“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses , let us lay aside EVERY WEIGHT, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1, 2
Paul in this pastoral letter to Timothy is giving him instructions on how men and women are to function in the church. It is not a matter of superiority or inferiority, but of God’s Priorities. In doing so, he forewarns Timothy and Christians through the ages to be on guard against false doctrines, which he calls the doctrines of demons. Paul tells us there will be a departing from the faith as they give attention to deceiving spirits. These who depart from the faith possess seared consciences which are desensitized to sin. Some of this false teaching will be in regard to marriage and diet.
Timothy is instructed, as we are also included, to teach sound doctrine which proclaims the Gospel and defends the faith.
The key verse I want us to look at in today’s lesson is found in the second part of 1 Timothy 4: 7: “But reject profane and old wives’ fables and exercise yourself toward godliness. (Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness, the pursuit of holiness.)Jesus told us in the Sermon on the Mount, ‘we must be holy as God is holy. *For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise for the life that now is and that which is to come.
THE PURSUIT OF HOLINESS
Holiness is what we are to be pursuing. Paul said “I want to know the Lord.” Moses said, “I want to see the Lord.” Phillip said to Jesus: “Show us the Father.” All speak of a longing, a desire to know the Lord as He longs for us to know Him. And Jesus said “Be holy as God is holy.” He also said, “Only the pure in heart see God.” What does it mean to be “HOLY”? Holy is to be absolutely blameless. This is our position as a result of being justified when we placed our faith in the saving life of Jesus Christ. Justified give us blamelessness as our position before Holy God. But our practice does not match our position does it? This is why we are to pursue holiness. To be holy is to be separated from sin and consecrated to God. To live a holy life is to live in obedience and conformity to the precepts of the Bible rather than the sinful ways of the world.
Now a word of caution, we will not attain perfection in this world, as Paul says he certainly had not attained perfection. But we are to “press toward the mark of the high calling. “God has given us the potential and the power to resist temptation and sin. The responsibility is ours. He, God, has worked in us to will and do His good pleasure; we must work it out with fear and trembling.” Philippians 2.
God led His people the nation of Israel out of slavery in Egypt. He then gave the law through Moses. From Exodus 25-31, God gives detail after detail of how to enter into worship with Him. The Tabernacle in the wilderness was a special tent, a movable house of God. Tabernacle in Hebrew means residence, place of abiding, home. God wants to live with His people. This tent was also called a ‘sanctuary” which means set apart. We know today, as believers, God does not reside in a building but in the hearts of His followers. Paul says our bodies are the temple/ the tabernacle of Holy God. He says our bodies are earthly tents which will be destroyed; we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, built by the Carpenter of Nazareth. This was the building Abraham was looking for when he went out not knowing where he was going. When we got saved, we now look back and see we entered into the same kind of seeking life as Abraham. Do you know where you are going? What you are seeking?
In the construction of the Tabernacle in the wilderness we are told it is patterned after the Tabernacle in Heaven. God gave details of the materials needed, but the first thing built was the Ark of the Covenant. When we pursue holiness we seek to glorify the Lord. In the building of the tabernacle God showed how one pursues holiness and when done God’s way results in our being able to enter the Holy of Holies and the result is the Shekinah glory of God which would appear as a manifestation of God’s Presence.
If you are to pursue holiness, this is the path as shown by God’s Tabernacle. Enter in by the gate, for Jesus is the gate, the way, the truth and the life. This leads the way to the altar where the shed blood of the Lamb is posted on the doorpost of our hearts. Then by the cleansing water of His word I can enter the Holy Place where I am fed on His Word, the True Bread of Heaven. Here is the Light of the World and by prayers offered up like incense; I enter the presence of God in the throne room of heaven, where I obtained mercy and grace to help in time of need. In our pursuit of holiness this is always the route.
So by virtue of following this route, you have laid aside every weight and the sins which so easily ensnare you so you can pursue holiness with endurance. Notice Paul does not say this is easy, a breeze, nothing to it- No, Paul emphasizes we “labor and suffer reproach because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially all those who believe.” You do not lay aside weight easily do you? Laboring and suffering- was that in the fine print? So the Tabernacle was both a witness to man and against man. As a witness to man it instructs man of the only way he could approach God. It was a witness against man saying your works are as filthy rags, you cannot merit salvation by works, and only way to come to the Father is by the shed blood of the Lamb of God, the Lord Jesus Christ.
“Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matthew 26:41. You’ve probably said those very words when you were on a diet and suddenly gave in to each a piece of warm apple pie with ice cream on it. Do you see how simple these instructions are? Caution: Jesus warns against temptation. Temptation succeeds when you allow it to enter into your life- through lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh and pride of life. Be on guard. Prevention: only way to prevent it is to be on guard, to watch and pray. Guard your heart with all diligence, for out of it come the issues of life. Have a “go-to verse” to deal with the temptation.* The only way you can learn to resist temptation is to be tempted.
The goal of weight watchers is to lose weight by watching what you eat and how much of it you eat. The goal of your flesh is to eat what it loves to eat, that tastes so good. Goal of your deceitful heart is to lead you into sin, evil. The goal of God is not to lead you into evil, for God does not tempt one to evil nor can He be tempted by evil. (James 1) God allows temptations as trials or test as training, discipline for the purpose of developing godliness, holiness. God wants to show us ourselves and know our deceitful hearts. God also wants to show us His Grace and faithfulness. In the Garden, Jesus went a “little farther” from the disciples. Did they follow? No. When we get just ‘ little way’ from Him in our devotion, we are prone to be less conscious of Him and a little space is all the enemy needs to gain a foothold. Get off your diet a little and you risk going completely off your diet. Temptation is anything which draws us away from God’s will
Watch: When we do not stand watch, Jesus tells us this is when we enter into temptation. Prayer: this is why Jesus taught us the pattern prayer in Matthew 6, we commonly call, The Lord’s Prayer, which teaches us to pray: ‘lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’ See God allowed the temptation, as a test to undergo to learn how to use the weapons He has provided and the desire to not sin to have victory over sin. So like anything else we must develop good habits. Habits are powerful. This is why we must train and disciple ourselves for the battle which lies ahead. Our duty now is to develop the habit of holiness.
Romans 5-8 are some of the most important instructions for developing the habit of holiness. First we must know what we need to know about our new position. When we got saved, we became a new creature and old things passed away and are passing away and new things have come and continue to come into our lives. There is a change of kingdoms. We have come into the Kingdom of Heaven, the Kingdom of light from the kingdom of darkness. From that moment on, we are in a battle. As we battle for holiness, the enemy battles to draw us back into sin. It is a daily battle. Just like trying to change your eating habits in order to lay aside the weight which ensnares you. God in His infinite wisdom has seen fit to allow these daily battles with indwelling sin. For now the Spirit which indwells us will be in a battle with the old nature as they are contrary to one another.
We need help in the daily battle. We need to know what we need to know. We need to know God’s part and our part, our responsibility. We must learn how to put sin to death in order to develop the habit of holiness. We read in Romans 6: 3: “Do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? “ This verse explains the preceding verse, which say” how shall we who died to sin, live any longer in it? Watchman Nee told a new Christian struggling to quit smoking, ‘a dead man can’t smoke.’
Next we need to know this key truth: “Likewise you also, reckon (count as true) yourself to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Romans 6: 11. This means WE ARE UNTIED WITH CHRIST JESUS IN ALL HIS POWER. Therefore it is not by our power or might, but by the Spirit. We put on the whole armor of God. The Lord has given us divine weapons for the pulling down of strongholds. Greater is He who is in us, than he who is in the world. God then gives you the will and to do His good purpose. We work it out with fear and trembling. (Philippians 2) God has given you the power and the potential to resist sin. You have the weapons and the indwelling power it is your responsibility to use them. YOU CAN SAY WITH ASSURANCE- I AM NO LONGER UNDER THE DOMINION OF SIN, BUT I AM UNDER THE POWER OF GOD WHICH IS WORKING IN ME. The Holy Spirit strengthens us to holiness by first enabling us to see our need for holiness. It was at the cross when I first saw the light. He then enlightens our understanding so that we begin to see God’s standard for holiness. Sanctification is a progressive work. The Holy Spirit then lets us see our specific areas of sin. One of the devil’s most powerful weapons is deception whereby he makes us spiritually blind. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9 No one can understand it and expose it except by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit shows us our sinfulness, not to discourage us, but to lead us to holiness. You must come to loath the sin you used to love. This is how God works in you to WILL AND TO ACT ACCORDING TO HIS GOOD PURPOSE. Do you see the order? We first must will, desire, before we act. Pray God will give you this desire to be holy and He will answer this prayer! Each day, like Joshua we must choose whom we will serve: the flesh, our old nature or the Lord.
INTO THE BATTLE
Paul then tells us of his battle with his old nature in Romans 7 and tells us every time he wants to good, evil is always present. He says he is losing the battle as the good he wants and wills to do, he does not do, and instead the evil he does not want to do, he still practices. We learn as Paul learned, there is no good thing in the flesh, the old nature. The sinful old nature does not want to give up.
This is the battle. “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live.” Romans 8: 13
First: Our Duty- to put to death the deeds of the body.
Second: Notice the person who does this is YOU.
Third: The promise ‘YOU will live.”
Fourth: The means by which you perform your duty –‘by the Spirit.’
Fifth: These are based on the condition “If you…” It is your choice whom you will serve.
HABITS OF HOLINESS
“ For just as you used to present your members as slaves of uncleanness and lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness.” Romans 6:23
The more we sin, the more we are inclined to sin. Every sin we commit reinforces the habit of sin. Habits are the thoughts and emotional patterns engraved on our minds. Every sin begins as a thought. Every action begins as a thought. Habits are developed and reinforced by repetition. We developed the habit of unholiness. But by the same method, we can develop habits of holiness. We must systematically work at the habit of saying no to the sin or sins which so easily entangle us. I had to concentrate on dealing with alcoholism, drinking was a habit developed and engraved in my mind over a period of 14 years. Smokers do the same thing, as well as drug addicts. By concentrating on the sin or sins which so easily entangle you, you gain victory through the Spirit of God using the Word of God. I was given a ‘go-to” verse to deal with the temptation to drink. It was I Corinthians 10: 13 which is an excellent verse and can be used against any temptation.
We then begin to see how the Spirit of God works within us through the Word of God. We then develop habits of holiness. Since every act begins as a thought, we must transform our minds through the Word of God to think the right thoughts, thoughts that are pure and good. And by using the Word, the Sword of the Spirit we can divide every thought and it intention. We then can learn to bring into obedience any thought which is not obedient to Christ Jesus. We learn to recognize wrong thinking immediately.
When developing new habits we must never allow the exception. We must be diligent, on guard at all times for our enemy roams about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. Do not put yourself in the way of temptation. Put yourself before God. Spiritual disciplines put you in His Gym for training.
SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES FOR THE PURPOSE OF GODLINESS
Godliness, the pursuit of holiness comes though discipline. God uses three primary catalysts for changing and conforming us as part of His training program.
- People: “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17 this may be from friends or enemies.
- Circumstances: Romans 8: 28 tell us this. Some of the circumstances are: finances, health and relationships which get our attention.
- Spiritual disciplines: these are different from the other two in this way- the first two work from the outside -in. We also have little control over them. The third method works from the inside- out and we have a measure of choice as to how much time we will spend in exercising them. These include: Bible intake, prayer, fasting and giving.
Spiritual disciplines are exercises which involve putting ourselves in the position and taking the actions to place ourselves before God for Him to work in us. There are two individuals who did this in the New Testament. They are two different men in different circumstances. Their stories are found in Luke 18 and 19.
Blind Bartimaeus was outside the city of Jericho when he heard the crowd noise and inquired what was happening. He was told it was Jesus coming into town. Bartimaeus had heard of his healing power and began to cry out with a loud voice, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” He would not quit yelling and Jesus said, bring him unto me, where he asks him what did he want. He asked that he might receive his sight. He received his sight immediately and followed, glorifying God.
The other man is Zacchaeus the tax collector. He sought to see Jesus. But being short, he could not see him because of the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed up a tree to see Jesus. He put himself not only to see Jesus, to place himself before Jesus to work in his life.
This is what we do when we practice spiritual disciplines we place ourselves before God for Him to work in us, what we must then work out with obedience. Do you have a desire to pursue holiness?
It begins with a hunger for God’s Word. There is no spiritual discipline which is more important. Every other discipline will occur as you set yourself before the Word of the Living God. This discipline will lead you into the others: prayer, worship, witnessing, serving, giving, fasting, etc. You will develop the habit of placing yourself before God the first thing each day in a time of Bible study and prayer as you start your day.