Training for Godliness: Preparing for the New Year

2021 is only a few days away. In the past few weeks, we have been discussing Paul’s admonition to the young pastor Timothy, “Rather train yourself for godliness” (1 Tim. 4:7, ESV). We have examined various spiritual disciplines, those means the have been provided by our gracious God to help us be more like His Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ (cf. Rom. 8:28-29).
These disciplines include the reading and studying of Scripture, prayer, worship, evangelism, serving, stewardship, fasting, and silence and solitude. One can easily see the discipline required to engage in each one of these. It is certainly not easy, nor is it left to spontaneity. It requires diligence in preparation as much as in execution.
My goal in this post is to encourage you to (if you have not already) make preparations for 2021. I will list out a few suggestions. This list will not be exhaustive. However, I hope it stirs your soul and gets your thinking juices flowing so that 2021 can be a year that you become more like Jesus.

Set Goals

The first thing you should do to prepare for spiritual growth in 2021 is to set goals. These goals should be practical. For example, if you are not regularly reading your Bible, you probably do not want your 2021 goal to be reading the Bible through three times. A more manageable goal would be to read through the New Testament.
In setting your goals, be holistic as possible. By this I mean to keep the goal in focus. Our goal in the spiritual disciplines is Christlikeness (or, godliness, as Paul puts it). Thus, your Scripture reading should aid you in that goal. You are not reading Scripture for Scripture’s sake. You are reading Scripture to be more like Jesus Christ.
If you are planning on fasting, then plan to fast to be more like Christ. If you are plan to have time in silence and solitude, then do so to be more like Jesus.
If you have not engaged in any spiritual discipline, then I would suggest starting one or two. Focus on those for the whole year, and then in 2022 (if the Lord wills), add another one.
These goals should be written down. Place them in your Bible for frequent access and reminding. Ask your spouse or close friend to keep you accountable. Share with others how the spiritual discipline is helping you conform to the image of Christ.
Finally, these goals should be adjustable. If, after two months, you find that the spiritual discipline is not furthering the work of God in your life, perhaps you need to evaluate it. There is a potential that you do not understand that particular practice, and so you may need to do some more reading and reflecting. Or, you may need someone to sit down with you and help you work through it. Either way, do not feel like your goal is in cement. It can (and should, depending on the case), be adjusted. We are not disciplining ourselves for disciplines’ sake, we are disciplining ourselves for Christ’s sake.

Be Faithful

As we consider the process of becoming more like Jesus, we need to realize that it requires faithfulness. That is, determine now to be as faithful as possible. Will there be failures? Of course! Will there be days (even weeks) where you do not want to engage in that discipline? Yes, you will.
Failure is a part of fallenness. We do not need to use this as an excuse, but we do want to acknowledge this. With that said, we must determine to be faithful. Make a commitment to follow the disciplines you have selected all year. If you hit a brief period where you fail, renew your commitment to practice them, and move on.

Hang On

The last encouragement I want to offer you is to hang on! If you commit to practicing the spiritual disciplines, and you make it your goal to be like Christ, you will grow. It is nothing something that should surprise you.
There is a paradoxical aspect of growing in holiness that we must remember. As we grow into the image of Christ more, we often realize how sinful we are. That is, the closer we get to God, the more of our wickedness we see. It is like entering a dark room. The absence of light prevents us from seeing anything on the floor or the walls. If we have a small candle we can see some trash on the floor. If we use a cell phone light, we may see more trash and a few bugs scattering away. If we turn on the LED lights, we can see all the filth. We see the trash, the roaches, and the rodents. Likewise, as we embrace the holiness of God in our daily lives, we will observe our wickedness.
It may move from outward, sinful actions to inward, sinful thoughts. This should not discourage us, rather, it should encourage us! We are growing in godliness, and as such more of the sin in our lives will be rooted out and replaced with the righteousness of Christ.
While 2020 has been a wild year, hopefully, you have grown in godliness. As we quickly approach 2021, we can being preparing for training in godliness now!


About the Author
Bobby completed a BA in Christian Education. He also earned a MDiv. from Luther Rice College & Seminary. He recently graduated with a MA in Biblical Counseling from Bob Jones University. He is a member of the Association of Biblical Counselors, awaiting advanced certification. He is also an Associate Member of the Evangelical Theological Society.

Training for Godliness: Silence & Solitude

Silence and solitude. These are important aspects, but often neglected in today’s Church, in growing toward Christlikeness. In his letter to Timothy, the aged apostle Paul encourages him, “Train yourself for godliness.” (1 Tim. 4:7, ESV)

It takes work to be like Christ. As we have considered the various aspects of what comprises the spiritual disciplines, we come now to silence and solitude. On this, Don Whitney writes, “The Discipline of silence is the voluntary and temporary abstention from speaking so that certain spiritual goals might be sought.”[1] In other words, we engage in silence and solitude. Before we see how these two tools can help us grow in our Christlikeness, we need to establish what they are.

Whitney defines silence as limiting both outward and inward speech.[2] It is the choice to inhibit our communication. He describes solitude as “the Spiritual Discipline of voluntarily and temporarily withdrawing to privacy for spiritual purposes.”[3] Silence and solitude are two peas in the pod, and as such offer the believer with another manner for spiritual growth.

This in no way implies that if one sits in silence away from others that he or she will grow. It does not work that way. There must be an engagement in the heart for the purpose of being like Christ (cf. Rom. 8:28-29).

Thus, with the proper definition and understanding of how it works, we can now see the specifics of the way that this looks for us today. To begin with, when we engage in silence and solitude, we mimic Christ. In Matthew 14:23 we read this, “And after he dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray.” Jesus Himself left the crowds. He was meeting a variety of physical and spiritual needs. Whitney makes a powerful point, “Put yourself in Jesus’ sandals for a moment. People are clamoring for your help and have many real needs. You are able to meet all those needs. Can you ever feel justified in pulling away to be alone? Jesus did.”[4]

When we follow Christ, we engage in silence and solitude. This means getting away from other people for a specific purpose: to be like Christ. This means not talking, not engaging in any forms of media (TVs, cellphones, internet, and even music). It is not just to be in silence. It is to quiet our souls, to “be still,” if you will (cf. Psa. 46:10). Whitney would go on to write, “Many of us need to realize the addiction we have to noise.”[5] This also means that we get away from others. This could be finding another room in the house away from other members of your household. If the weather permits, it may be finding a bench in a park. Solitude, as well as silence, is not tied to a specific place. You do not have to find a monastery

Whitney offers several reasons to engage in this spiritual discipline: “to hear the voice of God better,” “to express worship to God,” “to express faith in God,” “to seek the salvation of the Lord,” “to be physically and spiritually restored,” “to regain a spiritual perspective,” “to seek the will of God,” and “to learn control of the tongue.”[6]

Whitney also provides some practical steps to engage in the disciplines of silence and solitude (see pages 194-199). These two disciplines require discipline. It will be hard to mark off a period of time to be away from others and remain silent. But the rewards will be fruitful for your spiritual life.

Will you train yourself for godliness by practicing silence and solitude?


[1] Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1991), 184.

[2] Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines, 184.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid., 185.

[5] Ibid., 186.

[6] Ibid., 186-194.

Training for Godliness: Stewardship

Whitney begins chapter eight with these paragraphs,

“Think for a moment. What events have produced the greatest stress in your life today? This past week? Haven’t they involved some feeling of being overloaded with responsibilities at home, work, school, church, or all of the above? Paying bills? Running late for an appointment? Balancing your checkbook? Waiting in a traffic jam on the highway or runway? Facing unexpected car repair or medical expenses? Going with too little rest? Running short of cash before payday?

Each of these anxiety-producers has to do with either time or money. Think of how many day-to-day issues involve the use of one of these two. The clock and the dollar are such substantial factors in so many parts of life that their role must be considered in any serious discussion of Godly living.”[1]

As we consider Paul’s encouragement to Timothy, “Train yourself for godliness” (1 Tim. 4:7, NET). There are many expressions of godliness, many of which we have examined thus far. Now we come to an important aspect of godliness that requires discipline (i.e., training), that is stewardship.

Stewardship as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary is “The responsible use of resources, esp. money, time, and talents, in the service of God; spec. the organized pledging of specific amounts of money etc. to be given regularly to the Church.”[2]

In Whitney’s work, which has provided our outline and substantial amount of help, discusses two primary areas in which we should demonstrate stewardship: time and money.

Stewardship with Time

I want you to imagine life about one hundred years ago. There were no appliances to help with chores around the house. Dishes and clothes would require handwashing. All meals had to be prepared by hand, including their production (unless money/goods were bartered). With no electricity, capitalizing on the light was vital. There was little time for leisure. The people that lived during this period (and before) had to be master stewards of their time just to live.

Today, we enjoy many privileges and helps with these tasks. Just this morning I placed a load of laundry (a daily chore with a family of six) into a washer shortly after awakening. Then, after breakfast, I transferred that load into the dryer. Within two hours, that one load of laundry was washed and dried. Imagine the difference in time as compared to those who lived one hundred years ago! The question is, What I am doing with that time? Am I investing in in growing in my Christlikeness? Or, am I squandering it by glancing through various social media websites, watching TV, or keeping up with the latest election update (it is Friday 13 November as I type this).

Paul writes to the Ephesians, “Therefore consider carefully how you live—not as unwise but as wise, taking advantage of every opportunity, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15-16, NET). Are we taking advantage of every opportunity to discipline ourselves to godliness? We marvel as saints of yesteryear, at their depth of the knowledge of God’s Word, and at their intimacy with our God. Yet, we fail to consider how different we live than they once did. We have access to many advantages of our society. We do not spend hours preparing our meals. We do not have to grow food in our backyards in order to survive. Yet, they in the midst of those things (and many others), advanced in their godliness. Why? I am convinced it is because they took advantage of every opportunity they had. Jonathan Edwards, a man who I consider to be a spiritual hero, constantly read while riding to various places.[3] He was taking advantage of those opportunities!

How can we take advantage of our time? There are so many way! While waiting in an office, we can read or memorize Scripture. While checking out at the grocery store, we can share the gospel. While taking a break from the busyness of the day, we can spend a few moments in prayer. These and an abundance of examples are all worthy of our consideration.

Stewardship with Money

Whitney writes, “The disciplined use of money requires that we manage it in such a way that our needs and those of our family are met.”[4] It requires discipline to manage our money.

We must handle our financial resources in a way that honors God and reflects a generous spirit.[5] Considering the amount of debt that the majority of US citizens have, it is important that believers reflect a different value system. I recommend Dave Ramsey’s helpful work, Financial Peace Revisited.[6] Though I do not agree with everything he writes, he provides a helpful framework for the disciplined to be godly in our financial responsibilities.

Are you disciplining yourself for godliness with your stewardship? One thing that is implied, but we have not discussed, is that idea behind stewardship. It implies that someone else owns the material (or, time, as the case may be), and we simply oversee it. This is biblical truth. God holds our breath in His hand (see Daniel 5:23). He is the Creator and owner of all (Rom. 1:19-20, 28-32). As such, everything we have been given, including time and money, are to be used wisely for His glory and our good.


[1] Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1991), 131.

[2] “stewardship, n.”. OED Online. September 2020. Oxford University Press. https://www-oed-com.ezproxy.bju.net/view/Entry/190092?redirectedFrom=stewardship (accessed November 13, 2020).

[3] Incidentally, Edwards preached a helpful sermon on time. See: Jonathan Edwards, rev. and ed. by Edward Hickman, The Works of Jonathan Edwards Volume 2 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 2009), 233-236.

[4] Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines, 139.

[5] Ibid., 144-145.

[6] Dave Ramsey, Financial Peace Revisited (New York, NY: Viking, 2003).

Training for Godliness: Serving

Training for Godliness: Serving

Paul wrote to his young protégé, Timothy, “Train yourself to be godly” (1 Tim. 4:7, NIV). We have discussed several examples of this training in previous posts. Today, we are picking our gloves and dusting the equipment off in order to resume our training.

Like an athlete, we work hard to grow in our likeness to Christ. One of the ways in which we can train ourselves for godliness is to serve. Donald Whitney writes this about serving,

“The ministry of serving may be as public as preaching or teaching, but more often it will be as sequestered as nursery duty. It may be as visible as singing a solo, but usually it will be as unnoticed as operating the sound equipment to amplify the solo. Serving may be as appreciated as a good testimony in a worship service, but typically it’s as thankless as washing dishes after a church social. Most service, even that which seems the most glamorous, is like an iceberg. Only the eye of God ever sees the larger, hidden part of it.”[1]

I do not know about you, but when I read that paragraph, I could immediately recognize the deep truth of what Whitney is saying. In fact, I would argue that most service in the church is the kind that most do not observe and for which most will receive little earthly recognition. But this is precisely why it requires discipline.

We enjoy being in the spotlight. We love being recognized for our hard work, our contribution, our giving, or our talents. Too often we mimic the Pharisees more than we do our Savior. It is of these types of people that Jesus speaks, “Be careful not to display your righteousness merely to be seen by people. Otherwise you have no reward with your Father in heaven….When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray while standing in synagogues and on street corners so that people can see them. Truly I say to you, they have their reward!” (Matthew 6:1, 5, NET) Jesus warned us against such showy service. Instead, we should follow His example. Consider the Son of God, the Creator of everything, Who donned a towel and washed His disciples’ feet (John 13:1-17). Jesus tells His disciples, “For I have given you an example—you should do just as I have done for you” (John 13:15, NET). This is the example, or the pattern, that we should serve in humility as He has done.

“Train yourself to be godly,” wrote Paul to Timothy (1 Tim. 4:7, NIV). The question is, How do we train through service? Whitney provides two points worthy of our consideration. First, he writes “EVERY CHRISTIAN IS EXPECTED TO SERVE.”[2] Whitney then offers several “motivations” for which the Christian should be encouraged to serve.[3] The truth is, Scripture commands believers to serve. It is not always glamorous, and in many cases is less. However, this does not excuse the Christian from giving his or her time in service to God. This discipline mimics our Lord and Savior.

The second aspect of service involves spiritual gifts. In passages such as Romans 12:4-8, 1 Corinthians 12:27-31 and chapter 14, as well as 1 Peter 4:11, we read about the various equipping of Christians by the Holy Spirit for His service. Our gifts are to be used in the life and health of the Church. Paul writes to the church of Ephesus, “As each one does its part, the body builds itself up in love” (Eph. 4:16, NET). Did you catch that? Builds itself up in love, but that only occurs when “each one does its part.” The question is, Are you training yourself for godliness through service?

Far too often Christians attend church for what they can get out of it. This ought not to be so, my brothers and sisters! We should attend church to be feed by the nourishment of the Word, no doubt. But we should attend church equally to serve our brothers and sisters in Christ.

I end this post with the challenging words of Whitney, “The Lord Jesus was always the servant, the servant of all, the servant of servants, the Servant…If we are to be like Christ, we must discipline ourselves to serve as Jesus served.”[4]


[1] Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1991), 116.

[2] Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines, 117, emphasis original.

[3] Ibid., 118-123.

[4] Ibid., 129.


Training for Godliness: Evangelism

“How can evangelism help me grow in godliness?” may be the first question you ask upon reading the title of this post. It is an understandable question, too, in light of the present health (or, lack thereof) of the Church.

First, we need to have a basic idea of what evangelism is. Some view it as the ability to argue for God and His truth. Others view evangelism as street preaching. Still others may view evangelism as a worship service that is more like a rock concert than a church service. Mack Stiles provides an excellent definition of evangelism, writing “Evangelism is teaching the gospel with the aim to persuade.”[1]

Stiles’ definition is helpful because it focuses on the key aspects of evangelism. Our question remains, though, “How can evangelism help me grow in godliness?” Evangelism is one aspect of the Christian life. Don Whitney writes, “The main idea I want to communicate about it here is that Godliness requires that we discipline ourselves in the practice of evangelism.”[2] It is commanded of every believer in Matthew 28:18-20 and Mark 16:15.

Following Whitney’s outline, we notice first that “Evangelism is expected.”[3] He goes on the say, “All Christians are not expected to use the same methods of evangelism, but all Christians are expected to evangelize.”[4] This presents evangelism as a matter of obedience, and obedience is a key part of following Jesus Christ. For one instance, Saul was told that “to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.”[5] While God desired and commanded Israelites to sacrifice animals, obedience to His revealed Word was the important point. God has commanded His children to spread the Gospel, it is not option. Therefore, obedience in evangelism is a mark of spiritual growth.

Whitney also reminds us, and in an encouraging way, that “Evangelism is empowered.”[6] That is, we are not alone in communicating the gospel to other people. Whitney comments, “We need to learn that sharing the gospel is successful evangelism.”[7] Successful evangelism is empowered, but by what? Or, more properly, by whom? Whitney answers, “The power of evangelism is the Holy Spirit.”[8] This is a comforting truth! Jesus promised to be with the disciples, and us by extension, in the communication of the gospel.[9] We do not need to be the most articulate speaker, the most renowned scholar, or the bottomless pit of biblical information in order to evangelize other people. We have the Spirit of God and the Word of God and the promise that it will accomplish what God intends.[10]

Whitney’s final encouragement is that “Evangelism is a discipline.”[11] It takes work. Perhaps this is why so many Christians fail to engage in evangelism. We need to discipline ourselves to study the gospel in a variety of ways in order to communicate it with the broadest means possible. We need to discipline ourselves to communicate to people. We need to discipline ourselves to know about different methods of evangelism. It takes discipline.

In his small book (only 114 pages), Mack Stiles walks through each part of his definition of evangelism. He discusses those parts in more detail, providing anecdotes as well as encouragements for engaging in evangelism. I would encourage you to discipline yourself, purchase the book, study the book, and then implement the book.[12]

Evangelism for godliness!


[1] J. Mack Stiles, Evangelism: How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2014), 27. He offers a broader definition, “Evangelism is teaching (heralding, proclaiming, preaching) the gospel (the message from God that leads us to salvation) with the aim (hope, desire, goal) to persuade (convince, convert).”

[2] Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1991), 99.

[3] Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines, 100.

[4] Ibid., emphasis original.

[5] 1 Samuel 15:22, NASB.

[6] Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines, 101.

[7] Ibid., emphasis original.

[8] Ibid., 103.

[9] See also Acts 1:8.

[10] See Isaiah 55:10-11.

[11] Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines, 106.

[12] This is covered in chapter 1, “Of Altar Calls and Laser Lights,” chapter 3, “Connecting Church and a Culture of Evangelism,” and chapter 5, “Actually Sharing Our Faith.” Stiles, Evangelism, 21-40, 63-78, and 99-114.

Training for Godliness: Worship

Training for Godliness: Worship

Worship is a common word in churches, but it is one of those words that every seems to know but cannot define. When we consider the importance of worship, it is vital that we understand and practice it. Unfortunately, we often confuse worship with an experience. We attend a great service of music and we think that was worship. Or, we think lights and smoke and flashy shows provides a worship experience. But is this worship?

As Ken Boa defines it, “To worship is to be fully occupied with the attributes of God—the majesty, beauty, and goodness of his person, powers, and perfections.”[1]

To worship, then, is to focus on God in all His glory. Worship is not defined by a particular style of music or a place. Worship is a response of the heart to the wonders of the Triune God.

As we consider Training for Godliness, we cannot leave our worship. We were made to worship. However, due to the Fall, our focus of worship has shifted from God to many other things, including ourselves. We need to train ourselves to worship rightly. We must be aware of the dangers of worshipping God in vain.[2]

In his book, Whitney provides several helpful ways that we can train ourselves for godliness in worship. First, Whitney writes, “Worship is…focusing on and responding to God.”[3] Our focus must never be on ourselves, our comforts, our thoughts, or fame. When we worship God, individually or corporately, He must be our focus. When we sing in church, we sing for His glory. When we give, we give to His glory. When we listen to His Word preached, we receive it gladly. Our focus must always be on Him. Whitney discusses the glory of God by stating, “If you could see God at this moment, you would so utterly understand how worthy He is of worship that you would instinctively fall on your face and worship Him.”[4]

Another way that we train ourselves for godliness through worship is, as Whitney remarks, to “Worship…in spirit and truth.”[5] That is how Jesus instructs the Samaritan woman to worship God in John 4:24. This is missing in our churches today. “To worship God in spirit is to worship from the inside out. It means to be sincere in our acts of worship. No matter how spiritual the song you are singing, no matter how poetic the prayer you are praying, if it isn’t sincere then it isn’t worship, it’s hypocrisy,” Don Whitney bitingly quips.[6] When we engage in worship, do we do so sincerely? Or, are our thoughts on other things, such as lunch, the game, the grocery list, etc.? If we are to progress in Christlikeness, we must worship in spirit and truth. While we worship sincerely, we must also worship in truth. That means that our worship should find its place squarely in God’s written Word, the Bible. Therefore, while there is great freedom of expression, worship should reflect the same fundamental principles found in the Scriptures.

We also must worship because, as Whitney reminds us, “Worship is…expected both publicly and privately.”[7] In our highly individualized society, we often thing worship as personal. It is mine. While that is not untrue, it is only half true. God created humanity as a community, first through Adam and Eve and then the rest of humanity. In the context of worship, the author of Hebrews encourages us with these words,

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”[8]

We are to worship both individually and corporately. We gather together to worship Him. We see a glimpse into the future in Revelation 21-22, where all the chosen people of God will worship Him for eternity. We are to mirror that in the here and now. This, in turn, produces growth in godliness.

Whitney ends with these words, “Worship is…a discipline to be cultivated.”[9] As with the other spiritual disciplines, it takes time and practice (not that worship can be something we practice in the sense of practicing for football, but something in which we habitually engage). Whitney demonstrates this by writing, “Focusing on the world more than on the Lord makes us more worldly than Godly. But if we would be Godly, we must focus on God. Godliness requires disciplined worship.”[10]

Remember Paul’s words to the young Timothy, “Train yourself for godliness.”[11]


[1] Kenneth Boa, Conformed to His Image: Biblical and Practical Approaches to Spiritual Formation (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2001), 86.

[2] See Matthew 15:8-9.

[3] Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1991), 86.

[4] Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines, 87.

[5] Ibid., 89.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid., 92.

[8] Hebrews 10:23-25, ESV.

[9] Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines, 94.

[10] Ibid., 95.

[11] 1 Timothy 4:7, ESV.

Worship is essential in growing in godliness!

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Training for Godliness: Prayer

Training for Godliness: Prayer

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Believers are meant to grow. Like flowers in the field, believers require certain items to help them grow. Flowers need water, sunlight, and rich soil in order to develop and grow. We have already examined one of the means by which believers grow (or, train for godliness), and that is the Word of God. The Word provides the soil, if you will, for the believer’s nutrients.

God, in His goodness, provides an additional means for growth through the form of prayer. The London Baptist Confession of Faith states, “Prayer, with thanksgiving, being one part of natural worship, is by God required of all men.”[1] Prayer, while required, is also a wonderful tool in the box of our spiritual growth.

Don Whitney cites two verses of Scripture that demonstrate this: Colossians 4:2 and 1 Thessalonians 5:17.

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.

Pray without ceasing.

When we consider our purpose, to grow in godliness, we must remember how insufficient we are to the task. We are desperate for God’s help. As Whitney remarks, “When there is little awareness of real need there is little real prayer.”[2] Perhaps the reason we fail to engage in this wonderful privilege is because we are too self-sufficient.

Unfortunately, we are like a child who thinks they can do a certain task on their own, but our Heavenly Father knows how utterly incapable we truly are. He reminds us how necessary He is, through the various trials and difficulties we face, through our shortcomings, and through our defeats. Each circumstance will be a reminder, though painful at times, that we are children that need our Father’s help. Our purpose is not to berate one another. Our purpose, as Paul describes it, is to “train [our]selves for godliness.”[3] The question is, “How do we train ourselves in prayer?”

Thankfully, our gracious Father has provided many tools that help us grow. First, we learn to pray through the Scriptures. They are perhaps one of the most amazing tools offered to us by our Father. Continuing their statement on prayer, the writers of the London Confession state, “But that it may be accepted, it is to be made in the name of the Son, by the help of the Spirit, according to His will; with understanding, reverence, humility, fervency, faith, love, and perseverance; and when with others, in a known tongue.”[4] As proof, the authors of the Confession provide several references to Scripture (John 14:13-14, Romans 8:26, 1 John 5:14, and 1 Corinthians 14:16 and 17. God’s Word informed their Confession on prayer, and it should ours as well. Jesus tells his disciples to pray like this, and then offers the Lord’s Prayer.

Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.[5]

This offers us a tremendous prayer. We could also add to the prayer more specific requests. For our daily bread, we could request energy to continue to work, a place at work, and even the blessings of using our earnings wisely. This prayer is tremendous, and we need to train ourselves for godliness through prayer.

Don Whiney offers several suggestions on how to learn to pray: “by praying,” “by meditating on Scripture,” “by praying with others,” and “by reading about prayer.”[6] This provides a good routine (see previous post) for us to engage in prayer for the purpose of godliness.

It would be wise of us to heed the words of John R. Rice,

“Prayerlessness is a horrible sin. For the lost sinner it is a part of his wicked rejection of Christ. For the child of God it is identical with backsliding. Prayerlessness is another name for unbelief.”[7]


[1] LBCF 21:3.

[2] Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1991), 69.

[3] 1 Timothy 4:7, ESV.

[4] LBCF 21:3.

[5] Matthew 6:9-13, ESV.

[6] Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines, 70-77.

[7] John R. Rice, Prayer: Asking and Receiving (Murfreesboro, TN: Sword of the Lord Publishers, 1970), 267.


Training for Godliness: The Bible

We have been focusing on Paul’s encouragement to Timothy, “Train yourself for godliness” (1 Tim. 4:7, ESV). We began by looking at the purpose of the believer’s training: growth in godliness. We train, we work hard, we discipline ourselves, to be godly. Our ultimate goal is expressed in Paul’s words in Romans 8:29, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, so that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” Did you catch that, “conformed to the image of his Son?” Our goal is to be like Christ, or, to put it another way, godliness.
Over the next few posts, we will examine how we do this. If we are to train ourselves for godliness, then we must have a plan in place. Bodybuilders use weightlifting routines.

​​ They figure out what works, what areas need more focus, and what their body responds to best. Likewise, Christians must have a plan in place. They must know what tools are available for their spiritual growth, just as the bodybuilder must know the types of machines and weights available for his physical growth.
We could view this initial post as the barbell of spiritual training. The barbell is a simple piece of equipment. It is a bar with some sort of stopper at the ends. One can slip weights onto it and do a variety of lifts: squats, bench press, military press, and barbell rows, to name a few. What is the barbell of spiritual fitness?

Like the barbell, the Bible is the most basic (and necessary) piece of equipment for the​​ 

The answer is undebatable: the Bible. Don Whitney, who’s book I recommend you purchase and devour, writes, “No Spiritual Discipline is more important than the intake of God’s Word. Nothing can substitute for it. There simply is no healthy Christian life apart from a diet of the milk and meat of Scripture.”[1]

The spiritual bodybuilder’s barbell is the Bible. Perhaps no other passage of Scripture displays the glory and wonder of the Bible than Psalm 19:7-11,

The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

The Bible, more than any other piece of equipment for our training, is the barbell. Like the barbell, the Bible has many different ways that believers can utilize it. Don Whitney discusses these:

  • “Hearing God’s Word”
  • “Reading God’s Word”
  • “Studying God’s Word”
  • “Memorizing God’s Word”
  • “Meditating on God’s Word”
  • “Applying God’s Word”[2]

These are all ways that believers should be utilizing the Bible. Unfortunately, we often leave the barbell of our Bible on our table, in our car, or the pew without ever using it again. If that is you, then simply repent and move forward! Recently a friend reminded me, “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is today.” If you have not been reading your Bible, then start today!

HEARING GOD’S WORD

To begin with, one of the best ways you can use the Bible for your training in godliness is to hear it. This refers to the regular preaching and teaching of God’s Word. God has provided His Church with His pastor-teachers to feed them the Word.[3] Church members, in turn, show up and actively listen to the Word preached. They actively listen. Any parent knows the difference between active listening and passive listening. The child has performed an action that the parents do not like and proceed to provide instruction.

​​ After the brief lecture, the parent asks the child, “Did you hear me?” The child’s answer, almost every time, is, “Yes!” And then before the parent can say anything else the child is gone. Then, to the parent’s surprise, the child performs the forbidden action. “Did you hear me?” the parent asks. “Yes, I did!” the child replies, and then proceeds to quote, verbatim, what the parent said. In other words, the child was listening, just passively.

This is how many of us listen to sermons. We passively listen. We hear the words, and we may even take sermon notes. But active listening requires us to engage with the words of both the preacher and the Scriptures. We pray as he preaches, asking God to reveal sins that we must repent of, areas we need to release control, and many other responses. We listen to the Word.

READING GOD’S WORD

The second spiritual exercise that we can do with our Bible barbell is reading the Bible. Don Whitney provides “the three most practical suggestions for consistent success in Bible reading.”[4] They are “find the time,” “find a Bible-reading plan,” and “find at least one word, phrase, or verse to meditate on each time you read.”[5]

​​ 
Like everyone, we are all busy.[6] However, busyness is not an excuse to fail to read the Bible. Whitney remarks, “In no more than fifteen minutes a day you can read through the Bible in less than a year’s time. Only five minutes a day takes you through the Bible in less than three years. And yet the majority of Christians never read the Bible all the way through in their whole life.”[7] We all have 24 hours a day. How we use them, in some part, is up to us. Let us use them to read the Scripture!
But we also need to have a plan. There are many plans out there. Like a bodybuilder choosing their weightlifting routine, we must find out “routine” for Bible reading. There are multiple ways we can engage in the systematic reading of the Bible.
Here are a few possibilities:

Bodybuilders develop a plan and stick to it, but they also make changes to keep their muscles shocked for optimal growth. Likewise, the wise Christian will vary his or her reading plan to keep things fresh and spiritually invigorating. The main point, though, is to pick a plan and stick to it.

STUDYING GOD’S WORD

We may believe that “studying God’s Word” requires a depth of knowledge in history, language (including Greek and Hebrew), geography, and theology. While they certainly help, all that is necessary for Bible study is, as Don Whitney remarks, “a pencil and a piece of paper.”[8]

Writing down main thoughts, questions, and even important verses/thoughts provides insights into passages of Scripture that you may be “familiar with”. You will learn about the individuals in Scripture. You will see interconnected words and themes that simply reading the Scriptures will not provide. Ezra offers us an excellent example of the outline for Bible study:

For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel. (Ezra 7:10, ESV)

This verse also reminds us of the purpose of Bible study: to be like Christ. As with the Bible reading plans, there is a multitude of Bible study tools. Many are available online for free.[9] Likewise, study Bibles abound. My personal favorites are The MacArthur Study Bible, the ESV Study Bible, and the NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible. Journaling Bibles are also useful, as they provide ample space in the margins of the Bible for note-taking. Regardless of how you study, study for godliness.

MEMORIZING GOD’S WORD

Memorizing Scripture provides the believer with an arsenal of encouragement, armament, and worship material. Noting one of the benefits of Scripture memory, the psalmist states, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11, ESV). When we memorize Scripture, we store up God’s Word in our hearts and enjoy the privileges of victory over sin, encouragement during difficult times, and a ready-made liturgy of worship.

Often, however, we find ourselves bemoaning the work of Scripture memory. Whitney describes our present predicament, “Many Christians look on the Spiritual Discipline of memorizing God’s Word as something tantamount to modern-day martyrdom.”[10]

As with each of the preceding methods of utilizing the barbell of Scripture, Bible memory has many methods and plans. I encourage you to purchase Whitney’s book because he offers some helpful insights.

MEDITATING ON GOD’S WORD

As we worked through Psalm 119, we came across a passage that discusses meditation in general. Here is the link to that study. Since I have already devoted a great deal of attention to this subject there, I will let the reader listen to that.

APPLYING GOD’S WORD

Finally, we must apply God’s Word. Up to this point, we have purchased our “gym membership,” we have developed a routine to utilize the barbell of Scripture, and now comes the hard part: putting in the reps.

You see, we can boast of the greatest equipment, we can sport the most expensive clothing, and we can have the greatest array of supplements, but if we fail to lift the weights consistently, we will fail at bodybuilding. Similarly, we can have the most expansive library, perfect knowledge of Greek and Hebrew, and all theology, but without applying the Word of God, we will not grow in godliness.

James, the practical one, phrases it in this way, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22, ESV). The difficulty lies in the application. It is hard, at times, to apply God’s Word. Whitney remarks, “Despite our occasional struggles to understand parts of Scripture, understanding it isn’t our chief problem. Most of Scripture is abundantly clear. Much more often our difficulty lies in knowing how to apply the clearly understood parts of God’s Word to everyday living.”[11] Though not a perfect resource, the Life Application Study Bible, or the Life Application Commentaries provide help in this endeavor. In the New Testament Commentary, the editors state, “Application is putting into practice what we learn.”[12]

Will you put your hand to the bar? Will you stretch and tax your spiritual muscles to grow in godliness? The hardest part of working out is working out. The hardest part of growing in godliness is growing in godliness. Our gracious Lord has provided us with the greatest piece of equipment: the Word of God. Are we willing to use it?

__________
[1] Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1991), 28.
[2] Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines, 29-61.
[3] Ephesians 4:11-13 and 1 Peter 5:2.
[4] Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines, 33.
[5] Ibid., 33-34, emphasis his.
[6] If you are too busy, I recommend Kevin DeYoung’s little book Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book About a (Really) Big Problem (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013).
[7] Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines, 33.
[8] Ibid., 37.
[9] I would recommend The Gospel Coalition, Desiring God, Ligonier, and Grace to You.
[10] Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines, 41.
[11] Ibid., 56.
[12] Bruce Barton, et. al., Life Application New Testament Commentary (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale Publishers, 2001), viii.

Training for Godliness: Its Purpose

We read in 1 Timothy 4:7, “Rather train yourself for godliness.”

Paul, writing to the young pastor Timothy, offers helpful advice throughout this letter. This particular encouragement comes at the heels of a warning against “irreverent, silly myths.” We could say much about this, but for now let’s simply view it as useless issues.[1]

Compared to that, Paul encourages Timothy to train himself for godliness. The word train is a fascinating word which has connection to physical training. But Paul uses the analogy of physical training for spiritual purposes, namely, godliness.

We need to ask ourselves two questions. First, what is godliness? When we answer this question, we are afforded with insights into a clear command of Scripture. And second, how do I train for it? Answering this question provides the means to obtain godliness through training.

We must first answer the question, “What is godliness?” The simple answer is that when one is godly they are like God. Thus, when one is godly they think, speak, and act like God. An outsider observing a godly person would conclude that they are like Jesus. And we learn who Jesus is from the Scriptures. We could answer the question, “What is godliness?” in another way. A godly person is a biblical person. This will become more apparent as we study the spiritual disciplines. But for now, I want to consider what our present situation is.

Donald Whitney, author of Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, writes, “So many professing Christians are so spiritually undisciplined that they seem to have little fruit and power in their lives…. Spiritually they are a mile wide and an inch deep.”[2] Sadly, this is the state of much of the church. Many people watching Christians do not see godliness. But what does this say about us? How many of us have grown up in church, but could not be properly called godly? How many of us could recite theological truths, but when asked about our lives, would fain to answer that we were like Jesus?

And it is that point that brings us to the purpose for godliness. We train for the purpose of godliness. We want to be like Jesus. When I was first beginning to lift weights, I wanted to be like Arnold Schwarzenegger.

I tried to eat like him, lift like him, etc. That was my goal. In a greater way, our goals as followers of Jesus Christ should be to look like Jesus. But, like so many others, we become distracted with the lesser things of life. We focus on careers and family rather than on Christ. We center on preparing for retirement (or, enjoying it, as the case may be), instead of being intentional with our time.

We are to train for godliness. We are to put in the hard work and consistent determination to grow in godliness. It does not happen by osmosis or laziness. Godliness is developed through intentionally striving to be like Jesus as we read about Him in the Scripture.

As we learn about the spiritual disciplines (i.e., the methods God has provided for growth in godliness), I hope we all keep our purpose in the front of our minds: for godliness. May it be said of us, “they recognized that they had been with Jesus.”[3] How? Because they thought, spoke, and acted like Jesus. Let us train for godliness.

__________

[1] Ralph Earle describes it as “Jewish legends.” See Ralph Earle, “1 Timothy,” in Kenneth L. Barker & John R. Kohlenberger III, Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary Volume 2: New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 902.

[2] Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1991), 21.

[3] Acts 4:13, ESV.

Training for Godliness: Introduction

Disciplines for a Godly Life

One of my God-ordained goals is to see you (a fellow church member) grow into Christlikeness.[1] The Second London Baptist Confession of Faith summarizes the biblical teaching on the role of the pastor like this,

“The work of pastors being constantly to attend the service of Christ, in his churches, in the ministry of the word and prayer, with watching for their souls, as they that must give an account to Him; it is incumbent on the churches to whom they minister, not only to give them all due respect, but also to communicate to them of all their good things according to their ability, so as they may have a comfortable supply, without being themselves entangled in secular affairs; and may also be capable of exercising hospitality towards others; and this is required by the law of nature, and by the express order of our Lord Jesus, who hath ordained that they that preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel.” LBCF 26:10

One method the Lord has graciously provided His Church comes in the form of discipline.

In fact, it could be called spiritual discipline. Discipline is an excellent quality that every human being should cultivate. They should be disciplined in their health, in their various occupations, in their relationships, as citizens, and the list could expand.

Discipline, simply put, is “orderly or prescribed conduct or pattern of behavior.”[2] While discipline is helpful in all areas of life, it is particularly beneficial in the life of a Christian. In fact, it is biblical. Paul, writing to the young pastor Timothy, encourages him with these words,

“Train ourself for godliness.” (1 Tim. 4:7, ESV)

Perhaps you are wondering why I use the word discipline when Paul uses the word train. The concept is the same. Train, or discipline, yourself to godliness. Be orderly in your conduct or pattern of behavior. We must ask ourselves, “What is our pattern to follow?” Paul answers simply, “for godliness.” Be like God, brothers and sisters, through training, discipline.

In this series of posts, we will discuss this idea of discipline and the Christian life. There are a multitude of ways that you and I can grow. Thankfully, we will learn from an expert. I would highly recommend you purchase Donald S. Whitney’s book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. It is a wonderful book of only 249 pages. In this book, Whitney discusses the basis for our discipline as believers. He also provides chapters fleshing out the various disciplines available. It is not an exhaustive work, but it is a helpful one.

As you and I grow into the image of Jesus Christ, we must discipline ourselves for godliness. Lazy Christians will never progress in godliness. Only disciplined Christians will grow. We will look at these spiritual disciplines over the next few posts. I hope that you will, like Timothy, train yourself for godliness.

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[1] If you are not a member of our church, it is not that I do not want to see you grow. I do! However, God has assigned me to the good people of Warrior Creek Baptist Church. My focus is on them, and biblically so (see Hebrews 13:17). I would encourage you to prayerfully seek out a biblical church to join.

[2] “Discipline,” Merriam-Webster Online (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/discipline, accessed 10 September 2020).