Tag Archives: spiritual fitness

Strategies for Spiritual Fitness

“Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it.”  1 Cor. 9:24 (NRSV)

In the beginning of this series, I shared that I have been using an activity tracker to improve my overall physical fitness.  The results I am achieving with the tracker are evidence that it was the perfect addition to my strategy for improving my personal health and wellness.  Similarly, I am confident that believers who develop intentional strategies for spiritual fitness will be able to successfully navigate in the 21st century.

My Fitbit monitors several indicators of good health.  They include number of steps made in a day, heart rate, number of steps climbed, sleep time, and finally, water and food consumed.  If one looks at these indicators individually, they might question the benefit to be gained from their tracking.  However, when viewed collectively, this monitoring provides useful information on vital human body systems that work cooperatively to keep us “physically” fit.  These include our nervous system (sleep), our muscular system (steps climbed), our cardiovascular system (heart rate), our respiratory system (steps taken), and our digestive system (water and food).

Our inner man is a “spiritual system” designed by God (Gen. 2:7).  It consists of not only the believer’s spirit or eternal nature but it also is comprised of the soul—the mind, the will, and the emotions; these work cooperatively, much like our human body system, to accomplish God’s purpose (2 Tim. 1:9).

Once we become believers, our spirit becomes one with the Lord (1 Cor. 6:17).  Agreement, however, between the spirit and the soul will not happen “on its own” (Rom. 7:18-20) but requires the development of intentional strategies that will combat forces—Satan, the world, and the flesh—that move believers away from God.  Is your spiritual system working to accomplish God’s purpose in your life?  Spiritual fitness works to insures that these spiritual systems, the spirit and the soul, are working cooperatively (1 Cor. 9:24-27).

Like physical fitness, spiritual fitness requires not only a change in “habits and routines” but it also requires a change in “mindset”.   With the help of my Fitbit, I am encouraged when I see progress in areas that support good health, like an increase in the number of steps I make in a day.  Similarly, the Holy Spirit directs, instructs, and corrects believers so they stay on the “path of righteousness” (Prov. 12:28) while glorifying God (John 16:13-14).   What feedback is the Holy Spirit giving you on your habits, routines, and mindset?  Like “eating clean” leads to a healthier physical body, spiritual fitness leads to a God-honoring, Christ-centered life (Matt. 5:16).

The believer’s responsibility in this “spiritual fitness” process is to strengthen their personal relationship with God.  This includes spending time with Him studying the Bible, in prayer and meditation, and in individual worship, just to name a few.  Time spent with the Lord will become periods of renewal and growth as God provides the believer “real time” feedback on their spiritual progress.  How much effort and time are you devoting to your personal relationship with God?  When spiritual fitness habits are faithfully practiced by the believer, their thoughts, behaviors and ultimately, their life style will reflect the image of Christ to the glory of God (Phil. 2:9-11).

Becoming World Class Believers

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world.”   1 John 2:15-16 (NRS)

It is truly inspirational to watch not only the various sports events, but to also hear the athletes’ stories as to what it took to reach this point in their career.  Many had shown a natural “gifting” in their particular sports field, apparent even as young children.  However, the trait that had brought them to success was their acceptance of the reality of what it would take to become world class athletes.  It would take mental focus, personal sacrifice and physical discipline, just to name a few.  Believers must be continually aware of the realities that tend to “bend them” toward the world’s view of life versus God’s expectations of Christian behavior (James 1: 13-15).

The first reality believers must face is that the world is a hostile environment for the believer.  Persecution and suffering are inevitable for believers (John 15:18-21).  Remember the sharp looks you received when you blessed your food at your favorite restaurant?  What about those scowls you experienced from friends when you refused to watch that “questionable” movie with them?  How were you perceived by your coworkers after the last staff meeting when you challenged their use of racial slurs or questioned that unethical business practice your manager recommended for the company?  The reality is that the believer will encounter resistance as they move away from the influence of the world and daily become conformed to the image of Christ.

The second reality believers must face is the influence of Satan on the believer’s life.  Although Satan is not as powerful and mighty as God, he is a reality that believers must acknowledge and understand if they are to become spiritually fit.  Satan seeks to destroy (John 10:10), is the father of lies (John 8:44), and seldom changes his strategies.  When I think of Satan, I liken him to Lucy of the Peanuts comic strip who is relentless in tempting Charlie Brown to kick the proverbial football.  She uses no new distractions to humiliate him—the same old football and the same old promise, “I won’t move the ball”.  And guess what, poor old Charlie Brown cannot resist.  He will trust Lucy one last time.  He kicks!  Lucy moves the ball.   Charlie Brown is lying flat on his back.  What is the football that Satan uses to entice and tempt you away from God’s purpose?  What is the promise that Satan keeps making that you know is a lie?

Finally, we as believers must face the reality of dealing with our own “unredeemed” flesh (Rom. 7:18-20).  Hebrews 12:1 encourages believers “to set aside every weight and the sin that besets or entangles us”.  “The sin” may be prayerlessness, unbelief, or even failure to trust God.  “The sin” might be that you’re a gossiper or you tend to judge people.  “The sin” may be fragments of your “old nature” that you have refused to “let go” (Ep. 4:25-31).   It is usually “the sin” versus sins that keeps believers from reaching their full spiritual potential.  Do you want to know what your “sin issues” is?  Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal it to you.  He will not condemn you but He will convict you by revealing God’s truth about you including His purpose for your life.

Believers in Christ must deal with the realities of living in the 21st century with its trials and temptations.  Spiritual fitness will require godly focus, personal sacrifice and spiritual discipline.  Sound familiar? Believers must also remember they are not alone on this journey to spiritual fitness.  The Holy Spirit is our PST—Personal Spiritual Trainer—to insure that “He (God) that began a good work in us is able to perform it in us” (Phil. 1:6).  Our part in developing spiritual fitness, in becoming “World Class Believers”, is to “press for the prize of the high calling of God” (Phil. 3:14).  If we are successful, there is a crown of glory at the finish line (James 1:12).

God’s Guide to Spiritual Fitness

For whom He (God) foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son,

that He (Jesus) might be the firstborn among many brethren.  Romans 8:29 (NKJV)

This week we will continue our teaching on spiritual fitness by describing what it looks like in the believer’s life.

Examples of spiritual fitness can be found throughout the Bible and is generally synonymous with righteous living.    In the Old Testament, Noah was described as “a just man, perfect in his generation, walking with God” (Gen. 6:9).   Noah’s spiritual fitness insured his perseverance in completing the daunting task of building the Ark.  Job was designated as “perfect and upright, fearing God and avoiding evil” (Job 1:1).  Job proved himself spiritually fit for the challenges placed in his life by Satan.  In the New Testament, spiritual fitness is connected to the renewing of the mind as a result of being new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).  Concurrently, the “new man” is being continually conformed to the image of Jesus Christ through his obedient love for God and the infilling of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:29; Phil. 2:5-8).

So what does spiritual fitness look like? How does the believer know if they have it?  Spiritual fitness is not a list of “do’s and don’ts” nor is it a specific set of behaviors one can practice.  From our earlier definition it is a condition of qualification or “readiness” for God’s purposes.  It is a state of being.  Based on that definition and the biblical examples provided in God’s Word, I have assembled some general principles for understanding spiritual fitness by using the acrostic “FIRST”.  Why first?  To be spiritually fit, you must put “first things first”.  Spiritual fitness is necessary in order to continue on the path of righteous living even when the world would have you follow another path.

F-Have Faith in the truth of the Bible.  “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16).  Trusting the sufficiency of Scripture is critical for spiritual fitness.  God’s Word is the anchor on which the believer’s reality and meaning is derived.  Unlike postmodern followers, believers rely on the truth of God’s Word.  It is relevant for 21st century living.  

I-Take on the Identity of Christ  “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin” (Rom. 6:6).  We know we are being conformed to the image of Christ—He is our model for spiritual fitness.   Our identity with Christ causes believers to realign their thinking and behavior with His.

R– Develop a Relationship with the God of glory. “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:18).   Being in God’s presence is where spiritual change can take place.  For spiritual fitness, the believer’s relationship with God must become a priority.   

S-Walk as Sanctified people of God.  “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him.” (Col. 2:6) Believers choose a lifestyle of holiness controlled (filled) by the Holy Spirit.  Spiritual fitness includes the pursuit of God and continuous development of the believer’s faith (Heb. 12:14).  Christ will judge those claiming identification with Him but who are not actively engaged in holy living (Matt. 7:21–23).

TTrust in the finished work of the cross.  “Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).  Spiritual fitness helps believers live as new creatures in Christ, even when it doesn’t “feel” right.  The believer who is spiritually fit understands there is nothing they can do to earn their salvation nor is there anything they can do to loss it.  They are confident that God will carry out His sanctifying purposes to the end.

Spiritual fitness is not a destination—it’s a journey.  Let the Holy Spirit be your personal trainer. (1 Thess. 2:13-14)

Are You Spiritually Fit? Part 2

How did you do on your spiritual fitness assessment?  Are you spiritually flabby?  Do you need to add a few more exercises to help build up your spiritual muscles?  Like physical fitness, if you want to grow stronger, spiritually, you’ll need to be intentional in your “workouts”.  But why?

 Why should believers care about being spiritually fit? 

Because we live in a postmodern world.  Postmodern or post modernism is a philosophy that says there are no absolutes (no rules / no truth) and that all viewpoints are equally valid.  Such thinking reduces all religion to the level of opinion.  With that thinking, the basic tenets of the Christian faith are dismissed and rejected including the Bible as the authoritative Word of God and Jesus Christ as the only way to salvation.  And what is left to guide the human soul?  Truth is determined by the individual’s viewpoint or “spiritual bentness”—the degree to which one ascribes to the worldview on how life is to be lived  and away from God’s instructions for holy living.  It’s a matter of personal belief and personal choice.  But remember Jeremiah’s warning:   “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it?”  (Jer. 17:9)

 Why do believers need to be spiritually fit?

First, being spiritually fit determines the believer’s outlook on life.  The cry of believers living in a postmodern world dominated by materialism, sexual immorality, and wickedness is “how are we to live?” (2 Pet. 3:11)  The Apostle Peter describes us as “peculiar people” (1 Pet. 2:9).  That means we don’t look like the world.  Our worldview is shaped by “who we are” and “whose we are”.  Believers live according to the authoritative Word of God—every “jot and tittle” and we know that by no other name, under heaven or earth, can one be saved but by Jesus Christ (Acts 4:11-12).  Bottom-line, the believer’s outlook is shaped by God, from whom we derive our meaning and our reality.

Secondly, being spiritually fit determines the believer’s output in life.  As believers we know that our lives were purchased for a price and we live as the redeemed of God (Ps. 107:2).  We no longer live for ourselves, existing only to gratify our fleshly needs like the world.  Our purpose and all our efforts are directed by the Holy Spirit.  It is in Him that we live and move and have our meaning (Act 17:28).  We know that the things of this life are fading away.  Therefore believers focus their energies on those things that have eternal value and benefit (2 Cor. 4:17-18; Matt. 7:24-29).

Finally, being spiritually fit determines the believer’s outcome after life.   Whether people believe in God or not does not dismiss the reality of existence beyond our life on planet earth.  It is called eternity. The choices made in this life will result in where one will spend eternity.  As believers become more spiritually fit and mature, they realize that the time in which they currently live is set in the framework of eternity.  As we become daily transformed by the Word of God and conformed to the image of Christ, our priorities and desires shift from this passing world to things above where Christ dwells (Col. 3:1-2). We proclaim like Paul, “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21).

Join us next week as we answer the question, “What does spiritual fitness look like?”

Power to Persevere

Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit,

and watching thereunto

with all perseverance and supplication for all saints. Ephesians 6:18 (KJV)

 

If you were to ask me what character trait is critical for spiritual growth and maturity, I would answer, “perseverance”; and if you were to then ask me which character trait is the most difficult to master, I would answer again, “perseverance.” Webster defined perseverance as the “act of continued, patient effort.” While many preachers and teachers typically stress the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) as traits worth nurturing, I’d like to spend time exploring a spiritual trait which also merits attention–perseverance.

The term perseverance communicates the idea of overcoming, energetic resistance, steadfastness under pressure, and endurance in the face of trial. To persevere means to be “constantly diligent and persistent”. Perseverance requires us to push through our pain and fear even when the challenge is daunting and difficult. It is more than “stick-to-it-ness” and calls for the believer to see past the current barrier, temptation, or persecution (1 Cor. 4:17-18).

Spiritual perseverance has its basis in two realities: (1) our hope and (2) the Holy Spirit. Our hope is based on confidence in God’s goodness and care–a sense that God loves us (Psalms 63:3) and that “He that began a good work in us is able to perform it (Phil.1:6). The Holy Spirit is critical in cultivating spiritual perseverance. Through His power and presence, we develop courage and boldness to overcome persecution and temptations (Acts 4:31). The Holy Spirit stands ready to empower us to meet the challenges we face (1 John 4:4). It is in His power that we are able to remain faithful to Lord and Savior in the midst of temptation and persecution (Rom. 14:4).

Stand firm on the hope of glory. Energetically serve God. Resist and overcome sin. Call upon the power of the Holy Spirit to help you live a life of personal holiness and service. Be diligent and steadfast in your walk of faith. You have the power to persevere.

“Blessed is the man that endureth temptation:

for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life,

which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.” James 1: 12

 

SELAH:  Even the Apostle Paul had to learn to persevere.  Read his prayer found in 2 Corinthians 12:7-9.    Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal key areas in your life in which you need more power to persevere.

God’s Guide to Spiritual Fitness

In support of our 2017 Lydia’s Market theme of Living Well, I’d like to focus this week’s teaching on a key disciple that is foundational for “living well”—spiritual fitness.  For our discussion today spiritual fitness is defined as the state or condition of being qualified and suitable for God’s purpose. Examples of spiritual fitness can be found throughout the Bible and is generally synonymous with righteous living.

In the Old Testament, Noah was described as “a just man, perfect in his generation, walking with God (Gen. 6:9).   Noah’s spiritual fitness insured his determination in completing the daunting task of building the ArkIn the New Testament, spiritual fitness is connected to the renewing of the mind as a result of being new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).  Concurrently, the “new man” is being continually conformed to the image of Jesus Christ through his obedient love for God and the infilling of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:29; Phil. 2:5-8).

So what does spiritual fitness look like? How does the believer know if they have it?  Spiritual fitness is not a list of “do’s and don’ts” nor is it a specific set of behaviors one can practice.  From our earlier definition it is a condition of qualification or “readiness” for God’s purposes.  It is a state of being.  Based on that definition and the biblical examples provided in God’s Word, I have assembled some general principles for understanding spiritual fitness by using the acrostic “FIRST”.  Why first?  To be spiritually fit, you must put “first things first”.  Spiritual fitness is necessary in order to continue on the path of righteous living even when the world would have you follow another path.

F-Have Faith in the truth of the Bible.  “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16).  Trusting the sufficiency of Scripture is critical for spiritual fitness.  God’s Word is the anchor on which the believer’s reality and meaning is derived.  Unlike postmodern followers, believers rely on the truth of God’s Word.  It is relevant for 21st century living.  

I-Take on the Identity of Christ  “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin” (Rom. 6:6).  We know we are being conformed to the image of Christ—He is our model for spiritual fitness.   Our identity with Christ causes believers to realign their thinking and behavior with His.

R– Develop a Relationship with the God of glory. “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:18).   Being in God’s presence is where spiritual change can take place.  For spiritual fitness, the believer’s relationship with God must become a priority.

S-Walk as Sanctified people of God.  “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him.” (Col. 2:6) Believers choose a lifestyle of holiness controlled (filled) by the Holy Spirit.  Spiritual fitness includes the pursuit of God and continuous development of the believer’s faith (Heb. 12:14).  Christ will judge those claiming identification with Him but who are not actively engaged in holy living (Matt. 7:21–23).

TTrust in the finished work of the cross.  “Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).  Spiritual fitness helps believers live as new creatures in Christ, even when it doesn’t “feel” right.  The believer who is spiritually fit understands there is nothing they can do to earn their salvation nor is there anything they can do to loss it.  They are confident that God will carry out His sanctifying purposes to the end.

Spiritual fitness is foundational to living well.  It is not a destination but intentional preparation for the journey God has prepared for each of us.  Need help?  Let the Holy Spirit be your personal trainer (Gal. 5:22-23).

SELAH:   Which of the “FAITH” principle(s) do you need to “exercise more” or “strengthen” in preparation to live out God’s purpose for your life?

Hold Fast to the WORD

“Preach the Word…” 2 Tim. 4:2 (NKJ)

The Word of God is the truth by which believers are to successfully navigate this world.  “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right.  It is God’s way of preparing us in every way, fully equipped for every good thing God wants us to do” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NLT). As believers operate in these end times, it is critical that they are able to stand fast in their faith and boldly proclaim the truth of God’s Word.

Current worldview has created an atmosphere where biblical principles and practices are continually challenged, if not totally ignored.   The demand for social and moral freedom has set the stage for denial of biblical truth and authority. The Bible is seen as neither God speaking nor the actual Word of God. Instead, it is seen as an inhibitor to self-determination and self-gratification.  In 21st century vernacular, the Bible is a “buzz kill” taking the “edge of people’s fluff.”[1]

College students relegate the Bible to the status of “glorified fairy tales” with little substantive value. (Lord, help them!) These individuals will be our future workforce, leaders, and yes, our Church. Gen Xers and Millennials, seeking answers on how to live purposeful lives, discount the Bible as “irrelevant and inadequate” for the challenges they face. These generations are a formidable influence in the shaping of not only our current political and social policies but also in determining the religious beliefs of generations to come. And who will direct these groups to the “light of God’s Word” (Ps. 119:105)? Current believers and the Church? There is little difference between them and the aforementioned groups. They seldom read their Bibles, let alone use it as the final authority on truth with their families or in their personal life. They look no different than the rest of the world.

These patterns of disbelief should not come as a surprise. Paul in his letter to Timothy exhorted him:

“Preach the word of God. Be persistent, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching. For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to right teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever they want to hear. They will reject the truth and follow strange myths.”                                                                                                                                                                 2 Timothy 4:2-4 (NLT)

The Word of God will continue to be challenged by the World and yes, even the Church. It is because of this fact that believers are to stand firm based on the power, sufficiency, and authority of the Word of God.  Paul’s instructions are still pertinent for believers today.  We are to boldly proclaim, without excuse, the supremacy and sufficiency of Scripture over the worldview. How do we prepare for this challenge? Read books to help you defend your faith. Listen to Christian teachers who can help you answer frequent questions people have about God and His Word. Finally, ask the Holy Spirit (your Personal Teacher) to help you respond to challenges and push back you might receive. Remember, “Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4).  Hold fast to the Word!

[1] Urbandictionary.com

Can You Handle the Truth?

“…and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
John 8:31-32 (NRSV)

The 1992 acclaimed film, A Few Good Men, revolves around the court-martial of two U.S. Marines charged with the murder of a fellow Marine and the tribulations of their lawyers as they prepare a case to defend their clients.  Col. Nathan R. Jessep (Jack Nicholson), the highest ranking officer on the base is rigorous interrogated by a young defense lawyer, Kaffee (Tom Cruise) to uncover the truth behind this heinous crime.  Kaffee admonishes Jessep to tell the truth.  Agitated by want he sees as a direct affront to his authority, Jessep retorts, “You want the truth?  You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth!”

Can we handle the truth?  Especially when that truth is measured against the authority of Scripture and the lordship of Jesus Christ?  This month’s series, “In Search of Truth”, will focus on the believer’s challenge to walk in biblical truth while living in a postmodern world.

With all the political rhetoric and social bantering, it is clear that this world is in need of truth.  But can we handle it?  Behind the news bytes and sound bits, there is an intention movement currently underway to redefine what truth is and what it isn’t.  This is nothing new.  This inclination to “repackage” the truth comes directly from the father of lies, Satan himself (John 8:44).   Be careful how you define truth or you too may fall prey to the subtly of deception.  “Did God really say you must not eat any of the fruit in the garden?” (Gen. 3:1, NLT)

In decades past, people could depend on the media to communicate the “truth” with regard to specific issues of the day.  Newspapers, magazine publications and newscasters were committed to operate at the highest ethical standards.  In addition, people could depend on their local leaders—civic or religious—to offer truth, as they knew best.  But over time that has changed.  Unfortunately both media and individuals can only offer their own opinions based on personal agendas or corporate bias, leaving individuals still “in search for truth”.  Truth is now shaped by social media and image consultants—by the number of “likes”, “retweets” and “followers” one can amass.

What is truth?  Truth is defined as that which agrees with reality.  The believer’s reality and meaning is grounded in God.  That reality began in the Garden of Eden.  Created in God’s image, our purpose and destiny is tied to our identity in Him through Christ (Col. 3:3).  This reality was sidetracked by sin and replaced with Satan’s counterfeit that placed self on the throne where only Christ was to be seated and exalted.  Because of Jesus’ atoning work on the Cross, our sins were forgiven and we are now reconciled back to God (2 Cor. 5:18, 19).  When we affirm our faith, we acknowledge that we have died to our old sin nature (Gal. 5:24) and walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4).  We no longer follow the worldview—its influence was negated by the Blood.  Our meaning and reality is now realigned with God (2 Cor. 5:15).   “For in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28a).

More than ever before, believers must connect with the only True Source of Truth, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior (John 14:6).  God’s Word and the Spirit of Truth stand ready to silence the lies, myths and fables we might hear  (2 Tim. 4:3-4).  God is the only source of truth for our lives.  Can you handle the truth?