Some of the recent advertisements out for a consulting firm use Tiger Woods to highlight their professionalism <show a few of the print adverts>. Tiger Woods is on top of his game. As an athlete he is not only one of the best but one of the most recognizable in terms of excellence.
Any fool can play cow pasture pool – but if you want to golf like Tiger Woods it's going to take discipline and hard work; not to mention an enormous investment of time. That company claims that they know what it takes to be a Tiger. Bully for them. You might want to work on that hook or slice you've been nursing but I've got something more important than your golf swing for you to work on.
Do you have what it takes to be godly?
Open your Bible to 1 Timothy 4:7-10 this morning (Read)
Athletes train hard. But quite frankly what they train for doesn't last. High school trophy cases must occasionally be purged in order to make room for new trophies. Super bowl winners have been known to sell their rings for money, crowns fade the cheering crowds disappear and once strong muscles and joints begin to creek and groan.
This body might be the temple of the holy spirit but it is failing and fading. Listen to Paul's first letter to the Corinthians
"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize." (1 Co 9:24-27, NIV)
It's time to go into training for something that lasts. Physical fitness has it's uses but Spiritual Fitness: Godliness pays off for eternity. It's not likely any of us here this morning are going to win the gold in the 2008 Olympics. But if you'll take today's message to heart, you can win the prize in heaven.
Are you ready to get to work? Here are the ground rules for winning the gold.
Avoid Spiritual Junk Food
He says have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives tales. The word used there means reject it outright. The urgency with which we are ordered to reject these should give some indication of the damage they can cause. 1 Timothy 1:4 demonstrates that at the very least they fail to accomplish anything of value for the kingdom. 1 Timothy 1:19 indicates that at worse they can cause irreparable damage to your faith.
Worldly or godless myths translates something that is antithetical to that which is holy. This is not merely stuff that is not Bible related but rather the stuff that is against God's word in principle.
Rule number one is don't waste your time absorbing garbage. It isn't worth the price. You are a Spiritual athlete in training for the gold. You don't have time for fluff.
Notice then that he gives a different direction. That idea of "on the other hand" is strong here. He says …"discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness." Let's take that phrase and work backward. If you're going to avoid spiritual junk food you need to be mindful of what IS worthy of taking in; you need to clarify what your goal is supposed to be.
Clarify Your Goal
In a word, the goal is godliness. Back in 1 Timothy 3:16 we've already seen godliness defined as being embodied in Christ Jesus – but disciplining ourselves for godliness in our lives means being like Jesus. And that is hard work.
"Godliness is a right attitude and response toward the true creator God. A preoccupation from the heart with holy and sacred realities."(MacArthur 164). Don't miss that idea of preoccupation. Disciplining yourself for the purpose of godliness means being obsessed with conformity to Christlikeness.
Training for godliness means that godliness is the goal. Ask yourself the honest question, "what is my goal in life?" Some of us might answer, "Comfort" . Others of us might say, retirement, wealth, my hobbies, fame, popularity or reputation. But quite frankly those goals are off course for a Christian. "Pursue Godliness" is the goal.
What is your goal? If it isn't godliness it's time to take that to the Lord in humble repentance. If you're not living with God as your first goal than you're out of balance. Once you've re-oriented your goal it's time to get down to work.
Discipline yourself. Our word Gymnasium comes from this word for discipline. Becoming godly demands that you train in gymnastic discipline. You have to control yourself by thorough discipline. Look back at what paul said in 1 Corinthians "… I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave… "
(1 Corinthians 9:26-27)
Discipline isn't easy but it is required. There is a double characteristic which I want to highlight in this phrase, "discipline yourself".
make yourself obey
First it means what you expect it to mean: "Make yourself obey!" This isn't necessarily a popular perspective in our culture. Personal discipline is at an all time low in our society. If you want evidence look at the obesity which has come upon this country with epidemic proportions. America is fat because people are undisciplined in what they eat, and in how they exercise (which is usually not at all).
And when it does come to the celebration of athleticism, we tend to shift our attention from the personal pursuit of physical fitness to the vicarious hero worship of the professional athlete.
A very common business practice today is called "outsourcing". Outsourcing means hiring an outside company to do something inside your company which is considered to be too expensive, too complicated or too time-consuming for your own business to do by itself.
In the same way we tend to shift our godliness from our shoulders to the pulpit and the stage. We will not pray – the pastor should pray enough for all of us. We do not read or study the Bible – the pastor or Sunday School Teacher must do it for us. We won't worship – the song or the song-leader must move us. We will not ourselves serve Christ by serving others – let the church step in and do something about it.
But godliness is not outsourceable! It's not something that is best left in the hands of professionals. Godliness is not merely an essential function; it is the essential function of our lives.
Look at what he says: "godliness is profitable for all things" Many Christians however are intellectually and Spiritually lazy. There is no mental or spiritual discipline in their lives. A good servant of Jesus Christ however will be marked by strong personal discipline. We need to discipline ourselves for godliness.
There is a secondary characteristic to this word which might serve to give hope to the undisciplined and that is the aspect of practice. You're going to have to work for it. The word used here is intense, indicating that it is to be a constant training.
Training is a constant which can never be ignored. Last week we talked about the need to be saturated in God's word. This week we discover that the that saturation has to come at a cost. The cost is that we have to start rejecting the godless and silly myths and false doctrines of our time. Secondary to the cost is that we must continually work at godliness. Like any exercise or personal discipline worth doing, it requires that we be diligently and completely absorbed in it.
Nobody ever learned to play the piano by listening to musical recordings. If you want to play you have to practice. And if you want to be an excellent pianist you must discipline yourself to practice much.
If you want to be godly you have to discipline yourself for the purposes of godliness.
Be honest with yourself and ask the question: could you describe yourself as "absorbed" in the faith? Or is your faith just something you dabble in?
Serving the Lord Christ has got to stop being one of the things we occasionally do and it has to become an obsession at which we continually work. Godliness is not obtained by accident, it must be pursued with athletic intensity.
I don't watch a lot of sports myself but I always wonder when I look out into the crowds and I see those guys at the football game, who when it's snowing outside; have stripped off their shirts and painted their bodies in their team's colors. They're cheering and hollering and carrying on and I just wonder what their faith looks like. I don't think it's unlikely that some of those guys are Christians. But if they're Christians do they put that kind of intensity into their faith? Quite frankly, if they don't than they are sadly out of balance and completely off the course.
If I could make one more quick observation about discipline it's this: note that he says, "discipline yourself!
This is not something which I can do for you, neither is it possible for someone else to do it for you. I can do no more than be a personal trainer at best – ultimately it is YOU who must decide how seriously you are going to pursue the faith. You have to do the heavy lifting if you want stronger spiritual muscles.
Cut out the Spiritual junk food, set your eyes on the prize, and make yourself obey. Those are the ground rules for winning the prize.
The exercises themselves are familiar.
Pursue biblical knowledge by reading and studying your word.
Walk in obedience to what you read and learn.
Spread the gospel.
Yes the exercises are familiar – All that's needed is the discipline to work at them. Don't run aimlessly. Don't box the air. Do the heavy lifting. Don't give up. Don't quit. Don't lose your focus. The prize is before you. Pursue it! Yearn for it. Work at it.
Discipline yourself for the purpose of Godliness.