Feeling flabby? If not, by the end of the Holidays you probably will. We all know the importance of exercise in our quest to stay healthy. But have you ever considered your Christian life as exercise? The Apostle Paul uses just that language to describe it as he instructs Timothy on the matter of true faith in Jesus Christ.
Last time I looked at 1 Timothy 4:1-6 (Latter Times Falling Away) we saw the negative side of this discussion; those who pretended righteousness by creating their own standard are following the “deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons.” But, after instructing Timothy to teach the people about these things in 1 Timothy 4:6 Paul goes on to say;
1 Timothy 4:7-8 But reject profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness. 8 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.
Get away from the pretenders and the liars! Legalism is false religion. Reject for yourself the idea that external righteousness is what the Gospel is about. Paul knew about the phonies! He knew about external religion as a former pharisee. He also knew about his own sin and the reality of it as it related to the Gospel (1 Timothy 1:15). He knew that the Gospel contains a call to righteous living, but that it looks to inward, heart righteousness that is based on the Gospel, God’s undeserved favor to sinners (1 Timothy 3:15-16). Jesus died for the sins of His people and we should be killing the sin that is in our lives. The legalism of many of us seeks to hide our sin behind a false facade of pretended righteousness. It is like trying to dress to look thinner without actually dieting or exercising to be thinner.
Exercise is work!. Paul thoroughly understood that and he uses it here and in 1 Corinthians 9 as an analogy to godliness.
1 Corinthians 9:25-27 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.
If we have understood the grace of God in truth, we are not trying to earn or keep God’s favor. We are responding in love to the One who died to take away the penalty of our sin. He hated sin enough to die for it. Though He loves us in spite of it, if we really know Him, we will want it out of our lives. We will be willing to work at it (Romans 6-8, Titus 2:11-14, Hebrews 12:1-4).
How is your exercise routine? “Bodily exercise profits a little.” Godliness has “promise in the life that now is and of that which is to come.” Godliness is a lifelong commitment. That commitment is evidence that we know Christ in truth. Paul disciplined his body and brought it into subjection because he knew that if dealing sin was not a acknowledged issue and persistent effort, it would demonstrate that he really was not a Christian (1 Corinthians 9:27). It is my prayer that you and I would see the need to deal with the sin in our lives. That we would take the time and effort necessary to exercise ourselves toward godliness. That our love for Christ would motivate us to deal with sin instead of cover it up and pretend that we are righteous because of a certain checklist we keep (or maybe that fact the we see no need for a checklist makes us feel morally superior!). As the puritan John Owen said, “Be killing sin or it will be killing you!”