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Training for Godliness

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One of the ways I was discipled while serving on staff at a church was to read through books together with my pastor and spend time each week talking about what we read. The first book was by Kent Hughes— “Disciplines of a Godly Man”. At this point in my spiritual life, although I was already serving as a youth pastor, I was still extremely raw in my understanding of how the Christian was to continue to grow spiritually. My pastor recognized that and loved me enough to walk me through this book and see the Lord use it to change me greatly.
Monday when I sat down to read today’s passage, I was reminded of how this book opened its first chapter.
My first church hired me because they had recently built a basketball gym and I was good at basketball and known in that area. There reasoning was that it would be easy for me to get kids to come to the church. Plus I was engaged to Megs at the time and the other person they were looking at wasn’t.
Mike Singletary— Only 6’ tall and maybe 220lbs. He was a perennial all-pro, 2 time NFL defensive player of the year, and member of Super Bowl 25 Dream Team.
I loved the Lord and felt like this was the path He placed me on but I had zero clue what I was doing and zero spiritual discipline. I relied on my relational skills instead of the power of the Holy Spirit.
Then I was called to FBC Abbeville and nothing much changed… not first the first 9 months anyway. I was there without a pastor. It was just me and our sweet secretary on staff. The interim pastor was only there on Sundays and Wednesday nights. My practice of the spiritual disciplines was so inconsistent and sloppy, it was starting to impact other areas of my life negatively. Ultimately it came down to me having no idea what I was doing and being too lazy to do even the things I knew I ought to be doing.
How? He spent around 3 hours watching 20-30 plays of football studying every tendency the team he was preparing to face had. He could watch the same play up to 60 times. The key word is discipline.
Then First Baptist hired their new senior pastor and my life got turned upside down.
Da Vinci— Known to be the master at painting the human body.
How? On one occasion he drew a thousand hands attempting to perfect the shade and structure of it. The key word is discipline.
Winston Churchill— A master of eloquent speeches.
How? Even though he had a lisp that was constantly the butt of everyone’s jokes, he spent hours writing out and practicing his speeches. He would stand in front of the mirror for hours practicing his tone, facial expressions and the movement of his hands. The key word is discipline.
Kent Hughes spends time in the opening chapter of his book listing these and many more with far greater detail about their disciplined habits. Then he makes the most humbling observation. Reading back over it again this past week… church it literally hit me like a ton of bricks--
“We will never get anywhere in life without discipline, be it in the arts, business, athletics, or academics. This is doubly so in spiritual matters. In other areas we may be able to claim some innate advantage. An athlete may be born with a strong body, a musician with perfect pitch, or an artist with an eye for perspective. But none of us can claim an innate spiritual advantage. In reality, we are equally disadvantaged. None of us naturally seeks after God, none is inherently righteous, none instinctively does good (). Therefore, as children of grace, our spiritual discipline is everything!”
If it’s everything… what is it??!!
What is spiritual discipline?
Spiritual discipline is habitually participating in particular practices found in Scripture for the purpose of growing in godliness.
That’s what Paul tells us here in this passage.Now, we are going to read a chunk of Scripture here… and then we’ll step back and then work through it a section or two at a time.
1 Timothy 4:
1 Timothy 4:6–16 ESV
If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. 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.
I think it would be helpful to make two points before we start our outline that will help us understand this passage.
First, Paul is super-serious when he is talking about “training ourselves for godliness”. The word he uses here for train is “gumnazo” which literally means to train naked. In the Greek/Roman world the athletes would often compete with no clothes on because they believed the clothes were a hindrance to their performance. So, Paul is telling us today that there is a need to strip away from our lives anything that might slow us up in our race towards godliness.
This is the point that the author of Hebrews is making--
Hebrews 12:1 ESV
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
We are running this race, surrounded by testimonies of God’s worth and faithfulness, and there is a need to lay aside every weight and sin… Now that’s what we need to notice— it’s not just sin. Yes, sin needs to be placed aside but also every weight. So the common question is— can I do this? Is this is a sin? And I’m telling you that is the lowest question you could ask. The better question is— Does it help me run? Does this thing, this habit, this action, this word aid in my chase toward purity and holiness and love and patience and kindness and selflessness.
Paul is serious about our training in godliness.
The second thing we need to notice off the bat is— This all seems super legalistic. Legalism is the fear that our Christianity will slip back into doing nothing but obeying a bunch of rules that we can never fully keep which leads to frustration and spiritual sickness. Christianity is all about grace and we often believe that the moment we start talking about disciplining ourselves in certain areas for our spiritual health and growth… we’ve lost the heartbeat of our faith.
This cannot be farther from the truth.The difference is motivation. Legalism is self-centered. Discipline is God-centered. The legalistic heart says I will do this and gain favor with God. The Disciplined heart says I will do this because I love and want to know Him more.
There is an infinite difference in legalism and discipline.
So with those two points understood… That this is serious and needed and healthy. Let’s work to answer our question--
What does it look like to train yourself in Godliness?
Training yourself in godliness is a Continual Exercise
Begins with a solid foundation
“being trained” or “having been trained”
Paul isn’t expecting Timothy just to derive a plan from his own creative thinking. Timothy had a mother and a grandmother that was devoted to pouring into him spiritual things. He spent years being intentionally discipled by Paul. Timothy knew the path to godliness and here was being exhorted by Paul to continue on that path.
Here’s what really gets me in the larger culture of the church— we have replaced the biblical model of discipleship with programs and classes taught by a few people and many check out on the biblical mandate to help young Christians get a solid footing in how to live the Christian life.
Many people ask me what my hope and vision for Bethlehem is over the next 3-5 years. I’ll tell you— It’s for Bethlehem to be a church that is full of Godly men and Women that sacrificially pour their life into others for the purpose of helping them grow in godliness. No one in this room is excused from the biblical charge to help brothers and sisters in Christ grow in their faith.
I honestly believe it would thrill the heart of Jesus
Demands a focused mind
Have nothing to do with the silly stuff… rather!!! That word is key. Because you and I are going to fill our minds with something so you can’t just refrain from paying attention to the junk that clutters you have to be intentional in soaking in things that will propel you towards Jesus.
Colossians 3:1–2 ESV
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.
Everything you do in this life should run through a biblical filter that helps you see how it can be done to the glory of Jesus.
— Making a budget? How can you intentionally use your money for God’s glory. Stewardship is a spiritual discipline. Your question when looking at your finances and getting prepared to give should not be— “How much am I going to give to God this week?” But rather— “How much of God’s money am I going to keep for myself this week?”
— Playing rec league ball? How can I find people to minister too at the park?
— Buying groceries? Who can I fix dinner for this week or invite over for dessert of coffee?
Calls for a persevering commitment
Look at the imperatives in these verses!! Train, command, teach, let no one, set, devote, do not neglect, practice, immerse, keep, persist… These are activities… actions that are given to us that have no end in this life.
Training yourself in godliness is rooted in spiritual benefits
Training yourself in godliness gains Results v. 8-10
Promise for the present life
Are you hurting for someone in your life that may not know Jesus or maybe has just strayed far away? What’s the best thing you can do for them? Train yourself for godliness because it will have an impact on their life. It holds promise for this life. You get hit with a major blow— a sickness or an unexpected tragedy or a ferocious trial… How will you continue to say Jesus is good through it all? Having been trained and persisting in training yourself for godliness.
Promise for the life to come
I think about fasting. Fasting is a discipline where you abstain from something now believing Jesus will be a better satisfaction. Training ourselves for godliness is an action now that we believe will heighten our glorious experience in the life to come.
Training yourself in Godliness is a Practical Work
Done in private and in community
Like prayer… Jesus prayed privately and he prayed with the disciples.
Love Faith and Purity characterizing these two areas
Spiritual Disciplines are means and not the end
If you think you are godly because you practice disciplines you are nothing more than a Pharisee. Practicing spiritual disciplines don’t make you godly but are the path we take to godliness. The disciplines in themselves are not the goal but godliness.
Spiritual Disciplines don’t take us past the Gospel but deeper into it
We don’t say, “The Gospel is the ABC’s and now we will get super spiritual and practice the disciplines.” As if they hod some deeper knowledge within themselves. They work to help us better understand the Gospel.
We practice spiritual disciplines--
Take in our bible
Sit in silence and solitude
All for the purpose of knowing Jesus and making Him known.
Training for Godliness
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