Do you like gold? Yet all that glitters is not gold. This is a lesson many thousands of men learned in the 19th century when they stormed California seeking their fortunes. By 1850 over 75,000 hopefuls had travelled to California by land, and another 40,000 by sea. Whether by wagon or by boat, the journey was an arduous one, as adventurers left friends and family behind in search of vast fortunes.
While there was treasure to be found, as evidenced by the wealth many gained from their mining ventures, there was also what came to be known as fool's gold. While this looked like gold, it was in reality valueless iron pyrite. For a miner to be successful he had to learn to discern the true gold from mere fool's gold. A man's livelihood depended on this.
Because it was difficult to tell one from the other only by looking at it, miners developed some simple tests. One was the hardness test, where a miner could bite a rock in question. Fool's gold was hard while real gold was much softer. A broken tooth would prove the rock to be fool's gold. For a second test a miner would scrape the rock against a white stone. True gold would leave a yellowish streak while fool's gold would leave one that was greenish-black.
Just as it was important for miners to distinguish between the real and fool’s gold, believers must distinguish between true godliness and false godliness. As believers, the Scriptures instruct us to pursue godliness. 1 Timothy 6:11 (NIV) But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.
If we are to truly pursue godliness properly, we need to be careful not to fall into the trap of pursuing the counterfeit godliness. Let me share 3 key things about counterfeit or false godliness based on 1 Timothy 4:1-6.
INSPIRED BY UNGODLY SOURCES
1 Timothy 4:1–2 (NIV) 1 The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. 2 Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.
The Bible tells us that there will be things taught by deceiving spirits and demons. And it will be propagated by those who are no longer able to distinguish between truth and falsehood. One key area is godliness. You may ask, “Why does the Bible state so starkly that such concepts are being propagated from the very pits of hell?” Because if people believe in false gold, they will buy into it and miss the real gold. If people believe in counterfeit godliness, they will invest into it and be blinded to true godliness.
False godliness blinds people to the real need for true godliness.
False godliness blinds people to the real need for true godliness. For false godliness has the appearance of godliness but lacks authenticity. Consequently, its practitioners are lulled to a false sense of security. Lulled to a false sense of progress. Lulled to a false sense of devotion. And this happens as much in the church as it does outside the church.
And this false understanding is dangerous because it may cause some to abandon the faith. The whole urgency that is in Paul’s epistle lies in the fact it was happening at that very moment still and Timothy had been sent there to confront it and to deal with it! 2 Timothy 3:2 - 5 (NIV) 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 them.
False godliness will encourage people to be lovers of anything else but God Himself.
Note that false godliness will encourage people to be lovers of themselves, or money, or pleasure, or religion, in fact of anything else but God Himself. We see that the Pharisees loved themselves more than God, they loved they ego more than God, they loved the respect they gain more than God. In the church, people can have the forms of godliness but actually have missed the real thing. Sadly, they are some in the church today who love their prominence more than God, love their money more than God, love their accomplishments more than God, love the signs and wonders more than God. And all along thinking they are very godly. And we see some of these amongst certain prominent Christians.
Godliness without God in the centre is false godliness.
Todd Bentley was a prominent evangelist that became very famous because of signs and wonders. But he loved the prominence, the excitement, even the anointing more than God. Eventually, he fell into sin and committed adultery, divorced his wife Shonnah and married another woman. To those without discernment, they cannot distinguish between the true gold and the fake! They think they are ok, but in reality they are not. And the Kingdom of Darkness would like to keep them in that state of deception. Godliness without God in the centre is false godliness.
FOCUS ON EXTERNALS
In the Ephesus church, the false teachers promote various teachings such as celibacy. It is a false gospel that opposes the true Gospel.
1 Timothy 4:3 (NIV) They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth.
There were many things that the false teachers promoted as the means of pursuing godliness. These included forbidding marriage and abstaining from certain foods. We are aware today that such thinking is in fact prevalent in many religions. Buddhism for example, encourages those who seriously seek Enlightenment to devote themselves to this goal by becoming monks, forsaking marriage and other earthly entanglements. They are to abstain from meat and to eat only vegetables. And so forth.
We find some elements of this in Catholicism where the faithful may make vows of celibacy, especially if they are nuns or priests. The Catholic Code of Canon Law brought out in 1983 states in Canon 1251: Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday. Abstinence and fasting are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Canon Law still requires that Catholics not eat meat on Fridays! Unless some other acceptance penance is substituted for it.
The concept is that somehow, if we can beat our bodies into some level of submission, if we can gain mastery over our bodies through self-control, we can achieve a higher level of godliness. In 1973, Amar Bharti, a devotee to the Hindu god Shiva, decided to raise his arms and not put it down. After 27 years, his arm is now atrophied and permanently locked in place. When asked whether it hurts, he said, “It hurt for the first year and a half, but its fine now thanks.”
Many impose prohibitions of all kinds in order that it may help them be more holy, more godly. But what does the Bible say? Colossians 2:20 - 23 (NIV) 20 Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: 21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? 22 These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self–imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.
All such prohibitions may seem useful to make people more godly. But in reality, it is of little use as it does not change the heart. Mark 7:15 - 22 (NIV) “15 Nothing outside a man can make him ‘unclean’ by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him ‘unclean.’” 17 After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. 1 8 “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him ‘unclean’? 19 For it doesn’t go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods “clean.”) 20 He went on: “What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’ 21 For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.
Prohibitions such as on foods, clothes, marriage and so forth – in themselves do not change our hearts. To imagine that various people are more godly because they forbid certain things is a misconception. I am not saying that prohibitions are wrong. It can be useful. Prohibitions can protect people from harmful substances or practices. People are prohibited from crossing busy roads any way and anytime they want. People are prohibited from driving 100kph along residential streets. People are prohibited from taking illegal drugs. And so forth.
But prohibitions cannot change the moral character of a person. Self-imposed prohibitions need not reflect the quality of the moral character of a person
But prohibitions cannot change the moral character of a person. It is a lie to believe that it can.
Self-imposed prohibitions need not reflect the quality of the moral character of a person. Now self-control is a necessary aspect of helping us to be godly. Titus 2:12 (NIV) It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self–controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age. But we must be clear in this: self-control is not synonymous with prohibitions though self-control may help us impose some helpful self-prohibition.
Some make the mistake of thinking that they are more godly because they are involved in more religious activities.
Another area of deception is to think that because we are involved in religious acts, that it makes a person more holy or godly. This is the spirit of religiosity. Some make the mistake of thinking that they are more godly because they are involved in more religious activities. Again that is untrue. Just like the Pharisee’s who fasted and prayed but were unacceptable to God. Matthew 6:5 (NIV) “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.
It is our heart condition that matters more to God.
For the Pharisee’s prayed for show rather than from their hearts. If we fast and pray, or serve in the church but not primarily because of God, then we are involved in religiosity. It is our heart condition that matters more to God. It is our heart condition that God is either pleased with or not. More so than our external actions.
Let use examine our own hearts today. Let us get back to having God in the centre of our worship and our service! In the song, “The Heart of Worship”
I'm coming back to the heart of worship
And it's all about You
It's all about You, Jesus
I'm sorry, Lord, for the thing I've made it
When it's all about You
It's all about You, Jesus
The songwriter recognised that it was not even in the worship songs, but our heart of devotion to God. We must put God back in the centre of godliness.
DERIVES FROM DISTORTIONS OF TRUTH
1 Timothy 4:6 (NIV) If you point these things out to the brothers and sisters, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished on the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed.
Timothy was urged to point out the errors which contradict the truths of our faith and the good teaching that he has known. In other words, these teaching, including on counterfeit godliness came about due to distortions on God’s truth. The false teachers were likely advocating certain parts of the Old Testament Law – hence the emphasis on clean and unclean foods. Legalistically emphasising on some aspects of prohibitions. Because they misunderstood the purpose of the Old Testament Laws. And they refuse to accept corrections.
They thought that God is pleased when they are able to fulfil certain religious requirements. Further, they have used it as an opportunity to make financial gain. 1 Timothy 6:5 (NIV) men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.
They were preying on the wealthy women in the church. Gullible ones whom they can mesmerise with their knowledge. Why not make money out of the things of God? The sad thing is there are still many out there who are trying to make financial gain out of the Kingdom of God. Ministries and Christian leaders who often ask for lots of financial giving from their followers and it is used to line their pockets. And they rationalise that it is fine to do so!
Godliness may simply be defined as living a life pleasing to God, out of a heart devotion to God.
The best way to discover counterfeit is to understand the genuine. So what is authentic godliness? Godliness may simply be defined as living a life pleasing to God, out of a heart devotion to God. 2 Timothy 3:2 - 5 (NIV) 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.
Loving God is at the centre of true godliness
Loving God is at the centre of true godliness. Let us return fully to God!
Counterfeit godliness is based on a lie that encourages people to love anything else but God. That encourages people to believe that what they do is godliness, but it is little more than a shell. Form of godliness but without God in the centre. False godliness focuses on the external and placates the heart that is adrift from God. Let us turn to true godliness which is living a life pleasing to God, out of a heart devotion to God.
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