Timothy

The Quest (1 Timothy 6:11-21)

Paul began his letter to Timothy by stating the goal of the church.

“They [the church] should concern themselves with welcoming in and bringing about the Kingdom of God, which is all about faith. Our teaching about this journey is intended to bring us to a single goal—a place where self-giving love reigns from a pure heart, a clean conscience, and a genuine faith.”

The rest of the book has been talking about those things. When we get to the conclusion, Paul gives a bookend that sounds very similar.

You are a man of God. Your quest is for justice, godliness, faithfulness, love, perseverance, and gentleness.  Fight the good fight of the faith! [Agonize the good agony.] Cling to the eternal life you were called to when you confessed the good confession before witnesses.  Before God—the life-giving Creator of all things—and Jesus the Anointed, our Liberating King, who made the good confession to Pontius Pilate, I urge you: keep His commandment. Have a spotless, indisputable record until our Lord Jesus the Anointed appears to set this world straight.

In His own perfect time, He will come—blessed is the only Sovereign, the King of kings, and the Lord of lords. He alone possesses immortality; He makes His home in matchless, blinding, brilliant light that no one can approach—no mortal has ever even seen Him, and no human can. So let it be that all honor and eternal power are His. Amen.

Here’s what you say to those wealthy in regard to this age: “Don’t become high and mighty or place all your hope on a gamble for riches; instead, fix your hope on God, the One who richly provides everything for our enjoyment.” Tell them to use their wealth for good things; be rich in good works! If they are willing to give generously and share everything, then they will send ahead a great treasure for themselves and build their futures on a solid foundation. As a result, they will surely take hold of eternal life.

O Timothy, protect what was entrusted to you![the gospel]. Walk away from all the godless, empty voices out there, and turn aside from objections and arguments that arise from false knowledge.  (By professing such knowledge, some are missing the mark when it comes to true faith.) May God’s grace be with you.

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I’ll be honest: sometimes, when I read the Bible, I get tired. I know what a good quest looks like.

I grew up reading the stories of King Arthur and His knights (which I even forced on my high school literature classes for a time).  As a kid, I listened to the record of Rankin Bass’s The Hobbit, then read the Lord of the Rings every Christmas break during high school.  I’ve seen Indiana Jones, The Princess Bride and Guardians of the Galaxy; I know about the pursuit of Superbowl rings and NBA championships and NCAA tournament winners. There’s even that little bird in the kid’s stories who just wants to find his mother.

We all know what a quest is – and we all quest.

Sometimes it’s subconscious – we just end up giving our time, energy and emotion to something we have by default decided is important.  It could be people, or relationships, or family, or a job, or leisure. It could be a conscious choice: the environment, healthy living, injustice, poverty, a particular person, our family. When we find a cause we believe is worthy of our time, energy, money and emotion, we will give our life.

When the cause is noble, just, and good, we applaud those who fight no matter the cost. We admire William Wilberforce and Mother Theresa as well as our friends who fight to do life better. It’s the addict who celebrates their first year clean, or the married couple that has gone to counseling faithfully, or the person who has determined to pursue godliness even when those around them do not.  It might cost them time, money, comfort and even friends, but we encourage them because the cost is nothing compared with the value of the quest.

When the cause is lousy, we cringe at what great cost is being spent on such an unworthy goal. Watch an episode of the Bachelor or Jersey Shore or Honey Boo Boo and tell me if you don’t just want to weep for the lives that are being wasted. I see interviews occasionally with sports stars or Hollywood celebrities where they are so desperate to gain the world they lose their soul - and often their health, reputation, and friends. If we are not careful, our quest can destroy us.

But there are good quests too, such as “justice, godliness, faithfulness, love, perseverance, and gentleness.” These are not cheap, and they don’t come easily. If you want a pearl of great price you may have to sell everything. You have to fight for it. If you want to find your life you will have to lose it. If you want to follow Christ, you will have to take up a cross. Jesus bids us to come and die before we can truly live.

Paul says that going on a quest for godliness means you will have to fight the good fight.

“Keep His commandment.” This cannot be more clear. You fight the good fight and cling to eternal life through obedience. That is not what saves you, but it’s the only proper response to your claim of faith, and it’s how you fight the good fight. On the one hand, this is intimidating, because we will never do it perfectly, and we can run into the danger of legalism, judgment and shame. On the other hand, there is comfort here.

What if I don’t feel God’s presence? Keep His commandments. What if I am in despair? Keep His commandments. What if my world is crumbling, and life seems hopeless? Keep His commandments. What if I fail? Pick myself up and keep his commandments. That is how we maintain our quest. However, because we will do this imperfectly in spite of our best efforts, we need to....

“Fix your hope on God.” This particular passage stresses that you can’t put your hope in money. You also shouldn’t put it on reputation, power, sex, comfort, health, or good looks. Not on the next job promotion or election. . Not on a happy marriage or children who make you proud or a large retirement account. Certainly not on your ability to keep God’s law. None of those are bad things, but they cannot give you the hope you seek. I used to sing an old hymn: “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wondrous face. The things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.” To stay true to your quest, you must keep your eyes fixed on the hope of God.

“Be rich in good works.” Does God want you to be wealthy? Absolutely. Wealthy in kindness and generosity. Rich in love and gentleness. Money is not a bad thing, but the love of it is the root of all kinds of evil.  If God has given you the kind of gifts and talents that help you make money, make money for the glory of God and the furtherance of His kingdom. Just don’t make it an idol. You can't serve money and serve God. Your quest is not money; your quest is to build up a treasure of good deeds.

“Walk away from all the godless, empty voices.” Of all the topics in this book, Paul is relentless on this particular one. Don’t forget that ideas have consequences. You must cling to truth. There have always been godless voices, but I think we face some unique challenges today. Thanks to technology, we have access to soooo much information, and we can read and process it by ourselves. This is not necessarily a good thing. We need a community of the church to help us do this so that we don’t unintentionally begin to absorb ideas that will shipwreck our faith.

This is Paul’s final plea to Timothy. It’s the last thing to remember. This is a big deal. In the spirit of Paul’s admonition and my having a role similar to Timothy’s, I must offer this.

There is a recent book that has swept through a lot of Christian circles. As your pastor, I feel I must tell you that William Young’s The Shack full of distortions about God, sin, salvation, human nature, and eternity. [i] I understand that parts of the book are profoundly moving to many people, especially as it relates to processing why God allows pain and suffering. Yes, there are parts of The Shack that offer good things (a focus on the goodness of God, forgiveness, etc). But being moved is not the only thing that counts, and the good things are surrounded by bad theology.  Lest you think I am making too much of this, just hear me out.

In the forward to C. Baxter Kruger's book The Shack Revisited, Young wrote, "Please don't misunderstand me; The Shack is theology. But it is theology wrapped in story, the word becoming flesh and living inside the blood and bones of common human experience." It’s not just fiction; Paul Young is trying to change your theology. His recent book Lies We Believe About God makes his theology clear.

  • He denies the classic Christian teaching of human depravity. “Yes, we have crippled eyes, but not a core of un-goodness….blind, not depraved is our condition.”
  • He insists that God is not sovereign, but that he “submits rather than controls and joins us in the resulting mess of relationship…”
  • He believes in universalism. “God does not wait for my choice and then ‘save me.’ God has acted decisively and universally for all humankind. Now our daily choice is to either grow and participate in that reality or continue to live in the blindness of our own independence. Are you suggesting that everyone is saved? That you believe in universal salvation? That is exactly what I am saying!”
  • He thinks the Cross was a mistake. “Who originated the Cross? If God did, then we worship a cosmic abuser, who in Divine Wisdom created a means to torture human beings in the most painful and abhorrent manner. Frankly, it is often this very cruel and monstrous god that the atheist refuses to acknowledge or grant credibility in any sense. And rightly so. Better no god at all, than this one. The alternative is that the Cross originated with us human beings. This deviant device is the iconic manifestation of our blind commitment to darkness. It is our ultimate desecration of the goodness and loving intent of God to create, an intent that is focused on the human creation. It is the ultimate fist raised against God.”
  • He says hell is in the presence of God. He quotes Romans 8:38-39 which says nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God. Therefore, hell cannot be a place where we are separated from God. Rather, Young says, hell is God. It is "the continuous and confrontational presence of fiery Love and Goodness and Freedom that intends to destroy every vestige of evil and darkness that prevents us from being fully free and fully alive."

That’s hard for me to write, because I know that book has been meaningful to many people, and because it has provided a means by which many people who feel like God is disant and uncaring are reminded that God is personal and near. Is it possible that God can draw people to himself through this book? Sure, but it will be in spite of much of its distorted theology, not because of it. There will need to be some corrective teaching so that the trajectory of distorted theology explored in The Shack will not lead to the blatantly false theology of Lies We Believe About God. 

So I have to say something, becaue Timothy’s challenge is my challenge. I cannot walk away from it. If we want to quest like Paul challenged Timothy, we must reject the voices that can potentially shipwreck our faith with bad theology, even if the means by which the message is presented moves us.

So I know what a quest is, and I also know what it costs, and so sometimes, when I read the Bible, it makes me tired. No wonder Paul wrote in Galatians 6, “Don’t grow weary in doing well.”

That’s why I like that, after all the advice in this letter to Timothy, and after telling him that he is going to need to fight for and cling to his faith, Paul reminds him why that quest is so good, so important, and why it is the only one that matters in the end. Why should Timothy do all these things over and over again?  Why should Timothy never give, never grow weary in pursuing godliness? Because the God He is pursuing in his ultimate quest is awesome.

At this point in the letter, it’s almost as if Paul just can’t help himself. In the middle of instructions, he suddenly branches off into extravagant praise:

Blessed is the only Sovereign, the King of kings, and the Lord of lords. He alone possesses immortality; He makes His home in matchless, blinding, brilliant light that no one can approach—no mortal has ever even seen Him, and no human can. So let it be that all honor and eternal power are His. Amen.[ii]

There is no cause other that Christ that deserves our worship. Only Christ gets that ultimate allegiance from us. Only Christ deserves the fullness of our heart, soul, mind and strength. As we close this series, I want to close the same way Paul does, with a time of reflection and worship of the awesome God we serve.

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[i] Here are some recommended resources for The Shack (and Young’s latest, Lies We Believe About God).

JESUS CALLING is another popular book that is worth reconsidering, not so much because of its content but because of the precedent it sets about how God speaks to us.

[ii] I find it fascinating how Paul both borrowed from his culture in teh service of preching the gospel. In his address on Mars Hill he quotes several Greek poems and plays; Adam Clarke points out in his commentary that he believes Paul’s language here reflects a knowledge of his cultural contemporaries as well. Like he did on Mars Hill, Paul takes the language others used in praise of false gods and turns it to the True God. 

The Fables That Fail Us (1 Timothy 4:1-10)

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 But even so, the Spirit very clearly tells us that in the last times some will abandon the true faith because of their devotion to spirits sent to deceive and sabotage, and mistakenly they will end up following the doctrine of demons. They will be carried away through the hypocrisy of liars whose consciences have been branded with a red-hot iron, saying, “Don’t marry. Don’t eat such-and-such foods.” But God created all these to be received with gratitude by people who hold fast to the faith and really comprehend the truth. For everything God made is good. That means nothing should be rejected as long as it’s received with a grateful heart, for by God’s word and prayer, it is made holy.[i]

Place these truths before the brothers and sisters. If you do, you will be a good servant of Jesus the Anointed, raised and fed on words of true belief, trained in the good instruction you have so clearly followed.  Reject worldly fables. Refuse old wives’ tales. Instead, train yourself toward godliness. Although training your body has certain payoffs, godliness benefits all things—holding promise for life here and now and promise for the life that is coming. This statement is worthy of trust and our full acceptance. This is what we work so hard for! This is why we are constantly struggling: because we have an assured hope fixed upon a living God who is the Savior of all humankind—especially all of us who believe.

 

There were two problems facing Timothy in his church: One was a problem of what people believed, and the other was the problem of what people did. We have to believe things that are true, and then do the hard work of living in that truth.

Paul doesn’t pull any punches here. He says there are doctrines of demons, worldly fables and scandalous tales that sear the conscience of those who hold to them. The language is that of cauterizing a wound or being branded as a slave. The things we believe and then commit to first leave a mark, and they eventually tell others who our master is. [ii] Something will brand us and identify us, and it will be the thing to which we give our hearts and minds.  The Bible says we will all be servants or slaves of something. And it will true, or it will be a fable.

THE CULTURAL FABLES THAT FAIL US

Follow Your Heart. That’s a terrible idea – unless your heart is aligned with the heart of God. Just because your heart tells you something is the right thing doesn’t mean it is. How many times have we thought, “I would love to do this!” or “This just feels right!” and then had it end badly.  The history of pain in the world is built on the people who followed their hearts – unless their heart was aligned with the heart of God.  Jon Bloom writes[1]:

“If we make our hearts gods and ask them to lead us, they will lead us to narcissistic misery and ultimately damnation. They cannot save us, because what’s wrong with our hearts is the heart of our problem. But if our hearts believe in God, as they are designed to, then God saves us (Hebrews 7:25) and leads our hearts to exceeding joy (Psalm 43:4).Therefore, don’t believe in your heart; direct your heart to believe in God. Don’t follow your heart; follow Jesus. Note that Jesus did not say to his disciples, “Let not your hearts be troubled, just believe in your hearts.” He said, “Let not your hearts be troubled, believe in God; believe also in me” (John 14:1).

Success Is Measured By Money, Sex and Power. I’m not saying these things are bad. God is the author of all of them, and so when used as God intended they are good indeed. But if any of these things are your marker for the good life or a standard by which you gauge your reputation, worth or the significance of your life, you are going to find out what living in the rat race is really like. In the end you will find what Solomon did: it’s all meaningless in terms of ultimate value (see Ecclesiastes). “For me to live is Christ,” said Paul (Philippians 1:21).  Success is “Christ in me, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). I don’t need money, sex or power. I don't need toys or a bigger home or the best vacation. I don’t need to have fame. I don't need to reject them if they come my way, but in the end, you can have all the world – give me Jesus.

Live Without Boundaries/No Rules/ No One Can Tell Me What To Do. Do you remember Outback Steakhouse’s slogan, “No Rules Just Rights”? I didn’t even want that to be true at Outback. I hoped they followed rules of cleanliness when they made my food. (Wash your hands; don’t sneeze in my food; make sure the expiration date is good).  I get it – they were planning to make my food the way I wanted it. But even that is done within rules.

A world without boundaries or rules is chaos. There’s a reason we panic when a dam wall is in danger of bursting, or someone veers onto our side of the road, or a restaurant gives its customers salmonella because they broke rules of good sanitation. Without boundaries, we die. Everything has a design or a purpose, which means there is a formal or informal ‘instruction manual’ that shows us how things are meant to be, and under what circumstances they will flourish. Within boundaries, we live. This is true in the spiritual as well as the natural world. Live within godly boundaries (read Proverbs for starters).

One of the most devastating forms of this lie in our culture is that the unfettered, blatant freedom to choose whatever sexual lifestyle or action we want is empowering and healthy. It’s not – emotionally, mentally, physically.[iii]  Freud was wrong about a lot of things involving sex that have influenced our cultural perspective (just google ‘Freud was wrong’).

You don’t need a Bible that explains God’s design. Just read the sociological and medical literature on this. Contrary to what Scarlet Johansson thinks[2], we are not designed for promiscuity; we are designed for faithfulness. Once again, you don’t need a Bible to find this out. Do you know what group of people report the highest sexual satisfaction? Boundaried people; specifically, married religious people. You won’t see that on your TV, but it’s the reality. This doesn't’ mean marriage automatically guarantees this. It’s more complicated that. But if you just let sociology point you toward the good life sexually, you will find that it points toward the biblical revelation of God’s design: get saved and get married. The Law is a Teacher (Galatians 3); God, your designer, tells you what to do for your good and His glory.

You’re Perfect Just The Way You Are/You’re On The Right Track, Baby, You Were Born That Way. No, you’re not. I’m not either. You have issues. If you don’t know that yet, you will learn soon enough. Your teacher in college will give you a C, and you will have earned it. Your boss will write you up, your girlfriend or boyfriend will be rightly upset with you, and your parents will not like every decision you make, and you are going to make a fool of yourself on social media at some point. No one is perfect but God, and He, too, is well aware of your deficits.  

If anything, I am relieved to know I am not perfect just the way I am, because if I’m perfect, I am deeply disappointed in perfection. That would also meant that there is no way I can improve – and if that were true, I would be full of despair. But as C.S. Lewis noted, God wants to take the shack of your life and turn it into a mansion. That will take some remodeling.

Learn to see your frailties and failures with honesty but without shame. Grow. Build your strengths and at least address your weaknesses, but don’t hide the fact that you are imperfect. We all know it already. It’s okay. We aren’t either. And it is in the midst of our weakness that the strength of God is seen most clearly.

It’s My Life (My Actions Don’t Impact Anyone Else). Sure they do. Everything you do forms you, and then you take the constantly formed ‘you’ with you wherever you go.

  • Pornography harms you – and everybody around you, because you are training yourself to think of people and sex in a particular way.
  • What you ingest will catch up with you (food, drink, drugs, etc), and people around you will be effected.
  • What you read, listen to, and watch will form how you view the world, and then, “From the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45)  “Where your treasure is your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21) People around you are impacted for better or worse.
  • Your sex life has a ripple effect in your partner: You are both learning something about love, commitment, honor, forgiveness, patience – or you aren’t. You are both forming opinions about what men and women are like. That will profoundly influence you and the way you view and interact with other men and women on multiple levels.
  • If you get three hours of sleep every night because you are playing video games, and you are cranky the next day because you are exhausted, your work and your family will pay.

It’s never just your life. It’s always our life. Your actions will inevitably impact everyone around you.

If It Feels Good, Do It. That’s a bad standard for when to act. Sometimes it works – a nice jog feels good (or so I hear), and it turns out you probably should do it. Maybe being generous feels good. Awesome. But to simply say that we will follow our feelings rarely ends well. I would love eat a ton of fried food again. I would love some days to just give people a piece of my mind with no regard for grace. Lust, greed and selfishness beckon us all, I suspect. Should we do it? For the love of God and His Kingdom, no. If it’s right, do it, no matter how it feels.

Believe In Yourself And You Can Do Anything. I appreciate what’s trying to be accomplished here. Be confident; you are probably more capable than you think.  I’m good with that. But you will always let yourself down. You can’t do everything. We are all limited by who we are and the circumstances around us. That’s not a bad thing, but it is a thing. And I’ve got to tell you – I’ve been believing less and less in myself for a while now, and it’s been increasingly freeing. I no longer believe I have the power to be the parent or husband or pastor I should be. I do, however, believe that Jesus has the power, and that with his help I can continually improve. Without that, I am without hope. Believe in Jesus; you can do what He calls you to do.

THE CHURCH FABLES THAT FAIL US

Good Christians Have Health, Wealth, And Physical Blessings. I will just point you to apostles, all of whom were martyred except for John, who was exiled to a prison island. Or the millions of Christians around the world now and throughout history who lives short, brutal lives before giving their life for Christ. Or the martyrs right now in the Middle East who are being burned alive after watching their children killed. Or the sub-Saharan Christians who love Jesus and live in abject poverty.

Let’s look at it another way: How many Christians deserve health and wealth because of how good they are? None. No one is righteous on their own (Romans 3:10). Good Christians are only good because Jesus has given His goodness to them as a miraculous gift of grace. Health, wealth and physical blessings are not bad things if they used for God’s glory, and God may well grant them for the sake of His gospel message to be spread. But these are not biblical markers for knowing whom God likes and whom He doesn’t.

It Doesn’t Matter What You Believe As Long As You Are Sincere (Or As Long As It Helps You). I hope going through 1 Timothy has put this fable to rest. True belief matters. People can be sincerely wrong. Not all roads lead to God. Not everything promoted in Christendom is correct. For example, the ‘heavenly tourism’ books have a lot of flags. All of the popular ones have some really troublesome theological material in them, and some of them have been dismissed by the authors themselves.[3]

“But is has inspired people and pointed them toward the reality of eternity!” Yes indeed; it has done that. But it has pointed toward truth with lies. It has gone beyond the Bible or even contradicted the Bible to point people toward the Bible. Even if it bears some fruit, it’s a dangerous precedent.

If all that matters is that something helps you or inspires you, you don’t necessarily need gospel truth, because there are a lot of smart people who can help you manage your sin and organize your life so that you feel better than you do now. You can just go to the self-help section of the bookstore and spare yourself taking up the Cross of Christ, because that’s really hard. It matters what you believe, and because it’s true, it will help you in a way that is lasting.

God Will Give Me The Desires Of My Heart. It’s in the Bible, but we have to be aware of the context. He won’t give you your sinful desires, though he may give you over to them. He won’t give you your selfish desires, though He may give you over to them. God doesn’t say “how high” when we say, “Jump!” Here’s the whole verse: “Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him" (Psalm 37:5-7)

God will give you the desires of your heart if they align with the desires of God’s heart, because then it’s part of God’s plan, not yours.

God Wants Me To Be Happy. God is not opposed to happiness. If fact, I think he’s a pretty big fan. But that’s not God’s goal for you. God wants you to be holy. God wants you to be righteous. And if God’s work in you to bring this about requires that you be unhappy, God will have no problem making you unhappy. How many people’s lives in the Bible would you describe as “happy”?  Yet God was at work in them, and their lives were deep, meaningful, purposeful, and profoundly important. I have no doubt happiness was a part of their life, but that’s a byproduct, not a goal. God wants you to be holy – which is the road to joy (Psalm 16:11).

God Uses Extraordinary People. Sure, sometimes, but not because they are extraordinary. We really have to be careful with this idea. God’s not waiting for you to dream big dreams or be wild at heart before He can use you. Usually, God uses very ordinary people. Often he uses sub-ordinary people. When he chose the disciples, he chose the dropouts that no other rabbi wanted. Normally, a student asked a rabbi if he could be a student. A rabbi never sought out students. But that’s what Jesus did. He chose men who either nobody wanted or who didn’t really want to get that involved. You don’t have to be extraordinary – because that part is up to Jesus. God uses people – even you.

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So how do we avoid fables? Good Instruction. Some things are true and some things are not. We have to identify error and lies at times. This commitment leads us away from the bad effects of false believes and moves us toward the blessing that comes with leading godly lives. Paul says Godly living holds promise for life now and the life to come. God made us; he knows how we function best. He knows what we are made to be and do. When we see and understand God’s design for our lives, and we are content to live in that design – that’s the good life. That’s something to build on.

Paul says we will have to train. Disciples are not passive. There is a reason Paul uses sports analogies. You don't finish the race by sitting and watching.   We are called to train spiritually like an athlete trains physically in “good instruction.” We will have to wrestle with false ideas and worldviews at times. There are a lot of voices out there clamoring for your attention. Don’t just accept what they say at face value – and that includes what you hear taught from the pulpit of this church. Read. Study. Pray. Then do all those things with other Christians. 

And it’s worthwhile. As you train in instruction you train in godliness. You mature. You build spiritual muscles and skills. You develop into the disciple God has intended you to be. And you will find that it “benefits all things, holding promise for life here and now and promise for the life that is coming.”[iv]

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[1] http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/don-t-follow-your-heart

[2] http://www.lifenews.com/2017/02/15/pro-abortion-actress-scarlett-johansson-claims-monogamy-is-not-a-natural-thing/

[i] I like the commentary from Jamieson-Fausset-Brown on this verse.

Sanctified—"hallowed"; set apart as holy for the use of believing men: separated from "the creature," which is under the bondage of vanity and corruption (Ro 8:19, &c.). Just as in the Lord's Supper, the thanksgiving prayer sanctifies the elements, separating them from their naturally alien position in relation to the spiritual world, and transferring them to their true relation to the new life. So in every use of the creature, thanksgiving prayer has the same effect, and ought always to be used (1Co 10:30, 31).

[ii] “Having their conscience seared with a hot iron - They bear the marks of their hypocrisy as evidently and as indelibly in their conscience in the sight of God, as those who have been cauterized for their crimes do in their bodies in the sight of men. It was customary in ancient times to mark those with a hot iron who had been guilty of great crimes, such as sacrilege, etc. And the heathens supposed that even in the other world they bear such marks; and by these the infernal judges knew the quantum of their vices, and appointed the degrees of their punishment. There is a saying much like that of the apostle in the invective of Claudian against Rufinus, whom he supposes to be thus addressed by Rhadamanthus, one of the infernal judges: -

"Thou fool, why dost thou deny what is so manifest? Behold the deep-burnt marks deform thy conscience; the appearance of them has grown up with thy vices; neither can the crimes which thou hast committed hide themselves." – From Adam Clarke’s Commentary

[iii] http://www.everydayhealth.com/longevity/can-promiscuity-threaten-longevity.aspx

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201304/the-lingering-psychological-effects-multiple-sex-partners

http://www.markgungorshow.com/show/8185

http://www.heritage.org/education/report/harmful-effects-early-sexual-activity-and-multiple-sexual-partners-among-women

http://salvomag.com/new/articles/salvo24/holy-matrimony.php

[iv] “Having promise, of the life that now is - The man that fears, loves, and serves God, has God's blessing all through life. His religion saves him from all those excesses, both in action and passion, which sap the foundations of life, and render existence itself often a burden. The peace and love of God in the heart produces a serenity and calm which cause the lamp of life to burn clear, strong, and permanent. Evil and disorderly passions obscure and stifle the vital spark. Every truly religious man extracts the uttermost good out of life itself, and through the Divine blessing gets the uttermost good that is in life; and, what is better than all, acquires a full preparation here below for an eternal life of glory above. Thus godliness has the promise of, and secures the blessings of, both worlds.” – From Adam Clarke’s Commentary

The Qualities of Godly Leadership (1 Timothy 3:1-13)

As we’ve been going through Paul's letter to Timothy, we've seen that there has been a problem in the movers and shakers in the church in Ephesus. False teaching and pagan practices have been creeping in, and Timothy needs to put people in positions of leadership that will safeguard orthodoxy (right doctrine) and orthopraxy (righteous living) for the sake of the spread of the gospel.

I’m putting our church leadership on the hot spot today. I am keenly aware of that. I am also going to challenge all of you today, because what Paul requires of leaders ought to be a standard for all of us.

Here’s another statement you may trust: if anyone is seeking a position as overseer in the church, he desires an honorable and important work. Here are the qualifications to look for in an overseer: a spotless reputation, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, sensible, respectable, welcoming to strangers (allowing them into his home), and gifted to teach.  Disqualify any drunk or violent man.

Look for a gentle man; no belligerent fellow can follow this calling. And he should be free from money lust. He should exert good control over his own household, and his children should obey and honor him.  (If someone can’t manage his own household, then how can he take care of God’s family?)

He mustn’t be someone recently converted; otherwise, he may become arrogant and fall into the devil’s condemnation. He should also be respected for his character and known as an honorable person by people outside of the church so as to avoid the pitfalls of the devil (“avoid the pit into which the devil fell).

The same standards apply to deacons: they should be dignified. Double-talking hypocrites, heavy drinkers, and those greedy for ill-gotten gain should not be considered. They should be people who hold tight to the great mystery of faith with a clear conscience. Put these deacon-candidates to the test first; and if they come through without stumbling, then send them out to serve.

Again the same applies to women (wives?) in key positions; they should also be dignified, not backstabbing gossips but self-controlled and faithful to the core. Now deacons should live faithfully as the husband of one wife and be in control of their households, including their children. Those deacons who serve well will achieve a good standing for themselves in the community and have great confidence to walk in the faith that is in Jesus the Anointed, our Liberating King.

I am going to first separate the three categories of people mentioned, then walk through the qualifications.

1. Overseer/elder/pastor  Overseer is mentioned other times (Acts 20:28; Philippians 1:1; Acts 20:17-38; Titus 1:6-7; Romans 12:8, 1 Corinthians 12:28, Ephesians 4:11) and is often used synonymously with "elder" or “pastor”. Those three terms are sometimes used differently in churches today to make a distinction in roles in the church, but they demand the same qualifications. In a nutshell, they are responsible for the spiritual leadership and guidance of the church.  They protect and promote true doctrine and righteous living. 

2. Deacons  The office of deacons emerged as the church grew. There was too much for overseers to do; they needed another group of leaders to share the load (Acts 6:1-6).  This freed up overseers to focus on protecting and promoting true doctrine and righteous living. The deacons generally  focused on basically everything else in the church. This is not only practically demanding, it requires a level of spiritual accountability that is very similar to that of the overseers. 

3. Women (or wives) in key positions. This could have included a number of things, since women were very involved in the early church. This passage appears to be talking about deaconesses specifically, so see the previous comment on deacons. 

Now, on to the list of qualifications (which I am going to combine for the sake of time). 

Spotless reputation/ respectable/ Respected for his character; known as an honorable person by people outside of the church. 

There is an image attached to this word, a metaphor, of a boxer who is so good that his opponent can’t land a single hit. This has to do with more than just leadership within the church: there is the issue of public witness. When people both inside and outside the church hear that you are in leadership, does it make sense to them? They might not agree with your doctrine, but they ought to look at your life and think, “Yep. That was a good call. You want them to lead.” This matters, because a disgraced leader brings shame on the church and undermines the message of the gospel (3:15).

If rumors spread about bad character or actions, do people latch on to them because it’s in line with what they know, or are they skeptical – “That doesn’t sound like them.” Granted,  we aren’t perfect, and we can’t control what others think (fairly or unfairly) but does our public life rob accusations of their power or give them life?

Husband of one wife. Literally, a "one-woman man."Based on other passages of Scripture, it doesn’t seem likely Paul was saying they had to be married, or that this was a blanket ban on remarriage (1 Corinthians 7:39-40; 1 Timothy 5:14). After all, exceptions to the rule prohibiting remarriage were made in the case of adultery (Matthew 5:32; 19:9) and when an unbelieving spouse left (1 Corinthians 7:15). 

The qualification appears to be a requirement of faithfulness in marriage. Perhaps this is a way of highlighting that our private life has consequences for the church. The phrase is probably stressing that, if they are married, the quality of their marriage matters.   This does not demand perfection – that doesn’t happen on this side of heaven – but it does demand a consistent faithfulness characterized by honor, mutual submission, and sacrificial love. 

So let’s address a lurking question here: why doesn't it say the wife of one husband? Can only men be overseers? I need to address this, but since it is not the main point of my sermon (See the footnote at the end for more clarity).

Sober-minded. This doesn’t mean they could never laugh. It means they needed to be clear-headed and vigilant in overseeing the life of the church. They had to have a good head on their shoulders. 

Sensible. One meaning is ‘balanced, stable, or moderated. Not given to excess.’  This suggests the need to control impulsive behavior, not to overindulge appetites. They can’t be compulsively self-destructive in their lifestyle.  Today we might talk about all kinds of addictions: compulsive eating, gambling, shopping, online surfing, or drug and alcohol abuse. It would include controlling one’s emotions in a balanced manner.

Welcoming to strangers (allowing them into his home). Hospitality was crucial in the NT culture, and even more so in the church. This was different than just inviting people over for lunch (though it could include that). It had more to do with a call to show honor towards everyone while being radically generous in caring for them with all your resources. All believers were to practice hospitality (Romans 12:13; 1 Peter 4:9; Titus 1:8).

Gifted to teach. Considering the problem of false teaching going on in Ephesus, this qualification would include some ability to be able to present solid doctrinal teaching (5:17; 2 Timothy 2:1) and show why false teaching was wrong (2 Timothy 2:24; Titus 1:9). There is a division of labor among the elders alluded to in 5:17; this suggests the ability to publically teach or preach might not need not be the strong suit of all the overseers, but it would include the ability to do this informally. 

Not drunk or violent. That means exactly what it says. Don’t live like you are in a reality show ☺

Gentle; not belligerent. Not one who picks a fight. There is an ability to absorb personality flaws and differing opinions with graciousness. An overseer who is thin-skinned and can’t take criticism, or who can’t seem to ever acknowledge the possibility that he might be wrong, or who causes controversy not by defending true doctrine but by failing to consider if he is gracious is going to cause problems. 

They must be fair and reasonable. I keep coming back to this summary: they must be safe physically, emotionally, spiritually, and in their attitude and demeanor.

Free from money lust. Don’t be greedy. Be generous. We can’t serve God and money. (Matthew 6:24)

Exerts good control over his own household, and his children should obey and honor him. A household at this time would have included the wife, children, maybe extended family and servants (if you had the money). Some Christian householders in Ephesus owned slaves (think indentured servant).  Leaders in the church needed to exhibit godly leadership at home. To suggest this meant perfection would be at odds with the rest of the New Testament. I’m not sure it even means that the husband must answer for all the sins or rebelliousness of other members of the household. People have free will and make choices. But was he a godly leader? Did he offer a godly example combined with godly leadership?  Did he maintain his witness and raise the spiritual and moral bar in his home? It’s not enough to be a ‘good man’ publicly; he must be so privately as well.

Not recently converted (or he will become arrogant). The apostle's term means puffed up, a metaphor that reminds us of a balloon. It’s is light, and has nothing in it but air.

Part of the danger with new converts is that they can think they must be spiritually awesome because they are leap-frogging over people who have been Christians for longer than they have. This does not suggest that leaders must be chosen based on the ones who have been saved the longest; after all, we all have different gifts and callings. Perhaps the question to ask is this: do they want to be a leader because they want the reputation? Or so they can have power? Or because they think they are awesome? That’s a bad sign. If they are chosen to lead because they are spiritually mature enough to step into their gift of leadership, that’s a good sign.  Honestly, if leaders generally feel like they are in over their head, that’s probably a good sign, because they are. It’s only with God’s supernatural help that they will succeed.

Not double-talking hypocrites. They shouldn’t be two-faced or lead a double life. Their stated belief and their lifestyles need to match. They shouldn’t ‘talk out of both sides of their mouth,’ representing themselves one way and then another depending on their audience.  This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t ‘be all things to all people’ as Paul did. He was good at presenting the Gospel in a variety of ways that often looked very different. We are talking here about not being a person whose witness for Christ ebbs and flows depending on the audience.

Holding tight to faith with a clear conscience. They should be grounded in true doctrine, not easily led astray by false teachers. Once again, true faith leads to right conduct. Doctrine matters, because ideas have consequences. 

Not backstabbing gossips. That’s pretty blunt. Keep in mind what we talked about last week: gossip was a problem in this community. No wonder he calls it out.

So that’s the standard for leaders in the church. It’s also the bar that is raised for all of us. You don’t have to be in church leadership to feel the weight of this. So how do shoot for this without becoming wrapped up in a legalistic rat race?

  •  Pray ‘with upraised arms.’ I love the image from last week: open before God and others about the reality of our lives. It symbolizes humility; it requests inspection of hands and heart. We surrender our integrity, reputation and public witness to the scrutiny of God and others. 
  • Immerse ourselves in Scripture. With all the commands about clinging to doctrine, we must be students of the Word. Read the Bible, commentaries, books. Listen to podcasts. Study deeply, widely, and with discernment. [Note: I don't know of any Christian leader with whom I agree about everything. We unite on the creedal core of the faith, but not necessarily on secondary issues.]
  • Submit to accountability in church community. We need accountability on our doctrine and our lives. We can deceive ourselves pretty easily about how we are doing. We must live in humble, submitted community.
  • Praise God for doing the work we can’t while doing the work we can. I’ve used the phrase before: God demands that we put ‘sweat equity’ into our faith. God does all the work we can’t, but he has given us the privilege and responsibility of, to use Paul’s words, running the race and fighting the good fight. Getting saved doesn’t erase our reputation; being a Christian does not guarantee everyone will now admire us. God won’t magically give us a good reputation. The Holy Spirit doesn’t illuminate Scripture we don’t read. God will empower us miraculously, but we have a responsibility too. 

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ON WOMEN IN CHURCH MINISTRY

  Let’s first give some context to what was happening in the early church.

  • Women were elevated in the early church that was unprecedented in those cultures, including Judaism.  
  • Jesus had women who sat at his feet, suggesting he taught them as disciples, which was remarkably unusual. 
  • Paul insisted women be educated in the church in a time when nobody educated women. 
  • Women were so prevalent in the early church that the Romans mocked the church for having so many women. 
  • At a time when Jewish men thanked God they were not women, Jesus appeared to women first after his Resurrection, and Paul insisted that in Christ there was no “male or female.” 
  • We see women as deaconesses, prophetesses, and evangelists, co-workers with Paul, teachers, and perhaps even in an apostolic role .
  • Wealthy women were patrons who hosted house churches and would have been very involved. 

It is crucial that we understand that women flocked to the church because it was a haven of safety and opportunity, and it offered them a value, worth and dignity that was unprecedented.  Here's a brief list of how women were elevated in both worth and role in the New Testament, beginning with the life and ministry of Jesus.

  • The angel appeared to Mary, and everyone had to take her word even though women were considered unreliable liars in Jewish community.
  • Jesus' disciples included several women, which was highly unusual (Luke 8:1-3)
  • Christ's first clearly identifies himself as the true Messiah to the Samaritan woman (John 4:25-26).
  • He treated female outcasts with dignity (Matthew 9:20-22; Luke 7:37-50; John 4:7-27).
  • Jesus appeared to women first after His resurrection as eyewitnesses.
  • At Pentecost, women were there praying with the other disciples (Acts 1:12-14). They clearly understood sound doctrine and experienced spiritual giftedness (Acts 18:26; 21:8-9).
  • Paul ministered alongside women (Philippians 4:3).
  • Paul applauded their faithfulness and giftedness (Romans 16:1-6; 2 Timothy 1:5
  • Couples evangelized with him (1 Cor. 16:3)
  • Paul says that Andronicus and Junias labored with Paul in apostolic work (Romans 16:7)
  • The church in Philippi met in the house of Lydia, a seller of purple cloth. Paul’s visit to her suggests she had a leadership role of some sort (Acts 16:35-40).
  • Phoebe (Rom 16:1-2) is called a deacon and a leader.
  • Priscilla, along with her husband, taught Apollos (Acts 18:26).
  • The four daughters of Philip appear in Acts 21:9 as prophetesses. Eusebius viewed these daughters as “belonging to the first stage of apostolic succession.”
  • When the Roman governor Pliny the Younger interrogated church leaders, he included two slave women called ministrae (deacons).
  • Clement of Alexandria wrote that the apostles were accompanied on missionary journeys by women specifically to preach to women.
  • Jerome (330’s) was so impressed with Roman women studying with him that he sent some church elders to one of them, Marcella, to resolve a question of hermeneutics.
  • Augustine (400’s) claimed that Christian women were wiser in spiritual matters than were many philosophers.
  • Fabiola founded the first Christian hospital in Europe.

There is one position in church that women did not hold in the New Testament: overseer (elder or pastor). Was that a timely command put in place because of cultural dynamics, or was that a timeless command that is rooted in a theology of church leadership? Christians attempting to read the Bible accurately disagree about this, sometimes very vigorously.

One thing is clear.

This is clearly about roles in the church, not inherent worth. In the same way we see the Trinity having different roles with no devaluation of worth, men and women have roles in the church without devaluation of worth. There is no sense anywhere in Scripture that one’s sex is connected with being greater or lesser as a human being.  This is about roles. Men and women are egalitarian (equal) in worth while being complementarian in roles.  

If a man reads this and thinks, “I am clearly more awesome than women,” he has totally missed the point. If a woman reads this and thinks, “Crap. I’m not as good as a man in the eyes of God,” they have missed the point also. This is about roles, not worth. 

I have read quite a bit of the discussion among Christians about how to understand this passage, and there is not settled agreement. However, I do know that for most of the past 2,000 years, the church has generally (though not entirely) viewed this distinct role of men as ‘overseers’ in the church as a timeless command for the church. CLG has submitted itself to the weight of the historical church’s interpretation of this passage, as do I.  

One of the Rare Ones (Philippians 2:19- 23)

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I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy your way. He will visit soon so that he may report to me how you are doing. To hear all that is going on with you will truly encourage my heart. There is no one like Timothy. What sets him apart from others is his deep concern for you and your spiritual journey. This is rare, my friends, for most people only care about themselves, not about what is dear to the heart of Jesus the Anointed. You know Timothy is genuine in the Lord’s ways. He has been a faithful partner to me as we express the good news of the gospel, as much as my own flesh and blood would have been. I expect to send him soon, and I will as soon as I see how things turn out here. (Philippians 2:19-23) This remarkable claim about the character of Timothy is bookended between a comment about his concern for the spiritual journey of others and his preaching of the gospel. We are going to talk more next week about the latter, so this week I want to focus on the former.

Remember Paul is writing to Philippi, a Roman colony populated by people who had been raised in a worldview that believed that empathy between humans and the gods was not possible.

  • In the Iliad, Homer writes that “we live in unhappiness, but the gods themselves have no sorrows.”
  • Aristotle said that the gods cannot be an example for human conduct because the gods are far removed from human life.

When it comes to Jesus, we see a remarkably different claim. The writer of Hebrews noted:

“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace. ” (Hebrews 4:14 -15).

God empathizes with human experience not just by knowing about it but by entering into it. This is an new concept of what was God was like for the converts in Philippi. Leading up to the comment that Timothy’s ‘deep concern’ reveals the heart of Jesus, we have the first half of Philippians 2 by way of explanation: In Jesus, God took upon himself humanity as an act of obedience to God and service to us through His death on the cross.

Joan Osborne sang, “What if God was one of us?” In Christian theology, He was. God’s love for us was concrete and complete in Jesus. Through Jesus, God demonstrates that He is not an aloof, unfeeling God. He understands the problems of being human because in Jesus He lived with us as one of us. How many times have we said to someone else during difficult times, “You don’t know what it’s like to be me. If you only knew…” He knows what it’s like. Either Jesus or someone close to Jesus struggled with physical frailty or poverty, faced death and loneliness, had to figure out how to get along with unlikable people, etc.

Through Christ, we are shown that God understands us. Through Christ, we are also shown that God has provided a way for human experience to be redeemed.

  • Our sickness is not the end of the story; one day, God will wipe all tears from our eyes.
  • Death is the end of this life, but not of life in the greater sense of the word – a New Heaven and New Earth await.
  • We may be lonely, but we are not alone.
  • We may not like everybody – and they may not like us – but with the help of the Holy Spirit we can learn to love.
  • Our sins are killing us spiritually, breaking the world and alienating us from God and others – but this, too, can be redeemed because of Jesus.

Though Jesus ended his time on earth, his presence remains in two important ways: the Holy Spirit and the Church.

First, Jesus said of the Holy Spirit, “But the truth is that My departure will be a gift that will serve you well, because if I don’t leave, the great Helper (Advocate; Counselor) will not come to your aid. When I leave, I will send Him to you. When He arrives, He will uncover the sins of the world, expose unbelief as sin, and allow all to see their sins in the light of righteousness for the first time.” (John 16:7-9)[1]

Second, God’s presence is embodied in the church, the ‘body of Christ,’ the physical representation of God’s Kingdom on earth. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul gave an extended analogy of the church as the body of Christ that ends with the following: “You are the body of Jesus the Anointed, the Liberating King; each and every one of you is a vital member.” (1 Corinthians 12:27)

We can’t save the world like Jesus did – we aren’t little Jesusus waiting to blossom – but we have His Word in front of us, His Spirit within us, and His Church around us, and we have been tasked with representing Jesus through our faithful presence in the world.

This brings us back to our text. "There is no one like Timothy. What sets him apart from others is his deep concern for you and your spiritual journey. This is rare, my friends, for most people only care about themselves, not about what is dear to the heart of Jesus the Anointed.  You know Timothy is genuine in the Lord’s ways."

Paul does not say that Timothy was bolder than anyone else, or knew the Old Testament better than anyone else, or had the best prayer life of anyone Paul knew (though he may have had all these things). There was no one like Timothy because Timothy’s concern for their spiritual journey reflected the heart of Jesus, and it set him apart.

“This is rare, my friends.”

I would like to offer some tips for how to become one of the rare ones as we reflect the heart of Jesus by demonstrating our concern for the spiritual journey of others. Two points of clarity first:

  • Paul does not say precisely how Timothy did this, so I am going to fill in some blanks based on what we see modeled different places in Scripture and what we have learned is effective simply by studying relationships (this kind of study is a form of ‘general revelation’ in that God reveals truth to all people about things like this through His creation. He let’s us figure some stuff out).
  • This is going to be a discussion about how we can care about others in a broader sense than “deep concern for your spiritual journey”, I want to talk about how we can care for others generally, with the hope that as we practice these principles, it will be purposeful preparation for us to minister effectively in deeply spiritual situations as well.

Pray. If we want to show true and deep concern for others, we will need God’s help. The Bible tells us that God gives wisdom generously (James 1:5). We will need more wisdom than we have; we will need more depth of emotion than we have on our own; we will most likely be over our heads at some point if not often. We cannot be proud and effective when it comes to caring for others – “most people care only about themselves, “ and they are neither rare nor set apart like Timothy. We must be humble, and prayer reminds us that we must have God in the midst of this enterprise so that He can be strong when we are weak. If you don’t know what to say to someone, ask God to inspire your conversation. If you walk away from a meeting feeling like you blew it, pray that God’s strength is magnified in your weakness. If you just don’t care about someone like you should, ask God to work in you “to will and to do to fulfill His good purposes.”

Observe and Listen. Jesus “saw” the crowds (Matthew 9:36); when he met with people like Nicodemus (John 3), he heard his questions – but he also heard what was in Nicodemus’s heart. This is not shallow engagement. This is a purposeful quest to understand the person in front of you. This is being aware of body language, tone, and facial expression as well as what is being said or done. This is getting to know someone’s past and present so there is a context for understanding. So we are praying and putting sweat equity into a relationship.I remember once after a youth group session one of the other leaders came up to me and said, “It’s okay. You don’t need to worry about how you look.” Her tip? I kept grabbing my shirt and ‘fluffing’ it because I was self-conscious that the shirt made my gut look big. That has always stood out to me, because I knew she was genuinely seeing me. She cared. You don’t need to parse every little thing or stare at people creepily. Just be aware of dynamics. Just because you should or could dig doesn’t mean you must dig in the moment. Be present; be alert; if something nags at you, at least file it away as something you may want to revisit later. People feel cared for when they realize someone else is taking the time to see beyond the surface.

Ask Appropriate Questions. If it’s not your place to pry, don’t. But if you have a relationship that allows this, pursue others with questions. Seek to know rather than be known. People feel cared for when you show that you want to get to know or understand them. It can be a simple as, “Are you sure?” when someone says they are fine and you don’t buy it. It could be, “How can I pray for you?” when someone says they are tired. It could be, “Did you say everything you really wanted to say in that conversation?”It could be asking questions a week later about something you talked about before just to let people know you haven’t forgotten. This should be done in conjunction with prayer/observation/listening, because you will need wisdom both supernatural and practical. If you pry when it’s not your place, that’s going to backfire. If you try to become someone’s confidant when they don’t want you as that – that’s not going to work. Appropriate questions are asked in a timely manner, with a caring spirit, in a manner that matches the depth or quality of the relationship.

Empathize. Romans 12:15-16 states: “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.” Ecclesiastes talks about their being a time to laugh, cry, live, die, etc. In other words, seek to understand where someone is and respond in a way that is appropriate to the situation emotionally. Is someone celebrating? Celebrate. Is someone mourning? Mourn. Is someone wanting to talk deeply about life? Don’t just skim the surface. Are they needing a day where they just laugh about silly things? Do that with them.Pray some more wisdom, because we need wisdom in this too. People can celebrate bad things -they might be excited about the pleasures of sin. People might want to always talk on the surface and we recognize that we will have to choose some times to push them deeper. There are times when the best thing we can do is counter where someone is at – for example, if someone is trapped in depression we don’t want to respond in a way that double up on what’s happening. Part of relying on the Holy Spirit’s guidance in our lives is to pray for wisdom in those situations so that we respond appropriately. We pray, we listen and observe, we engage, we empathize – but we do it all remembering that the goal is their good and God’s glory.

Be patient. Numerous times, the Old Testament reminds us that God is “slow to anger and abounding in mercy.” (Just google the phrase J ) Romans 2:4 talks about the “riches of His kindness, forebearance and patience” which is intended to lead us to repentance. If we want to show deep concern for people, particularly in their spiritual journey, it will most likely be an investment. Expect to spend time, and be willing to give people time.You are not the Holy Spirit. You can’t do God’s work inside of another person. God’s timing is almost certainly different from yours. Be patient. It’s one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, one of the signs that God is at work in your life. Be faithfully present in people’s lives. You may walk with someone for weeks or years before you see your investment in their life bear fruit. Stay with it. How long has Jesus been patient with you?

Serve. “God demonstrated his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). We see in Jesus that genuine love is demonstrated love. If Jesus is our model, our love for God and others will be a demonstrated love. The Bible is clear that our faith is an active faith.

“Then shall the King say unto them on His right hand, Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry, and you gave Me meat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me drink: I was a stranger and you took Me in: naked, and you clothed Me: I was sick, and you visited Me: I was in prison, and you came unto Me.” ( 25:34-37)[2] 

Words are crucial, but they are not always enough. It’s one thing to say, “I care about you.” It’s another thing to give money or things, spend time, lend cars, talk on the phone, pay a bill, etc. My mom has decided that in her retirement she is going to drive people who don’t have cars to their appointments. It’s a large need in her area, and their church is doing it as part of a purposeful outreach. She sits with people in church who are sitting by themselves; she invites other people over for meals. Sheila reminded me of friend who has watched our kids over the years not because she always wanted to, or because it was easy – it wasn’t – but because it was how she demonstrated her love for us. Love is costly. Jesus’ love required him to be ‘broken and spilled out’ physically for us. Modeling the love of Jesus will require us to be ‘broken and spilled out’ in some sense as we serve others.

Timothy was one of the rare ones in whom everyone saw concern that revealed the heart of God. No wonder Paul “hopes to send Timothy your way.” Who wouldn’t want someone like Timothy joining them for a while? I suspect that this ‘practice of rarity’ in even the most ordinary of moments primes us for engagement in the spiritual journey of others toward and with Jesus.

May I encourage you with a vision of church life together? What happens if in our interaction with others we demonstrated these things in a way the increasingly revealed a transformation taking place in us as we become increasingly like Christ?

  • Praying
  • Observing and Listening
  • Asking Appropriate Questions
  • Empathizing
  • Showing Patience
  • Serving

We would be a church full of “rare ones,” and not just when it came to friendships and ‘felt needs’. We would be constantly reminded of God’s love for us as we experienced the love of God’s people.

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[1] If you love Me, obey the commandments I have given you. I will ask the Father to send you another Helper, the Spirit of truth, who will remain constantly with you. The world does not recognize the Spirit of truth, because it does not know the Spirit and is unable to receive Him. But you do know the Spirit because He lives with you, and He will dwell in you." (John 14:15-17)

[2] Christians are to be “given to hospitality” and willing to “distribute to the necessity of the saints” (romans 12:13) and show “hospitality one to another without grudging” (1 Peter 4:9)