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What Makes You Feel "Godly"?

Posted on August 25, 2014 at 9:00 AM

"O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith—just as Abraham ‘believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness’?” Galatians 3:3-6


Paul was so protective of the gospel, and the young believers in his care, that he penned the explosive letter to the Galatians. Why was he so upset? It’s actually quite simple. False teachers had visited Galatia and began teaching the believers there that in order to be more pleasing to God, they had to do a few things—things God did not require. We learn in Acts 15:5 that this form of false teaching originated even among early church believers. They were so convincing that even the apostle Peter fell prey to their peer pressure (Gal 2:11-16). When you add requirements to the gospel (i.e. “you have to do x to be saved…”) the gospel of grace is killed. People are placed back in bondage to their own efforts, to other people, to the law. Eventually, what is required to save becomes blurred: are we saved by God’s righteousness and His activity toward us or our own righteousness and “doing.”


One evening after Bible study a woman pulled me aside to discuss some things she was confused about regarding my teaching that night on Galatians. She said: “I just feel more godly when I wear a dress to church. Are you saying it is wrong for me to wear dresses to church?” After listening to her, I asked: “Does it actually make you godlier to wear a dress to church? Does Scripture teach that? And who does it make you godlier than?” Her answers were clear: no; no; and, nobody.


I have had this exact conversation many times with many different women, discussing the various things women do to compete for the title of “godly.” Is it godly to wear dresses? Clean our house spotless? Have various industrious hobbies? No. We have got to stop calling certain things “godly.” It is never what we do that makes us godly but only the declaration of “Justified, Sinner” by God to us received by faith in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Thus, we are free to wear dresses to church, free to clean our house, free to knit and crochet miles of scarves and blankets, but they are, at the end of the day, just works; I am as justified and righteous at the end of the day packed full of good works as I was at the beginning of the day, the moment before my feet hit the floor.


Here is an excerpt from my book, Grace is Free, on this subject:


The lie that etiquette and self-discipline equal godliness has crept into many churches that are otherwise biblically solid. When I teach this concept to groups of women, I get the same objection all the time: “But Marci, we have to obey!” They think I am teaching that we don’t have to obey God, that we should just feel love for Jesus and do whatever we want.


Obedience is not the debate—we all agree that we must obey the Lord. But what exactly should we obey? This has become confusing because people have added their own rules—things God does not require—to the gospel.


At the heart of the gospel is a recognition of weakness. The Lord saves both the disciplined and the undisciplined alike—the disciplined from trusting in their capabilities and the undisciplined from their sloth. Older Christians somehow forget their own sinfulness. Younger Christians feel like they will never attain the level of spirituality they see in others. Everyone wants a formula for godly living, but a formula too easily becomes calcified into something that looks like law. To both the disciplined and the undisciplined the Lord says: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. . .For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28, 30)


This simple gospel is a gift given to those who believe in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross and his resurrection—not our own righteousness. Abiding in Christ is not only the secret to being used by God it is knowing his joy more fully. It sets us free to focus on one purifying ambition rather than on a list of rules. That one purifying ambition is to draw near to the Savior. It is basking in the freedom of what he has already accomplished for us. Abiding in Christ is the key to our purpose in life, to lasting joy and godly relationships. It’s the good news for believers.


My desire is to show Christian women (one at a time if I have to) that we have done the same thing as those false teachers in Galatia. We have added countless rules to the gospel that our God does not require. Many of these things are universally accepted as “godly.” Some are insinuated and communicated through guilt and pressure. All of them have blurred our vision for what a godly woman really is—someone whose “righteousness comes through faith in Jesus Christ” (Romans 3:22).



This post was written by Marci Preheim.

Categories: Guest Contributors

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