God-Wardness and Love
John Telgren

I couldn't wait until I could see her again. I was intoxicated with her. It seemed for the last few months my life revolved around her. That was the feeling I felt when Stacey and I were dating. These were my thoughts as I did the word study on "godliness." I used to think it had to do with being morally good and upright. However, there are many morally upright people who do not believe in God. Are they "godly" if they do not believe? Of course not. So godliness is much more than being morally upright.

One of the Greek New Testament words for godliness is "eusebeia." It is translated by the words devoutness, piety, or godliness. What I found interesting is that the Greek translators often used this word to translate the Hebrew word, "yara" which means fear, especially fear of Yahweh. A Greek synonym of "eusebeia" is "eulabeia," sometimes translated godliness, devoutness, godly fear, reverence, or piety. This is the word used of Jesus in Hebrews 5:7, who had a godly reverence for God.

The root of godliness is not morality, but a high regard for God. To be godly is to honor God above all else, to fear and revere him as God. Godliness is about loyalty to God. Godliness is about relationship. That is why Peter says,

"…seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:3).

According to this, godliness comes through "knowing" our Lord. Knowing our Lord is about relationship. That is why I am now careful about having a view of spirituality that sees "steps" to attain to a "higher level" of spirituality. If that is all there is, we have missed what true godliness is about. The Pharisees were full of "steps," rules," and "regulations," yet their hearts were still far from God.

"…discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things” (1 Tim. 4:7-8).

We practice self-discipline not so we can be merely more self-disciplined, but so that we can be more godly. Any spiritual discipline should be to nourish our reverential love for God, which is the greatest commandment in all of scripture (Matt 22:37-38). So our central focus should be to love God. That is the root of godliness.

Love for God and love for neighbor go together. That is why Jesus says that the second greatest command is to love our neighbor (Matt. 22:39ff). If we do not have love, all we do amounts to nothing (1 Cor. 13:1-3). In fact, if we do not love, then we do not know God (1 John 4:7-8). Furthermore, if we do not know God, we cannot be godly because godliness comes through the true knowledge of Him who called us (2 Pet 1:3). In other words, you cannot love God and not love your neighbor.

So, our mission is to love God, and in loving God, love our neighbor (Luke 10:30ff).