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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Dr. Tony Evans » Tony Evans - The Mystery of Godliness

Tony Evans - The Mystery of Godliness

Tony Evans - The Mystery of Godliness
Tony Evans - The Mystery of Godliness
TOPICS: Godliness, In Pursuit of Godliness

The mystery of godliness. If you'll flip back a page to chapter 3, let me read verses 14 to 16 of 1 Timothy chapter 3. He says, "I am writing these things to you hoping to come to you before long. But in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth. By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness. He who was revealed in the flesh was vindicated in the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up to glory".

Verse 16 introduces us to the great mystery of godliness. He calls it a common confession that is agreed on by the church. Every person here today who is a true Christian ought to have as their aspiration to become more godly. That ought to be your aspiration, that ought to be your goal, because that is the purpose of our redemption. Not only to give us eternal life, but to grow us in God likeness or godliness. Let me, first of all, talk about the word "mystery". He calls it a mystery. Not only does he call it a mystery in verse 16, he calls it a great mystery. So, whatever this mystery is, it's a big deal. It's not a small thing because he calls it great. Yet, he calls it a mystery. In verse 9 of chapter 3, he says, "But holding to the mystery of the faith".

So there's something mysterious going on here, something that is hidden. A mystery in the scripture is something that was concealed in the Old Testament that is revealed in the New Testament. A mystery is something that was hidden in the Old Testament that now has come to light in the New Testament. The Old Testament is the Word of God incomplete, because the Bible was not finished with the writing of the Old Testament. There would be a whole New Testament that would come and would fill in the blanks, that would give us the rest of the story about who God is and how God works. And it is called a mystery.

There are things in the Old Testament, that you and I now know because we have the New Testament, that was hidden to them in the Old Testament. They either couldn't see it at all or couldn't see it clearly, because of what we call in theology, the progress of revelation, meaning God did not reveal all he wanted man to know at one sitting. He didn't tell them all at one time. The Bible was not written as one book by one author at one time. The Bible was written over 1600 years by 40 different authors over time, because God revealed things in stages, based on what that group needed to know at that given time for God's given purpose. The Old Testament is what God gave to give the introduction to what he fully wanted to reveal that you and I now have access to, that he calls the mystery of godliness.

Let me go a little deeper in this. The Old Testament, Testament is a covenant, is an agreement, is an arrangement, that God had with people and then he comes with the New Testament. So let's pause for a moment to go into this a little bit deeper and ask you to hold your finger here, but turn your Bible to Hebrews chapter 8. Just flip over a few pages and you'll run straight into Hebrews, chapter 8. We're coming right back to Timothy in a moment, but Hebrews chapter 8, there's so much here. Verse 6: "But now he has obtained a more excellent ministry by as much as he is also the mediator of a better covenant which he has enacted on better promises".

Verse 10: "'For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days,' says the Lord. 'I will put my laws into their minds. I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, they will be my people and they shall not teach to everyone, his fellow citizens and everyone, his brother, saying, know the Lord for all will know me from the least to the greatest of them for I will be merciful to their iniquities. I will remember their sins no more.'" And he said, "A new covenant," that is the New Testament. He has made the first obsolete, "but whatever is become obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear".

Now follow me. He says this New Testament is better than the Old Testament and not only is the new covenant, New Testament, better than the Old Testament, the New Testament, covenant, makes the old covenant obsolete. It makes it old. That's why it's the Old Testament. So the only way you can really understand the Old Testament is by knowing the New Testament. Without the New Testament, the Old Testament will stay cloudy and hidden because, remember, a mystery is something concealed in the old, revealed in the new. So if you don't have the revealed in the new, you're living with the concealed in the old. And so what you wind up with, if all you have is the Old Testament, are nice Bible stories without understanding what they mean for you today. Because the mystery is concealed in the old, it's revealed in the new, and the new is better.

At the heart of this mystery, this hidden thing in the old that's now been revealed in the new, is godliness. He says it is the mystery of godliness. What was concealed in the old that's now revealed in the new, is this new way of becoming godly. When I read you Hebrews, you should have noticed two words that I used over and over again that God uses in chapter 8, in verses 10 and following. He says, "I will, I will, I will, I will, I will," okay? In the Old Testament, it was more like, "You better, you better, you better, you better, you better," all right? In the Old Testament it was, "Do, do, do, do, do, do, you gotta do this, you gotta do that, you better do that, you better do that". And so much of it was driven by the negative. Let's take the Ten Commandments, okay? "Thou shalt not, thou shalt not, thou shalt not, thou shalt not, thou shalt not".

It was telling you what you do. And it was not only telling you what to do, it was telling it to you negatively. It was, "Not, not, not, not, not". In the Old Testament: "Do, do, do, do, do"; in the New Testament: "Done, done, done, done, done". It's a different twist. So if you are wanting to become godly, as all Christians should, then he wants to expose you to the mystery of godliness. Now, having said that, he now introduces the mystery of godliness to be a person. He goes on in verse 16, he says six things about Jesus. First of all, "he who was revealed in the flesh".

That is the manifestation of God in human terms, in physical frame, deity poured into humanity. We call it in theology, the hypostatic union, which means two natures in one person unmixed forever. Two natures. Jesus had a divine nature and he had a human nature. But these two natures are in one person. The two never mix. The divine is the divine, the human is the human. And that's why Jesus could do both. One minute, he could be hungry because he was human. The next minute he could turn sardines and crackers into a Moby Dick sandwich and feed 25,000 people because he was God. One minute, he could say, "I thirst". The next minute he can walk on water. One minute, he could die, but then he could rise, because you got two natures in one person unmixed forever.

So that is the uniqueness God revealed in the flesh, which is why Isaiah says: "Unto us, a child is born," human. "But unto us, a Son is given," divine. That's why he's sometimes called the Son of God, sometimes called the Son of Man, because he bears both natures. He was secondly vindicated in the spirit. He was vindicated in the spirit. The Holy Spirit said this is my beloved son in whom I'm well pleased. The Holy Spirit was there during his temptation, the Holy Spirit was there with his resurrection. It goes on to say he was seen by angels, seen by angels at his birth, seen by angels, at his temptation, seen by angels in the God of Yosemite, angels were there at the death.

Angels were there to remove the stone when he rose from the dead and angels were there when Jesus stepped on a cloud and rose up to heaven, validation, heaven's validation of the uniqueness of Jesus Christ. He goes on, he says, proclaimed among the nations, Jesus has never written a book, but more books have been written about him than any other individual in human history. He never wrote a song. Yet more songs are sung about him than any other person in human history. The whole world has to be confronted with Jesus Christ. He goes on to say believe on in the world. Of course, Christianity is spread worldwide, take it up to glory.

That is the exaltation of Jesus Christ. He lists these six things to say that the mystery of Godliness is centered in the uniqueness of Jesus Christ. That's his point. The mystery of Godliness is tied to the uniqueness of Jesus Christ. And if that uniqueness is missing, the mystery stays hidden because a mystery is something hidden in the Old Testament that is revealed in the New Testament. That is the uniqueness of Jesus Christ. He is, if you will the master key that unlocks the mystery door of Godliness; turn with me a couple of pages over to Titus chapter 2, Titus chapter 2 for the verse 11, for the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men. Instructing us to deny ungodliness, here's our word, and worldly desires, which is the opposite of Godliness and to live sensibly righteously and Godly.

Our word again, in this present age. When he says the grace of God has appeared he is referring to the appearance of Jesus Christ in history. The Bible says the law came by Moses John chapter 1, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. He says in 2 Timothy chapter 1 verses 9 and 10, that the grace of God came by Jesus Christ. So here it is stick with me. The mystery of Godliness concealed in the old but revealed in the new is the entrance upon the scene of Jesus Christ, bringing the grace of God with Him for the grace of God has appeared that is, has been made manifest. Grace is the manifestation of the goodness of God that you cannot earn do not deserve and could never repay. Grace is always without exception free. You can't buy it, you can't earn it, you can't pay for it. You don't deserve it. It's what God gives away. Okay? Grace is always given. Jesus Christ brought grace out of the shadows.

Now, here is where it gets tricky, by the way. 2 Peter chapter 3 verse 18 says, grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, that is grow in your understanding of grace. A whole book in the Bible was written about this, the book of Galatians because people were struggling with the two covenants, the old and the new and they were going back and forth Old Testament, sometimes New Testament, sometimes Old Testament, sometimes New Testament sometimes. And the Bible says, if you go back and forth, you nullify the grace of God, Galatians chapter 2 verse 21. He tells them, stop nullifying, canceling out the grace of God, stop keeping the grace from flowing. Because if the grace is not flowing Godliness is not occurring because the mystery of Godliness is tied to the flow of grace.

So if you don't understand grace or not accessing grace, you cannot become Godly. Grace is what God is free to do. And here is what grace does. He says, verse 12, it instructs us. So he calls grace, a teacher instructing us to deny ungodliness and to deny worldly desires and positively, to live sensibly, righteously and Godly in this present age. Looking for the blessed hope and appearance of the glory of our great God and Savior. Notice Jesus Christ is called God and Savior, because here's what makes grace so powerful. Grace empowers what it demands. As I put it last week, batteries are included. The Bible gives you instruction.

The Bible is a manual that gives you instruction. Let me tell you what the Bible doesn't give you: power. It gives you information, but it doesn't give you the power to pull it off, which is why you can read the Bible, study the Bible, go to church and hear the Bible preached, and not change. That's why over and over again, the Bible says you cannot be transformed to godliness by the law because all the law will do, all the do's and don't's of the Bible will do, is frustrate you, because it'll just make you feel guilty all the time. So I don't care what your ungodliness is here today, grace has been situated in such a way to cause you to handle it.

But if you keep going back to the scrubbing board, then you're frustrating the grace of God or as Galatians 5 says, "You're nullifying the grace of God". The grace of God, that is his supernatural provision, if that works, in the Old Testament, God was with them. In the New Testament when Jesus showed up, God was among them. And now that Jesus has risen, God is in them. Old Testament is with; the Gospels among; the church age, you and I now that Jesus is no longer physically on earth, within. That's why Jesus sent the Holy Spirit. He is your motor. So Jesus Christ, the grace of God, has already situated you for godliness. 2 Corinthians 5:21: "He who knew no sin became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in him". "He who knew no sin became sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in him".

Now, here's how this works, okay? Now, we'll tell you how... all I can do today with my time is tell you, here's how this works. On the cross, God took your sin and my sin and credited it onto Jesus Christ. Jesus died for sin on credit, okay? Because he never sinned. He died for our sin. But since he didn't sin, how could he die for our sin? Credit. God credited our sin onto him. When you become a Christian, God credits the righteousness of Christ to us, and his righteousness is perfect righteousness, because he never sinned. So he got all your sin, and when you accepted Christ as Savior, you got all his righteousness. Now watch this. Jesus Christ fulfilled all the demands of God perfectly. He said, "I've come to fulfill all righteousness". He says, "I've come to fulfill the law".

Okay, watch this now. Perfect Jesus, revealed in the flesh, all those great things said about him. Perfect Jesus is now in you. Perfect Jesus, if you've accepted Jesus as your sin bearer, is now in you. The mystery of godliness is a person. The person who's the basis of the mystery of godliness is now in you, okay? How godly is Jesus? Perfect. So you have perfect righteousness, perfect godliness, mysteriously indwelling in you. But you say, "Wait a minute. I got perfection walking around inside of me? Well, then, why am I so imperfect? Why am I still struggling with this and that and the other? And why if I've accepted Christ and I've Christ in me, am I so* perfect"?

There's only one reason: because Christ has not been sufficiently freed up to be himself in you. See, when you receive Christ, you receive Christ in seed form, but you can stifle the expression of grace manifested in the presence of Jesus Christ so that we don't learn to live by grace, because we don't feed the seed, we feed the law, and all the law can do is condemn you. The Bible says with the law comes the knowledge of sin. You can read the ten commandments and know what's wrong, but the Ten Commandments were never given to help you fix it. It was only given to show it. Christ being revealed in the flesh was given to fix it. So as Christ expands within you, godliness expands within you.

As Christ is restricted within you, godliness is restricted within you. So you don't need more programs. You need more of the expression of Christ within you, because he is the mystery of godliness. "He that hath the Son hath life. He that hath not the Son does not have life abiding in him". John 10:10: "I have come to give you grace, life, and to give it to you more abundantly". The way to get godly is to get more of the Son. Because with the Son, God gives you everything else.

Since God has now revealed to us the secret, the secret of godliness, which really is centered on the person and work of Jesus Christ, and having that work operating in our lives, so that godliness doesn't just come by our own human effort, but by Jesus Christ expressing his life in our life, something that the Old Testament saints didn't fully understand, but that New Testament Christians have full access to. When we understand that Christ wants to be formed in us so that we are really expressing his life in our human existence, then we don't have to try to be Christians. We just have to please Christ and he will be the Christian that we ought to be in and through our mortal bodies. So grow in your faith and you will naturally grow in your godliness because Christ will be at home expressing his life in our lives.
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