You never drift into holiness. You never drift into godliness. It requires an effort.
Alright, thank you very much, and hello again, radio friends, how in the world are you? [chuckle] Yes, this is your friend Bob Cook and that little greeting establishes the fact that we are together once again, by God’s gracious provision, to share from the Word those things that may help in a practical sense to get on with the Christian life. My goal, each time I face these microphones, is to put a handle on the Word of God so that you, my beloved friend, can get hold of it for yourself. God’s Word is forever true, whether or not anyone reads or believes it, but it becomes of value to the individual, when he or she lays hold of it and puts it to work in the individual life. That’s my goal, putting a handle on the Word of God.
We’re in 1 Timothy 4. Paul said, “If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things. ” Remember, I reminded you, dear pastors and Bible teachers, you don’t have to come up with something new, you remind people of the Truth that is there. The Truth is there, your presentation of it may be varied and fresh, and indeed should be, but the Truth itself, you don’t have to be novel and innovative. The truth is there, if you put the brethren in remembrance of these things. “Thou shalt be a good minister.” The word “minister” means sharing God with people at the point of their need. Remember we talked about that?
Then he said “nourished up,” and we talked about growing in the things of God. Now, in what are we nourished up? In the words of faith and of good doctrine. “The words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained.”
And two or three things here, before we move on. First of all, he puts faith first, “The words of faith.” Before you understand, you can accept the Presence and power and saving work of our Lord Jesus Christ, and then as a result, the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit of God. “The words of faith,” what is it? Paul says in Romans 10, “The word is nigh thee, even in thy heart and in thy mouth, that is the word of faith which we preach that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth, Jesus as Lord and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
The words of faith start with commitment to a Person. And that commitment, then, reaches in to every area of life. So that the Christian life, as many of you have discovered, is not a series of efforts to act in a certain way, but rather it is a continuing miracle where Christ lives in and through you. “The mystery, the open, now revealed mystery that we preach among the nations,” says Paul, “Is Christ in you, the hope of glory, the Lord Jesus Christ living through you, His wonderful, beautiful, Christ life.” That is the essence of the Christian life and it begins with faith.
Then he says the words of good doctrine. “Never neglect your study of the Word of God and the teachings which it contains.” Doctrine is the basis of behavior. What you really believe determines what you will do in terms of behavior. We behave our beliefs. And so he says, “The words of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained.” Timothy had done his homework and he had been able to pass whatever exams Paul had given him in previous days and he knew the truth as it is in Jesus.
Have you attained a good doctrine? There’s many a person- one has to reflect sadly upon this- there’s many a person who hopes to get to Heaven, who doesn’t have the foggiest notion why he or she believes certain things.
One of the benchmarks of growing up a little is that you ask questions of yourself and say, “Why do I believe this? Because someone told it to me or because there’s a reason for it?” You better know what you believe and why. This has to do with good doctrine, that which is so important that you would be willing to die for it and also so important that you are willing to live by it. Faith first, then doctrine.
Well, he says, “Refuse profane,” that’s our word secular, “And old wives’ fables.” Why would he say that? Well, because there are always opportunities to detour a bit. It seems interesting and so you spend some time with it. But, there’s no future in it. There’s no future in it. Refuse it. Old wives’ fables. Profane, which means secular and without any real relationship to the revelation of Almighty God. Why should he have to say that to a budding young preacher? Well, I guess you know, don’t you? It’s always easy to be interested in things that are not necessarily on the main line of divine revelation. Stick to the Word of God. This word to young preachers and Bible teachers and Sunday school teachers: stick to the Word of God.
Years ago, Dr. JC Massey was one of my professors in seminary. I recall how often he used to look earnestly at us in the class and say, “Young men and women, stick to great truth, don’t be a specialist in trivia.” He said, “Stick to great truth, preach great truth, preach the foundational truths of the Word of God.” Well, that admonition stuck in my own heart and mind and I’ve tried to obey it through the years. I may have missed some of the more interesting nuances of extra Biblical cogitation, so to speak, but I want you to know that so far as Bob Cook is concerned, I want to stay on the mainline of reveal Truth as we find it in God’s inerrant, infallible Word, the Bible.
He said, “Refuse godless secular and mythical fables.” There’s a lot of myths around, he said, “Refuse to deal with them, stay away from the myths of religion. And exercise,” said he, “Thyself rather unto godliness.”
Now, this is an interesting thing. In one breath, here in verse seven, he’s talking about things that you hear and believe, or are asked to believe, “Profane and old wives’ fables.” In the next breath, in that very same verse, he says, “Exercise thyself rather unto godliness.” A couple of thoughts here. Number one, you and I have the choice of what we’ll spend our time for, it’s interesting to fool around with nonessentials, but it does take your time and strength and effort.
And you end up spinning your wheels. He said, “Exercise yourself rather unto the business of seeing to it that God is in charge of all of your life.” My little Cook definition of godliness is the quality of God in the ordinaries of life. God at the sink and God when you’re putting up the storm windows, something other than saying, “Oh, God, do I have to do this again?” [chuckle] And God when you’re training your children, and God when you’re driving the car, and God’s Presence when you’re in the middle of a business deal. God in the ordinaries of life, godliness. The quality of God in what you do and what you are. Now, he says, “Work at that.”
You take your time for what you decide to take it for and you have your choice of being a specialist in trivia and spending your time and effort on things that may not be important at all or, on the other hand, of spending your effort, the word “exercise” means put out some effort, spending your time and effort exercising in the direction of being godly. “Exercise thyself rather unto godliness.” Now, I have to ask all of us, including me, this question. Are we really, beloved, are we really working at this matter of being godly? Or are we just sorta drifting along? Mind you, you never drift into holiness, you never drift into godliness, it requires an effort.
Through the years people have come to me and said, “What happened to our marriage? It seems to be falling apart.” And when I ask a question or two, I find out that either one or both of them have stopped working at the matter of making the marriage work. Before you were married, you brought flowers and candy and you tried to please the object of your affection, smiles and courtesy and kindness and consideration were the order of the day, but now the years have gone by and you scarcely say “thank you” and you haven’t said “I love you” in a long time, you don’t work at it. No wonder things are falling apart, I tell them.
The same thing is true in your relationship with the Lord, He desires your love. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, soul, strength and mind,” said the ancient commandment. “God looks for your love before He evaluates your service.” You have to work at that, you have to work at the idea of keeping the lines open between you and God.
When you fall, when you fail, when you come short of His direct will, “What is the thing to do, if we walk in the light?” says John. “As He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another.” Walking in the light, what does it mean? The minute you’re conscious of being out of line in anything, you turn to Him and plead the merits of that blood that was shed on Calvary for you, confess your sin and forsake it and find immediate forgiveness and restoration. “If we confess,” says John, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Work at godliness. Are we doing that? It’s a tremendous, probing question, I know it, and I’m not very comfortable with it myself as I’m asking it of all of us. Because it’s so easy to be thoughtless, isn’t it? It’s so easy to be taken up with the duties of every day, but godliness involves the habit of looking heavenward at every step, “In all thy ways,” says the wise man, “Acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.”
The Bible says, “I will guide thee with Mine eye.” How can a person be guided by the eye of another person? You have to keep your eye on him, don’t you? You have to keep your eye on him. My father used to say, “Keep your eyes peeled, boy.” [chuckle] It means be alert, look. Have you looked to your Heavenly Father in anything except either formal religion or some crisis? Have you looked Heavenward for direction in ordinary things? This is the beginning of godliness.
Dear Father today, we give ourselves to Thee, may we have godliness in all parts of our life. In Jesus’ name I pray this, amen.
Till I meet you once again by way of radio, walk with the King today and be a blessing!
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