The part of the chapter that I wanted to focus on is begin ning in verse number 6, where the Bible reads, "If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine wherein to thou has attained. But refuse profane and old wives' fables. 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. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation."
The part that I want to preach on is that scripture in verse seven where the Bible says at the end part there, "Exercise thyself rather unto Godliness." That's what I want to preach about tonight: exercising yourself unto Godliness.
Now, flip over to First Corinthians 9. We'll come back to First Timothy 4, but go to First Corinthians 9. This is a common theme in the epistles written by Paul. He often, in his epistles, likens the Christian life unto athletic training or athletic competition. It's something that the Apostle Paul brings up in a lot of his epistles. First Timothy, Second Timothy, First Corinthians, Hebrews. It comes up over and over again. It's a recurring theme with him.
In First Corinthians 9:23, the Bible reads, "And this I do for the Gospel's sake, that I may be a partaker thereof with you. Know ye not that they which run the race run all, but one receiveth the prize. So run that ye may obtain, and every man that striveth for the mastery," and I want you to pay attention to that phrase, we're going to come back to that, "Striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things." What that means, striving means to try very hard or work at something. For the mastery there, he's talking about winning. Okay? Winning in a competition.
"Every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now, they do it to obtain a corruptible crown," talking about at a sporting event, "But we, an incorruptible. I, therefore, so run not as uncertainly, so fight I not as one that beateth the air, but I keep under my body and bring it into subjection lest that by any means when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway." Over and over again, Paul is comparing our Christian life to running a race or exercising or training or building up your body physically, but he says, "Bodily exercise profiteth little. Exercise thyself, rather, unto Godliness." Obviously our spiritual fitness is a lot more important than our physical fitness.
Okay. Everybody who's out of shape is just shouting "Amen," you know, on that point. No, I'm just kidding. Anyway, I want to show you tonight eight things that Paul talks about when he refers to exercise or training or sporting. Eight things that apply to our Christian life, also, and eight comparisons that he makes between athletics and our Christian life.
Go to Second Timothy, chapter 2. You're in First Corinthians. Just flip over to Second Timothy, chapter 2. Here's another scripture where Paul talks about something similar. Remember, in First Corinthians 9, he called winning a sporting event getting the mastery or striving for the mastery. Well, he uses that same term over here in Second Timothy 2:3. It says, "Thou, therefore, endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life that he may please him who have chosen him to be a soldier. And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully." In these three verses, he's referring to training to be a soldier, but then he also likens it to training for sports, training for the mastery, okay?
Number one, the thing that we can learn from Paul about exercising yourself unto Godliness, is that you must endure hardness. Second Timothy 2:3 says, "Thou, therefore, endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ." Now, anybody who's done any kind of exercise ... Turn to Romans 8. Anybody who's done any kind of exercise or training or athletics knows that if there's no pain, there's no gain. Right? I mean, if you're going to train, if you're going to exercise, you're going to have to go through some suffering and some pain in order to make any kind of advancement, in order to get any kind of growth.
Paul here is saying that we as Christians, as soldiers of Jesus Christ, training for the spiritual battle or the spiritual contest, we must endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. Look at Romans 8:17. It says, "And if children, then heirs, heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ, if so be that we suffer with Him that we may be also glorified together, for I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us." The Christian life is a life of suffering.
The Bible says in Philippians 1, you don't have to turn there, "For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for His sake." That is what we are called to do as Christians. Just like training, exercising. Exercising yourself unto Godliness is going to involve suffering, pain, discomfort. If you're not feeling any pain, you're not doing any work. You're not growing.
Now go, if you would, back to Second Timothy 2. While you're turning there, I'll read for you from Second Thessalonians 1:5, which is "A manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God for which you also suffer." Okay. I mean, I could read a whole bunch of verses on that where God's telling us, "Look. The Christian life is going to be a life of suffering," and if you go through life with an attitude that says, "I don't want to suffer, I don't want to sacrifice, I don't want to go through any hardship or affliction," you know what? You are going to be weak as a Christian.
It's the pain that makes you stronger. It's the pushing yourself. it's the enduring of hardness that causes you to grow and become stronger and a better Christian, just like with exercise. It's the same exact thing.
Secondly, in this passage, we got that from verse 3, but look at verse 4. It says, "No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life that he may please Him who hath chosen him to be a soldier." The second thing about exercising yourself unto Godliness, it's something that you have to do consistently. You've got to make sure that you don't get so busy with everything else that you start skipping the workout. I mean, if you're trying to get in shape, if you're training for a sporting event or athletics, you get really busy with everything else and you start skipping the workouts, well pretty soon, a week goes by. Two weeks goes by. You know. You haven't done any running, you haven't done any training. You lose your progress pretty fast if you stop training, if you're not doing any running or anything else.
Well, the Bible says here that we need to make sure that we don't get entangled with the affairs of this life, "that we may please Him who hath called us to be a soldier." Now you say, "Well, what do you mean? Skipping the workout? What is the workout? What does it mean to exercise ourself unto Godliness?" Well, back up just a few verses to verse 1. It says, "Thou, therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus and the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses. The same commit thou to faithful men who shall be able to teach others also." Working out or doing the work of the Christian life or exercising ourself unto Godliness involves preaching and teaching the Wordof God unto other people. That's what it involves.
Go to Hebrews 5. I'll show you that. Hebrews chapter number 5 is where the Apostle Paul again uses this illustration about exercise. Hebrews chapter number 5, he uses the same term, "exercise," in Hebrews 5. Go ahead and go there. It says in verse 12, "For when for the time, you ought to be," what? "Teachers. You have need that one teach you again, which would be the first principles of the oracles of God and are become such as have need of milk and not of strong meat. For everyone that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe, but strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil."
Okay, notice here that the person who knows the Wordof God is the one who uses the Wordof God, because it says here that "everyone that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness for he is a babe, but strong meat belongeth to them" who sit in a seminary and in a library and do very deep scholarship and say ... No. It says "Those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
See, it's great to study. It's great to learn. It's great to go deep and be intellectual, okay? We could liken that unto eating food. Now you need to go out and exercise. You need to go out and do the work. That involves being a teacher, not just always needing one to teach you, but being a teacher. Preaching Gd's word. Taking the Word of God and using it.
It's the same thing in James chapter 1, when it says, "But be ye doers of the Word and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the Word and not a doer, he is likened to a man beholding his natural face in a glass, for he beholdeth himself and go with his way, and straightaway forget what manner of man he was. But who so looketh into the perfect law of liberty and continue it therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work. This man shall be blessed in his deed."
According to the Bible, there are two kinds of people when they hear the Word of God. There's a forgetful hearer, and there's the doer of the work. Okay, if you don't use it, you lose it. You know, you can learn and you can get all this information. Again, back to our exercise illustration that we're going with tonight. You're going down to GNC or whatever and buying some protein drink or whatever that's got 100 grams of protein. It's got some steroid-filled guy on the outside of the package. You just think, "Wow, if I drink this, I'm going to be huge!" You know what? You're not going to, because when you drink that, that protein is not going to do you any good unless you're doing the work. I mean, you're going to use the restroom and it's gone. You've got to do the work, or else your body will not build muscle out of that protein that you're taking in.
When you're sitting in church, you're taking in the nutrition. You're reading your Bible, you're taking in the nutrition. Unless you get out there and work it out and endure some suffering and do some work and get something done, you know what? It's going out at the draft, my friend. Worse yet, you're going to become spiritually obese because you're just taking in, taking in, taking in, and you're not doing the work. You're not exercising yourself unto Godliness, okay? You need both.
Which leads me to my next point. First Timothy 4. Flip over to First Timothy 4. While you're turning there, I'll read you another verse that kind of reiterates this idea of not getting entangled with the affairs of this life. It says in Mark 4:18, "These are they which are sown among thorns, such as hear the Word," they're taking in the word, "And the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches and the lusts of other things entering in choke the Word and it becometh unfruitful." There's a danger that we hear God's Word, we take in God's Word, but we don't produce any fruit because we're just too distracted with everything else in life. We just get too busy.
What this comes down to is making it a priority. You know, if someone's training for an athletic competition, they're going to need to make that a priority, to get that training done. If they get real busy, start skipping a bunch of workouts, it's just not going to happen. Well, it's the same way in our Christian life. This is something that we have to make a priority. We have to put it first, you know, serving God, number one, or it can fall by the wayside. That's what the Bible's telling us.
Whether it be Bible reading ... You go a week without reading your Bible, and then you just give up. You know, maybe you're on a plan where you're reading. Maybe you're on the "One Year Bible," where it tells you what to read that day. If you get a week behind in that thing, then you just get discouraged, right, and just throw it, "Oh man, I'm so behind, I can never catch up." That's how it is with exercise, too. You're making all kinds of gains, and then you go a couple weeks, you get busy, and then it's like, "Oh man. Forget it. I'm done. I've lost too much ground. I don't want to have to rebuild all that."
It's the same way with the Christian life. You've got to be consistent. You've got to stay with it. You've got to make it a priority.
Number one, we saw that you've got to endure hardness. No pain, no gain in the Christian life, okay? Number two, you can't get so busy that you're skipping your workout. You're skipping soul-winning, you're skipping church, you're skipping Bible reading. You're just not getting it done. Number three, you've got to get proper nutrition. Anybody knows that nutrition is an important part of it. Go to First Timothy 4:6. I like this play on words that Paul does here, because he says, "If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine where unto thou hast attained."
It's funny because he just finished talking about food. He's talking about how in the last days, there would be religions that would come along commanding you to abstain from meats, and he warns about them and he says, "Every creature of God is good and nothing to be refused if it be received with thanksgiving, for it is sanctified by the Word of God in prayer. If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and good doctrine where unto thou hast attained, but refuse profane and old wives' fables and exercise thyself rather unto Godliness." We see here that thirdly, when it comes to exercise, it's important to get the right nourishment or the right nutrition.
Now, according to the Bible here, what is the nourishment that we need? The words of faith and of good doctrine, right? The Bible and good doctrine is the nutrition that needs to be coming in if we're going to exercise ourself unto Godliness.
What is the bad thing that we should not be eating? Junk food, right? Junk food is going to derail our exercise program, both physically and spiritually. What is the definition of junk food? This is what junk food is. It's food that's a lot of calories with very little nutrition. You're getting a lot of volume coming in, you're getting a lot of calories coming in, but you're not getting a lot of the nourishing vitamins, minerals, quality carbohydrates and proteins, right? It's just a lot of junk calories, junk food.
You're getting ... "Oh, I ate 1,000 calories. This is going to be great! This is going to give me all kinds of energy, and it's going to ... " No. It's junk. There's no vitamins, there's no nourishment, there's no mineral. The protein isn't there, the fiber isn't there. Right? It's just junk. It's just filling your stomach with food that's not doing you any good. It's not helping you at all. It's just dead weight, just garbage.
Think about how we can apply that spiritually. What would be the spiritual equivalent of junk food? If good nourishment is the words of faith and of good doctrine ... Think about this. Isn't it junk food when you go to church and you listen to an hour-long sermon with only one Bible verse in it? It's like there's all these calories. You're getting all these calories, right? I mean, you're getting an hour of preaching. Wow! Look at all these calories! Then, there's almost no nourishment in it. You're not really getting a lot of fiber and protein and carbohydrate. You're getting the simple carbohydrate.
Think about that. The simple carbohydrate. The sugar. You know, the sweet. This is the preaching that's always sweet all the time. It's just always the sugar-coated sermon, right? The simple carbohydrate. There's no doctrine, there's nothing deep there. It's just a sugary, simple, sweet little carbohydrate. You burn through that before you even get out the door. It's like Chinese food. You're hungry an hour later. You don't even feel like you've been fed.
Think about it. Think about the junk food of these devotional booklets, where it's one little verse or half a verse, and then a whole page of "blah blah blah." Packed with calories, but where is the nourishment? Where is the nutrition? Where are the vitamins and the minerals? You know, you read the Bible, you're getting a T-bone steak. You read the Bible, you're getting the complex carbs of the Word, the proteins of the Word. When you go to a Bible-preaching church that's actually teaching you doctrine, that's teaching you the deep things of God, that's giving you the milk and the meat of the Word. You know, that's quality nutrition.
You go to one of these sugar-coated little fun centers, you're eating a bunch of junk food, it's like a spiritual Twinkie. It's just like a spiritual ice cream cone. You know what? Having an ice cream cone's okay every once in a while, but you know what? When you're just eating ice cream breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Twinkies, Ho-Hos, Little Debbies, oatmeal crème pies. You need to get some real food! You need your five a day, buddy. You need fruits, you need vegetables, you need meat on the bone, not this little sugary, sweetish little pastry that you get at a hotel for the continental breakfast when it's a cheap hotel. This cheap hotel breakfast sermon.
Svenhard's. You know, over at Svenhard Baptist, where it's just all calories, but it's all junk. Yeah, give me calories, but give me quality calories. Give me quality words of faith and of good doctrine. Get the right nourishment.
What does the Bible say in the scripture that we're looking at? It says get the nourishment "of the words of good faith and of good doctrine, but refuse profane and old wives' fables, and exercise thyself rather unto Godliness." Now, I don't know exactly what he means here by old wives' fables. I don't know. Is this the thing where, you know, "Don't swim for a half hour after you've eaten," or what. What are some examples of old wives' fables what we think of as old wives' fables?
Step on a crack.
Step on a crack, break your mother's back. Yeah. Come on. Somebody do better than that! Even my waiting a half hour to swim was better than that! I don't know, what, if you swallow your gum, it's going to be there for seven years? Is that an old wives' fable? Something like that, right? If you ... I don't know. If you make that face long enough, it's going to stay that way? I don't know.
I do know that ... I don't know what the Bible means here when it says "old wives' fables," but I know that when the Bible talks about fables elsewhere, it talks about Jewish fables, right? The Bible here tells us to refuse profane and old wives' fables. Elsewhere he tells us to avoid Jewish fables. Now, I think what the Bible is talking about when it says "Jewish fables" is there's a lot of extrabiblical Jewish material out there put out by unbelieving Jews. It was already around in Paul's day, because Paul was warning about Jewish fables. Just a lot of books and teachings of the Pharisees, of the rabbis, of the unbelieving Jews. Today, a lot of Christians, they listen to this stuff. They just think Jewish equals good. Right? "Oh yeah, Jewish is just great! It's just spiritual." No. Because if it doesn't confess the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, it's Antichrist. Okay.
Any kind of extrabiblical Jewish teaching ... A lot of times, you'll try to show people from the Bible the post-tribulation pre-wrath Rapture as articulated by Jesus in Matthew 24, and they want to tell you about a Jewish wedding ceremony. Here's the thing. It's not coming from the Bible, though. It's just other Jewish traditions. You've got to understand, those who practice Judaism, they're not walking around with the 39-book Old Testament under their arm and saying, "This is my final authority." Because if they believe Moses, they believe Jesus, okay? What they are walking around with is a big encyclopedia set called the Talmud with all kinds of other teachings and other doctrines and other stories from the Old Testament that are not in the Bible. Look. The only Jewish thing that I want to talk about is these 39 books. That's it. That's the only Hebrew scriptures I want anything to do with. I don't want to give heed unto Jewish fables and commandments of men that turn from the truth. That could be a junk food diet.
A lot of theology, a lot of commentary, a sermon that's an hour long. One verse. Huge devotionals, one verse. That is a spiritual junk food that's lean on nutrition. The Bible says we need to be nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine where unto we've attained. All right.
Number four. Go to Second Timothy chapter 2, and while you're turning there, I'll read for you some scriptures that liken reading the Bible unto eating. The Bible says in Jeremiah 15:16, "Thy words were found and I did eat them, and thy Word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart, for I am called by thy name, oh Lord God of hosts." Job 23:13, "Neither have I gone back from the commandment of His lips. I have esteemed the words of His mouth more than my necessary food." The Bible is teaching us that the Word of God is the nourishment in this exercise program.
I have known some people who are really good workers for God. They do a lot of work for God, but they're a little bit lean on the nutrition of reading God's word. You see churches that are very busy but they're lean on knowledge. They're working hard, they're doing a lot, but they're lean on doctrine. We need to have a balance of both. We need to take in the calories, or we're going to look like one of these emaciated vegan runners. We're going to look like one of these that's just not getting enough calories coming in.
We want to do both. We don't want to be spiritually obese, but we also don't want to be skinny as a rail. We want to put on some lean body mass here, spiritually speaking, so we need to take in the nourishment, a lot of preaching, a lot of reading and studying of God's Word. Then, not just lock ourselves up in some ivory tower someday where we study all day, but rather get out into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in that God's house may be filled. Go out and preach the Gospel to every creature, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and teaching them to observe all things whatsoever Christ commanded us. That's what we're supposed to be doing. That's the work that He gave us to do, that he left us here on this earth to do and accomplish. It's to take the things that we've learned and heard and to commit them to faithful men who will be able to teach others also and to continue teaching and preaching another generation.
Number four, if you're going to succeed at exercise, you can't cheat. Look at Second Timothy 2:5. It says, "And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned except he strive lawfully." He says, look. If you're going to succeed as an athlete, you must do it lawfully. How many times do we hear about professional athletes getting busted for cheating? Whether it's the corked bat, or whether it's the little iron bars in the boxing glove, just to kind of give an extra ... You know, when they punch somebody, they'll put metal in their boxing glove. Or, for example, they take steroids or do like the Tour de France cyclists and do blood doping, you know, putting extra red blood cells in, trying to supercharge their cardiovascular system. This is all cheating. They're not winning based upon hard work, dedication, intelligence. They're winning based upon cheating and breaking the rules.
God says, "If a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned except he strive lawfully." You know what? These guys usually end up getting caught, eventually. Even if it goes for years and years, eventually they get busted, and it's a shame, and they go down in humiliation and in embarrassment. Even if there are people who don't get caught, God knows whether we're cheating.
In truthfulness, I remember when I used to go to a [moi tai 00:25:17] boxing gym, and you'd be trained there. They'd always say to us, "No cheating." Because let's say you're supposed to be doing pushups or whatever. The instructor's not really looking, you're kind of doing a half rep, because you're just trying to save yourself for the next torture that he's going to put you through. You're doing a little cheating. He'd always say this. He said, "You're only cheating yourself." He said, "If you're cheating, you're only cheating yourself, because you're going to be weak, because you're cheating yourself. You're not working hard enough," and this and that. You know what?
It is true that when you cheat, you cheat yourself. You can sit there and get all the fame and all the money, but that's not what life's all about. You know that you cheated. You know that you didn't win fair and square, and God knows. When it comes to Christian life and serving God, He wants us to strive lawfully, not cut corners, take shortcuts, cheat, or violate His word to get there. This is the whole new evangelical movement that basically says, "We're going to do it our way, we're going to do it based on our rules. We don't care what God's rules of the game are. We're going to do it our way." A lot of people will say, "Well, as long as your heart's in the right place, that's okay." So many times in the Bible, God punished people whose heart was in the right place, but they did the wrong thing.
How many people? I mean, Cain is offering something to God. "Well, hey, that's just great! I mean, at least he's offering something to God! At least he's talking to God." No, wrong. He's doing it wrong. Okay, you get to Leviticus chapter 10, Nadab and Abihu. They offer strange fire unto the Lord. "But wait a minute! They're worshiping God in their own way." Wrong way. You've got to do it God's way.
I mean, David and the whole nation of Israel when they brought back the Ark. They're excited, they're praising God, but they didn't carry the Ark the right way. They were supposed to have it carried upon the shoulders of the Levites. Instead, they put it in a new cart, which is what they picked up from the Philistines, and when it was in that new cart, the oxen stumbled, the Ark was going to be damaged, so Uzzah put forth his hand, steadied the Ark, and God struck Uzzah dead for touching the Ark. It really wasn't even Uzzah's fault, it was really David's fault for even having them transport the Ark wrongfully. They were supposed to carry it on the shoulders. That shows that God expects us to do things His way and to follow His Word.
This book is the final authority for all matters of faith and practice, and so many churches today disregard God's clear commandments in order to just reach the most people that they can. That's their mentality. "We just want to reach the most people we can, and if using music by Bon Jovi on Sunday morning is going to help us reach the most people, that's what we'll do." You know, just whatever it takes. Then, when you try to say, "Hey, wait a minute, that isn't right. That's sin," you point out things that they're doing that are sinful, like selling things at church when the Bible says not to make God's house a house of merchandise. Selling things at church, selling refreshments. Hey, if there's going to be a refreshment, you'd better give it away for free, because this isn't a house of merchandise! You shouldn't sell anything in this place when we meet together for church.
They just justify all this, and then you talk about the fact that they're watering down the preaching, they're leaving out so much of God's Word, and it's just, "Oh, you just don't love people. You just don't care about people." No, I love people but I love God more. I love God first and people second. The second commandment is that you love your neighbor as yourself. The first commandment is that you love the Lord thy God, and that means not compromising His word and cheating. You cheat yourself when you cheat.
You know, you look at churches that cut corners. They want to grow fast, so they sacrifice the truth, they sacrifice God's laws and God's principles, and they do it man's way. They get there faster, but when they get there, they're at the wrong destination and they've cheated themselves. Now they realize, "Wait a minute. We have a church filled with unsaved people. We have a church filled with people who don't love God." I'd rather have a church like Faithful Word Baptist Church that takes a little longer to build, that didn't spring up overnight and be gone in a night, but rather is a church that has grown slowly but it's filled with people who are zealous of good works, zealous of soul-winning, zealous of reading the Bible. It's about quality, my friend, not about just cheating and just getting to the finish line as fast as we can.
You cheated, and cheaters never prosper. You work hard, it's going to take longer. You don't take the steroids, you don't do the blood doping. It's going to take you longer to excel in your sport. But, when you get there, the results will be real.
By the way, people who do these things, whether it's the steroids, the blood doping, they're doing damage to their body. I mean, they're doing permanent damage to their body for the sake of winning in the short term. It's not worth it, okay? It's the same thing with these churches. They're letting their church get infected with all the wrong things just because they want to get there fast. You know, starting a church takes a long time, and you have to be patient. It's a process, okay? It doesn't just happen overnight. Nothing of quality grows up overnight. It's weeds that grow up overnight. A real plant takes time to grow, so we don't want to cheat.
So many people today are doing the work of God deceitfully, as the Bible says, and keeping back their sword from blood. They don't want to preach the whole counsel of God. You see, a legitimate New Testament church is preaching the whole Word of God. Okay? Just preaching all of it. Not just cherry-picking the parts that people want to hear. All of it.
You know, I was thinking about this this week. I don't know why I hadn't thought of this sooner, but I thought about the fact that this year is 2013. It reminded me of one of my favorite Bible verses, Leviticus 20:13. Did anybody realize that ... You know, we should be celebrating Leviticus 20:13 the whole year, and I didn't even think of it until December! I mean, it's really a shame. We've got a few weeks left to just celebrate Leviticus 20:13 in 20:13.
You know what? I challenge ... And, I've already preached on it multiple times this year ... I challenge every pastor in America to preach on Leviticus 20:13 in 2013. I bet you there are pastors who have been preaching for five years, ten years, 15 years, 20 years, where this verse has never even come out of their mouth. Who agrees that that's probably true? Probably a lot of pastors where Leviticus 20:13 has never graced their lips. I think that December of 2013, it's time. It's time, Pastor. You know what I mean? It's been too long! It's time to preach it, okay? So many preachers will never have the guts to ever even read this verse from the pulpit, let alone believe it, let alone expound it, let alone celebrate it for a whole year.
Anyway, I'll just read it for you. It has nothing to do with my sermon. This is kind of a commercial break. "If a man also lie with mankind as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them." Now, that's a fantastic verse. I mean, that's a sermon right there, buddy. In fact, move that over to the poetry section with Job, Psalms, and Proverbs, because that's a beautiful verse, my friend.
But you know what? You're not going to hear that verse over at Twinkie Baptist Church where it's a bunch of sugar-coated junk food. You're not getting the right nourishment, and you're getting a bunch of fraudulent, blood-doping, steroid-using church growth, and you say, "Wow! Look how fast our church is growing! Your church isn't growing that fast!" Yeah, that's because we're not on steroids! We're not cheating. We're not blood-doping. We're not doing the work of God deceitfully. We're actually going on real food here. Only food should go in our mouths, and water, and good drink. Not this junk, not all this weird supplemental chemical hormone. No. Look. It's done on food and water, my friend. It's the water of the Word. It's the nourishment of God's Word. This growth is real.
Forget that 'roided-out church down the street, you know, that grew in, like, two years, bc they'll never touch Leviticus 20:13 with a ten-foot pole, and that's why their church is filled with homos. That's why their church is filled with perverts, because we already have run off all the perverts, thank God.
Anyway, I've got to get to my other four points. That's the first four points about exercise. Go to Hebrews, chapter 12. Quick review. We've learned that just like an exercise program, exercising ourselves unto Godliness is going to involve hardness. We've got to suffer. We've got to work. We've got to sweat. We've got to feel some pain, or we're not growing. Anybody who does an exercise that's easy, guess what? You're not getting anything out of it, because there has to be some pain or suffering, or at least some kind of hardness or something, or you're not doing anything.
If I do any kind of a workout, if I lift weights or run or anything, if I have zero soreness the next day, that just tells me that I haven't done anything. I'm not growing. I haven't made any progress. I was just spinning my wheels. There's got to be a little soreness the next day that tells you, "Hey. I'm growing. I'm accomplishing something." If you're not feeling any soreness in your Christian life, it's time to either up the weight or up the repetitions, my friend. You're going soul winning once in a blue, you're reading your Bible once in a blue. That's why you're not enduring any hardness. Time to up the repetitions and feel the burn, my friend, and grow. That's point one.
Point two. Don't get so busy with everything else that you skip the workout. Make it a priority. Read the Bible first. Schedule church first. Soul winning first. Make that the priority in your life.
Number three, you've got to get the proper nutrition. You've got to cut out the junk food and start getting high-quality calories coming in. You know, the proteins, the complex carbohydrates.
Number four, you can't cheat. Cheating might get you short-term success, right? But in the long run, you're destroying your body, and also, you have no integrity. What's that worth?
Number five, you must lay aside excess weight, all right? Hebrews 12:1 says, "Wherefore seeing we also are encompassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us." Now, the Bible talks about laying aside the sin that besets us, and it also just talks about laying aside every weight, because there are some things in our lives that are not necessarily sinful, but they're just weights. They're just things that are slowing us down. They're not helping us at all.
Now, if you were to go running, especially if you were running a race, you wouldn't bring along a whole bunch of extra gear. Some of my kids do this. When my wife's sorting the laundry, some of their pockets are just filled, and especially John is the one whose pockets are always filled. I found a pair of John's pants last night or the night before, and every ... You know, it had pockets up here, pockets down there, there's Matchbox cars, there's toys. Sometimes you'll find all kinds of survival gear. You know? It's like, "You guys are playing in the front yard." They've got matches and they've got fishing line and knives, and they're ready to just live there for years, if they have to.
All that kind of junk ... I mean, you're not going to go running with all that stuff in your pockets. When I go running, I don't even like to have my keys in my pockets. Even my keys are weighing me down, I feel like, and they just keep jingling and banging against you. I mean, it's just the keys. Your phone, your wallet. I mean, man, I get rid of all that stuff when I run because it just drives you nuts. It bugs you. Obviously, it's going to slow you down also, okay?
There's a guy that I run with, I'm not going to say his name, but he was carrying a Maglite while running. Some of you may know who I'm talking about. I was like, "Whoa! Time to lay aside every weight, buddy." That's what I told him, because he's carrying a Maglite. That's not really usually a running accessory. Usually it's more like a little headlamp, not a giant police Maglite. What I'm saying is, when you run, you lay aside every weight and the sin which doth so easily beset us.
A lot of people today, they say that they don't have time to read their Bibles as much as they should, or pray, or go to church, or go soul winning. They're always busy. But, they have time to read the news every day. They have time to play video games on a daily basis. They have time to surf the internet. They have time to watch TV and do everything else. There are a lot of things in our life that, although they may not be sinful ... Some of them are sinful, of course. But although some things might not be sinful, they're not helping us get to the finish line. They're just dead weight in our lives.
When you don't have time to do the things you're supposed to be doing, you need to start looking at what you can cut out in your life and say, "Okay, I want to up my Bible reading in 2014." Maybe you read it once this year, you want to read it twice next year. What's going to be cut out? Something may need to be cut from your schedule, something that's just dead weight, something that you just don't need.
Look, again, I'm not saying it's sin, and I'm not trying to give a one-size-fits-all that says, "Hey, live your life exactly like I do." Everybody's got to make their own decisions. I'm not trying to tell people what to do. I want you to examine yourself and decide what things are deadweight in your life.
Just to throw out some examples: following every single twist and turn in the news. I mean, if that's your thing, if that's your hobby, fine. I'm not saying it's bad, I'm not criticizing you, but you know that it's not necessary to do that, right? I mean, sometimes I follow it. Sometimes it interests me and I'll follow it for a while, but I also go long periods of just ignoring it. It's amazing how every time I go back to it, it's the same. I mean, it's like ... You can literally turn it off and not look at the news for months, and it's like you haven't missed a beat. There's some kind of a crisis with Israel and some other country, and then it's like, six months later, "We're on the verge of war in the Middle East." You know, you're always on the verge of war in the Middle East. Or, you can just, for example, "There's a government shut-down. A budget crisis." Then ignore it for six months, come back, "Oh, the government's shut down." It's like, "Wait, still? Still? No, no, this is a different one."
It's the same patterns that just keep happening. Middle East crisis, government shut-down, budget shut-down, Republican versus Democrat, Democrat versus Republican. You can go through life and serve God and do a great job for Him without following every twist and turn. I mean, let me just save you a ton of trouble. Everything the government does is stupid. Everything they do, they mess it up. Everything they do, they fail at it, and the Republicans and the Democrats are both just full of baloney. They're all thieves and liars and frauds. Okay, I just saved you. I just saved you, like, three hours a day of listening to Sean Hannity. That's three hours of Bible reading that you can do, that's three hours of soul winning that you can.
Obviously, you're probably listening to it at work or whatever, but you know what? I'd rather listen to Alexander [Scorby 00:41:37] read me the Bible. I'd rather do something that has profitability, because honestly, there's nothing new under the sun. A lot of the news is just the same repetitive junk over and over. You just get sick of it. You can shut it off and come back to it, you have not missed hardly anything. It's not really going to make you live any less of a life.
Video games are not adding value to your life. They are not making you any smarter. Okay? They are not ... "Well, this hand-eye coordination's going to come in handy someday." Wrong. Unless you're going to control drone strikes for Obama, these video games that you're using aren't really helping you with a career. Just following every twist and turn of Facebook is something that you could also skip. You don't need to know what your third grade classmate had for dinner last night. You can honestly find ways ... You know what? If that's your one fun thing that you do, and that's your hobby, is, "Look, I want to follow the lives of every person I've ever known," okay, fine.
But are you doing all the Bible reading you're supposed to? Are you faithful to church? Are you doing the soul winning? Are you raising your kids? Are you teaching them the Word of God? Are you preaching to them? Are you spending time with them? Are you spending time with your spouse? If you're doing everything that you're supposed to be doing, great, do what you want, but let me tell you something. A lot of people today wonder, "How do you have time to do X, Y, and Z?" Well, what are you doing with your time? A lot of people maybe need to make some cuts to their time, to lay aside the weight, to get nice and lean so that they can run that race and nothing can slow them down, they can go as fast as they can to the finish line. That's what the Bible's saying in Hebrews 12:1.
Obviously, laying aside excess weight could have to do with also just losing weight. I mean, you don't see sprinters and marathon runners that are just like sumo wrestlers. Just doesn't happen, because it's going to slow them down too much. Again, spiritually speaking, we need to trim up and lean up. You say, "Oh, this is just a sermon about fitness." No, because "bodily exercise profiteth little. Exercise thyself, rather, unto Godliness." And all the unfit people said?
No, I'm just kidding.
Anyway, I'm just saying. Obviously, obviously, it's the spiritual that matters the most. I don't think that we should just let our bodies go to pot, but we need to exercise ourselves rather, meaning give priority to the spiritual, much more important. If something has to go under the bus, it better be physical exercise, not Bible reading, not soul winning, not spiritual exercise. That's what he's saying.
Go if you would, quickly. Actually, stay in Hebrews 12:1. I'm just going to blow through these last few points here.
Number five was that you have to lay aside excess weight. Number six, you have to have patience, because it says halfway through the verse, "Let us lay aside every weight and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us." Again, this goes back to cheating. You've got to be willing to wait for the results and not try to rush the results. You also just have to be patient with yourself. You can't just expect to start exercising, and then two weeks later, you just look and feel great, "Because I've been exercising for two weeks." No, it takes a really long time to progress. It's something that takes a commitment. You can't just say, "Well, I'm going to run a marathon three weeks from now. I'm going to start training. Well, I'm just going to train really hard." It's not even possible. You have to give yourself a lot of time. It has to be a long-term goal. You have to patiently work at it.
Same thing with the Christian life. I heard one say this: "Christianity is not measured in years, it's measured in decades." Be in it for the long haul. Be patient.
I remember thinking to myself as a teenager ... I just didn't really think I could ever really be a great Christian or really live for God. I just saw myself, certain sins. I was like, "I don't think I could ever give that up. I don't think I'm ever going to be like this person." You know, what I didn't realize is that, when you're in Christ, you're a new creature. When I was saying, "Man, I don't think I could ever give up X, this sin, or I don't think I'm ever going to be doing this kind of soul winning or this and that," that's the flesh talking. But see, when we put on the new man, when we walk in the spirit, the sky is truly the limit of where we can go spiritually.
You might think to yourself, "Man, I don't think I could ever be like Brother So-and-So" or "I don't think I could ever give up this sin," or "I don't think I could ever be that dedicated as they are." You know what? I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me, and you know, in your flesh, you can't, but when you died as self, when you put on the new man, that new man, the Bible says, is a brand new creature in Christ. He's created in righteousness and true holiness. I mean, the Bible says, "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin, for a seed remaineth in him and he cannot sin because he's born of God." Now, obviously, our flesh is not born of God. Our flesh is the same old sinful flesh from before we were saved, but the spirit is born of God, cannot sin, is created in righteousness and true holiness, and if we walk in the spirit and put on the new man, we won't fulfill the lusts of the flesh.
I say that to say this: have patience with yourself because you can go a lot further spiritually than you think. Don't set a ceiling in your mind and say, "Well, you know, I've tried for three months to live the Christian life. I've tried to get sin out of my life, I've tried to grow spiritually, and you know, this is just where I'm at and I'm kind of just ... At this point, I'm plateaued." You need to be patient and grow more.
I know people who, they get right with God, and there's just a certain sin that they struggle with. For example, maybe it's smoking. They just can't quit smoking, because it's hard to quit smoking. Usually I talk to people who quit smoking and drinking, they had a harder time quitting smoking than even quitting drinking or quitting other things. You know what? People, sometimes it takes them years to quit smoking. Takes them years to quit whatever the sin, whatever the hangup that they have.
Honestly, don't give up. Keep trying. Keep struggling to move forward. I've known people where you think to yourself, "This person's just never going to grow past this point." You know, maybe somebody who comes to church and they're kind of a Sunday morning only Christian and they don't do any soul winning, and they're just kind of on the fringe, and they've been that way for years. You just kind of think to yourself, "Okay, this is who they are," but then next thing you know, they're coming to all three. Next thing you know, they're knocking doors. Next thing you know, they're reading their Bible. Next thing you know, they're preaching. It just takes time.
People have to have time to grow, so you've got to be patient with others because they're growing at their own rate, but you also need to be patient with yourself ... And not to give up and get discouraged because you're not where you want to be spiritually today. Give yourself time to develop the right habits, to exercise yourself unto Godliness. Give yourself time to, by reason of use, to have your senses exercised to discern good and evil, and give yourself time to grow. Don't just be in a hurry, like, "Well, if I don't get to where I want to be this week, then I give up." Too many people give up instead of just hanging in there, staying with it, not quitting, and eventually, they'll see the changes and the growth that they want to see. Have patience. Give yourself time to grow and be willing to wait for legitimate results in your Christian life from serving God.
Number seven is this, verse 2. It says, "Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who, for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God." Seventh is this: we must stay motivated. Just as in any exercise program, you have to stay motivated. You can't lose sight of the goal.
Now, I like to run. That's the main thing that I do for physical exercise, and I find it to be a time of spiritual meditation, often, as well. I do a lot of running, and it's funny. I have never run in any type of race. I've never entered a race, I've never run any official run in my entire life, okay? You know what, though? I'm constantly looking at the dates of these events and planning, "Okay, this is the event that I'm training for," and then I'll train for that event, and usually I'll get to the point where I feel that I can run that event, and then I just kind of don't even run it because I'm kind of like, "Well, do I really want to pay this entry fee and run this?" What's the point? I'm not going to win, I'm not this super-fast runner.
I remember a while back, I was like, "Okay, I'm going to run a half-marathon," and I picked one off in the distance, I was going to sign up for it. I trained for it, and I got to where I ran more than a half-marathon in my training, and then it was just kind of like, "What's the point? I've already run 13 miles." It's like, "Why would I go enter that and pay that money and put on some..." Here's the thing, though. Even though I never enter these races, I still keep planning on it. Just because it just keeps you motivated. I'm just motivated. "Okay, yeah, this is the goal. This is what I'm training for!" I'm training for some stuff right now. I'm sure I'm not going to do it. Don't tell me that tomorrow, because tomorrow I'm going to tell myself, "Yeah, I know, let's do it! That date's coming! I've got to be ready!" Even though it doesn't even exist.
What I'm saying is, you have to find a way to motivate yourself. That's how I motivate myself. Might sound silly. Someday, I might actually run one, but in the meantime, I'm just going to keep motivating myself by telling myself I'm going to run that event.
Look, in the Christian life, we have real motivation, not like Pastor Anderson's weird method for motivating himself for events that he never runs, okay? We have a real motivation. The Bible says they do it for a corruptible crown, we do it for an incorruptible. Why do I not want to sign up for these things? Because the t-shirt's just not that cool. But, you know, the crown that we receive in heaven is going to be fantastic, and you know what? When we get to heaven and we stand face-to-face with the Lord Jesus Christ, who did everything for us, who gave all for us, we're going to want to cast something at His feet and say, "Okay, Lord, you gave me ten talents, here are ten talents beside. We did something great for You with our lives," and he'll say, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Enter thou now into the joy of thy Lord."
We've got to stay motivated. Whatever it is that motivates you, whatever the goal, whether it's an event that you're going to enter, some athletic event or some sporting event. You know, my brother, he goes on this big hike every year, this backpacking trip. He'll motivate himself to exercise and to run because he'll say, "I've got to be in shape for that hike, and get in shape for the hike." He won't exercise for a long time, but then when that hike's coming, it's like, "Okay, I've got to start getting in shape for that hike." He starts running up hills by his house and getting in shape. Why? Because he has a goal. When there's no goal, it's just hard to get motivated. Why run? Why not just relax? What's the point? You've got to have a goal.
Well, spiritually, we need to have goals. What keeps you motivated spiritually? There could be several motivations, but you need to have a motivation in front of you. It could be rewards in heaven. It could be loving the lost and wanting them saved. That could motivate you to go out soul winning. It could be a motivation that says, "I want to set a good example for my children. I really want my children to grow up and serve God, so I'm going to serve God." Whatever motivates you. It's just your love for Jesus, the love of Christ to constrain us to do works for Him. There are all type of motivation. Another motivation could be that you just don't want to get chastened and then chastised because you know that whom the Lord loveth, he chasteneth and scourgeth every son and we receiveth. Maybe that's a negative motivation that'll keep you flying right in the Christian life.
We need to stay motivated, or we're going to quit. You need to understand why you go to church, why you read the Bible, why you do go soul winning. Do it for the right reasons and stay motivated, and then you'll stay in the battle.
Then, number eight is lastly, this. Hebrews 12:3 says, "For consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds." Now, again, this is in the context of running a race, and he talks about the danger of fainting in your mind. See, you fail, usually, because of your mind, not your body failing. You know, when you're exercising or playing sports, whatever it is.
For example, specifically running here in Hebrews, chapter 12, usually you don't run until your body just physically collapses. You know, most people probably ... I'm not recommending that, by the way. Obviously, that's not good, because then ... Because I mean, if we were all to go out right now and just run until we physically collapsed, we'd all run a lot further than we probably should. Some of you in here that probably never run, you could run several miles without stopping, but you'd do damage to your body in the process because you're not ready for that, or if I went beyond what I'm ready for, if you went beyond what you're ready for. Right?
You faint in your mind, but here's the thing. When you're out just practicing, just running, jogging, recreationally, exercising, you don't want to run until you just physically collapse, obviously. But when you're running a race that you specifically trained for, it's within your realm of capability. You're not doing something that's way over your head. You're going to want to push yourself mentally, endure the pain and the suffering of really giving it your best shot. You know, if you've been training for six months or training for a year, or like, the Olympics, they're training for, what? Four years? You're going to want to give it everything you've got. You don't want to faint in your mind. Fainting in your mind is when you give up.
Long before we collapse physically, we quit because we just don't want to do it. We're just tired, we're in too much pain, and "I'm done, I've had it," and we faint in our minds. God's saying to give it everything that we've got all the way to the finish line in the Christian life. We've got to push ourselves all the way to the end. We shouldn't hold on to anything that we're not willing to put on the altar. We're not willing to just go out there and just ... What's the expression they say? Not leaving anything on the field? Isn't there something like that? Somebody help me out. What?
Leave it all on the field.
Yeah, leave it all on the field. Give it everything you've got. They just leave it all out there, and just know that you've done your best. Right? Whatever that is. You just know, "I've done my best. I gave it everything I had," and not faint in your mind. You know, when you're running a really long run, all these excuses are coming into your mind why you should stop running. "I can run more tomorrow," you know? "This is way too far to be running. I shouldn't be running. I just need to take a break." Any reason will come into your mind. You're thinking about all the food that's waiting at home, and you're just thinking about ... Then you're just thinking about how, "I'm never going to run these, I never have. What am I doing? Who am I kidding? What's the point?" "'Vanity of vanities,' saith the preacher. 'All is vanity.'" These are all your enemies trying to get you to stop. That's physically, okay?
Spiritually, fainting in your mind. You have to be mentally tough and withstand all the onslaughts of the devil against your faith that will try to get you to quit: family members, friends, coworkers. Just bad thoughts, foolish thoughts, that come into your mind about quitting. You've got to banish those thoughts, stay motivated, and patiently keep working at it.
All that to say this. The Apostle Paul has frequently in his epistles, as you've seen in First Timothy, Second Timothy, First Corinthians, Hebrews 12, and elsewhere, compared serving God and the Christian life to exercise. Like an exercise program, there are certain keys to success with this spiritual exercise program, as there would be to a bodily exercise program. You've got to get the right nutrition, you've got to work hard, you've got to feel the pain, you've got to push yourself, and you've got to be consistent with it, and on and on, all the eight things that we looked at.
I want to challenge you to make serving God a priority in your life that you work hard at. It seems that when we approach anything else ... If I said to you, "Hey, let's train to run a marathon together," you know what you'd say? "Wow, that's going to take a lot of work. That's going to take a big time commitment. That's going to take a lot of effort. I don't know if I'm ready to sign on to that." Then, let's say I talked you into it, and you said, "Yes, I will run that marathon with you." You would know that it would take work, dedication, and you'd be willing to put that work in because you have a concrete goal.
Look, why are we often not willing to put any effort into our Christian life? I mean, people go to school for a corruptible crown, for a corruptible gown, corruptible cap and gown. They'll go to school and they'll memorize all kinds of stupid stuff that they don't even care about. Isn't that true? They'll memorize all kinds of facts that they care nothing about, that they never want to see again, but when it comes to soul winning, they can't memorize the soul winning verses. Ten, 12, 15 verses, whatever verses they want to use for soul winning. It's just too much work to memorize those verses, but they're willing to memorize all this stuff for school to get a corruptible gown. Then, to get the incorruptible crown of winning souls to Christ, they don't even want to memorize Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23, you know, all the different scriptures that teach salvation so clearly.
They'll get up early to go running, they'll get up early to go to the gym, but will they get up early to read the Bible? They'll get up early to put on makeup, but will they get up early to read the Bible, to pray, to exercise themself unto Godliness? Understand that Godliness is a priority over any physical concerns in this life, and we need to be ready to work, to suffer, to invest, and to strive for the mastery in the Christian life. It's not going to be something that we just accidentally, haphazardly, "Well, I just kind of ran every once in a while when I felt like it, and then I just ended up running a marathon one day because I had nothing to do that day." It's just not going to happen.
Well, guess what. The Christian life is even harder than that. It's harder than running a marathon. It's harder than sports, because it's mental, it's spiritual, it's bodily, and God expects us to treat it like something to be trained for, something to be worked at, and something to be striven for.
Let's bow our heads and have a word of prayer.
Father, please just help us to take our Christian life seriously and our work for You seriously. Help us to get motivated and with the new year coming up, a new year right around the corner, help us to start making some goals and making some changes in our lives ... Deciding to strengthen ourselves, stop being a weak Christian, but to get stronger, to build some endurance, and to make 2014 our greatest year spiritually where we do the most works for You spiritually. In Jesus' name we pray, amen.