“Exercise… Unto Godliness” – Part 1

1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;

2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;

3 Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.

4 For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving:

5 For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.

6 If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained.

7 But refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness.

8 For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. 1 Tim. 4:1-8

One of the most accomplished guitarists I have ever met, a man named Bryceson, once told me that there is a principle in guitar-paying that states that:

  1. If you skip practicing for one day, you will notice the difference
  2. If you do not practice for two days, your fellow artists will take notice.
  3. If you fail to practice for three days, the audience will notice.

I believe it is even so with the church. Anything and everything requires practice in order to be perfected. And the Bible here tells us that it is no different with the things of the Spirit.

“Exercise thyself rather unto godliness.”

On our way towards perfection, we are to exercise ourselves greatly in the things of the Spirit.

There are many ways that one can exercise themselves in Godliness. As a young believer, I found myself immersing myself in the Word and in prayer. These things built up a strong foundation in my Christian life.

Something else happened in my life. I left off my old company. Actually, I did so in style. I used to hang out with a gang of three friends in college. When I got saved, I told them, “Guys, let’s go for a walk.”

We went out and I sat them down on a piece of rock. Then I stood in front of them and declared to them that I was now saved.

I will not go into the details of what followed next, but I can assure you there is no better way of saying bye to your former companions-in-sin. After preaching to them the little of salvation that I knew, I left them there, stunned and speechless, and I went my way to seek for brethren to fellowship with.

Those three steps are very important in our initial walk with the Lord. You cannot skip them in your growth in salvation. But as you grow older in your salvation, however, you realize that there is something else bothering you. There is another enemy: the enemy within. Yes, you begin to get acquainted with the greatest enemy of our souls: self.

That is when adulthood kicks in and you realize the battle has not been won yet. You are saved, yes; filled with the Holy Spirit, yes; you know the Bible, you’ve become a prayer warrior; you are probably casting out demons right and left; all your former friends are gone from your life (or you have managed to convert some); AND THEN, at some point in your life, you become aware of your own personal shortcomings and inner battles. This is where, if you are on the right foundation, the revelation of the cross comes in. You realize that you need to crucify your flesh.

It is mandatory that every believer arrive at this stage – the Pauline revelation of “Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2) – otherwise he/she will remain a spiritual babe all their lives. Unfortunately, many believers do not arrive here. They never come to the realization that they need to deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Christ. They follow after other gospels that veer off the narrow road. But self is our mortal enemy. The Apostle Peter exhorts us:

“Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul” (1 Pet. 2:11).

The mature Christian realizes that the enemy of his soul is within, not without. He wars, not so much with the devil as with his flesh, and with sin. And there is only one weapon he has been given whereby he can win this battle: the cross. In the revelation of Christ crucified alone can the believer learn to “abstain from fleshly lusts”.

And he crucifies his flesh every day. That is his spiritual exercise.

“But refuse profane and old wives’ fables” (v.7)

The word “fables” is mentioned four times in the Pauline epistles; and all four times it is directed to Paul’s young disciples, Timothy and Titus. It is therefore evident that it is in the process of growing up in the Spirit, and especially as a preacher, that one can easily encounter and come under the influence of men’s wisdom, or fables.

One of the dangers of growing up as a young believer is the danger of being derailed by worldly wisdom. There are many people, especially religious leaders, who use more brain than the Spirit to try and understand the things of the Lord, and to lead others in the same. The more educated, the more this danger grows. The more weaponry the brain gets to fight the spirit with. That is why in 1 Timothy 1:4, Paul says:

“Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do.”

The church is not a debating club. Nor is it a university where doctorates are offered. The church is a place where the Spirit of God is given full and free reign to reveal Christ, Christ crucified. This is what brings Godly edifying to God’s people.

Very educated people who are devoid of the Spirit love debating the Word of God and building un-Biblical doctrines. The Apostle Paul told Titus:

Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth.” (Tit. 1:14)

Much desire after education brings these things into one’s life; but Godly edification simply relies on a humble heart.

“For bodily exercise profiteth little…”

Christians use this scripture to justify physical exercise. But God is not bothered with whether you exercise or not. You can be the most un-athletic person in the world and still go to heaven. And scripture here is not talking about such bodily exercise, anyway. On the contrary, it is talking about all the worldly education that we are hearing today in church thinly veiled as the gospel. You hear someone say, for example, “I believe prospering for the believer means prospering in their spirit, prospering in the finances, prospering in their health, prospering in their marriage, prospering in their job…”

What a concoction! Here there is no Spirit. God’s people are simply being exercised in their minds. And if you exercise yourself in all those things mentioned there, you will end up with very little profit in the Spirit.

[I love the simplicity of village folks. Lacking in the education of this world, but mature in the Lord]

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