A Form of Godliness

One of the things I love to do is preach! It seems to be the one thing that is always in my heart and has been burned into my spirit! I long to see the “church” come alive and experience all it should and could be! Indeed, anytime people of faith come together to hear the Word of God proclaimed; amazing things can happen.

 

There is however, an element of great danger for some who to meet like that . . . so much is at stake! Every time we come together and share the Word of God; which by the way the Bible says is sharper than ANY two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12), hardened as it may be; we have choices to make; some of those choices will determine the fate of our eternal soul!

 

I have a background in metal working and there is a process by which you can make iron very hard. First, you need to get it extremely hot; and when the conditions are right, you quickly quench the iron bar, either in water or oil, depending on the hardness desired.

 

There is a rather short window of time whereby the heated metal must be thrust into the cooling medium; once done, the metal becomes quite hard. Similarly, over hardened metal can be softened again by heating and allowing the metal to cool slowly; this process is called annealing.

 

The danger lies wherein the power of God, through His Word, is touching your heart. Often the heart is strangely warmed, heated by the Holy Spirit if you will, to the point of becoming altogether new; the composition is about to change.

 

Often it is at this critical point, the flesh rebels and quenches that fire; causing the heart to become excessively hard, brittle and even bitter.

 

1 Thessalonians 5:19-23

Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.

 

As with previous generations before us, the world once again is generating conditions that seem to indicate that the coming of our Lord is drawing near. No doubt when the First World War began, many within the Christian Community felt that Christ would soon come. The same was true with World War II and other worldwide conflicts; yet today it seems like the increase is feeling like; as Jesus said, “Birth Pangs.”

 

The Bible gives us a list of things to be alert to concerning the time right before Jesus` predicted return:

 

  • Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.” We are fascinated with the culture of death and evil.

 

  • “Jesus… said many false prophets and false teachings will abound

 

  • “Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places.”

 

  • “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake.”

 

  • Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God

 

All of these things are happening right now, and will continue with ever increasing intensity; like birth pains, until the arrival of Christ.

 

In the midst of all of these forewarnings, there is one particular warning that continues to grow today, and it is the reason for the broken state of Christianity in our country; indeed our community. This warning is found in 2 Timothy 3 and will be the focus of this blog today.

 

2 Timothy 3:1-5

But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.

 

When we first read this passage we often think that Paul is referring to the world in which we live; yet this kind of behavior is typical of fallen mankind and is not new. The warning given here is that these types of persons have infiltrated the church!

 

It talks about a form of godliness which lacks power; could this be the problem the church is facing today? Have we succumbed to forms of godliness, yet have none of the Power of God?

 

We live in a broken world that is dying and swirling in an ever increasing state of despair. Hopelessness abounds and our own nation is getting angry, frustrated and on the brink of destruction! People in our country are calling for revolution; should we not cry out to God for a revolution in the Church!

 

We must ask . . .  Where is the POWER of the Church!

 

Concerning the current state of the supposed Christian church in America, the Barna group, a statistical Christian research organization, did a study a few years ago examining the divorce rates in America. The divorce rate in America hovers at about 50%.

 

According to Barna, the divorce rate between alleged Christians was almost equal to that of the general population, and even more startling; the rate among fundamental Christians was slightly higher than the national average!

 

We must ask . . .  Where is the POWER of the Church!

 

A study on the financial support of the local churches in America revealed startling results as well. The average Christian in America gives 2.3% of their income to the local church.

 

It is estimated if those pretending to love Christ actually did the bare minimum of 10%, an additional $165,000,000,000 (billion) would be made available to Jesus to use. It is estimated that . . .

 

  • $25 billion could relieve global hunger, starvation, and deaths from preventable diseases in five years
  • $12 billion could eliminate illiteracy in five years.
  • $15 billion could solve the world’s water and sanitation issues, specifically at places in the world where 1 billion people live on less than $1 per day.
  • $1 billion could fully fund all overseas mission work.
  • $100 – $110 billion would still be left over for additional ministry expansion.

 

We must ask . . .  Where is the POWER of the Church!

 

In the American church, there has been a relaxation of the need to “count” conversions. While many denominations still require it, mine included, we do not place too much emphasis on those numbers anymore.

 

We often brush off the low conversion rates citing growth groups, relationships, church memberships, and baptisms instead. This is done, I fear, to placate the gnawing sensation that something is very, very wrong in our Americanized church!

 

When was the last time one of the town drunks, a drug dealer, or person of high or low esteem found Christ in your community! It would have been the talk of the town!

 

 A broken, impetuous, unskilled speaker; a fisherman by the name of Peter preached in the power of the Holy Spirit one day and 3000 came to faith; they counted them! The Book of acts declared that daily people were added to their number.

 

We must ask . . .  Where is the POWER of the Church!

 

It is evident that the warning Paul gave Timothy is at the heart of the problem we are facing today; a form of godliness, with no power!

 

The church body has become diluted with men and women who are simply not redeemed! There is no Spirit of Christ in them. They are religious impostors! How, you may ask, does this happen?

 

It did not happen overnight; but rather by many years of complacency and disregard for the demands of the Gospel. The church once held a position of high esteem; those who joined the ranks of the church were seen as upright and noble people, and getting your name on the rolls was important.

 

Church membership became the end goal, rather than a means to promote Jesus to the community. This has continued to this day!

 

It is easy to join a church; go down to the river and be baptized; tell everyone you love God and believe in Jesus, take communion when its offered; give 2.3% of your income and smile a lot; imagining that is well with your soul, do this and in most churches you will be viewed as a spiritual person.

 

You now have now successfully acquired a form of godliness; you have respect in the church and with your peers. The growing numbers of people, whom you see, are just like you. A sense of self-satisfaction grows, and you truly believe that you are quite safe and secure in Christ . . .

 

We must ask . . .  Where is the POWER of the Church!

 

Listen to what noted Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon; often referred to as the Prince of Preachers had to say about this subject:

 

I do not doubt that a form of godliness has come to many because it brings them ease of conscience and they are able, like the Pharisee, to thank God that they are not as other men are. Have they not been to Church? Have they not paid for their pew? They can now go about their daily business without those stings of conscience which would come of neglecting the requirements of religion.

 

These people profess to have been converted and they are numbered with Believers. But, alas, they are not of them.  Of all people these are the hardest to reach and the least likely to be saved. They hide behind the earthworks of a nominal religion. They are out of reach of the shot and shell of Gospel rebukes. They fly among the sinners and they have taken up their quarters among the saints. Sad is that man’s plight who wears the name of life but has never been quickened by the Holy Spirit.

 

What then is the power of God which is lacking?

 

True godliness happens on the inside and works its way to the outside. The true power of God comes when a sinful wicked heart, infected with the curse of Adam, is “re-created” and made new, restored to its intended condition; now that’s the power of God!

 

Remember the promises of God to Ezekiel. . .

 

Ezekiel 11:19  

I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.

 

Ezekiel 36:25-27  

I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols.  I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

 

At the conclusion of Peter’s message in Acts 2, Peter gives the key to the Spirit-filled life, the way to be baptized in the Holy Spirit; it comes by repentance and baptism, and by baptism, I mean being immersed, covered with Jesus.

 

The key is repentance! Without it, there will be NO SALVATION and NO SPIRIT-FILLED life. None!

 

We all want “Godliness with Power” we all want to live victorious Christian lives, but we cannot unless we have repented. What produces repentance?

 

2 Corinthians 7:10

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.

 

“Godly sorrow” produces repentance. I have to ask you if you have ever felt godly sorrow. Have you ever felt the need to repent, and then actually do it! Because if you have not ever repented, you are NOT redeemed, and you are still in your sins, and are as lost as ever; even more lost, because you have deceived yourself into thinking you are redeemed, when in fact you are not.

 

Jesus said these stunning words . . .

 

Matthew 7:21-23

Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.  Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’

 

The most revealing and frightening aspect of this passage is that the people we so convinced that they know Jesus; when in fact, they did not!

 

What can be said of you? Are you holding to a form of godliness, are you the real deal? Deep in your heart, you know the answer.

 

Will you resist still? Will you quench the Holy Spirit one more time?

 

This is your chance; for some . . . this is your last chance!

 

Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones puts it this way . . .

 

“You do not decide for Christ, the sinner FLIES to Christ in utter helplessness and despair.”

 

His arms are open wide . . . run to Him!

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