A Disciple’s Spiritual Fitness Course, Pt. 10
Study Guide, July 16, 2023
Pastor Clay Olsen
How good of God to make a way that even if we have physical problems, we can still be spiritually fit!
It’s providential that we are sharing in the Lord’s Supper at the close of our service today because the ending our spiritual fitness series ends up at the Cross. And we’ll share more about that in just a bit. And maybe should have suggested that you wear your exercise clothes today as we finish up our Disciple’s spiritual fitness course. But that’s okay, because the great thing about your spiritual fitness program is that you can do these exercises in any clothing, from your exercise clothes or your everyday clothing. You can wear whatever clothes you have on to exercise in BIBSG: Bible study and training, in Intercessory prayer, in Body life and service, in Sowing the Gospel seed, and in Giving of your tithes and offerings. But what’s the harder part of an exercise program – knowing what exercises to do, or doing the exercises? Right…we know far more than we do…it’s the doing part that’s the hard part.
But one of the things that helps us get over the hurdle of ‘doing’ what we ought to be doing is to keep reminding ourselves that the best things in life are usually the hardest things to do anyway. So, one of the wise habits to practice is to choose to do the hard things over the easy things; choose to do the inconvenient things over the convenient things; choose to do the sacrificial things over the comfortable things…and choose to do the helpful-to-others things over the self-serving things. And as you develop this mindset and this habit of choosing to do the hard things, you will find yourself experiencing the best things in your brief journey we call life on planet Earth, as well as you will receive great rewards in the New Earth that is being prepared even now.
So let’s wrap up our spiritual fitness program today. But first…and you know what’s coming don’t you? First the theme passage…1 Tim 4:8-9- “Spend your time and energy in training yourself for spiritual fitness. Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is much more important, for it promises a reward in both this life and the next. This is true, and everyone should accept it.” NLT What we want to do as we wrap up this series is to highlight some essential disciplines, that, along with those we have already walked through together, are key to being spiritually fit; spiritually fit and useful to God as He works in and through us in preparing for His Kingdom that is soon to be ushered in!
In one of our work-out sessions we said we each have a Personal Trainer. Look at this amazing revelation from John 14:26- “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will be your teacher in all things and will put you in mind of everything I have said to you.” BBE And then further in John 16:12-15- “When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on His own but will tell you what He has heard. He will tell you about the future. He will bring Me glory by telling you whatever He receives from Me. All that belongs to the Father is Mine; this is why I said, ‘The Spirit will tell you whatever He receives from Me.’” NLT
God the Holy Spirit is our teacher, guide, counselor…Personal Trainer! How amazing is that? But even more, He is our God, who instructs us to live under the counsel of God…or to live under the Lordship of Christ! Therefore, one of the essentials to spiritual fitness is to daily live your life under the Lordship of Christ! 1 Peter 3:15- “You must worship Christ as Lord of your life.” NLT That’s not an option…it’s an ‘essential’!
We also previously talked about having either an actual altar or a figurative altar whereby we could first dedicate the things in our life to God that God has given us to use or to steward in our life. God is the sole Owner of all things. Just as Pastor Robert was walking us through Psalm 24, which begins with: “The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it.” Ps 24:1 NASU What a powerful and all-encompassing truth claim by the Lord! Is anything left out? ‘…and all it contains’…that pretty much covers all there is on Earth and everything in this world!
So when we think of dedicating the things of our life on the altar to God, we need to include dedicating our own selves as well, our very life…our daily life…as in the need to daily dedicate our very lives to the worship and service of our Lord and Savior, who owns our very lives and everything in it. For example: We could make a daily declaration to God of something like: “Lord Jesus, You are the Owner of my time, my talents, my treasures, as well as my heart, soul, body, and mind. Therefore, guide me today in the faithful exercise of it all for Your glory and the gain of all those in my life.” How would that attitude affect the daily experience of your life?! Oh yes, The Lordship of Christ is the theme of a Disciple’s life.
Another essential exercise for spiritual fitness is ‘Abiding’. We could call it our ‘Spiritual Ab machine’. Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? Now, an ‘Ab’ machine is a good exercise machine…especially for those of us that have condensed our ‘six pack abs’ into ‘one packs’! The ‘Abs’ are still under there somewhere, right? But to stress just how essential the spiritual ‘Ab’ machine, or ‘Abiding’ exercise is to spiritual fitness we go to John 15:5- “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” NASU ‘Nothing’? Really? Yup! Think about this: What if there was one machine in a Gym whereby if you did exercises at all the other machines, but did not exercise at that particular one, then your body would react as though you did nothing at all? The neglect of that exercise would negate the benefits of the other exercises. How discouraging or disheartening, or even how foolish that would be! In a similar way, the neglect of ‘Abiding’ in Christ negates the bearing of lasting fruit in a Christian’s life. That’s how essential ‘Abiding’ in Christ is!
All right, but just what is this essential exercise that Jesus is talking about? What does it mean to ‘abide’? ‘Abide’ means ‘to dwell, to be present, to commune, and even to stand fast’. So how do we do that in relation to Christ? Let’s see: John 15:7- “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it will be done for you.” NASU That is, if it’s in keeping with God’s will, of course. But you get what Jesus is revealing here…the action or the exercise which enables you and me to dwell in and to commune with and to stand fast in Christ is the exercise of dwelling in and communing with and standing fast in the Words of Christ…abiding in the revelation of Christ to us and to the world…dwelling in and standing fast in the Scriptures! Jesus equates walking with Him with walking with His Words…dwelling in the Bible and letting the Bible dwell in us!
If we do not exercise in standing fast in the Scriptures, then we will not be standing fast for our Savior. We are only following Christ when we are following His Words! But when we do follow His Words, we do then stand fast in the Words of God, and we then stand fast for the Word of God. We honor and defend and proclaim that the Word of God is the written revelation of God, Jesus Christ, who is the Word made manifest to the world! In fact, it is our very obedience to the Words of God that demonstrate our love for God. That is what the Apostle John revealed to us: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.” 1 John 5:3 NASU
Well then, doesn’t that explain why the devil’s main attack has always been and is even more so today against the authority and the centrality of the Word of God…the Bible?! The question of ‘Oh, has God said?” from Genesis 3:1 is the same question that the enemy of God and enemy of God’s people is still putting into people’s minds today! And one of the strangest things about that question is that it really was not a question about what God had said, but rather a question about the authority of the One who said it! Satan’s question was really an evil suggestion for our first parents to disregard the Authority of the Word of God and instead to take that authority for themselves…because that is exactly what the devil had done. Satan had said that he would be like God. And he said to our first parents, ‘and you can be like God’. He was telling them… ‘You can be your own authority’, just like he had made himself be his own authority. However, in making themselves their own authority they did not become like God at all, rather, they simply became more like the devil. Mark it down: People are most like the devil, like Satan, when they make themselves be their own authority instead of God, in deciding what is true or false, what is right or wrong, what is good or evil…and on and on.
And friends, that is exactly where our world, our country, and many of our country’s so-called churches are today…Instead of acting on what ‘God has said’, they are skeptically asking, ‘Oh, has God said?” Instead of bowing to the authority of God’s Word, the Scriptures, in deciding what is right and what is wrong, they are taking that authority for themselves, and then deciding for themselves what is right and what is wrong. And in doing so, people are simply now doing what God also rebuked the selfish and sinful people in Judges for doing…doing that which what was right in their own eyes, instead of acting on what is right by what God has said. Instead of submitting to the Will of God as revealed in the Word of God, so many people are giving into the wants of the sinful self by adding to and subtracting from God’s Word until it is no longer about what God has said, but about what they want it to say!
That’s why every virtue issue and every moral issue and every truth issue in our society has become a twisted issue and a distorted issue and a deceitful issue because so many refuse to submit to what ‘God has said’ about every issue! Instead, so many now revel like the devil in their rebellious questioning – ‘Oh, has God said? And they then act on their own wants rather than obeying the Words of God’s revelation, the Bible. Remember, the worst thing you can get is your own way, if it’s not God’s way. And it’s not God’s way if it’s not God’s Word. But when we live by what God has said, when we delight in what God has, when we stand fast on what God has said, we find ourselves abiding with Christ and thus bearing much fruit from those great spiritual exercises…for both now and eternity!
But before we wrap up our Disciple’s Spiritual Fitness course there is one more essential exercise for true spiritual fitness. For in order to train as a follower of Christ, you have to exercise by carrying your cross for Christ…you have to exercise in ‘Cross training.’ “Then, calling the crowd to join His disciples, He said, “If any of you wants to be My follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow Me.” Mark 8:34 NLT The way of discipleship is the way of the Cross. And as Jesus points out, there is the Cross of Christ, but there is also ‘your cross’. The ‘Cross of Christ’ reveals ‘why’ we train, and ‘your cross’ reveals the ‘way’ we train.
‘Why’ we train is because: “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. Rom 5:8-9 NASU
‘Why’ we train is because: “God has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of His dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.” Col 1:13-14 NLT
‘Why’ we train is because: “The love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.” 2 Cor 5:14-15 NASU
‘Why’ we train is because: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body. 1 Cor 6:19-20 NASU
That’s ‘why’ we train. And the ‘way’ we train is also by ‘the cross’…but Jesus said that cross was “your cross”. And the whole training exercise is called ‘Glorying in the Cross’. The Apostle Paul explains it this way: “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” Gal 6:14 KJV
There were three crosses on that hill of Calvary. One was the Cross of Christ. And here Paul identifies the other two…by way of application. For as Paul put it: On one side of Christ was – ‘the world’, and on the other side was – ‘I unto the world’. One thief represented the world. He would not repent and trust in Christ to save him. The other thief did repent and called out to Jesus in faith as the Messiah…he wanted to be with Jesus in His coming Kingdom. You and I are the repentant thief. And although we are not yet in Paradise with Jesus in our experience, we are in our position…since we are forever ‘in Christ’. But for now, as for our experience, we are now to carry that cross by which we are to die each day…die to the world and to our old self.
But in order to do that we must do two things: One: We must keep this world, with its bondage to sin and death right where it belongs, on its cross…and there this world dies to us a little more each day. And secondly, we must keep our cross right here…like carrying it on our shoulder. Many Christians wear a cross around their neck to honor our Savior and to witness that they are a follower of Christ. That’s great. Perhaps we should also wear one on our shoulder to remind ourselves that in order to follow Christ we have to carry our cross each day. We have to deny ourselves each day…deny ourselves of ruling our own selves. And instead, each day we commit ourselves to the rule of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. So again, the spiritual exercise is this: We deny ruling our own lives and we commit to Christ’s rule over our lives. That’s what it means to carry our cross.
And as for that in which we glory…as for that in which we rejoice…as for that in which we find our peace and fulfillment in this life…we find all that and more in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ! For in the glory of the Cross we have a glorious Savior, we have His glorious love, we have His glorious forgiveness, we share in Christ’s glorious victory over sin and death, and we will serve a glorious King in His Kingdom forever and ever!
And so by this we train, we ‘Cross-train’, as we no longer live for ourselves, but for Him who died for us and rose again on our behalf. So Brothers and Sisters…train on for the King. Commit to becoming more and more spiritually fit and ready for service to your glorious Lord and Savior!