Time to Train

Growing up as an athlete, it was ingrained in me to train hard in order to achieve the goals I set to accomplish. I would lift, run, change my diet, get more rest, watch film, study my opponents, and more, in order to reach peak performance. It became a lifestyle. Sure, it intensified during seasons and built up to seasons, but there weren’t many days and weeks that fell outside that time period. It was devotion. And the level of devotion determined, in large part, how successful I was. All of that was for what? A title? Medals? Acknowledgment?

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

Eating healthy and physical training are good things. Athletics are beneficial. Pushing ourselves and being dedicated are great qualities. However, I think it would be safe to say that most people, even most Christians, don’t put in the same level of devotion to spiritual training that athletes put into physical training. I know I certainly don’t. And I am convicted of that. If I was willing to spend so much energy and change my life habits so much, in order to win a championship that doesn’t matter one lick in light of eternity, I should be far more willing to put in equal, if not greater, effort, in spiritual matters. And so should we all.

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:12-14 ESV

Our spiritual lives deserve the attention that we fail to give it. Paul says it’s like straining towards the goal. It’s a battle against literally everything in life that seeks to distract us from Christ. How do we ‘press on’ as Paul said? How do we train ourselves spiritually? I believe it consists of setting up habits, much like an athlete, that commutatively, will help us reach the goal. So, what’s the goal? Paul says it’s the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. He is the prize. Our impact on the lives around us is the prize. A heart at peace is the prize. A beautiful legacy is the prize.

I don’t want anyone to get the idea that I am promoting earned salvation or works-based doctrine. Jesus already earned salvation for everyone who puts their faith in Him. But anyone who has tred the ground of the Christian life for long, knows that it takes work and consistency to maintain. There are so many ways to fall off the path. Just think about how differently we respond to things and treat people when we haven’t been tending our spiritual life. Our thoughts and words are even different depending on the amount of time we’ve put into building up our faith. To train spiritually can be summed up in the words that Jesus spoke during His earthly ministry.

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

John 15:4-5 ESV

All the things we do, the habits if you will, are meant to keep us in connection with Him. I know January is a time that a lot of people use to evaluate how they are spending their time and setting new goals for the coming years. So why not set the goal of creating more life-giving habits? Not as a checklist, but as an intentional training ground for the heart and mind. More habits of prayer, reading the bible, studying the bible, meditating on bible, meeting with other believers regularly, Christian counseling, regular acts of service, increased church attendance, becoming more involved in the church, giving more, etc…Spiritually, we are all somewhere. And we can all go deeper. We can all add new habits. We can all train harder. Not to the point of burnout, but to the point our cups are overflowing with God’s goodness and character and those streams of living water are pouring over everyone in our lives.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Galatians 2:20 ESV

The spiritual habits of the Christians are not just part of their life, they are their life. To live, is to live for Jesus. To live, is to live with and in Jesus. If He is our prize, our daily habits should reflect that. For me, as a husband and father, my spiritual habits are not just about me, but about my wife and kids as well. Even for those who are single, people still need you to train…to abide in Jesus.

A few weeks ago, I was talking to my 8 year old daughter about being a light and having a positive impact on people. She has this little glow in the dark cross. The longer it is exposed to light, the longer and brighter it will glow. You can see the spiritual illustration. I was trying to help her see, understanding that she is only 8 (but habits start early), that the more we do to be close to Jesus, the more we’ll be like Jesus. The same simple illustration works for me and you. Time to train!

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters.

Detox

A poison or venom that causes sickness, and even death, when present in the body.

Toxin

As a parent of two little girls I am constantly on the lookout for potential hazards that could harm my children. For some reason the main instrument of investigation for little ones is their mouth. So it is very easy for toxic things to enter a child. 

The most toxic thing to the human body is not from a snake, spider, or any living organism. It’s not even chemicals from paints or lead or cleaners. Any parent would be proactive about protecting their children from any of these. Without a doubt we are very aware of keeping ourselves safe from these as well. 

So what is the most toxic thing to the human body? It’s a nasty three letter word and it infects and affects everyone. It is the root to every problem plaguing societies, individuals, and even nature itself. The most toxic thing is sin.

“For the wages of sin is death…”

‭‭Romans‬ ‭6:23‬(a) ‭ESV‬

Toxins of all sorts can cause sickness and physical death, but sin reeks havoc on everything and causes a much worse death…a spiritual death…and if left untreated, an eternal death. 

Lies, murder, adultry, gossip, sexual immorality, cowardous, pride, greed, covering, and on and on it goes. Sin, left unchecked, will spill over into the lives around us and have a ripple effect possibly for generations to come. Sin puts people into bondage. The Bible refers to it as slavery. It causes anxiety, depression, anger, and addictions. 

As I said, we all are infected with sin and our sin can infect others. As a parent, I not only need to protect my kids from worldly toxins, I also need to protect them from infectious sin, even that which lives within my own heart. Sin can creep in through the most inconspicuous ways. Movies, tv, books, relationships, and yes, even from parents. As a husband, friend, teacher, or whatever the role may be, it is vital that I deal with the toxins within me. 

Even though sin is the most toxic thing it is also the most curable. Other toxins may lead to cancers or other incurable illnesses. Some may result in near instant death. But sin, it can be eradicated in an instant. 

“…but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 6:23(b) ESV

Jesus made a way for a sure fire detox. Around this time of year there is a barrage of detox methods, healthy eating plans, exercise routines, five step programs to new habits, how to achieve that new career, etc…January 1st is a day for new beginnings for many people. Why not make it a new beginning by allowing Jesus to detox the sin within? What better goal for the new year than spiritual renewal? 

There is nothing more hindering to life than sin. There is nothing more dangerous to ourselves, our children, our spouses, and any other relationship, than sin. And there is nothing more liberating that the freedom that Christ can give to everyone who asks for it. 

As anyone knows who has tried this detox before, it is both instant and a life long process. January 1st can be the beginning of a new year, and a new life, full of hope and promise. No sin is too toxic for the cleansing blood of Christ. No life is too far gone because Jesus creates an entirely new person. 

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭5:17‬ ‭ESV‬‬

God bless brothers and sisters! May you find new life, new hope, and new freedom in the year to come.