Earlier in this school year, a student felt as if I had falsely accused him. We had a discussion, and I tried to explain to him the concept of being “above reproach.” I did not feel very successful, and I imagined that I was using a phrase that is unfamiliar to many.
Later that day I asked another student to help me break down “above reproach” into words that others would understand. She looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language, so I explained it this way: if I heard an accusation about a particular colleague, I would know it to be false because I have seen how he lives and the accusation just wouldn’t fit.
The proverbial light bulb went on, and she said, “Oh! Just say, ‘That’s my nigga.’” (I have come up with some ideas for t-shirts over the last few years, but I must admit that I never thought of a “Jesus is my nigga” t-shirt.) In essence, what she was saying is right. Her three-word expression could summarize three decades of knowledge. It captures this idea: I know that person, I’ve seen how they live, they wouldn’t do that, I’ve got their back.
A TALL ORDER
“Now the overseer must be above reproach,” 1 Timothy 3:2 a, NIV
“Train yourself to be godly,” 1 Timothy 4:7b, NIV
Many of us know where to find the words, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) Far fewer know where to find the instructions given to Timothy about living a godly life. Yes, it is true that we have fallen short. That shows our need for salvation. But the cross is not a stop sign; Jesus rose again and lives! We are called to do the same – not to just be saved, but to live out our salvation.
We are good at setting physical goals: walk daily, train for a race, go to Zumba classes, but how many of us have godliness goals? “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.” 1 Timothy 4:8, NIV.
I own Tony Horton’s P90X dvds, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at me. You see, my physical fitness will not improve from reading the instructions, thinking about the exercises, and changing nothing about my diet or exercise. Knowing the exercises will not help me unless I do them as well. And not just put them into practice, but to exercise daily.
WHAT IS YOUR GOAL
Most people would put P90X into practice for one reason – to improve their outward appearance. God asks us to improve our inward appearance. God gives no command to wear a “Jesus is my nigga” t-shirt, but your life is a living testimony to the salvation that has been made available to you. By your actions, you are spelling out to others who Jesus is.
“Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” 1 Timothy 4: 15, 16, NIV
That deserves to be read again because it is powerful. What we do, and what we believe, is of great influence. So now you have to pick a starting point. You cannot hop off the couch and run a marathon, but you could go for a walk. Identify your starting point.
Yesterday I teasingly asked my friend, an Ohio State fan, who would win the “Ineligi-Bowl” (Ohio State played Penn State, and both are ineligible for postseason games). His response was a simple, “That hurts. That’s not the Doug I know.” When you consistently live a certain way, others will notice when you act outside of your character. But even more importantly, we are called to examine what makes up our character – our person.
If my neighbor (or Jesus..one and the same?) asked my sons, “Does Doug yell at the dog when it sneaks on to the couch?”, my sons would have to answer “Yes.” Sadly, they have seen it. I could try to explain that I would yell less if God had made the dog hairless, but He didn’t. But if I ask myself a series of “why” questions, I could get this line of thinking exposed:
I yell because I want him to obey me. I want him to obey me because I want to be in control. I want to be in control because I don’t trust others to be in control. I don’t trust others because I still want to earn my way and prove myself worthy.
Perhaps that’s a little deep for a dog on the couch, but I have examined myself and found areas to improve. You will need grace to go on this journey, but you do need to go on this journey. Examine yourself and find your hot spots. Set goals for yourself and read the manual (the Bible). Put those things into practice daily. And listen to your coach!
“He (Jesus) appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory. “ 1 Timothy 3:16b Jesus lived above reproach perfectly because we cannot, but he still asks us to follow him along the path. Make today the day you start walking.