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JOYFUL JOTTINGS 12
GODLINESS AND VIRTUE!
Ugh! is the likely
immediate reaction. Give me stew taken off the mess floor in war, and I
shall delight in this, the popular feeling for many may be, but as to
virtue! Never! As for godliness, it is like a moist, humid day in
Such is the sort of thought one seems to find in many.
Why is this strange reaction ? You think it is not there, that people LIKE these things, godliness and virtue, that they are a major part of our 'culture' - and for many, it is a vulture culture, in which they participate and to which, like vultures themselves, they contribute (cf. Matthew 24:28). They are taught to do so, sin leads them to do so and they are the very generation of the dispossessed (cf. Barbs, Arrows and Balms, Appendix 1). Study their ways and their pronouncements, their economic emphasis, their travesties of truth and justice. The pathways of power are not pleasant for most in this world, by observation.
Instead, some languish for love or loveliness, in the meantime putting passion for devotion, and desire in the place of goodness, as if poison only was allowed on the premises. Others try to bow beneath the bar of baseness, and becoming cynical, sour and self-possessed, are wholly unprepossessing. When some little self is putting its grandeur into the cockpit of life, it is both ludicrous and irrational, hopeless and mirthful, crazed and amazing jointly. All that saves one from a reaction near incredulity is that it is as common as dirt, and as to dirt, one sees it on the ground.
VIRTUE: yes it used to be a fine old term, one filled with prestige and often used. It meant a sort of strength in being what one ought to be, keeping set for what one ought to become and acting with vigour in the pursuit of it: WHEN 'it' was a moral code older then Moses, the everlasting God, king of eternity and offering life on earth, a highway of loveliness which neither vaunted nor flaunted itself, for being lovely, it had no need of merely extraneous advertisement (cf. Proverbs 1, 8). To be virtuous was to be strong, fine and brave for what is right, hard-working, industrious, reliable and fair - and much more.
But GODLINESS! If the modern generation in the mass (there are of
course many in it who are in fact Christians, but these are a small minority,
Biblically (cf. Matthew 7:13ff., 24:10-11, II
Timothy 3), were to learn to stomach 'virtue', what then ? No doubt, in the now
so nearly normal way, it would be likely to be a matter of cutting down the
meaning of the term, until they could relate to some refined form of
selfishness. Then alas, godliness would still jar, perhaps requiring a
rebuilding likewise into something of self-fulfilment
at the ultimate: and the two together, these neo-things, would be like some
edition of terrible twins, unthinkable, gate-crashing without acceptance into
the milieu of the self-possessed. And because the 'self' is so inadequate to
'possess' itself, this can come to be virtually dynamic with devilry, instead of the
dynamic of virtue in reality. Hence so many 'outrageous' acts of man and state.
VIRTUE and GODLINESS! The terms seems to jar as much on the popular mind as they are scanty in impact in popular speech.
Yet precisely these terms
and these graces are found in the essentials list in II Peter 1, things to be added to faith, along with knowledge,
temperance, patience, brotherly kindness and charity.
We hear much of some of these; but little of godliness and virtue in these forlorn days of what one writer has called the toxic culture of guns and violence! Yet it is violence TO THE FAITH which is basic to all the others: the loss of ideal, vision, the vigour of victory from the Prince of Peace, Christ in you, the hope of glory. It is not so strange that so many operate without the faith; but rather that, though in the churches, many are so slim in the usage of such terms as these.
Nothwithstanding this omission by so many: GODLINESS is a certain kinship with God showing itself, like a family trait, in being SLOW TO WRATH, HOLY in attitude and happy in the beauty of holiness, esteeming the things which are above highly, living in their presence, under the aegis and countenance of the living God. It means a consistent conformity to Christ, not as an alien duty (for if you are child of God, being what you ARE is neither alien nor a mere duty, though it requires work to maintain in good order, like a garden - Philippians -13 with -21). It is NATURAL, through the supernatural, and the supernatural is both personal and beautiful, source of all good, base for its thrust, dynamic for its power.
Godliness, to omit this, it is to make the claim of being "born again", that mass sedative used by so many as a phrase instead of a function, mere verbiage. It becomes as a fad and fashion a sort of verbal substitute for what it refers to. It is not that it is for us to judge those who so claim, if their speech reflects the faith; but it is for us all to heed Paul's word, EXAMINE YOURSELVES, WHETHER YOU BE IN THE FAITH! (II Cor. 13:5)
That gracious pair, virtue and godliness, those essentials of life in the Lord, according to the apostle Peter, those illustrations of what one is, if one is a Christian, kin to God, and strong in being what He has made one to be... let us restore to them to vocabulary, to thought in the eminence they deserve. Let us practise them in life.
Here are terms, here
are truths for life so poignantly far from the pathetically popular and ranting
misconceptions which are adorned in the preachings of
those pitifully misled of our generation. This false leadership is found in its
pubs and music halls, its gurus and its hysterical groanings
in some allegedly 'church' floors, its self-fulfilments
and its swooning crooners and swinging icons, touting for contemplation with
their earthy screams, characterised as music in some
sense! The meaning of these terms, this virtue and godliness,
tower above such things like edifices making the new
The terms are above space, and
beyond interest. Which terms ? Why these: virtue
Such at least is the situation in the mass media, in the vending machines of society! Of course there are always the Christians who love the Lord and for whom virtue and godliness are like left and right hands! These are they who, not mere church-goers (and church-going, and recognition of due church leadership IS commanded - Hebrews , 13:7, just as attendance at churches affronting the faith* is forbidden - Romans , Titus ), are sincere ones who follow the Lord for love,
As to these these abominations, they do exist in the active delusions of our Age, though their saving power is absent, as they did in Paul's (II Cor. 11); but now, it is with profusion (Matthew 24:24).
There are then, many who still abide in the Lord, love the faith, show the amplitude of the word of God in the scope of their conduct. More and more however, numerically they are being replaced by the muted, mellowed, shallowed and unhallowed, by those for whom the commandments are but paper, and the Lord is but a means to self, to fulfilment or joy, or cursing or damning, or whatever is the current theme of selfhood.
These things fall to the floors of flatness, and as in our last jotting, No 10, they look with lust into the bottomless pit, not realising it does not end. Downward goes the quality of what will not look to what alone has given it life, and will not use what it is given through the Lord of Life, the Just One, nor consider sin (cf. Acts 3:14-19).
How much superior is the strength and loyalty, the sincerity of virtue and the grandeur of godliness, a humble grandeur that stooped to be stopped on a Cross, by plan; that the stoppage and the blockage being removed by the affirmation of life, even physically if not scornfully thrusting aside death, loved to die to provide life. Look for example at Hosea 13:13-14, I Cor. 15:53ff.). Here, on the one hand, is the scathing irony for the mere results of sin from the viewpoint of Him whose is the law, and from whom is the love which, and on the other, the power, can vanquish both the sin and the sentence (cf. Micah 7:18-20).
It is this life which has virtue, and godliness, and is lovely, and endures.
After all, it is not the survival of the fittest - fittest for what ? a mere pleonasm (cf. That Magnificent Rock, Ch.6) - but the endurance of the best which is the case. For a time, the worst as in Hitler, Mao, Stalin and the many others of this century, may seem to prevail; but it does not stay. In the end, not culture but Christ is the judge; and it is well in the meantime, to love the Lord, whose life has virtue and wonder, and living in Him, and He in you, to abound in fruit which endures. Why ? Good fruit does, and when it is in the hands of God, and is the personal fruit of His own, it does not fail, because He does not (cf. Matthew 25).
It is not just that the lower forms of spiritual life, the pathological pluralities, the multitudinous muddles, the ludicrous gabbles - like ‘Golden Rule PLUS Survival of the Fittest’ taught in different arenas in ONE SCHOOL in Adelaide - are based, unlike actual life, on NOTHING. It is not merely that LAWLESSNESS is merely the instrument of oppression of personality over persons and people; or that artificial laws cannot be moral, merely manipulative, which aborts the significance of (some ) of mankind, in the interests of the rest, by mere power.
It is also this. It does not work.
* The latest report in The Advertiser
(June 12, 1999, World News section) tells
of a Methodist body in
Indeed, the report states it this way:
There is an almost comical side to this: is there to be a situation of CHRISTIANS WITHOUT THE KNOWLEDGE OF CHRIST, MEMBERS OF HIS BODY WHO DO NOT EVEN KNOW THEIR HEAD!
This is perhaps the best illustration of II Peter 2 and II Timothy 3, critical indications of the "last days", the time in which the return of the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ the Just and the Judge, is imminent. Is there not here a sight for the blind, the roar for the deaf and an entreaty for all: be what you are, be virtuous, be godly and GO WITH GOD, THE EVERLASTING FATHER OF THE CHRIST WHOSE GOINGS ARE FROM EVERLASTING (Micah 5:1-3), AND WHOSE COMING IS NEAR.