The People Of God

Spiritual growth requires us to spend time building our knowledge.

George Wright
Jan 19, 2020    41m
In this sermon Pastor George Wright likens spiritual growth to physical fitness. He explains that just as we cannot expect to get stronger and faster without putting in hard work in the gym, we cannot expect to grow spiritually without putting hard work into understanding the Word of God. Video recorded at Columbia, South Carolina.

messageRegarding Grammar:

This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

George Wright: 00:00 Well, we're going to jump right in to our message in First Timothy chapter 4. If you don't have a Bible with you this morning, we do want you to know there are Bibles available all over the room, and we'd love for you to grab one of those so that you can see for yourself what the Word of God is saying. I know you may be able to pull it up on your app, on your phone, or look on with someone beside you. But if you don't have a Bible, grab one of those in the Pew and the page number is on the screen, just to help you find First Timothy 4 a little bit more quickly. Let me read to you a couple of verses to get us started. We are in a series that is all about who we are as a church, and what God has called us to be about as we start this new year, and as we kick off this new decade, the roaring twenties. Aren't you excited about the roaring twenties yeah, man, it's good stuff. As we kick off this new decade, we want to press into what does God have for us as his people, as his church? Who are we to be, and what are we to be about? And that's what we're stepping back into this morning, First Timothy chapter 4.

George Wright: 01:11 Let me encourage you, if you're willing and able to stand with me, and I'm going to read this scripture for us to get started in this message. And if you're joining us online, or if you're new today at Shandon, and you're wondering why do we stand for the reading of God's Word? We do this every week at the beginning of our message, so that we all can be reminded when the people of God come together, we come together underneath the authority of God's Word. And we stand on the foundation of what God says is right and good and true, revealed through the Holy Scripture, revealed through the breadth of God poured out on the pages of the Word of God.

George Wright: 01:52 So the Word of God says this in First Timothy 4 verse 6, "If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. 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."

George Wright: 02:34 As we consider the Word of God this morning, would you pray with me? We want to invite the spirit of God through the Word of God and the proclamation of God's word to speak into our lives. So let's pray. Father, as we stand before you now, we pray that you would have your way among us, and that these words would not just be words on the page. But they would come to life in our and in our minds, laying out the promise that your word gives us, the Word does not return void. We ask today, that the Word would do its work as you see fit in our lives. So I pray for open hearts, and pray for open minds, and open ears to listen and receive and believe the good news that you reveal. Lord, as we gather on a very important weekend in the life of our country, we are reminded on this weekend that honors Dr. King, of the gift of freedom that came through the civil rights movement for many, and the gift of freedom that we've even been reminded of today in this effort to end trafficking in our culture. Lord, freedom is to be valued, and we are grateful that as we stand before you and as we worship you today, we do so in light of and in the midst of the freedom that comes through Jesus Christ. And so I pray for those who are hurting and broken today, who are not walking in freedom, whatever the case may be, we ask that you would divinely meet them with this word of life. Use this time for your glory and for our good. It's in Christ' name I pray. Amen. You may be seated. Thank you for standing.

George Wright: 04:30 Well, I know we're now a few weeks in to the new year, a few weeks into January, and so your New Year's resolutions probably are a thing of the past. But as the Word of God reveals to us this idea of training. I just want to ask by show of hands, I'm just curious, how many of you at the beginning of 2020 set out some kind of goal or resolution as it relates to health or fitness? Just anything at all. I'm not asking if you kept the resolution, I'm just asking if you set the resolution. I want to be more healthy, I need to get back in the gym, I need to work out, whatever the case would be, anything at all, I need to eat different. Some of you? And then the rest just don't want to raise your hand, you don't want to get called out in church, I understand that. Well certainly we all know that January is the boom month in the fitness industry, right? I mean it's when the gyms are crowded, February things get back to normal. Right? But in January, the gyms are crowded, and it does reveal that the health and fitness industry in our culture today is a huge enterprise. In fact, the health and fitness industry makes over $30 billion a year. It's incredible how much money is in health and fitness, and this has been growing at a steady rate of about 4 or 5% over the last decade. So there's been a lot of money invested into health and fitness, and a lot of money made in health and fitness. And what's been interesting to see in the way that the fitness market has been growing over the last decade or so, is that the companies that are really getting it done, and really successful in the health and fitness market are companies that have tapped into a desire that we all share. It's a desire to be connected to a community that we believe in, accomplishing something together that can allow us to do more together than we could have if we were apart. You see the fitness industry is now not only selling a healthier lifestyle, the fitness industry is selling a healthier community. Get connected to a community of people who are like minded, with shared goals, and go achieve something together.

George Wright: 06:52 I'm going to give you a couple examples of this. One of the fastest growing brands in the fitness industry right now is a company called Peloton. Has anybody heard of Peloton? We got one of those up on the screen. Yeah, you may have seen the commercials. My wife, Megan, all she wanted for Christmas was a Peloton, but Santa did not deliver. These things are stinking expensive. Okay? And here's what's amazing to me about a Peloton, it really is a brilliant business model because they took something that was old and stale and boring in the fitness world, a stationary bike, every gym has stationary bikes. You can get a stationary bike anywhere that sells fitness equipment for a few hundred bucks. Peloton said, let's take the stationary bike and instead of selling it for a few hundred bucks, let's sell it for over $2,200, and then let's invite people to join a community where they have to pay a monthly due to log in on classes that are live and streaming. And people have been doing it by the thousands, because people want to be connected to something they believe in, with shared values, and shared goals to grow together faster to achieve a goal. One of the senior vice presidents, Brad Olson, of Peloton said this, "One of our core values is together we go far, because we know our community makes us stronger." And when I read that core value of Peloton, I thought, well, that is a little ironic that a company that sells expensive stationary bikes for people to ride in isolation and go nowhere, has a core value that together we go far. That's really amazing, and we've bought it, hook, line, and sinker. It works. But the desire for community is there, and we want to be connected to something bigger. As we set a goal, or as we have a dream or desire, we want to be connected to a community that can help us achieve that goal. Together we go far.

George Wright: 09:13 Another example of this is a company called Spartan, the Spartan Race. Has anybody heard about the Spartan Race or done a Spartan Race, anybody in the room? Okay, there were not a lot of hands in the first service, I'll just go ahead and tell you. But the Spartan Race, again, this is an amazing business model. They took something that was dull and boring in the fitness world, running a race, and they said, let's make this more exciting, and let's make this community driven so that it's better to accomplish a Spartan as a team. Come together, do something you've never done before. The founder of the Spartan Race, Joe Dishona, said this, "Our community members..." Listen to these words, "Our community members go above and beyond supporting one another, pushing each other to their limits and beyond. We've fostered a community of millions that identify as Spartans..." There's that identity. "...and they band together to overcome life's obstacles."

George Wright: 10:16 Now, I'm not trying to make light of what these companies are doing. I'm just saying, these companies have realized that if they can sell community, people are going to be there. Because every one of us has a desire to be connected to something bigger than ourselves, something that we believe in, where others are encouraging us, spurring us on, challenging us, and helping us go further together. It's exactly what the Word of God is laying before is here today.

George Wright: 10:58 As we turn our attention to First Timothy chapter 4, we are being reminded that training is important if we're going to grow in our faith. Training is important if we're going to live the mission that we hold up and elevate here at Shandon, to leverage who we are and what we've been given for the sake of the gospel, wherever we are and wherever ever God takes us. If we're going to live that mission as a people of God, training is essential. And what the Word of God is reminding us here today in First Timothy 4, not only is training essential, but training is done best when training is done together. When we are connected to others in the context of community who can challenge us, encourage us, hold us accountable, spur us on, as the scripture says, stir us up to love and good deeds. If we are connected to a community, we can do more and go further together.

George Wright: 12:12 Look back at verse 6, First Timothy 4, " If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed." And I just wonder, how many of us today would say, I want to be a good servant of Christ Jesus? Man, I think for many of us who gather together in a church service on Sunday morning, there's some kind of desire that says, hey, we want to serve God, we want to please God. For those who are followers of Christ, we want to be a good servant of Christ. How does that happen? Verse 6 says, a good servant of Christ is someone who takes seriously their training. Training in what? Training in the words of faith, and training in sound doctrine. Please do not miss this, in all that we could talk about here, and how you grow in your faith. Listen to what the Word of God reveals as the Apostle Paul is writing this letter to young Timothy who he loves, who he's discipling, who he has mentored. He's saying, Timothy, if you want to grow in your faith, the Word of God is essential. The Word of God is the training manual. It reveals what God says is right and good and true. The Word of God lays before us the very source of life, it lays before us the good news of what Jesus Christ has done for us, that we can never do for ourselves. And the Word of God says, here's how you are to live a light of what you have received. The Word of God shows us how to walk in godliness, in light of what God has done. And Paul says to Timothy, Timothy, this is best lived out among the brothers, among the family, among the community of faith. Do not go at this alone. The Christian life was never intended to be lived in isolation, the Christian life was intended to be all around community, connected together as a family, as the Body of Christ. We need one another to challenge us, to encourage us, to equip us, to hold us accountable, to pray for us, and to support us as we seek to follow Christ.

George Wright: 15:01 So here's a question for you. As you think about your journey of the faith, what is your training regimen as you seek to grow in godliness as a servant of Christ? Do you have an intentional training plan? I mean, think about the fitness industry, you know this is true, no one ever drifts into being physically fit. You get that right? We drift into Krispy Kreme, it's true. You drift towards the couch. I mean, that's just the natural leaning that we all share. And so if we're going to pursue fitness, if we're going to pursue health, it takes intentional steps and an intentional plan. Anybody in the health and fitness industry would tell you that you need a plan, and you need to stick to the plan, and you probably need others around you in the plan, because you're going to want to drift away from the plan. And Paul is saying here, the same is true as it relates to your life in the faith. You do not drift into godliness. You drift into social media, you drift into watching Netflix until midnight, you drift into isolation, you drift into addiction, you drift into all kinds of things that actually take us away from what we said we want to be, a good servant of Christ. And so if you're going to grow in your faith as a servant of Christ, you need to be intentional to think about what is my training plan for growth? Do you have a daily training plan, a weekly training rhythm, as it relates to your spiritual life? Do you have an annual training plan? I'm not saying you have to have all of those. I'm just asking what is your intentional strategy for growth? Because no one drifts into godliness, we must train for godliness in light of what Christ has done.

George Wright: 17:22 Look at what it says in Philippians chapter 2, another letter written by the apostle Paul, that comes to life through the Spirit of God at work in the Word of God. Philippians chapter 2 verses 12 and 13 say this, "Therefore my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now not only as in my presence, but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure." Now these verses are incredibly important as it relates to spiritual growth, but before we even comment on what these verses are saying, I must first say what these verses are not saying. Please don't miss this, do not be confused, these verses are not saying that you must work for your salvation. These verses are not saying you must work to earn the approval of God. Like if you work hard enough, somehow you'll hit this level of spiritual acceptedness in the sight of God, and then you'll be considered worthy of the love of God. That's not in the scripture anywhere. The Word of God is saying, you work out, what God has worked in. You work out what God has already done for you in the finished work of Jesus Christ. What I mean by that? Well think about what happens when you work out. For some of you, you can think about theoretically what might happen if you started to work out. Okay? So just think about it for a moment. What happens when someone starts to work out? Are they creating muscles, or are they building and revealing muscles that are already there? Working out reveals what is hidden underneath, some under layers, right? I mean let's just be real. Working out reveals what's there, and it brings it to the surface.

George Wright: 19:40 And so when the scripture says work out your salvation, what the apostle Paul is saying to a group of believers, to those who are followers of Christ, you work out what God has worked in. You grow in godliness, you train for spiritual growth, so that what God has done for you in Christ that has been given to you as a free gift of grace. What God has done for you, then can come to the surface and be demonstrated and displayed and seen by others as the power of God comes to life in you. Work out what God has worked in, for it is God who is at work to will and to work for his good pleasure. Reveal what's on the inside as a gift from Jesus Christ.

George Wright: 20:32 With that in mind, we go back to verse 7, and we think about this whole idea of training in godliness. The apostle Paul gives us a warning here in verse 7, this is a very important verse, he says, "Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths, rather train yourself in godliness." Now, if you think about this in light of the fitness conversation we have been having this morning, can you remember some of this silly, even ridiculous fads that have come through the fitness industry over the years? Anybody ever owned a thigh master? Yeah, I mean they only sold over a hundred million dollars’ worth of these things, okay, so they were everywhere. I mean, you talk about the silly fad, that's a pretty silly fad. How about this one? The Slender Tone. Do you remember the Slender Tone? The electric belt that you strap around your waist so that you can build a six pack? Because after all, everyone knows and science reveals that building a six pack is not about your diet or doing abdominal workouts, it's about wearing an electric belt. That's not true, don't quote me on that. I was going to show a picture of the shake weight, I couldn't find one appropriate online, so we'll just move off the shake weight altogether. But does anybody remember the silliest fad of all time in the fitness industry? At least this is my favorite. Captain silly himself, sweat into the oldies, Richard Simmons. My man, did that guy ever work out? I mean, seriously. Where do you find those shorts? They are phenomenal, those are preaching shorts right there, but it'd probably shut the church down if I wore them, so we're not going to go that way. But as you think about these fads, these things that are silly, these things that are gimmicky, these things that are really just trying to make money, but really probably don't help out in the long run. Please don't miss this, all throughout the church, all throughout the history of the church, all throughout Christian culture, in our culture today, there are irreverent and silly myths. There are people building ministries, and even building churches, on silly, irreverent myths that are not rooted and grounded in the Word of God. In fact, there are churches that have collapsed because of irreverent and silly myths. There are people that have walked away from the faith all together because of irreverent and silly myths.

George Wright: 23:28 So how in the world do you identify all these irreverent and silly myths that are floating around out there, that can potentially lead you away from what matters most? Well, the scripture is clear, train yourself for godliness. How do you train yourself for godliness? Go back to where we started, verse 6, "The words of faith and good doctrine." I know I'm hitting this over and again, I cannot emphasize it enough. The way you identify irreverent and silly myths among the church world, among a Christian culture, among what claims to be people of God, the way you identify irreverent silly myths, is to know the truth, to know the Word. You are totally and completely defenseless against irreverent and silly myths if you do not know the Word of God. Study the Word, know the Word, and be connected to others who can help encourage you in the Word of God.

George Wright: 24:39 And so we come to verse 8, we're reminded here of the importance, again, of training in the Word of God. It says "For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is a value in every way." And to those of you who don't like to work out, or maybe you've already broken your New Year's resolutions. You can just say, Hey, the apostle Paul actually gave me an excuse, I don't have time for bodily training because I'm training in godliness. Okay, so just keep your Instagram posts to yourself, I'm training in godliness, but then it needs to be true. So if you're not going to work out physically, dive into working out spiritually, because this is where the real value is. It's so important to see what the apostle Paul is revealing here in verse 8, godliness is a value in every way as it holds promise for this present life, it is certainly valuable now. But it also holds promise for the life to come, and this is so important. I love this. One of the best ways to take seriously the call to grow in godliness, is to live in light of eternity. One of the best ways to take seriously the call to grow in godliness, and to train in spiritual growth, is to live in light of eternity. Because think about this, you've seen this happen. Without a perspective of the eternal, we quickly lose focus and we quickly get distracted by things that have no eternal significance at all. Without a lens of eternity through which we view our life and view the world around us, we will get distracted and we will grumble and complain about things that have no eternal value. Without an eternal perspective, we will certainly lose sight of the mission and we will become consumed, stuck in the rut, of living for ourselves. You see, godliness is a value in every way, because godliness reminds us as we train, it's not just about us. It's about training in the things of God, in the truth of God, in the sound doctrine of the Word of God, so that we can live in light of our training and be a picture of the love and grace of God to the world around us.

George Wright: 27:33 I just wonder how different our training in spiritual growth might be, if we viewed our lives through the lens of eternity. I also wonder how different our relationships with others would be, if we looked at every relationship in our life, and in every conversation we have, there was this thought on our mind, the person I'm talking to in this relationship right in front of me has an eternal destination. And this relationship, perhaps this conversation, is an opportunity for me to point to eternity. How different would your relationships with your classmates be, if you viewed them through the lens of eternity? How different would your relationships with your neighbors be, and your coworkers be, and that really difficult person that you have to interact with on an ongoing basis, how different might those relationships be, if you viewed them through the lens of eternity? If you want to grow in godliness, live in light of eternity.

George Wright: 29:03 And then verses 9 and 10, as we come to the close here this morning, the last two verses we'll consider today. Say this, The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God. I'm going to stop there just for a moment, because I want you to notice the language that Paul uses here. He's been talking about training and spiritual growth, and he does not say, this is what I do, Timothy, this is what you should do. He says, Timothy, this is what we do, we toil and strive together, because we together have our hopes set on the living God. We together, needing one another as we strive to grow and train and godliness, because training is better together. Spiritual growth is better together. We need community, and we grow faster, when we are connected intentionally to community in the Body of Christ. Some of you need to hear this today. You're trying to go through your faith all alone, just doing your own thing, wandering to and fro, without anyone around you saying, let's be intentional to pursue godliness together. Let's challenge one another, let's encourage one another, let's pray for one another, let's dive into the Word of God together. Christian life was never intended to be lived alone.

George Wright: 30:51 And then verse 10, we see what the scripture says, "we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe." Now, what in the world does this mean? Paul is certainly bringing us back to an eternal perspective, but this verse can be a little troubling. Is Paul saying that all people are going to be saved? We place our hope on the living God who is the savior of all people, especially those who believe. Like if you believe you get a special edition of salvation, but everybody's going to be saved. Is that what Paul is saying? Is this a universalistic mentality that says, hey, just as long as you have faith in something, just strive in faith, whatever you believe, that's fine we're all going to be okay. After all, you realize that's the number one prevailing belief in our culture today. Have faith in something, believe it passionately, live it out. Doesn't matter what it is, just live for it, and we're all going to be okay in the end. Is that what the apostle Paul is saying? If the answer is yes, please hear this. If the answer is yes, then the mission that Paul devoted his life to, and the mission that God has called his church to be about, is totally and completely pointless. If everyone is going to be saved, then the mission that Paul devoted his life to, and the early apostles died for, and the early martyrs the church were killed for, if that is true that everyone will be saved, then the mission of the church for 2000 years, and the mission of this church today is totally pointless. Because if everyone is going to be saved, then we've got to be honest, all of our faith is pointless. Go spend your Sunday morning doing something else, please use your time more effectively, don't pour your life into something that really just leads where everything else leads, and most tragically, if it is true that everyone will be saved, then the cross of Jesus Christ was the most horrific, barbaric, brutal, waste of a death in the history of the world.

George Wright: 33:42 Let me just point us all back, this is so important, do not miss this. Some of you need to hear this so desperately today. Some of you perhaps online, you need to hear this, you've been striving to do what you believe is best, but it is not connected at all to the message of Jesus. And perhaps you have faith in something, but please hear what the Word of God says. I just want to point us all back to what, quite possibly, is the most famous verse in all of the scripture, John 3:16. We'll put this on the screen. What does the Bible say? "For God so loved the world" Yes, that's it. For God so loved the world, he desires that all would be saved. Yes, God loves the world, and so he gave his only son, he gave Jesus to die on the cross for our sins. And then what does it say? "That whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." This is so important. This is the gospel. This is why the mission matters. This is why we do what we do. Because we believe that Christ has offered his life at the cross to pay for the sins of the world. Christ died to save the world, but only those who trust their life to him through faith, only those who believe in faith through the prompting of the Spirit of God will be saved. Some of you here today do not have that truth rooted in your heart. I love you, I want you to know the truth, we're not all going to end up okay in the end. There are some, many perhaps, in this room, many perhaps even listening or watching online that you believe in something, but your belief is not rooted in what Christ has done for you. And so you are headed for an eternity separated from Christ, in a very literal place that the scripture calls hell. So this mission, this truth, matters so greatly. And God wants you to know it, and God wants you to hear it. And I believe some of you are here today just to hear this, that God loves you, and gave his son for you so that if you will trust in him, and if you will believe in him, you will be saved and receive the gift of eternal life. And it is the greatest gift you could ever we receive, and we want you to have it. So look to Jesus, look at what Christ has done.

George Wright: 36:41 If you are here as one who has never received the gift of salvation, we want to invite you to trust your life to Jesus Christ. And I'm going to have a word of prayer right now before we continue in this service, through a song of worship. And as I pray, I just want you to know that this is an invitation from God himself, as the Spirit of God moves among this room, for you to turn your heart to the Lord and say, Jesus, I recognize my need for you, I'm ready to follow you in faith. Some of you that is your divine appointment today.

George Wright: 37:23 So let's pray. Let's bow our heads, let's close our eyes, and let's invite the Spirit of God to reveal to us what we need to see as we go before the Lord. Father, I am so grateful for your love and your grace and this beautiful gift that you have given us in your word. I'm so grateful, Lord God, for the incredible gift of Jesus Christ, and the good news of the gospel that reveals to us that you have done for us what we could never do for ourselves. And those who receive Christ have been invited to live in godliness and to train in spiritual growth, so that our lives can be a part of something so much bigger, so that we can be connected to a mission that we believe in, to shine the light of Christ into a world that so desperately needs to see it. Oh Lord, I pray that this community here at Shandon would be a living testimony to the beauty of the gospel and the good news of what Christ has done. And Father, now, I pray specifically for those who are hearing this message today, who have never trusted their life to Jesus Christ. There are some who have been very spiritual, there've been some who have been in church for a long time, there are some who are brand new to all of this, longing for something new and something better, looking for hope. Whatever the case may be, whatever the story may be that has brought people to this place today, it is my prayer in the power of your Spirit that those who do not have a relationship with Christ would see their need for a savior, and would recognize what you have done for them, giving your life, your perfect sinless life, at the cross for our sin. So that through the power of the resurrection, as you've defeated sin and death, you invite us into new life, and you invite us into the gift of life that lasts forever. For whoever that may be today who recognizes that they don't have a relationship with Jesus in a personal way right now, I pray that you would give them the faith right where they're seated, to just say in their own heart and their mind and their words to you, Jesus, I need you. Jesus, I need you, and I'm asking you to forgive me of my sin. I'm ready to turn and follow you. I'm ready for a new life. I'm ready for the gift of eternal life. I'm ready to live this mission that is so much bigger than me, as a part of the family of God. Lord, we praise you, we praise you for your grace and mercy over us. We praise you for giving us as a church the opportunity to invite some others that we love and care about, to receive this message of salvation. We pray that today would be a day of salvation, and that you would use us in the days ahead, that more and more can see and hear the good news of what Christ has done. We thank you for this time together. It's in Jesus' name I pray. Amen. Amen.

Recorded in Columbia, South Carolina.
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Shandon Baptist Church
5250 Forest Drive
Columbia, South Carolina 29206