Four or five times a week I work out at a gym. John Glidewell graciously and patiently allows me to workout with him. This is not a new experience. I been involved in exercise programs for over 20 years.

Why? Why exercise all that time? Why go to a gym and get into a physical fitness program? Why pay someone to sweat and strain and get sore? Different people have different reasons--and there are many, many reasons. Let me note just three reasons.

Some people work out to compete or to prepare for some form of competition. If you work out at the gym to compete with other people who work out, you will always meet someone who is stronger, bigger, and better developed than you are.

Some people work out to feel better about themselves. They use exercise to build their self-esteem, self-image, or self-confidence. That has merit. But it also has risk. With age and time, we lose physical ability. If we completely invest our concept of self in our physical bodies, we face a major crisis when our bodies decline.

Some people work out for the sake of their health. They want to become and to be the healthiest that they can be.

I knew before I began to work out that I had no interest in competing with anyone. I surely am glad I realized that! Competing is not an option for me! Sometimes I struggle to lift the bar with no weight on it! But this is true: if I could lift ten pounds more than someone, that would not make me more significant than that person.

I also realized that I did not want to define my person with my body. With my body, that is also fortunate! My body is just the house I live in while I am on this earth. "Me" is the person who resides in that house. "Me" will continue to live after this body dies.

Physically, I wanted to be the healthiest person that I can become. I want to be the healthiest I can be because I want to use my life to its fullest. There are many things I yet want to do with my life, and a healthy body is critical to doing those things.

Making a long term commitment to working out is the commitment to becoming and being. That becoming and being is based on a number of discoveries. Each discovery opens a door to new possibilities.

In that there is an important parallel between the long term commitment to exercise and the long term commitment to being a Christian.

  1. In the New Testament, the Christians who were the church at Colossae had difficulty understanding a basic truth about Christian existence. Paul talked to them about their misunderstanding in Colossians 3:5-11.
    1. They had a hard time understanding that their existence before they became Christians and their existence after they became Christians were contrasting existences.
    2. The person each of them was before becoming a Christian and the person each of them was after becoming a Christian were distinctly different persons.
      1. When they became Christians, they did not become members of a club, or a fraternity, or a social organization--it was not a membership thing, it was a becoming thing.
      2. Becoming a Christian was much more than changing habits or accepting responsibilities.
      3. As a Christian person, he or she actually became something that never existed before.
    3. Since they as persons had become something that never existed before, their behavior, their moral conduct, and their relationships should reflect this new existence.
      1. Since what they now were had not existed previously, a radical transition had occurred.
      2. That radical change should be evident :
        1. In the way they used their bodies.
        2. n the way they used their lives.
        3. In all their relationships.
    4. This new person who now existed should understand that he or she has a new reason for existing.
      1. Before this new person existed, the old person was concerned about the physical, about now, about sensual gratification, about possessing.
      2. In the old person, those concerns controlled their thinking, their desires, and their ambitions.
      3. Those things controlled their daily conduct and focused their daily lives.
      4. Those also were the things that made them God's enemies and stirred God's just anger.
    5. Paul said, "But Jesus taught us and showed us that life is not about the physical, the now, sensual gratification, or the hunger to possess."
      1. "The person that you were before you became a Christian:
        1. Indulged sexual desires by being sexually active outside of marriage.
        2. Pursued the yearnings and desires of greed.
        3. And both of these are forms of idolatry--they controlled you, and you served them."
      2. "If you believe and understand that being in Christ makes you a different person, then you will make these commitments:
        1. The commitment to end sexual indulgence.
        2. The commitment to kill greed within you.
        3. The commitment to destroy both of these idols in your life--you serve Christ, not the idols of sexual desire and greed."
      3. "You will bring to an end all forms of abusive speech."
      4. "You will stop lying to each other."
      5. "These things characterized the old person you were.
        1. They do not reveal the new person you have become.
        2. They should have died in you when the old person you were died."
    6. "Let your body, your behavior, and your daily life reveal the new person."
      1. "This new person is in a constant state of renovation.
        1. Your mind, your understanding, your concepts are in a continual state of transition, in a constant state of reconstruction.
        2. How do you sustain this continual state of transition, this constant state of reconstruction? Not by the false teachings about Christ you heard, but by the correct knowledge of Christ."
      2. "Jesus created us.
        1. He created me physically, because he was God's agent of creation when God created people.
        2. He created me spiritually when he forgave me and brought me into spiritual existence as a child of God.
        3. As my accurate knowledge and understanding of Jesus grows, the renovation and reconstruction of my life progresses."
      3. "Everyone in Christ, no matter who he or she is, no matter where he or she came from, from the lowest of the low to the highest of the high is in a continual state of renovation."

  2. Please allow me to call two important facts to your attention.
    1. Fact number one: Paul was writing to people who had been Christians for a while.
      1. Obviously, these Christians did not grasp the full meaning of their baptism.
      2. Their comprehension of what had happened in their lives at their baptism was incomplete.
      3. They did not understand God's powerful act of placing them in Christ.
        1. God just a surely performed that spiritual, creative act as He performed the creative act that brought physical life in existence.
        2. They were new persons because of God's act.
      4. Even though they did not fully comprehend what happened, even though they did not correctly understand what happened, it still happened.
      5. They needed to grow in their understanding of what happened because they needed to begin the process of renovating their lives.
      6. They needed to bring their physical lives into harmony with the new person God made them.
        1. That renovation would not proceed on the basis of the false information they had heard about Jesus Christ.
        2. It would proceed on the correct knowledge of Jesus Christ.
        3. Understanding the image of Jesus would produce the reconstruction of their lives.
    2. Fact number two: They needed a serious commitment to reflect the new person in their physical lives.
      1. God spiritually re-created them when they were baptized into Christ.
        1. He forgave them and breathed spiritual life into them.
        2. He purified them and clothed them in Christ.
      2. But they had not put on their new natures.
        1. This new "self" was not yet revealed in their behavior and relationships.
        2. In Colossians 3:12-17 Paul is very specific about the expressions of the new "self:"
          1. Compassion
          2. Kindness
          3. Humility
          4. Gentleness
          5. Forbearance toward others
          6. Forgiveness
          7. Love
          8. Peace
          9. Gratitude
        3. God gives us our new spiritual existence, but we must renovate our lives; we must allow these qualities to control our physical existence.

  3. When we are baptized, we tend to view the Christian life as a very "doable" commitment.
    1. At first we think it is just a matter of deeds--replace bad habits and acts with good habits and acts.
    2. Then we learn it involves our thinking--so it requires some re-education.
    3. Then we learn it involves our emotions--so we need to change the way we feel, and transition begins to get complicated.
    4. Then we learn it involves our motives--so we must deal with why we do what we do, and that is more complicated.
    5. And then we begin to learn how entwined evil is within our deepest self.
      1. We realize that the facts we believe, the stands we take, and the doctrines we defend are actually spiritual kindergarten.
      2. We begin to wake up to the real "me" and we see how much reconstruction the real "me" needs.
      3. That is when we finally understand how totally dependent we are on the forgiveness, mercy, and love of God every day.
    6. Every time we reach a new level of understanding, we face a new challenge of putting on the new self, of making renovations in our lives.
    7. That is when we discover that being a Christian involves much more:
      1. Than belonging to Christ's church.
      2. Than defending Christian principles.
      3. Than deciding a position to take on an issue.
      4. Than preserving our religious heritage.
      5. Certainly, each of these has a level of importance and significance.
    8. But we discover that there is something more important, more significant, that lies deep within the foundation of the new self.
      1. Being a Christian is a constant process of becoming; we are constantly growing toward the image of Jesus.
      2. We are constantly concerned about the renovation of our lives.
      3. We are always involved in the process of putting on the new self.

As Christians, you and I are not in competition. You are not measured by me, and I am not measured by you. No two Christians start renovating life at the same place. No two Christians need identical renovations. The process of renovation may not even look similar. The starting point for each of us does not matter. No matter where the staring point is for each of us, we all are involved in the same process--the process of putting on the new self.

Were you to ask me what I am trying to prove at the gym, I would tell you, "Nothing. I go because I am in the process of becoming, of being, not of trying to prove something." Were you to ask me what I am trying to prove as a Christian, I would tell you, "Nothing. I am in the process of becoming, of being, not of trying to prove anything."

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 16 February 1997

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