Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.
1 Timothy 4 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, 3 men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; 5 for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.
6 In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following. 7 But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; 8 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. 9 It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance. 10 For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.
11 Prescribe and teach these things. 12 Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe. 13 Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching. 14 Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery. 15 Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all. 16 Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.
In today’s text Paul says: 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. It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance. 10 For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men. Discipline is indeed vital in the life of a believer. The word disciple, what Jesus encourages us to be, means disciplined one. Paul says to discipline ourselves for the purpose of godliness, because bodily discipline is only of little profit. It is not that we should not discipline our bodies, practicing self control. In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 Paul says: Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified. We though, are called not to be good as compared to others, but rather we are called to be like Christ. We are called to be like God. In Genesis 1:26-27 it says: “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. We were created to be like God. Because of sin, we must discipline ourselves to be godly as we were intended to be.
What does it mean for us to be godly? Some will say that God is love, so we must love and surely that is an important aspect of godliness. Jesus says: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40) If we do not love God with all our heart, soul and mind and then love our neighbor as ourselves, the discipline of following the rest of what is in scripture does not matter. It is important that we recognize that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. 1 John 4:19 says: We love, because He first loved us. Our love is because of and in response to God’s love for us. “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) If we are to love as we are loved, then Jesus and the cross are critical to the love we have for others.
When people say God is love they often fail to understand the fullness of that because they equate God with their own understanding of love. In truth God defines love, love does not define God. Love is more than a feeling. It is more than an emotion. Along with Jesus and the cross, 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 begins to describe what godly love is. Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. If God is love, we can substitute God for love in these verses. If we are godly, like God, then we should be able to substitute ourselves for love in these verses. Along with the other characteristics or qualities of God and love; Love, God, we then do not act unbecomingly. Instead, as God says: You must be holy because I, the LORD, am holy. (Leviticus 20:26) Love, God; we do not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoice with the truth. If God is love, then the truth we rejoice with is also God’s truth, not our own. When we define love by God’s qualities rather than limiting God by our understanding of love we begin to understand godliness. We can only begin to understand, to comprehend the love of God and the God of love. God is infinite, eternal, omniscient and omnipresent. We can only begin to comprehend Him. Yet we are to discipline ourselves for godliness, to be like Him.
Again, Paul says: Godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance. For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men. It is not though our labor and our striving, which results in godliness. Our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all men. Jesus is the living God. Although He died for our sins, He was raised from death. Our godliness is not a result of our labor and striving. It is a result of Christ and the cross. Ephesians 2:8-10 says: By grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. Our labor and our striving then does not result in godliness or salvation, but rather it is the result of our salvation. We are recreated to the image and likeness of God, to do the works He prepared for us. In John 14:12-14 Jesus says: “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it. ” That is the promise we have, in godliness, for this present life. In the life to come, we have the promise of eternity with Him.
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit thank You for the cross and the resurrection where and through which I have been recreated in godliness. Empower and enable me to walk in that godliness, to do all that You have created and called me to do. May others not define You through the limitations of my labor and striving, but instead may my life be defined by, in and through You. Amen.