“3 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5, NIV)
There is a stern warning from the Apostle Paul in the New Testament about a form of godliness. What is a form of godliness? It is important we understand this error so that we can avoid the danger it poses to us.
A form of Godliness is a way of life that appears to be Godly. It gives the appearance that you represent God and are living for Him. We can go to church once a week in nice clothes, open our Bibles when the preacher reads the verses, raise our hands during service when we feel the moment is right, and still have a form of Godliness. In the moment, everything felt right. The environment was right. The music was anointed. The sermon was exactly what we needed to hear. However, did we really change?
We can look pious with our church programs, padded seating, large buildings, polished sermons, and other smooth looking features. It looks alive, thriving, and growing. It has the appearance that God is in it. Jesus addressed one of the churches in the book of Revelation and said, “1b I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God….” (Revelation 3:1b-2).
We can have a reputation around town of being alive spiritually (and even appear that way), but it does not mean the life of God is present. We can have a spiritual experience in these places when He is absent. We can fool ourselves. When Jesus addressed the church of Sardis, He addressed how their deeds were unfinished or incomplete. In other words, they stopped their pursuit of Christ. They thought they had enough.
What distinguishes a form of Godliness from the power of God? A form of Godliness can suppress bad behaviors. You can actually stop cussing, be free from alcoholism, stop smoking, and cease other behaviors but still operate in a form of Godliness. Remember, a form of Godliness gives the appearance of God. You will seem like a person who has it all together; you may seem as a person of great character. And you will feel good about yourself because you are around other people who seem that way.
The motivation behind these things goes back to the cunning nature of the snake. Satan has us convinced that if we can look good enough outwardly that we don’t really have to live for God. The top sins in the church today are pornography and adultery.
What is the power of God? The power of God is the power to change your life. Where a form of Godliness can suppress sinful behavior, the power of God transforms the source of the behavior. This is true change.
Don’t misunderstand me; we must still learn to stop committing sinful behavior. However, we must learn to let God inside the deepest part of our heart, mind, and soul to HEAL us from the root cause! Bitterness, unforgiveness, vanity, hatred, and many other conditions can cause sin. We must learn to deal with the inner man or woman.
“18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.”
To see true change, we must allow God to enter into every part of our lives and EXPOSE the works of darkness. This will require CHANGE on our part so that our works become complete. It will be extremely uncomfortable and you will feel the wretchedness of sin! The outward work itself, if not accompanied by the inward change, is incomplete.
In America, we have so many religious freedoms that protect our right to worship God. We are free to worship God in any church (as of this moment). With this great freedom comes a great responsibility to pursue God under this covering. Consider the items that a form of Godliness is listed next to: slander, pride, and lovers of self. The appearance of Christ versus actually letting Christ live through you is two different things.
The danger of this form that it makes us feel secure in our minds, but in God’s mind we are not. We are playing Church.
“22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.” (James 1:22-25)
Examine your emotions and minds and allow God to truly change you.