February 27, 2015

Groaning inwardly… waiting eagerly

I grow weary of waiting to be more than I am…to overcome weaknesses of personality, of upbringing, of an underlying shortness of faith (for want of a better way to put it).   Will I go to my grave frustrated at my feeble prayer life, for instance?  Will I be forever fearful of the unknown, the “what if”s of life?  Or will I grow out of these things?

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“When I grow up…”

When does that time come when we have grown into all the things we had imagined we’d be?  During the busy intense years of family life one can safely hold to dreams  that will be fulfilled when there is more time and leisure to pursue them.  If this intense pace ever slows, by reason of health  or changes of place or occupation there comes an uncomfortable season of reckoning…What exactly am I becoming?  Where is the prayer warrior I dreamed a Grandma would naturally be?  Where the seasoned confident woman who rises to meet her lot in life with a mature faith that doesn’t bow any longer to guilt and fear.

Guilt over being less than I should be lingers like a gray cloud over my now graying head.  I shrug it off at the best of times and try to dissect it at the worst of times.  A sense that I am not ‘enough’ to be worthy of the Kingdom of God dogs my days.  I do not do ‘enough’, pray ‘enough’, contribute ‘enough’…Nor is it for want of time to pursue these ideals!  That has become obvious in my present context of relatively uninterrupted leisure.  Then what is lacking? Do I just need to ‘do more’, set better goals, establish more concise lists, get organized, shun distractions and be more sober-minded?! 

When I air this sense of guilt, my husband reminds me of the verse I know well, (in my head):  There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. My response: ‘Yes, but…’ as I continue to imagine my life as one glaring sin of omission.   How is this not condemnable?  Inexcusable?

My real problem is not an inadequate prayer life, though that is an issue I wish I could resolve.  My problem is unbelief that takes the form of an inner resistance to walking by faith.  I want a system to live by, a clear-cut rule of rights and wrongs, a schedule I can keep, a list that once prayed through is ‘enough’.  I want to ‘do righteousness’ on my own steam and then to know I have done it!  But the Gospel talks of a faith that rests all on what Christ has already done.  It speaks of a life that is  a walk of faith as long as we live in these bodies, a life that calls us to defy and deny the allure of the seen, felt and heard wherever it contradicts what God has said.  Here the accuser of the brethren has no place.  Who can curse the one God has blessed?  Who dares judge the tottering one when God has said He will make him stand?

It occurred to me lately that God is not expecting me to be fearless and confident in and of myself (or to pray without ceasing by my sheer effort) but to believe that He is all I need in the face of things I fear and things that undo me.  He has intentionally not chosen the strong and able, the ‘all-together’ confident ones, the movers and shakers of this world ‘so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.’  (I Cor.1:29)  It is the weak ones who have the potential to best reflect His power.  It is the humble that receive grace to be all He intends. He is not asking for my strength, but for my faith. Meanwhile He works in me to will and to do according to His good pleasure in His good time…

I’m slated to lie on an operating table in a couple week’s time and have surgery on the muscles surrounding my right eye.  When the office called  confirming the appointment my nerves were set a' jangle.  All the worst-case-scenarios flitted through my mind, now riddled with doubt.  Was this really a good idea or should I just ‘leave well enough alone’ and live with things as they are—with eye strain and un-remediated vision issues?  Or should I trust myself to the knife of a skilled surgeon and the hope that congenital defect can be resolved for the better. I had made the decision, trusting this was God’s provision and direction for me; now to stand unshaken in faith.

This is perhaps not so very unlike the life of faith I am called to live.  I have trusted myself to a skilled Surgeon.  He has me under the knife.  He intends to create the image of His Son in me.  The old heart has been replaced with a new one, my spirit has been given the life of His Spirit, he’s renewing my mind with truth and cleaning out old habits and thought patterns that don’t fit anymore…And one day, in the blink of an eye, it will be done.  I’ll rise from the table that is this lifetime, transformed into a new make and model that will never again face fear or cringe in guilt.  I will be ‘like unto his glorious body’, righteous through and through.

I’m looking forward to that hope.  And I’m learning to listen to His Word and His Spirit as they show me ‘this is the way; walk in it’.  And I’m thankful for this forgiveness in which I stand by faith, freed from ‘everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses’. (Acts 13:39). I do believe He is at work in my days; Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel…which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.  I Cor.15:1,2

For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.
Gal 5:5

If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. I Cor1:19

And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.  Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. Rom.8:23-26

Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. I Cor.15:49

We know that when he appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is. I Jn.3:2

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,  who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. Phil.3:20,21

Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen. Gal.6:18

February 22, 2015

Grace is Underrated!

I did a bit of reading on our road trip—just a few morsels from an old book titled Disciplined By Grace: Studies in Christian Conduct (by J.F.Strombeck,1947). I was intrigued by the authors’ thesis.  He contends that “all teaching of righteous living, to be effective, must not be grounded in law, but in grace.  Any appeal for godliness, not related to grace is based on a false premise.”(11)

While it may seem that too much emphasis on grace would lead to careless living, and that the Law is what is needed to produce godliness, he contends that this is not the teaching of Scripture.  Rather, it is God’s grace that not only saves us but that also sustains and perfects our growth in godliness. 

Of course, Strombeck spends the rest of his book carefully defining and describing exactly what grace is and how it works in us to produce godliness. I haven’t finished the book yet and even if I had I could not reiterate it all in this post (you may now breathe a sigh of relief!).  However I would like to talk a little about  two passages he bases his thoughts on—the first a statement in Titus, the other an illustration from a rather odd story regarding Abraham.  If you have the time, do grab a cup of tea and allow me to explain…

Scripture supports this idea that it is grace, not law which transforms us.  The law tells men what they must do but does not provide the power to accomplish it (Rom.8:3). Even once we have believed and been set free from sin’s condemnation, it is only by God’s grace that we can live a life pleasing to Him ‘for if righteousness were through the law then Christ died for no purpose’ (Gal.2:21) At the point we begin to depend on our ability to keep the law, we have fallen away from grace (Gal.5:4) The law has served its purpose as schoolmaster once it has brought us to Christ in humble admission of our inability to keep it. Now we are under grace, being trained by it to live godly lives. 

This is most clearly stated in Titus 2:11-14:

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age,  looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. Titus 2:11-14 NKJV

In short, Paul tells Titus that the saving grace of God has appeared and that it teaches us in order that we might deny ungodliness and live godly lives characterized by good works, while we wait for our Savior’s reappearing. Grace, not law, produces godliness.

Interestingly, the word translated ‘teaching’ here is the same word often rendered as ‘chasten’(KJV) or ‘discipline’.  It is used to describe the training of children, whether by words of correction or by the rod!  For instance:

  • “For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines.” (Heb.12:6,7,10)
  • “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent. (Rev.3:19)

God’s grace trains (or disciplines) men to live godly lives (thus the title of the book: Disciplined by Grace). The by-products of God’s gracious action will be evident:

1) denial of ungodliness and worldly lusts

2) sober, righteous and godly living

3) anticipation of Jesus’ return!

These are the evidences of grace at work.  Where they are not in evidence we have reason to question whether the grace of God has been rightly understood or received.  For while it is true that the grace of God has appeared to all men in the person of Jesus Christ, not all have believed on Him as their Saviour and submitted their lives to Him as their God.  Apart from the death of Christ on one’s behalf there can be no grace of God toward men, only a fearful expectation of judgment.  Faith in Jesus is the condition for God’s grace to be extended to man. “I believe that Jesus died for me, because of my sins, and I receive Him as my Savior and the rightful Lord of my life.”

No amount of good works or law-abiding will produce a life acceptable to God.  The law was not designed for this.  It is rather a tool to make us aware of the gulf that lies between ourselves and God.  By the law everyone in the world is shown to be guilty before God (Romans 3:19).  No one measures up as ‘good’ when stood up against the Law’s standard.   For this reason God sent Jesus as a sacrifice for sin that He might extend saving grace to all who believe.

OK, so we know salvation is by grace through faith, but what about growth in godliness?  Is this where the law kicks in—with a set of does and don’ts that define and motivate Christian conduct?

This was the error that slipped into the church in Galatia.  They began to think that the justified believer is made perfect by keeping the law.  Paul said NO! ‘the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.  But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.” (Gal.3:24,25)  And elsewhere he said, “you are not under the law (where sin takes dominion) but under grace.” (Rom.6:14)

How then does grace train us (discipline us) toward godliness? 

A very sweet chapter was devoted to illustrating how this works.  It was drawn from the life of Abraham in Genesis 14:17-25.  Let me see if I can summarize the story for you.

You will remember the story of Abraham and Lot in which they parted company to settle in the land of Canaan.  Abraham generously gave Lot first pick; he chose the fertile Jordan valley and settled near the very wicked city of Sodom.  Well, by and by this city was overrun by rival kings and Lot and his family were among those carried off with all their possessions. 

Enter: Abraham to the rescue.  He gathered his home-trained forces and pursued the victors.  He defeated them and brought back his nephew Lot along with the rest of the captives and their possessions.  Now he was in line to be richly rewarded by the wicked king of Sodom for his service.  Enter: Melchizedek, that mysterious figure referred to as the King of Salem and the ‘priest of God Most High’.  He arrived on the scene with bread and wine and a blessing for Abraham direct from ‘God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth’.  In the blessing Abraham was reminded that it was God who had delivered the enemy into his hands and Abraham responded with a gift of gratitude, a tenth of everything he’d recovered.   

Only then, after Abraham was fortified with food and drink and freshly reminded that the God he served was the possessor of everything, did the wicked King of Sodom step forward offering Abraham all the goods he had brought back: “Give me the persons, but take the goods for yourself.”

But Abraham declined his offer, refusing to take even ‘a thread or a sandal strap or anything that is yours’. His reason? ‘lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich’.  He took nothing for himself; God was His portion and provider.  He did not succumb to ‘worldly lusts’ but chose to live “soberly, righteously and godly” with his hope fixed on what God would choose to provide as His inheritance. 

Shortly after this incident the LORD come to Abraham in  a vision saying: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great”. In this vision God promises him a son, to be his heir, and through him countless offspring—one of whom we know would be the Messiah, our Lord Jesus Christ.  And Abraham ‘believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness’.

Do you see the elements of grace at work  in this story training a man of faith in godliness? I confess I hadn’t seen some of these threads myself but was quite fascinated with the imagery J.F.Strombeck points out.  So I’ve lifted out a portion of the chapter titled:  The Bread and the Wine  to share with you here.  Note the threads of grace throughout.  (Any bolded words are my own doing, not in the original.)  Oh, and now would be a good time to pour yourself a second cup of tea!

The following excerpts are from Disciplined by Grace* by J.F. Strombeck, 1947

--The moment Abraham, the man of faith, was to be tested, God sent a priest to him.  It was not a lawgiver that God sent, nor was it a prophet to remind him of judgment that might come upon him if he departed from the way of righteousness.  No, Melchizedek…was a priest…one who approaches God on the basis of a sacrifice that has been made to atone for sin, and pleads with God on behalf of man.  Because of the sacrifice, the demands of God’s holiness and righteousness have been met, and therefore God is free to act in grace in response to the pleading of the priest…The whole incident was on the ground of grace—pure grace.  It was grace disciplining Abraham. (37)

--Melchizedek brought bread and wine.  That bread and wine were a type, pointing forward to the death of Christ, just as now the bread and wine are symbols reminding the believer thereof.  Inasmuch as the death of Christ satisfied divine justice and made grace possible the incident clearly speaks of grace. (37)

--The blessing of the ‘possessor of heaven and earth’ were added to the benefits derived from partaking of the bread and the wine.  As the bread and wine point to the Son whom God spared not, but delivered up for us all, so the blessings of the possessor of heaven and earth point to the “all things” which are freely given with the Son (Rom.8:32).  Here then, is “grace upon grace”.  It was the grace of God which brings salvation, teaching Abraham that God, because He is the possessor of Heaven and earth, is fully able to give him everything he needed.  It was a reminder that the riches which God, who owns Heaven and earth, give are far greater than any possible favors from and ungodly king.  God’s gifts, being both spiritual and temporal, satisfy both the spirit and the body.

--Abraham’s tithes were given freely.  In this giving of the tithe, Abraham voluntarily acknowledged his full dependence upon God for all that he had.  This is the true state of grace.

--Communion with God’s high priest had revealed to Abraham the riches of God’s grace…the utter worthlessness of the riches of the ungodly king as compared with the blessings of the Most High God.  This shows that the mere reminder of what Christ has accomplished by His death and what God does in love because of Him is a tremendous force for separation from worldly lusts…He would not accept [riches] at the hand of the ungodly king.  He looked to God’s abounding provision in love to supply all that he needed.

--“I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet” …A thread is the smallest part of a garment.  Garments in the Bible are symbolic of the believer’s righteous standing before God.  The shoelatchet is that which holds the shoe fast and aids in walking.  The earthly life of the believer is called his walk.  The meaning of this then is that the world cannot contribute the smallest particle either to the believer’s standing before God or to his holy living. (40)

--As Melchizedek brought bread and wine to Abraham, so another, “called of God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek” (Heb.5:10) also took bread and wine.  “Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you” (I Cor.11:24)  “This is my blood….which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matt26:28)  Ever since, throughout this age of grace, the bread and the wine have been a memorial to all believers; a constant reminder of what God in grace, through Christ, has done for them.

--As Abraham was strengthened by the bread and the wine and the communion with Melchizedek, so likewise is the believer strengthened in meditation upon what Christ is to him, as symbolized by the bread and the wine….A vision of Christ, of His broken body and shed blood, prompts the believer to refuse to be enriched by the ungodly world.  The realization that God is the possessor of Heaven and earth, and that He is able to supply all need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus (Phil.4:19), makes it possible to reject the favors of the world….

And thus conclude my road-trip morsels.  And I’ve been chewing ever since.  Could it be that the more we comprehend the greatness of God’s continuous grace toward us, the more we will live the lives He has intended for us from before time began?  I do think so!

Thanks for joining me for tea ( :
Feel free to leave some crumbs…


“The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.  The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.” Ps.16:5,6

“Deliver my soul from the wicked…from men of the world whose portion is in this life.” Ps.17:13,14

“As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness.” Ps.17:15

*If you should be interested in reading more of this book, it is available in PDF format, to read online, HERE.

And I must share one more link to an incredible message based on
Titus 2:11-14 given by Charles Spurgeon back in 1886 and still so relevant! “The Two Appearings and the Discipline of Grace” is available for the reading HERE.

February 13, 2015

Exercising Godliness…

What exactly is godliness?  How do we exercise it?

The term “godliness” occurs repeatedly in Paul’s letters to Timothy but is never once defined there.  So I’ve been scouring dictionaries and this is what I’ve found.  The word is eusebeia, from the joining of eu- ‘good’, well-done’ with sebo- ‘to revere or worship, to be devout’.  In the New Testament it always refers to a God-ward devotion, combining the idea of reverence toward God with love of His character and resulting in a life devoted to pleasing God.

Paul writes to Timothy to nail down the nitty-gritty of what godliness should look like in the household of God.  He warns about false teachers, encourages prayer, describes appropriate behavior for men and women, advises about the qualifications of local church leaders… and then launches into a rather perplexing statement:  “Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness”  OK, so maybe godliness is  not so straightforward as ‘do this’ and ‘don’t do that’.  In explaining what he means, Paul quotes what is believed to be a hymn familiar to his hearers:

He was manifested in the flesh,
vindicated by the Spirit,
seen by angels,
proclaimed among the nations,
believed on in the world,
taken up in glory.
I Tim.3:16 ESV

He is of course describing Jesus, the epitome of godliness! Jesus--the One who perfectly fulfilled God’s intent for man, who was perfectly devoted to doing the Father’s will, who not only lived a sinless life, but provided a perfect sacrifice for the rest of us and then paved the way to glory, rising to prove His authority over death and His right to be the Saviour of the world.  Jesus is the essence of godliness.

But what did he mean that godliness is a great mystery?  The first line alone qualifies as mystery: He was manifested in the flesh”   How does “the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see”…how does this one show up on earth in a physical human body? (I Tim.6:15,16) to live among us and show us what God is like?

Great indeed is the mystery of godliness!

But the mystery gets thicker.  Not only is Jesus fully God and fully man but by the offering of Himself in a physical body he makes a way for humankind to be set apart as His own glorious, spotless, holy bride.  As a man and his wife become one flesh, so Christ invites us to be one with Him and His Father“I in them and You in me, that they may become perfectly one” (Jn.17:23) There that word ‘mystery’ crops up again: “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” (Eph.5:32)

And lest you think I’ve gone off on a rabbit trail, I would propose that this mystery is integrally related to the mystery of godliness.  How in the world can a human being of whom ‘none is righteous, no not one’  be expected to live a godly life?  It is not in us.  We can perhaps draw up a descriptive list of standards for godliness.  We can commit ourselves to it.  But we cannot do it to any degree that qualifies as godly.  For to be godly implies that God must do it. 

How can these things be?

Think of how many times Jesus was asked by dumbstruck people, “How can these things be?”    There was Nicodemus, faced with the need to be born a second time if he wished to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  “How can this be?  Can I enter a second time into my mother’s womb?!  I don’t get it.” (Jn.3)

Later Jesus would tell His disciples that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God (Mk.10:25). Their response?  “And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, ‘Then who can be saved?’”

And remember the feeding of the 5,000?   It was getting late; everyone was hungry.   The disciples advised Jesus that He’d better send them away to find food and lodging.  He said, “You give them something to eat.” (Lk.9:13)  Huh?  We have only five loaves an two fishes… how’s that going to work?!

Following that episode He got to talking about Himself being the Bread of life.  “If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.”(Jn.6:51) The Jews were scandalized  at the idea.  “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?!”  they said.

You can likely think of other such occasions where Jesus’ words were sheer mystery.  How can these things be?  And each time, what was required was unseen and unattainable apart from God’s intervention.  Each time faith was required.

And I’m thinking that it’s no different with the mystery of godliness.
"With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God." (Mk.10:26-27 ESV)  If we could do it on our own there would be no mystery in it!

This is no matter of mere imitation.  We can look at the life of Jesus and try to do exactly what He did, try to be pleasing, try to be ‘godly’.  We can make rules and keep them by sheer will power.  But it is exactly this will power that got us in trouble in the first place via our ancestors in the Garden. Trusting my will to accomplish righteousness is precisely the opposite of exercising faith in Christ’s righteousness. Thinking that we can conform to God’s standards on our own steam is a delusion of the most insidious kind.  We might ask Abraham about this.  It is not enough to be committed to doing God’s will by our own methods.  God’s work must be done in God’s way, by God’s power, and in God’s good time. 

We forget that the law was never meant to make man godly.

As Ian Thomas so aptly puts it: “The Law can no more make you godly than a railway guide can make a train run on time—and by nature you are always behind schedule!”(115)

The law only reminds us of our guilt and inability due to our inherently sinful natures.  Our best efforts are not good enough. Of course, God knowing this, provided along with the law a sacrificial system so that He could show mercy on His people until the time had come for the Ultimate Sacrifice of His Son.  “For what the law was powerless to do, in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did, by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.  And so He condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.”   (Rom.8:3,4)  Ah the glorious mystery of godliness! 

And that same necessity of Christ’s death and resurrection that saves us is the reality that will enable our lives to  be godly. For in reality a godly life must be the life of God lived in me.  I appreciate the way Ian Thomas explains it in his book, The Mystery of Godliness.  He says that “godliness—or God-likeness—is the direct and exclusive consequence of God’s activity in man.  Not the consequence of your capacity to imitate God, but the consequence of God’s capacity to reproduce Himself in you!” (42)

He suggests that the truly Christian life can only be explained in terms of Jesus Christ.  If my life is explicable in terms of my personality, willpower, talents, money, sacrifice or any such thing, then it is not a truly Christian life. There is no mystery in it.  The kind of life I live as a Christ-follower ought to be beyond human explanation, beyond the capacity of imitation.  The Lord Jesus Christ must be the essential ingredient of it.  I believe this is what Paul struggled to express in Galatians 2—“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!" (Gal.2:20,21 NIV)

Just as Nicodemus needed the Spirit to transform him in order to enter God’s Kingdom, so each of us is dependent on that same Spirit to empower us to live godly lives.  The key ingredient required is reliance on God to do for me what I cannot do for myself.  This is faith.  Apart from it there is no pleasing God. “It is only the Spirit of God acting within you, who can ever enable you to behave as God intended you to behave!” (47)  I am NOT suggesting that a godly life must be punctuated by a series of miraculous events, signs and wonders, or supernatural phenomena in order to be a truly godly life.  It is not these externals that prove a man is God-powered.  God’s greatest works are done in the secret places of the heart.  His Spirit moves when and how He wills in each of us.  We are forewarned that many will say ‘Lord, Lord’ and point to the sensational accomplishments of their lives.  And Christ will call them ‘workers of iniquity’ and deny ever having known them. Mt.7:22

“They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.” Titus 1:16  God is not expecting us to do sensational things.  He is looking for the one who is willing to live in complete dependence and surrender to Him, trusting and obeying Him as He fulfills His will in us in whatever way He pleases whether small or great in man’s eyes. 

He is not impressed by our words or our standards.  He wants our hearts to be wholly His. The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.” Is.29:13

Christ modeled for us such a surrender—a dependent ‘faith-love’ relationship with the Father.  He was unwilling to do anything on His own initiative apart from the Father’s instruction.  He humbled himself to the point of death and calls us to take up the cross prepared for us and follow, to live to do the Father’s will, to die to our glory and live for His.

I am challenged by these thoughts.  Paul instructs Timothy to exercise himself toward godliness (I Tim.4:7) I know what it is to do physical exercise--to push myself so that my heart gets a workout, to stretch ligaments beyond their comfort zone, to press weights so as to strengthen muscles--but what will training toward godliness look like? Exercising till my heart  beats with God’s heart, stretching by faith beyond my comfort zone, and perhaps in this case laying aside weights that keep me from running well! 

I can get lost in the theoretical and fail to bring things down to the practical.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on what exercising toward godliness looks like.  Let’s be looking to the Coach together.  He knows.


 A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.  Luke 6:40

Behold, God is my salvation;
I will trust, and will not be afraid;
for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song,
and he has become my salvation. Is.12:2




February 6, 2015

The Mystery of Godliness

It’s a mystery. It’s a calling.  It’s humanly impossible.  It’s of value in every way for time and eternity…I have a smorgasbord of thoughts today on godliness, and lots of  loose ends too…

It's been a week of re-orienting physical bodies to a new place and new routines. I've been at the gym doing weight training this week--a brand new enterprise for me... Also went out cross-country skiing for the first time in thirty years with intent to keep up the practice as much as weather permits. It's soggy today; we'll visit the gym.

Being physically in a new place we've had to orient our bodies to new ways of exercising. My elliptical trainer now stands at a big basement window overlooking a snow-laden slope of towering firs that descend to the weir far below. We walked there this summer with the grandkids. Now it would require snowshoes.

But all these are merely physical adjustments for physical bodies.  What of our spirits?  How will they be affected by this geographical move? What are God’s purposes for our integration into His Body here?  We've visited a local assembly, worshipped with them, and even been invited to a small home Bible study. We've gone and participated, offering our words and insights for consideration. We have yet to see how the Spirit of God will use us in this place. It is He that builds and bonds His body scattered as we are geographically. We are like living stones, says Peter, ‘the rock’, indwelt by the same Spirit, governed by the same Head, intent on the same purpose.  We are God’s people set in an evil generation to shine with God’s excellencies.  We are called to be godly—inhabited by God so that we can live for God—in the midst of a populace blinded by the deceitfulness of sin and the lies of the enemy.

I was reading I Timothy this morning. Paul talks a lot here about the mystery of godliness.  How can flesh and blood be God-like?  And yet it is our calling as the household of God, “the church of the living God—a pillar and buttress of the truth.”(I Tim.3:15)  Godliness is integrally related to faith.  It would seems there's no possibility of one without the other. There are imitations that don’t require faith.  Paul speaks of these too.  But I camped out today on this idea of the mystery of godliness.  In fact I interrupted my writing to read a book entitled The Mystery of Godliness by Ian Thomas.   Why is godliness called a mystery?  What exactly is godliness?  How is it possible?  And because I spent so much time reading, I will have to leave those questions for next time!  But getting back to Timothy and Paul…

Paul says some things that run counter to our natural mindset.  He says that to have godliness with contentment is great gain. The world has no idea; natural man has no desire to merely reflect God’s glory, he wants to be god, to be in charge, to call the shots, to determine right and wrong.  Consequently, not only godliness but manliness seems to have come into disrepute. Gender identity has become a tangled web snaring many. God's design for man and woman is increasingly sidelined and redefined as our culture races headlong to do what seems right to man but is an abomination to God. Into this broken mixed-up mess come Paul's words crossing the grain of cultural norms:

There is great gain in godliness with contentment. I Tim.6:6

By way of contrast he says that though physical training is of some profit, "godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come." I Tim.4:8  We get to the gym.  We pursue an active lifestyle to keep our bodies fit, but it must not be an end in itself.  Our bodies are only temporary shells that house eternal spirits.  Jim reminds me often that the reason we exercise is so that we will be ready and able to do what God calls us to do with these bodies.  It is a stewardship issue.  But ultimately it is training in godliness that yields eternal dividends. 

Paul goes on to caution that godliness is not intended as a means of monetary gain. For the love of money is a great snare--the root of all kinds of evils. Mixing love of money and a pretense of godliness is a snare apt to plunge people into ruin and destruction. Hmm... how many Christian ministries have detoured from genuine godliness in the pursuit of money to purportedly build the Kingdom?  Where godliness is not accompanied with contentment, it is not godliness at all.

Plunked right in the middle of his letter to Timothy, Paul instructs Timothy to train himself for godliness for its benefits extend beyond this lifetime, beyond mere physical training... That concept challenges me.   How does one train for godliness? What is Paul’s advice?  I’ll be pondering these things this week as I come and go from the gym and meditate on I Timothy some more.  Will you join me?

Thanks for stopping by to share my smorgasbord.  I hope I’ve whet your appetite. 


“Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.”
I Tim.6:6,7