Godliness, part 2 – Exercising unto Godliness

Last time I explained that godliness is our outward obvious lifestyle towards God. It is being the light in this world that God requires. It is being God-ward in everything we do. Our passage was 1 Timothy 4:7-8

But refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness. For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.

Paul encourages us to exercise ourselves unto godliness. How do we exercise to this? It is much like bodily exercise. Bodily exercise, depending on what we are working towards, can seem to not accomplish much. Sometimes, as you work on a muscle group, or try to lose some weight/fat you feel as if your efforts are in vain. However, anyone who has accomplished these things knows that it comes with time and effort. It takes time in the gym or walking/running every day to get to the point you desire. It takes months of running to prepare for a marathon. It takes years of lifting to hit that new max bench you desire. Exercise unto godliness requires the same dedication of us – in time and effort. So, how do we exercise this? Peter gives us this answer.

2 Peter 1

Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godlinessAnd to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The person who wants to lose the weight and be fit follows two simple steps: diet and exercise. We who want to exercise ourselves to godliness must follow the steps outlined here in our growth. But before looking at each step, consider that God has already given to us the power to do this. We have the power for all things that pertain to life and godliness.

There is nothing that we are lacking, except to simply do it. We need to exercise, now. Many people know that if they get off the couch and go running it will help them. Many know that if they are to get stronger they need to go lift the weights. But many continue to sit on the couch, or in front of their computer. Maybe they even are sitting reading on how to run, or how to lift, or how to diet. The extra knowledge will not get them the results they want. They must do it. We have been given everything we need. We have the power; now we must do it.

Peter lays out an order that will be seen in our growth so that we can obtain to this godliness that is profitable unto all things.

2 Peter 1

And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.

This is the order. This is the workout routine. This is the regimen and plan.

It begins with faith. Faith in Christ, salvation, is the starting point. We can never attain unto godliness if we don’t know God. If we do not have a personal relationship with Him, then that is the starting place. We must know Jesus Christ. We must recognize our sin, understand that Christ as God left Heaven to become a man, lived a perfect life, died a substitutionary (in your and my place) and propritiatory (satisfying God’s wrath) death on the cross, and then rose from the grave by His own power conquering sin and death. This is the Gospel. Without the good news, we can never see the trait of godliness in our lives.

After we are Christians, we are to add to this faith. We are to add things with “all diligence.” We are to work hard for these. We are not to assume that they will come naturally, but that we must strive for them. We must apply ourselves to them. They need to be a priority in our lives to cause us to seek these things. Work diligently towards these things. Exercise without effort is mostly useless. Every article or trainer will tell you there is more value in a shorted time at 100% intensity than only going through the motions. We must be diligent.

And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.

To our salvation, we add virtue. Virtue is that characteristic of valor or excellence. It is that characteristic that causes praise from those around you. It is the ability and characteristic of behaving. It amazes me, as a high school teacher, how often students will not simply behave. It is not a matter of their grades or their work, but misbehavior that causes them to be disciplined. Virtue is where you behave to the point of being praised for it. For having the courage to do the right thing, for being excellent. This is not a thing that needs to be learned. This is a behavior issue. We are to ehave ourselves. We believe in Christ? Now we need to act like the new creature God has made us.

Add to virtue knowledge. There are so many things we know to be right and we need to do them, but after we do them, there is more that we need to learn. We need to get knowledge. Add it to ourselves. This is found in the Scriptures. This is found in the preaching and teaching of God’s Word. This is found in devotionals, and studying. Knowledge is important. We need to know what else God requires of us to be couragous towards and in what other areas we are to behave. Add knowledge of right and wrong. Add knowledge of God. Add knowledge of our sinful state. These things will lead us to godliness.

So, this is our exercise plan. Faith, virtue, knowledge, and then as we start to maybe feel we have an idea how to do these, we add on something else. Just as when exercising, we don’t let our body become accustomed to one thing and we add more and change our routine, so we need to keep adding on to our Christian lives.

Next comes temperance. Temperance is that ability to control yourself. The text is not specifically speaking of drinking or substances that take control but more so of the emotions of your own self. The emotions that drive you to things. It is not being controlled by emotions. God gave us emotions. God created us as good beings. Emotions in themselves are not bad, but emotions can cause us to do things that are bad. We must control ourselves so that we are not letting our emotions drive us. Whether this is the issue of losing your temper or the issue of being mad/angry when you shouldn’t, temperance applies liberally to our choices and emotions. It is wrong to get angry at someone, even if they have hurt you, regardless of if you blow up at them. Acting on anger is not something that God has said is OK. Sadness that causes you to withhold justice or turn a blind eye, sympathy that causes you to pervert judgment – these things are just as wrong as “blowing your top” in anger. Temperance applies to our lives in the everyday moment of emotional swings and ups and downs. Temperance is the Holy Spirit given ability that allows us to hold our emotions in check so that our actions are not driven by them.

Add to temperance patience. Patience is not the same thing as temperance. Patience is being able to not just take the wrongness that happens to you, but to do so cheerfully. If temperance is preventing the negative response, patience is having a positive response. I find this so hard. Sometimes I feel as if it takes every part of my being not to lash out in anger, or to respond in a way I know I shouldn’t, and I’m able not to, but I don’t respond cheerfully. I am fighting so hard to hold it in I have nothing left to direct towards patience. My problem is that I am depending on myself and not the Spirit of God. He has given us all power for these things. As we grow in Christ, we will add patience to our exercise routine and step closer to godliness in our lives.

After this, we have made it to godliness. We have exercised ourselves to this benchmark we were aiming for. The exercise goes on culminating in charity.
As we grow in Christ we should continue to exercise ourselves. As you stop exercising or running, you lose ground. You don’t retain what your best goal is but must continue to build upon it or lose it. Runners keep running. Weight lifters keep lifting.

As spiritual exercise, we can’t stop without losing ground. If we are not filling ourselves with the Spirit then we will not grow towards godliness. Exercise requires regular, intense, diligent work to be profitable. Godliness is profitable unto all things. Let us exercise unto it.

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