Monthly Archives: June 2012

Brotherly Affection: The key ingredient that makes a Withdrawal work.

There are two reasons why a church group should practice Withdrawal and one key ingredient necessary to allow it to succeed.

It might be called Shunning, Disfellowshiping , or Excommunication, but anyway you slice it, it is a breaking off of fellowship from an individual. It says in effect, that “you” are no longer a part of “us”. The reasons that this should be practiced are: For the good of the congregation that he is being withdrawn from and for the good of the person from which fellowship is being withdrawn. The first reason is easy and requires no more than vigilance against Satan’s attacks. The second reason is harder and requires our key ingredient.

For the “good of the person” to be truly sought, the key ingredient in a Withdrawal process is Brotherly Affection. Without this key ingredient, the Withdrawal is guaranteed to fail. Even though some might confuse success with the action taken to withdraw from a person, success is only truly accomplished if the person withdrawn from comes back. This is not to say that the protection of the other members from the influence of the person is not a success, but because it is instinctive to protect the sheep in the fold, it is the easiest part of the process to practice. The hard part is letting our emotions of brotherly affection be shown and stomped on and hurt by someone who we want to rescue from Satan.

The good shepherd secured the 99 sheep (partial success) and went looking for the one (complete success). I know that if that sheep had been unwilling to return with the Good Shepherd, had run away from him, had insisted on playing with the wolves that the Shepherd would have been glad to have the 99. Consolation would be found in knowing that he had done what he could.

An example from Scripture

Without Brotherly affection, withdrawing fellowship does not become the incentive Paul imagined when he told the church at Corinth to withdraw from an ungodly brother. The situation was clear cut: One of the members was living a life of fornication.  However, the congregation still accepted him into their midst. What may have been perceived by them as a tolerance of someone who was sinning (after all we are all sinners) was perceived by Paul (correctly so) as arrogant and puffed up on their part and dangerous to the rest of the congregation.

  Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? (1Co 5:6)

However, protection of the rest of the saints was not Paul’s only hope:

you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.  (1Co 5:5)

The hope Paul expresses is to have this individual saved in the final day. It is not the process of withdrawal that does the saving but the repentance that this process can lead to.  Jesus, in Matthew 18, also wants us to go to a brother who is causing offense and resolve the issue. If he repents “you have gained your brother” which is the goal.

When brotherly affection is missing on either the part of the congregation. or the individual that is being withdrawn from, that bond that is being severed is not strong enough to be missed.  Without brotherly affection, it is easy to find fault, sit in judgement, coerce and push to keep someone in line who may be having difficulties that no one knows about…because no one has the affection for this person to find out.

What if it is missing?

When brotherly affection is missing on the part of the person being withdrawn from, then there is no loss associated with the withdrawal. “Well, they were never on my side anyway”, “This bunch of Christians is just holier-than-thou”, “I am better than some of those hypocrites” and so on. In other words, the bond that comes from tasting that the Lord is gracious (1 peter 2:1-2) was not made. Nor were these words heeded:

Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, (1Pe 1:22)

Yet, I think that it right to expect that the primary responsibility for the brotherly affection bond to be formed falls to the congregation. More than just potlucks and handshakes at service, a bond must be formed that says “I want to be with you” and “together we will journey toward Heaven”.  In this manner, if a brother decides to take a detour into Satan’s temptation highway, the separation will have an effect on both parties and more of a chance to succeed in bringing the erring brother back.

Sometimes it is necessary to withdraw fellowship but, having the key ingredient of Brotherly Affection already baked into the relationship will give the process of withdrawal the best chance for success.

photo credit: Jerrod Maruyama

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Does Brotherly affection belong in the family of God?

The above headline falls squarely under the category of Rhetorical. However, if it is so rhetorical why is it that we find so many people making justifications for not loving a brother in certain specific situations?

Keep in mind, we are not discussing the Agape love but the love that is known by emotions, Phileo love. Nor am I even suggesting that this is easy all the time to do. My own life would NOT bear witness to an attitude of brotherly love 100% of the time and for some, maybe not even 30%. The point is not to point and place blame but the point is to understand the ideal, the standard, the level of affection that Christ had. When we understand that ideal, we can better examine ourselves and look for that weakness that we can correct.

Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;  (1Pe 1:22-23 ESV)

As the old saying goes, we can pick our friends but we can’t pick our family. Even the natural course of life tells you that your parents chose to bring you and your siblings into the world, you did not get to choose. In the same way, the Gospel, the seed of the living world goes out, enters the heart and produces a Christian. You don’t get to choose who.

In fact, the early church tried to do that, preaching only among the Jews at first. However, the Gospel is not to be denied and it was eventually preached among the Gentiles. Although I have no proof of this, I imagine that certain ethnic or race groups may have initially been denied the Gospel though history but I dare say that there is no such group of persons to whom the Gospel was not eventually preached. If Paul had written Gal 3:28 today, I am convinced it would read something like this (bold print is my addition)

There is neither Jew nor Greek nor Muslim, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female,  there is neither Democrat, Republican, or Independent, there is no black or white, communist or capitalist,  for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal 3:28 ESV)

Not that he needed to add those words because they are implied in that verse as well as any other distinction man might make (blue eyes, red hair, rich, poor, etc) How dare we make distinctions where God has made none!

Without brotherly affection, it is easier to fight and argue. Without that bond that says, I like you and want to be around you, selfishness will grow. We will make distinctions among ourselves (James 2), strive to inflate our importance (James 3) and fight for our own rights, privileges, economic security (James 4).  When we realize that all of us (which includes the one writing and the one reading) were/are sinners who need God’s grace and mercy then we will be less judgmental towards others who also need it. (not need it more….that person does not exist) James 1 and 5.

We need to develop brotherly affection in ourselves and help draw it out in others. It is part of being a part of the family of God.

Question: Knowing that it can sometimes be hard, how can you develop brotherly love for someone that is hard to love? What else might cause a hindrance to developing this characteristic?

photo credit basykes

How to be poor even if you are rich.

Brotherly affection is one of those qualities that Peter tells us that we need to add to our faith. He promises to us that if we have it and increase in it that we will receive a valuable benefit. First, we will not be ineffective as a Christian; second, we will not be unfruitful as a Christian; third, we will not stumble and finally, we will be given entrance into the Kingdom of Jesus.  But what happens when we do not have brotherly affection? To answer this question, let’s look at the Prodigal son’s brother.

After the Prodigal had returned and his father was celebrating this return, the brother came in from the field and found out “there was a party goin’ on.”

But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.'”  (Luk 15:28-32 ESV)

He shows us how to be poor even if you are rich because…

He had no compassion on his brother.

Really, one might say that he didn’t even consider him to be his brother. “This son of yours” is a clear indication that he had separated from his the prodigal. Rather than rejoicing at the return of this prodigal to his good senses and to the family,  the brother is more concerned about the party that is being thrown. Perhaps he considered it  a  further waste of his inheritance since the prodigal had wasted his portion.

He was short sighted.

He focused on the service he had given his father and yet, never had received such a party for his friends as his father was throwing for the prodigal.  I rather doubt that this is completely true. In my own life, I know that I have exaggerated in order to justify my position. The use of the word “never” is key. What’s this? The father who is so generous to the returning prodigal NEVER(?) did anything nice for his son, never (?) threw a party for him, never(?) lavished him with gifts or some other present?

It may also be that the son had never asked. The father indicates that the son has access to what the Father had, could it be that he never asked for a party?

He bore a grudge.

There are many reasons why he could be upset with the Prodigal brother but he directs his anger at the party and the father. Why are you being so nice to him? In the parable, we see the Prodigal returning to the father to ask forgiveness. Perhaps this Prodigal needed to do the same thing to his brother. It was, after all, a sudden departure that robbed the family not just of physical wealth but relational wealth.  However, the brother would rather hold the grudge than confront his Prodigal brother (who, if I read the story correctly, would have begged forgiveness). This grudge would keep them separated longer now and it was not longer the Prodigal who was missing but the brother who is leaving (not physically but relationally).

He may have been envious.

In many contexts I have heard a sentiment expressed that says in so many words: If I had not been a Christian, I would have been able to enjoy this or that pleasure of life before getting saved. That is an expression of envy and unworthy of those who are called by the name of Christ. We envy those who are enjoying the pleasures of this world because we see ourselves restricted by the “rules” of being God’s sons.  Would we also envy their fate if they do not return?

The Prodigal’s brother was rich but he was really poor. Until his brother’s return, this poverty was not so easily noticed. Perhaps his father had realized this, maybe the father felt like he had lost two sons the day the prodigal left.

The application of this should be easy: If we are the brother who is still at home in the household of God, let us not fail to realize and recognize the benefits we have by serving our Heavenly Father. Let us also realize that we have a brother (or sister) who has left and needs to be welcomed back with open arms if they return.  We should not envy them, bear a grudge, or feel that their return will in any way diminish our reward.

Question: Are there other undesirable qualities that the brother showed in this parable?

photo credit: Martin Young 42

Three examples of Brotherly Affection we can imitate!

The concept of love can be confusing under the best of circumstances. However, throw our frequent use of the word into the equation and we really get lost. Growing up, my siblings and I would often make fun of this frequent use. If my brother said “I love this ice-cream”, my response in big brotherly sarcasm was “why don’t you marry it then?” Silly I know. It is also, perhaps,  the opposite of what I am trying to illustrate in this post!

Understanding  that Phileo love is generated from an affection and devotion to a person or thing, helps us as we try to add this very important characteristic to our faith. Three Biblical examples will help us understand this type of love so that we can imitate it in our lives as Christians. In each, the word love is not in the text.

Example #1: Barnabas

There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet. (Act 4:34-37 ESV)

He was not the only one who did this. Many did. There was a desire to help those who were in need. While it might be argued that this is an example of Agape love (duty bound), I would suggest that Barnabas did not do it for any other reason than a devotion to and affection for those who had obeyed the Gospel and now were in need.

This example is in contrast to Ananias and Sapphira in Chapter 5. Even though they also sold a field, there was not affection for anyone but their own selves. God was not fooled.

Lesson to be learned: Brotherly affection will help us loosen the ties to the material things we own.

Example #2: Onesiphorus

You are aware that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes. May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains, but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me earnestly and found me– may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that Day!–and you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus.  (2Ti 1:15-18 ESV)

Many turned away from Paul in his time of need. However, Onesiphorus (try saying that three times fast!) did not. Not only did he want to help Paul, but he searched diligently for him until he found him. Also, he did not let Paul’s imprisonment become, either a cause for shame or a fear that being Paul’s friend might get him put in jail also.

Lesson to be learned: Affection for our fellow Christians will help us overcome mundane worldly concerns for our own safety or social status.

Example #3: Jesus

Picking one example may be hard to do but look at the feeding of the four thousand.

In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat, he called his disciples to him and said to them, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away.”  (Mar 8:1-3 ESV)

What makes this act of compassion so important is that the recipients of His compassion were not Jews but Gentiles. (cf Mark 7:24, he leaves the borders of Israel) In this example, again a possible example of Agape love, we see His affection for those who were  also His creation but not treated so well by those who were in the covenant relationship with Him.

Of course, Jesus died to tear down that wall of separation (cf Eph 2:11ff) and it appears that he started tearing it down a little bit before before He died too. This is similar to Good Samaritan and once again shows that those who prove to be the neighbor are the ones who help in time of need.

One cannot read the Bible and draw the conclusion that we are allowed to hold back on the brotherly love. Additionally, while our responsibility is clearly to our own kindred in Christ first, it does not prohibit us from showing (and perhaps even requiring that we show) this same kindness to our lost spiritual “brother”, created in God’s image also, as we have an opportunity to do so.

Lesson to be learned: Brotherly Affection may start with those that we a lot in common with but as we grow in compassion, we may find opportunities to share affection with non Christians too.

Question: What are the best examples you have seen of an individual showing brotherly kindness to another brother?

Photo credit: sbhland (If you look closely, you will see several photos by this individual that picture the story of the Good Samaritan)

Adding brotherly affection

The sixth characteristic that Peter tells his audience to add in 2 peter 1 is Brotherly affection. It, too, is one of those qualities that need to be added to our faith to obtain the results he mentions in verse 8, 1o, and 11.

For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  (2Pe 1:8,10-11)

The Greek word for brotherly affection is Philadelphia. This should not surprise anyone since Philadelphia is also known as the city of brotherly love.  Philadelphia is really two words joined together. The first word “Phileo” is usually translated “Love” and the second word “Adelphos” is the Greek word for brother.

Understanding what Phileo love is will help us in understanding brotherly affection better. So today I will offer a few verses that give us insight into the word Phileo.If you consult Strong’s Greek dictionary, you will see that Phileo is a love that is strongly associated with devotion, dedication, and emotion. Agape is the other word for love in the Bible and is more of a mental decision: I choose to love or a duty to be fulfilled. (e.g. getting up for a 2 a.m. feeding is not done as much for the emotional love as it is for the duty love).

Here are four passages that illustrate Phileo being used:

For a person:

For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel.  (Joh 5:20)

For praise/honor:

They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. (Mat 23:5-7 ESV)
For falsehood:
Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and…everyone who loves and practices falsehood. (Rev 22:14-15 ESV)

For those who are like us:

If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; John 15:19

These passages show that Phileo love, a strong affection or devotion from the heart can be felt toward a person, an object (such as praise), lying, and for those who are like us (such as those who share our values).

When we take this type of love and direct it towards our brothers in the Lord, we get the concept that we are to be devoted to them, dedicated and bound to them, developing a feeling of affection towards them that is akin to the feelings we should have toward our own siblings.

In the next post, we will look at some examples of brotherly affection.

What passages in the Bible do you know of that help illustrate this type of love?

photo by Ben Sutherland

Training for godliness-Needing a mentor

If you wanted to train for a marathon you would undoubtedly work with a coach. Whether you paid the coach or not, you would want a coach with experience if you could get one. You would look for someone who has run a marathon perhaps or someone who has dedicated their life to training for these grueling endeavors. A friend of mine who has run several marathons reminds me that a marathon is not 26 miles. It is 26 POINT TWO miles and she puts a heavy emphasis on the POINT TWO! If you are going to train, train to finish!

The need for a mentor!

Having a mentor, older Christian, good example to follow, or someone who inspires and motivates you is an essential part of our Christian walk but also of our training to be more godly.  Whatever you do, don’t pick someone who lives as the world does. Paul said:

What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me–practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Php 4:9 ESV)

Before that he had said:

Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. (Php 3:17 ESV)

In other words, follow the good example of those who are living the godly life now. It is the champions and the people doing it that we should strive to imitate.

Jesus as a mentor!

Jesus spent three years with his disciples showing them example after example of what it was to be God-like, to follow the Father’s will (as opposed to your own) and how to serve others. One of the greatest examples, while he was still with them (though the cross is by far the greatest), is recorded in John’s Gospel:

During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. (Joh 13:2-5 ESV)

The lesson taught by Jesus was that HE as Lord served so they should serve. It is a great inspiration to us and helps for us to know how far he meant us to go. “What? To our enemies”, we ask? Jesus’ response is two-fold:

First, he washed all the disciples feet-even those of Judas who, at this time, was determined to betray him. Second, Does the Scripture not say we were enemies of God?

For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life; (Rom 5:10 ESV)

No one ever said training for a marathon was easy, neither should we say training for godliness is easy!

What we can learn from a mentor!

Mentors abound for us to learn from, those who are godly men and women in our congregation and those who we can read about in the Scripture. Hebrews 11 is a whole chapter that lists, by name, many of those who have run the race and finished it. We are training to follow their lead.

There are two things we will learn from our mentors, both living and dead.

First, they are not perfect and they can mess up royally sometimes. David broke almost all 10 of the commandments in one short event. (Quite a feat but not worthy to imitate). However, knowing that they are not perfect, keeps us from idolize them and concluding that we can never be “as good as they were.” We now know they were not perfect and God accepted them, so he will accept us with our imperfections.

Second, their advice and understanding can keep us from making some huge mistakes and help us to make wise choices. When training for a marathon, it would be silly to stay up till 2 a.m. for a 7 a.m. race. That is a poor training choice. While it might seem a simple and common sense thing, some people need to be told that.

Similarly, it is not a good idea to be casually flipping through T.V. channels at 2 a.m either, especially if you have a set of cable movie channels. That is a poor training choice for godliness.

Having a mentor and learning from them will help you in your efforts to train properly.

How have you seen mentors help others live a more godly life?!

photo by: Andrew Yee 

Training for godliness! Need number 4

Imagine you desire to run a marathon, set the goal of finishing the marathon, learn what it takes to train for the marathon and then…don’t put any of it into practice or keep hitting the snooze button! How much closer are you going to get to training for the marathon? Well, of course you are not getting closer.

Activity or practice of what you learn is an essential part of training. In a marathon situation, you practice setting a pace, breathing correctly, even perhaps how to grab a drink from a refreshment stand, drinking a little bit and pouring the rest over your head (I suppose). The point is, if you don’t put your knowledge into practice, it will not benefit you.

James is a classic epistle for talking about putting one’s knowledge into action in the spiritual realm. You learn more patience as you go through the trials than by watching other people do so. You learn more by comforting other people going through those trials than by reading about the ‘right thing to say’. As Job suffered through the trials Satan threw at him, he relied on what he knew about God and his years of experience to keep himself from sinning.

David, in facing Goliath, had previous experience in facing threats which helped prepare him for that situation. In all of it, he credited God with seeing him through. As God saw David through a fight with the lion and the bear, God will help us with the biggest lion of all.  Satan is a roaring lion out to devour whoever he can. Activity helps us in our training.

Is attending church services such an activity? Is reading your Bible such an activity? Will these help you become more godly? The truth is, no godly Christian would fail attend church services or read their Bible, but how mature you are will make a difference to the answer. A newborn Christian will most certainly get trained in godliness by attending services but, as you mature, you need to be sure that you are not just a pew-warmer 5 years later. Reading your Bible is always going to move your forward, as long as you do not simply read the same passages over and over and fail to go a little deeper into the text. Apparently those to whom Hebrews was written has such a problem:

About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. (Heb 5:11-14 ESV)

This audience of God’s people missed out (as did we) on an opportunity to learn more about Melchizedek because they were dull of hearing when they should have been teachers. They had reverted back to milk and they did not have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice. In other words, no activity!

Don’t let the fear of mistakes stop you, you simply have to put what you have learned into action. If you talk to much, practice listening more. Make it a priority and a prayer item. If you use foul language, be aware of the times your react like that and, either avoid those situations, or pay attention to your actions so you can conquer the reaction and replace it with an appropriate response.

We don’t get to Heaven by being perfect (or at least perfect in ourselves) but as we add a virtue like godliness to our life, we become more like our Lord and assure ourselves of an entrance into that kingdom.
What activities help you exercise yourself toward godliness?

Training for godliness-Need number 3

The third thing you will need to help you train for godliness is an education. Remember that while what Paul said in I tim 4:7 was in a context of physical training at a gymnasium, he was making a spiritual application.  If you want to train for a physical event such as a marathon, you soon realize that having the desire to run a marathon and the goal for running it (e.g. to finish or beat your last effort) must be followed up by learning what you need to know in order to  training for that race.

Let’s say you decided that your goal for being godly is to get to Heaven. (In other words, you would rather live than die!) Now what? How do you know if you are training correctly or not? How do you know if you are progressing toward godliness or moving further from it? You will need knowledge. God’s word tells Christians:

So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation– if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.   (1Pe 2:1-3 ESV)

Just as a newborn baby will feed on milk, so the Christian must feed on God’s word. Remember you when you obeyed the Gospel, becoming a Christian, how you wanted to know everything? The milk was good and helped you grow. Knowledge, in training for a marathon, says ‘put away milkshakes, sugars, and french fries” and, in a spiritual training, you put away ‘malice, deceit, hypocrisy.”

Yet at some point, milk needs to be left behind:

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness… solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.  (Heb 5:12-14 ESV)

Christians, who should have progressed on to meat in their training, have actually reverted back to a need for milk. Just like an athlete with good training habits who stops those habits will soon find that even a simple 1 mile run is hard, so Christians will find that godliness is hard if they revert back and do not progress.

The Knowledge we need is in God’s word. David spoke often of his delight in the law of the Lord. Below is one passage. Many more exist in Psalms, I would suggest you read Psalm 119 and see what David says about God’s law, precepts, commandments, and ways.

Blessed is the man whom you discipline, O LORD, and whom you teach out of your law, (Psa 94:12 ESV)

Knowledge also comes by example. We learn what to do, or what not to do, by seeing what others have done. The Bible is full of examples of those who serve as models to follow and examples to avoid. What was written before was truly written for our learning.  (Romans 15:4)

The knowledge you gain by studying God’s word is both of God’s law and of His character.  Truly, a person will be godly when they are like God but until such a time as we actually reach that perfection, we continue to exercise ourselves toward godliness learning from the knowledge He has given us about Himself.

as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, (2Pe 1:3 NKJV)

Training for godliness-the Goal

google images

Using the analogy of training for a marathon, I am writing about Paul’s exhortation to Timothy to train himself for godliness. What does one need in order to train for godliness?

In the last post, I suggested that “desire to be godly” is necessary in order to “train to be godly”. No desire? No training! However, having the desire is only part of it. To actually accomplish it, you should understand why you are doing it. I like to think of this as the goal of the matter. The second thing we need is a goal with a reason.

It may seem like the goal of a marathon is easy to determine. Just cross the finish line, right? In some cases that is true but there are some whose goal isn’t simply to finish the race, some want to win it. Others enter a marathon to help encourage another to finish, still some do it just to beat their own time in a previous marathon. If I would ask you what is the goal of training yourself to be godly, what would you answer? Why would you do it?

A goal should be based on something that will continue to drive you onward toward attaining it. Some people pick goals based on things that do not continue to motivate. If you go look for a job and only pick one based on what it pays, you may soon find yourself with a job that does not inspire you and the amount of pay will not compensate for a bad fit.  A good goal will have a higher purpose than the mundane of this world.

Some fall into the same trap that Paul mentions in 1 Tim 6. Thinking godliness is a means of gain. For some, the reason to be godly (it might be better stated “appear godly”) is to gain favor in business or even because of a love interest. Neither of these, as a reason to train for godliness, will last very long or accomplish what is needed to truly be trained.

Paul wrote:

I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Php 3:14 ESV)

And that is a goal that you can get behind.

I can think of three goals for training yourself to be godly. Is there overlap? Yes! but what other reasons might you give?

Reason #1 To Get to Heaven.

While that might sound like a selfish motive, I consider it a perfectly good one. Because if I get to Heaven, I live!! And living is preferable to dying.  Do not let anyone ever suggest that your desire to go to Heaven is somehow motivated by a selfish self-interest. That is like a drowning person grabbing on to the life-preserver tossed to him and then being chastised for selfishly wanting to live.

Peter said that godliness (and the other characteristics listed-2 pet 1:5-12) will assure of us an entrance in to Heaven. Let’s be diligent to add more of it.

Reason #2 To be more like Jesus.

No one would ever say that Jesus was not godly and trying to be more like Him, our older brother, is a wonderful goal. The scripture is full of passages that encourage to be more like Him. Paul said “Imitate me as I imitate Christ” an indirect but clear indication that Christ is our example to follow. Peter tells his readers this:

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. (1Pe 2:21-22 ESV)

Reason #3 To more like God.

As I read through the Scriptures the one characteristic that seems so closely related to godliness is holiness. They may not be synonymous but I don’t think you find holy people who are not godly. One thing that God is clear on in His Scriptures is that He is a Holy God. Being a Holy God, he wants us to be Holy also.

but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.”  (1Pe 1:15-16 NKJV)

Jesus opened the sermon on the mount with a section designed to bring people back to the Holy law of God, that law which God himself would follow if He were there (and which, of course, Jesus did). He closed that section with these words. “you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Training for Godliness is training to be more like God.

Having a worthwhile goal to shoot for will help us in our efforts against ungodliness. Any of these three reasons for started a training regiment to be godly is a good one. Which would you choose? Do you have another reason to be godly?

Things needed to train for godliness

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If I asked you what you needed in order to train for a marathon, you probably would be able to suggest some items that are necessary. Perhaps the right equipment, perhaps the right nutrition, education, coach and so forth would be items you would suggest. What does it take to train oneself for godliness? Again, perhaps a number of items might come to mind. Over the next several posts, I would like to share some items you need in order to train yourself for godliness.

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. (1Ti 4:7-8 ESV)

Number one need: Desire!

If you do not desire to be godly, it will not matter what else you might acquire in this process. If you bought the equipment for a marathon, shoes, shorts and even registered for a marathon but did not have the desire to run a marathon, it would profit nothing.

So many people think that they can have a little bit of God in their life but their heart is not in it. They have no real desire to be like God, have a heart like God, imitate God except in those occasions where they think it will benefit them. They take business courses on how the Golden Rule is the best way to operate a business but do not get the meat of the principle. They think that having a form of godliness (without the actual heart of godliness) will help them but it will not.

If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing… imagining that godliness is a means of gain. (1Ti 6:3-5 ESV)

God calls everyone. He encourages all, he even carries the weak but He pulls and drags no one. We are not dragged, kicking and screaming into a relationship with Him. This is not say that he will not work on us and discipline us. He does not just give up at the first defiant “NO!”  but if you don’t want a godly character, he will let you live the way you want to. (Read Romans 1:18-32)

Of course, our desire may be there and a little weak. Although he was talking about faith, I think the plea of the father in Mark 9:24 is appropriate. “I believe, help my unbelief”, only we say “I desire, help my lack of desire.” A person with this attitude is one who can be worked with and willing to learn and be led.

Do you have a desire to be godly? Do you see this as a characteristic that you want to cultivate in your life? In the next few posts, I am going to suggest some items you will need in order to make the character of godliness a reality in your life. What do you think the next item will be?

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