged to do so. You make me think and I love it. I agree 100% with this and I’m thankful for people like you who have the wonderful ability to ponder such issues and then put them on paper (or computer) so eloquently. Thank you Abigail. I love you girl!

  3. Maiden Princess said,

    Abigail,

    This was amazing! I know that whenever I write I ask the LORD to speak His words through me. That is exactly what I found in your article. Keep on speaking truth from a pure heart and being a great example of a follower of Jesus!

    Love In The Messiah,
    Maiden Princess

  4. Melody said,

    Wise words. Thank you.

  5. Vanessa said,

    Very, very good. I will remember these thoughts.

  6. Emily said,

    So convicting…I often find myself settling down and feeling content with my seemingly godly lifestyle, but then so often my soul is starving for the Word and intimacy with our Father…what a timely message. I praise God in my heart for you right now 🙂

  7. Salomé said,

    Beautifully written and a very powerful and convicting thought to carry with us every minute of the day!

  8. Gulping Raw Eggs « Pearls and Diamonds said,

    […] I expressed in “Lest We Worship Godliness”, when I’m surrounded by positive peer-pressure, it’s almost easy to live a “holy […]

  9. Amy said,

    Excellent post!
    Amy @ Raising Arrows

  10. A Sweet Fragrance » Blog Archive » Gleanings & Tidbits # 16 said,

    […] Lest we worship Godliness. ”Godliness without God is […]

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