Train YOURSELF To Be Godly: What God Expects Of Me

“Train yourself,” Paul says to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:7.

By telling Timothy to “train himself”, Paul is saying to him that he has a responsibility if he wants to grow in Christlikness. He’s not telling Timothy that it’s all on him. Invariably, whenever you begin talking about the role you and I are to play in the drama of salvation, somebody will ask, “But I thought we were saved by grace.” 

Part of the problem with much modern day “discipleship” is we’ve taken the “discipline” out of “discipleship”. We’ve made it soft and cuddly.  No training required. No work needed. “Let go, let God.”

Culture comes along in its leather jacket and bullies us, pushes us against the wall, says, “I don’t agree with your idea of sexuality” and whole swaths of believers, and entire denominations say, “Oh, well maybe we’re the ones who’ve got it wrong. No worries – we’ll change.” The moment the world pushes on our doctrine just the smallest bit, we’re the ones who cave. If that’s not weakness, I don’t know what is. Too many Christians have bought into the defective idea that being “saved by grace” somehow means we don’t have to do anything, contribute anything, or give anything to our faith.

Part of the problem with much modern day “discipleship” is we’ve taken the “discipline” out of “discipleship”.

Saved By Grace For Works

Yes, we’re saved by grace. There’s no work to do to secure salvation because no work will do. “In Christ alone, my hope is found” we sing. But once we’re saved, and Jesus brings us into the family, he invites us to roll up our sleeves and get down to work – with him alongside us. I’m not saved by good works, I’m saved for good works.

The Bible teaches this everywhere, Old Testament and new. Psalm 37:3 says, “Trust in the Lord and do good.” Notice the order. “Trust” then “Do”. With apologies to John 3:16, this is the gospel in a nutshell, and this is the verse that should be help up high in football endzones.

Why else does Paul say in Philippians 2:12-13. “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you.” He doesn’t say work for your salvation. He says, “Work out.” Salvation is already yours. Jesus bought it for you with his death on the cross. But now it’s your part to make your salvation stronger.

You don’t work “for” your body, do you? Did any of you – before you parachuted down the birth canal – get to walk into a Men’s Warehouse For Bodies and get to pick one out?

“Oh this is nice. Love the skin tone. Look at the muscle texture. This would be nice. Oh, but look at this thick head of hair.”

Sorry, but our body’s already given to us. So what do you do to be healthy? You work “out” your body. It’s the same thing with being spiritually healthy. You “work out” your salvation.

Yet even here, notice: we’re not doing this in our own power. Paul says, “Work out your salvation…for it is God who works in you.” Grace carries us each and every step of the way. But along the way, God grants us the dignity of stewardship and the nobility of ownership. It’s our choice whether we are filled with the Spirit, or quench or grieve the Spirit. It’s our choice whether we “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18), or “receive the grace of God in vain” (2 Cor.6:1). Your hand is on the throttle.

Spiritually Lazy…And Worse

I see so many Christians struggling today, and it’s not just with purity issues. Biblical illiteracy is off-the-charts, in the church. Christians aren’t reading their Bibles the way they need to be. It’s the surest way to know God’s heart, hear God’s voice, and receive God’s power, but so many can’t be bothered. Each fall, pastors preach, and pray and plead for people to step up and serve in ministry, and reach out into the community, and yet by Christmas, it’s 20% of the people doing 80% of the work. Christian’s are in debt and financial trouble in percentages nearly equal to non-Christians. Study after study shows that Christians are in worse physical shape than non-Christians, we’re heavier, we’re slower. (Is this where our potlucks have brought us?)

What’s going on? Sure it’s a spiritual problem. Every problem in the end comes down to a person’s relationship with their Maker. But it’s also a discipline problem. We’re lazy! Lukewarm! We won’t submit to the Lord’s training. We won’t take his yoke upon our necks and learn from him. We won’t pick up our cross and follow him. We put our hand to the plow and we look back. (All these are images the Bible uses to describe how we should live as Christians.) But not us. We won’t be bothered. We’re saved by grace.

God grants us the dignity of stewardship and the nobility of ownership. It’s our choice whether we are filled with the Spirit, or quench or grieve the Spirit.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer called such thinking, “Cheap grace”. God’s grace is costly. It cost the Son of God his life, and to receive the free gift of salvation will demand something of you and me as well.

Whatever you think of discipleship, trust me, it includes this idea of training. Do you think that becoming a Christian means that you now get to lay back on a hammock, while the angels bring you pina coladas and Dove chocolates?

You have a choice to make today. Will you commit to the Lord training you? Will you put the word “discipline” into your vocabulary and insert it into your habits? There is no way that you will stand strong in this world that is growing every day more and more antagonistic to the Lord you love, and the way of life he points towards, unless you make the commitment to “train yourself”. I ask you to make that commitment today. It’s time to give Jesus your A-game.

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