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Equipping Your Reimagine Journey

I keep getting out of shape.  So, I’m once again walking early each morning, even before my spiritual quiet time.  I am intrigued by 1 Timothy 4:7, “exercise yourself toward godliness.”  The Greek word is gumnasia, variously translated, “exercise,” “discipline,” or “train,” and from which we derive the English word for “gymnasium.”  I can think of at least three reasons why we try to exercise. One reason is for self. Being in shape, makes us feel better.  Being in shape is also for others.  We assume people will like us better if we are in shape. Most of all, at least according to Paul, being in shape is for God. In fact, Paul adds, “bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things” (1 Timothy 4:8). Like physical fitness, spiritual fitness requires discipline – Bible study, prayer, giving, witnessing, etc. Some unknown fitness guru shared good advice: “Don't wait until you've reached your goal to be proud of yourself. Be proud of every step you take toward reaching that goal.”  Work with me today toward fitness and be proud.

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Comment by Steve Hackett on September 12, 2020 at 12:45am
Hi Dan,

Yes, an important teaching from Paul. Whether the verb in 1 Tim 4:7 is translated “exercise”, “discipline”, or “train”, to me it conveys the same intent: we are to work at it; to improve in it; we are to persist in it until the day we meet our Lord, when our increased godliness will suddenly reach perfection (1 Cor 15:51-54).

“The conversion of a soul is the miracle of a moment, but the manufacture of a saint is the task of a lifetime.” - Alan Redpath

In other words, “we are justified through faith in a moment, but progressive sanctification takes a lifetime”, or, “we accept Christ as our Saviour in a moment, but following him as our Lord, to become like him, takes a lifetime.”

But there is much more behind Paul’s instruction to Timothy:

1. “Exercising yourself towards godliness” should be an exercise of our whole being: body, mind and spirit. This is a repeating theme throughout Paul’s epistles.

In Rom 6:12-13 Paul tells the church in Rome: “ not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.”

In Rom 12:2 Paul says: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

And in Rom 8:13-16 Paul says we must submit our spirit to God’s Holy Spirit. He puts it this way: “For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.”

However, we fool ourselves if we think we can become more like God by our own endeavours! Due to our sinful nature, our spirit resists God’s Holy Spirit such that this godly transformation is entirely by God, through his indwelling Holy Spirit, from beginning to end!

Speaking from personal experience in Rom 7: 15-20, Paul describes his battle this way: “ I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.”

Paul continues (Rom 7:21-25): “So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.”

Which brings me to my second point:

2. What is the motivation for exercising / training in godliness?

If, as outlined above, our transformation is by God from beginning to end, then what is the intent behind Paul’s original statement to Timothy (1 Tim 4:7-10): “Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.”

Put another way: if our transformation is by God from beginning to end, what part do we play in that transformation? Why do we need to “labor and strive” (v10)?

Simply this. Jesus summarised the law as:
“‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

When we are truly focussed on loving God in body, mind, and spirit before all other desires, then we have submitted our entire being to God the Father, through faith in God the Son, via the indwelling work of God the Holy Spirit - collectively One God. It is in our submission that we must “labor and strive”, as we have put our faith in him to freely bring about the transformation in us.

You said:
“Some unknown fitness guru shared good advice: “Don't wait until you've reached your goal to be proud of yourself. Be proud of every step you take toward reaching that goal.”  Work with me today toward fitness and be proud.”

I fear that this statement is based on worldly pop psychology rather than Godly wisdom!

If our transformation is by God from beginning to end, then why should we be proud as if we’ve done it? Why should we boast as if we have brought it about by our own endeavours?

No, pride has no place in the Christian heart, nor does boasting except boasting in the LORD.

Paul again (Eph 2:8-10):  “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

And (1 Cor 1:31): “Therefore, as it is written: ‘Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.’”

“Father God, we are nothing without you. Even the best of us rebel against you. We cannot help ourselves - we continue to sin due to our sinful nature - our sin deserving death. We thank you for sending Jesus as our Savior to die in our place for our sins. We thank you that he rose to new life to offer us eternal life with you as a free gift through faith in him. Through your indwelling Holy Spirit, enable us to live with Jesus as our Lord, transforming us increasingly into his likeness, not for our benefit, but for your glory. In Jesus Name we pray. Amen.”

Go, Make, Grow, Disciples of Jesus


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