II. The means that God has provided for this godliness of life.
God does not ask a believer to live this godly life without providing the means and clearly stating the way by which it may be brought about. We are told that He has “given us all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:2). Let us briefly look at some of these things that God has provided and which enable a Christian to live a godly life.
(1) He has given the Holy Spirit to indwell us, and impart to us a divine nature, in the strength and power of which this life may be lived. The Word of God clearly teaches the fact that every sinner, on resting in Christ’s finished work on Calvary, and receiving Him as his own personal Saviour, is, that moment. indwelt by the Holy Spirit, sealed by Him unto the day of redemption, and is made a partaker of a divine nature. (See Eph. 1:13; 4:30; 1 Cor. 6:19-20). The Christian life would be utterly impossible apart from this. In order to start the Christian life, it is necessary to have the Christian life to start with, and this God has supplied to all who trust His beloved Son (John 1:11-13; 3:16; 5:24). As the Holy Spirit is allowed to remain ungrieved by our misconduct (Eph. 4:24-32); unquenched by our disobedience to His leading (1 Thess. 5:19-20) and unlimited by our unbelief (Ps. 78:41); He will guide us into all truth (Jn. 16:13), empower us for service (Acts 1:8), and glorify Christ in our lives (John 16:14).
(2) The deliberate presentation of our bodies to God as a living sacrifice (Rom. 12:1-2. cp Rom. 6-13).
No one will amount to much in the Christian life until he has made this willing and definite commitment of himself to the One Who owns him, body, soul and spirit. Remember, Paul was writing to Christians when he said: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” Every Christian would be well-advised to give this earnest appeal his most serious consideration, and rest not until he can say from his heart:
“Take my life and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee;
Take my moments and my days,
Let them flow in ceaseless praise.”
(3) The daily devotional reading, systematic study of, and meditation in God’s Word, accompanied by prompt obedience to its teaching. No one can possibly grow in grace and godliness apart from this. The Bible is the “sincere milk of the Word” for the babes in Christ, and the “strong meat” for the mature believer (1 Pet. 2:1-2; Heb. 5:12-14). This regular devotional reading of the Holy Scriptures is a must for every child of God. No day should be allowed to pass without opening its pages. It is spiritual food to sustain, divine light to lead and a sword to defend (Matt. 4:4; Ps. 119:105; Eph. 6:13-18). Like David, we should be able to testify: “Thy Word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee” (Ps. 119:11).
(4) The cultivation of prayer, praise and worship. God has provided a throne of grace to which each believer is invited to come and, with holy boldness, make known all his needs, and thus “obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16). The Christian will speedily discover that the hymn writer was perfectly correct when he wrote:
“Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire,
Uttered or unexpressed;
The motion of a hidden fire
That trembles in the breast.
Prayer is the burden of a sigh,
The falling of a tear;
The upward glancing of an eye
When none but God is near.”
Prayer provides the means by which the believer may spread all his needs before God, his Father, and be assured he speaks to no unresponsive ear. Praise is the means by which the believer expresses his appreciation to God for all His multitudinous mercies. His numberless blessings, and His wonderful answers to his prayers. Worship is the Christian’s highest occupation, for it consists of being occupied with God, not so much because of what He has done, is doing, or will do; but because of Who and what He is, as revealed in His divine attributes. Worship is worthship, or the ascription of worth to One who is infinitely worthy. As the Father, God is said to be seeking for worshippers, who will worship Him in Spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24).
(5) By a life of separation from the world. By the world, in this sense, is not meant the world of nature, but the sum total of those persons, pleasures, places and pursuits from which God is left out. This is the “world” concerning which the Christian is exhorted thus: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life is not of the Father but is of the world” (1 John 2:15-16). This is the world that “crucified the Lord of glory,” and would do it again if it had the opportunity, for its attitude to Christ is unchanged.
However, it is important to notice that separation from the world does not mean isolation from it. Our Lord was separate from the world, but not isolated from it. He moved among men, spake with them, ate with them, companied with them but, at the same time, was perfectly “holy, harmless, undefiled and separate from sinners” (Heb. 7:26). In the great prayer to His Father, recorded in John 17, our Lord said: “I pray not that Thou shouldest take them (His disciples) out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (Jn. 17:15-16). Thus, while the Christian is in the world, he is definitely not of it. He is in the position of a ship which, though it is in the sea, yet the sea is not in the ship.
The Christian, therefore, must decline the world’s pleasures, its unequal partnerships, and all that would tend to cool his love for Christ, His Word and work. A godly woman, who had spent many years in the Lord’s service, was once approached by a young believer who enviously exclaimed: “I’d give the world to have your Christian experience!” The dear old Christian calmly replied: “That’s exactly what it cost me!” The Christian should be able to reply to all the world’s seductive temptations:
“O worldly pomp and glory,
Your charms are spread in vain!
I’ve heard a sweeter story,
I’ve found a truer gain!”
(6) The prompt confession and forsaking of all known sin: Perhaps the best advice anyone could receive in this connection would be: “Keep short accounts with God!” Known sin should be confessed immediately and frankly. God’s Word to the believer is: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn. 1:9). Failure to confess the sin promptly will result in a loss of communion, joy and peace of heart. When David sinned, and failed to confess it to the Lord he declared: “When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. For day and night Thy hand was heavy upon me, my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. I acknowledged my sin unto Thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said: I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord, and Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin” (Ps. 32:3-5).
We may well thank God for this provision He has made for the restoration of His people when they sin. We must ever distinguish between relationship and fellowship. The first depends on one’s birth, and the second on one’s behaviour. A Christian does not cease to be a child of God when he sins, his relationship remains the same, but he ceases to be a happy child of God, and will remain so until he confesses the sin that has disrupted the fellowship, or the enjoyment of his relationship, with his Father in Heaven. Once the sin has been confessed and turned from, forgiveness is assured and communion restored.
We could illustrate this by a child in an earthly family who disobeys his father. This does not sever his relationship in that family, but he certainly ceases to be a happy child, because of the displeasure he has brought to his parents, and for which he is chastised. Once he expresses his sorrow for his wrong act, he is forgiven and restored to favour and is happy again. The relationship has remained unaltered, it was only the fellowship that was affected. Yes, “Keep short accounts with God,” is good advice for all Christians!
(7) Service for the Lord Jesus. Every Christian is described in the Bible as “a servant (or bond slave) of the Lord Jesus.” Therefore the lifetime occupation of the believer should be to serve his Lord and Master to the best of his ability. Surely no one could possibly have a grander Master. Godliness of life is most emphatically not a life of laziness and indolence, which is evidenced by the shirking of one’s responsibilities in the home, office, workshop and the assembly; but it is a life actively devoted to the service of the One who has called him to be His servant.
The first question that Paul asked, after he had come to know Christ as Saviour and Lord was: “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” (Acts 9:6). The rest of his life was spent in doing the will of the Master. There is plenty of work for every Christian to do, for the field is large and the laborers are few. There are many
different avenues of service, in which all may profitably engage. There is the personal witnessing for Christ to others, as opportunity provides. A course in personal evangelism would be helpful in this respect. There is no joy comparable to that of winning souls for Christ. Tract distribution is a good aid in this direction, and often helps to open up a conversation on spiritual matters with a person who needs the salvation of God, and many have been won in this way.
The regular and punctual attendance at the meetings of one’s home assembly is a must for the person who wishes to go on for God; for he needs the help and comfort of his fellow believers, and they, in turn, need his. The teaching of a Sunday School class, or helping in the open air gospel meeting, or the visitation of hospitals, prisons and other institutions, provide a fruitful field of service. The great chapter on the resurrection concludes with the following stirring exhortation, which should be laid to heart by every person who desires to live a life characterized by godliness: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord (1 Cor. 15:58).