In John Wesley's "How to Pray" there is a devotional titled "Having a Form of Godliness" that questions the idea of being almost Christian.
Without the inward principle of sincerity, one is not even almost a Christian. He is rather a hypocrite.
For example, do we avoid sin from fear of punishment, or do we avoid sin because we love virtue?
In worship, especially the Lord's Supper, do we truly consider the solemn means of grace that we partake, or do we go through the motions with careless indifference?
Many outward motions may cover us like a cape of Christianity, where others look at us and say, "my, what a godly person." When we come home and change from our church clothes, does that godly persona get put away in the drawer with the jewelry, closed up until next week?
In 2 Timothy 3, the author talks about the perilous last days and how people will be lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, "having a form of godliness but denying its power."
When a person sincerely follows Christ's doctrine, his manner of purpose, faith, longsuffering, love and perseverance, there are constant, ongoing opportunities to be a godly person in every moment of the day.
Like Paul, we can be poured out as a drink offering to life, in ways that honor God. Every day gives opportunity to reproduce the affection and purity of Christ.
If we live in a way that honors God, we can echo his love and truth. However, if a person loves himself, loves money, is proud, blasphemes, is generally unholy, the Scriptures say they will be "always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth" (verse 7).
Jesus was the most loving, caring and selfless person in the history of the world. Yet, he suffered and was crucified.
Sincere Christians not only believe in Christ, but we also suffer for his sake. Instead of thinking, "why me?", Christians say, "why not me?" God uses adversity to purify our attitudes and behaviors, to deepen our relationship with him, to completely rely on him.
God is with us no matter what circumstances we are going through (see Romans 8:35).
No Christian is perfect, but having a sincere and humble attitude about our own shortcomings and being willing to ask forgiveness will demonstrate Christ's love. Also, being quick to forgive is an indication of God's love and mercy.
Since we know the prophecy predicting Christ's return, we must take every opportunity to encourage others to rely on the hope of Christ's return. We can endure the suffering of this temporary world.
By doing so, we give evidence to those around us that what God has promised is true, and we offer a message of hope. The final truth for both Christians and non-Christians is determined by the person's relationship with Jesus Christ during this lifetime. Eternity with God himself is the enduring reward for every Christian on earth.
Bonnie Donnelly is a member of the First Presbyterian Church in Marietta. Thoughts of Faith is a weekly column written by various ministers and lay people. Those interested in scheduling a date for writing a Thoughts of Faith column should contact Janet Gossett at 376-5446 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, if a Thoughts of Faith column is written at the writer's convenience and sent to The Times, it will run the first available date.