Truthfully, how many times have you seen an ad like that and looked to see just what it was they were trying to sell? I’m willing to wager that most, if not all of us would have to confess we have looked at one time or another. Have you ever noticed that more and more of these promises seem to appear right after the holidays? The overindulgence of the season, plus the arrival of the New Year always makes it appear to be a wonderfully appropriate time to make a resolution to get into shape. I can’t help but wonder though, if it’s the season that makes us want to get into shape, should not the realization that we are in the season of God’s return make us desire to be in spiritual shape as well?
I have posted this study a couple of times in the past, and truthfully have taught it often during my ministry because it contains what I believe to be the basic principles of spiritual growth necessary for all of us. Any exercise program that promises to transform your look will contain certain steps that they believe are necessary to insure you get the results you are looking for. Believe it or not, the Word of God does the exact same thing by teaching us the steps we need to follow to transform our bodies into the shape God has intended them to be.
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12:1-2 NKJV
So we choose to give our bodies to God as a gift, and as Paul tells us, it needs to be holy and acceptable. But just how do we accomplish that? Well according to Paul, it is by transforming. The Greek word for "transformed" used here is "metamorphoō", from where we get the word "metamorphosis", which means “to change into another form, to transform, to transfigure” Now since the New Year is where many choose to make a resolution to change their physical appearance by going on a diet or committing to an exercise program, I thought we might look at how transforming our spiritual bodies could follow some of the same principles as the physical.
One of my favorite memories of raising daughters was the time one of them looked at some pictures of me taken when I was an athlete in college. Rather than saying how good I looked or what a fine example of physical fitness I was, her comment was; "why don't you look like that anymore?" So it was at that tender moment I decided maybe I should pay a little more attention to my personal exercise and fitness program. Of course, at the same time I was busy teaching about Paul's advice to new believers and as I began to lay out my own fitness program, I couldn't help but notice that the rules I came up with for physical fitness were very applicable for spiritual fitness. So let me share with you my three steps to getting in shape, spiritually first of course, but then the physical as well.
Desire. Now I know this might seem to be at first glance a simple, if not entirely logical first step, but I would like to make the point that it depends entirely on how you define desire. I rather like the biblical definition myself.
as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, 1 Peter 2:2 NKJV
The word used here for "desire" is "epipotheo'" which is translated “to long for, or to pursue with love”. Most importantly, however, is the fact that it is a verb. Now I would be the first to admit I have forgotten most of what I learned in English class, but I do remember what a verb is. It means action, doing something. To desire something in the biblical sense is not to just sit on the couch and wish for it, but to act upon that desire and pursue it. You have to make the effort. This is our first step to spiritual fitness; to truly desire to transform ourselves. What is it that we should desire? Paul says it is the "milk of the word", which to us as believers is knowledge of the scriptures, the word of God. This brings us to the second step.
Acquire. In order to begin to grow spiritually, we need the raw material which will make us strong. Just as our physical bodies need protein as part of our diet, our spiritual muscles need the protein we get from the word of God.
Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding. Proverbs 4:7 NKJV
Solomon tells us that as believers we need to "acquire" wisdom and "understanding". The Hebrew word used here for "get" is the verb "qanah", which means “to get, acquire, obtain”. Anyone who has ever tried to get in better physical shape understands the need to carefully monitor what we take in for nutrition. Certain things will help us grow the way we want, just as certain foods will help us grow as we don't want. The Bible makes it clear that in order to get in spiritual shape we need to acquire the knowledge and wisdom to be found in the word of God in order to become stronger believers.
Taking in the right spiritual food, though, won't help us accomplish our goal without the third and most important part of our program.
Perspire. Unfortunately this is the part of the program most people fail at when trying to transform their appearance. It starts out with exercise every day, then three days a week, then one, then "I just don't have the time". Exercise is an absolute when trying to get into shape, and it is no different when it comes to spiritual fitness.
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; Philippians 2:12 NKJV
You will never guess just how hard I had to look to find the words "work" and "out" used together in the Bible, not to mention the fact that they are two words and not one? Believe it or not, in the Bible it is one word translated as two and it is the Greek word "katergazomai", which means “to work out”, or “to do that from which something results.” When Paul tells the Philippians they need to "workout" their salvation, he is simply telling them that as believers, it is time for them to stop relying on his (Paul's) help since he has left them, and to begin to rely on God's help through the power of the Holy Spirit to live their lives in such a way as to glorify God. And, as you should have expected by now, the word “workout” in the Greek is also a verb.
In order to transform our lives into a gift to God which He will find pleasing, we must embrace the concept of action. The Christian life is a life of doing, not wishing. Desire, acquire, and perspire. Three verbs, three steps to becoming the believer God expects us to be. If you feel the need to make a New Years resolution, may it be to become the child of God He wants you to be. But don't wait too long, who knows how long we have left to get into shape?