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Family History

I’ve always been one of those weird people that enjoy genealogies. I blame my parents. Growing up I remember watching my mom pour over piles of immigration and City Hall records, trying to trace our families journey to the United States.  Things got even more intense when we moved to Europe and took cross-continent road trips to cities and towns that bore our surname, awkward conversations through translation books with people that might be distant relatives, checking the registry at Auschwitz to see if we might be related to any of victims that shared our family name, and looking for long lost connections.  

Being connected to your history is not everything, but it is something. For me it was always in the realm of things that were nice to know. Stories that make me more grateful and make me realize that I didn’t just magically pop into this world as a middle class white male totally independent of the successes, sins, and sacrifices of those that have come before me. But beyond that I don’t spend too much time thinking about where I came from.  

That’s because I am not a first century Jewish man. Back then heritage was everything. It determined everything. Where you worked. where you lived, who you married, and who you worshipped.  It determined everything.  

The people of Israel were ever aware of their ancestry.  They were literally named after their ancestor – Israel.  The organization of their wilderness camp, and later their place in there Promised Land, was based on their family tribe.  An Israelite’s role in worshipping God was also determined by their lineage, with the tribe of Levi having a particularly holy calling as priests.  Similarly the true line of kings that God would bless would be from the family of Judah (Genesis 49:8-10), specifically the line of David (II Sam 7:1-17). Not only would the kings of Israel come from the tribe of Judah and the family of David, the ultimate and universal King, the Messiah, would come from this line (Micah 5:2-4, Daniel 7:13-14).   

This is why both Matthew and Luke’s Gospels include a lengthy genealogy of Jesus.  For any first century Jew or anyone who takes God’s promises seriously, to even consider the validity of Jesus being the Messiah, his family credentials would have to be watertight. God is a God of His Word and if He said the Messiah would come through Judah and David, then that is how it had to be.  

This was so important that Matthew, writing primarily to a Jewish audience, leads his Gospel account with the genealogy of Christ.  Starting with Abraham he works all the way up through 42 generations to Jesus.  

Luke also records the family line of Jesus the Messiah. Careful observers will notice that there are some differences between Matthew and Luke’s records.  Problem?  Nope, easy and important answer.  Matthew recorded Jesus’ family line through Joseph, showing that he had a legal right to the throne of David because of his status as the adopted eldest son of Joseph. Matthew traces Jesus’ heritage through Mary, making the incarnate Son of God a blood relative of King David.  Both genealogies point to the glorious truth that both from legal adoption and blood lineage, Jesus Christ the God Man, is the rightful heir to the Messianic promises.  As a side note it is interesting that since the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD, the Jewish people no longer have reliable genealogies to refer to.  Anyone who claimed to be the Messiah since 70 A.D. would have no way of proving that he came from the royal line of kings.  

No one has or ever will have the Messianic credentials that Jesus Christ has.  His genealogies record the breaking into history of God, His putting on flesh and becoming part of the human family so that He could bear the brokenness, guilt, and shame of that family on the cross and give it a new inheritance through His resurrection.  

Last week I blew it in a once-every-decade kind of way. It began when my father and I got into a disagreement about something stupid (it always begins that way, right?). But when neither of us were willing to show humility towards each other, things escalated and exploded.  Before I knew it I was bringing up sins and situations that had happened decades ago and I thought I had moved on from but were still affecting me deeply.  

I’ve been affected by the sins of my father.  He was affected by the sins of his.  My kids have and will be affected by the sins of their father, both biological and adopted.  

But this Christmas as I open up the Scripture and read the family history of my Savior, I have hope.  When I look at the sovereignly selected, scandal-filled genealogy of my Savior and Lord and see slaves and kings, redeemed prostitutes (Rahab), enemy Gentiles redeemed by their kinsman (Ruth), repentant murderous adulterous sinners (David), unrepentant murderous adulterous sinners (many of the kings after David),  seasons of joy, seasons of pain, and seemingly insignificant faithful historical footnotes (Achim? Matthan?)…I am reminded that my God is the God who brings beauty out of the hideous, honor out of the shameful, victory out of defeat, joy out of pain, and Life out of Death.  

This the Gospel of geneology. Because Christ had a genealogy my earthly family history can be redeemed and given hope and purpose. But more breathtaking is the truth that in Christ I have been adopted into an entirely new geneology.  One that begins and ends with an eternal, loving, perfect, infinitely rich, reigning Father.  Because the Son of God had an earthly genealogy, I can have a heavenly one.    

This Christmas be thankful for genealogies.  

John Freiberg is a Missionary in Training and Elder Candidate at Kaleo Church. John has been married to Sarah for ten years and has four kids: Esther, Isaiah, Phoebe, and Roman.

Advent: Eagerly Awaiting the One that Already Came

When I was a kid I loved Christmas so much. My excitement was primarily about the gifts and it caused a sort of unhealthy anticipation for me. I remember not being able to sleep no matter how hard I tried and that was how the tradition began. On Christmas Eve, ESPN would play the same episode of SportsCenter over and over until the morning came. I would lay there in my bed and watch the same thirty minute episode over and over, thinking in my head, “Only 15 more episodes.” This both drove me crazy but also helped me somewhat simmer down the excitement.

Advent is a season of waiting. Historically, Advent is defined by the idea of coming. It is meant to be a season celebrating and awaiting the Incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ. In the same way the people of God were awaiting the Messiah for years and years, so the season is meant to be filled with waiting and anticipation. Can you imagine what it must have been like for the first century Jew who was awaiting the birth of Christ and actually got to see him face to face? I think of the splendor and delight in knowing that this newborn baby was going to be the King everyone longed for. What would his reign be like? Would all their enemies finally come under the reign of this King as evil would be finally subdued. Would all the injustices of the world finally be made right through this long-awaited King? 

The thing about anticipation is that we really believe that when we get what we are desiring, the satisfaction will last. But as we all know, we have had plenty of new relationships, new jobs, and new things that do not satisfy the way that they did at first. The heart of the matter is that we need someone or something to not only satisfy our longings of anticipation but we need that satisfaction to not dwindle. Jesus’ first century followers would have been drastically let down as the King they had awaited ended up on a Roman Cross, humiliated for all to see. Once again, their desires were crushed as the One in whom they placed their hope in breathed his last breath on the cross. That is where the author of Hebrews comforts the church by marrying together the two comings of Jesus. He lays them before us showing that Jesus alone can meet our anticipation and eternally satisfy our greatest desires. Hebrews 9:26b-28 says,

But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

The longing and anticipation of Jesus’ first coming seemed deflated with his death…but only for three days. After resurrecting and showing himself to weary disciples (Luke 24), it was clear that he was worth the wait. Not only had he forgiven sins once for all, but he had extinguished the fiery wrath of his Father for all sins of those that would put their faith and trust in him. Weeks after he resurrected he ascended to his rightful throne in heaven. Before departing though, he promised his beloved disciples that he would come back for them (Acts 1:6-11). 

That brings us to our new Advent of sorts. We are presently waiting for our Savior. This waiting is different that it was for those whom awaited his first coming. It is different because we look back at his Incarnation, death, and resurrection and are confident that our Savior keeps his Word. Not only does he keep his Word, he has proven to be worth the anticipation and capable to handle and meet all our greatest desires. The greatest news regarding our waiting is that our future does not hold one ounce of judgment. Christ left it on that cross, in a real city, two-thousand years ago (Colossians 2:13-14). Our waiting promises an eternity with Jesus, face-to-face, in a place where all our longings and desires will be met in him. Sin and waiting will both be distant memories as we no longer wait by faith but are satisfied by sight. The Second Coming of Jesus is the worthwhile impetus of our present waiting. Let us eagerly await him this Advent season.

Wes Van Fleet is the Pastor of Discipleship and Leadership Development at Kaleo Church. He is married to Jenn and they have two little girls, Olivia and Hadley.

Living by the Scriptures

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If you have often struggled to find a balance between learning about Scripture and living it out, then Owen on the Christian Life is a good book to better see how this can happen. I have enjoyed learning about Christian doctrine, but I find too often an inconsistency in how I apply the truth of scripture to my life. To know about God has really been more of a hobby, something I find great interest in, but is done more for my glory rather than to know God as he is revealed in Scripture. Owen is a great help for me in mending that inconsistency.

This quote by John Owen captures well the two springs of mind and heart:

Our belief of the Scriptures to be the word of God, or a divine revelation, and our understanding of the mind and will of God as revealed in them, are the two springs of all our interest in Christian religion. From all those streams of light and truth derived whereby our souls are watered, refreshed, and made fruitful unto God.”

Owen upholds the supremacy of Scripture for faith and practice, and therein lies the challenge to live in light of the glory of the truth of God’s Word, and to not merely acquire knowledge about God but to know Him more intimately.

1 John 3:16 says this: “By this we know that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brother.” To say that I love God and then to have hatred or enmity against a brother is to really say I don’t love at all. This is a grave inconsistency in what I truly believe about God and the clear commandment to love God with your whole heart, mind, soul and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself.

John also says later in this chapter that, “Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him” (1 John 3:24). This obedience is not to gain approval or to somehow earn our acceptance before God, but is rooted in the gospel truth that we have been rescued from trying to earn our salvation and that we have an Advocate before the Father who is greater than our hearts (1 John 2:1-2; 3:20). For while we were still weak, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly to be reconciled to God (Rom. 5:6-8), that we may rejoice in the new life we have in Him. We are then seeking to know God more through His Word but grow more in the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, that will shine in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:4-6.

This book is a good intro into the doctrine and life of John Owen, and I enjoyed reading about the way his explanations of Scriptural truth lead to praise and worship. Reformed doctrine in the mid sixteenth century, on the heels of Reformation, has a strong conviction that salvation is of the Lord (Jonah 2:9).

My favorite chapter of the book dealt with this key doctrine, and it brings great joy to know that what God starts He will finish. If left to myself, I wouldn’t want to seek God and have anything to do with Him. It is by His grace alone that I have access to the Father, through the work of Christ, and by the power of the Holy Spirit.
I found myself wanting to read more about this great Reformer in England and to delve more into his writings. With a style unique to the Puritans, I did find that his prose was more accessible that other Puritans, chief among them Jonathan Edwards.

I am grateful for the opportunity to read this book on Owen and I pray that I’d go with eagerness to the Word and know God better. He has given us His word so that we may know Him and treasure Him above all else. There is none beside You, who can give hope and peace and the forgiveness of sins. Where else can I go?
I pray that my studies would be pleasing in your sight and be useful in edifying your church. I am praying that the truth of your Word would not be an exercise in gaining knowledge, but that I’d grow to know You better and more intimately, all for Your glory and for the benefit of Your church.

Book notes: Owen and the Christian Life. Matthew Barnett and Michael A. G. Haykin

Ryan Carr is one of the Missional Community leaders at Kaleo Church in El Cajon. Him and his wife, Kathryn, have been married for 1 year.

Who Will You Imitate

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Recently, one of my good friends showed me a book he was reading. The book was called For the Fame of God’s Name; Essays in Honor of John Piper. The book is a collection of essays and articles written by 27 different authors and ministers, in honor of Pastor John Piper and his over 30 years of influence on the Christian church. For those of you who know of Pastor John and his ministry, one thing is very clear about him; he desires God’s name to be hallowed in all things for the joy of all peoples. 

Though I am not one of the 27 authors or ministers who contributed to this collection, I am one of thousands that have been deeply influenced by this man. From the winter of 2009 until the winter of 2013, I had the privilege to sit under Pastor John’s teaching during his final years as the lead teaching pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church.  As I began to think more deeply about this book, I asked myself, “What would I write about this man?” After all, there are few men who have influenced my life more than Pastor John. 

Though there are many things to be said in honor of Pastor John, my intention here is not to write an essay adding to the 27 that have already been published. I believe those men are much wiser and more gifted to appropriately pay tribute to Pastor John. Therefore, I will let their collection stand as sufficient means to bring appropriate honor to this man. Rather, I wanted to simply think about and consider influence. 

When I think about influence, many men and women in my past come to mind. Yes, they were more than just teachers and coaches, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, pastors and friends. As I listened and watched how they lived, they formed the very fabric of my thinking and how I understood life. These people instilled in me what was right and wrong, good and bad, just and wicked. My behaviors and my actions were shaped and molded by the influences of these men and women. I learned to be an imitator of their way of life.

And that’s the test of being truly influenced, isn’t it? Imitation is the outcome of true and lasting influence. A child imitates their parents, a younger sibling their older sibling, a pupil their teacher, and an athlete their coach.  Imitating the influences around us isn’t a choice. We all receive influence whether it is right or wrong, good or evil, true or false. It’s there, in our face, and all around us. That much we cannot control. The question is though, who will you imitate?  

The Apostle Paul was likely the largest influence on the Corinthian church. So much so, that he calls himself their father (1 Corinthians 4:15). It would follow rightly then that Paul charges the church in Corinth to be imitators of him (1 Corinthians 4:16, 11:1a). However, Paul doesn’t stop there. He gives the Corinthians clarity of what type of person to imitate. He gives them a lens of testing to look through that would show them how to imitate him. That lens is Christ (1 Corinthians 4:17b, 11:1b). 

Paul is not concerned about making more “Pauls.” He isn’t looking to gain an audience that favors him over the other teachers of his time. In fact, he refutes this wayward thinking earlier in his 1st letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 3:1-11). Rather, Paul is concerned that men see past him to Christ. Paul was not a man without influence. His mission was to point past himself to Christ, who had changed him in an instant, and caused him to consider all he had gained to be loss (Acts 9; 2 Corinthians 11:21b-30; Philippians 3:2-11). 

So it is clear then, that when Paul charges the Corinthians to imitate him, what he means is, as far as he is imitating Christ. But, how are we to imitate Christ? And why? I think the answer to the first question will lend a hand in answering the second. 

The question of how to imitate Christ is a bit tricky. Of course, there is not a soul on earth that can make atonement for the sins of another because there is none without sin (Romans 39-18, 23). Jesus death is sufficient to atone for sin because, being God, his atonement is eternal, and being man, he never sinned (Hebrews 9:11-13; 1 Peter 2:22). So it would follow that we are not to imitate Christ in the effect that we are to atone for other’s sins. Rather, we are to imitate Christ in the laying down of our lives to save others. 

This may sound like the same thing. To clarify, let’s look at what Paul says just prior to his charge to the Corinthian church in 1 Corinthians 11:1. 

Paul says he glorifies God in all things, not by seeking his own advantage, but by seeking the advantage of many.  He demonstrates then, that in seeking their advantage above his own, what he means is their salvation (1 Corinthians 10:31, 33b). Paul imitates Christ in the setting aside anything that would be advantageous for himself so that others might hear the good news of the gospel and be saved. Paul’s laying down of his life was not to make atonement for sins. Rather, it was dying to the comforts and temptations to gain his own advantage so he could clearly point to the only one who truly and finally takes away sin. In the same way, we are to imitate losing our lives for the salvation of others and the glory of God.  

And now the question of why? I mean, this all seems a bit scary, right? Losing your life sounds like a big deal. 

Jesus says in Matthew 16:25, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” He doesn’t give a third option. You can save your life by imitating the world and its desires of the flesh. Going along with the wave of social pressures will likely bring a life of pleasure and ease. In the end though, 70 years of pleasure and ease in a fallen, imperfect world, is incomparable to an eternity of perfect pleasure and full joy in the presence of God (Psalm 16:11). By imitating Christ, you lose your life in the sense that you no longer imitate the world and its desires, but rather, you imitate your Creator. The world sees this as a life wasted and lost. But in reality, a life spent imitating the Creator is a life lived as it was meant to be lived. It is true life now and in eternity. 

This is why Paul could say, “to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21). He truly was out for the best life now and in eternity. It is also the reason Paul considered as loss what he once counted gain (Philippians 3:11). Paul understood that life can only be found in Jesus Christ (John 1:4). And what does that exactly mean? Everlasting life with God through Christ (John 17:21a). 

So, it would stand to take care and be watchful in your life and household, Christian. Examine yourselves and the heroes you herald through the lens of Christ. The question is not will you be an imitator, but who will you imitate? One leads to everlasting loss of life, the other to the everlasting gain of it. 

It is good to have heroes, especially heroes of the Faith. John Piper is one of them for me. Though I have only known him in the 3rd person, I am indebted to him for his influence on my life. More appropriately, I am grateful for seeing past him to Christ. 

Blog post written by Dave Mishler. Dave is the co-leader of one of Kaleo Church’s Missional Communities and helps oversee the liturgy and order of service at Kaleo Church.

Does Every Sermon Need an Application?

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One thing I often hear amongst congregational members of churches in America regarding preaching is this: The preacher did not teach me how to apply his sermon to my life. To that I ask: Is he supposed to? 

We need to first understand that the Bible is ultimately not about me. Yes, the Bible has many things to say about who you are, where you are from, and why you were created. It even has a whole book centered on the prayers and wrestling’s of the human heart. But if we fundamentally believe the Bible is about us, then undoubtedly you will be left asking what this text or that passage has to say to you.

The Bible is about who God is and what He has done. It is a unilateral story of redemption that shows all things in history are from Him, through Him, and to Him, to the praise and glory of Christ (Rom. 11:36). In short, the Bible is about Jesus. The whole counsel of God is thematically either pointing forward to Christ or looking back to Christ (cf. Luke 24:27; Acts 8:27ff). If then the preacher is being faithful to the text in his sermon it will deliver exactly that content to the congregation. 

Now soak that last sentence in for a minute. What can we conclude from that? Sermons become more Christocentric and Christ-exalting and less people-centered and application driven. In other words, you start focusing less on yourself because you can’t get past the magnitude and beauty of Jesus. And seeing who we are in Christ will start to impact what we say, do, and think. Seeing His glory in the face of Jesus begins to change our affections, our attitudes, and our decisions (cf. 2 Cor. 3:18); “we love, because He first loved us” (1 Jn 4:19). 

It is impossible for the preacher to deliver 50, 200, 500 different individual applications from the text. If you look around in the church, good chance you will see many different people than you; different backgrounds, different stories, different sufferings. Take for example the text Hebrews 12:1-2,

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

The point of this passage is that Jesus is the founder and perfecter of enduring faith in which the “men of old” gained approval (11:2). Verse 1 of chapter 12 tells us how to apply that great truth – by laying aside every weight and sin and run with endurance this race of life. But how does that look in your life? For one, the eagerness to put to death the habitual sin of worry comes to mind. Another finds the strength to preserve through the constant storms of life they are finding themselves going through. And another may see the conviction that they are running this race with a lack of joy seen in v2. The point is this: Jesus is the main point of this passage. We are called to “fix our eyes” on Him. And in so seeing Him, your life begins to change a little bit more.

All of the Scriptures from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22 are breathed-out by God and are profitable for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness. It is the responsibility of the preacher to bear faithfulness to the Word in his preaching. But the responsibility on applying what God has revealed in that particular text befalls the listener. Everyone will be responsible for their own actions and their own thoughts as it’s weighed against the story of God. 

So my encouragement is that just as the preacher prayerfully prepares in delivering the sermon to us, we as listeners ought also to prayerfully listen and watch as the sermon is being preached to us.

Written by Joshua Kinney. Joshua and his wife Christine are the directors of children’s ministry at Kaleo Church.

The Mystery of Godliness

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Last week my family and I took 4 days off and rented a little beach house in San Clemente. I had no plans apart from family time, except to meditate on 1 Timothy. As I read it a couple times a day, I found 1 Timothy 4:7-10 standing out. It says,

      Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness;  

      8 for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in 

      every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.

      The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. 10 For to this end 

      we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the 

      Savior of all people, especially of those who believe. 

I had the benefit of going to a Christian college. However, with that said, 1 Timothy 4:8 was painted on the gym, plastered across the locker rooms, and was used in any advertisement for Christian sports. Like a bad Bible interpreter, I never paid much attention to that verse because of the way it was used. However, as I kept rereading 1 Timothy last week, I could not escape the word “godliness.” Paul uses some form of the word “godliness” ten times in 1 Timothy. Why is Paul repeating this word so many times to his young apprentice and what is he trying to accomplish with Timothy?

      Paul was trying to prepare this young pastor for a well-rounded ministry. Paul believed that right doctrine leads to right living. In our culture today, truth is often in the eye of the beholder and to declare that something is objective truth can cause someone to be seen as intolerant or arrogant. While some people think if we could just return to the early church, we could live in a culture where truth was highly regarded. But that is not the case. In 1 Timothy 3:14-15, Paul tells Timothy something very important regarding truth and life, showing us it was something just as important then :

        I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, 15 if 

        I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, 

        which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.

In short, Paul is passing the baton on to Timothy that doctrine drastically motivates behavior. Now, some may respond to that and say, “Jesus did it all, this sounds like law to me?” There is a major difference between a behavior that merits God’s grace and a behavior that is radically driven by God’s grace. The latter is what Paul calls godliness. Godliness is the right behavior that has been so moved by the glory of God that one cannot respond to such glory.

     This is where I was forced to look at Paul’s call to train in godliness. I asked myself, “Do I train in godliness the way I discipline myself in other areas of my life?” What about you? For some of you it may be the strict discipline of being at the gym every day, buying all the right food, doing meal prep, etc. The hours and physical discipline bring about a desired result. Do we put the same discipline and time into responding to who God is and what he has done for us? Do we train our tongues to be used for God’s glory rather than getting a reaction out of people or just making them laugh to get a reaction? Do we train to fight the temptations of lust the same way we train for other things we love? Or does our view of God’s sovereignty lead us to wrongly believe we can passively sit by and wait on God. Or do we, like Paul calls Timothy to do, train in godliness? Another thing with godliness is that it not only holds promise for this present life, but also the present life to come. This means that our present godliness has eternal results. We are being groomed and prepared for eternity with the One who has our affections. But throughout history, people all live for what they love. Godliness lives for God. Coolness lives for being cool. Whatever it is for you, you are disciplined in what you love.

The struggle of the human heart is not necessarily to love, but to love the wrong things and live for them. That is why Paul reminds Timothy in the dead center of his letter what the clearest picture of godliness is as well as that which will rightly motivate our godliness. He writes in 1 Timothy 3:16,

      Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness:  He was manifested in 

      the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations,  

      believed on in the world, taken up in glory. 

This beautiful verse is worthy of much more explanation but one thing stands out: The godliness of God took on flesh and is our confession. The fact that Christ would take on a human body and live among his people is a loud declaration that Jesus came to redeem our lack of godliness and so change our affections to love him and live for him. As Calvin says, “How wide is the difference between God and man! And yet in Christ we behold the infinite glory of God united to our polluted flesh in such a manner that they become one.

If you have affections for Jesus, the mystery of godliness is no longer concealed. God has revealed to you the mystery of his plan of redemption. And the affections you have for the God-man cannot lead to passivity, but godliness in the household of God and towards your neighbor. Godliness is not a bad word reserved for legalists, nor is it something meant to merit the love of God. It is a by-product of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This means that the amount of joy found in Christ is also experienced in godliness. This godliness is one that holds promise for this life and the life to come when we see our glorious Savior face to face.