This is the Piety talk I wrote for Tres Dias minus my personal account of forgiving someone after 27 years of hating them, what they represented, and what they did to me 27 years ago. To read about that and how I came about giving them forgiveness read my blog:
Definition of Piety
The text book definition of Piety is “The direction of one’s whole life to God”
Well what is that exactly?
My life has had so many directions that it is hard for me to answer that question for myself much less a room full of people.
Another definition that a friend gave me: “Being sold out to God”
Well that’s a good starting point but is still too generic for me. And I believe that we all have our own personal definition or experience of Piety given to us by the Holy Spirit.
The truth is Piety isn’t a single definition. Piety is a journey.
Our journey into Piety begins when the Holy Spirit pricks our consciousness and we realize that we need the redemption and saving grace that can only be obtained through accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. For that journey to continue we must accept the redemption and saving grace that Jesus Christ gives.
So for me my definition of Piety is this:
Our journey into, and having Piety in our lives begins when we realize we need Christ. We then accept Christ and we begin our journey of transformation from being a sinner to having the mind and heart of Christ Himself.
Piety as an experience of Grace.
Piety isn’t just an experience of grace it is grace. It is the grace that we have and maintain not only in our relationship with God but with others, even our own selves.
God poured out His grace on us at the cross. In becoming more Christ like we must in turn extend that grace to others. And we must extend that grace to ourselves as well.
I have learned to extend God’s grace to others. At times I even enjoy being able to extend that grace to others. It may be something as simple as saying a prayer for someone, volunteering at a soup kitchen, or working a Tres Dias weekend. We should not have to look far for opportunities to extend God’s grace to others.
In my talk I’m suppose to give examples of this in my life except I have a hard time with doing that because I do not want to sound like I’m bragging. And the truth is that 98% of the time when I have extended grace to someone it’s because someone else has extended grace to me. It was not me but someone else’s Piety that has allowed me to spread His grace to others.
Some examples of this are:
I have given food and clothing to the homeless.
I got to travel to Ukraine to help with Tres Dias.
I helped with victims of Katrina and saw the devastation in and outside of New Orleans first hand.
But without people in my church and the Tres Dias community praying for me, lifting me up, mentoring me, donating goods, money, or both. I would not have been able to do any of that, that I just mentioned.
God has blessed me with those in my life that extend grace to me and the opportunity to spread that grace to others. It is their Piety and relationship with God that has allowed me to grow in Piety as well. I cannot begin to describe what I owe others for the grace they have shown me because they listened to the Holy Spirit. I’m forever grateful for them, I am fortunate that God uses someone like myself, as unworthy as I am, to spread His grace.
Now we must also extend that grace to our own selves by allowing the Holy Spirit to reign and give direction in our lives. For me this is the most difficult. It is easier for me to give grace to others than to accept it for myself. Right now I’m seeking work, have medical and dental needs, and I do not have the ability to pay for those things myself. Yet God has provided for some of that through someone else’s willingness to be used by Him to pour out grace on me. The Holy Spirit has spoken to them and they have listened.
It’s easier for me to listen to the Holy Spirit when it involves helping others. But when it comes to myself I have a hard time listening. There’s a sense of unworthiness that was instilled in me as a teenager that has a lot to do with that. I can extend grace to others because I do not question their worthiness. But when it comes to my worthiness I have none and therefore I become my hardest critic. This is completely wrong on my part. I’am a child of God and therefore worthy because of the blood of Christ. Yet I continually deny that worthiness and by doing so I continue to let Satan maintain a stronghold in my life. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t acknowledge that we are unworthy. What I’m saying is we should acknowledge the worthiness given to us through the blood of Christ. We have Piety because of Christ.
Piety as a process of growth
Piety is the process we go through as we grow as Christians.
As growing Christians we must communicate with God. This can come through many ways but it must contain Bible study and prayer. Bible study and prayer are the 2 most readily available and direct ways of communication between us and God.
Study is pretty straightforward. God gave us His word in the form of the Bible. As a Christian in pursuit of Piety it is our duty to study His word. Not only does His word strengthen us but it is a direct line of communication to God. It reveals His promises and His will to us. It prepares us for action. A fire fighter doesn’t put out fires by running out and grabbing a hose and turning on the water. A fire fighter practices the skills that he needs to fight fires and survive. Studying God’s word allows us to practice it, to live it, and to put it to use to serve Him as well as to draw us closer to Him and protect us spiritually.
Piety is a call to action. As Christians it is our duty to spread God’s grace and love to a lost world. A Christian who does not act is not answering the call that we all have to bring others to Christ.
Action can be many things. Prayer for others is probably the simplest of all but it shows concern and love for your fellow man. Action doesn’t mean you have to go to the jungles of Africa and preach His word. Action can be supporting those who do. Action starts in the home. If our households aren’t godly then we most likely will not do a lot of action outside of the home. Action calls for, no it demands that we are godly husbands, fathers, heads of households. If we are that in our homes and our daily lives, then that will spill over into our churches, schools, and communities.
False ideas of Piety
The person who is prideful and egotistical about their religion has a false idea of Piety. We should not emphasize the fact that we tithe, or we’re in church on a regular basis. We should not boast of our religion. Instead we should be humble and grateful that God gives us the opportunity to do such things. We should do such things out of a dedication to become more like Him. By doing so those who do not know God will see Him through us.
The person who’s religion is routine or just going through the motions is not what Christ wants from us. Our relationship and Piety with Him is not routine. Our praise and worship of Him or practice of religion should not be either.
Then there is the hypocrite. We are all hypocrites to some degree. But the man who sits in church on Sunday and plays the part of the “I’m a good Christian” yet is cheating on his taxes or having an affair on his wife is obviously not walking in Piety. The old saying don’t do as I do but do as I say had to come from a hypocrite. And people wonder where their kids get it from. If you are in a position of authority whether it is in your home, your church, your community, or your job, you have an obligation to lead by example. If you’re just an unworthy Christian made worthy by the blood of Christ you have same the same obligation to lead by example. I cannot think of anything more damaging to the church and to bringing others to Christ than the person who lives by don’t do as I do but do as I say and thinks that it is alright.
Characteristics of Piety
The pattern of the Christian life shows characteristics of Piety. Someone who has Piety with Christ will show signs of searching for God’s will. They are open to His Spirit, and they allow themselves to be conformed to the image of Christ. They involve themselves in worship, Communion, Christian community, Bible study, prayer, and the seeking of spiritual gifts for ministry and service.
If we have Piety with Christ then others should see the Fruits of the Spirit in our lives.
Christ likeness in us means that we allow Jesus to produce the fruits of the spirit in us. What are the fruits of the Spirit? They are love, joy, peace, kindness, patience, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control, and forgiveness.
Freedom is a characteristic of Piety. We are set free to live a life of Piety when Christ dwells in the heart. We are not free to do as we please but free to live a life free from sin, to live a life of grace, and a life of redemption through Jesus Christ.
Maturity as a characteristic of Piety. As one grows and matures in Piety their love for God and His will, will become evident in their life. Their love and concern for their fellow man will increase as well. And their courage to stand up as a Christian will be seen by others as well.
The Christian life and Piety come from our grateful and humble response to what God is doing for us and in us through Jesus Christ.
Gratefulness, humbleness, and thankfulness lead to Christians who are obedient to God, have Piety with Christ, and are giving to others and forgiving of others. The ultimate Christ like act we can do is to forgive those who we feel have wronged us.
Who in your life needs forgiveness ?
Have you given it to them?
If so, great! If not, why?
How is Piety Strengthened?
Piety is strengthened by:
- Bible Study
Piety is a journey of faith and therefore requires continued nurturing. It needs all of what I just mentioned to grow.
Because Piety is a process it is never completed. This is why we are continually on a journey in this life here on earth.
I added forgiveness to the list of things that strengthen Piety because it not only is a sign of maturity but I believe a forgiving heart opens our spirit to receiving guidance and direction from the Holy Spirit. The more we forgive the more we are forgiven, the closer to Christ we are drawn.
Piety as an Ideal:
It is living the ideal of a life in grace with Christ
Piety as Grace:
It is the daily response to God’s grace in our lives. The response may be humbleness, it may be the showing of grace to others, but it has to be a part of our daily lives.
Piety as The Church:
It is a strengthening by our participation in the Body of Christ.
Piety as the Holy Spirit:
Piety is formed by the Holy Spirit. Remember when you answered the Holy Spirit’s calling to the saving Grace of Jesus Christ? That was the Holy Spirit calling you to a life of Piety with Christ. Once answered the Holy Spirit becomes God among us and continues to nurture Piety, and our relationship with Christ.
Exodus 3 – 4 Moses is called, God will overcome his limitations
1 Kings 19:1-8 Elijah is discouraged, he got his eyes off God and on self
Matthew 6:1-18 Beware of practicing false piety, develop inner piety
Mark 14:66-72 Peter denies Christ; pride and trusting in one’s own strength will fail
Luke 18:9-14 A parable about true piety
John 8:31, 32,36 The Word will set you free
Romans 6:1-6 Dying and rising with Christ; no longer slaves to sin
Romans 8:1 No condemnation in Christ Jesus
Romans 12:1-2 Be a living sacrifice, have a renewed mind
1 Cor 2:1-5 I was with you in weakness
2 Cor 5:17 Exchanged life; new creation in Christ
Galatians 2:20 Crucified with Christ; let Jesus live through you
Galatians 5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free
Galatians 5:22-23 Fruit of the Spirit
Ephesians 4:13-16 Don’t be immature children – grow up in Christ
Ephesians 5:1 Be imitators of God
Phi 2:3-4 True piety is humble, interested in others; pride destroys
1 Thes 5:18 In everything give thanks
1 Peter 2:16 We are free to live as God’s servants
1 Peter 5:5-6 Be humble; God opposes pride
1 John 2:6 Walk as Jesus walked
Click “Here” for the MP3 of the actual talk given on Friday, Feb. 27th, 2009. Special thanks to Layne McDonald for recording it for me.