What does it mean to live a godly life?
Why must we live a godly life?
This article looks at the Holy Spirit’s contribution on how to live a life according to God.
1. How many are interested in living a godly life?
In 1991 R. Kent Hughes included some statistics in the book he had written.
The answers are staggering and really show how little interest there is in having a godly life in America: (I have changed the written numbers to numerals because it is easier to see them).
Only 13% of Americans see all Ten Commandments as binding on us today.‘Disciplines of a Godly Man’ by R. Kent Hughes. 1
91% lie regularly at home and at work.
In answer to the question, ‘Whom have you regularly lied to?’ the statistics included 86% to parents and 75% to friends.
33% of AIDS carriers admit to not having told their lovers.
Most workers admit to goofing off for an average of 7 hours -almost 1 whole day a week,
and 50% admit that they regularly call in sick when they are perfectly well.
The survey also posed the question:
‘What are you willing to do for $10,000,000?’
25% would abandon their families,
23% would become a prostitute for a week, and
7% would kill a stranger.
Think of it! In a gathering of 100 Americans, there are seven who would consider killing you if the price was right.
In 1,000 there are 70″
In England and Wales, almost 2% of the men’s population was arrested in the year 21/22 and just over 0.3% of women were arrested. 2
But that number does not include all the crimes that avoided arrest, let alone all the unrecorded disputes, lies, deceit, hatred, theft, rape, abuse, slander, etc.
Remember what Jesus said:
But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.Matthew 15:18-20 ESV
For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.
These are what defile a person.
And King David wrote about the condition of our unredeemed hearts:
The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’Psalm 14:1-3 ESV
They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.
The Lord looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God.
All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good,
not even one.”
At that point, the Lord decided to destroy mankind with a flood, he was observing these things:
The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.Genesis 6:5-8 ESV
And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.
So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.”
But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.”
2. God expects us to live a godly life.
The problem here is that we tend to be very lenient with ourselves, making excuses as to why we did what we did.
Then, by being very strict on other’s mistakes we come out looking rather better than average!
In an experiment on how many people tell lies, the 632 participants, over 91 consecutive days told a total of 116,366 lies!
About 75 % of the people did not lie much, from about zero to two lies per day and many of these were ‘little white lies’.
Obviously, the daily totals per person could differ greatly depending on their situations, although the people with the lowest levels of lying remained fairly consistent. 3
Those doing the research obviously saw the people who lied between zero and two times a day as being very low and probably acceptable.
The ‘white lies’ were classed as saying you like a gift when you really don’t, etc.
If you do not tell lies, you would seek to say thank you for the gift, but not to lie about liking it.
Unfortunately we are not told how many did not lie at all.
We have to be straight with ourselves and remember that liars will be thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 21:8) along with the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, the murderers, the sexually immoral, the sorcerers and the idolaters.
Does this verse surprise you?
Do you realise that it’s God’s will for you to live a Godly life?
It is God’s will that you should be sanctified…”1 Thessalonians 4:3 NIV
Or as the Open English Bible puts it: “For this is God’s purpose — that you should be pure…”
The French book: ‘The Introduction to the Devout Life’ (French: Introduction à la vie dévote) written by Saint Francis de Sales was first published in 1609 enjoyed wide popularity and was well received in both Protestant and Catholic circles. 4
My purpose is to instruct those who live in town, within families, or at court, and are obliged to live an ordinary life as to outward appearances…‘Introduction to the Devout Life’ by Saint Francis de Sales 5
It is an error, or rather a heresy, to wish to banish the devout life from the regiment of soldiers, the mechanic’s shop, the court of princes, or the home of married people…
Wherever we may be, we can and should aspire to the perfect life.”
3. The filling of the Spirit and living a godly life are two separate things
The older, more technical term for living a godly life is sanctification.
The baptism of the Holy Spirit does help to promote a godly life, but it is not ‘sanctification’ itself.
Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled* with the Holy Spirit.”Ephesians 5:18 NLT
The word ‘filled’* is continuous tense, so it means: ‘keep being filled’.
The church at Corinth was overflowing with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, but as Paul points out in his letter known as 1 Corinthians, this was not a church that overflowed with holy and pure lives!
Paul described them as worldly because there were disputes.
Believers were taking other believers to court, there was jealousy and quarrelling.
Some had become arrogant, and sexual immorality was going on, whilst others were getting drunk and stuffing themselves with food during the Lord’s Supper!
This example shows that the baptism of the Spirit and sanctification are two separate things.
4. Living a godly life requires fillings of the Spirit and obedience
D. M. Lloyd-Jones said that sanctification is a present tense filling of the Holy Spirit AND obedience to the Lord.
The disciples, soon after Jesus’ resurrection, wanted some more leaders so they said:
Brothers choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom.”Acts 6:3 NIV
To be full of the Holy Spirit is not enough to live a godly life. Here is another example of this:
He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith”Acts 11:24 NIV
It is our responsibility to be filled with the Holy Spirit and to be obedient to God’s Word.
This obedience to what the Lord has put into the Bible will show itself through us as having wisdom and faith.
5. How the word sanctification is used in the New Testament
For reference, the word ‘sanctification’ is:
- not used in the New International Version of the Bible – the translators preferred to use the word ‘holiness’.
- ‘sanctified’ is used 9 times in the New International Version.
- in the King James version ‘sanctification’ is used 7 times.
We will look at some of the verses from the King James Version now:
But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.”1 Corinthians 1:30 KJV
The more modern translation puts it this way:
It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God – that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.1 Corinthians 1:30-31 NIV
Therefore, as it is written: ‘Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.’ “
Here we see the amazing truth that Jesus himself is our sanctification, our holiness.
Living a godly life is all to do with Jesus.
It is like Jesus has become our perfection, a robe of pureness that we can put on and then stand before God without guilt.
This next verse tells us that the Lord wants us to live in sanctification, in holiness – to live a godly life:
For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication…”1 Thessalonians 4:3 KJV
The more modern translation says:
It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honourable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister.1Thessalonians 4:3-7 NIV
The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before.
For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.”
The reason Paul is highlighting sexual immorality is that this sin affects many areas:
- The sin is against our own body.
- If there is a partner, they get hurt.
- The other people involved in the sexual act get drawn into the sin.
- Lastly and more importantly, it drags Jesus into it as well.
Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.”1 Corinthians 6:18 ESV
Sexual immorality involves another person or more people, and the apostle Paul tells us what is wrong with that:
Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?1 Corinthians 6:15-17 ESV
Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never!
Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her?
For, as it is written ‘The two will become one flesh.’
But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.”
Therefore the beauty of Jesus is dragged down into the gutter.
6. Sanctification (living a godly life) involves several factors
We continue to look at where the King James Version uses the word ‘sanctification’:
But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.”2 Thessalonians 2:13 KJV
The ESV translates the above verse as “to be saved through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.”
Another verse about living a godly life says a similar thing:
Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.”1 Peter 1:2 KJV
Living a godly life (to be sanctified) requires the Holy Spirit, faith and obedience to biblical teaching.
References – open in new tabs:
‘Disciplines of a Godly Man’ by R. Kent Hughes, Wheaton. Illinois: Crossway, 1991, 119. ↩