Train for godliness

“Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; 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. 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. Command and teach these things. Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things; immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.” 1 Timothy 4:7-16

We would say that we are bible believing people. We would affirm the authority of the bible. We would even affirm the inerrancy of Scripture.

A pastor from Jakarta, Indonesia told me once that the problem with western Christians is that they know more than they do. I think he is right. Christians in the east don’t consider bible study to be the mass taking in of information but the taking in of information they immediately go and practice. In other words bible study ends in doing what they just learned or it’s not bible study. We study, give it the holy grunt of affirmation, nod, pray then go back to doing whatever we want that does not in any way inconvenience me.

So much of what western Christians do nullifies what they say they believe.

Don’t misunderstand what I’m about to say. I’m part of the problem. We organize our fall schedule around Friday night, Saturdays in Athens and Sunday afternoons with the Falcons. I get it. But the fascination with the sports culture and our children blows my mind. We have our little ones playing football when the helmet is larger than their bodies. Muslims have their little ones in school to learn Isalm. So, when the worldviews of Christianity and Islam clash the Muslim appears to win the day regarding ideals and mission advancement, but our kids could win at 12 man football!

We train our bodies like they are the object of our worship. I’m all for training. I do work at that (primarily so I can eat not to be a rock hard poster child for the temple of the body), but I do give time to the discipline of keeping in some measure of shape. But do we train for godliness? Paul affirms that there is some value to physical training but that training for godliness is far better. Why? Because this physical body is doomed to corruption due to the fall, but the soul will last forever and can be trained for the eternal kingdom now!

Why don’t we act like this is true? It could be that we know the right things (or maybe we don’t) and we just have not taken what we know to practice.

Do this:

1. Take an inventory of how you spend your time.

2. Catalog the amount of time spent on temporal things that are going to perish.

3. Catalog the amount of time spent on eternal things that will be rewarded and will last into the eternal kingdom.

4. Begin exercising spiritual disciplines that will help reverse any negative trending (prayer, bible study, silence, solitude, fasting, and fellowship).

5. Begin to take note of “feeling” the soul’s healing and growth as opposed to “feeling” the flesh’s demise (when I say flesh I mean the sinful nature not the physical body itself).

6. Note how often you practice the things you are reading in your bible. Does that tell me I’m a Christian or a “poser”?

7. Repent of anything contrary to the gospel.

If we truly believe the gospel, then we have to act like we do. If our “beliefs” don’t go from head to heart to hands/feet, then those beliefs are no different from those of the demons who believe and tremble (James 2:19).

Just a word about priorities: George Muller, my hero, said that the most important task of his day was to make sure his soul was happy in the Lord and at peace in the Lord or he could not handle the day’s tasks. I don’t believe setting spiritual priorities means we don’t do our work, but I don’t believe we need to work in the place of spiritually nourishing our souls in the Lord either. At some point we have to decide that my soul’s rest will make me a better worker, able to trust the Lord, and then I may be more productive rather than believing I need to be productive before my soul is fed. If the Scripture is true, then I have to give priority to godliness and maybe let the productivity go. What is wrong with our Christian culture when tasks take the place of training in godliness? Could it be that the “Christian culture” needs to be changed? Could it be that we look less like Christians and more like secularists using Christian language? We must decide who we will serve.

Train for godliness like you really believe eternal things are eternal and temporal things are temporal and the eternal kingdom, the new heaven and earth are coming at the return of our King who will rule his Kingdom well.

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