Did you know that two thousand years ago, Olympic athletes were required to compete naked? The Greeks enjoyed the aesthetic aspects of athletics, so they preferred watching the sculpted human body in competition–unobstructed by anything.
But did you know that the Bible tells us to exercise naked?
Join us in today’s daily Bible conversation to discover why…and how.
1 Timothy 4:1-16
INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
Jeremiah 33:1-34:22. Jeremiah 33 offers a peculiar prophecy. It begins as a promise of destruction and concludes with a promise. Beginning in verse 14, God promises that the lineage of David will be re-established as “David will never fail to have a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel” (verse 17). The reign of King David’s throne came to an end with the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C., but remember that Jesus came from the line of David. And to this day, Jesus still reigns.
1 Timothy 4:1-16. Paul advises Timothy, “Watch your life and doctrine closely” (1 Timothy 4:16). Admittedly, some people can get overly rigid in their theology, but what we believe really does matter. Injecting our opinions into our theology is dangerous. In my experience, theological renegades easily become heretics. Many young pastors, in the effort to be accepted and respected by their peers, sacrifice doctrine on the altar of cool. Perhaps that’s why Paul gave this instruction to young Timothy.
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THE WORD MADE FRESH
“Train yourself to be godly,” Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 4:7b-8. “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”
The Greek word for “train” is gymnasia which means “to exercise naked.” This hearkens back to the ancient Olympics. While most commentators avoid this word picture for reasons of propriety, I think something gets lost in the translation.
Notice these words from the writer of Hebrews:
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. Hebrews 12:1 (NASB)
To be honest, when I train—either running or weight lifting—I try to wear as little as possible. Of course, I dress appropriately, but running 6-8-10 miles or lifting weights over my head wearing a jacket and jeans doesn’t work.
The Greek word for “godliness,” eusebeia, means both an internal and external piety. In other words, it’s a deep inward devotion to God that is reflected in our everyday life.
It’s important to point out that godliness and righteousness are not the same. When we confess our sins to God and trust in Jesus to forgive us, we are made righteous. Our sins are forgiven and we’re brought into a right relationship with God. Godliness, however, is the process of bringing the spiritual reality of who we are (righteous) into congruence with how we think and act.
To become godly men and women, we must first realize that godliness doesn’t naturally occur on its own. It requires exercise and training. And we can only do this by exercising naked—throwing off every encumbrance that hinders our walk with God. This includes ungodly habits, compromising relationships and influences, and death-giving ways of thinking. We replace these destructive habits with life-giving habits that look like the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control.
The pursuit of godliness also requires that we eat healthy. Generous amounts of Bible study, meditation, and supplements of spiritual reading (especially the classics) will give us the energy we need.
Why do we do it? Because it brings benefits to us both now and in the life to come. I love being in shape. It helps me think much clearer and it gives me greater endurance. In the same way, godliness frees me to live with a clean conscience, to think as God would think, and it gives me the strength to say “no” to my flesh. And it also prepares me for the life—the true life—to come.
Best of all, training ourselves to be godly isn’t an end in itself because it launches us into a fuller relationship with God.
- What spoke to you in today’s reading?
- What spiritual exercises have you found most helpful?
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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.