Maybe we Need to Practice Holiness
“But refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and 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.”
– 1 Timothy 4: 7-8
These two verses stood out to me because Paul seems to be saying that becoming a more godly person requires work. We talk about being holy. We talk about being godly. But Paul is comparing it to a skill. Practice makes perfect. Exercising takes physical effort. It’s challenging and painful.
When trying to exercise godliness, we must do hard work to achieve results.
This statement might scare you. Certainly we can’t work our way to salvation. True. But I’m not talking about salvation.
Self improvement towards a more godly mindset isn’t a magical wand being waved over our heads. When we set out to be more like Yahweh, he leads us on a journey. It takes time and effort on our part.
But how can we exercise ourselves to godliness?
1. We have to stop sinning.
Unfortunately, a lot of believers have adopted a “sinner victim” mindset. We claim that because we will never be sinless that it’s sort of kind of okay to sin sometimes because everyone does it. After all, we can never be perfect. And Yahshua will always forgive us.
It’s true that we aren’t perfect and it’s true we will sin sometimes; but continually sinning on a regular basis is not giving holiness all of your effort. It’s not okay to sin. Even though we are only human, we have the ability to at least aim for perfection.
“Whosoever abides in him sins not: whosoever sins has not seen him, neither known him. Little children, let no man deceive you: he that does righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that commits sin is of the devil; for the devil sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.Whosoever is born of God does not commit sin; for his seed remains in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” 1John 3:6-10
2. Identifying Godly characteristics and “exercising” them.
The list of the Fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5 is a pretty good place to start. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustworthiness, gentleness and self control.
As much as we’d like, these qualities don’t suddenly appear as soon as you accept Yahshua into your life. Things like patience, joy, and self control all require practice. Once we identify the characteristics of holiness, we can pray and make a plan to embody them.
I am not naturally patient. This doesn’t mean I don’t have the spirit; but it does mean I can work to become a more patient and understanding person. God isn’t going to do all the work for me.
3. Practice countering ungodly characteristics.
Galatians 5 also lists ungodly characteristics. Sometimes they are a lot easier to act on. But with prayer and practice, work, we can change. The key is to have a plan in place before the time of struggle comes. That way, you won’t be scrambling to make the right choice.
For example, when I’m becoming impatient with my toddler (which happens a lot) I have a few verses and sentences memorized that I can remind myself of. Honestly, it sucks because dying to the flesh hurts.
I’m amazed that sometimes I seem to want to stay mad. I don’t want to calm down or relax; But learning self control and patience will be less stressful in the long run. It’s better for me and my kids.
So figure out a plan and follow through.
4. Being set apart.
God’s people are a special, chosen people. The Bible points that out a lot. We are different from the world.
We should hold ourselves to a high standard. Notice, I didn’t say a “higher” standard. Our goal is not to compete or be “better than” anyone else. We should have a high standard because of the spirit within us. Trying to be “higher than” or “More set apart” than other people leads to haughtiness. Our standard should be to please Yahweh as best we know how. Set your morals and your goals high.
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” James 1:27
Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
5. Practice loving.
The whole point of Torah is to learn to love God the way He wants to be loved and how to love your neighbor. Loving your neighbor is a Torah commandment. Not loving your neighbor is a sin. Torah keepers will sometimes say:
“loving someone is telling them when they are wrong. Making sure they know the truth.”
That’s missing the whole point of love, though. Loving someone is so much more than whether or not someone is right; it’s about treating them the way you’d want to be treated. It’s above learning to put someone else first.
“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” Philippians 2:3-4
Corinthians 13:4-7 “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
I’m think “exercising godliness” really means learning how to act out true loveineveryform. All of the law hangs from the commandments to love.
Abstaining from sin is love, because it’s keeps us pure and teaches us to care about people.
Practicing godly characteristics is love, because it keeps peace and joy among Yahweh’s people.
Being set apart is part of living life for God. God and his law is love.
The greatest of all virtues is love.