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Grace Notes

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A GODLY PERSON DOES SPIRITUAL THINGS IN A SPIRITUAL MANNER
by Philip Owen

 

As the godly attribute from last week made clear, godliness is eminently practical; it manifests itself in visible, external actions. Godliness costs something in terms of personal time, energy, desire, and possessions. It involves everything we are and everything we possess. But as this week’s attribute reveals, godliness has its roots in the inward man. Two individuals can perform the same task, expend the same energy, devote the same time, donate the same possessions. Yet one might be godly, the other ungodly because, as Thomas Watson points out: a godly person is one who does spiritual things in a spiritual manner. The implications of this vast truth are multifaceted. And we can touch only briefly on some representative aspects here.
 
Worship. The Lord explained a great truth to the Samaritan woman when He explained that “the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him” (John 4:23). Worship as a “spiritual thing” is not defined by place (e.g., a church building), position (e.g., kneeling), or activity (e.g., singing, listening to a sermon, praying). Worship begins with the proper attitude of heart and mind, of soul and spirit. It includes a reverence for God and a desire that He be glorified. Various attributes—joy, thankfulness, praise, sorrow, repentance, meditation, etc.—may follow. Regardless, the godly experience worship as an attitude not merely an activity.
 
Prayer. Speaking to a very carnal church that had corrupted the gift of tongues, Paul testified: “I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also” (I Cor. 14:15). In other words, not everything that religious people, or even Christians, call prayer is true praying. We have all heard the saying: “There are no atheists in a foxhole.” But an unbeliever crying out to God (apart from believing unto salvation) does not constitute prayer. Nor does a believer’s selfish request for the fulfillment of personal desires and ambitions. True prayer involves the spirit and the mind foremost. The spirit is that part of man that can know and understand God, and the mind is that part of man that comprehends facts and truth and involves reason and volition. True prayer is not driven by human emotions, or feelings and wishes, but by a genuine relationship with the Lord and a desire for His will as revealed in His Word. The godly pray in accord with the Word of God and with a desire for His will to be done and His glory to be maintained.
 
Singing. Singing that tends to focus attention on the singer and his or her performance rather than on the Lord and who He is and what He has done may be religious, but it is not godly. Paul said the same things about singing that he said about prayer: it requires the active participation of spirit and understanding for the same reasons and to the same effect (see: I Cor. 14:15). Paul instructed the Ephesians to “be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (5:18, 19). Godly singing requires the one who sings to be motivated by the Holy Spirit and to be singing words that express the reality of his relationship with the Lord.   Merely singing a good tune and good words does not constitute godly singing. Godly singing also involves “teaching and admonishing one another” (Col. 3:16). In other words, godly singing is not merely diversion or entertainment; the godly attitude of the singer may be used of God to promote spiritual transformation in the hearers.
 
Giving. Some give from a sense of responsibility. Some give in response to a need that they see. Though in both cases, the gifts may be used for blessed purposes, godly giving necessitates more than that: it must proceed from the heart and must be performed cheerfully (II Cor. 9:8). Furthermore, it must be done without a desire to be seen and credited. “Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth” (Matt. 6:3).
 
Service.  Service may be a word that encompasses many “spiritual things.” Hebrews (12:28) says that the godly are to serve with thankfulness (“grace”) for having received an unshakeable kingdom, with reverence, and with godly fear (“awe”). Service requires more than merely doing a job and getting something religious done. Jealousy for the dignity, majesty, and honor of God motivates all godly service.
 
Everything. For a godly person, “there is no difference between the secular and the sacred.” Everything in his life becomes a “spiritual thing” to be done in a “spiritual manner.” That means that not only are all things either right or wrong, but all motives are right or wrong. And all ways of doing things are right or wrong. Godliness includes not just the big issues but the mundane ones as well. That everything falls under the purview of God and both can and should be done to His glory Paul makes clear in his succinct exhortation to the Corinthians: “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (II Cor. 10:31).

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