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Posts tagged ‘form of godliness’

More Than Just A Form

“Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof….”
–2 Timothy 3:5

 

If we understand this scripture correctly, godliness (piety, right living) has two phases or parts. One is external and visible, and is called the form of godliness; the other is internal and invisible, and is called the power of godliness. We are admonished by the Apostle that there will be some in the last days who will have a form of godliness, but who in fact will be empty of the power of godliness. From such we are instructed to turn away, or, in other words, avoid.

Apparently, the form of godliness can be imitated and manufactured. It is like a glove that reveals the shape of the human hand, even when the hand is removed or withdrawn from it. However, just as the glove without the hand has no power or ability to function, so is the person who merely possesses the form of godliness without the power of godliness.

Such people look like Apostolics, act like Apostolics, and even go through the motions of worship like Apostolics. Yet there is an emptiness to their praise, and their testimony is hollow. Their witness is weak and ineffective. They are spiritually tepid. They have a form of godliness but they lack its power.

We are living in an age where an alarming number of so-called Apostolics are content with merely the form of godliness without also possessing the power of godliness. The great danger in this is that it takes the true power of godliness to maintain a viable walk with God. But because we have had such a heavy emphasis on “externals,” many of our modern Apostolics feel more secure around someone who has a “good standard” than they do around someone who has a “good spirit.”

We are truly living in perilous times. Some of the most godly-looking people have proven to be quite empty of true godliness. The power of godliness works within the lives of those who possess it and creates the form of godliness in them. Those who have the form of godliness but do not have the power of godliness have either imitated those who do have it or have retained the form of godliness from a time in their lives when they actually did possess the power thereof.

It is frightening to consider the amount of spiritual “con artists” that are thriving in the Apostolic ranks these days. Where is our spiritual discernment? Where is the prophet who will rise and rebuke the pretenders and the play-actors? We must have more than merely a form of godliness! And we must avoid those who only possess a form of godliness. How could anyone who truly possessed the power of godliness be comfortable around someone who merely had a form of godliness?

Sometimes our preaching has emphasized adherence to a standard to the exclusion of receiving an understanding of the true nature of God. We often judge others by their “form of godliness” (i.e., their standards of holiness), but when the Son of Man comes He will be looking for FAITH! What a shame it is to consider that Divine Healing is treated as a joke in many conservative Apostolic circles today.

There are congregations that look great, but where is the ability to pray the prayer of faith for the sick? Where is the power to keep ourselves unspotted from the world? Where is the power to love our enemy, and to do good to them who hate us? Where is the power to pray for them who despitefully use us? Where is the power to forgive?

Have we glorified the “earthen vessel” to the point that the “heavenly treasure” has departed from it? Heaven forbid that we would wind up as empty, powerless shells – beautiful gloves with no working hands, or highly polished shoes with no feet to walk in them.

Make no mistake about it: the form of godliness is vital to the power of godliness. But we must never fall into the snare of assuming that because the form of godliness exists the power of godliness invariably accompanies it. We must not confuse outward manifestations of godliness with true holiness. And we must never make final judgments about someone’s standing in God simply because of the way they dress or live up to certain codes.

People who merely have a form of godliness but lack the power of godliness are highly susceptible to deception, and eventually wind up in false doctrine of one sort or another. The reason for this is because the power of godliness derives from the preaching of the Word of God. We are living in the time when man cannot endure sound doctrine, but according their own lusts they have heaped to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they have turned away their ears from hearing the truth, and have therefore been turned unto fables. The end result of this is spiritual impotence due to not hearing the Word of God. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God.

It is possible to dress conservatively and go through all the motions of godliness and still not possess the power of godliness within. This is a dangerous state. When we begin to feel empowered simply because we have a form of godliness, we have been deceived into thinking that is all we need. But we still need to fast and pray and worship God in spirit and in truth. We still have to connect spiritually with the preacher as he ministers to us the Word of God. We must be spiritually energized by the Holy Ghost within us. We receive power after the Holy Ghost comes upon us – power to work, power to witness, power to live an overcoming life.

God forbid that we should possess merely an empty shell of what a true child of God should be. We need more than simply a form of godliness – we need the power of godliness. We need power to intercept new forms of evil before they invade our homes and hearts; we need power to discern what spirits are trying to help us and what spirits are trying to harm us; we need power to overcome the constant downward pull of earth’s gravitational force; we need power to resist the ever-seducing siren’s song of worldly music; we need power to stand up for what is right even when it is not popular or safe to do so; we need power to ferret out all the subtle nuances of the New Age movement that have invaded Christendom; and we need power to defuse the demonic bombs that have been laid in our paths in an attempt to destroy us.

May God help us in these last days to beware lest we succumb to the pressure to settle for just a form of godliness. We must have more than a mere form of godliness – our very survival depends on our possessing the power of godliness.

Rev. Tim D. Cormier

Reprinted from the November, 2002 issue of the Apostolic Standard.

(C) Copyright held by Tim D. Cormier. This document may not be reproduced in whole or in part, except for personal use, without the express written permission of the author.

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Confessions Of An Erstwhile Pharisee

It is a sad commentary on the current state of certain segments of the Apostolic ranks when Pharisees are allowed the privilege of coming under the umbrella of our fellowship. What is sadder still is the fact that not many Pharisees could be helped, in the extremely unlikely event that such help would be accepted. Most of them wind up embittered, lonely and broken, having been chewed up and spit out by a monster of their own making. Some, however, manage to come to their senses and by the help and grace of God correct the course of their lives in time to avoid the certain and inevitable catastrophe of shipwreck. It is just such an awakening that occasions the writing of these few lines.

While there may be some that do not understand what a Pharisee is, most students of the Bible quickly recognize that a Pharisee – “a separated one” – is nothing but someone who has taken a good thing too far. And even though it is correct to be separate from the world, true Holiness is only achieved when one is also separated unto God. The holier-than-thou attitude of a Pharisee, however, is smoke in the nostrils of God! These are the ones of whom Jude speaks, who separate themselves for carnal, fleshly reasons, and are totally devoid of the Spirit.

Pharisees boast of keeping the Law, yet are quite incapable of truly comprehending it. A Pharisee will even go so far as to superimpose his own interpretations and interpolations as well as those of his fellows upon the Law, supposing that he has improved upon it, and excoriating any who will not blindly—yea, stupidly follow his ill-conceived and misguided initiatives. Who but a Pharisee could callously condemn adultery while possessing the heart and soul of a thief? Or, worse still, how could it be considered anything other than Pharisaical to abhor idols while committing sacrilege? Given time, the ideas of a Pharisee become his ideology, and his dogmas eventually wind up as his doctrine. Though we scorn him, he ought to be pitied.

Superficial thinking is the trademark of a Pharisee. Shallow, unscriptural exegesis characterizes the Pharisee’s defense of his positions. Not surprisingly, appearances are paramount to the Pharisee; thus, much effort goes into making a show and a pretense, while very little spiritual industry is applied to the things that would really make a difference in the heart. A Pharisee of long standing finds it hard to understand the needs of the common man, because the core teachings of the Law have been lightly passed over in favor of the rigid, crusty rituals that are so easily enforced upon the weak- and simple-minded.

To a Pharisee, Truth is the ultimate aspect of the Law, while Grace has been abandoned to the Charismatic as an inferior by-product of false teachings. Justice, Mercy and Love merely receive lip service; as a result, the ostentatious Tithing of tiny seeds far supersedes the Grand Purposes of the Law. The letter of the Law must be kept, even if it means violating the spirit of the Law. Should the Law-giver Himself ever stoop to walk among those to whom He gave the Law, he would be condemned and ultimately crucified by the Pharisees for not conforming to their concept of what the Law should be. It is the Pharisee that creates rules and sets standards for others that he never could or would have lived by—yea, that tempts God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither we nor our fathers were able to bear.

A Pharisee considers himself to be the grand epitome of the Law, while in reality he is a disgusting travesty of it. Pharisees chastise men who transgress their traditions, without even considering the fact that their traditions transgress the commandments of God. Who but a Pharisee would make a great show of polishing the tombstone of a prophet he would waste no time in killing, were he yet alive? A Pharisee will ostracize a good man because of his organizational affiliation—or lack thereof—without giving any weight or consideration to his convictions, intentions and circumstances. And each one he succeeds in drawing in to his slimy pit becomes as a result a two-fold more child of hell.

To the Pharisee, the Law has become the End, rather than the Means to an End. Instead of being a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, the Law has become so exalted that when Christ comes on the scene he is rudely shoved aside because He doesn’t fit into the Pharisee’s picture of how things are supposed to be. The Pharisee will never reach the intended aim of the Scripture, because he is forever preoccupied with the perceived superiority of his preparations for the trip; he constantly rides around and shows off his fancy “vehicle,” but never really goes anywhere.

The only righteousness a Pharisee possesses is self-righteousness. Instead of Holiness, Pharisees are clothed in filthy rags. A Pharisee will make a great show of filtering out the unclean gnats from his drinking water, while feasting upon foods cooked over fires fueled with camel dung. The Temple of God is the Pharisee’s idol, but the God of the Temple—Jesus Christ—is the object of his scorn. The image of godliness is more important to the Pharisee than the true power thereof—the symbol preempts the substance. The actual state of holiness is not discerned by the Pharisee, because his preoccupation is with looking holy.

Compassion is considered to be compromise by the Pharisee; the sick sinner deserves his condition, and the sorrow of the unregenerate is but his just due, as far as a Pharisee is concerned. The poor and needy? The undisciplined children? Too much trouble…. Yet, while they clean the outside of the cup, the inside of the cup is sickeningly filthy. Deception, malice, spite, envy, pride—all these and more lurk in the unlit recesses of the Pharisee’s heart.

Beware ye, Jesus said, of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. It should be noted that one of the definitions of hypocrisy is “the acting of a stage player.” With this definition in mind, consider this paraphrase: Watch out for those who call themselves “the separated ones” but who are really only acting the part. One of the strangest ironies of Scripture is the fact that the ones who prided themselves as being the very essence of holiness have, with the passing of time, come to symbolize absolute and unmitigated hypocrisy.

And so it is, even to this day. Listen to the prayer, testimony or preaching of a Pharisee. Who gets glorified? –The Pharisee, his doctrine or his deeds. Instead of having a treasure in an earthen vessel, the Pharisee’s treasure is his earthen vessel. The Pharisee is ever self-centered and self-sufficient; his god? –self! To survive, a Pharisee must constantly feed his ego.

Are any Pharisees ever converted? Not many. There are some, however, that have been brought out of the deep ditch of Phariseeism by the Grace of God. Please note: one of the easiest things for a former Pharisee to spot is a Pharisee. It is a dangerous thing to glorify one aspect of the Gospel while neglecting another. If we are to have the mind of Christ, we must not only grow in Knowledge, but we must also grow in Grace; otherwise we become Pharisees, with an unbalanced understanding of—and thus an improper application of—the Word of God.

Rev. Tim D. Cormier

Reprinted from the February, 1998 and July/August, 2003 editions of the Apostolic Standard.

(C) Copyright held by Tim D. Cormier. This document may not be reproduced in whole or in part, except for personal use, without the express written permission of the author.

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