Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come (1 Timothy 4:7-8 ESV).
Have you ever seen the crowds at gyms during the start of a new year? Okay, have you at least seen the parking lots crammed full as you drove by? Within weeks, those crowds dwindle. Only the committed remain.
Fitness – whether physical or spiritual – is often desired while ignoring the ongoing work required. We want the result without the effort because – though we see the worth – we ignore the work. It reminds me of this verse:
All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty (Proverbs 14:23 NIV).
Well, then, how should we work to attain spiritual fitness?
We should be careful to remember our ways are not God’s ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). So, this holds even more meaning when considering John 15:1-17. Jesus, as the sustainer of the world (Hebrews 1:1 – 2:8), describes Himself as the true vine and us as branches. God is described as a vinedresser. Not all branches receive the same treatment.
Those that abide in Him will bear fruit, and this alludes to letting God work through us as we consciously obey Him. Doing God’s will means being attached to God’s desires on heaven and earth. It means letting ourselves be less and God more. It means surrendering our agenda to His.
The branches that produce fruit will be pruned to produce more, and while this may mean suffering or discomfort at times, it is better than what happens to the branches that don’t bear fruit. They are cut and thrown into the fire. John 15:1-17 shows us we are saved by the One who describes Himself this way:
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6).
Our ways rely on our power. God’s way relies on the Way, Jesus.
So, we come to the crux of spiritual fitness that is the work of Christ on the cross. That, along with the resurrection, met the standards of God’s righteousness and holiness to give us the hope and certainty of a restored relationship with God. (Please see how "God Has a Gift for You" is the good news that restores the broken relationship we have with God because of our sin.)
If we cannot understand the judgment Christ received for our sins, then we cannot understand how God loves us so much to save as seen in John 3:16-21:
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
When I read that and consider Jesus as the vine, it becomes easier to understand how faith and our work/efforts come together. Our best work to become spiritually fit fails without Jesus’ work on the cross. This doesn’t excuse us from working to grow spiritually fit. Each Christian should “train yourself for godliness” like 1 Timothy says above.
What does this training mean? Well, that looks like it will be another blog. Here are two hints to explore and pray about until then: personal holiness and spiritual maturity. Remember, if you don’t understand God’s Word, trust James 1:5-6 enough to pray for wisdom to understand it as God meant. God is faithful.
As we move through the world making choices of how we use the time, energy, and money we've been given, we need to understand both in heart and head that Jesus is our hope and certainty of a restored relationship with God. He is the gift who suffered for all and gave all but deserved none. The souls who understand this will profit much as they more easily exchange the temporary for the eternal.
Those who don't are making Faustian bargains. Jesus warns us by asking, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” in Matthew 16:26.
When a “living soul” (as described in Genesis 2:7 KJV) experiences Ecclesiastes 12:7, “And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it,” then judgment comes from a righteous God who hates sin and will condemn souls to hell as eternal punishment (Luke 12:5). Those branches will burn.
Instead, may each of us be found obedient followers of Christ forgiven and forgiving so we may hear, “Well done, my good and faithful servant” when our days come.
Until that day, though, may your walk and work be illuminated by the Bible be as described in Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”