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The Godly Man
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The Godly Man

In conclusion, let us define what godliness is. We can say straight away that it is not simply a matter of externals, but of the heart; that it is not a natural growth, but a supernatural gift; that it is found only in those who have seen their sin, who have sought and found Christ, who have been born again, who have repented. But this is only to circumscribe and locate godliness; our present question is, what essentially is it? The answer follows from what has already been said. Godliness is the quality of life which exists in those who seek to glorify God.

The godly man does not object to the thought that his highest vocation is to be a means to God’s glory; rather, he finds it a source of great satisfaction and contentment. His ambition is to follow out the great formulae in which Paul summed up the practice of Christianity — “glorify God in your body”; “whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 6:20; 10:31). His dearest wish is to exalt God with all that he is in all that he does. He follows in the footsteps of Him who could say at the end of His life here: “I have glorified thee on the earth” (John 17:4), and who told the Jews: "I honour my Father . . . I seek not mine own glory . . .” (John 8:49f.).

He thinks of himself in the manner of George Whitefield who said: “Let the name of Whitefield perish, so long as God is glorified.” Like God Himself, the godly man is supremely jealous that God, and God only, should be honoured. Indeed this jealousy is a part of the image of God in which he has been renewed. There is now a doxology written on his heart, and he is never so truly himself as when he is praising God for the glorious things that He has done already and pleading with Him to glorify Himself yet further. We may say that it is by his prayers that he is known — to God, if not to men. “What a man is alone on his knees before God,” said Murray McCheyne, “that he is, and no more.” In this case, however, we must say no less. For prayer in secret is the veritable mainspring of the godly man’s life. And when we speak of prayer, we are not referring to the prim, proper, stereotyped, self-regarding formalities which sometimes pass for the real thing. The godly man does not play at prayer, for his heart is in it. Prayer to him is his chief work. And the burden of his prayer is always the same, the expression of his strongest and most constant desire — “Be thou exalted, Lord, in thine own strength.” “Be thou exalted, O God, above the heavens.” “Father, glorify thy name.” “Hallowed be thy name.” (Ps. 21:13; 57:5; John 12:28; Matt. 6:9). By this God knows His saints, and by this we may know ourselves.

~ J I Packer. Extract from "The Plan of God
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