Training for Godliness: Just Do It

April 27, 2008 Speaker: Allen Snapp Series: Life in the Local Church

Passage: 1 Timothy 4:6–4:10

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Train Youself for Godliness: Just Do It

1 Timothy 4:1-10


Let me introduce  you to someone who might be with us this morning - I'll call him Jim Christian. As I describe him, see if you can recognize him.

He came to faith several years ago and had a deep desire to walk as a disciple of Jesus Christ. Now, several years later, desire has diminshed but he still feels a longing stirring in his soul at times, a desire for more, a desire to glorfy the Lord more fully with his life.

Usually gets up too late to grab devotioal time with the Lord or in God's Word. He throws a 30 second prayer as he drives to work. In his heart he wishes he had begun the day with time alone with the Lord - but maybe tomorrow.

At work the day gets filled quickly and he rarely has time to think much about the Lord. Every now and again he sees an opportunity to witness of his faith, but most of the time he remains quiet and beats himself up on the way home from work for the opportunities he squandered.

He comes home to wife who's frustrated and wants his attention - she's had a hard day with the kids. In fact, he can hear the kids bickering over something in the other room. He tells his wife he's had a rough day at the office and is too tired to deal with this. He yells at the kids that they'd better be quiet and stop fighting. He often dreams of spending quality time with his family but today has been a killer, and all he wants to do is veg out in front of the TV. Maybe tomorrow.

When he finally turns off the TV late at night and heads to bed, as his head hits the pillow, there is a sense of emptiness that comes over him and he can't shake the feeling that another day has been wasted. He can't see any spiritual fruit or distinction in his life as a Christian. He prays, "Lord, help me to change. Help me to be a better follower of Jesus. Amen." He looks at the clock and realizes how late it is. He sets alarm to go off at the last possible moment for him to make it to work. No quiet time tomorrow either. "Maybe the next day." He thinks as he falls asleep.

Do you recognize Jim Christian? I think most of us recognize parts of him in us. Jim needs to hear what Paul has to say to Timothy. I need to hear it. You need to hear it. It's a call to do something. Do you see it in second part of verse 7? Train yourself for godliness.

Titled message: Train Yourself for Godliness, subtitiled: Just Do It.

Let's Pray.

Paul's desire for Timothy is made clear in vers 6: he wants him to be a good servant of the Lord Jesus. This is in contrast with the false teachers that he has just mentioned in preceeding verses. These are demonically inspired liars who are leading people to depart from the faith of Jesus Christ by promoting legalism in church. Legalism is man tyring to reach God by his own effort rather than through the work of Jesus Christ on our behalf. Attemp to please god by keeping lists of do's and don'ts. The problem is that lists of do's and don'ts do not have the power to make us right with God. They just leave us proud and self-righteous.

The Christian is saved by grace and grace alone. We place our full trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross for our salvation. Faith in Christ - no works added. This protects us from legalism.

But some overcompensate for legalism by swerving into license. For them grace means I can do whatever I want and be forgiven for it later. Jude warns that there are "ungodly people who pervert the grace of our god into sensuality (liscence for immorality - NIV) and they deny (this is the effect of license) our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ." Jude 4

The same grace that saves us calls us to something far better than legalism or license: it calls us to godliness.

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age...Titus 2:11-12

That's what Paul is calling Timothy to here. To be a good servant of Jesus, it takes godliness. And godliness takes work. We do not work for justification and we cannot drift into godliness, which is what Jim Christian is hopng will happen. Paul says, train yourself for godliness. Borrowing from the image of and athlete training for a sporting competition, the Greek word train is gymnazo - where we get the word gymnasium from. Like an athlete in training for competition, the Christian is to be in training for godliness - so that they can be a good servant of Jesus Christ.

What is godliness?

The word basically means reverant, pious. NT - pious reverance for God/God centeredness. In A.D. 150 Claudius Ptolemy wrote out the theory that the universe revolved around the earth. It would be almost 1400 years before Copernicus would contradict that theory with the radical claim that the earth revolved around the sun.

We are all born Ptolemy's at heart. We believe the universe revolves around us. We are at the center of our universe, and we'd like to be at the center of everyone else's universe too.

Godliness is that amazing shift when the one true God becomes the center of our lives and universe. Godliness is being God-centered rather than me-centered. Steven Curtis Chapman has a song and the chorus simply reminds us: You are God and I am not.

Godliness is when the desire to live for our egos, our desires, our glory, is diplaced with desire to live for the glory of God. That's how we were created to function - we make lousy gods. Our lives come into order - peace and joy and meaning, when He is at the center and on the throne. But it doesn't happen over night. It's a process. God calls us to do something. God empowers us by his grace. We can't do it apart from God and he won't do it apart from us.

Let's consider four things drawn from this text that will help us to train ourselves for godliness.

The prize of godliness
The nourishment of godliness
The hard work of godliness
The motiviation of goliness

I. The Prize of goliness.
    
An athlete needs to know what the prize they're straining for is. Training is hard work. It means denying self when others are indulging self. It means getting up early, doing without, eating right, pushing yourself until body is crying out "stop, enough". Why would anyone do that?

Goal. Prize. Something they are out to achieve that cannot come through ease.

Tom Landry, one of the best coaches football has ever seen, said, "The job of a football coach is to make men do what they don't want to do in order to achieve what they've always wanted to be."

So the athlete pushes himself or herself to their limits to be their best, do their best, and to achieve something that will mean more than comfort and ease - denying themselves, pushing themselves for a higher goal. Paul says that comparison works well, except that the athlete pushes to achieve what is fading - it has value, but that value is little because has a short shelf life.

Shakespeare put it well when he asked this question:

Why so large cost, having so short a lease, dost thou upon thy fading mansion spend?

This mansion we live in is fading. The laurel wreath withers. The gold medal loses its luster. If you stop working out for any length of time you lose what you had. When we die, we lose what's left. There are no muscular corpses. Why spend so much on such a short lease? But godliness is a call to live for eternal purposes of God and bear fruit for His glory and for others eternal good.

I can't deny feeling a sense of satisfaction watching Eli Manning, the SuperBowl MVP holding up the Super Bowl trophy. If it's exciting for me (and other Gian fans) can you imagine for him and his teammates? But the trophies that the godly man and women can look forward to are the trophies of grace that God will display in the coming ages: lost sinners saved by the glorious grace of God helped them to come to a saving knowledge of the Savior.

This prize is a prize that never fades - not in this life, and not in the next. At the end of the day we don't feel we wasted the day. At the end of life, trophies of God's grace fill hearts with joy. There will be a deep peace of a life well lived and a readiness to die - the best is yet to come.

II. The Nourishment of godliness

An athlete needs to be careful about what he eats. Paul draws a direct connection between godliness and good doctrine. If you put these things before the brothers (that is, gospel truths Paul is teaching him)...being trained (nourished) in words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. (vs 6)

Then cautions him, have nothing to do with irreverant, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness.

It's all connected: nourish your soul in good doctrine, have nothing to do with silly myths rather train youself for godliness. God's Word, has the power to transform us like nothing else in the world. Apart from the Bible the Christian has no hope of growing in godliness - can't be done if we neglect God's Word.
Applications: If we took an honest look at the state of the church today, I think this is one of the areas where we would find great deficiency. Christians cannot pursue godliness apart from God's Word, but how many Christians spend so little time and little thought and expend so little energy to meditate and memorize God's Word?

An appetite for hearing God's Word preached so that it pierces and convits the heart is becoming scarce. RC Sproul said something that caught my attention:

Soft preaching makes hard people. Preaching hard truths from God's Word will make soft people.

In many churches, all you hear are watered-down sermonettes for Christianettes! John MacArthur

Not what we want to be. Hard. Christianettes. We want to be godly. Disciples. Only God's Word has power to change us from within. No growth apart from it. Read God's Word - read it every day. If not reading, set aside 15 minutes to read. Memorize a verse and meditate on it during the day - meditate on passage that addresses your particular battle or temptation or weakness where want to grow.

Training in godliness? Takes time in the Holy Scriptures. Just do it!

III. The hard work of godliness

Paul uses terms like training and toil and straining - agonizomai (agonize) so that Timothy recognizes (and we know) that it's not going to come while eating chocolates and watching Oprah Winfrey.  It's gonna take work. It's training. No pain, no gain.

I saw an ad recently that claimed that is could help a person lose weithg and grow strong in just 3 minutes a day. We are suckers for those ads because we all want the results without the hard work. It takes discipline to excel in any area. We can't become a great musician by practicing 5 minutes a day. We can't become a great athlete by purchasing Nike shoes. We can't play like Tom Brady by puchasing a jersey with his name and number on it.

It takes incredible hard work to excel. We need to watch out that our prayers don't become a way of looking for results without the work. "Lord, change me inside and out. Only...do it so that I don't actually need to change anything."

To train yourself means hard work. Making changes. Doing something: and pray about it:

Might mean turning off the TV more often.
Spending less time on the internet. If going to inappropriate sights, taking radical steps to change that.
Getting up earlier to spend time with the Lord.
Praying with focus - writing out what needs to pray for or just concentrate.
Start a Bible study.
Reading good books that teach you more.

At Together for the Gospel we got a lot of books given to us. The Lord convicted me: I need to read more. Now I read a fair amount. Always in several books. But I waste a lot of time that could be used for reading. I need an appetite for all that God has to teach and grow me from reading books. Most of all - study the Bible.

Managing your time for effectively.

Author Annie Dillard has pointed out, "How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives." (Reader's Digest, [7/92], p. 137). And how we spend minutes and hours is how we spend our days. Does the way we spend our time promote godliness - spending time with God and His Word each day?

We all have a schedule - question is does that schedule train us to be godly?
Godliness is a process - progress. Never drift...it's hard work. Being a disciple of Jesus calls for discipline. Don't fall into the trap of praying, "God, make me godly." Apart from effort. Asking for results without work. Work is a part of the work. Pray and ask God to equip you to make changes. Then...Just do it.

IV. The motivation of goliness

Very quickly - motivation is hope in God our Savior. (vs 10)

We don't toil and strive to be saved, we toil and strive because we are saved - by faith in Jesus Christ. Because we're saved, we know we can never work to earn God's love and acceptance, it's ours through Jesus. He is our Savior. We love Him. Because we love Him, we want to be a good servant of His.

Training for godliness is entirely built on glorious grace of God who saved us! It's empowered by the same glorious grace and hope we have in Christ.

Conclusion:


I realize that message like this could run risk of making people feel condemned - when you already feel like a failure. Want you to hear this: we are saved by grace - nothing we can add. Period. God will never love you more than He does now.

I think the greater risk is that people who desperately need to wake up and be challenged might be tempted to hide behind the excuse, "I feel like this challenges me that I'm not where I need to be and that I need to make some changes. This makes me feel uncomfortable, so that must be condemnation."

Conviction can be uncomfortable too. You need to be convicted. Know how I know? Cause I need to be convicted too. I fight laziness, apathy, neglect, and lack of appetite for God's Word.

But there is a longing, and one I want to stir up and keep stirring up, that I want my life to glorify God. I want to be a disciple of Jesus Christ - that's why I signed up so many years ago. I never looked at it as a fire insurance policy to save me from hell - it's a call to follow Jesus. I never want to forget that.

Take one area that you want to grow in - just one area - and identify actions to help you grow in godliness in that area. Tell your spouse or friend about it so there is some accountability. Ask God for help, confess you can't do it alone. Then...just do it.

It'll make all the difference in every area of life.

Let's sing this song as a prayer.

If you want to come up to the altar - yes this is an altar on Sunday mornings - please do. I know it can seem uncomfortable for most of us - we're not a church that does this much. But let's get used to it - cause when God is touching our hearts there is a special blessing in coming forward to pray and ask for prayer. It's a way to say to God, I am in need of a fresh touch from your hand.

Our care group leaders would love to pray with you if you would like prayer.

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