As many of you already know, we began a series of messages several weeks ago underscoring the need to grow in godliness. In Paul’s first letter to his young ministry assistant, Timothy, he writes:
“Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” 1 Timothy 4:7-8
We know how to exercise our legs. We know how to exercise our arms. We know how to exercise our heart and lungs. So, what part of your body do you exercise to become more like God? As we began unpacking this truth, we came to see that Paul’s words do not make sense unless we define ourselves as something more than physical bodies. In order for Paul's words to make sense, we must recognize that we are not just bodies with a soul but souls… with a body. Several Scriptures support this:
· Matthew 10:28, Jesus told his disciples,” Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul…”
· 2 Corinthians 4:16-18. Therefore, do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.
· 1 Thessalonians 5:23… Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit, soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Just as an astronaut needs a spacesuit to live in space, so God has given us an earth suit to live on earth. These suits are important and we need them. The body is not evil; our earth suits are good because God created them and we should take care of them as best we can. Nevertheless, we are not the suit! We are more than our bodies. We are souls and we must take care of the person within this earth suit. If we ignore the needs of this physical body-it begins to fall apart. The same applies to our spiritual bodies. We must also exercise and care for our souls.
Throughout the centuries, Christian scholars have taken up this issue of soul care and suggested several disciplines that can help us grow in godliness. As we take the time to examine disciplines such as Bible study, prayer, evangelism, worship, fasting, service and silence, we want to make sure we do not separate our good works from the finished work of Jesus. In other words, we never want to view these disciplines as a means of earning God’s love and acceptance in addition to what Jesus has already done for us. There is only one work that qualifies us to see God and enjoy His love; it is the finished work of Jesus Christ at the cross and empty grave.
As important as spiritual disciplines are, they are only possible through Christ’s energizing power made real through spiritual transformation. Bible study and prayer, evangelism and fasting can never compete with or outshine the glory and fame of Christ’s sacrifice for us 2000 years ago. Our completeness in God is complete because of Jesus. Our standing in God is immovable because of Jesus. Our acceptance in God is secure because of Jesus. Let us never forget that godliness is only possible through the Gospel of Jesus.