Summary: If we are to run the race in life that God has set for us, we must develop a lifestyle of training to be like Jesus. As one noted basketball coach once stated, “The will to win is not nearly as important as the will to prepare to win.” This
Retraining the Mind, Body and Soul
In the ancient Greek Olympic games, an athlete would begin training at least 10 months before the race. This training involved rigorous discipline including the athlete’s diet, his sleep habits, exercise routine, and daily running. The goal was literally to punish the athlete’s body until he was in the best possible shape to win. Then, one month before the games, the athlete would move to Corinth, 10 miles from where the games were held. He was assigned a personal coach who put him through additional rigors in preparation for the race. This meant early rising and long days spent lifting weights, exercising, pushing himself to the edge of his strength and endurance. All this was done in order to prepare to run the race of his life. Whatever his success, it was due, to a great extent, to his preparation or training.
So it is in the Christian life. If we are to run the race in life that God has set for us, we must develop a lifestyle of training to be like Jesus. As one noted basketball coach once stated, “The will to win is not nearly as important as the will to prepare to win.” We Christians must prepare to win through training, discipline, and hard work. But here’s the problem: most of us here today have been Christians for at least a number of years, if not most of our lives and studies have found that the lives we are leading and the worldview we carry have very little resemblance to that of Jesus. The Barna Research Group discovered in his annual survey of the status of the Christian faith in American culture that only 9 percent of professing Christians have a biblical worldview. Because of this, today’s believers live very similarly to non-believers. In fact, in the survey the unchurched stated they can see no difference in the lives Christians lead and their own. That would seem to indicate that you and I not only need to enter training but many of us need to be retrained in how we think and perceive the world and how we live our lives so that we more closely emulate Jesus himself. Jesus came in human form so that he might show us what it means to live and serve God. It is his example that we called to follow. In Methodism, John Wesley called this sanctification, the process by which we become more and more like Jesus in our thoughts, words and deeds. We do that by becoming an apprentice of Jesus, learning to live and think as Jesus did.
In our Scripture today, Paul is writing to the church at Ephesus. The church at Ephesus was filled with Gentiles who had not worshipped in the Temple as Jews, but had come out of idol worship to faith in Jesus Christ, as a result of Paul’s ministry to them. So when Paul mentions “With regards to your former way of life”, the condition he’s speaking of is paganism, doing the things they used to do in their pagan worship and way of life. In many respects, the Roman life centered around physical and sexual desires. And for most he’s describing their former way of life too, recalling their former ways but also are reminding them that Jesus has rescued them from that way of life. What Paul discovered was that it was very difficult for these new Christians to maintain their new way of life, especially when surrounded by their former way of life. We all know how difficult it is to change our habits and our way of life.