1) 1 Timothy 1:1-2 (Part 1): A True Child of the Faith
2) 1 Timothy 1:1-2 (Part 2): A True Child of the Faith
3) 1 Timothy 1:3-4: Walking by Faith in the Truth of God
4) 1 Timothy 1:5-8: God's Goal for Your Life and Church
5) 1 Timothy 1:5: Raising a Disciple --Following the Example of Lois and Eunice
6) 1 Timothy:18b-19: Steering Clear of Shipwreck
First Timothy 1:1-2 (Part 1): A True Child in the Faith
He stood there barely 16 years old, looking down at a dead man. Again, a man had been ripped out of this teenager’s life. He had lost his father when he was just a child. His mother and his grandmother raised him. And when the other kids made allusion to him being illegitimate or a foreigner or a half -breed, he had no one to run to but his grandma and his mom. His father was a Greek. His mother was Jewish. He did not belong to either group. His grandmother had taught him about his ancestors, taught him about Elohim, Adonai, the Creator of the universe who made everything and was guiding life behind the scenes. His grandmother taught him about Yahweh, the deliverer of his ancestors from slavery in Egypt to their promised land. His grandmother also taught him about Jehovah Jireh, the God who provides. When there was nothing to eat, Jehovah Jireh would be the provider, the sustainer. Then a little man with a hooked nose, a bald head, and crooked legs came walking into town and started talking about Yeshua Hamashea, Jesus the Messiah, the Sent One from God. And he caused quite a stir because as he talked about Him, things started happening. A man who had been lame from birth, who had never walked in his life, suddenly by the power of Yeshua Hamashea got up and started walking. The people were astonished. They declared, “He must be a god.” And they tried to worship him. Because he talked so much and had such good things to say, he must be Hermes, a messenger of the gods. They wanted to offer sacrifices to him. But this little guy says, “No, wait a minute. I am a man just as you are, but I came to tell you about the living God who is the creator of heaven and earth and everything that is in them. And He sent His Son as Savior, as Redeemer.” At hearing about the death and resurrection of this “Son of God” the crowd turned angry, immediately. They took up stones and started throwing them at him and stoned him to the point where they were sure he was dead. They dragged his battered, bruised body through the streets from the city square, hundreds of yards outside the gate and dumped it. Around that lifeless body gathered a few people who heard his message and believed. They started praying and that man got up and walked back into the city. That man’s name was Paul, Paul the apostle. And that teenager was Timothy.
And we do not know for certain that Timothy was actually standing there when Paul got up from the stoning, but what we do know is Paul’s visit to that city made such an impact on Timothy’s life that two years later when Paul returns to his city, he had a reputation as a devoted follower of Jesus. Paul invited him to follow during his missionary journeys. For fifteen years they walk together. They walked a long way.
To give you an idea just look at the map of the area they covered. They traveled from the Middle East through Greece, back to Jerusalem, eventually all the way to Rome. Fifteen years they traveled side by side, Paul pouring his life into Timothy. On the top, just above Israel, you see the name of a city called Tarsus; that is where Paul was from. I tell you that because it is important. Paul was respected as a leader of the Pharisees. Although he was highly educated it was unusual for someone, if you will, an outsider, born outside of Jerusalem to be such a highly respected Pharisee. His drivenness and passion impressed all those who meet him. Just a little bit to the west of that you have a city called Lystra and that is where the story I told you about occurs. That is Timothy’s hometown where he lived with his mother Eunice and his grandmother Lois. And from there Paul and Timothy on the second journey start walking and to the cities where several of the pastoral epistles were written--Philippi, Thessalonica, Corinth, Colossi, and then to Ephesus. Fifteen years of being together, of melding lives, of mentoring, of shaping, of helping. Timothy is the one that Paul sends to Thessalonica and to Berea and to other places as his troubleshooter. There were some doctrinal problems in Ephesus and Paul trusted Timothy to take care of them. There were false teachers there and he left Timothy there to straighten them out.
Turn to 1 Timothy chapter one. Let us begin to look at what Paul says to his beloved companion, now in his thirties. Even in his thirties, Timothy is considered a youth. Paul writes to encourage him, “Do not let anyone look down upon your youth,” challenging him to be bold and courageous to do what he knows is right. In 1 Timothy 3:15 Paul says, “I write this so if I am delayed you will know how the people ought to conduct themselves in God’s house there in Ephesus which is the church of the living God and the pillar and foundation of truth.” The church is to be the pillar and foundation of truth and it must teach that. He addresses very practical issues all through this book--prayer, gender roles, separation of church and state, world evangelism, leadership and pastoral qualifications, relational dynamics between the generations, social involvement, social work, and the use and misuse of money, to name a few.
The principles he talks about are relevant for us, for our families. First Timothy 1:18-19: “Timothy, my son, I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophesies once made about you so that by following them you may fight the good fight. It is not going to be easy but hold on to the faith and have a good conscience, do the right things. Some have rejected these things and so have shipwrecked their faith.” Shipwrecked their faith! Shipwreck comes to those who lose or throw away their moral and spiritual compass and just make decisions based on how they feel or the opinions of the world around them. It is like flying a plane by feeling rather than the instrument panel. Experienced pilots will tell you that that is a bad idea. When you are traveling through clouds or bad weather piloting a plane by feeling can be fatal. The pilot cannot tell exactly how the plane is steering or the rate of descent or ascent. It has happened where a pilot has lost instrument panel function and come out of a cloud only to strike a mountain, killing all on board. “It feels like I am going up. It feels like I am going down.” God says, “I have given you the instruments by which you can guide your life. This is truth. This is rightness. You can trust that it is reliable and will be effective for your life.” Times and cultures change but the principles God gives us in His Word will guide and protect our lives, our families, and our country if we put them into practice.
The church of Ephesus has a history of false teachers. Paul repeatedly warned the leaders. “For three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears that false teachers will arise even from your very midst like wolves after the sheep” (Acts 20:29). In 1 Timothy it comes up three times, “watch for false teaching.” And in his letter to the Ephesians he implores them, “No longer be like little kids believing everything you hear, tossed back and forth by the waves and blown here and there by every kind of teaching or by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speak the truth in love and in all things grow up to be like Jesus. From Christ the whole body grows and is strengthened in love as each part joins and works together.” That is God’s plan for the church. So he says, “Stay on course.”
With this background information, let us begin to look at the book of 1 Timothy. Verse one: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope to Timothy my true son in the faith. Grace mercy and peace from God the father and Christ Jesus the Lord.” This introductory greeting to the book comes with great authority. Authority conveyed by God Himself to Paul and now transferred to Timothy. He is telling the Ephesians, “Listen to him. He knows what he is saying.” I want you to notice in these opening verses Paul refers to “our” three times. And if you read this book after reading the other epistles, you see there is a distinctly different style. It comes many years after he has written the other epistles. He is still the author but he has grown and matured. In this personal letter there is a great sense of family. It is “our” Savior, “our” hope, and “our” Lord. Paul wants to emphasize that we are in this together.
“Paul.” Paul is described by those closest in dating him in the second century as a little man, a man of small stature with a bald head and crooked legs, in good state of body with eyebrows meeting and a nose somewhat hooked and full of friendliness and the power of the Spirit. The Corinthian church had opponents of Paul who did not like him because he was “unimpressive in personal presence.” Some people like the charismatic speakers, they trust them, and want to follow them. They think that manner of speech must give validity to the message. Not Paul. Paul would not stand out in a crowd. He could not talk ‘good’. No one wanted to listen to him just to hear the beauty of his words. He said, “I did not come to you with eloquence or fine words but with the Spirit’s power.” But his spiritual stature was unsurpassed. I tell you this because many of you do not like the way that you look. You do not think you can talk ‘good’. You are not sure what you can do. You are just average. You may even consider yourself below average. Paul was certainly below average in appearance. But God’s Spirit was in him to help him complete the task God called him to. And that same spirit is in you. As Paul admonished Timothy, “You have not been given the spirit of timidity but the spirit of boldness through the power of the Holy Spirit.” Paul was little in physical stature but powerful in spirit and was selected by Jesus Christ Himself to be an apostle to the gentiles. Apostle means “sent one”, commissioned as a representative conveying the authority and message of the one from whom he is being sent. This little man was chosen by Jesus Himself to represent Him to the gentile world.
I want you to notice three times it says “Christ Jesus.” We are familiar with this name because we have heard it a number of times. The other authors say “Jesus Christ” and we normally talk about “Jesus Christ.” But Paul, for some reason, says “Christ Jesus.” Do you have any idea why? Think back how the other gospel writers met Jesus. They met him as Jesus, the man, the son of Mary. And then learned that He was the Christ, recognized He was the Christ. “You are Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the living God,” Peter said. But Paul met Jesus another way. Paul met Jesus on the Damascus road. He was a severe persecutor of the early Christians and suddenly he was struck blind by a vision and by the sound of God Himself saying, “I am Jesus.” The Christ appeared to him. “I am the one you are persecuting. I am Jesus.” He saw Him first as Christ, the powerful one, a perfect representative of God Himself, sent from God and then learned who was speaking. It is Jesus Himself. So, he knows Him as “Christ Jesus.”
Then he goes on and says, “By the command of God and Christ Jesus.” Paul did not grow up wanting to be an apostle. He was recruited by God Himself, by the command of God. Paul had to choose to follow God’s command. But God said, “Follow me and I will make you the apostle to the Gentiles and you will speak even before kings.” God sought Paul to be His apostle to the gentiles. It was not a position Paul applied for!
And then notice it says, “God our Savior.” That just seems like another phrase to us, at first. “God our Savior,” “Jesus our Savior,” “Jesus is Lord,” all those kind of terms are common to us, now. But this is very unusual in Scripture. It only occurs a few times in the Old Testament and only in this Timothy passage in the New Testament pastoral epistles. “God our Savior.” Paul is specifically addressing something that was going on at that time. Nero was the emperor. Nero made a decree that he was the savior of the world. He was going to bring peace to the world and he demanded that all the world address him as god-savior, that he was divine, and that he was the savior of the world. Paul basically said, “No way. There is one savior and it is God our Savior.” This is also in contrast to the Roman and Greek gods of the day. Remember how those Greek gods were vengeful, often capricious, doing what they felt like doing for their own benefit. They were generally not on the side of the people. Caring, loving, and compassion were not their strengths. Paul said, “Your gods, the Roman gods, the Greek gods are in no way saving, but the living God is a Savior. He comes for your life, to save your life.”
And then “Christ Jesus our hope.” He is called “our hope” because He is the only hope we have, the only proof we have of a resurrection. That there is more to this life than living 50, 60, 70, 80, 90 years and then poof, we are gone. He is the firstborn of the resurrection, guaranteeing us there is more to this life than what we hear and see in the world around us. He has prepared a place for us—“surely I will come back for you and take you that you may be where I am.” He is the hope of resurrection. It is this hope that should govern our lives because the fulfillment of this hope will last forever.
And then finally, “to Timothy.” Timothy means “one who honors God.” Eunice, his mother, named him “one who honors God.” Thus saying, “I want my son to be one who honors God, who trusts God, who follows God, who brings good reputation to God’s name rather than dishonor.” Timothy was raised by a single mother. But that was not a debilitating force for him because his mother and grandmother poured love and truth into him. This letter is addressed to Timothy and so this is a very personal letter. It is also not a private letter because it is meant to be read by the whole church that they might know what Paul and Timothy want to happen in the church, what needs to happen, and that Timothy has the authority and wisdom to declare what needs to happen.
Timothy is not like Paul and Peter, older and more respected. He is young for the responsibility he held. At the time Paul wrote this letter, Timothy was in his early thirties. He is also noted as being faced with temptations that often approach us when we are younger. Paul writes to him twice, both in 1 Timothy and 2 Timothy. “Flee youthful lusts.” Flee youthful desires. Get away from them because they are going to destroy your heart and life. He is also known to be a little shy. A number of times he is told to be bold. “You have been given the spirit of boldness.” Paul writes to the Corinthians. “Corinthians, give the kid a break. He has a good heart. Greet him, encourage him, refine and help him with his gifts.” He is also known to sometimes have some health problems--an upset stomach of some kind. It may have been physical or it may have just been from all the stress he was under because of the problems in Ephesians. He had a lot of things weighing on his shoulders, a lot of things to face. And sometimes it can really disrupt your whole digestive track. But he has called Timothy “my true son in the faith.” My true son in the faith! You have to understand how that would feel to Timothy, having no father in his life. “Timothy is my son,” Paul says. “I claim him. I adopt him into my family. I have poured my life into him and I wish he was my very own son, but he is my son in the faith. I love him that much.”
In sum, Paul tells Timothy, “In the church you are going to need all of the Christian graces, especially there in Ephesus. You are going to need all the grace that God can pour into your life because God wants to pour your life into them whether they deserve it or not, to give nothing but your best for them, to pour your life out regardless of whether they deserve it or not. They are going to do some things to you that are going to require you to forgive them. They are going to be mean. They are going to be hurtful. [In fact, Timothy is murdered 30 years after this letter is written, right there in Ephesus. He is a martyr for the faith.] And all through that period of being there, ‘Timothy,’ you are going to need the mercy of God to not hold a grudge against them but to be loving and kind, to forgive them more than they deserve as God has forgiven you. And then peace. Not simply for your stomach but for your heart. Tranquility in the sense that you are in harmony with God and God is watching over your life no matter the circumstances you are going through.” That is what Paul wants for Timothy. And that is what Paul wants for you--grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
All that leads us to our very first clear direction for His church--to be a child of faith. To be a true child of the faith! The word used for child is “techna” which is not gender specific. It just means a child and by the context the reader determines whether it is a male or female, whether it is a son or a daughter. And Paul calls him “my true child in the faith” because women and men are both loved and empowered by God to walk with Him. To be a true child in the faith, what is required? To be like Timothy, what is needed? How can you live up to that kind of standard? Very simply, it starts by allowing yourself to be directed by God’s truth, living by what God says and not how you feel. Believing what God says, not by what the world says. By trusting Him, by basing your life on something more important and more lasting than the newspaper. By reading and studying His Word rather than the latest novel or the latest book. This book has been assailed for 2,000 years, and critics keep finding out more and more how accurate it is, historically accurate, psychologically accurate, how powerful it is for lives.
We live in what is called the post-modern age. The “modern age” is called the Age of Enlightenment when reason and science were taking over with promises of solving all the world’s problems, filling all hearts with fulfillment and reasons for living. But we have discovered that the promise is empty. While science has helped us solve a lot of our problems, and why wouldn’t it because God created this world with benefits for us to find, it has created other problems more threatening and failed to satisfy the human heart. Because we have seen the failure of simple human logic and humanistic science, we are in what some call “the post-modern age.” We will no longer trust simple logic and information but “how I feel is how I will guide my actions, my personal truth, what is good for me. Whatever is right for you, is right for you, what is right for me is me.” I have news for you. I think you know already. Your opinion does not determine truth. Fact, truth, determines whether your opinion is accurate or not. That is what Paul declares.
Truth should realign your heart, your priorities, what is important, what is valuable, what is meaningful in your life. Not the other way around! And then from that heart should flow a transformed life. Could you call yourself, would you call yourself a true child in the faith? There is a very simple test for it. Just look at what we have written already. You are a true child in the faith if you are directed by God’s truth. “This is the standard by which I choose to live. I will rely upon it. I will trust it. I believe it will be good for my life.” You are a true child of faith, then, if you let it realign your heart by God’s standards rather than by your own feelings and what others are doing around you. Christians by design should be different from the rest of the world because they are going by a different standard. God does not just give you a big list of rules and say, “Ok, you are on your own. Go do these things.” But He says, “I will be with you. I will empower you. I will strengthen you to be able to accomplish all that I have demanded of you. I give you help. I do not just lift up a standard. I want all men and women everywhere to worship Me in spirit and truth and I will empower anyone who is willing to do so!”
For 2,000 years, people have found that a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, through the good times and the bad, makes a great difference in their lives. It is not logic, more knowledge, or cultivating exciting and novel feelings, it is God Himself residing in hearts and minds that matters. And it is His truth that guides us into that relationship and His Spirit that facilitates it.
1 Timothy 1:1-2 (Part 2): A True Child of the Faith
What is your greatest concern? Where is your burden? What is coming into your life that grabs your attention and all too often causes worry, frustration, anger? What is going on in your life? What is around the bend that you are concerned about? It may be something as simple as “the kids are getting older and I knew I should have started that college fund ten years ago because now it is getting nothing but worse and I do not know how we are going to be able to afford it. I want to give my kids the best future I can, but it is going to be pretty close to impossible. Not just college tuition, but then there are the cars, the lodging, and all the other things they have to have. We are barely making it now. How are we going to deal with it?” And you add that future stress to the sound you heard in your car this last week when the transmission starting going ka-chunk, ka-ka-ka chunk, ka-ka chunk. You say, “Oh, great. There goes another $2,000.” Financial pressures mounting in your life? Or perhaps it is a little tightness in your chest. “What’s that? Too much pizza, I hope.” Or you start having headaches and it is not like the usual headaches you get. Health concerns. Or perhaps it is, you have a teenager and you are starting to see him or her hang around some kids that you just are not sure of, you do not know, you do not know what they are getting into. You feel like you are losing control. And actually you are, because you are trying to foster their independence yet at the same time you want to maintain some accountability from them. And how do you balance those things? Or maybe it is your marriage and it has taken some pretty hard hits lately and you are just not sure if this next incident might just put it over the top and cause disaster. Or you look in the mirror every morning and you see the years are catching up with you. You did a good job putting them off for a long time, but now gravity is taking its effect. Skin tone is not quite the way it used to be. “The scale has got to be wrong!” And you are just concerned about the way you are looking. Concerns rise up in your heart. What is yours? Finances? Appearance? Your kids? Your marriage? I want you to put that in your mind. I want you to verbalize it to yourself for a minute so you have it on the shelf because I want you to look at that through this message and sense that God understands and God wants to help. What is your concern?
I do have good news for you. The good news is that God can help and God wants to help. He has written it down for you. He has given you a guide for life because He loves you. He has not given you a boring book, a boring history book, a boring theological treatise, but guidelines for life. The Old Testament is full of stories of men and women and what happens when they go their own way and what happens when they go God’s way. Becoming a Christian is the first step in walking with God. He says, “I do not want to see you destroy your life, destroy your relationships. I do not want to see you go through those concerns alone. I want to be with you in them. There is going to be damage in your life. There is going to be problems in your life, but I will be with you to help you through those things. The world is what it is. It follows after the evil one and just living in the world of fallen men and women will bring hurt and trouble but I want to go through it with you.” Remember what Jesus said? Jesus said very clearly, “Troubles you will always have with you.” It is your choice whether you want to go through them alone or with God. Being a Christian is not a guarantee against trouble but it is a guarantee that God will be with you to strengthen you during good times and bad. It is a guarantee that if you follow His principles and seek a personal relationship with Him your life will matter more than if you kept your life for yourself!
When Katie and I were in California, we went up to Big Bear. If you live in LA, you go up to Big Bear to go snow skiing by driving some windy mountain roads. And I had fun. I rented a red Mustang sport with white stripes and it was fun driving those roads. But it was also a scary drive because when you go up the back way to Big Bear, the way we go, it is a very high, very steep mountain road for about three miles with few guardrails. And just two weeks before that, before we were there, one of my sister’s friend’s daughters was killed on that same road because she did not make one of the corners. She went right off where there was no guardrail. God gives you His word as a guard for your life. He does not put those things in there to make your life miserable, to restrain you, but to protect your life.
We are looking at 1Timothy. If you remember, Paul was writing to his best friend, Timothy, whom he met in his very first missionary journey. Timothy had established such a sterling reputation in the whole area that they knew that he stood for God. And Paul said, “Timothy, would you come with me and walk with me wherever God leads?” And they walked all over Asia. They traveled thousands of miles to cities throughout that region teaching and planting scores of churches. And when there was a problem, Paul would often send Timothy or leave Timothy behind to deal with the problems. Timothy was in Ephesus when Paul wrote him this letter. And Ephesus had major problems. Ephesus had a non-Christian mentality. It had a prevalent counter-Christian philosophy. Some influencial people were telling lies about who Jesus is and who God is and Paul leaves Timothy there to teach the truth to these people. Unfortunately, the lies that were prevalent there are still prevalent in our society.
How can you be a true child in the faith? It starts with an understanding of what God has to say in His Word. Secondly, one determines to realign your heart with it. You let it determine the boundaries, the guardrails for you heart, allow it to help you order your thinking and attitudes. And then finally, you live in light of God’s truth. Even the greatest concerns that weigh you down, even the biggest ‘Goliaths’ will take a fall when they stand before God’s truth! If you understand His truth, let your heart be aligned to it, and live in its light you are a true child in the faith.
Let us look at 1 Timothy 1:1-2, again. “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and Christ Jesus our hope. To Timothy, my true son in the faith. Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” The first few times you read this it sounds like a typical Bible “howdy.” A bunch of flowery, theological words rather than just saying “Dear Timothy.” But there is so much more here. Paul is addressing Timothy in the heat of a spiritual battle and says, “You have a God with you that will equip you, who will enable you to fight this spiritual battle, to stand firm on the truth because anything short of this truth is going to lead to shipwreck, not only of your faith but also of the whole church in Ephesus."
The first thing I want to point out is how it focuses on the word “our.” I mentioned this in Part 1, but now I want you to see it in its theological sense. Christianity is not just a moral philosophy. It is not just a list of rules or a theory of life. It is primarily about a relationship between you and the God who created you, who wants to spend eternity with you, who wants to help you through these troubled days for your eternal benefit. He wants to be part of your life. His involvement is not just reserved for heaven. It is also for you here and now. Paul says we are all drawn together into one body and it is an “our” relationship as well as a “you and Him” relationship.
There are two dimensions to this. The first is a relationship, the “our” that means “you and me.” Pastor Dave and the church called Trinity Evangelical Free. Paul and Timothy and the church at Ephesus. God has gifted us to work together, to live together, to grow and be strengthened in love as we work together. The “our” is so vital in the Christian life. Many of you are thinking about your problem right now and feel like you are all alone. But you have to know there are probably a dozen other people in this congregation facing that same problem or have faced it in the past and have now gotten through it and would love to encourage your heart, would love to say “I went through that and God was amazing in what He is able to do. God was with me. God helps. God made a difference. I could have probably survived it without God, because people survive things without God every day, but because I had God with me, things worked out in amazing ways.” The “our” is vitally important to our spiritual life and to be part of the “our” is not just coming to the church service and singing songs and listening to me talk. It is getting connected with one another. That is why we are always hyping and promoting ABFs and Shepherding groups and different activities going on so you can get acquainted, get connected and start sharing your life with others.
The second dimension of the “our” is you and God. You have a God that is big enough to handle whatever concern you happen to have. Let me diagram it like this. You are just kind of going along and all of a sudden ‘ka-pow’. Something hits you and you suddenly have a vital concern that is consuming your whole life. But I want you to know that concern has its limits but the One who walks with you through that concern has no limit. There is a God who is bigger than any concern that you can have. He understands it. He has seen it a thousand times before. He is not bored with it but He wants to work in your life and help you through it. And when you bring that concern to Him, you realize that He is plenty big enough to deal with this. All of a sudden that problem itself starts to shrink. It does not consume your whole vision anymore. You start having perspective. Christianity is a religion of personal pronouns. “You” accept Christ as “your” personal Savior. “You” have a relationship with Jesus Christ, not just a philosophy on life, not just a moral belief, but a relationship.
The second part of this whole thing is aligning your heart with God. Look at some of the guardrails. There are four directives, statements, or descriptives in these two verses concerning who God is and who Jesus is that were vital for the Ephesian church to grasp. First it talks about God being our Savior. Nero was claiming to be God and Savior of the world, the one who had brought peace to the Roman empire. But Paul answerd, “There is one Savior and, ‘Nero,’ you are not Him.” You have a Savior who may not prolong your life, but holds your life in His hand and can do more for it with eternal significance than you can do by yourself. You all realize you all are going to die, don’t you! Some of us get early release. Some of us have to go and do extra duty. Our world has a habit of trying to hold on to life because that is all there is and so they will prolong it as long as they can no matter how miserable it is rather than saying, “Jesus, take me.” Life is precious! Life should be protected and sustained, but there is more than mere physical life and the here and now. God our Savior saves us not only from sin but saves us from spiritual death, as well.
Ever see a 32-year old going to high school? “It is a scary world out there. I am not sure I want to go out on my own.” How sad! There is life beyond high school. There is life beyond here and now. Grow, enjoy, use what you have been given. Realizing you have a God who is your Savior should color the way you think about your life. God is our Savior both from the sin that resides within us and the sin that lies in our environment. If we let Him, God will remake both us and our environment! That is our great hope. Such a remaking will be total in the future but we can live that now as a sort of firstfruits of the future promise. If we live according to His will and principles our inner man will change and we will also create an environment free from much of the sinful ‘stuff’ that plagues our lives.
It says, “Jesus Christ, your hope.” Where are your values resting? Are all your hopes materialistic and earthbound? If you were to leave this world with the thirsts you have developed here but without the possibility of fulfilling them what would you long for? Would you find any satisfaction in the things of God? Or, based on your earthly longings would the things of God be dull and distasteful, even revolting, to you? When Paul died his great hope was realized because he met Jesus face-to-face and he was in a better place. The things of this world held little draw for him. The rich man in Jesus’ parable left all his dreams and hopes behind when he died and felt that inner emptiness and longed for just one drop of satisfaction (Luke 16:22-26). Where is your main hope, and when you die, then what?!
And then finally, “Jesus our Lord.” Is Jesus Christ your Lord? Are you using Him as the model for your relationships and behaviors? Are you doing what He says in terms of marriage, in terms of friendship, in terms of business ethics? He cares about your life and says, “I have come to teach you, to give you a model of how to live, of what is important. Each of us belong to Christ, individually. All of us belong to Christ, communitarially. He is our Lord, yours and mine. He is not concerned with just you, or me, but he cares about each and everyone of His children, individually and as a community fitly joined together in graciousness and love (1 Corinthians 13).
Paul told Timothy, “Timothy, you need all of God’s grace because you are going to be dealing with some lousy behaving people. They are going to be in the church. They are going to be outside the church. You are going to need all of God’s grace because people are going to be mean to you, are going to do you wrong. But God has called you to be gracious.” Grace leaves room for repentance. Harshness and revenge lock sinful people into adversarial roles. God is longsuffering because He wants people to repent; He leaves room for them to repent (Romans 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9). By His grace we are to leave room for repentance. This does not mean we become enablers for sin but it does mean we are willing to forgo revenge and welcome reconciliation based on repentance—just like God does with us. Paul tells Timothy, “I am asking God to give you grace that you may be gracious to others. I am asking God to give you mercy that you might be merciful to others.”
God wants you to be merciful because He cares about your marriage. He cares about your relationship with your kids. We must be careful what we say and do when angry. We must make it easy to come back together when the emotional storm blows away. Seeking to build peace into relationships fulfills Jesus’ directive to be “peacemakers.” Even when angry, peacemakers control their tongue and actions and look to restore the relationship once the trouble has passed. Paul told Timothy to be a peacemaker to those who did not deserve it in order to teach God’s truth to them and leave room for their repentance.
The first two verses of 1 Timothy contain a lot of truth and help for us when they are correctly understood. The rest of 1 Timothy contains so much more for us. Many of the problems Timothy was combating are problems for us today. The direction God gives for correction of these problems is relevant for us today. Why is it so easy and attractive to believe lies rather than truth? Which comes first the chicken or the egg? Which comes first, unbelief or false doctrine and lies about who God and Jesus are? When we are done studying 1 Timothy we should have a better grasp of these issues.
1 Timothy 1:3-4: Walking by Faith in the Truth of God
If we are to have a life that is to be fulfilling, productive, and God-honoring, we need to know what direction we are heading and follow the compass He gives us for our lives. If we do not, then we will be pushed here and there by the people, by situations, by the environment in which we live. That is exactly what Paul describes when he writes to the Ephesian church in Ephesians 4: “He will be tossed back and forth by the waves and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.” That is exactly the situation Timothy has to deal with. And Paul writes 1 Timothy to both encourage and educate Timothy in this battle.
From the very beginning Paul stresses God’s truth. In the beginning of the book he says, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and Christ Jesus our hope. To Timothy my true son in the faith, grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” He wants them and us to be sure from the very start that we know that the God of Christianity is a saving God. He calls Him, “God our Savior.” That is right, that is doctrine, it is truth we need to know and remember. We are not cosmic accidents. We are not abandoned in the galaxy because we have been bad sometime in the past. But He is a saving God. The God who created all this is interested and has invested Himself in us. That is very different than “Allah,” the god of Islam who wants to have no direct involvement with mankind.
Paul is speaking light into the darkness of the Ephesian situation when he writes, “As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer. Nor devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God’s work which is by faith.” What is going on in this church? What is happening in this church that he has to rebuke it at the beginning of this letter? Turn to Acts 20 to get the perspective of what exactly has happened. In Acts 20:18 we find that Paul has called the elders of the Ephesian church together to meet him in a separate location so he can warn them about their need to stay close to God’s truth. In Acts 20:18 he says, “Keep watch over yourselves.” He is basically talking to their elder board when he said, “Watch yourselves and all the flock of which God the Holy Spirit has made you as overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God which He bought with His own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves are going to come in among you and will not spare the flock, even from your own number.” Imagine how they are feeling, what they are thinking. There are, probably, seven to twelve guys sitting there and Paul basically says, “Ok, some of you guys [, three of you, perhaps,] are really going to mess up bad. [Three of you] are going to lead people astray from God’s truth. Some of your own number will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after themselves. So be on your guard. Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.” He spent almost three years with them teaching and warning them, yet some still wandered away. His warnings have proven true and that is why he is writing to Timothy.
A true child of the faith recognizes or discerns the truth. There is truth and there are lies and we have to discern between them because we have to choose where we are going to place our trust. It may seem pretty harsh calling people liars. It is necessary because they are leading people astray from God’s truth. If you are going to lead people away from God and cause them to stumble and fall, that is very serious and deserves some serious words. Lying is serious because it leads people away from the truth. False doctrine, myths, and endless genealogies also lead people away from the truth.
“False doctrines.” The word for doctrine comes from a Greek word that means “to teach” or “have a rule of life, a guide.” False doctrine is an inaccurate measure that messes up everything that it touches. Suppose I had a tape measure. I picked it up at a sale when everything was selling out. It was 90 percent off and it was only $1.00 to start with. I bought a ten-cent tape measure. And I found out why it was only $1.00. It had some problems. The inch markers read 1, 2, 3…17,18, 21, 22. Where are the 19 and 20? They are not there! It leaves them out. What kind of house can you build with this tape measurer? You want to live in it? The roof is going to leak, the doors are not going to close, the walls are not going to be in the foundation. It is going to let in all kinds of snakes and critters. It is not the kind of house that I want to live in. That is what false doctrine does. Even if there is only one place in this whole tape measure that is wrong, you still cannot trust it because you are just not sure. That is what false doctrine, myths, and endless genealogies do.
There have been a lot of programs on the last couple years on Discovery Channel about “Finding the historical Jesus.” I would love to be there and personally witness the historical events that surrounded Jesus’ earthly life. I would love to see the historical Jesus, but the premise that they have is that is all there is. They look to the historical times because they want to know the historical Jesus so they can make Him into just a man, an ordinary man. “Why did people try and convince others that He was the Son of God? What led others to make a conspiracy to make people think that He rose from the dead? What was going on with this guy? Why was He so charismatic to fool so many people? Why would they not just let Him die? Let us find the historical Jesus and we will see what He is like. Let us imagine what He would look like. Let us imagine where He walked and what He did. Let us try and figure out what He really meant when He said all the things He supposedly said. What was He really talking about?” Looking for the historical Jesus, saying that Jesus is no more than a historical figure, is false doctrine. It creates contamination in the measure by which we know who God is. To declare that Jesus was not God, to declare that Jesus was not the Son of God, to say He was just a man that someone made into a Christ, that they believed and thought that He was something special so they gave Him a name “sent from God,” that they assigned Him this designation is false doctrine. Remember, God the Father recognized Him as His Son. “This is my son in whom I am well pleased” (Luke 3:23, Matt. 17:5). It was by God’s proclamation that we came to know this truth, not by man’s. False doctrine will mess up your life and lead you astray.
Also, myths. Myths are imaginings--imagining how things are or how things have been. Imaginings say “well, I think it was probably something like this and that is as good as anything else because who can prove me wrong because no one was really there that can debate me now about it.” Myths are like a tape measure that has no markings on it. No way to check it out. No way to prove it. No way to disprove it. Not based on reality, but based upon where you think the markings should be. The DaVinci Code is a collection of myths, of imaginations, of how things may have happened and they are called historically verified facts, but there is no evidence, there is no factual support for any of the claims they make. No more than the Chariots of the Gods, that book 20 years ago that theorized we are left here by aliens. A string of things (facts? evidence?) strung together with commentary to shape the meaning of the evidence to support the conclusion. Having someone imagine it and writing it down does not prove it.
The DaVinci Code is called “historical fiction.” Historical fiction is a legitimate genre of literature, but historical fiction takes the history and leaves it intact and inserts characters into it to give their behavior context. It does not change the historical facts around to fit the character. The DaVinci Code is not historical fiction. It is religious fiction because it changes the character of who Jesus is, what the Bible is, and who God is. It basically denies that there is a God because if there is no God, then there is no Jesus and there is no book that speaks with any kind of authority. It is just written by men. And you do not have to believe it entirely for things like the DaVinci Code to have a powerful effect in your life. All you have to do is give it enough credibility that you are just not sure, that doubt creeps into your heart and mind about “what is truth.” That is what Pilate said to Jesus before he consented to Jesus’ crucifixion, even though he knew Jesus was innocent--“What is truth?” Existing in a state of confusion breeds cynicism. If opponents of Christ, like Satan, satan like, cannot get you to believe some particular false teaching for long it serves their purpose to create an environment of confusion so that you will not hold onto anything for fear of being mislead. A fear of intellectual and spiritual commitment is created. Jesus said that He came to set us free from such things. We can rest in Him, and Him alone!
We do not need very much of an excuse not to follow through on hard things. “Oh, I need to trim the bushes. Oh, but it is hot today. It will be better tomorrow.” The next day it is cool. “Oh, but I need to mow the lawn instead.” There are things that we do not want to do that we do not need much of an excuse to get around. And that is what happens when satan like lies find a place in our lives. “Oh, I know I should love my wife but it is hard today and so I am just going to take care of myself. I am not going to sacrifice. I am not going to do what I should do because I do not really feel like it today and in fact, God wants me to be happy and I would not be really happy doing that for my wife and so I do not think He wants me to do that.” Or your husband or your kids or your parents. It does not take much of an excuse to get around doing what God wants you to do if you let the excuses come in. These are the dangers of myths.
And just as problematic as a ruler with no measuring lines, is a ruler with so many lines you cannot tell where things start and where they stop, even worse, so many lines without numbers, markers. That is endless genealogies. It refers to the Jewish or the human fetish that we are important because we come from favored ancestors. We need to understand our roots. The Jews had huge books made up of stories about Jewish genealogies. They wanted to find their roots, where they came from. We do not have that same fetish today. What we have in our society is a fetish to find our roots from some kind of scientific evidence and we have endless genealogies of, if you will, missing links. Evolution is an endless genealogy. It is trying to say “well, where have we come from and where are all these things at?” And there is not one missing link, folks, there are thousands of them. Not just in the human species but in all species. You do not see a half cow, half horse. You do not see half lizard, half bird. You do not see anything, anywhere in-between. When you look at biology, when you look at physiology, you see distinct differences. Some similarities, yes, because similar function usually results in similar structure but you do not see a clear steady transition from one species into another, one genus into another, one family into another, one kingdom into another. But so many choose to believe evolution in its macro sense because they do not like the “alternative.” Their unbelief moves them to place their faith in something else—false doctrines, myths, genealogies, for example.
Today we do not face the exact same challenges they faced in Ephesus. We face different ones but they are still basic affronts to who God is, who Jesus is, and who we are. To firmly track with the truth, you have to understand that there is a truth and that God defines what that truth is. You need to know that there are also lies and you have to choose who you are going to trust. A true child of God trusts His Word and not manmade solutions. You choose who to trust. You have been given the freedom to determine what you will base your life on--your feelings, other’s opinions about life, or God’s revelation about life. A true child of God trusts God’s truth relevant, finds that it is revelational, finds that it determines who God is and who we are, and finds that it speaks the truth about their own heart and spiritual needs. We find it definitional to our lives. We find it comes to us with God telling us who He is rather than men sitting around trying to figure it out themselves. Without a group of men clustered somewhere saying, “Well, what do you think about God and let us all vote. What is God like? How big is He? How smart is He? How wise?” It is not done by democratic consensus. It is God Himself speaking through men to declare who He is and how He operates. Yes, there can be honest disagreement about some issues but concerning the basics there can be no disagreement! Paul defined those basics for us in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4: “I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me—that Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, as the Scriptures said.” God’s Word is revelational (it reveals or confirms to us what we would otherwise not be able to discern for ourselves) and that is better than any kind of imagination or theory.
God’s Word is also reliable. Archeologically, it has been verified. Scientifically it is accurate unless you start with the presupposition that there is no God. Scientifically, the Bible holds up solidly. It defines truth and gives us boundaries for future interpretation of what we find. It gives an accurate worldview unless you determine at the beginning, “there is no God so how could all these things be?” You would have to come up with an alternative explanation—large-scale evolution or Chariots of the Gods are all you are left with. The Bible is reliable. As Christians we are not brainless geeks who blindly put trust in an archaic book. We have found it to be real and verified for generations. For thousands of years it has been tested and proven to be reliable, to be effective, to be consistent and to be meaningful to lives. It has been tested. Those who deny its legitimacy are those who have not tested it with their own lives. I came across a video clip that states well what we have been talking about. The clip was made by Worship Films and is titled “Unshakeable Word.”
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“The Bible is an amazing book. It was the world’s first printed book and it has been translated fully into more than 2,000 languages and partially into many more. Despite attempts to discredit it and destroy it over the centuries, it remains the best-loved, best-selling book of all time. Sometimes you hear things about the Bible that make you wonder, ‘It is an amazing book, but is it really true?’ You may have heard the argument that since the Bible has been copied many times over years and there is no original manuscripts available that it surely can’t be reliable. The fact is that the scribes who copied the Old Testament over the centuries were professionals [with unparalleled methods and standards] dedicated to accuracy and scholars have been able to test that accuracy in a number of ways. For example, when the Dead Sea Scrolls were found, they included a complete work of Isaiah, in Hebrew, from about 125 years before Christ. That work is word-for-word identical with over 95 percent of today’s standard Hebrew Bible with a few minor spelling changes and obvious clerical errors. A few spelling errors over that many centuries? Sounds like some trustworthy scribes.
Let’s look at the resources available for translating the New Testament in comparison to other ancient literature. There are over 5,000 complete copies of the New Testament available and more than 20,000 partial books available, some written within 100 years of the original text. In comparison, the Iliad comes in a distant second with only 643 manuscripts available, the best of which is 500 years newer than the original text.
Maybe you have heard that archeology proves the Bible wrong. That was a popular belief in the 19th century, but it doesn’t hold up anymore. In fact, the more archeological discoveries that are made, the more support the Bible gains. Jewish archeologist Nelson Blew has made over 1500 archeological discoveries using the Bible as a guide. He even states that “no archeological study has ever been made that contradicts the historical content of the Bible.”
Confused about who wrote the Bible? Well, the Bible is made of 66 books written over 1,500 years by 40 human authors in three languages making its unity truly remarkable. Throughout, it is unified in its story, spirit, and theme as it presents one plan of redemption for mankind. This unity, Christians believe, is brought about by the human authors being guided by one divine author. The divine origin of the scriptures is also supported by the fulfillment of prophesies documented in the Old Testament. In fact, there are over 322 specific Old Testament prophesies that are fulfilled and documented in the New Testament in the person of Jesus Christ.
Here is the bottom line. It is easy to believe that the Bible is a fine piece of literature, an accurate historical account and even of spiritual significance, but Jesus believed that the Old Testament was God’s Word and the Christian church from its earliest years believed [and continues to believe] that the Old and New Testament is God’s inspired word. And all this information leads us to the same conclusion but it is up to you to believe. I choose to believe that the Bible, this amazing book, is God’s unshakable word.”
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The Bible is reliable--scientifically, archeologically, historically, and most of all, relationally. It is all these things without being a scientific or historical or relational book, per se. It is simply God’s revelational truth to us to bring us back to Him in trust and love. Its accuracy in these other areas attest to its divine origin, even if we do not always understand it. It is relevant to our lives. The Bible has shown us how to live and many, many Christians over the years have found it to be a source of strength and genuine help for living. A true Christian, a true child of the faith understands God’s Word, trusts God’s Word and also declares God’s Word. Most of us have a hard time defending the Bible. We feel like we have to be experts in knowing all that is going on, that we have not done all the textural research, we have not done all the historical, scientific, archeological research. But you are an expert in one thing. You are an expert in your own life and that is what you are called to declare. Peter calls us to “always be ready to make an answer to the hope that others see in you.” That there is something in your life that others see and ask, “What is going on? How do you have the strength to get through these problems? What gives you the ability to do and be who you are?” There are some things that should stand out about your life and you are ready to make an answer about it. You are an expert on your own life, on your own experience and there are many lives around you whose experiences are not that far different from yours, who are looking for the same answers that you have found.
So, what about the Bible? What can you say about the Bible? I encourage you, first of all, not to debate the issue, not to debate the lies. We are told right in this passage to not devote ourselves to myths, to answering, to understanding the myths. I spent a lot of lately reading through about three books on the DaVinci Code and realized that explaining all the issues to you will not change and strengthen your life. By doing that I would be focusing on what is wrong rather than focusing on how you are to grow in love from a pure heart, sincere faith, and a good conscience. When you just address those peripheral issues, you are addressing the nonessential issues. Below I give you an example of the kind of things you can say to address the essential issues.
Declaring God’s Truth
Do Not Debate the Lie – Tell Them What You Have Found True.
How can you believe that archaic book?
I have found the Bible to give an incredibly accurate worldview and effective guide for my family and me. For instance:
(1) It is less of a stretch to accept the existence of an Intelligent Caring Designer of life and the universe than to think it somehow just fell together by chance with such incredible precision.
(2) I find it helpful to pray and see God listen and respond—usually in me rather than just for me. He helps me cope, persevere, and live with all the hurt and chaos this world brings to my life.
(3) I find adopting Biblical values of integrity, morality, and ethics make my business and personal relationships much healthier than if I would just do what I want or feel like doing at any given moment.
Well, what about these ‘discoveries,’ ‘theories,’ and books?
Actually, very little is new about them. People have come up with excuses why not to believe in the God and Jesus Christ of the Bible for centuries. Many just keep getting recycled for a new generation of unbelievers to sustain their willful unbelief. Willful unbelief cannot exist in a vacuum. People can dream up even the most unreal theories and others will believe them because they want to sustain their unbelief in a God who requires redemption from sin and has provided a Sacrifice for all who come humbly to receive it. Quite frankly, people do not want to give up their self-centered ways and will ‘believe’ whatever will fit and sustain their present attitudes and disposition. The popularity of an admitted work of fiction such as the DiVinci Codes is an illustration of this truth. These kind of things spring up anywhere the gospel message is taught. Paul saw it coming in Ephesus and warned Timothy. Those who reject the message need something to hold onto to sustain their unbelief!
Why do people choose to believe the 'alternatives'?
Quite simply, it soothes their conscience and sustains their unbelief. There is always room for honest inquiry, but when the gospel message has been actually rejected, depending on the prior attitudes and disposition of the person, any sustaining ‘belief’ is possible. I can convince myself of just about anything, again depending on attitudes and disposition, if I want something bad enough. Hitler, Stalin, and Lenin did and so can you!
What about people who do not get to hear about Jesus?
First, that is why we should be involved in telling them about Jesus. Second, the Bible clearly explains that God is fair to judge them based on what they do know and what they have done (Acts 17:24-31). But realize no one enters heaven on their own merit, it is only by God's grace and forgiveness.
Who is to say you are correct and everyone else is incorrect?
This is not from me, it did not come out of my head. It is God’s explanation and direction for living. It actually makes more sense for God to declare who He is than for us to just guess. The Bible was written over many, many centuries by different human authors, many unaware of the others’ writings but the message is remarkably unified. This is true because God was involved in the writing process—He is the great unifying spirit behind the Bible. Hundreds of non-vague prophecies made hundreds or thousands of years before their fulfillment give testimony to the divine unifying Spirit behind the human authors.
I believe many roads lead to God.
Look at where they take you. They will take you to a different place—they are not the same! Look at their central message. They are not all the same. Yes, there may be some ethical similarities between some of them but the context for that behavior is often different. Christianity is unique in its personal redemptive message. Only Christianity teaches salvation by grace through the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. All religions are not the same!
What about all the contradictions in the Bible?
I have never had anyone point out a difficult passage or reference that makes an ounce of difference in the message Scripture conveys. Often, what they cite are number differences or some side issue where differences in counting methods can explain the apparent discrepancy. More and more historians and archeologists are discovering that the Bible is accurate in what it portrays. Nineteenth century skeptics claimed the Bible has many historical and factual errors and is filled with mere storytelling myths and that God is ‘dead’. They said these things without ample proof. Since then, hundreds of archeological finds have proven them incorrect. Many more scholars are looking to the Bible as a valid historical reference book. The Bible is a very practical, powerful, and effective guide for living human life—when rightly understood! Claimed contradictions center on small facts that can always be explained in ways that validate Scriptural integrity.
“Always be ready to give an answer for the hope that is in you…and do it in a gentle and respectful manner” (1 Peter 3:15)
God has given us a guideline for life with accurate markings that has been proven reliable time-and-time again. You have had people that have used the Bible as a central guide for their lives for centuries and have found that it brings nothing but good to their lives. If you trust it, it will do the same for you!
1 Timothy 1:5-8: God’s Goal for your Life and Church
On Jesus’ last night with His disciples, after spending three years with them walking through the desert, eating, laughing, teaching, after washing their feet in that upper room and celebrating communion with them and telling them He was going to be dying the very next day, He looked around at the faces of Peter, James, and Andrew and said, “A new commandment I give to you. As I have loved you, love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, by your love one for another.” Jesus cares how they act toward each other. Just minutes before they had been bickering about who was going to have the favored place? Who was Jesus’ most elite disciple? Who was going to sit next to Jesus? Who was the next one in charge? Who would sit at His right hand and His left hand? And then Jesus looks at them and says, “He who wants to be the most should become the servant of all” and three times tells them to “love one another.” That is what Jesus is watching for. And that is the measure, the command, the passion He has for His disciples.
The disciples already knew that they were to love God with all their mind, all their soul, all their heart. And they knew that they were to love their neighbor as themselves. But Jesus says, “I give you a new commandment. There should be a special love between you guys who call yourselves Christians, who call yourself my disciples. There should be a deep, abiding interest and passion for each other’s lives.” Not just be kind to your neighbor. Not just do not do negative things to your neighbor, but have a passionate investment and involvement in the lives of other disciples of Jesus Christ.
We do not like to be measured. We do not like to know we are not doing as well as we had hoped. And if you are not eating right, if you are not following good health advice, if you are not exercising, you will have a negative effect on your body. Stepping on a scale is one measure of your health, but not the only one. Loving other Christians is a measure of your spiritual health. God is measuring our love for one another, how we care for one another. Are we involved, are we invested in each other’s lives? That is exactly what Paul has in mind when he is writing to Timothy in Ephesus.
Turn to 1 Timothy. First Timothy 1:5: “But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” That is the way the New American Standard Bible says it. If you have a New International, it says it a little differently. Instead of “the goal of this instruction” it says “the goal of this command.” What is the command? The command goes back to verse three where it says, “command certain men not to teach false doctrine any longer or devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies which promote controversies rather than God’s work which is by faith.” Paul is reminding the church in Ephesus that its mission was being sidetracked by distracting and unimportant issues. The church was becoming a marketplace for theological debate, for arguments, for controversies. The flavor of the church had changed dramatically from what Jesus had intended, from what the Holy Spirit had poured out on the Day of Pentecost to the church in Jerusalem. In Acts 2 it says, “the church devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” And rather than focusing on the words of Jesus, based upon the eyewitness testimony of the apostles, men were trying to weave in their own cultural and intellectual ideas and beliefs. And it was producing argument, backbiting, name-calling, quarrels, suspicions, and a whole lot of frustration.
The Ephesian church was not well known for its love for each other. And it was not just the false teachers that were killing the spirit of the church. Look at verse six. It says, “Some have wandered away from these things. Some have wandered away from love from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith and have turned to meaningless talk. They want to be teachers of the law but they do not even know what they are talking about or what they are so confidently asserting.” Then in verse 8: “But we know the law is good if you use it properly.” And he goes on to explain how the law was to show our overwhelming need for a Savior, the guilt of our sin and the need for God to do something that we could not do ourselves. But arrogant men were constantly bringing up issues about the law and matters that had nothing to do with a relationship with God through Christ Jesus. Paul wants them to know that refinement of rules, drawing lines on a myriad of behavioral issues is not to be the major focus of the church. Jesus did not say “By your rules you will be known as my disciples. Go and police one another. Point out the speck in your brother’s eye.” That is not what Jesus said. “Love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples.” The intellectual pride of these teachers drove them to seek followers based on their special teachings and ‘insights’ instead of pointing others to faith and trust in Jesus Christ.
The church should be a care house, a love center for impacting the hearts and lives of everyone that comes through those doors. Does that make sense to you? Can you see that fits with what Jesus intended and what Paul is teaching here? When people walk through those doors, they should witness something that they cannot see outside, that the world does not show them. Do you agree that should happen? Do you agree that this is the job of the church? You are the church. Do you agree that sometimes that does not happen? It does not feel that way? Do you agree that sometimes it does not happen because sometimes you come through those doors more concerned about yourself than thinking about others? You think that, “well, that is not my job. I have other things on my mind; I just do not know anybody; I do not know what to say; I am just not good at that kind of a thing; I do not want to intrude on somebody else’s space.” Or most likely, you do not even think about it at all. You just walk through those doors by habit. You get up on Sunday morning by habit. Fight with the kids, get them dressed, get in the car, drive to church by habit. You go to the same general area to park your car by habit. Sit in the same place in church by habit. You say “hi” to the same people by habit. You sing songs and listen to the message by habit. Bring something fresh to your life! And if you are willing to do your part to make your church the family of God Jesus intended, there are three areas of focus that will make that happen. Pay attention to your heart, to your conscience, and to your faith.
Paul’s goal (verse 5) is that followers of Jesus will be characterized by “love that flows from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.” A pure heart treasures God’s directions for life. It takes God’s directions for life seriously. Learning them is not just an academic exercise. Rather, it agrees with the psalmist, “Thy word I have hidden in my heart that I might not sin against you.” It is like the roots of His Word dig down and wrap around our spiritual heart like the veins that feed our physical heart with sustenance. His Word gives our spiritual hearts strength. A pure heart is one that is realigned with God’s truth. It does not leap from Sunday to Sunday waiting to get another dose of information. But looks daily for ways it can apply God’s truth to the workplace, school life, and marriage. This is exactly what Peter describes in 1 Peter 1:22: “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have a sincere love for your brothers.” The end of knowing the truth is living consistent with what you learn!
You might leave church on Sunday morning with the best intentions but impurity creeps in and destroys your resolve. For some people it might be an issue of greed. Every once in a while you see people that have more stuff or something nicer than you have and resentment arises. You pull in the church parking lot and drive down the aisle looking for a place to park and you see cars that are a lot nice than yours. “Oh, yeah. No big deal.” But then as you walk through those sanctuary doors and reach in your pocket to pull out your tithe check, something in the back of your mind says, “Those people who have those cars probably are not tithing [of course, not necessarily true]. I should not have to do that either.” But in faith and obedience you drop that check in because you have heard and you believe that what you are investing in is more important. But there is still this sense of resentment and anger within you. You do not feel like talking to anybody. You do not feel right. You cannot love because that impurity has taken hold of your heart.
An impure heart will poison your love life. An impure life will poison your love life in your home and in your church. Ladies, if you tend to talk a lot and you spend your mornings talking about others, sharing the news in a gossipy way instead of listening to hurting hearts and lifting them up in prayer, your love life is poisoned and you are poisoning those around you. Men, if you are addicted to pornography you are fighting a constant battle when you walk in these doors just to keep your mind, your thought life, and your eyes in the right place. You cannot minister because you are seeing bodies instead of seeing the hearts and souls of people. You cannot seem to keep your focus. An impure heart will poison your love life.
“The goal of our instruction is love that needs a pure heart and a good conscience.” How is your conscience? A good conscience is one that responds to God’s guidance. And this has two powerful indicators. The first is a heart that is burdened with conviction. God’s spirit is telling you that you are on the wrong track and yet you end up debating. You start arguing with God rather than simply obeying and confessing. And thoughts enter your mind: “How can you show up at church when you are doing that? You are such a hypocrite. And you know, God is unfair making you feel that way, expecting you to make that kind of change in your life. You are not as bad as somebody else. You are not so bad.” If you come to church under conviction, you need to take action with God so you can move on to spiritual, emotional, and even physical wholeness.
A good conscience is responsive to God and it takes care of business. It promptly takes care of business. It does not run; it does not hide; it does not make excuses. If you come through the church doors battling with God, you will not be able to pour your heart out to others. You will not have peace. You will not have patience. And you should not. God is not going to give them to you. These are indications that something is wrong. If there is sin in your life, do not expect to have the peace of God. He does not want you to have it because He wants you to get right with Him. He is not going to reward or bless abnormal, sinful behavior. A good conscience is responsive to God.
Secondly, a good conscience sees with God’s eyes. The word translated “conscience” literally means “to see alongside of, to see with another.” And the word for “good” carries a strong sense of usefulness, productivity, profitability and so a good conscience means insight that is useful and sensitive as God is leading. Romans 8:9 talks about God’s spirit speaking with our spirit affecting our conscience. A good conscience sees beyond the obvious and senses God’s leading in the heart. The opposite of it is described in 1 Timothy chapter 4 where it talks about people having a seared conscience. They do not listen to the voice of God. A seared conscience will ignore the righteousness described in God’s word. It has learned where the volume control is and just shuts it off. When you come go to church, do you see people with God’s eyes? Are you listening to His promptings to talk to someone, to listen to someone? Even to pray with someone. Or do you come in here like it is a movie theater and just look for a nice seat for the show? Is church just another means of entertainment for you? Is the manner in which things are done more important to you than the message of it all?
“A pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.” “A sincere faith.” I like the way the King James says it. It says, “A faith unfeigned.” It is a genuine faith, not a phony faith, not a “wanna-be” faith. It is not saying you trust God but never putting that trust into any kind of action. The word “feigned” has theatrical overtones. It means “playing a role.” Being a wanna-be Christian means impersonating faith rather than living it. A sincere faith steps out to meet God. Faith only grows with exercise. That means challenge. A sincere faith knows there is a battle going on for your heart. Peter warns (1 Peter 5:8), “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” A sincere faith does not believe the satanic lies. The man who puts himself above God is a fool. God designed your heart. Trust Him to be able to fulfill it. Anything He does not fulfill is a desire He has not put there. Fulfilling such desires will not be for your good. Those lies will destroy your spiritual life and eat out your heart because they remove God from the throne and they put yourself there. It is a major lie to believe that “following your own heart without question is a good thing.” We are to examine ourselves by God’s Word before we consent to a desire. Many of our desires come from the bad part of us. The part of us that finds comfort and guidance in the world that is opposed to God and that feeds our self-centered humanism. A sincere faith does not believe these lies. A sincere heart trusts God’s evaluation of the present human condition and looks to His solutions.
Humanism and greed are part of our cultural heritage. We thrive on achievement and status. We want to stay busy. We want to get ahead and so we pile more and more on. The question is, “Is that busyness something you are using as a hideout from God’s best for you?” We can get real busy. Sometimes our culture makes it hard not to be too busy. We must fight against that tendency. We must simplify our lives. Men, it is easy to get busy at work so we can avoid the problems at home which will likely take a whole lot of sincere faith, diligence, and humility to work through. Ladies, it is easy to get busy with the kids and ignore your husband or your own spiritual nurturing. It is easy to get busy but busyness can be a hideout. A phony faith will hide amidst busyness. Some of you are too busy. You are too busy for your own good. You are too busy for your family’s good. You may make a whole lot more money. You may rise up the ladder of promotion. But there will be hollowness in your life. Do you have time to contemplate God? Do you have time to be alone with God? Do you have time to spend with your spouse and children sharing their lives?
Are you willing to do something about God’s goal for your life, about God’s goal for your church? Are you willing to do something about it or do you just want to hear about it? What is going to happen if you want to lose some weight, if you want to get in better physical shape? Are you going to stand on a scale and notice that you are too heavy or too light for your own health and then do nothing about it? Sometimes, yes! But is that best? “I know, I will join the “Y” or a health club. That will do it for me.” But if you go and sit and have carrot juice drinks and watch people work out it will do you no good. If you do not manage your diet, if you do not associate with some people who share your desire for good health, if you do not start exercising, you are not going to change at all. You are going to be a wanna-be healthy person, a wanna-be weight loser. It is the same way with your spiritual walk!
Everyone that comes to church voluntarily comes because there is something missing in his or her life. Visitors come through those doors because there is something going on in their life that they want some help with. And every visitor that comes through those doors that is looking for an answer from God should find it because they find people to connect with that will lead them to the Savior and who care about them. The church needs to be filled with not just people sitting in chairs listening to songs and sermons but with disciples of Jesus who have pure hearts, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. These kind of people will tend to draw those who are looking for the same things. Paul tells Timothy to center the Ephesian church around these three things. It is really not very complicated. The pride of men and women want to make it complicated so they can pat themselves on the back when they rise above others in these endeavors. The church of Jesus Christ is all about following Jesus Christ, the holy risen one, with a pure heart, good conscience, and sincere faith. And that is all!
1 Timothy 1: 5: Raising a Disciple--Following the Example of Lois and Eunice
I came across a want ad this week that says, “Wanted. Lady for a long-term position. Degree or diploma not necessary. Knowledge of the following is helpful: Cooking and baking, especially cookies and chocolate cake. Washing, doctoring cuts and bruises, measles, small broken hearts and bloody noses. Sewing buttons, costumes and party dresses. Be able to referee fights and games, play ball, drive a car, and know long division, how to blow up balloons, give birthday parties, go camping, sailing, fishing, pick up worms, plant a garden and attend PTA. Must tolerate dirty little boys, giggling little girls, puppies that track up floors, and tired, grumpy husbands. Should be a financial wizard, able to manage a household with pennies, dimes, and dollars and save for college along the way. Should be able to patch broken dolls and trucks, be Santa’s helper, color eggs, make potato salad for Boy Scouts, attend Little League baseball, listen to rock music in the car and tell bedtime stories. Should have a twinkle in her eye, laugh easily, have a shoulder to cry on, arms to cuddle and be able to sing and hum a tune for lullaby time, grand opera not necessary. Must have the stamina of a plow horse. Know about electric cords, mud pies, kindergarten drawing, finger painting, pillow fights, and 'Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.' Color of hair and eyes not important, but must be available 24 hours a day to create the island of a home. No overtime pay. No days off. Must absolutely have a heart that will chase after rainbows and kittens, butterflies and mittens. Must be able to forgive over and over and over and over and love forever.” Sounds like a superwoman, but it is just a mother. A mom. A ma.
You do not have to look very far in our society or listen too keenly to know that motherhood is being devalued as a role in our society. That its joy and purpose are being demeaned and its noble task is seen as second best. The Bible says “where there is no vision, the people perish.” And without a God-given vision from a mom to a child of who that child is, who God is, and how God wants to bring them together, the child may grow and may be very busy and successful in the world, but his heart and soul will be as dry and dead as a grave.
We are going to look at two women who had a vision for a little boy, his mother and grandmother, to make him a disciple. What does it mean to be a disciple? How does one grow a disciple? We have talked before about not just raising kids but raising adults. Raising adults who are responsible, who are self-controlled, who are gracious and bear the fruit of the Spirit in their lives. All week long you will see grown-up kids, kids that are 30, 40, 50 years old still blaming everyone else for their problems, not taking responsibility for their lives. They have little self-control, too often doing whatever feels good to them at the time, with no grace or graciousness, always just out for themselves. I was challenged when we first started having children, Katie and I, to raise adults not just kids. I want to go beyond that, I want to focus on raising a disciple. We are going to look at three ways we can be involved in the lives of our children to encourage them to be disciples of Jesus.
We have been talking about Timothy. How did Timothy become a disciple? Timothy is introduced for us in Acts when Paul met him in Lystra during his missionary journeys. He was the son of a Jewess and his father was a Greek. He was known throughout Iconium and Lystra as a man of good reputation and Paul invited him to go with him and share the good news. It is especially interesting that Luke, the one who penned Acts, calls Timothy a “disciple.” Not a believer, not a Christian, not a man, but a disciple and he uses that term sparingly because a disciple is a devoted, dedicated follower of Jesus. This 18-year old young man had a reputation as a dedicated disciple, as a faithful follower of Jesus. In fact, in my opinion, I feel that Timothy is the most faithful of all the disciples, the most full of faith. The twelve disciples got to walk with Jesus. They got to live with Him. Timothy never saw Jesus. He heard the truth and in faith he believed. Paul was a faithful disciple, but Jesus appeared to him in a vision. This was an extraordinary circumstance. Timothy heard the message and believed and it changed and controlled his life for the next 20 years until the very day he died as a martyr proclaiming the gospel of Christ.
Timothy was a faithful disciple. What made him a faithful disciple? We know the end of the story. How did the story start? What is the rest of the story? Turn to 2 Timothy 3:14. Paul writes to Timothy after 15 years of faithful service and acknowledged the spiritual and moral heritage he received from two women. Look at what he says. “Timothy, continue following Jesus. Continue following the teachings you learned. You know they are true because you trust those who taught you.” Who are the “those?” Who taught him? His mother, a lady named Eunice, and his grandmother, a lady named Lois.
Do you know Timothy’s home life? Poor Timothy grew up in the middle of Turkey, in a no-name place called Lystra. His father and grandfather are not mentioned except that his father was a Greek. I want you to notice it says “his father was a Greek.” It does not even say that Eunice’s husband was a Greek. We do not even know if they were married. There are all kinds of things that happen in young families. We do not know if that baby was planned or if they got married or anything about it. But we do know that father is gone from the household very soon afterward. Whether he deserts the family or dies we do not know. But we do know that family is based upon a grandmother, a mother, and a son. And that grandmother and that mother grow a disciple of great faith.
What did they do? What did they do right to help this young child, this child that may not have even been wanted, an accident, to grow to be such a great man of faith before God. There are three things they did and you can do those same three things in your home as a mother. But guys, you are not off the hook either because you can do it as a father. You can do it as a grandmother. You can do it as a grandfather. You can even do it as a friend to another friend. This is not just for mothers. But how do you help someone else grow to be a disciple? Growing a disciple takes heart, passion, and above all, dedication.
2 Timothy 1:5 says, “Timothy, I have been reminded of your sincere faith which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and I am persuaded that now it lives in you also.” A disciple has sincere faith. A sincere faith is not hypocritical, but is unfeigned or real. It is not something you put on, it is really who you are. You live by an active faith that influences your daily decisions and activities.
You have a young, single mom living with her mother. That is a hard situation in this day and age. Imagine what it was like 2,000 years ago. There were no welfare or social security checks. They probably lived day-to-day. Timothy would see Lois and Eunice praying, praying to Jehovah-Jireh, the provider God, the God who sustained Elijah in the wilderness. They saw God as their provider and Timothy saw them rely upon God to take care of them. Are they at risk by being alone? Their faith moved them to pray, “Elohim, the mighty one, the protector, will you protect us? Protect us this night. Keep us safe.” The same way the protector protected baby Moses in a crocodile-infested Nile River. The provider, the protector, protected them every day. Paul saw their faith. It stood out. And it ended up in the life and heart of Timothy.
How can you grow a disciple? How can you engrain a heart of faith in your children? You do what Lois and Eunice did. The first thing you do is pray with your kids. Pray with each one. Not simply pray for them, but pray with them so they can hear your faith, your conversation with God. They can see God as real and alive, not something that you think about, talk to quietly on your own, but somebody that is involved and invested in your life and in your family. Teach them how to pray. Remember, there are two major times when your children are young that you can teach them to pray--mealtime and bedtime.
First of all, mealtime. It is almost a habit for most of us. “Who is going to pray this time?” “Oh, me!” for a while and then eventually everybody looks around hoping somebody else will do it. Most of you have a rote prayer. “God is good, God is great. Now we thank you for this food.” Stop it! Stop it! When your kids are two-years old that is helpful and that is a good formula for them to follow. But when they are five or six or ten or fifteen “God is good, God is great. Now I thank you for this food,” is inadequate. Teach them how to have a conversation with God. Talk with God like you talk with another person you respect and have a personal relationship with. Teach them how to pray. I do not know how many times I pray over a meal and I forget to pray for the food. Invest yourself in that time. Make us of that time. Do not sacrifice it to a rote memory prayer. You, as parents, start having conversations at the table about God. Not big long drawn out affairs so the food gets cold, but real prayers. Real talk with God.
The other time is at bedtime. Bedtime is a real popular time for kids to pray. And we think, first of all, it is probably because they want to put off bedtime as long as possible. But I will tell you, it is not the bedtime the kids are putting off. No, they do not want to go to bed anyway, but I will tell you that what they crave is your one-on-one attention. They want your one-on-one love, your attention, your personal interest without a TV going on, without mixing up something else on the side, without trying to fix the car or something else going on. They want to know they are the focus of your life for five minutes. Make them that focus. Pray with them. Pray a blessing upon your kids. Say, “Lord, you have given ______ such a smart brain. Lord, help him to learn things easily. Help him to learn as he goes on day by day. You have given him arms that are strong. Help him to use those arms to lift up others, not to hurt others. Lord, you have given him legs that are fast and can run. Lord, use those legs to take him to places where he can make a difference in other’s lives. Keep him from sin. Keep him from problems that are going to cause distress in his life. Help him turn away from fear. Lord, help him to grow up straight and tall and stand for you.” When you are done, that son has a little different view of himself than when you first started to pray. He sees his body, his life as something that God is interested in, something that you care about.
Now, some of you are wondering, “Pastor, but my kids are a little bit too old to pray with them. They will not let me tuck them in anymore. They are 36.” Well, for one, God gives you grandkids and that can be a great blessing. But if your kids are too old to pray with, recognize they are looking at your life. And they are considering how you live. Are you letting your faith come out? Are you praying with them over decisions they are making? Your kids are facing major challenges. Do not just say “I am praying for you,” but stop right then and pray for them. Let them know you care about what happens to them, that you want God operating in their lives. Do not restrain Him from working in your child’s life because you are too shy to pray in front of your own child.
What is the next thing you can do to encourage a sincere faith in your child? Look at 2 Timothy 3:14. Paul is urging Timothy, who is going to be facing tough times and big challenges in Ephesus, to persevere: “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and become convinced of because you know those from whom you learned it and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.” The second way to raise a disciple is to ingrain in them a relevance for Scripture. When Paul came to Timothy, Paul asked Timothy to leave his grandma and mother and walk with him across Turkey, through Greece, into Italy, sail on boats with leaks in them, to risk his life day in and day out, to not know where his next meal is going to come from, to not know where he is going to sleep that night. How could Timothy say, “That sounds like a good deal. That is what I want to do. I want to be a vagabond roaming all around?” He did it knowing that his God was going to go with him because he had learned from the very beginning how God took care of little Moses in the reeds in the Nile River. That God was the provider. He saw it happen in his home that God is the protector. He had heard the stories as a child. God was there with him in his home and God was big enough to be with him in Greece, in Turkey, in Rome, wherever he was to go. God would take care of him.
How can you establish in your children’s lives the relevance of God’s Word? When I first started thinking about this, I wanted to say “respect God’s Word!” But I want you to know that I do not want your kids to simply respect God’s Word. Respect is something you do for honor. You set it out there on the shelf and say, “This is true and this is right.” And yes, we should respect God’s Word but that is not where I want to leave it. You want God’s Word not to be on a shelf, not put away, but right in your heart influencing your behaviors. That is what Lois and Eunice did. They showed him how God’s Word related to him. That he could trust God because God had been faithful for thousands of years toward those who walked with Him. And how did they teach him that? They taught him these things by reading God’s Word to him, by sharing God’s Word with him, by letting him know that God was with Samuel and Moses and Joseph and David and God wants to be with him, too. And then they showed him how it all related to his life.
For the first 10-12 years, folks, you get to control many of the important things in your child’s life. You get to control who they see and who they hang around with, what they read, what they watch on TV, what movies they go to. During their teen years they are becoming more independent and your influence is shared with others. And then they become adults and begin to live their own lives. While you still have influence in their lives, what are you going to let into their lives? Sometimes you just want to get them out of your hair and you set them in front of the TV and let them turn whatever channel keeps them quiet and out of your way. What is it pouring into them? What values is it teaching? Are these really the values you want ingrained into your child? Just because it is on Disney or some other children’s station does not mean it will teach discipleship values. Children imitate what they see and hear. If they see disrespectful and brash kids on TV for the sake of a laugh, they will take on many of the same traits and mannerisms. Is that really what you want? Are those discipleship values? Supervise what your kids see on TV and do with their lives. Take advantage of the opportunities you still have to influence them to be more like Timothy—a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.
And what is the third thing you can do? Look at 2 Timothy 3:15. It says, “…and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness.” Mom and grandma put those words into his life and trained him how to live rightly. Is your child’s life simply about getting an education so he or she can get a job, work 40 years, retire, and die? Life shouldn’t be about simply going around and around and around until you fall off. But while you are going around this world, God has a plan, a direction, a calling for your life, personally. You can be a difference-maker in this world. How do you do it? How can you ingrain a desire to minister to others in your child? Simply and primarily by ministering with them. Minister with them! Teach them to minister. You can let them get involved in cutting things out, making copies or do whatever they are able to do. Teach them how to do it so that they can be a minister, too. Teach them that giving of yourself, of your time, of your effort, of your money is worthwhile. Encourage them to get involved with others who also minister. As they see you and others minister to those who need help, they will learn that giving of oneself to others is a worthwhile way to live one’s life.
Sixty years ago in a small little backwoods town in Germany there was a concentration camp. Solomon Rosenberg was there with his wife and two kids. And they knew the rules of that concentration camp were very simple. As long as you were strong enough to work, you got to live. And when you did not, they marched you off to extermination. Solomon saw his mom and dad, too old and too weak to be of any labor value, marched down a muddy path to their deaths. And every day Solomon, after a day of work, would gather with his two sons and his wife and thank God for another day of life. But Solomon knew that their youngest son David was probably going to be next because he was always frail. He was in bad health. Conditions were not good and they did not get good nutrition and one day when he came back he saw his son Jacob crying in the corner of the dormitory where they lived with a hundred other people. Solomon knew what had happened. Without anyone saying a word, he knew what had happened. David was gone. As he held onto Jacob and rocked him, he said “Where is Rachel? Where is your mom?” Jacob looked up and said, “When the soldiers came and grabbed hold of David, he was scared. He started to cry. So mom came over and took his hand and said, ‘It’s ok. I will go with you.’” Moms, you will do anything for your kids. You will die for your kids. The real challenge is, will you live for your kids? Raise disciples! Be a disciple and pass it on to your children. And who knows what God will do with them? Did Lois and Eunice ever think that Timothy would become as influential for God’s kingdom as he did? Give your kids to God and see what He will do with them. And the first step in that process is your own discipleship. Cultivate it and then pass it on to your children by praying with them, teaching them God’s Word, and ministering to others with them.
1 Timothy 1:18b-19: Steering Clear of Shipwreck
You think you know where you are going and self-confidently ignore all the warning signs telling you something is not right. If you listen to the wrong people, look at the wrong maps, get too busy to check your bearings regularly, you are setting yourself up for shipwreck. And I do not mean Gilligan’s Island. I mean you are going down in frustration, in misery, in a feeling that your life has gotten sidetracked and you do not know how to get it back on track. God does not want that to happen to anybody and so He writes to us through Paul’s letter to Timothy about how to avoid, how to steer clear of shipwreck in our lives.
Turn to 1 Timothy 1. Paul teaches us what it means to be shipwrecked and how to avoid it. These verses give us three warning signals that we are headed on the wrong course. He starts off in verse 18 of 1 Timothy. “Timothy, my son, I give you this instruction. In keeping with the prophesies once made about you so that by following them, you may fight the good fight. Holding on to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith.” What does it mean to shipwreck your faith? Does it mean you do not believe anymore? Does it mean you are unsaved? You are not going to heaven? Does it mean losing one’s life? What does it mean? And what are the consequences? The next verse is revealing. “Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.” Their lives had become shipwrecked and Paul says “they have been handed over to Satan.” That sounds pretty powerful, does it not? Any volunteers to go with them?
We know a little bit about these guys. They were leaders in the church and they were focusing on the wrong things. They were two of the guys that Paul told Timothy to instruct to stop teaching endless genealogies, myths, and false doctrines. And because of this, they were put out of the church and thereby not allowed to continue teaching with the church’s blessing and protection. They were kicked out of the church because of self-arrogance, pride, and knowing just enough to be dangerous. They were leading others astray and were going to lead the whole church astray if they were not stopped. So they were put out. They were pushed out of the church.
A recent survey indicated that 10 million professing Christians across this nation have decided against regularly attending church. Ten years ago I did my doctrinal dissertation on this subject. I interviewed 600 unchurched professing believers. What happened to them? Ninety-nine percent of them were not like Hymenaeus and Alexander who were pushed out. Some just walked away from church because they did not like the things that were going on. Some ran away because they felt blamed for different things and felt guilty. “I do not want to be there anymore.” And some just kind of drifted away. Most of them were in this category. Many told me, “I still believe in God. I still believe that Jesus is my Savior. And I went to church a lot, but I just kind of got out of the habit, just kind of walked away.” Their lives ended up taking on a different flavor because they did not have the weekly reminder of who God is, who they are, and what God wants and how He wants to pour Himself into your lives. They did not have the Word of God to give them a different viewpoint to counteract the lies and worldly opinions they were exposed to on a daily basis. There is also something uplifting about being in a gathering of people who recognize that God is real and want to thank Him for all He has done in their lives. But they did not get these influences.
None of them decided to make a shipwreck of his or her life, to practically turn their back on God. None of them got up one morning and said, “You know, I think I’m just going to throw away my testimony and do some bad things. I think I am just going to forget about everything God has taught me, everything I believed.” It happened so subtly and slowly they did not even realize it had occurred. “How did I get so far away?” And the farther they got, the harder it seemed to be to get back because now they had all this baggage with them.
High school graduates be careful! There is no greater time in your life when you face more challenges and more opportunities. Things are going to be coming up in your lives in the next few years that will tend to draw you away from the faith and begin to define your lives—career, purpose, and maybe a future mate. Wouldn’t these be good decisions to make with God in mind? In the next 5 to 10 years you are going to face more temptations and have more freedom than you have ever had before. What are you going to do with this time? Will it be a time of self-indulgence for you or will you practice self-restraint while always looking to God and His guidance? Will you be saying, “I have escaped my parents, big brother, big sister, and all these other restraints, and now it is time to escape God, as well?” Do not be surprised if you find yourself shipwrecked a few years down the line. If you did not involve God in these important decisions, do not be surprised if you find yourself shipwrecked at some point in the future.
I want to give you three indicators or warning signals of a future shipwreck in your life. First, you are headed for shipwreck when you forget that you are in a war zone. There is a battle going on in this life. You are headed for shipwreck when you stop battling against evil. That is what it means when it says “fight the good fight.” Satan is at war and you are the prize. There is a battle going on for the hearts of men, for your heart and for the hearts of those around you. Satan wants to neutralize your life. Others will look at you and say, “Yeah, they say they are Christian but they are miserable. Look, they do the same things everybody else does. Christianity means nothing to them.” Timothy chapter 4 says, “In later times some have abandoned the faith and followed deceiving spirits taught by demons.” There is a battle of ideas raging in the church. There are two sides and they are quite divergent viewpoints.
Turn to Galatians chapter five and look at the contrast. Galatians 5:17: “For the flesh sets its desire against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh for these are in opposition to one another so you may not do the things that you please.” Then verse 18: “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident--immorality, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, envying, drunkenness, carousing… .” And so on!
Verse 22 gives the other side: “But the fruit of the spirit is… .” When you look back at your life what will be the controlling characteristics, the factors that influenced your life? What did you stand for? What do people remember about you? What was important to you? What did you invest your life in? Was it what we talked about first or was it these things? He wants to pour “love, joy, and peace” into your life. “Patience and kindness and goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” There is a war going on. There are two sides. And you get to pick which side you are going to be on.
You have to make a choice because if you are just going to stand there and say, “Well, I’m not going to take a stand, I am just going to hide out and avoid trouble,” you are a sitting duck. You are like a boat without a rudder. Not doing what God wants you to do is doing the wrong thing and will lead to behaviors that will result in a shipwrecked faith. You are robbing your life of the future that God has for you. The world is full of people like that. They want to avoid controversy and trouble. They just want to be left alone. A little boy was playing with his blocks on the floor one day. Dad came home from work and tried to have a few minutes of father-son time by getting down on the floor and saying, “What are you building, Johnny?” Johnny replied, “Shhh, I’m building a church and you have to be real quiet.” Dad said, “Well, that’s good, but why do we have to be so quiet?” “Because everybody’s sleeping.” Kids, when your parents tell you to be quiet in church it is not because everybody is sleeping, I hope. Pick your side. Do not be a bystander. Do not sleepwalk through your spiritual life. Do not be a sitting duck for negative influences in your life!
The second indicator that you are headed for shipwreck is when you stop trusting God’s guidance. When you stop believing the Word of God and say, “I have to work things out myself. I am going to trust somebody else’s opinion about what is best for me.” You believe the lie, “I will be happier with something instead of God’s best for me. God isn’t out for my best. He might make me a missionary to Guatemala, or something. I might end up in Guatemala like Rick Smart.” Rick’s life was close to shipwreck a few years ago but now you cannot imagine anyone who feels more fulfilled. Rick and Karen, now that they are in God’s will in Guatemala are more satisfied and fulfilled than they have ever been before. The conveniences of life in America do not compare to doing the work of God, even in Guatemala. A shipwrecked life can be redeemed by God. Those who are shipwrecked have sacrificed God’s best for something else. You are headed for shipwreck when you stop trusting God’s guidance and stop seeking His lead. Faith has to do with trusting God and relying upon His promises.
How do those who start out their Christian lives wanting to trust God lose their faith? Three wrong expectations. First, wrong expectations of who God is and what He wants, what God is doing, how He works, how He operates. That is basically called false doctrine or heresy, lies about God. Second, wrong expectations of the church by putting faith in an organization instead of God. Third, wrong expectations of pastors when you put your faith in the spokesman instead of the Word of God.
Keeping the faith means holding fast to the truth that is declared about God. Our culture offers special challenges. We can get too busy for our own good. Someone might be a strong believer through high school but then he or she goes off to college where there is so much going on that it is a challenge to regularly fit in time with God and His people. And then, after that, there is a new career and possibly a family that needs attention. If one lets these things crowd God out of life, he or she is headed for a spiritual shipwreck. God thought setting a special time each week aside to worship and contemplate God and be with His people was so important that He included it in the Ten Commandments, the foundation of Western law. “Thou shall keep the Sabbath.” He wants us to stop every week and reflect on who He is, who we are, your family, and things that are most important in life. You could lose faith when you get wrapped up in busyness because busyness leads to forgetting God and His instructions for life. And forgetting God and His instructions for life lead to shipwreck.
The third indicator that you are headed for shipwreck is when you stop listening to God’s warning device. That is what it means when it says “hold on to your good conscience.” Conscience is to the soul what pain is to the body. It is a warning device that something is wrong and something needs to change. Something needs to get fixed. Conscience is a God-given device that reacts when something threatens your soul or your spirit or your life’s well-being. You are headed for shipwreck when you drown out your conscience. Let me explain a little bit more and clarify what your conscience is really there for. Many people think that conscience is there to teach you what is right and what is wrong. I mean, after all, does it not say somewhere “Let your conscience be your guide?” That is in the Bible somewhere, isn’t it? Yeah, it is right there in Hezekiah. Right there next to “Cleanliness is next to godliness.” And a bunch of other things we think are in the Bible that are not. The Bible does not say “Let your conscience be your guide.” The Word of God is to be our guide.
The conscience does have an important purpose. It is to let you know, it is to warn you, it is to indicate that something that you know is wrong is being violated. The Word teaches us what is right and wrong. The conscience is given so that when we know what is right and we are in danger of violating that, it tells us to avoid it. As Paul tells us, there are some things we are born knowing are wrong (Romans 2:14-15). And there are other things we must learn to seek or avoid because they are for our benefit. But there is a danger. A person can actually damage his or her conscience by ignoring or continuously acting contrary to its instructions. The longer one continues to act contrary to conscience the weaker the conscience becomes. It becomes molded around the new choices and lifestyle. A belief that it is wrong to cheat on one’s spouse or one’s taxes can be erased to the point that only the fear of getting caught will deter the behavior. The Bible calls this process “searing.” To sear or burn a conscience is to deaden its response to wrongdoing. A serial adulterer or adulterous has no conscience toward cheating on his or her spouse. Does this mean it is ‘ok’ for that person because he or she does not ‘feel’ it is wrong? No! It actually indicates a damaged soul and seared conscience.
If you let conscience be your guide, you are saying, “I will do what my conscience tells me. What I feel good or feel bad about will be the determination.” And if you do not know that something is wrong, then you will go ahead and do it but you feel ‘ok’ about it. You become ruled by your feelings rather than ruled by the truth. “Well, I do not want to look up that IRS rule because I do not want to find out I am wrong. I do not want to open up the Scripture because I will find out it makes a difference in the choices I make and who I marry or not and I do not want to know that because he (she) looks so good.” And so you run by your feelings. And that sets you up for shipwreck. God has given you a conscience so that you will link what you know and what you do together. And realize that your conscience is informed via your mind. You teach and inform it by speaking to it. It is a rational process. The Word of God is to be the chief source for our conscience—to inform and educate it. Another danger with conscience is that it can be ill-informed. It can be conditioned to react to something it shouldn’t. It can be legalistic, brutal, and self-serving. That is why it is so important to let the entire Word of God educate your conscience. Be warned! Pleasure, power, and status are great deceivers. Their teachings can seduce our consciences to act in ways contrary to what we have learned that is consistent with God’s Word.
So your faith is not simply something you believe. Your faith has to be something that you live. You are not happy because of mere belief. You are happy, you are fulfilled because you find God has been real in your life. He has made a difference. You have seen His hand on your life. You have experienced it in real life. And so God gives you your conscience to link your life with your beliefs. When you consistently violate your conscience, you become a hypocrite--“I believe this, but I am consistently doing that.”
Nobody wants to make a drastic mistake in his or her life. Nobody wants to do the wrong thing and have to regret it for the next 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 years. You do not want to make that kind of mistake, but if you do not do the right thing, you are doing the wrong thing and it is going to bite you. You may say, “Well, I am just not going to do anything. I am not going to be right, I am not going to be wrong.” If there is a right thing for you to do and you do not do it, you are doing the wrong thing and you are missing what God has for your life. Trust God. Hold on to your faith. Keep a good conscience strong by exercising it daily.
Fight the one who wants to destroy your life, the "roaring lion looking for someone to devour," for a life to chew up and spit out. But you have the edge because the only way that he can cause you to be shipwrecked is if he takes your life more seriously than you do. When you start thinking these things do not matter, you are setting yourself up for shipwreck. When you start taking your life less seriously than Satan does, you are setting yourself up for shipwreck. But you can overcome it. And you do not have to do it alone because you have Christ in your heart and your life. Ephesians tells us to put on the whole armor of God so when the wiles of the devil come, you will be able to stand against them. A key component in the spiritual armor of the Christian is the Word of God. Ephesians 6:17 likens the dominating presence of the Word of God as a helmet for the head, which provides protection for our thinking and conscience. The Word of God is like a lighthouse designed to protect and inform those who look to it for direction.
As temptation arises a Word-informed conscience can slay it before it wrecks havoc in life. Learn God’s Word and put into practice what you learn and your life and conscience will be protected from the consequences of wrongdoing.