The Promise that Godliness Holds
Our CGs are working through 1 Timothy in their small groups and recently, one of our young adult groups also worked through 1 Tim 4:6-16. This short reflection was written by one of the YA leaders, Nehemiah Chong to encourage not all the YAs, but all Christians to continue to "train yourself for godliness" in practical ways. He ends off by sharing how the upcoming YA retreat on heaven is a helpful follow-up to this passage!
As we finish our study in 1 Timothy, one verse that stood out to me in our studies was this:
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. (1 Tim 4:8)
Paul is very clear here. Train yourself for godliness, because it is of value in every way, as (read: because) it holds promise for life here and the life to come. Thinking logically, if this "promise" is the reason, then...
- Why do I want this promise?
- What exactly is this promise?
- What is this present and future thing?
How would you answer them? It’s worth pausing to reflect on these questions. But to go back to the original verse in 1 Tim, the verse speaks of a promise that comes with this training in godliness. To answer the question of why and what this promise is (question 1-2), we need to realise that everyone -- Christian and non-Christian -- worships a god. We all chase after and long for things that we think will make us whole. In more familiar terms, our age calls this "looking for fulfilment". Christians call this idolatry. Whether we look to money, sex, relationships, spouses, grades, identity, self-image - we are all chasing after something that we think will make us whole.
The Bible, God's Word, has something to say about that. God created us in his image - whole, complete, perfect (Gen 1); yet as a result of sin we were separated from him (Gen 3), for an unholy people cannot dwell with a Holy God. This is the result of the fall, and the problem we all have - we all have a God-shaped hole we are trying to fill. And this is the message of the gospel - that because we cannot be complete apart from God because we cannot be holy on our own, He sent Jesus to die on the cross to remove our sins and impute on us His righteousness (Rom 3).
God's promise to us is that we can and are holy through His Son, and now as born again believers we can and will dwell in his midst and we will be whole. We want this promise because we were made for more than money, sex, power etc. - we were made for Him.
Now, to answer the third question, we need to realise that God's promise to us has the dimension of time to it. Paul's writing in 1 Tim 4:8 draws on the idea that now that we believe, on this side of the cross we are already saved but we are not yet made perfect on this side of heaven. But if we break it down further, what does His promise mean in our present day practically? This is where I’m really excited, because it helps us to see the link to our YA retreat which will focus on the theme of heaven.
At the same time, we can turn to Paul's writings in 2 Cor for some help to understand God’s promise to us being lived out now, and fulfilled in the future:
For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. ... Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. (2 Cor 5:4, 8-9)
It means we now know what we are supposed to be – “at home with the Lord”. It means we live as we are called (Eph 4:1), to live this way because we were bought with a price (1 Cor 7:17). It means in the present day, we strive to live as we were originally designed and created - perfect and pleasing to God. And yet we groan as we are “still in this tent”, trapped in a body that is affected by sin and breaking down everyday. When we want to do right, evil lies close at hand (Rom 7:21). All of nature too, groans with us for God to make all things new and perfect and whole and good again (Rom 8:18-25). We know where we ought to be, but we are not there yet.
And God's Word has something to say about that too - He promises to make all things new.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. (Rev 21:3–7)
This is the amazing hope we are called to, and this is the great promise that is assured to us. Do we know this and are we secure in this promise?
This is just a small sample of what we'll be talking about at YA Retreat this year. That's what we mean when we say we are "Homeward Bound". As a community of saints and part of the household of God, this is what we do to “train for godliness”! If you would like to hear more and see exactly how this relates to ALL your life, join us and sign up by 13 May (tinyurl.com/gbcyaretreat2018)