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7 things you need to go to heaven

How much clearer could Peter be when he said:

For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2Pe 1:8-11)

There are seven things that we need to add to our faith in order to be fruitful and make it to Heaven.

As we finish our look at these characteristics, we have spent many weeks writing about these qualities. This post will review them as we finish this line of study. Should you wish to read  posts about these individual qualities, you can do a search on the characteristic you want in the search box to the right.

Lest we forget what they are, I will list them and a brief description:

Virtue (or moral excellence)

This is the characterisitc that you need to have which says “I will do what God wants me to do, regardless of the costs.”  This quality is needed because we don’t yet know everything God will require of us or that Satan will tempt us with. When Joseph fled from Potipher’s wife, he showed great virtue and it did cost him.

Knowledge

It makes sense that the faith we start with is not the faith we will die with if we live any length of time. Learning more about what God wants and meditating on His word will give us that knowledge to live more holy lives.

Self-control

A wonderful quality that more of us should practice. We should note that this is not “other” control. Once we have a little knowledge, it is easy to look at others and judge where they are. However, we need to focus first on our self, then we can see clearly to pull the mote from our brother’s eye.

Steadfastness

Without this, we may quit. To be able to beat  a temptation once may be easy but to endure the temptations of Satan, or to bear with those who are still learning, or to continue to grow even when we think we have attained all we need to do requires dedication to the race. When you retire from your work, you do not retire from God.

Godliness

This quality says, what I do, I do with God in mind. In being pious, I show the attributes that God would show were He on Earth. It is something to be trained in, is not to be used superficially for gain but to be coupled with contentment so that I can gain even more…in the next life.

Brotherly love

I owe it to my brothers to have a warm feeling for them, to desire to be around them more than the world. There is a companionship in the church that needs to be fostered to encourage others and allow yourself to be encouraged.

Love (Agape)

This is a duty bound love that does what is in the best interest of the person loved. Sometimes it is your neighbor, sometimes it is God, sometimes (occasionally) it is your self. You cannot love God unless you love your fellow man. This is the love that we are commanded to show to enemies because when we were enemies of God, He showed it to us!
This is not some check list that you can just mark off and say “I got that covered”, it is not that simple. You cannot simply do godliness for a day and think you have it. You cannot be steadfast for a week and mark it off. These are qualities that you ADD to your faith and CONTINUE IN and GROW IN.

Conclusion:

Notice Peter didn’t say if you ‘have them’ but if you have them and they “abound.” That is, if you grow in them. And if you grow in them, you will not be “unfruitful”, you will not “stumble” and you will be “abundantly” supplied entrance into the Kingdom of Jesus.

Those that do not, are soooooooooo short sighted (blind) that they can’t see past this world. In other words, unlike the great men of faith, they do not look for a heavenly home, it is not real to them. They also have forgotten that they were cleansed from their sin. Imagine someone barely saved from death by a liver transplant. Grateful, they stop drinking which caused the problem in the first place. Then they forget that they were barely saved and go back to the bottle and ruin the new liver.  Such are those who were saved and do not grow in these virtues.

Peter made a point of reminding his readers about these qualities. It wasn’t that they didn’t know these things but he wanted them always to be able to remember them, even after his death. Let’s work to add these qualities to our faith so that we may be fruitful for Jesus.

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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

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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?

Three steps to imitate Jesus’ lack of fear!

google imagesFear is sometimes explained as an acronym with each letter representing a word: False Expectations Appearing Real. However, as you read the Bible there is one person that is never described as being afraid: Jesus. Why is this? Jesus showed many emotions but fear is not one of them. Until last week, I had never thought of that and to my knowledge have never heard anyone mention it before. (If you can find a scripture that would suggest otherwise, share it!)

It doesn’t seem that Jesus ever had any false expectations. He knew why he had come and what he needed to do. Why would you fear the very task for which you have been born? But we fear many things in our life and most of those never need to be feared.

I am going to offer three steps today that will help us remove fear or at least minimize it. If Jesus did not have fear and we are to imitate Him, then this would be a good thing to work on. Perfect Love casts out fear. (I john 4:18)

Step one: Learn more about God.

This is best done when we are young. Parents have the responsibility to teach us about God and instruct us in His ways. (Dt. 6 and Eph. 6) David wrote that a young man can cleanse his ways by taking God’s word into account (Ps 119:19) Yet, even as we grow older we can still learn more about God. Moses didn’t really start learning about God until he was 80 years old.

In learning about God, you will learn about His character. He is ever-present to help those of his household. If God is for us, who can be against us? God does not allow us to be tempted above what we can bear and we can have confidence in His promises because He does not lie. (Rom 8:31, I cor 10:13, Heb 6:17-18) No wonder Jesus was able to be asleep in the bow of the ship during a storm that frightened the apostles (Mark 4:38-41), he knew the promise of the Father that He would be protected while on earth so that the mission would go forward. Though misapplied by Satan in Matthew 4, the scripture was accurately quoted.

Step two: The Lord has conquered the truly great reasons to be afraid.

While fear of public speaking is one that outranks death in most surveys, if you never had to speak in public you would be fine. However, though non Christians may fear death, it is one something that, for the Christian, God has removed the need to fear:

Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. (Heb 2:14-15)

Yet, even of more fear than the actual death is the fear of our eternal destiny: Will I make it to Heaven? Jesus adequately deals with that as well.

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. (Joh 14:1-3)

Knowing that we are not going to cease to exist at death or wind up in Hell’s fire should give us great comfort. I wish more Christians would look at death that way. Paul, in Phil 1, said that he really desired to die…so that he could be with the Lord. Many Christians act as if waking up each morning is the best thing that could happen to them. Not quite!

Step three: Ask for help

While I am suggesting that we should not be afraid, I am not naive. We all fall into fear in so many ways. However, Jesus does understand and is not just able to, but willing to, help us.

For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Heb 4:15-16)

When we find ourselves suffering from fear, we need to ask for the help that our High Priest is ready to give us. We can then walk through the valley of the shadow of death knowing that God is with us. We then can say with confidence: the Lord is my helper, what can man do to me?

These three steps will help us to reduce our fears and give us greater confidence. In that confidence, we will be more useful for His purposes.

Facing our Goliaths

When Israel went to war with the Philistines in 1 Samuel 17, they gathered on one mountain and geared up for battle. The Philistines, their perpetual antagonist gathered on the other mountain and the battle was to take place in the valley between them. This time however, there would be a twist introduced in the form of Goliath.

Goliath stood apart from the Philistines and challenged Israel to send one man to fight him in a winner take all contest. All the champion from Israel had to do was to defeat Goliath. While it is never a good idea to put one’s fortune at risk in a “winner takes all contest”, this seemed an especially bad idea considering Goliath’s stature. 

And a champion went out from the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath, from Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. He had a bronze helmet on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail, and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze. And he had bronze armor on his legs and a bronze javelin between his shoulders. Now the staff of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and his iron spearhead weighed six hundred shekels; and a shield-bearer went before him.  (1Sa 17:4-7)

This man was well armored but more than that, he was very tall. If each cubit is 18 inches, this man stood over 9 feet tall, probably closer to 10 feet.  It is hard to actually picture Goliath as anything other than a serious war machine and to take him on in battle would be an certain suicidal endeavor.

Of course, Israel promptly choose it’s champion and sent him out in order to fight and defeat Goliath, right? Wrong! When Goliath challenged Israel, they cowered in fear:

When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid. (1Sa 17:11)

This should surprise us since Israel had a long history of defeating the Philistines. From their beginning, their whole existence is owed to one amazing victory over another. It started with the defeat of Egypt, progressed through a conquering of the land of Canaan, continued with the  beating back of oppressors during the times of the Judges, and even a recent victory under Saul over the Amalekites. (I Sam 15)

What went wrong? Why the fear and dismay?

There was a subtle change that had recently taken place that might explain that. Really, it might be better to say that it was the final straw in a change that was already underway. Saul had left God and God had let him go.

When Saul disobeyed God by not following through on the utter destruction of the Amalekites and their posessions, God decided to find a new King for Israel. After that day, we read:

And Samuel went no more to see Saul until the day of his death. Nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul, and the LORD regretted that He had made Saul king over Israel.  (1Sa 15:35)

God had withdrawn his favor from Saul and the kingdom of Israel, slowly, started to turn into a secular kingdom. It didn’t get far, certainly not as far as those Paul describes in Romans 1, from whom God also turned away, but the process was starting. Their reaction to Goliath’s challenge shows that their focus was on the present reality of this life. The “sword and the spear” was all the assembly knew about. They had forgotten, or at least had lost trust, that God would fight for them.

When you find yourself facing Goliaths in your life and the fear begins to overwhelm you, ask yourself a question: Am I trying to solve this with man’s wisdom and methods, or am I going to rely on God’s ways to help me overcome this fear?

Next blog: David’s response.

Godly one day at a time!

It is quite common to talk with people who do not consider that their life is all that important. The question might be asked “If a biography of my life was written, who would read it?” It is common for us to feel insignificant and even more common if we are in a group or culture where the flashy and self promoting seem to rise to the top.

In the church, I know that many do not feel as if they are important and yet, they are. It is not the preachers and elders only who are  important, it is the members in the congregation who are important as well. Perhaps more so because there are more of them.

I think we read a passage like this:

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,  (Eph 4:11-15 ESV)

And in so reading, we focus on the list of apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, teachers and think, “but I am not any of those people”, then we conclude that “I” must not be important. Perhaps (and that is a huge perhaps), if Paul had stopped there, you might have a point. Notice, however, the next verse and my highlights:

from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Eph 4:16 ESV)

Perhaps you have missed it but notice it now. Sure, we need, and God provides, those who teach and lead, but those who are led also have a key role to play in the growth of the body of Christ.  Every joint and each part of that body works together. There are no spare parts in the body of Christ!

The problem is that we don’t always see our contribution as significant. Last week, two of our members, in the congregation at Bastrop, showed their godliness in a way that cannot be done in an instant. It can not be done in a flash. It can only be done by perseverance and commitment. They showed godliness that can’t be replicated overnight, you can’t bottle it, and you can’t sell it or take a quick crash course in order to achieve it.

They celebrated 25 years of marriage and renewed their vows once again.

silver anniversary

Neither set out to be, or would have thought that they would become, such a good role model in doing this, they simply knew that God wanted their marriage to be like Adam and Eve’s: A lifetime commitment. Their example is one that is built a day at a time, many of them that seem to pass by without anything worth note. However, taken all together, they become a legacy that shines like the silver that a 25th anniversary is named after.

In a world that is so set on the self-gratification, and in the shadow of Hollywood marriages that are measured in hours or minutes, these two stand out as an example of Godly living and deserve the kudos for doing so.

Happy 25th anniversary Mollye and Robin!

I would like to hear from others about those whose lives are not flashy but also serve to be a godly example! Tell me, who do you know?

Godliness vs. Asceticism

Yesterday, we talked about bodily exercise in relationship to godliness. Paul uses this metaphor to encourage Timothy toward a life of godliness. However, it is not the physical exercise that Paul is really warning Timothy about. Paul’s main point, starting in chapter 4, is to warn Timothy about those who will depart from the faith and practice an ascetic life thinking it will produce benefit. This departure is not simply because they are tired of Christian living but because they pay attention to “deceitful spirits and teachings of demons”.

It is not the ones drawn away that are the real problem but those who draw them away by insincere lies and teachings that, for all practical purposes, are the teachings of asceticism. The forbidding of marriage, requiring abstinence from certain foods, and all such types of “irreverent and silly myths”  are only, in reality, an appearance of piety.

They offer no true benefit:

If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations– “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)–according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.  (Col 2:20-23 ESV)

It is that stopping of the fleshly indulgences that Godliness is able to help with.

Asceticism does seem to help answer some of life’s more difficult questions. The Ascetic believes that by abstaining from worldly pleasures one can achieve a more spiritual or enlightened state. Paul’s warning may be an early indication of Gnosticism beginning in some areas of the Christian faith. When one renounces worldly pleasures and goods, it is easier to answer those hard questions such as:

  • How much do I give to the church or others?
  • How much car should I buy?
  • How big of a house should I get?
  • How much “bling” do I buy in clothes or toys?

The answers are to give more, buy less, do without and avoid purchases that you do not need. Living an austere life then becomes the measuring stick. You also are more able to judge others by how they stack up to your level of austerity. If they have more, buy more, enjoy life more, then they are not as pious as you are. The whole attitude is one of self-will, self-control, or will power. Without the proper motivation and purpose, it is doomed to fail.

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Godliness, on the other hand, also answers these questions but does so with a different attitude. Godliness, is not an outward, mechanical, rote action that by itself has some value. You can not say because you spend 5 hours in prayer that you are more godly than the person who spends 1 hour in prayer, even though prayer is something that a godly person will engage in. That is the type of trap the Pharisee fell into and Jesus warns about:

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”  (Luk 18:9-14 ESV)

1918 photograph Entstrom

Godliness answers these questions from the heart. With a Godward attitude, one is first grateful to God for what he has and then because he knows God is a generous God, he is then able to let go of things this world promotes. Why? Because they are sinful? To be sure, some are but many are not. The Why is answered by what distracts him from putting God first in his life.  I have no doubt that Abraham and Job were godly men. Their riches did not prevent them from serving God. If they will prevent you from doing so, then by all means, get rid of them, for it is better to enter into Heaven, poor and destitute, than to be cast into Hell with all of your riches (which will be burnt up, in a short nanosecond anyway.) You do not see a U-haul following a hearse.

Paul encourages Timothy to train for godliness, but he will not be able to do so if he goes to the extreme that Asceticism would require. What examples to you have, were Asceticism was being promoted to try and improve godliness?

Train yourself for godliness

The use of athletic illustrations is common in Paul’s writings. He uses the illustration of preparing for or being in a race to draw a spiritual point.

In athletic events, those who engage in them spend a great deal of time preparing for them. They train and exert self control over many facets of their life. You would not expect to see a marathon runner eating unhealthy foods prior to the race or during the preparation for it. Athletes follow the rules and don’t expect to win unless they do. (2 Tim 2:5) Paul, as he about to depart from this world, writes to Timothy and says that he has finished the race. (2 Tim 4:7)

Each of those illustrations relate to our spiritual goal of getting to heaven. Athletes exercise self control but do so to win a perishable crown and we do so for an imperishable. (I cor 9: 24-25) Paul finished the race and knew that there was a crown of life waiting for him.(2 tim 4:8) Even Jesus, asked “why do you call me Lord and do not do the things I tell you” (e.g. follow the rules) (Luke 6:46)

Paul uses the illustration of exercise but he does so primarily to make the bigger point. He says that bodily exercise does profit but only a little, whereas godliness profits in this life and in the life to come.

To his first point, that bodily exercise profits little, we should recognize that  even if we were able to extend our life span up to double the normal span and reach 150 to 200 years of age,  there is nothing that physical exercise can do beyond death. We might live a better, more healthy life and we might stretch those years out but we are all going to die eventually. Knowing this, we recognize that even those victories which we win, those wreaths that perish, are short lived.

When compared with eternity, our mere 70 to 80 years of life in this world is nothing. But even more “nothing” than that is the 2-4 hours that a marathon runner has trained so hard for. You see, they exercise such control, practice so hard, endure so much and all so that their body will endure the time that they spend during the race: 2 hours if you are fast, 5 hours if you are slow.  We on the other hand exercise self control, exercise for godliness, and endure so much so that we might live in eternity.

Godliness, on the other hand, is profitable in both this life and the one to come. We understand the benefit of the next life but even here in this one, being a godly person is profitable. Daniel found that out as he determined not to defile himself with the King’s food. (Dan 1:8,17). Many times in our life, we will find that being godly is something that people will respond to in a positive way but it also is a way that we keep our lives on track; you might even say it is a way by which we can sleep at night.

The fact that Timothy was told to exercise himself to godliness should serve as an admonition to us and encouragement. Timothy, who had been trained with Paul was so highly thought of by Paul:

But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, that I also may be encouraged when I know your state. For I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state. (Php 2:19-20)

If this young man was needing to be encouraged to train himself for godliness, then we also should take such an exhortation to heart as well.

 

 

 

Godliness: not the action only.

From my last post, you may have gathered the idea that godliness is something that cannot be defined by form only. The motive of your action has as much to do with it being godly as the action itself. In other words, where is your heart? As an example, the Pharisees prayed in public seeking the honor of men. This makes an action (prayer), which is something a godly person does, into an action that is not godly but merely a form of godliness.

It seems obvious that Godliness has to do with God. But as such it is solely a “facing God”, “directed towards God” or, “motivated by God” action. “God-ward” is a word I have seen used. You might even say “This action is dedicated to God”.

No one should dedicate something to someone which would disappoint them or with which they would disagree.

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I recently saw an episode of Undercover Boss where the CEO of the flower company named a flower display after one particularly inspirational employee. She was honored.  It was a cheerful arrangement like her. Imagine if he had dedicated a “funeral bouquet’ to her. That would not be pleasing.  Many years ago, I named a calf after a friend of mine and she was not flattered. (Lesson learned!) Likewise, we need to be equally careful what we dedicate to God.

Godliness does not take into account what other people will think, it takes into account what God will think.  David danced before the ark of the Lord as it came to Jerusalem. (God approved, his wife did not.) Abraham picked up and traveled, not knowing where he was going to wind up, just because God told him to. (I wonder what his family thought about that.) Moses left the riches of Egypt in order to serve God and deliver Israel. While the 10 commandments movie may not be accurate in all accounts, I can imagine his Egyptian family trying to talk Moses out of leaving, as they did in the movie.

It doesn’t mean that godly men are perfect men. Abraham lied twice about Sarah being his wife, David committed murder and adultery, Moses got angry without cause and the list of sins committed by our heroes can be multiplied. This is an important point to notice because we sometimes elevate these heroes and then judge ourselves by them, concluding that we cannot live up to their example. Wrong conclusion!

Godliness fits well into this list of qualities that Peter emphasizes because it brings the heart and motivation into the mix. We may have the virtue, knowledge, self-control, and perseverance but so, it seems, did the church at Ephesus. To that church, Jesus said that they still had the problem of having lost their first love: they had become ritualistic. They had the Form but not the heart.

Heart is one thing that makes up godliness. Desire is the other, desire of the right thing. All of the Godly men and women, not only wanted to serve God but had a strong desire for something unique. That unique something was not in this world but in the one that they could not see.

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them. (Heb 11:13-16)

Their mind was not set on the things of this world but on the things of the world to come. They could have gone back. Perhaps they could have said, “I want to serve God but please let me do it from where I am at”. Abraham did not do that, Ruth did not do that. Even Jesus left where he was at to serve not just God but us. Paul tells the Colossians:

If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. (Col 3:1-3)

This seems to be the heart of godly living, a focus that is on God and not on this world. We are pilgrims here and we not only need to live like pilgrims but talk like pilgrims. What we have in this world is nice, and some of us have really nice things, but what we will have in Heaven is so much more. Godliness will get us there.

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