Train Yourself for Godliness

Someone has said that when we study the scriptures, we are reading someone else’s mail. This is true as the original documents (books) were written by someone to someone. When we study the text of 1 Timothy, we are reading the mail of a young evangelist named Timothy. The apostle Paul writes 2 letters to Timothy instructing Him about doing the work of an evangelist.

But we know that the teaching contained in theses “letter” is applicable to more than just preachers. This is for all of us who strive to teach others and live godly.

  • Read 1 Timothy 4:6-10:– 6 If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. 7 Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; 8 for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. 9 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. 10 For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.(ESV)

I. What is Godliness? I want to focus our attention on the specific admonition at the end of v. 7 – “train Yourself for godliness”. This is in fact, the title or our theme for 2019. Of the fifteen occurrences of the word godliness in the New Testament, thirteen are in 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus, with nine in 1 Timothy alone. Paul is empathizing the place of godliness in the life and work of the evangelist, and by extension, all Christians. But what is godliness? In order to understand and obey this injunction, we must understand the real meaning of the word. We often do not define this word as it is used in the scriptures.

A. There is a temptation to think of godliness as God-likeness, or goodness. Although these characteristics may be similar and desirable, godliness is neither.

B. W. F. Vine says that godliness [eusebeia (yoo-seb’-i-ah)]“denotes that piety which, characterized by a God-ward attitude, does that which is well-pleasing to Him”. Thayer’s lexicon says that the original Greek word means “reverence, respect,” but adds “in the Bible everywhere piety toward God, godliness” (262). A good working definition might be devotion toward God.

1. Devotion to a person or thing denotes focus. The godly (god-devoted) person is one who is influenced by God, and allows God’s words to circumscribe his or her life. God is at the center of everything. Thus, godliness, in its effect or result, is not to become like God, but rather to submit to God.

2. One author writes… “Godliness is the reverent awareness of God’s sovereignty over every aspect of life, and the attendant determination to honor him in all one’s conduct.” That definition presents a two-fold dimension to godliness… It is an awareness (knowledge) of God and a determination (willingness) to submit to Him.

C. Train yourself… It is hard to conclude that Paul was not a sports fan. He often utilized images of the sports world to reflect spiritual activity. The word “train”, also translated as exercise, is gumnazo (goom-nad’-zo); related to our word gymnasium – a place for exercising. It meant to practice or train, as in athletic games. This would imply that godliness is not a natural characteristic, but acquired through effort or discipline. It would also suggest that there are certain disciplines or exercises that produce godliness, or create deeper devotion to God. How is this accomplished?

II. Godliness and God’s Word– The foundation of godliness is the word of God. From what we have just noticed, it would seem obvious that the godly person must know what God desires. How else could he do that which he is devoted to do, that is please God?

A. 2 Peter 1:3… His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue…” Peter makes this connection between the revealed words of God and the development of godliness. I like the HCSB translation – “His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness” .Peter goes on to urge Christians to add to their faith several necessary virtues, including godliness, which will provide an entrance into the “everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savoir Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:2-11). Later, Paul spoke of the doctrine that accords with godliness (1 Tim. 6:3) and he began his letter to Titus by introducing himself as an apostle of Christ for … the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness (Titus 1:1).

1. If you seek to be godly, you must spend time in the word of God. There is no alternative or hidden secret. Paul makes this point to Timothy as well in our beginning text.

B. Previous to the admonition itself in 1 Tim 4:7, Paul warns Timothy that some would “depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons”(4:1). They were not devoted to God’s words, but to false words that were meant to deceive. He further describes these as insincere liars who forbid marriage and teach abstinence from food. They claimed their godliness on the basis of their ascetic lifestyle and supposed physical disciplines of life. Paul denounces the doctrines as irreverent and silly myths – no truth (v. 7) These ascetic disciplines would not produce true devotion to God, or promote real spirituality because they were not based on truth from God. But Paul wanted Timothy to acquire true godliness and he already had the proper foundation…

1. 1 Timothy 4:6If you point these things out to the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, nourished by the words of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed. (HSCB).

a. Paul tells Timothy to put these things out to the brothers… What things?The things Paul had revealed through the Holy Spirit – the words of faith.The word nourished here is also translated as trained. It means to persevere in or be skilled in, or be built up in. A good servant of Jesus is nourished in the words of God and is thus in a position to train himself to be a godly person. If an athlete does not eat nutritiously his exercise or training will not yield good results.

b. Our daily devotion to God is rooted in what God has said. 2 Timothy 2:15– Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. Paul does not use the word godly or godliness here, but this is a functional description of the godly person – He does his best (because he is devoted) He strives to live a life that God approves of (because he is determined to be please God) and he accomplishes this through handling God’s word correctly (because that is the foundation of his godliness.

III. Godliness and Self-Discipline – As we mentioned earlier, Paul often used athletics to illustrate the life of the Christian. These illustrations pointed to the need of self-discipline. 1 Cor 9:24-27 – Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (ESV) A runner must train for the race, the boxer must discipline his body before he enters the ring. The focus is not on physical fitness, but spiritual fitness. This is only accomplished through daily choices to put God’s mission first, the spiritual over the physical. It is not the way of least resistance. It demands hard work, and willingness to suffer.

A. What are some disciplines that are needed to produce godliness?

1. Bible reading and meditation. Reading is essential, but meditation and study internalize what we read and put us in the position to be guided by the Holy Spirit “I desire to do your will, O my God” (Psalm 40:8).

2. Constant prayer– How often do you pray? Do you pray for a godly mind? Do ever pray out of godly sorrow for the sin in your life? Do you ask god to help you be a godly influence in an ungodly world?

3. Spiritual thinking– we do not spend much time thinking about spiritual things. We have not disciplined our minds to focus on the things that matter, so we spend out time on sports, TV shows, the weather or politics. “…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8). Each ingredient is a matter of personal choice.

4. Moral purity – Sensuality is a big obstacle for Christians today. It takes real effort and work to avoid the onslaught of sensual images and ideas on TV, computers and the internet. 1 Thess 4:3-5 – For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, 5 not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God; Find someone who will help you keep your soul faithful to God.

5. Disciplined speech – “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless” (James 1:26). The true test of our godliness is often not the ability to speak, but rather the ability to bridle the tongue. This is a battle we will never win without a desire to please God in every aspect of our lives.

6. Regular assemblingHeb 10:23-25Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. You had to make a choice to be here today. Are you here because of godliness? Out of devotion to God – out of a desire to please Him. We are called to assemble for the very purpose of developing godliness in ourselves and others – stir up love and good works.

7. Generous giving -How can we escape the power of materialism and worldliness that confronts us? How can we help ourselves become more focused on the life that is to come? Giving is not just about filling up a church treasury or meeting a budget. It is God’s discipline for us toward godliness. He calls for giving from a sincere heart, like the believers in Macedonia who “gave themselves first to the Lord” (2 Corinthians 8:5). Giving disarms the power of money. Giving, not only in the assembly, but in response to other needs. It should be joyous—“God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

Conclusion: How can you recognize the godly person? It intrigues me that in 1 Tim. 2 Paul speaks conduct which is proper for women professing godliness (1 Tim. 2:10) and then talks about women dressing modestly – the clothes they choose to wear. Is he teaching that godliness is defined by outward appearance? No, absolutely not. It is the attitude of propriety and shamefastness that is in view. But I also recognize that Paul is defining godliness here as comprehensive devotion to be pleasing to God.

The godly woman takes her desire to please God even into her closet as she is choosing what to wear that day. The godly man lifts up holy hands everywhere. Godliness is not about who we are at church, or the choices we make in some segments of our lives. Godliness is about every choice. The choice about how we speak to our children, what we will claim on our taxes, what TV shows we will watch or what websites we will visit. It is often displayed in the seemingly insignificant choices to speak or not to speak, to go or not to go. To give or not to give. It is God at the center.

The choice to obey him today. Are you devoted to God? Do you want to please Him above all things? In Acts 2, at the beginning of the preaching of the gospel, we often can recall how many people were baptized that day – 3,000 souls. But do you remember who was baptized that day? Read the first part of Acts 2:41Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; They received it gladly because they desired to please God above all things. Do you?

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