1 Timothy 6 has Paul exhorting Timothy about dealing with those who “teach a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ”. We all know that many don’t agree with God’s Word. They want to live by their own ideas or follow something other than the Truth. So Paul tells us the root of that – he lists the traits of one who is unwilling to accept God’s Word:
– “puffed up with conceit
– understands nothing
– unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words
– produce envy
– evil suspicions
– constant friction”
Those who refuse to follow God’s Word are on their own mission – they have their own agenda – and we must stay clear of that. We are charged to study and understand God’s truth and to protect and use it to live life.
In fact – Paul gives us this direction – “there is great gain in godliness with contentment”. Are you content in Jesus? Do you realize that is the plan for us if we live as Christ Followers should? We should be living godly and content lives. We should be absolutely filled with joy in our circumstances if we are walking with God. Does contentment mean life is perfect? Not at all – but it does mean we understand this truth: “we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world…. if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content”. It all comes down to ownership and way too many of us think we own things. We don’t – it all belongs to God and we are merely stewards of what He allows us to have. We need to get that through our thick skull and realize that God gives us enough. When we continue to seek more – well the results are not good: “those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires….the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils”. If we want to succeed in our walk with Jesus we have to let go of the desire to be rich. We have to flee the temptation of having much and learn contentment with what God entrusts to us. Is it wrong to want more? It is if it keeps us from experiencing contentment in our walk with Jesus.
Paul wraps this letter with things we need to do to live as a man of God. How we live really does matter. There are things that make us godly and holy and we need to be focused on those things. “But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called….keep the commandment unstained….guard the deposit entrusted to you”. It really comes down to us taking charge of our lives and pursuing the right things. We need to flee that which will pull us away from God – the love of money and self – and pursue with all our heart that which makes us like Him. What are you chasing? Where are you spending your time? Is it all about you and what you are accumulating here on earth or are you focused on heavenly things and eternity. That is what we need to have in our sights. The rest of it all goes away. We didn’t bring anything with us when we entered – we won’t take anything with us when we leave – except for our walk with God. That is what matters. How are you doing with yours?
1 Timothy 5 gives us some insight into how people should relate to one another. Paul begins with some great words that apply to me: “Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father”. I am looking for a bunch of encouragement to fly my way! But we truly do need to learn to encourage older folks – they have much to share and wisdom that can only be learned over the passage of time. Who have you encouraged today? He goes on to tell us to “treat younger men like brothers, older women like mothers, younger women like sisters, in all purity”. The theme is pretty clear – we are family. We need to treat each other that way – and take care of one another.
In fact Paul really drives home that point in the middle of this chapter as he exhorts us about caring for widows. He has some pretty strong words for us about our responsibility: “if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever”. That family theme gets deep here – we are responsible to care for those of our household. I really saw this in action when we visited China last month. They do care for their own and there is a deep sense of reverence and respect for them. How did we get so far from that in the US? We have a charge – to care for those in our family – and we need to really consider what that means. He didn’t say to do it if it is convenient or easy – Paul tells us if we don’t we have really denied the faith and are worse than an unbeliever. Our actions matter and how we live in regard to family is an important part of God’s expectations.
He goes on to speak about sin. We prefer to just sweep that discussion under the carpet which is what the church in America has become pretty good at. But listen to these words: “As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear”. The church needs to be very clear on sin. God can’t stand it, Jesus died for it, and we can’t just tolerate it and pretend it doesn’t matter. Paul is writing here about elders and how to deal with them should they fall into sin, but the reality is that each of us has a responsibility to protect God’s truth and not let it be watered down by ignoring sinful behavior. Rebuke is a word and action no one likes to be part of – seems too harsh – might hurt someone’s feelings – just isn’t how we should act today. Not true according to scripture. Where there is sin – there must be rebuke leading to confession and repentance. We need to speak strongly for truth and not tolerate sin. It is impossible to stay free from the impact of sin around us if we let it go unchecked. It will gradually penetrate everything in its wake. Don’t hide your head and let it ride. Stand firm on God’s truth!
1 Timothy 4 warns us that “some will depart from the faith….devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons….insincerity of liars….forbid marriage….require abstinence from foods”. That is a sad truth. The question we need to ask is ‘will it be me – will I be one of the ones who jumps ship and leaves my faith’? Someone will – scripture is clear about that – and before we say it won’t be me remember what happened to Peter as he denied Jesus three times the night before He was crucified. We will be tempted and led astray by some teaching lies. The enemy will tempt us to leave what we have believed and walk away. Are you ready for that? Are you completely in line with God’s truth?
So what can we do to get ready? “Train yourself for godliness”. We have to realize that being spiritually fit takes work – we have to train for it. If we want to be godly we have to focus on building ourselves up – working on the spiritual disciplines daily. “While bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come”. Many of us are exercising daily – we are on a real regimen to build up our physical bodies and create physical health. We spend tens of thousands of dollars and hundred of hours to do so. How much are you investing in your spiritual health? How many dollars and hours are you investing? I bet not nearly as much. What if you truly trained to grow spiritually like you do in other areas? Why? Because spiritual training has value today and for eternity. You can’t say that about our physical body. We need to get with the program!
Paul goes on to remind us that “our hope is set on the living God” and there are some things we need to be doing to truly succeed as Christ Followers in this world. “Command and teach these things….set the believers an example in speech….in conduct….in love….in faith….in purity…. devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture….to exhortation….to teaching….Do not neglect the gift you have….Practice these things….devote yourself to them….Keep a close watch on yourself….Persist in this”. Strong words from Paul. We have to not only build spiritual discipline ourselves – to train and learn and keep working at it in our own lives – but we have to train others – set examples – push people and help them walk in faith as well. We have a job to do as Christ Followers – we are to be devoted to the faith and those in our patch. We have to become spiritually strong and then lead those around us to do the same. Who are you exhorting to become strong in their faith? Who are you leading and modeling strong spiritual disciplines for? It is important and we need to do it well!
1 Timothy 3 talks about two leadership roles in the church – overseers (elders) and deacons. Paul writes to Timothy in very clear terms about the kind of people that should fill these two roles. They are different in responsibility – as overseers are focused on being spiritual leaders providing the direction and oversight of the body, while deacons are focused on serving and getting the work of the body done. Both are vital roles and needed to have an effective church body.
So here is what Paul lists as the requirements “the office of overseer”:
– “above reproach
– husband of one wife
– able to teach
– not a drunkard
– not violent but gentle
– not quarrelsome
– not a lover of money
– manage his own household well
– keeping his children submissive
– not be a recent convert
– well thought of by outsiders”
That limits the options doesn’t it. Quite a list of traits that Paul puts down as necessary. But these folks are the guiding leaders in a church so their role is critical. It probably is not taken as seriously by many churches today as Paul intends.
He goes on to give us a similar list for the role of deacon. Check this out:
– not double-tongued
– not addicted to much wine
– not greedy for dishonest gain
– clear conscience
– tested first
– husband of one wife
– managing their children and their own households well”
Not quite as long a list, but still not a simple list to live by. Most areas are similar to the list for overseers, just a few less on the list for deacons. But in both cases how we live at home is part of the qualification. One wife (that is a handful by itself isn’t it) and submissive or well managed kids are quite a task list in itself.
It is interesting that Paul tells us that “their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things”. So not only is the character of the husband critical in these roles, but also that of their family, especially their wives. So why does Paul write about this as it applies to so few? That is what I hear often when I teach this passage. The reality is that God desires all of us as Christ Followers to live by these standards so we are ready and quailified to serve when He calls us to do so. You can’t just fix this list once you decide it is time to do your part in serving the church. These are life long qualities – things we have to work at for a long period of time. So the key is to begin immediately to achieve this kind of lifestyle. I can hear some of you saying that you’ll start by working on your wife. Wrong answer – you start by looking in the mirror and seeing how you measure up to God’s desired lifestyle. If you are working to live this way – you are on God’s path to success!
1 Timothy 2 begins with Paul’s urging that we pray. He says “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people”. There are multiple parts to effective prayer and Paul calls out many of them here in this verse. The Navigators have an illustration called the Prayer Hand which lists five different areas of effective prayer:
Paul includes three of them in his words here, but other areas of scripture call out the rest. The reality is that prayer is not about you or me – it is all about God. We spend most all of our time on the “S” part of prayer – supplication – which means listing our requests before God. We tend to spend little or no time on the other areas. Adoration is acknowledging God for who He is and spending time just adoring Him as our Creator and King. Confession is a very important part of prayer – where we come to the throne and admit our sin and areas we miss the mark – seeking God’s forgiveness. Thanksgiving is when we remember just how blessed we are and call out God’s goodness to us. And intercession is standing in the gap for others and lifting them and their concerns to God. I still vividly remember a sermon where the illustration was a thimble for our adoration and a bushel basket for our supplication or requests. That is backward to how we ought to pray. It is all about God and His greatness – not our needs. It is getting our lives lined up with His will – not trying to convince Him to do things our way. Lots more we could discuss here – but prayer is a vital spiritual discipline and we need to spend time on it daily!
Paul goes on to tell us a truth that we all need to understand – He “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth”. The gospel is not targeted to a few. God wants every person on the planet to come to know Him. Not all will, and He already knows that, even to the point of knowing who will and won’t because He is God, but His desire is for all to come to know Him. And that is our charge – to share the truth of the gospel to everyone in our patch. It is not for us to make a determination on who should become a Christ Follower and who shouldn’t. Our charge is to go and tell the gospel of Jesus to all.
“For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all”. Here is the truth of the gospel in a sentence. There is one God – and He sits in heaven in control of the universe He created. Man has a problem – called sin – which separates us from God and is why we need a mediator – because we are in deep trouble. Jesus is our only mediator – He gave Himself to ransom our lives from the eternal future of hell – He paid the price and stands in the gap of sin between us and a holy God. The only question is whether we will allow Him to be our Savior. He doesn’t force that upon us – a mediator offers a solution but does not force it on either party. God has accepted Jesus as the payment for the penalty of our sin. We are sitting on the other side of that table and have to make a decision. Will we receive the mediation that has been offered – to allow Jesus to pay the price which requires us to come to a personal and saving faith relationship with Him? Or are we going to insist we just plow on with our own intentions and deal with the price of sin on our own. Take the deal my friends. There is no other option. Jesus paid the price – God has graciously offered to accept His blood for your sin – there is no plan B!
1 Timothy 1 finds Paul writing to his spiritual son. I love how he addressed Timothy: “my true child in the faith”. This is what being a Christ Follower should look like – we ought to have spiritual prodigy. We are to reproduce spiritually – to multiply the faith and put it into others that they may come to a saving knowledge of Jesus. Who is your Timothy? Who is your child in the faith? Most Christ Followers never get there – they never reproduce the faith that is in them and place it into another. We miss the mark badly here. Go and make disciples means exactly what Paul is modeling for us here. We pour ourselves into others that they may follow our example and grow and become like Jesus. It really is a simple process. But we have to take the step of making that investment.
Paul asks for three things to be poured onto Timothy by God:
– Grace = God’s riches at Christ’s expense is one way to remember it. It means that God gives us a gift we do not deserve
– Mercy = God not giving us what we do deserve – holding back the judgment and punishment that should be ours
– Peace = God gives us the blessing of being free from internal and external strife – to rest quietly in His arms
One of the key ways we help our children – be they spiritual or physical – is to pray for them. Paul models it here by asking God for grace, mercy and peace to be poured onto Timothy. We can use that with our kids too. How often are you praying for your children? Are you lifting them before the One who can truly make a difference in their lives?
Paul goes on to remind Timothy of the mission and how we need to live as Christ followers: “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith”. Love is what life is all about. We are the vessel through which God pours His love out on the entire world. But that love needs to come from a good foundation – a pure heart, a good conscience and a sincere faith. It can’t just be show – it has to have deep roots – God’s roots in order to really make a difference. Paul reminds Timothy that he was entrusted to carry that message of love because God “judged me faithful, appointing me to His service”. What does God think about you and me? Are we faithful? Are we living life the way God intends? Paul charges Timothy to keep on, to “wage the good warfare holding faith and good conscience”. We have to keep those things foundational in our lives.
The other key learning in this chapter is Paul’s conversion and how God looks upon those who are sinners – in Paul’s case a “blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent”. Some pretty bad stuff that Paul did – he really was a bad egg before he met Jesus. But that is the good news – no matter what our past or how bad life may have been lived – God is not only able but willing to forgive us. Paul tells us this: “I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief….the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus….I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life”. Here is the deal – no matter your past – God’s grace is sufficient. God’s mercy will cover your past. Jesus went to the cross to pay the price for sin – all sin – all that is required is that we come to faith in Jesus Christ and receive the gift of mercy and grace God has offered us. Then the peace of God can cover our lives and we can experience the joy that comes from being a child of God. Paul turned from being one of the worst to being one that God used mightily to change the world forever. He wants to do the same in your life and mine. Will you let Him?