“Know that persecuted godliness is better than prosperous wickedness.” The weight of Thomas Watson words is at first unrealized until we recognize how often it is that people pursue that prosperous wickedness over persecuted godliness. Why does it have such a draw for so many people? The answer is quite simple really: despite a long-term analysis confirming the contrary, most people see the immediate nature of wickedness and to them, it appears to be both much easier and much more pleasing. However, godliness dresses the sanctified person and in doing so fulfills five different aspects in the Christian’s life.
While many of us look at the outer appearance, we know the Lord looks to the heart. In the heart we find not merely the source, but the motivation behind that source. Rightly worn, godliness adorns the heart of a believer, and in that the Lord finds our spiritual beauty, which is far more important than our physical beauty.
Godliness is also the first defense one has in spiritual warfare. Consider the armor of God in Ephesians 6:10-20. Each piece that makes up the entirety of that armor consists of varying aspects of godliness such as the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, and the helmet of salvation. Thus, when we are dressed in godliness, we are prepared for the battle in which both flesh and spirit wrestle.
Not only does godliness provide a defense, but it also becomes the grounds for maintaining peace. Christ indicates “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). True peace is exercised in conjunction with our Lord and Savior. In conforming to His image and character, we do not compromise to the culture, but in our confrontation of the culture, we maintain peace with those around us, fulfilling the greatest commands and summation of the law (love God and love others).
While those lacking godliness will ask what profit is it to serve God (see Malachi 3:14 as an example), yet the godly recognize that to not serve God profits nothing (cf. Proverbs 10:2). Believers are urged towards godliness because of the profit it brings, not in terms of a monetary gain but instead the spiritual earnings that are accumulated in order to point glory to God alone.
Finally, godliness transcends time and cultures. It stands not on virtue alone, but upon Christ alone. This foundation of Christ that declares righteousness to all those who come to Him initiates an eternity in the presence of God. Therefore, godliness leads a person out of this world and preserves him and her in the world that is to come.
Godliness then yields much. It does this because it is much more than a worldly morality that can waver and change. Instead, it maintains a character of integrity and perseverance that sets the godly apart from the world so that they may see the image of God. Godliness is important then, not only because it fixates the world’s eyes upon us, but because it can cast a gaze to the one, true God impacting one’s eternity.
Therefore, the exhortation to be godly conjures up more than a command to be a good person. It draws us into the presence of God because godliness comes from Him. We first receive it through His Son Jesus Christ, and then through the Holy Spirit who sustains us in godliness. Paul reminds believers that those who are in Christ were destined to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:28-30). Godliness then should be the character of our lives, and in that much profit is gained.
I have been reading through “The Godly Man’s Picture” by Thomas Watson and today’s post wraps up a reading of it. If you didn’t get the opportunity to read through it, I would urge you to do so. There is much insight and biblical wisdom to be gained by doing so. You can read the previous posts by clicking the links below, but more importantly, you can find the book by clicking this link: The Godly Man’s Picture
The previous posts include the following:
- Be An Instrument in Making Others Godly
- What’s Love Got to Do With It: Guarding Against Sin
- The Many Uses of Patience
- 7 Virtues of the Holy Spirit
- Christ: A Treasure Above All
- A Christless Christianity
- The Prayerlessness of the Guilty
Photo “My God, So Pure and Undefiled” courtesy of user Coram Deo and Flickr.