How can we train ourselves for godliness? – Part 3

In my last post, I encouraged you to consistently feed on God’s Word. I know that can be difficult. Other things are always vying for our attention each and everyday. So how can we consistently feed on God’s Word?

How can we consistently feed on God’s Word?

(1) We should practice the spiritual disciplines

If you aren’t familiar, the term Spiritual disciplines, refers to our daily efforts to intake God’s Word and meet with Him in prayer. We can do that in a number of ways:

  • Reading
  • Memorizing
  • Meditating
  • Discussing with others
  • Attending Bible studies

These are all ways for us to daily get into God’s Word and pray. The hard part is doing it daily. That is where the discipline part comes in because it takes effort and work to get into God’s Word on a daily basis. We know we need to practice the spiritual disciplines, we just don’t do it.

How can we get to a place where we are consistent in getting into the Word and praying?

Let me offer a few suggestions.

(1) Use a plan

You don’t build a house or start a business without a plan, nor should you practice the spiritual disciplines without a plan. We have to know where we are going and how we are going to get there, which is why a Scripture reading plan is crucial. Not only does it help provide direction, but it helps you track your progress, so that you know you are on target.

(2) Schedule a Meeting

Along with a reading plan, it is a good idea to plan when you are going to meet with God and put it on your calendar just like you would any other meeting. I find the appointments I schedule are the ones that usually happen.

(3) Pick a place

Along with scheduling a time, it’s probably a good idea to schedule a place to have your meeting. When thinking about the place, I encourage you to pick a place that you can sit, read, and pray without distraction or discomfort. For me, that’s usually the kitchen table if the kids aren’t up, my office or the back porch. Those are quiet, distraction free places that are comfortable.

(4) Change it up 

Don’t use the same Bible reading method or plan year in and year out. Instead, change it up. Use a read through the Bible plan one year, camp in a book the next, or select a specific topic of study.

But don’t just change up your plan, try changing up the version you read as well. A different translation can help you discover things you may not have seen before. And that can help keep things fresh.

(5) Meet with a group

Studying together is a great way to get more out of your daily devotions. I am in a study group that meets every Friday morning — our Men’s Breakfast. It has been a blessing to me. As we have worked our way through several books of the Bible, I have discovered things about God’s Word that I would not have on my own.
And meeting with those guys every week also helps keeps me on track. I know I have to be prepared on Friday. Having that deadline helps me to be consistent.

So those are just a few ways you can practice the spiritual disciplines more regularly. Hopefully, one or several of those will help you to be more consistent in feeding on God’s Word.

Along with practicing the spiritual disciplines, if we want to constantly feed on God’s Word,

(2) We must set our hope on Christ 

That is what kept the apostle Paul going, and that is what should keep us going. Look at what he says in verse 10,

“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.” (1 Ti 4:10)

Paul tells us to set our hope on God because he knows the ways of the world are completely bankrupt. Jesus is the One who gives us hope. He is the One who saves, sanctifies, and satisfies.

Knowing that Jesus is our only hope should drive us to want to know Him and to live according to His ways. The way we grow in our knowledge of Jesus, the way we come to know how He wants us to live, the way we are motivated to keep pressing on is by reading His Word. So our hope in Christ, then, should drive us to feed on God’s Word. As we feed on His Word, we should grow in godliness.

Knowing that, then, should drive us to intake God’s Word on a daily basis. I encourage you to make a commitment today to read, study, meditate on, memorize, and pray God’s Word. That’s the only way we are going to grow in godliness — in our devotion, respect, and desire for God — so let’s commit ourselves to feasting on the meat of God’s Word daily so we will be a people who are consistently growing.

Question for Reflection?

  1. What tactics do you use to make sure you are consistently feeding on God’s Word?

Resources

Post adapted from my sermon: How Can We Train Ourselves for Godliness?

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How can we train ourselves for godliness? – Part 2

We don’t get saved one day, and wake up the next godly. We must train ourselves for godliness. But how? Maybe you are new to this. Maybe you aren’t a seasoned gym rat who knows exactly what exercises to do and how to do them. But you see the value of growing in godliness and you are willing to put in effort. Maybe that’s you. And you are sitting their wondering, how do I do this? Where do I start? Let’s spend a few minutes talking about that.

How Do We Train Ourselves for Godliness?

(1) We shouldn’t waste our time on godless myths, old wives tales, and conspiracy theories

Writing to Timothy Paul says,

“Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness;” (1 Ti 4:7)

There are a lot of things out there that are promoted as spiritual. Think about:

  • Horoscopes
  • Psychics
  • Ouija Boards

All these claim to have a connection to the spiritual world. But God is not in them. It’s Satan who’s behind these things. Knowing that, we as Christians, shouldn’t mess with or explore them.

Another thing we shouldn’t get caught up in is things like the Bible code. If you haven’t heard anything about the Bible code, it basically deals with a made up numbering system that’s supposed to reveal to us hidden knowledge in the Bible. I say made up because there is no hidden knowledge in Bible. God has plainly revealed everything that we need to know. So we shouldn’t waste our time with ideas like that. It doesn’t promote godliness.

Another thing we shouldn’t spend a lot time with is End Times speculations. I know that it is popular to try to figure out dates and ordering of events. When or if Israel is going to build a Temple. Or even if they have all the stuff to do it. But if we are honest with ourselves, none of that stuff really helps us to grow in godliness. It’s all speculation and a big waste of time, a distraction.

We know the end is coming. We have a general idea of what is going to happen. That’s really all we need. So instead of focusing on speculative theories, we need to focus on those things that can be known now. They are what’s going to help us grow, so they need to be our focus.

One last thing I’ll mention that we shouldn’t focus on is conspiracy theories. They are abundant, can pull us in, and even divide us from those we are supposed to love. If we want to grow in godliness, we need to avoid conspiracy theories.

You see, as Christians, we can’t allow godless, idle chatter to take up the majority of our time. We only have so much of it. And if you think about it, the Bible itself is a huge book with enough content to keep us busy for a lifetime. So instead of focusing on this other stuff that has no value for promoting growth in godliness, we should focus on God’s Word. It is what is going to grow us in our Christian life, which is what we as Christians should be after.

That’s not just coming from me. That is what God is telling us through His Word. That is what verse 7 is all about.

So instead of wasting our time with godless myths, old wives tales, and conspiracy theories,

(2) We should constantly feed on the Word of God  

Paul tells Timothy to do just that in verse 6, when he says,

“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.” (1 Ti 4:6)

To me the NASB gets across the point of the phrase “being trained in the words of the faith” better when it translates it as “constantly nourished on the words of the faith.” That tells us, then, that Paul is telling Timothy that he must consistently feed or nourish himself with the truths of the gospel and God’s Word in order to sustain his faith, his commitment to Christ, and his spiritual energy and enthusiasm.

You see, these godless silly myths won’t do that for us. Only God’s Word will sustain and grow us. They are Satan’s tools of distraction. Instead we must feed on the Word.

The idea of feeding on the gospel and God’s Word should resonate with us. In order for us to survive and go about our daily tasks, we have to constantly feed our bodies. If we don’t eat, we won’t have any energy. Eventually, we will waste away and die.

Just as our physical life must be sustained by food, our spiritual life must be sustained by the food of God’s Word. We have to constantly feed on it in order to provide ourselves with the spiritual nourishment necessary to sustain and grow our spiritual life.

So if we are getting in to things that are taking us away from God’s Word or are just dealing with speculative theories that no one can really know is true or not, we need to forsake those things. And return to the meat of God’s Word, so that we will be nourished and can continue to grow in godliness. We must be a people who constantly feed on the Word of God. It must be a consistent part of our daily diet.

Looking Forward

Next time, I will provide some practical ways we can consistently feed on God’s Word.

Question for Reflection?

  1. What are some other ways we can train ourselves for godliness?

Resources

Post adapted from my sermon: How Can We Train Ourselves for Godliness?

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How can we train ourselves for godliness? – Part 1

One of my first jobs right out of college was at a company by the name of Cbeyond. They were a telecommunications company that sold Voiceover IP services. Unlike other companies, they didn’t just throw you to the wolves the first day. I mean, eventually, you were thrown to the wolves, but before that happened they put me through a rigorous training program.

My first two weeks on the job, I did nothing but learn about the company and the products they sold. As well as I did a lot of role playing, running through different scenarios they expected us to face in the field. You see, I didn’t just get hired and wake up the next day an excellent salesman for Cbeyond. I had to be trained.

That is the same with godliness. We don’t get saved one day, and wake up the next godly.

We Must Train Ourselves for Godliness

This is what Paul urges Timothy to do, to train himself for godliness. In verses 7 and 8 of 1 Timothy 4 Paul says,

“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.” (1 Ti 4:7–8)

When Paul tells Timothy to train himself for godliness, he’s not telling him to neglect his body.

The Body Isn’t Bad

As Christians, we don’t believe that the body is bad while the spirit is good. We believe both are good. After all, God is going to resurrect our physical bodies when Jesus returns, make them new, and we will live in those glorified bodies for all eternity. So our bodies aren’t bad. They aren’t to be neglected. We should do all that we can to take care of our bodies. God has given them to us to steward, so we should steward them well. Which means we should watch what we eat, exercise, listen to our doctors, and take our medication.

Don’t Make Your Body an Idol

But while stewarding our bodies is important, it can’t be all that we do. We aren’t to make an idol out of our bodies. They shouldn’t become something we worship.

Focus on the Spiritual Life

We must also, as Paul tells us, focus on our spiritual life. In fact, it seems our spiritual life should be our primary focus because it will not only pay dividends in the future, but now as well. So we should do as Paul tells us — we should train ourselves for godliness.

What does it mean to train ourselves for godliness? 

Training is something we should all be familiar with. It’s an exercise term. Many of us, at least at some point in our lives, have trained for something.

Last year I trained for a 5k. Not to be able to run it, I run 3 miles all the time, but to run it at a certain pace. Hitting the pace I had set for myself wasn’t going to happen over night. It knew it would take time for my legs, heart, and breathing to get stronger. So I spent several months stressing my body and teaching myself to run more efficiently. I’m happy to say I hit my target pace. But that wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t been training.

So training, then, is an act by which we develop a certain skill or behavior through regular practice, activity, and instruction.

Godliness Associated with Training

The other word Paul associates with training is godliness. Godliness simply means that we have a deep respect for and devotion to God. So when we say someone is godly, what we are saying is that they are a person who is devoted to and is living for God.

Putting It All Together

Putting this altogether, we learn that:

Training ourselves for godliness means that we are constantly working to grow in our devotion, respect, and desire for God.

We don’t get to that point over night, nor do we ever reach a point where we believe ourselves to be godly and stop training. It takes a lot of continued time, effort, and work that plays out over a lifetime. But it’s worth it. So we should make it a point to enter into God’s gym daily training ourselves for godliness.

Looking Forward

Next time, I will provide some practical ways we can train ourselves for godliness.

Question for Reflection?

  1. Are you training for godliness?

Resources

Post adapted from my sermon: How Can We Train Ourselves for Godliness?

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10 Ways to Imitate the Godly

In Philippians 3:17, Paul commands us to imitate him. What are we to imitate about Paul? We are to imitate his mindset and actions. Paul’s letter to the Philippians gives us a good picture of who Paul is, how he thinks, and what he does. So let’s look at Paul’s minset and actions up to this point in the letter. In doing so, we will see 10 ways to imitate the godly.

 10 Ways to Imitate the Godly

(1) Paul constantly and fervently prays for others (1:1-11)

  • He thanks God for the salvation and growth of the Philippians. As well as he prays for the Philippians growth and perseverance.

(2) Paul proclaims the gospel (1:12)

  • He knows the gospel is the only means to renewal and restoration, so he relentlessly and continually proclaims the gospel, even in jail.

(3) Paul’s all consuming passion is to glorify Christ (1:12-30)

  • He doesn’t care what happens to him as long as the gospel is proclaimed he rejoices, which is why he can rejoice even when he is in jail, beaten, or killed for the gospel.

(4) Paul holds others accountable (2:2;14)

  • He rebukes the Philippians of their disunity, urging them to be unified with one another.

(5) Paul takes up the mindset of Christ (2:5-11)

  • He humbles himself, counts others more significant than himself, looks out for the interests of others, and he takes up the Father’s will for his life.

(6) Paul knows God is the One who empowers him to work in the Christian life (2:12-13)

  • He does not seek to live in a manner worthy of the gospel in his own power. He recognizes God is the one who empowers him, which keeps Paul humble and not prideful, and it also keeps him from becoming discouraged and quitting.

(7) Paul watches out for others souls (3:2)

  • He warns the Philippians of the dogs in their midst, taking care to inform them of their behavior and their error, so they will not be deceived.

(8) Paul sees the gospel as the only means of salvation (3:2-9)

  • He does not trust in his own achievements. Instead he sees his achievements as rubbish, and he counts everything he ever gained as a Pharisee loss for the sake of knowing Christ.

(9) Paul doesn’t believe he has arrived (3:12-13)

  • He knows that he still has room to grow, knowing that he does not fully know Christ yet.

(10) Paul strives and strains forward to Christ (3:12;14)

  • He keeps his eye on the prize, removing all distractions. He does not allow others to beat him into submission. He is constantly moving forward towards Christ, constantly straining forward.

That is the picture we get of Paul so far in Philippians, and those are the qualities and actions we should imitate. Second to Jesus Christ, he is to be our guide as to how we are to think and live because he reflects Christ.

Questions for Reflection

  1. Does your life resemble Paul’s?
  2. Is your life one that someone could imitate?
  3. Do you know that if your life does not resemble Paul’s, the Holy Spirit will empower you to grow in your Christian walk, so you don’t have to despair or beat yourself up.
  4. Do you believe all Christians should strive to imitate Paul, or do you think living sold out for Christ is reserved for the super Christian?

Resource

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Respectable Sins: 4 Manifestations of Pride | Part 4

In my last post in this series, I discussed the pride of achievements. Today, I continue my discussion by focusing on the pride of an independent spirit.

The Pride of an Independent Spirit

This form of pride expresses itself in two ways: (1) “A resistance to authority, especially spiritual authority”, and (2) “an unteachable attitude.”[1]

This particular form of pride stems from believing that we know everything. When we think we know more than someone else, we are less likely to submit to their spiritual guidance and authority. This is something the Bible condemns. In Hebrews 13:17, we read,

“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

Even though this verse directly applies to spiritual leaders in our churches, the principle of teachability and submission carries over to any situation where we are under the tutelage of a more mature believer. Which means there are those who are more mature than us that can help us grow in our Christian walk. We should take advantage of those relationships by being mentored, which should then result in us mentoring others.

How do we guard against this form of pride?

I believe we can guard against this form of pride by meditating on the following Scriptures.

“My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you,” (Prov. 2:1)

“My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments,” (Prov. 3:1)

“Hear, O sons, a father’s instruction, and be attentive, that you may gain insight,” (Prov. 4:1)

“My son, be attentive to my wisdom; incline your ear to my understanding,” (Prov. 5:1)

“My son, keep my words and treasure up my commandments with you;” (Prov. 7:1)

All of these Scriptures stress teachability and a respect for authority. Just as a son is to respect his father’s authority and allow him to teach him that which he does not know, we are to respect the spiritual authority of those more mature than us, allowing them to teach us, so that we can grow in our Christian walk.

Questions for Reflection

  1. Are you susceptible to this form of pride?
  2. In what generation does this sin typically surface?
  3. What other issues besides an independent spirit do you believe hinders mentoring relationships in our churches?
  4. How might being mentored by a more mature believer benefit you?
  5. If you are currently being mentored, would you share how that time has benefited your spiritual progress?

Resource

[1] Jerry Bridges, Respectable Sins, 97.

Post Adapted from Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges, 97-100.

Respectable Sins: 4 Manifestations of Pride | Part 3

In my last post in this series, I discussed the pride of correct doctrine. Today, I continue my discussion by focusing on the pride of achievement.

The Pride of Achievement

Let me say upfront, I believe it is okay to take pleasure in and enjoy our accomplishments. Where I believe we become prideful in our achievements is when we believe that we are the ones who got ourselves there, or when we believe we are better than others because of our place in life. In other words,

Pride in our achievements is having too high of an opinion of ourselves and not realizing we have accomplished what we have accomplished because of God’s work in our lives.

While Scripture is replete with references to a “cause-and-effect relationship between hard work and success in any endeavor” (Prov. 13:4; 2 Tim. 2:15; 1 Cor. 9:26-27; Phil. 3:12-14), Scripture also tells us that all our talents and natural skills, intellect, health, and opportunities come from God, so that nothing happens outside of God’s sovereign control and will [1].

Several verses come to mind to back up that claim. Some of which are: 1 Samuel 2:7; Psalm 75:6-7; Haggai 1:5-6.

1 Samuel 2:7-8 reads,

The Lord makes poor and makes rich; he brings low and he exalts.

Psalm 75:6-7 reads, 

For not from the east or from the west and not from the wilderness comes lifting up, but it is God who executes judgment, putting down one and lifting up another.

Haggai 1:5-6 reads,

Now, therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes.

So then, we see that “we have nothing that will enable us to achieve success that we did not receive from God”, because there is nothing that we have that did not come from God since He is the all sovereign Ruler of the universe [2]. Granted, from a human perspective, it does not always seem that God has given us everything we have. Rather, it seems that we have what we have because of our hard work.

However, when we look at Scripture we see that our work ethic, intellect, abilities and talents, as well as our opportunities are all given to us by God. Jerry Bridges, commenting on this idea, says, “There is no such thing as a ‘self-made man’ – that is the man (or woman) who has ‘pulled himself up by his own boot straps'”[3]. God is the one who has given that person the “entrepreneurial spirit and business acumen that enabled” them to succeed [4]. Paul confirms this when he writes in 1 Corinthians 4:6-7,

“I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?”

So we see that we have no reason to be puffed up, God is the one who gives us everything that we have.

How do we guard against this form of pride?

First, we need to realize that when we accomplish anything, we have only done our duty. In Luke 17:10, Jesus says,

“So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’ ”

Second, all our recognition comes from God, no matter the source. He is the One who causes others to recognize us, and He is the One who causes others to compliment us (Ps. 75:6-7).

Looking Forward

In my next installment in this series, I will focus on the pride of an independent spirit. Until then, reflect on this post through the questions below.

Questions for Reflection

  1. Are you susceptible to this form of pride?
  2. What do you believe God has endowed you with so that you can accomplish all that you have accomplished in life?
  3. What or who do we often believe gets us our achievements?
  4. How might it affect our lives and relationship with God if we rid the pride of achievements from our life?

Resource

[1] Jerry Bridges, Respectable Sins, 9394.
[2] Jerry Bridges, Respectable Sins, 94.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.

Post Adapted from Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges, 93-96