It’s a mystery. It’s a calling. It’s humanly impossible. It’s of value in every way for time and eternity…I have a smorgasbord of thoughts today on godliness, and lots of loose ends too…
It’s been a week of re-orienting physical bodies to a new place and new routines. I’ve been at the gym doing weight training this week–a brand new enterprise for me… Also went out cross-country skiing for the first time in thirty years with intent to keep up the practice as much as weather permits. It’s soggy today; we’ll visit the gym.
Being physically in a new place we’ve had to orient our bodies to new ways of exercising. My elliptical trainer now stands at a big basement window overlooking a snow-laden slope of towering firs that descend to the weir far below. We walked there this summer with the grandkids. Now it would require snowshoes.
But all these are merely physical adjustments for physical bodies. What of our spirits? How will they be affected by this geographical move? What are God’s purposes for our integration into His Body here? We’ve visited a local assembly, worshipped with them, and even been invited to a small home Bible study. We’ve gone and participated, offering our words and insights for consideration. We have yet to see how the Spirit of God will use us in this place. It is He that builds and bonds His body scattered as we are geographically. We are like living stones, says Peter, ‘the rock’, indwelt by the same Spirit, governed by the same Head, intent on the same purpose. We are God’s people set in an evil generation to shine with God’s excellencies. We are called to be godly—inhabited by God so that we can live for God—in the midst of a populace blinded by the deceitfulness of sin and the lies of the enemy.
I was reading I Timothy this morning. Paul talks a lot here about the mystery of godliness. How can flesh and blood be God-like? And yet it is our calling as the household of God, “the church of the living God—a pillar and buttress of the truth.”(I Tim.3:15) Godliness is integrally related to faith. It would seems there’s no possibility of one without the other. There are imitations that don’t require faith. Paul speaks of these too. But I camped out today on this idea of the mystery of godliness. In fact I interrupted my writing to read a book entitled The Mystery of Godliness by Ian Thomas. Why is godliness called a mystery? What exactly is godliness? How is it possible? And because I spent so much time reading, I will have to leave those questions for next time! But getting back to Timothy and Paul…
Paul says some things that run counter to our natural mindset. He says that to have godliness with contentment is great gain. The world has no idea; natural man has no desire to merely reflect God’s glory, he wants to be god, to be in charge, to call the shots, to determine right and wrong. Consequently, not only godliness but manliness seems to have come into disrepute. Gender identity has become a tangled web snaring many. God’s design for man and woman is increasingly sidelined and redefined as our culture races headlong to do what seems right to man but is an abomination to God. Into this broken mixed-up mess come Paul’s words crossing the grain of cultural norms:
There is great gain in godliness with contentment. I Tim.6:6
By way of contrast he says that though physical training is of some profit, “godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” I Tim.4:8 We get to the gym. We pursue an active lifestyle to keep our bodies fit, but it must not be an end in itself. Our bodies are only temporary shells that house eternal spirits. Jim reminds me often that the reason we exercise is so that we will be ready and able to do what God calls us to do with these bodies. It is a stewardship issue. But ultimately it is training in godliness that yields eternal dividends.
Paul goes on to caution that godliness is not intended as a means of monetary gain. For the love of money is a great snare–the root of all kinds of evils. Mixing love of money and a pretense of godliness is a snare apt to plunge people into ruin and destruction. Hmm… how many Christian ministries have detoured from genuine godliness in the pursuit of money to purportedly build the Kingdom? Where godliness is not accompanied with contentment, it is not godliness at all.
Plunked right in the middle of his letter to Timothy, Paul instructs Timothy to train himself for godliness for its benefits extend beyond this lifetime, beyond mere physical training… That concept challenges me. How does one train for godliness? What is Paul’s advice? I’ll be pondering these things this week as I come and go from the gym and meditate on I Timothy some more. Will you join me?
Thanks for stopping by to share my smorgasbord. I hope I’ve whet your appetite.
“Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.”
See: Part Two–Exercising Godliness here