Exercise

1 Timothy 4:7-8
“But reject profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.”

If you are like me, you have probably seen a great number of motivational quotes posted on your Facebook wall. Things like “Pain is only weakness leaving the body” – “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” – “It’s never too late to become what you might have been” – or “just do it”. While many of us might benefit from a little more exercise, ALL of us will benefit from a little more godliness. Paul is not suggesting that getting in better physical shape is a bad thing, but is contrasting it with the benefits of being in better spiritual shape. He speaks of the profitability of godliness.

Godliness is a term which means to be living in a way that is well pleasing to the Lord. The godly man is one who is not considering his personal happiness, comfort, or his own wishes, as the determining factor in his decision-making. Instead, he is making decisions based upon what God has revealed in His Word. Often, when faced with a conflict, an impasse, or a fork in the road, we are tempted to make our decisions solely based upon our own desires. That will often lead us away from what God has for us. The godly man will look into the Word to determine what God has to say on the subject and ultimately make decisions that will be well-pleasing in the Lord’s eyes. Paul speaks of the great benefits of living such a life.

First, he says godliness benefits us in this life. Many of the trials, pains, and scars we endure, are self-inflicted. They have been caused by getting off track and doing things our way, instead of God’s way. If we trace some of our difficulties back to their source, we will find they started with a decision to do what we wanted, instead of submitting to God’s Word. It is wonderful to know, God can always pick up the pieces of a broken life and do great things with it. We need only think of Legion, the naked, demon-possessed man who lived in the tombs, to see that God can always repair a shattered life that is surrendered to Him (Mark 5:2-15). However, it is also important to remember, much of the hardships of life can be avoided by surrendering all to Christ, and determining to live in line with His Word.

Second, he says godliness has great benefits in the life to come. While much of what heaven will be like is still shrouded in darkness, we do know that entrance into heaven is reserved for those who have trusted Christ for salvation. Jesus said He alone was the way and that no one can come to the Father except through Him (John 14:6). We also know, while entrance into heaven is a free gift received by faith, treasures are stored in heaven for those who live committed to Christ. Paul spoke of crowns that were awaiting the righteous. I do not pretend to know all the mysteries of heaven, but I do trust the words of Christ, who exhorted us to live this life in a way to be rewarded in the next.

Let’s be sure to commit ourselves to a daily exercise program that includes reading the Word, doing what it says, prayer, fellowship with other believers, and looking for ways to serve the Lord.

Pastor Jim

 

Like Animals

Ecclesiastes 3:18
“I said in my heart, ‘Concerning the condition of the sons of men, God tests them, that they may see that they themselves are like animals.’”

Webster’s dictionary defines science as, “the accumulation of knowledge; particularly the knowledge gathered through the scientific method, which involves observation and experimentation.” In that regard, Solomon was a scientist of the highest quality. He spent much of his life in the pursuit of knowledge, through both observation and experimentation. He was a student of many fields of science, but perhaps, more than anything else, he studied human behavior. Watching the way fallen men and women behaved, caused him to come to the conclusion that humans are nothing more than highly evolved animals. Solomon’s conclusions were impacted by the lab he used for his experiments. Over and over he used the phrase, “under the sun”, which meant he was looking at things through the eyes of the natural, without any regard to the person, work, or Word, of God.

When we remove God and His ways from the equation, it is probable, we will consider man to be little different from other mammals. Men who give no regard to the ways of God, are driven by their appetites: when hungry they eat, tired they sleep, thirsty they drink, angry they fight, and on and on the list goes. It include any emotional drive that wells up within us. Jesus declared, when a person believes in Him, he becomes born again, and is given an entirely new nature. Instead of being driven by his natural impulses, he can be controlled by the Spirit of God.

The German philosopher, Immanuel Kant, suggested true freedom is found when an individual chooses not to be controlled by his natural impulses, but voluntarily places himself under a system of ethics outside of himself. Without saying it, he was echoing the words of Paul the Apostle, who said, “if we walk in the Spirit we will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.” Galatian 5:16

The Bible declares, God created man in His image, but through sin, we have taken a downward fall, resulting in our becoming more and more animalistic in our behaviors. Fortunately, God provides a cure for the fall. When any person trusts Christ for salvation, the Bible declares he is born again, with a brand new nature, which reveals itself by a desire to do that which is pleasing to God.

Pastor Jim

 

Liberty

1 Corinthians 8:13
“Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.”

One of the controversies the Church in Corinth faced had to do with diet. Animals were offered to pagan gods, then the meat was sold at the local butcher shops. This created a real problem for many Christians. For some, their conscience bothered them knowing that the animal was offered to false gods, while for others the issue was much more tangible. Since the butcher shops were often located close to the temples, and the temples were places of sinful activity, some knew that visiting that area would lead them right back into sin. For others, the idol issue was something of their past, and they had no problem eating the meat with thanksgiving. To them, it mattered very little what the farmer did with the animal, since they received it with thanksgiving as from the Lord.

Paul points out that the issue was much bigger than what a person has for lunch, or where they choose to go to dinner. The bigger picture was the conflict between Christian liberties and the law of love. Webster defines liberty as, “the power to do as one pleases.” As Christians, we are free to practice anything that is not forbidden by the Word of God. While there are some movies whose content certainly puts them in the category of forbidden, Christians do have the liberty to attend movies. The same could be said of television, music, and the Internet. However, there are some who, because of their past experience, or recent decision for the Lord, would stumble if they practiced the same liberties. It is here that Paul introduces a principle bigger than liberty, the principle of love.

“Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.”

As much as Paul might have enjoyed a juicy steak, or French dip sandwich, he was willing to lay those aside for the sake of others. Rather than touting about his rights, or how ridiculous it was for them to make an issue over food, Paul saw everything as a means to minister to others. Every Christian has been called to invest in the lives of others, in order to make disciples. For that to happen, we have to be willing to set our freedoms aside for the sake of their growth. Patrick Henry said, “Give me liberty or give me death.” Within the spiritual realm, we might better choose death over liberties for the sake of the Gospel. My freedom to do what I want with my time, could be laid aside, and I could choose to meet with a struggling believer for coffee and the study of the Word. My freedom to sit alone in service and reflect upon the message, could be set aside to sit with a visitor, or someone I know might be struggling or lonely. My freedom to watch the service online from the comfort of my couch, might be set aside to show up early and help get the church ready for others, or to teach a child’s class.

When we set the law of love above the law of liberty, we will see others impacted for the kingdom of God.

Time is short, eternity is forever…

Pastor Jim

 

The Whole World

Acts 22:22
“They listened to him until this word.”

After his arrest, Paul shared Christ with the mob that tried to kill him. They listened intently to him because his message was fascinating and relevant. It seemed they had a true interest, and even an openness to the Gospel. But that all changed once Paul mentioned the Gentiles. That single word caused the hearers to close their ears, harden their hearts, and reject the message of Christ.

Paul was not the only one to experience people coming close to responding to Christ, only to hear something they did not like and to shut down. We read in John 6, Jesus had developed a very large following until He spoke about His suffering and death. When they heard that, we are told they responded,

“This is a hard saying; who can understand it?”  John 6:60

To which John commented,

From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.”

On another occasion, a man approached Jesus with a question about how to receive eternal life. Jesus spoke with him about morality then told him to forsake his old life and come follow after Jesus. He seemed to enjoy a discussion about morality, but when it came to transformed living we are told,

“But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.”  Mark 10:22

What about you? Is there anything keeping you from committing all to Christ?  Perhaps the requirement of repentance or the need for total surrender? Maybe it is simpler than that; perhaps there is one area in your life that you have been unwilling to give to the Lord. That one area is keeping you from following wholly after Jesus. Sadly, this crowd that was so close to responding to Jesus, became harder and harder.

If there is an “until” in your life, surrender now, at the feet of Jesus, and begin to experience the living water He promised would flow in the lives of those who followed Him.

Pastor Jim