“By this gospel you are saved…Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” 1 Corinthians 15:2-3.
To be a Christian woman means to be on a path of increasing holiness. How do we live this out? God has granted us certain means by which we can attain the goal of being more like Jesus. All of this is accomplished through the power of the Spirit within us, but there are certain disciplines (intentional life habits) that we should be engaging in as we train ourselves for godliness (see 1 Tim. 4:6-16 and last week’s blog). Before we dive into the other disciplines we need to first understand the source of all godliness. That source is the gospel of Jesus Christ.
We are using the framework of Barbara Hughes’ book, Disciplines of a Godly Woman, going chapter by chapter to train ourselves up in godliness. Today is chapter 2, “Discipline of the Gospel”.
If I asked you to tell me what the gospel is, would you be able to do it clearly and concisely? Many professing Christians struggle with this. They may have spent years in church and they may read the Bible daily yet still find it difficult to put into words what the gospel is. This should not be. Why? Because it is the foundation to our belief in Jesus Christ and the means by which we have been saved. Without properly understanding the gospel we are ineffective Christians floundering around and often finding ourselves miserable as we try to be obedient to God.
It is the gospel that will lead us to holiness. In the words of Barbara Hughes, “The Gospel of Jesus Christ is unrelenting in seeking to convert every area of our hearts and lives. The Gospel is all-encompassing. It is in fact the only source of godliness. Search anywhere else, and you have nothing more than self-reform at best and idolatry at its worst.” (page 21).
As Christians, we need to understand that the gospel is everything to us. It shapes who we are and directs our daily lives. The gospel, broadly speaking, is the whole message of all of Scripture. Specifically, it is the way of salvation through Jesus Christ. A good summary is found in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, “ For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,”.
Our God is a perfect and holy God who created everything, including us (Gen. 1:1, 27). He rightly demands a perfect and holy people to be his (Lev. 11:44). He gave us rules and commandments to live by, but humanity failed because we are sinners and unable to live up to his perfect standards. Every single one of us sins and rebels against God’s Lordship over us (Rom. 3:23). The penalty for this sin is death and separation from God forever (Rom. 6:23). We seem to be without hope, except God sent his only Son, Jesus, to save us (John 3:16). Jesus came to earth and lived the perfect life we could not live (2 Cor. 5:21). He then took the wrath of God for our sins upon himself and died on the cross, paying the price we could not pay (Rom. 4:25). After being dead and buried three days, Jesus rose again and ascended to Heaven to be with God (Luke 24:6, 50). Victorious over death and sin forever. If we have been called by God’s grace and in faith believe in what he has done for us, we are saved. “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:16.
In light of what our Savior Jesus Christ has done for us, our lives should be transformed! Through Christ we are no longer slaves to unimportant, meaningless ways of living. We have been saved through the gospel of Jesus and our lives have been redeemed for his good purposes. And this gospel message is, as Paul tells us, “of first importance” and is to be shared.
We are blessed recipients of the gospel but it belongs to God, it is his gospel. We need to be sure we have a right theology about who God is. We must live for and serve the Jesus of the Scriptures. When we do so, we find our lives transforming. “The Gospel shapes everything about you. The discipline of the Gospel is coming to God on his terms… As women who understand and embrace the Gospel, we find God’s Word so dynamic that it at once defines us, satisfies us, and motivates us.” (Barbara Hughes, page 25).
Women, know and understand the gospel. Allow it to not only redeem and transform your heart but also every day that you live.
Christian women, are you working hard toward becoming more Christ-like? Is this high on your priority list? It should be. If we are authentic believers in Jesus, the Spirit cultivates in us a desire to please God and be more like our Savior. Author Donald Whitney calls these “holy hungers”. Indwelling longings (after conversion) to know and understand God more by reading the Bible, connecting with him through prayer, worship and other avenues of grace.
If you are a true Christian the longing will be there whether it displays as a small flame or a blazing fire. The issue we need to address is how to add fuel to this fire, sustain it and grow it over a lifetime. We can do this through spiritual disciplines, by forming lifestyle habits (the means) that lead us to being more like Jesus (the end goal). 2 Peter 1:3 tells us, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.” When we are called to be his, we are also given everything we need to attain godliness. This is certainly good news!
So why do we need to pursue godliness? Keep reading. After Peter lists qualities that include faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness and brotherly love, he then says this in verse 8: “For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” God wants these qualities (which can all be summed up as being godly) to increase in us so that we are effective and fruitful in our lives. This is gospel effectiveness and spiritual fruitfulness with the ultimate purpose being increased glory to God.
This is why Paul instructs Timothy to “train yourself for godliness” in 1 Timothy 4:7. The Greek word used for “train” in the original text is gymnazo, which translates “to exercise naked”. Yes, this gave me a smile when I looked it up but it makes great sense! We derive our word “gymnasium” from this Greek word. When we are working hard at something we throw off everything that may hinder us. Just like the athletes competing in the nude in the first Olympics, they did not want anything in the way of giving their best in hopes of winning. This idea is reflected for us in Hebrews 12:1, “let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,”
We, as Christian women, need to lay aside the weights of this world and the sin that tries to entrap us and run the race God has set before us. This is what pursuing godliness looks like, working hard to be more like Jesus. “For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God” (1 Timothy 4:9).
There is great hope in this endeavor, better than any fitness goal we could pursue, “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 4:8. The training for godliness we do in this life not only benefits us now, but it will also bring us reward for eternity - what a profound impact we are granted!
If this sounds like work to you, you are right. It is. Disciplined training should be intense (we shouldn’t think being like Jesus should be easy!). What we need to ask ourselves is this: is it worth it? You need to count the cost. Truly pursuing godliness may bring about: persecution, division in families, the end of friendships, the cutting away of worldly habits and hobbies, giving up possessions, it also takes time, energy and dedication. Is it worth it? Sorry, that is the wrong question. We have to ask, is He worth it? Is Jesus worth you devoting your life’s pursuit to? I will answer like Paul: “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” (Phil 3:8). Losing the world and gaining Christ. Yes, he is worth it.
Ladies, I encourage you to follow me on this mission of holiness. A purposeful quest to be more like Jesus as commanded in scripture. I will be using the book, Disciplines of a Godly Woman, by Barbara Hughes as a framework for the next 16 blogs I post (this blog covered chapter 1). We will hit on several topics such as the disciplines of prayer, of the mind, of contentment, of propriety, and of good deeds. Think of these as pathways by which we can encounter God. Follow along and let’s reap the benefits of training for godliness together.
I am not a morning person. I struggle to gain consciousness and get my bum out of bed every. single. morning. I don’t want to talk to anybody and I don’t want anybody talking to me until I have at least brushed my teeth, put my eyes in and adjusted to being vertical. No way around it, mornings are tough.
One thing I have experienced often over the years (and think many of you women can relate) is the “attack of the ‘to do’ list” as soon as I open my eyes. I haven’t even put my feet on the ground yet, but I’m already worried about getting everything done. It is a rotten feeling and makes me want to roll over and hide from the world a little longer.
Over the last couple weeks I have been fighting off this “morning assault”. For starters, I don’t want to begin my day downcast or feeling defeated! That is not the life for Christians. God tells us that we are “more than conquerors through Him” (Romans 8:37) and have “overcome the world” through our faith in Christ (1 John 5:4). Therefore, that is how I want to start my day – confident in Christ and what he has planned for me.
There are several verses to use, but lately I have been keeping it simple. Maybe this will help you too if you share my struggle. I quote Psalm 118:24, “This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” However, I change the “let us” to “I will” and I make it a command. Over the years I have often encouraged women to preach to themselves and that is essentially what I am doing here. “THIS is the day that the LORD has made, I WILL rejoice and I WILL be glad in it!”
This verse goes way deeper than the simple words it contains. The point is not to force happiness and positive thinking on myself each morning. That will get me nowhere, only God’s Word has the power to change my heart. Here is the thought process:
“This is the day the LORD has made”: God has made every day; he is not just working as he goes along. No, he wrote out every single day of my life before I was ever born. This is laid out for me in Psalm 139, “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” This is true for you as well. Imagine it, your life has been written out by God!
So, what does God have planned for our days? Ephesians 2:10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” GOOD works are planned. Once again, these are days prepared for us, by God himself, before we live them out (amazing!). And that is true for every single day of our lives. We who are in Christ just need to “walk in them”. This last portion is vital; we can’t sin and think we are walking in God’s will for our day. We need to walk in the “good works” prepared for us. Good works are the fruit of a life lived for the Lord. Our days need to be filled with what honors God.
“let us rejoice and be glad in it.”: The above gives the reasoning for the remaining part of Psalm 118:24. Gladness and joy are the inevitable results of knowing that God has authored each of our days. When we get up in the morning we can be assured that whatever happens in the hours ahead has been hand-crafted by the One who loves us the most. He planned out each step of our day that we should walk in it. Everything submits to him: the events, the people and even the “to do” list.
So, Ladies, the mornings may still be rough, but we can face the day ahead with hope and joy knowing that our God has it taken care of. We should trust him and walk gladly in the good works he has lovingly prepared for us.
Looking at the world today we don't have to try too hard to find something to be offended about. Murder, abortion (redundant, yes), abuse, corruption, and deceit abound. All these having their root in sin. These are awful and we are right to be offended by them. But are these truly what weigh on your mind each day? Occasionally, absolutely, especially in light of recent tragic events. But my guess is that the offenses that trouble us the most are the "small" ones. The unkind word from a friend, the strange look we [think] we see someone give us, or the [perceived] treatment we get when we are around certain people. These types of offenses are what will consume us if we allow them to.
One place I see this too often is in the church. This is the place petty offenses should not be, for it is a worldly trait. The world hates, that is its signature emotion (see John 15:18-25). The opposite is to be said of the Church: "By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." John 13:15. The Church is to love one another.
When we give in to an offense it will first wreak havoc on our own heart. It will consume our thoughts and play with our emotions. If we don't recognize it and deal with it, the offense will grow and will affect others and possibly the church as a whole. Growing like the weed that it is.
We women seem to be especially vulnerable to this. We are very perceptive beings and also tender-hearted. When we choose to take offense at something, we unwittingly become the door through which the enemy sneaks into the church. Soon there is hurt, blame and division occurring. Don't be that door, Ladies!
"Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense." Proverbs 19:11. We need to have a very long fuse and learn to quickly overlook offenses when they come. This verse tells us that it is to our glory to do so. Meaning it will enhance your gospel shine! What a beautiful thought.
What if you really were treated unkindly or shut out by stuck-up Christians or intentionally left out of a group? Ask Jesus.
His possible answer: "I was betrayed by a friend, falsely accused of crimes I did not commit, abandoned by those closest to me, declared guilty in a bogus trial, flogged, beaten, mocked, and spat upon. I was nailed to a large wooden cross and raised up for all to see. How did I deal with these great offenses? I forgave and I died. I gave up my life so that many of those same people would come to God."
Would you still be able to argue your case while staring into the face of Jesus? Not a chance. That is why we need to look at him every day in his Word. I think our right response to an offense would be the same as Jesus’s. Forgive and die, die to self that is. Laying our lives down for the sake of the gospel and the purity of God's people.
These things will happen, you will be hurt by other Christians. But decide not to hold on to the offense. Do not harbor ill toward one another within Gods family. Allow God to work in that person's heart and sanctify them, knowing he is doing the same in all of us. In fact, pray for them.
One last point. Do not allow an offense caused by another Christian to keep you from Christ. Do not allow anyone to stand in the way of you and your Savior, Jesus Christ. To do so is beyond pitiable and ridiculous. If you find yourself pointing to someone else when asked why you don't attend church, go to study, enjoy worship or why you have stopped pursuing God then your faith is weak, if it exists at all. Shape up.
If your relationship with the Lord is authentic, there is nothing and no one who will keep you from running after him whole-heartedly. Pushing aside every petty offense and freely forgiving those who are yet being sanctified, because you and your flesh "have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer [you] who live, but Christ who lives in [you]." Galatians 2:20.
Ladies, for the sake of the Name of the One who called you, be not offended.