Category Archives: Sermon

1 Timothy 4.1-5

Title: The false appearance of godliness

Text: 2 Timothy 4.1-5

Introduction: We’ll begin in 2 Timothy 4 and at some point look at 1 Corinthians 7 & Mark 7. So, go ahead and find those other texts. We all filter our experiences through our worldview. You have one, whether you know it or not. Hopefully, it is a Biblical Worldview. That is the main reason I love Starting Points. It is a great class for helping your children develop a Biblical Worldview. In that class, a student creates a filter, a colander of sorts. This filter is based upon God’s Word. Then, as life goes by and these students watch movies or read books or articles, they will filter what they hear through their worldview.

Story of Peter: This is what happens to Peter in Acts 10. God is at work in the lives of two individuals: Peter and Cornelius. Tell the Story.

God is changing Peter’s worldview. He is seeing that Gentiles could get saved. He’s seeing that Gentiles could get saved and not have to become Jews first.

That illustration, that example, that story was experienced and written down for your and my benefit. The Holy Spirit was at work in the lives of those men to teach us. If you keep reading in Acts 11, you’ll see that Peter reports back to the leadership in Jerusalem. By the time we get to Acts 15, so many Gentiles are being saved that the Jews must deal with this issue of OT laws. Their worldview was changing.

But not everyone could get on board with this new way of thinking. Too many Jews, who had become Christians, just couldn’t give up the law. For one reason or another, they held to their Jewish worldview of legalism.

Now, fast-forward a couple of decades to where the Gospel has spread… well, all the way to Rome. And even though it had been concluded that Gentiles did not have to become Jews before they could get saved – the old worldview still corrupted the church through false teaching.

Henry has set us up nicely as he teed up our topic for us last week… Let me share with you his summation and how that fits with where we’re going as we make our way through July.

Henry said: Right actions of a right people flow from a right devotion to a righteous God revealed in His Son. I don’t know if this was his intention or not, but he described godliness. You might even say it is a great definition for godliness. Godliness is doing the right thing for the right reason.

  • Right actions: your behavior, what you do
  • Of a right people: Christians, made right through Christ. Forgiven. The actions of these people…
  • Flow from a right devotion: this is one’s intentions, their aim, and purpose in life. What they do isn’t motivated by selfishness or self-service in any way.
  • To a righteous God: No, it isn’t self-serving, it is all for God and his glory. That is their joy, their satisfaction.
  • (As) revealed in His Son: I added the word “as” for convenience. Jesus has demonstrated with his life what godliness looks like. He is the embodiment of godliness. We do what we do because we believe he would do that, too. We act like him, we talk like him, we serve like him, and we sacrifice like him. We do everything to the best of our abilities to be like him.

And when we do, they call us “Christians”. You’re just like your ‘Savior’, Jesus.

But there is a problem, in our text – this isn’t what the false teachers were preaching and teaching! Their view of godliness was earned. Godliness came through regulation and rules, through abstinence and denial. So Paul gives Timothy three actions of the believer to combat against False Godliness (Asceticism). Look with me at our text in 1 Timothy 4.1-5; So Paul says to Timothy that Ungodliness will infiltrate teaching in the church. Expect it to be taught, here are a couple of examples, and recognized the error in that teaching by knowing the Truth. Repeat. False Godliness

  • Expect it to be taught
  • Identify it when you see it. Here are some Examples of it (What it is…)
  • Understand what it does: it steals your joy! (What it does…)

Transition: So, let’s take these actions one at a time.

Three actions to combat against False Godliness (Asceticism):

  1. Expect it (1-2)

exp.: rd v 1; Really? People will actually do this? Yes, and you know this because the Holy Spirit has told you so. You should expect this false teaching promoting false godliness. It will be preached and taught and there will be those who will listen and follow – and as a result, they will be led away. The Holy Spirit expressly says, declares, and makes it known to us. It is going to happen, so don’t be surprised, expect it. Timothy repeats this in his next letter: cf. 2 Tim 3.1-7;

This is the beauty of our faith: we have the Holy Spirit to guide us. We don’t walk alone and we don’t walk in ignorance. When you become a believer by faith, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in your spirit. This is one of the foundational, rudimentary doctrines of our faith. And we experience him in various ways as he guides, directs, teaches…

A thing or two about false teachers and those who follow them:

  1. They don’t lose their salvation – they leave the faith (1a); is there a difference? You bet there is! 1 John 2.19 – 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.
  2. Their devotion is toward deceitful spirits and teachings of demons (1b)
  3. They ignore the foundation of truth and they follow the insincerity of liars (2)
  4. Their false doctrine leads to your false godliness: these people devote themselves to the wrong people and wrong actions thinking that those actions or behaviors are what makes them godly.

Transition: as a Christian, you’ve been forewarned of this invasion of the enemy: Expect it. Now that you know it is going to happen, how do you prepare for it? And this is our 2nd Action:

  1. Identify it (3)

exp.: You should be aware of what this false teaching looks like, in order that you might avoid its pitfall. Rd v 3; these folks were told that marriage was forbidden and sinful, as well as, they were required to abstain from certain foods. For sure, this isn’t an exhaustive list, it isn’t every doctrine that is false – it’s just two of them.

  • Lies about marriage: Celibacy/Single; today it would be cohabitation; sex outside of marriage; Gay marriage

exp.: We see this doctrine of marriage being misunderstood from the beginning of Christianity. Consider Paul’s counsel for people to remain single – in order that their devotion might be single-minded. 1 Cor. 7.1-9; rd v 1; just that alone, appears to say that marriage shouldn’t happen. But, when you read more, you realize that just isn’t the case. Rd 2-5; Sex is to be enjoyed within the confines of marriage. Outside of that context and you have misery. Look at 6-9;

Paul says within the confines of marriage, sex is good. But false teachers say, no – sex is bad. This is Satan’s greatest victory over Christians: he takes what God gives us and perverts it in one of two ways. First, he takes the gift of God and expands the boundaries to include everyone and everything. Or, 2nd, he goes the other way and limits the gift of God to the point that you never find joy in God’s gift.

Did you know that throughout most of the history of Christianity that sex has been seen as bad? R Kent Hughes has done some great research on this subject. He identifies many teachings throughout Christian history which identify sexual love as being wicked and evil. Tertullian, Ambrose, and Augustine wrote of the evils of sexual love. He quotes Ambrose: married people ought to blush at the state in which they are living. Augustine said that the sexual relationship in marriage was innocent, but the passion which comes along with the act is always sinful. The early church fathers praised virginity as superior to marriage. The Council of Trent denounced any who would deny such a thing. And the reformers didn’t help matters! Do you know who actually began to turn the tide on this thinking? The Puritans! Hughes quotes Dr. Leland Ryken: The Puritan doctrine of sex was a watershed on the cultural history of the West. The Puritans devalued celibacy, glorified compassionate marriage, affirmed married sex as both necessary and pure, established the ideal of wedded romantic love, and exalted the role of the wife.

I’ve got to be honest – I was so not expecting that! To be declared Puritanical is to declare a rigid, frigid, and presented in a negative way. When one thinks of Puritans, they don’t think of sex education. So, to clarify: I like what the Puritan’s had to teach! Let’s get this straight. Sex is great when understood as within the context of God’s design. That’s right, I said that from the pulpit. Sex is a wonderful gift from God. Enjoy it within the confines of marriage. Here is your warning: If you engage in this activity outside of that context, then you will experience pain, destruction, sorrow, depression, and all such misery. If you’re listening to me right now, please identify this false doctrine.

Paul then gives us a 2nd doctrine to identify.

  • Lies about foods: Don’t eat and Don’t drink

exp.: These two examples seem to be right out of the beginning of Genesis, don’t they? I think of Eve’s words – Don’t eat it, don’t even touch it. There are denominations that exist today that take the Old Testament Laws on forbidden, unclean food and apply it to their people. It is a lie that has been perpetuated throughout time. And Southern Baptists aren’t any different. We still apply traditional prohibitions to people – we say if you’re saved you can’t… eat this or that, or we say you can’t drink this or that.

It reminds me of the old country song from the ’70s that was sung by the Imperials as a dig toward conservatives: if you have long hair, then you can’t be saved. That was the big thing in the ’60s and ’70s: cut your hair and shave your beard! Some of you know what I’m talking about…

ill.: the big joke was of the boy who wanted to get a car. He begged his dad. His dad said that his grades were low, his room was a mess and his hair was too long – it needed to be cut. The son agreed to work on those things. Next report card came out and he had all A’s. His father acknowledged his room had been clean and looking really nice. The Dad said, but son, you didn’t cut your hair. The son said, “Yes, sir, I know, but Jesus had long hair. And without missing a beat the Dad said, “Yeah, but he walked everywhere he went, too.”

app.: I’m so glad we’ve moved beyond the coat and the tie requirement. And I’m glad you don’t have to cut your hair and your beard to be saved. But we still aren’t there if we put requirements of food and drink on people to declare their salvation and godliness.

Transition: Teaching on False Godliness – expect it, identify it and 3rdly…

  1. Understand what it does:

exp.: it steals your joy – You should know the truth about these doctrines. You should know and identify their parameters for your own health and safety; whether marriage or food – both are created by God and to be enjoyed by his people! Rd v 4-5; Everything God made is Good! Everything! 31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.

Turn with me to Mark 7.14-23; rd Mk 7.14-23; when you choose to put limits on what God’s gifts, then you miss out on the joy God intended for you to experience. Here’s our problem: we over-indulge in the gifts of God – and that can be a bad thing. Whenever you over-indulge in the gifts, you begin to seek the gift more than the giver of those gifts. Over-indulgence is a bad thing, just as exclusion is a bad thing. There is a happy medium that we need to find.

So, let’s bring the pendulum back to the middle. Let’s stop the extremes of God’s gifts: denial and abstinence or license and debauchery. And instead, enjoy all that this life offers as given by God. Amen?

Truth:

  • Fasting can bring you closer to God. But this is a serious endeavor and should not be embarked upon without preparation. May I be bold enough to say, yes – many of us need to fast.
  • Paul said in 1 Cor 7 that abstinence from your marriage partner for a time can be beneficial to your soul. But don’t use this as an excuse and don’t hurt your spouse with it. Sex isn’t a tool to use for getting what you want. It is a wonderful experience of intimacy in the marriage as created by God.
  • But God gave you these gifts to enjoy in life. Wow… go figure, God wants you to find pleasure in this life and you will find your pleasure in life when you are most satisfied in Him.

Take-a-ways:

  1. If you are not enjoying God’s gifts, get some help. Get help for the sake of your marriage. Get help for the sake of your sanity. Get help for the sake of your family.

I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met with and offered counsel to over these issues. Many of us bought into the lies of the world and the false doctrines brought into the church and we experienced the depression, the sadness, the anger, the abuse, and the emotional rollercoaster that comes with disobedience. And, we carried that baggage into our marriage. Husbands and wives have fought over these issues because they still feel guilty. Hey get help, get forgiveness, forgive yourself and live life to its fullest. Stop wallowing in your misery. It’s not healthy.

  1. Understand the beauty of moderation – The pendulum extremes are indulgence or abstinence. No, let’s find a happy medium here.

Here’s the thing about moderation – don’t impose your rules upon others. And, don’t confuse your activity or your inactivity with godliness. Just because you’re skinny doesn’t mean you’re godly. Just because you don’t physically cheat on your spouse, doesn’t mean you’re godly. Here’s the big problem with these false teachers – they impose a set of rules as requirements for godliness. Don’t do the same thing.

  1. Never confuse godliness with ritual or routine. Yes, it is important to come to church every Sunday, but that doesn’t demonstrate godliness either. Don’t confuse the two.

I wonder if it saddens the Father to see us missing out on the wonderful life he has designed because we fall for the lies of Satan? I wonder if he thinks that he made it so simple and we complicate it all. I wonder if it breaks his heart to see

  • a young woman destroyed by her decisions;
  • a young man suffering from his decisions;
  • a family, broken apart by another person’s decisions;
  • a person’s understanding that they are godly because they do this or that and avoid this or that.

Can I just conclude with this plea: God has created life to be enjoyed to the fullest possible extent. He created it, he designed it and wrote the manual on how it should be run. Will you trust him with it all?

If you’ve been trying to obtain godliness through all of your action or inaction, can offer you a moment to repent of that? Maybe you’ve never come to Christ and found the forgiveness of your sins. You’ve played the game of life and you’ve lost. Come to Christ. We’ll have a moment of silence and then we’ll be dismissed with a word of prayer. We’ll gather in the back for a time of fellowship – come to talk to someone about how to live this life to its fullest.

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Filed under 1 Timothy, Addiction, Christian Living, Scripture, Sermon

1 Timothy 3.8-13

Title: The Two Offices of the Church: Deacons are like Elders, mostly

Text: 1 Timothy 3.8-13

Deacons: A different group of people.

I want to talk to you today about the greatest need at Calvary Baptist Church, Tyler, TX. I’m talking desperation, here. This is a great day to take notes, and if you’re taking notes write this down: for the ministry and mission of Calvary, right now, our greatest need is for deacons. We have some deacons, but they’ve been working on a very limited basis. There is too much work for too few men. Some have gotten older and can’t handle the load that they used to carry. And so much then falls through the cracks.

Now I wonder, if some of you might be asking at this point: “Really Fred? That’s our greatest need?” Yeah, it probably is. Ministry opportunities are currently uncovered and not happening because we just don’t have the men and women in place to keep up with the need.

And it really shouldn’t be that way. We have enough people. Why is that?

  • My guess is that people just don’t know.
  • Maybe there is a stigma attached to the word deacon – like, someone feels they’re too young.

We as a body need to remedy this. So, today I’m going to talk to you about deacons and ministry in the church; and, just what we as a church need to be doing about it.

Our text is 1 Tim 3.8-13. I’ve divided this message into two parts with one excursus.

  1. Their Character (8-10)
  2. Their Competence (12-13)
  3. Excursus: Women in ministry (11). And we’ll talk about this when we get to verse 11.

So let’s take a moment and look at our biggest need right now. We need men and women to step up and fill in the missing gaps.

Some of you might be asking yourself if you’re deacon material. That’s a great question. Let’s talk about that. 1st, Paul tells us of…

  1. Their Upstanding Character

Exp.: It’s really a very short list; basically, a review of what’s already been said; rd v8a; Deacons likewise must be dignified. In the Gk there are three words; there is no verb here in the Gk, but it is supplied by the reader because the reader has it from above (cf.v2); must be, needs to be, it is necessary; Honorable, dignified. It’s not any different than the elders, with the exception of being able to teach. You might even sum it up by saying: these guys are elder-like. They have an upstanding character. That’s what the ‘likewise’ is for; it means in a similar manner or in like manner. To clarify, deacons aren’t to be…; rd 8b not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain.

  • Not double-tongued could mean one of two things, and I think both apply.
    • 1st, not to say one thing and do another.
    • 2nd, not to say one thing to one person and something else to another.
  • Not addicted to much wine. This coincides with the elders. There isn’t anything wrong with a glass of wine, it’s when there is no self-control and wine takes control.
  • Not greedy for dishonest gain. I love the KJV: not greedy of filthy lucre. Again, there is control over passion and pursuits when it comes to money.

To say one thing and do another isn’t honorable. To say something to someone and something else to someone else is not honorable or dignified. Getting drunk is not dignified. Being selfish and greedy and doing what you do in the pursuit of money isn’t honorable or dignified.

A simple way to see this is to see them living out what they believe. rd v 9-10; They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. – 10 And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. I note two parts to this:

  • An informed faith: deacons are not required to teach like elders are, but they do hold to the mystery of the faith. Mystery simply means that at one time it was hidden, but now it has been revealed. That’s the gospel. Many didn’t see it coming the way it did, but now they see. Now they know. And they not only hold to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience, but they’ve been tested in it.
  • An incessant faith: it remains through all of the tough times. Many problems in life and in the church have come and gone, but they remain. They are a constant – like a lighthouse in the bay – their light continues to shine and guide others in spite of what storms rage around them.

Transition: these guys have been tested and tried and have come out on the other side blameless. Now, rd v 11 with me; – 11 Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things.

  1. Aside: Women who serve

Exp.: I want to be careful, but clear. The Gk reads literally: women likewise dignified. Grammatically, I want you to note:

  1. There is no pronoun their in the Gk. Some scholars argue that it is That means that previously, it was supplied and so you would supply it here, too. The argument is that the woman in chapter two is Eve and she is the wife of Adam and so, here it is the wife.
  2. The verb is to be supplied. So, women likewise must be dignified. This is the same exact wording as v 8, only in the feminine form. What does this mean? Well, it isn’t clear.

4 possible solutions:

  1. Women are deacons, too.
  2. Women who are not deacons, but rather deaconesses and a different group altogether.
  3. Women are married to the deacons and a part of their ministry. Now there is a 4th option and it is very close and similar to #3…
  4. Women are servants and assistants to the deacons in their ministry.

Of these 4 possible solutions: I don’t think it is #1. #2 – I like # 2, but really need to explain why I like it. I think one of the last two of these is a real possibility.

  1. Women are deacons, too. I don’t think that is Paul’s presentation. Strike it.
  2. Women who are not deacons, but rather deaconesses and a different group altogether. Possible, but I don’t think this is Paul’s presentation either. You would have an argument with the usage of ‘likewise’ but, Paul returns to the deacons in the next verse. So that probably isn’t the case. He isn’t leaving this issue of being deacons. I guess the reason I don’t like it is that it just doesn’t stand on its own. So strike it too.
  3. Women are married to the deacons and a part of their ministry. Highly possible; but I doubt this one. Many women who are married to deacons willingly volunteer their time and help their husbands. But not all do. If that is the case, then should a man not be a deacon if his wife doesn’t help him? Then it would need to be a requirement to become a deacon. Now there is a 4th option and it is very close and similar to #3…
  4. Women are servants and assistants to the deacons in their ministry. Highly possible; Women who serve; We find one such lady listed in Romans 16.1-2; Phoebe; “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae, that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well.” I think the term ‘Likewise’ gives them a classification, like their different from the men, but still an important and vital part of the church’s ministry;

So, this is how we understand it at Calvary: The deacon body consists of men appointed to this task by the church. There are women and men who serve under the responsibility of the deacons and administrate certain ministries. This is what our constitution says Deacon: Subject to the will of the congregation, the deacons shall care for the temporal needs of the members, attend to the accommodations for public worship, and encourage and support those able to help others and those with gifts of administration.

Question: Why is it that Baptists are against women deacons? My theory is that a typical Baptist church has its deacons serving in elder-type positions and making elder-type decisions. These deacons give oversight and rule. To be brutally honest, many Baptist churches function on their traditions and ignore the Scriptures. They go back to chapter two and see that a woman shouldn’t have authority over a man, therefore, a woman shouldn’t be a deacon. But, Scripture is very clear that Deacons are simply servants. They were created to serve in Acts 6.1-8. Their job was to ‘wait on tables’.

The job of the deacons is to put on an apron and serve. In John 12.2 – Martha served; Luke 17.7-10 – unworthy servant; Luke 22.26-27; 24 A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. 25 And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26 But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. 27 For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.

That’s the job of a deacon: to serve. Mark Dever: “Deacons should not act as a separate power bloc or second house of the legislature through which bills need to be passed. If the elders say, ‘Let’s drive to Pittsburgh,’ it’s not up to the deacons to come back and say, ‘No, let’s drive to Philadelphia instead.’ They can legitimately come back and say, ‘Our engine won’t get us to Pittsburgh. Perhaps we should reconsider.’ That’s very helpful. But in general, their job is to support the destination set by the elders.”

When you consider that deacons have no power, except as servants of the body… can women serve like that, too? The answer is yes. And they should…

Finally, Let’s get back to the passage…

  1. Their Outstanding Competence

Exp.: rd v 12; 12 Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. 13 For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.

Their competence is seen in the way they manage their families:

  • Wife: same as the elder; a man of one woman; he is elder like in his faithfulness to his wife.
  • Children: again, just like last week: this doesn’t mean that his children are perfect.

Their family is a priority. As I think about this in my life, I’m reminded of something Mark Dever once said: the church can get another pastor, but my children cannot get another father. My wife cannot simply get another husband. And so it is with the deacon: his family is his priority.

The life of a deacon displays a servant’s heart. Being a servant means managing: managing funds, schedules, supplies, etc. There is a lot to administer and care for when someone serves. – I think this means you recognize these men because they’re serving already. They have a servant’s heart and that just comes out in what they do.

We are in need of people to serve. Let me rephrase that: we have a desperate need for people to serve.

So, here is my challenge to you:

  • Church, will you pray for the men in our congregation and ask God to show you men who should be serving as deacons?
  • Men, will you seriously pray about saying yes to serve if you’re asked? That’s a big thing for the church to say to you: I see Christ in you, I see your leadership capabilities and we’d be so blessed to have you serve. Will you serve?
  • Women, will you step up and help these men accomplish their duties. Will you be willing to say I’m here and will help in whatever capacity the Lord might want to use me?
    • Will you go visit the shut-ins?
    • Will you help care for the Widows?

*not just on your own, but under the care and guidance of the deacon body?

 

Some of you (men and women alike) are like: I can do that on my own? I don’t have to be a deacon to do that? No, you don’t have to be a deacon to serve. But can I offer a couple of pointers here?

  1. 1st, organization. The ministry needs to be organized. I’m reminded of the book of Judges where each person did what was right in his own eyes. And, it led to chaos, and rebellion and sin, etc. We’re grateful for when people cover areas of ministry where there is a need. But, can I encourage you to work with the deacons on this – help them keep things organized.
  2. 2nd, accountability. There is accountability when you surrender your personal passions to the leadership of the collective whole. That takes great humility and is most Christ-like. Submitting to the leadership of the deacons can keep you accountable to accomplish what you feel God has led you to do.
  3. 3rd, testimony. It is a great testimony against the lie of Satan when you submit to the leadership of the church. The lie of Satan says that authority can never be trusted because it is always tyrannical and oppressive. But there are wonderful, godly men who need your help. And that help starts by submitting to that leadership. And, it is also a testimony to the world when we function as a body the way God designed us to function.

God created two offices in this body: elders and deacons. The elders he has given responsibility to spiritual matters. To the deacons, he has given the responsibility for the physical, temporal matters. What a great testimony we would be if we functioned as we were designed to function.

I’m so grateful for the godly men who have served faithfully as deacons. They’ve blessed me. One such man, you would think, might never have made it back to church. You see, as a little boy, he was very poor. I don’t really remember his name – we called him Woody. Woody wanted to go to church. Somebody had invited him and so each Sunday morning as a little kid, he just walked to church. He went where they told him to go and he loved it. Until one day… one day a man pulled him aside. The man told Woody that we don’t go to church in these kinds of clothes. Those holes in his pant legs were unsuitable for church. He needed his momma to clean him up and fix his hair. He told him to head home and come back when he had nicer things to wear.

Woody didn’t return. He wouldn’t for years. He was an adult when he came to know Christ. What a change! Woody vowed that he would be a different kind of a man. He was loving and kind. He was generous. He was passionate about Christ. Woody was a servant. He was a real deacon who gave me great respect for deacons.

I have no idea what God has been doing in your life – how he has been molding you and shaping you to be the person you are today. But, maybe, just maybe, God has made you who you are today so that you’ll be fit for his service – just the way he wants you.

Let’s bow our heads for just a moment.

It is time for us to observe one of the ordinances of the church: the Lord’s Supper. Deacons, will you come and prepare the Lord’s Supper Table for this moment.

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1 Tim 3.1-7

Title: The Two Offices of the Church (Part 1)

Text: 1 Timothy 3.1-7

CIT: There are standards by which elders should live.

CIS: The work of an Elder is noble and should not be entered into lightly. The church should recognize these men and appoint them very carefully.

 

Aside: Kudos to Jason for a job well done this past week! I’d like to continue in 1st Timothy where Jason left off. Turn to chapter 3. We’ll pick up in v1. Page 932, bottom rt corner and the top of p. 933;

Intro: In the context of our passage, Paul is writing to Timothy, but for the benefit of the church. So, this is how I’m seeing this. I want to approach this from the perspective of a letter to the church and your responsibility toward your leadership and your potential leadership. Consider this: the men who are serving as your elders today will not always be the same combination of men. You’ve had two other elders who are no longer serving as your elders. Even if the three of us remain for years to come, the dynamic will change as other men join us and it is important for you to select the right men for the job.

Ill.: I joined my first band as a front man for Fallen Angel in 1979. I never performed with them because we just could never get it together. Over the past 40 years, I have sung with and/or played the bass and/or played acoustic in many bands with many people – and this is what I’ve learned: having the right people in the right place is the key.

I played with many singers and instrumentalists who were very good at their job; however, their personalities caused so many problems in the band that we couldn’t function properly. And it only takes one person to disrupt your group.

App.: the application remains the same for any team or committee or board. One wrong person can create havoc on you and your work. So, you as a body can select a really good man – who fits the requirements in every way and still fracture your body.

Transition: you have a great responsibility – maybe that is why Paul goes into such great detail about who should and who should not serve as an overseer.

Let’s go back to the beginning and identify the steps that got us to where we are in 1 Timothy:

  • A charge to confront false teachers and their false teaching (chap. 1)
  • The role of men and women in the public arena concerning prayer and worship (chap. 2)
  • Leadership in the church… the role of the church to put the right men in the right spot… all within the context of false teaching and false teachers.

From this text we find that there are two offices in the church:

  1. Overseers (interchangeable terms: Pastors [shepherds], Elders, Bishops, Overseers) – v1-7
  2. Deacons v8-15

Ill.: The opening of Paul’s letter to the Philippians is one great example of this: Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

BTW: this is clarified in our Statement of Faith (BF&M 2000) in Article 6: VI. The Church

A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is an autonomous local congregation of baptized believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel; observing the two ordinances of Christ, governed by His laws, exercising the gifts, rights, and privileges invested in them by His Word, and seeking to extend the gospel to the ends of the earth. Each congregation operates under the Lordship of Christ through democratic processes. In such a congregation each member is responsible and accountable to Christ as Lord. Its scriptural officers are pastors and deacons. While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.

The New Testament speaks also of the church as the Body of Christ which includes all of the redeemed of all the ages, believers from every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation.

This morning, I’d like to focus on just the first of these two offices: the elder or overseer. We note first in v.1 that Paul declares this a noble task. Rd v 1; The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. This someone aspires to something good. It is a “good work”. Overseer is ἐπισκοπή (episcope, i.e.: Episcopalian): epi: over and scope: to see. He desires a noble task. Lit.: a good work; We saw this phrase a good work up in the previous chapter, as a characteristic of a godly woman. ἀγαθός and καλός, both are synonymous and are used in Scripture attributes of God.

So, the first step in becoming an elder is: you want to be one.

I.     If someone aspires to be an overseer… he desires a good work. So, because this is a “good work”, a noble task, the church should not enter lightly into selecting men to serve here. That’s why Paul says in the next verse: Therefore… rd v 2-3;

Transition: So, if someone aspires to be an overseer,

II.    If someone aspires to be an overseer, you will see it displayed in his upstanding character.

Exp.: We’re talking Behavior/Actions; rd v 2-3; Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.

I agree with DA Carson who said that there really isn’t anything special in these – except for one – being able to teach. I mean really, shouldn’t this be characteristic of any man?

  1. He must be above reproach: in Titus, he uses the synonym It isn’t that he’s perfect and sinless, but rather that he exemplifies Christ in his manner and deportment. Thabiti Anyabwile: Being above reproach means that an elder is to be the kind of man whom no one suspects of wrong-doing or immorality. People would be shocked to hear this kind of man charged with such acts. Above reproach; blameless.
  2. He must be ‘a man of one woman’: that’s the literal translation; most translation read: the husband of one wife. It’s hard to know exactly what is meant here. It could mean that he’s never been divorced. There are a lot of scholars I respect deeply who hold to that opinion. I think there is a principle being taught here, though, that is really important. I’m not absolutely positive that Paul is laying down the letter of the law here, but rather presenting a principle. No matter your view on divorced or even single men serving as elders, I think Paul is communicating that this man has a high view of marriage as between a man and a woman and that marriage is sacred. His marriage is a display of this belief.
  3. He must be sober-minded: the literal translation means temperate in his use of alcohol. He is sober. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t drink any alcohol, but rather that he never drinks alcoholic beverages to a point that he is out of control. Baptists like to use this part of Scripture to declare alcohol is bad. You should never do it. But that’s just legalism, too. This man, though, he never lets what he consumes get out of control.
  4. Self-controlled. The negatives in v 3 below outline a man who is out of control. He can’t control his drinking (must not be a drunkard). He can’t control his anger (he must not be violent). He can’t control himself in conversation (he is quarrelsome; he always has to be right!). And he can’t control his appetite for more and more money. Maybe he gambles, hoping for a big windfall. He works too long and too hard to make more money, not observing the Sabbath, but trying to get the extra cash. No, our man is self-controlled.
  5. He must be respectable: these are noted by his family (his wife and children) and the community. We’ll look more at this when we get to those verses in 4-7.
  6. He must be hospitable: this Gk word is a compound word translated a lover of strangers. He is a lover of strangers and not a lover of money. The man who loves his money holds his purse strings tight. The man who loves strangers opens up his moneybag and pours out his money for them. He uses his money to love people instead of using people to satisfy his love of money.
  7. He must be able to teach: this is our first and only requirement that isn’t really universal of all believers. Basically, all of the traits we’ve listed simply outline who and how we should be as Christians.

Now Paul turns toward the negatives, which we already listed with the out of control man.

  1. He must not be a drunkard
  2. He must not be violent but gentle
  3. He must not be quarrelsome
  4. He must not be a lover of money.

So, the only requirement listed here that wouldn’t be an expectation of any man in your congregation is that he be able to teach. I believe the reason for this is his responsibility to communicate sound, healthy doctrine.

Conclusion: If… Someone – aspires to be an overseer – he must display upstanding character. You will have already seen it in his behavior.

III.   If someone aspires to be an overseer, then he has set an example of leadership with his family.

If… Someone – aspires to be an overseer – his example has already been set in his family.

Exp.: rd v 4-5; He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?

This doesn’t mean that his family is perfect any more than it means that the church is perfect. There are problems; there are struggles. You will find it anywhere you find relationships. The issue isn’t that he has the perfect family. Because he won’t and he can’t! It has to do with his management skills in caring for his family. Here is a good question to ask: Does his wife respect him? Do his children hold him with high regard and have that same respect? You can witness this respect through the submissive nature of their relationship. They hold him in high regard. They know him better than anyone else. Their respect speaks volumes.

Conclusion: If… Someone – aspires to be an overseer – his example has already been set in his family. Not that they are perfect, mind you, but that they see him that same way.

IV.    If someone aspires to be an overseer, then the church must determine his fitness based upon his spiritual maturity and positive public perception.

Exp.: If… Someone – aspires to be an overseer – the church must be careful in its appointment of this someone to the position of overseer. Rd v 6; He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

Spiritual maturity will help a man avoid those pitfalls and snares of the devil. Oh Man, if there is anything the devil can do to bring down your elders, he will. So be careful in your appointments. Don’t appoint a man before his time.

So to review:

  1. If someone aspires to be an overseer… he desires a good work.
  2. If someone aspires to be an overseer, you will see this desire displayed in his upstanding character.
  3. If someone aspires to be an overseer, then he has set an example of leadership with his family.
  4. If someone aspires to be an overseer, then the church must determine his fitness based upon his spiritual maturity and positive public perception.

Application: As we consider sound doctrine…

  • Church, your theology drives your methodology. It impacts everything you do.
    • Bad theology corrupts a church body. Remember, it was Paul’s purpose in placing Timothy in Ephesus – to protect them.

Ill.: I sometimes think of Eve and the serpent. I remember her statement of how she told the serpent that not only was she not allowed to eat of the fruit, but she wasn’t even allowed to touch it. Now, God told this to Adam before she came along. rd 2.17 and then 2.18ff. Why did she say this? She must have gotten it from Adam. Did he add to God’s Word or did she add to what Adam told her? Either way, doctrine is important. It is vital to not add or take away from it.

  • Good theology informs the decisions a church body has to make. Therefore, your leadership should have a solid foundation when it comes to what they believe about God and His Word.
  • These leaders must live that good theology out. They must teach it. They must exhibit it in their lives (personal, familial, work).
  • Church, when you appoint men to serve as elders (and deacons for that matter), you are making a doctrinal statement. Too often, the church wants to pick popular, pretty people. Standards set in the Word of God are cast aside for comfort and popularity.

Ill.: Mark Dever writes: I had made a statement in a doctoral seminar about God. Bill responded politely but firmly that he liked to think of God rather differently. For several minutes, Bill painted a picture for us of a friendly deity. He liked to think of God as being wise, but not meddling; compassionate, but never overpowering; ever so resourceful, but never interrupting. “This,” said Bill in conclusion, “is how I like to think of God.”

My reply was perhaps somewhat sharper than it should have been. “Thank you, Bill,” I said, “for telling us so much about yourself, but we are concerned to know what God is really liked, not simply about our own desires.”

And all of God’s children said, “Ouch”. Dever has a great point: what someone likes to think about God isn’t so as important as what God says about himself. Our theology is important and it must be grounded in God’s Word. The God of Christmas in Luke is also the God of Judgment in Revelation. So, when you appoint men to serve, you’re making a doctrinal statement about what you believe. Finally,

  • Men, if you aspire to the office of elder, I’d like to close with two thoughts:

Conclusion:

First, as a pastor and elder, there are certain texts of Scripture that float around in my head on a regular basis. Scriptures like James 3.1: Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. And Heb 13.17: 17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

Professor John Brown was sought out by a former divinity student, who had graduated and moved to the country to become the pastor a very small church. This young man wrote his former professor declaring his impatience in serving the 16 souls in the country church. He stated that he could not wait until he was finally asked to pastor a much larger congregation with greater prestige and publicity. The kindly professor responded to this eager young preacher:

I know the vanity of your heart, and that you will feel mortified that your congregation is very small, in comparison with those of your brethren around you; but assure yourself on the word of an old man, that when you come to give an account of them to the Lord Christ, at his judgment-seat, you will think you have had enough.

Oh, what a mighty leadership team we would be if we entered each day with this thought in our minds.

Second, 1 Peter charges the elders to serve the people under their care: So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And then he finishes with this: And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

Brother, great is your reward for your faithful service. I can think of no higher calling than to do just what I’m doing.

Let’s pray.

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Filed under 1 Timothy, Leadership, Scripture, Sermon

1 Timothy 2.1-7

Title: E = P x Q

Text: 1 Tim 2.1-10

CIT (Aim): Praying for others and living a quiet, peaceful life with all godliness and holiness are the fertile grounds for fulfilling the Great Commission.

CIS: I want to encourage our congregation to speak up and tell people about Jesus and the hope we have in him.

Context: The Corporate Body – we’re not talking about individual responsibility.

Introduction: E = P x Q; Evangelism = Prayer multiplied by a Quiet, peaceful life with all godliness and dignity.

I like this title, but for sure, it needs some ‘splainin’… More on that in a moment. For now, let that ruminate for a while.

I heard the following story on RadioLab. It’s really good and goes into to so much more detail than I can this morning, so I commend the podcast to you:

I want you to go back in time with me to 1944. Go with me to 1944, up north, to Thermopolis, Wyoming some 30 miles south of where we used to live. Three miners at a place called the High Line Coal Mine, just outside of town, had stepped outside of their mine. I don’t know if they were done for the day and headed home or if they just were taking a break. But, they were standing at the entrance to the mine, just about dusk and they hear this whistling sound over their heads that ends with a loud explosion. Across the Bad Lands, about a mile away, they see this large cloud of dust. Above them, there is this floating circle. Today we’d call it a UFO – an object that is flying, but which is unidentifiable. Someone asks me: do you believe in UFO’s and I say yes. Do I believe in little green men from other planets flying around incognito: No! But, do I believe there are objects that remain unidentified by individuals. Yes. I think there are logical explanations for those things. But, that’s what this is… a floating circle. They best described it as a parachute. But that wasn’t what it was, but something they could identify it with.

They jump in their truck to follow it and do for a little while, but because it is dark, they lose sight of it soon thereafter and abandon the chase.

  • About that same time, a little boy and his daddy are working in their barn in Colorado when they hear an explosion. They run outside and there is a smoldering crater in their front yard.
  • In Wyoming, a 9-year-old boy is playing in his front yard he hears an explosion.
  • Throughout the winter of 1944, there are these strange reports about explosions, and there are sightings of these ‘parachute’ looking things in the skies.

Napa, California; Lane Deer, Montana; Detroit, Michigan, Idaho, Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana, Oregon, and the list just goes on. Everyone who sees these ‘things’ and hears these explosions come up with many different guesses to what they’ve experienced: plane crashes; gas line explosions; and you name it. But, they’re all guesses. No one knows for sure.

Until one day, Sheriff Hyde came across one these ‘parachute looking’ things and he was able to apprehend it. Sheriff Hyde is probably the quintessential sheriff; serving in Utah, just north of Salt Lake City: Stetson Hat; a giant of a man, gun on his hip. He gets a phone call from a local farmer who says there is this balloon, parachute contraption in my field, just floating around. So, the Sheriff jumps in his car and speeds out to the farm. He runs out into the field and grabs a hold of this thing. He later described it as a huge globe, paper white, and coming down from this globe are these thick 40’ ropes. Attached to the bottom is this heavy metal chandelier with bombs hanging off the bottom.

Well, the Sheriff, leaving his hat and holster and gun in his car, runs up to the ‘thing’ and grabs a rope. He hopes to maybe tie it down and keep it safe for the authorities to come and check it out. But, just as he grabs the rope, a gust of wind comes and takes the balloon up and away. But the sheriff doesn’t let go of the rope. This thing climbs higher and higher and crosses a canyon. But he doesn’t let go. He slams to the ground on the other side of the canyon and he tries to tie it off on some sort of juniper plant, but it brakes loose. He grabs hold and it takes him back across the canyon. It bounces about the field – the same one where it was earlier, but the sheriff can’t hold it down or tie it off. He’s sick and nauseated from being spun around and fighting with this thing for some time. His vision is blurry and exhausted from fighting to keep this thing down, but he doesn’t give up.

You see, he knew the government had been getting these reports of ‘parachute balloons’, the explosions, and UFO reports. But the government didn’t have any proof they really existed. Sheriff Hyde knew this was a great opportunity to lasso one. So he continued to hang on. He was eventually able to get it tied off to the root sticking out of the side of the canyon. He was the first one to actually capture one of these contraptions.

The government came and took it away and said nothing. They (the powers that be) decided that it would be best to keep it all quiet. They didn’t want to set off a panic amongst the people. So they just didn’t say anything. And not saying anything was a costly mistake.

Not saying anything. I think sometimes that not saying anything makes people talk, gossip and guess their way through problems and situations. Not saying anything hurts a situation more than just telling people. People’s imaginations are far worse than the truth. Sometimes it really is the right thing to do, but for the most part, it appears to me that just isn’t the case.

Two people in the church get sick. Both have cancer. One asks the church for prayers and tells them ways they can be praying. For sure, they don’t say everything about their illness, but enough that people are sensitive to their sickness and then they pray. The other says nothing. People start talking. What’s wrong? That start talking to each other… it turns into gossip. I don’t think that most people mean it to be hurtful, but it is what it is. People can’t help themselves, even though they should. And the very thing that the quiet, private person did not want has happened. While the first person doesn’t get gossiped about.

Not saying anything can be costly. Like in our text today…

Look at the title here: E = P x Q. Evangelism equals Prayer multiplied by a quiet, peaceful life lived out in all godliness and dignity.

Paul is writing to Timothy in this letter. He charges Timothy to say something: to confront false teachers and false doctrine. Then, in Chapter two, Paul turns to some basic practices in the church to be observed with order and oversight. These practices are important in combating false doctrine.

Now, Paul could have just listed them and been quick about it:

  • First, Pray (you see that in 2.1) and pray for everyone, including your king and other leaders.
  • And those public prayers need to be backed up with godly, honorable lives. People are watching.
  • If you desire to be an overseer, an elder, then here is your standard. Oh, and it is the same for men and women who serve as deacons in the church.

You see, four sentences and I’m through the next couple of chapters. But that isn’t Paul’s style. That isn’t Paul’s nature. He’s a teacher. So he expounds. He digresses from the topic to explain. And I’m so thankful he does.

Let’s look at these and see how I came up with this formula: E=PxQ.

The Evangelist’s life is filled with prayer and a quiet, peaceful life lived out with all godliness and dignity. How is that so? Paul tells us in the following verses. I’ve listed them as follows:

  1. The Pleasure of God in His Church (1-3)
  2. The Plan of God for His Church (4-7)

Let’s look at this first section:

I.     The Pleasure of God in His Church (1-3)

exp.: Look what he says in 2.1: rd v 1; first of all; this means the first, as in order and maybe even in importance. You either start with prayer or nothing is more important than prayer. If you ask me which one it is, I’d say, both!

Can I repeat that: It is the first thing you should do and there is probably nothing more important in your winning people to Christ than your prayers for them. Now the context here is public prayers. As the church gathers, the first thing we should do and there is nothing more important than what we do than to pray publicly for all people.

I wonder if you agree… I’d challenge anyone here this morning to stand to their feet and declare a more important component to Evangelism than prayer. Maybe you could teach me something here, something that I’m not seeing.

First of all! That’s a pretty bold statement. Paul has been going off on these false teachers and their false doctrine and then he comes to structure and order in the church. And what comes first? 1First of all, then, I urge that and Paul gives us 4 words for prayer in the church. They’re really all synonyms for prayer.

  • Supplications
  • Prayers
  • Intercessions
  • Thanksgivings

This is requests, specific request, general requests, and even gratitude. It’s all still just prayer. It’s talking to God. It is interceding on behalf of needs – and the context here is praying for people. And, Paul specifies next that these prayers be made for all people… let’s label this:

  1. A Call to Prayer: it is like the foundational way we battle false doctrine; but, I think there is more here, and that is seen in this little statement: prayers be made for all people. For sure, there is this universal idea or theme to his statement. In Jewish religious practices, the Jew would normally pray for their neighbor. Paul’s idea is pretty radical compared to what they were used to practicing. Basically, there isn’t anyone who fits outside of these parameters. I don’t think this means to be generic in your prayers: God bless everyone. Let there be peace on earth. But rather, pray for all people. Everyone you can think of. There is no one who you shouldn’t pray for.

I think Paul begins to digress here for a moment in v2. He seems to do that quite often; rd v 2; for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.

Let’s call this:

  1. A Call to Piety: this is holy living. You might see this as the Public’s Perception of us. This is what they see in us. So, with this in mind, I think Paul is being more specific here in what he’s talking about in prayers: this isn’t the private devotional prayer. This is public prayer. It is Public Prayer as observed by others who are watching us in our Worship Services.

ill.: Did you see that President Trump stopped by David Platt’s church this past week? It was all over the news. First, because it looked like he had a new hairstyle. Then, because some of David Platt’s church members were upset that the pastor prayed for the president! David Platt used this passage and prayed for the President. The president had stopped by that morning because he said he wanted to pray for the victims of the Virginia shooting this past week. And David prayed for the president. He didn’t know he was coming. He heard that he would be there at the worship service just a few minutes he actually showed up.

Can I chase a rabbit for a minute, that’s really right up this alley? Y’all, it doesn’t matter who the president is. He still needs our prayers. And someday, she will need our prayers. You may not agree with someone’s politics, but this hatred in the political realm is getting out of hand. I would hope that no matter what politician showed up here asking for prayers that our congregation would act appropriately. And pray for that leader.

Paul tells us why we are to do this: in order that… we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. For the Jews, this was a practice that was encouraged because often times the emperor was to be worshiped. The act of publicly praying for the emperor was encouraging and it caused those in high offices to back off of pressuring the Jews. So, first, the leadership backed off. 2nd, the leadership would be kind toward those people allowing them to lead… a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.

app.: Here is Paul’s charge to them through Timothy: Pray and practice Piety. Because he continues in v 3; rd v 3; it pleases God. This is the pleasure of God in the Church: Prayer and Piety. Three P’s: Prayer, Piety, and Pleasure.

t.s.: Let’s continue… 2nd,

II.    The Plan of God in His Church (4-7)

exp.: this is good and pleases God, but more than that – it is his plan! Rd who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. So, there is this call to prayer and a call to holy living, all within the sight of lost people. And what is the result – that people would get saved. Wouldn’t you just love to please God? Pray for the salvation of all people. Right now, we’re just focusing on Who is your 1? Who is your 1? The challenge is to pray for 1 person, 1x a day, for 1 minute at 1 o’clock. This is our simple way of helping our church fulfill this charge: to pray, to practice piety, and present the gospel. Check this out: his pleasure is that we pray for all people – specifically, that, v4, they get saved by coming to a knowledge of the truth.

And then, Paul tells us how they can get saved: it’s his plan. Rd v 5; One God (holy, perfect) and us sinners; but there is a mediator who brings us together; How did he do that? rd v 6; Christ freely gave himself as a ransom.

This would be my plea to you this morning if you’ve never committed your life to Christ: God is holy and perfect. We are sinners and our sin separates us from God. I like to use a book like this to illustrate the sin that separates us. So, because we were helpless to act on our own, to remove this sin, God has sent his own son to die on the cross for our sins. He was buried in a borrowed tomb and he was raised three days later, where he ascended to be with the Father – and rules and reigns in glory.

And the Bible teaches us that if we’ll surrender our lives to him, that if we confess Jesus is Lord and believe that God raised him from the dead, we’ll be saved.

Paul says, that was his mission, rd v 7; that’s God’s purpose for him. But, that it is also our mission. We’ve been given the Great Commission.

This is truly a beautiful passage if you just let it wash over you. God’s heart is to see all people come to him. 2 Peter 3.9 tells us that it is God’s will that none should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

  1. God’s Pleasure – (3-4) in a church that prays for He Desires; Salvation
  2. God’s Plan – (5-6) His Gospel; Son
  3. God’s Purpose – (7) Paul’s Mission; Sent

Transition: Can you imagine if Paul had remained silent? What if he never said a word?

Conclusion: Remember the story of the UFO’s – the unidentified flying objects? The reports came in from all over the west, but the government didn’t say anything. The military kept quiet about these UFOs.

A couple of years earlier, in April of 1942, Lt. Col. Doolittle and his band of raiders flew what was basically described as a suicide mission to Tokyo. They flew their bombers to Japan and bombed Tokyo and other places in the Japanese Islands. What that did was terrify the Japanese, who had felt safe before, but now, after this bombing mission, left them vulnerable and scared.

People in the US knew of this raid. Doolittle and his men were heroes. But, here’s what the country didn’t know. The Japanese government issued a challenge to their people: we must find a way to bomb the US mainland.

One particular day, a Japanese man was standing on the shores of his island contemplating this challenge and saw a balloon go up into the sky. He noticed it drifted eastward, toward the US. He wondered what would happen if he could launch a larger balloon. Would it rise high enough, and last long enough to make it to the US? He launched a larger balloon and noticed when it got to a certain height it would just take off and head eastward. What he didn’t know, but we do now, is there is this thing called the Jet stream. There were many trial and errors, but eventually, The Japanese govt. loved the idea and weather balloons were chosen. They had sandbags, altimeters, and bombs. The altimeters would keep them below 30,000 feet. And if they got too low, sandbags would drop, causing them to rise back up into the Jet Stream.

Now you know, that’s what those explosions were. That’s what those UFO’s were. And the US Govt. knew, but they chose not to tell the people because they didn’t want to start a panic. They had done geological tests on the sand from the sandbags and determined that not only did the sand come from Japan, but it came from a specific island. They even knew the specific beaches where this sand came from. Man, the wonders of technology. But, they didn’t say anything.

9,000 balloons were launched. And virtually none of them did any damage. None did any harm… except for this one balloon.

Bly, Oregon lies on the southern part of Oregon at the base of Gearheart Mountain. A balloon landed there. Cora Conner and her sister were invited up to the mountain for some fun. Cora’s little sister, It was Sunday, May 5, 1945. Pastor Archie Mitchell and his wife, Elsie, pregnant with their 1st child, invited some youth to go up the mountain for a picnic. …. Wanted to go because there was this guy there who liked her and he was going. …. Begged her sister to go, too, but she couldn’t because she was working the switchboard for the town.

The pastor pulled up and the youth all jumped out of the truck and ran around the area just goofing off, while Pastor Mitchell grabbed the fishing poles and picnic basket and what not. One of the young youth noticed something strange. And, he called all of the kids and Ms. Elsie over to look at this… what we know now was a downed weather balloon with its sandbags and odd looking canisters. Some 30’ in diameter, white, pale, canvas type, contraption laying on the ground. Elise called out to her husband and said that he should come over and look at this thing they’d found. He couldn’t see anything because they were all gathered around this thing – up close and tight. Pastor Archie took a couple of steps toward them when one of the youth picked up the bomb and it exploded – killing all 5 youth and Elsie and her unborn baby.

 

No one knows for sure, but what if the govt had issued warnings? What would have happened if the people knew about these weather balloons? What if they had known and immediately upon seeing it would have stayed clear until the proper authorities had gotten there? Kids are kids – and curious kids do curious things. Maybe they still would have died because they would have ignored what they knew. But what if they did stay clear because they knew. Maybe they would have lived a long and wonderful life.

The truth is we’ll never know. But this is what I do know: Evangelism isn’t evangelism if we keep silent. You can pray. You can live a godly and honorable life. But if you and I keep silent, then how will they know? Romans 10.14 asks us: 14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?

You’ve heard of this challenge: Who is your 1? I was so blown away this past week at the many prayer requests you guys shared with the staff – to pray for your One. I want to take that one step further. I was hoping you might join me in praying for each other’s One. Here’s how I’d like to do this.

Challenge: post the names to the cross and pray. Elders, come first, Deacons, too. And then make yourselves available to pray for and with others.

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1 Timothy 1.8-11

Title: What do we know about the Law?

Text: 1 Timothy 1.8-11

What do we know about the Law?

The answer is honestly…very little. And, what we do know about the law we often times don’t really understand. Or, we misuse it.

When one thinks about the law, that person usually thinks of it in negative terms. But the Bible doesn’t refer to the law in negative terms. Not really… consider:

Does this sound familiar:

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.

Or this one:

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. 10 More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. 11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

If you read Psalm 119 regularly, you might be familiar with this one: 97 Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.

Do we just throw out the Law as Christians? I mean, it is the Old Testament, right?

No! Because, the law does some truly wonderful work for us. Listen to what Paul writes in Galatians.

19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.

So, we can’t gain righteousness through the Law, but it still serves a purpose. We recently made our way through Romans 8. And the theme there was that we weren’t to live by the law anymore, but rather by the Spirit, whom God has given us when we become Christians.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do.

And just how did he do that? We continue in Romans 8: By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

We’re in 1 Tim 1. We’ve only just begun our study in 1st Timothy. Paul writes this letter for Timothy to encourage him to take a strong stand against false teachers. That is clear in v3-4; In v5-7 we are reminded, as we consider the law, of what the goal is supposed to be. Rd v 5; Love! Love.

Don’t forget that. It is so easy to do! Maybe people start off with love in mind, but it quickly disintegrates into anger and bitterness and defensiveness. It becomes a goal of winning an argument and being right.

Ill.: I remember after seminary learning about the Catholic Church and finding some truly wonderful practices about the Catholic Church. I met Father Dan Crawford, an Episcopalian Priest, who mentored me. It seemed to me that seminary training for me was more about what they did wrong and why the Reformation was launched. I knew about our differences, but not anything about what we hold in common. For me, it felt so much about being able to defend our differences and to win an argument if I debated someone who is Catholic or Episcopalian or Pentecostal. Maybe we need to stop being so argumentative and we need to start listening more.

Here’s where I’m going with this:

  • There are some people we feel comfortable worshiping with because they are just like us.
  • There are some people we wouldn’t feel comfortable worshiping with because they’re different.
  • But there are some people who are so different, that we would say, “That isn’t even Christian.”

But, in every instance, this isn’t about winning arguments. It isn’t about debates. Paul reminds us here: it is all about love.

Certain men, teachers of the law, did not have love as their motive. 1 Timothy 6.3-10 tells us their goal was to get rich. They taught certain aspects of the law from Speculation and not true knowledge and experience. And so we pick up in v8 of 1st Timothy 1. It is like Paul is saying: it isn’t that the law is bad… Really? So, what do we know about the Law? Well, Paul presents three facts about the law that I would like to spend the rest of the morning inspecting. First, we know that

I.     The Law is Good (8)

exp.: and we see that clearly communicated in v 8; rd v 8; how is it that? We see what looks to be a conditional clause: it is good if one uses it lawfully. So, you can use the law in an unlawful way. And I think that is what v6-7 is all about: Certain persons, by swerving from these (i.e., a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith), have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.

Using the law in an unlawful manner means to make confident assertions about the law that are false. It means using the law for ill-gotten gain. Using the law in an unlawful manner means leaving love out of the equation. It means being ‘right’ in a debate. It means using others to get what you want.

Ill.: There are different types of arguments and I’m not sure any of them are good to engage in. We have speech and debate; I’m not talking about those types of things. I’m talking about the casual conversations you have with your workers, friends, and acquaintances. If you argue and push until you win – you might lose the battle of trying to win them to Christ. If something is heretical, yes, you should shed light on that. But again, what is your goal – to show how stupid they are? Or, is your goal love and you want to help that person. Those are two very different things.

app.: I shudder to think of my behavior in the past when I was quick to defend a belief or something I disagreed with. Paul establishes for us that he’s not bothered about the Law being taught because the Law is good. So, don’t be afraid of it. Instead – look for Christ in it.

t.s.: Which brings us to Paul’s next fact… The law also has purpose.

II.    The Law has Purpose (9-10)

exp.: rd v 9a: understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just (or righteous), but for the unjust or the unrighteous; and he outlines them; read them; rd v9-10;

I want you to note that these echo or parallel the 10 commandments; you might consider these a commentary by Paul on the 10 Commandments; (the first three pair follow the 1st part of the Decalogue) lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane,; (the rest of the list, the 2nd part of the Decalogue) for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 10 the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine;

thou shall honor your father & mother; thou shall not murder; thou shalt not commit adultery, enslavers is lit.: ‘manstealer’ it is used to describe someone who steals people and sells them; liars – bearing false witness;

Transition: Paul moves through the purpose and goodness of the Law and shares with Timothy that their newfound Faith in Christ doesn’t go against the Law;

The law has purpose – it shows us what a life in Christ is like.

Ill.: Listen to John Piper as he uses Galatians 3.19-25 to explain this text: So the law, Paul says, is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and rebellious. This sounds very much like Galatians 3:19. Paul asks, “Why the Law then?” Why was it added 430 years after Abraham was justified by faith? He answers, “It was added because of transgressions.” He does not say that it was added because of righteousness. It was added because of these kinds of things we read in this list in 1 Timothy 1:9-10. The law had a special role to play in setting a rigorous, detailed standard of behavior which functioned, Paul said, to hold people imprisoned (Galatians 3:22) or under a guardian or tutor (Galatians 3:24) until Christ came and justification by faith could be focused on him. The law commanded and condemned, and pointed to a Redeemer who was to come. Then Paul says, in Galatians 3:25, “But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.”

app.: So, it parallels the 10 Commandments and 2nd, it points us to Christ. Paul wants to establish that he’s not bothered about the Law being taught because the Law is good. Its purpose is to demonstrate life and to point to the one who was to come. It shows us our need for Christ; It shows us our sinfulness and our sin; it shows us our need for forgiveness;

t.s.: which brings us to this 3rd fact of Paul’s in what do we know about the Law? We know that (1) the law is good and we know that (2) the law has purpose. And, (3) we know that…

III.    The Law & the Gospel are in One Accord (11)

exp.: v 11; in accordance with the Gospel; that’s pretty clear; I think the converse would be true then: if you find something in the law and it doesn’t line up with the Gospel, then there is something wrong with the Gospel you’re teaching. That’s a bold statement. Am I off here? Think about this for a moment – let that sink in: if you’re teaching something from the law and it doesn’t line up with the Gospel – then there something wrong with the Gospel you’re teaching. You’re not teaching Paul’s Gospel. You’re teaching a false Gospel. The whole phrase, the Gospel of the glory is used only one other place in Scripture: 2 Cor 4.4 – In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

ill.: If you come across a teaching that declares you can be unfaithful to your wife. That is a false gospel. If you come across a teaching that insists you can steal something because you’re entitled to it. That’s a false gospel. If you hear a teacher proclaim that God wants to give you the abundance of riches and he or she declares that to be financial riches – that’s a false gospel.

app.: The Gospel is quite clear – and the law is in accordance with it. That is just one of the facts we know about the Law: 1. It is good; 2. It has purpose and 3. It is in accordance with the Gospel.

Conclusion: In 1945 the USS Indianapolis what’s sailing in the Pacific. On one particular run, the Indianapolis sustained significant damage from a Japanese Kamikaze – a plane that uses itself as a bomb. The ship limped into an island and made what repairs she could. But, the damage was significant enough that the Indianapolis was then forced to return to San Francisco for major repairs.

In 1945, many Americans believed the War was coming to an end. All indications were that was the case. Because of this, Lt. Commander John Emery used his position to pull some strings and get his son, William Friend Henry stationed to the USS Indianapolis at San Francisco. The Lt. Commander thought his son would be safe there. He thought his son would stay there in dry dock while repairs were being made. And, then, she would probably never head back out to war – the war would be over and his son would be alive. So, using his rank and his relationships with his powerful friends, he got his son transferred to Indy.

But a need arose. The powers that be needed a ship to transfer the atomic bomb to Guam. The USS Indianapolis was in a perfect place to become the ship that would transfer ‘the bomb’ – The atomic bomb that would be loaded onto the Enola Gay and then flown to Japan, where it was dropped on Hiroshima.

It was after this transfer at Guam that the Indianapolis was sent to the Philippines for some training exercises. The crew thought they were safe. Laziness and inaction by others gave the Captain of the Indianapolis a sense that they were safe. Lt. Commander John Emery thought they were safe – he thought his son was safe, but as you know – if you’ve ever seen the movie Jaws – you know it was torpedoed and sank. You know that most of the men on board that ship were killed. In an effort to save his son, the actions Lt. Commander Emery took actually brought about the death of his son.

There is another story about a Father whose actions brought about the death of his son. But this father wasn’t acting to save his son. The actions he took were intentional. He was acting to save you and me. God sent his Son, Jesus to die on the Cross of Calvary and to pay the penalty of sins for you and for me. You see, that’s the Gospel. Talk about love as the goal: that’s the Gospel.

Paul wants to establish that he’s not bothered about the Law being taught, because:

  1. The Law is good.
  2. It shows us our need for Christ.
  3. It is consistent with the Gospel.

Take-a-ways:

  1. Read the Law – it is good for you. It is a major part of your sanctification. Read a little. Meditate on one verse. Read one chapter a day. Read 5 chapters a day.
  2. Learn the Law, so that you might learn of Christ’s Character. Remember he said that he didn’t come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. He fulfilled it. Perfectly.
  3. Live the Law – to do so would be to be like Christ. Sure, there are some hard things about the Law, but in reading them, learning them and living them out, there is great reward. Do this, because the Law is good, it has purpose and it is in accordance with the Gospel of the glory of the blessed God.

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1 Timothy 1.3-7

Title: Timothy’s Appointment to the Church at Ephesus

Text: 1 Timothy 1.3-7

Introduction:

March 2, 1962. Hershey, PA. Wilt Chamberlain scored a record 100 points in one game. The record has been approached a couple of times but never broken. Kobe Bryant scored 81 points a few years back. My hero David Robinson of the San Antonio Spurs scored 71 in one game. And, the night he set the record, he made 28 free throws out of 32. Here’s the thing about that: Chamberlain was a pitiful free throw shooter, but not that night. Normally, he would shoot in the 40% area. That night he shot nearly 90%. The difference? He shot his free throws underhanded.

But here’s an interesting tidbit of information: shortly afterward, Wilt Chamberlain went back to shooting his free throws overhead and his percentage plummeted once again.

Why? He tells us in his biography: I felt silly, like a sissy, shooting underhanded. I know I was wrong. I know some of the best foul shooters in history shot that way. Even now, the best one in the NBA, Rick Barry, shoots underhanded. I just couldn’t do it.

Check that out…he says: I know I was wrong. He is saying the right thing to do – the best way for him to score on his free throws would be to shoot underhanded. But then he says he just couldn’t do it.

Here’s my question: I wonder how many men would have to shoot underhanded before he would have changed his style.

Malcolm Gladwell has a podcast on this topic (Revisionist History)– the idea that each of us has a threshold where we will surrender our beliefs about something. We have beliefs, but we don’t live by those beliefs all the time.

Gladwell gives the example of a teenager who drives a hundred miles an hour with three of his buddies in the car. He isn’t doing it because he believes it is the right thing to do. He probably believes it is wrong. His threshold for doing what he believes is so low, that he surrenders what he knows to be right to do something wrong. Consider if his grandma was driving that car. Do you think she would drive 100 miles per hour to impress his friends? Example: Do think Melodese would drive 100 miles per hour to impress her grandson’s friends? Or Debbie Raney doing the same thing to impress Regan’s friends? Their threshold for such activities is pretty high. Probably, untouchable.

Transition: Identifying this threshold in our lives is so very important.

Consider a leader in the church. The truth is that when a leader upsets people in the church something happens:

  • Upset one person and that person might leave – taking their family, sometimes their friends, their tithe, and their opinions that they share with others in the community.
  • Upset more than one person and you could have a potential church split.
  • Upset enough people and you’re out of here…terminated.

So, people-pleasing is a tough dilemma for leadership. Leaders face a threshold like what Gladwell talks about in his podcast.

I wonder what it was like for young Timothy… Here is a young man who has to stand up to the likes of false teachers in his church, the church at Ephesus. Turn with me to 1 Timothy 1.3. Pg 932.

I’ve identified three parts to the overall passage of 1.1-11: A Bird’s Eye View of our Journey through 1 Timothy

  1. The Purpose of the Leader: His Charge (Week 1) v1-3
  2. The Purpose of the Letter: His Concern (Week 2) v3-7
  3. The Purpose of the Law: His Caution (Week 3) v8-11

We’re in the 2nd section: Paul’s Concern. In this section we note:

  1. The Assignment Paul has for young Timothy (v3-4)
  2. The Aim in standing up to these leaders (v5)
  3. The Assessment of the situation there in Ephesus (v6-7)

Let’s begin with…

I.     The Assignment: to remain and charge (v3-4)

exp.: The assignment was to… rd v 3b; to remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine…

  • The Charge: Authority from Paul, now on Timothy; Authority of Paul is established in 1-2; an Apostle; by the command; God our Savior; Christ our hope; Now, Timothy has an Assignment and it comes under the Authority of Paul. This comes straight from the top! There is a direct line here in the chain of command; Specifics:
    • Do not teach: a different doctrine; Gal 1:6-10; you see this in the churches in Galatia, but it is also evident in other letters of Paul. There is only one Gospel. Anything different is false. Note the threshold for Paul in v 10; You can’t make him preach something else to please men.
    • Do not devote
      • Myths and Endless genealogies: scholars don’t agree on what these endless genealogies were; probably something to do with Jewish ancestry; however, what is important is what chasing after these useless myths and endless genealogies did: it brought…
      • Speculation v. Stewardship; I have no idea where this quote comes from. I wrote it down years ago and came across it this past week in my notes on this passage: Speculation without knowledge detracts from responsible execution of the ministry; and here’s why…
        1. Speculative knowledge is a type of theoretical knowledge. It is a knowledge that is gained through reflection without experience.
        2. Stewardship involves our use of not only the financial resources but our gifts, talents, abilities and time.

ill.: I.H. Marshall: …the label applied here and elsewhere in the PE may target not just the fallacious interpretation of OT passages but also applications of this material to conduct that contradicted traditional patterns of godly behavior.

app.: this is the danger of moving away from God’s Word and teaching from the way one feels about something.

t.s.: And Paul has given this particular assignment to Timothy to ‘charge’ these men not to teach false doctrine; But Paul gives Timothy a warning on how this is to be done; Rd v 5;

II.    The Aim: love from… (v5)

exp.: the Gk word here is τέλος; the vb form of this word is τελέω (to bring to an end); this is the word from which we get “telescope” and others like it; it means to bring something which is far away much closer. This is how we get our word for goal or purpose. You plan your current situation so that you’ll arrive at the appropriate place. The purpose, The goal, The aim, The endgame is love.

  • this verse changes the thought from the negative result of erroneous teaching to the motives of proper instruction within the church; The motive, the goal the aim is…
    • Love (issues itself from Three Sources)
      • A pure heart; καθαρᾶς 1John 1:9; the καρδία; is the center of the person; who we are before God; our true personality; the seat of our emotions; the origin of desires; This is what we are to love God with…’all of our heart’; Q.: seriously, who wants to bring an impure, dirty heart before God? No one, right?
      • A good conscience; 2nd dimension of the inner person; this word isn’t found in the OT; the heart served in this capacity; in the NT it means a knowledge of good and bad; compound word, with (to gather) knowledge; This conscience isn’t the ultimate judge of right & wrong; it only serves us as a guide since it can be seared by sin; important: we think sin doesn’t affect us, but it does; what our eyes see, what our ears hear; what our senses experience, through time, slowly disconnect us from reality; we truly are in an age when evil is called good and good is called evil, where reality is called false and false is called reality. The media would have you believe you’re watching reality TV. John writes: Little Children, keep yourselves from sin. A pure heart brings a clear conscience. Note: the word good is sometimes translated clear, which would fit here well;
      • A sincere faith; it appears the false teachers taught with an objective other than love, their goal: 1 Tim 6:5 ff; was their pockets;

app.: their endgame is not love! Their endgame was what they could get from these people…

t.s.: and so Paul placed Timothy there to confront these men, v 6ff tell us why; rd v 6-7;

III.   The Assessment: Certain men have wandered off course (v6-7)

exp.: The problem: these men are ‘missing the mark’; they have wandered (turned); Certain people have lit.: “missed the mark”; they have deviated off course and wandered from these (a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith); These people are the “false teachers of the Law”; this word, νομοδιδάσκαλοι teachers of the Law is found only 2 other times in the NT and clearly refers to teachers of the Mosaic Law; This Wandering leads to:

  • Vain Discussion; ‘empty, fruitless discussions; kids are good at this; and that’s immaturity; “my uncle has some cows”; what’s bad is when adults do that; what’s worse is when teachers do that; what exactly were they doing? rd v 7
    • Teaching without understanding (they are wrong)
    • Application with error (they are sincerely wrong)

ill.: As a pastor, I have had people say to me: We don’t need more doctrine! What we need is more practical preaching! I think that means: don’t teach us, tell us stories.

app.: But can’t you see that doctrine is the basis for living? It is what you know from experiencing God’s Word as you live out his teaching for your life. My goal isn’t to motivate you to live a better life. This thing I do up here isn’t just about inspiration. My goal is to love you in such a way that it leads you to a closer relationship with God. And, I do not really love you if all I do is tell you what you want to hear!

Transition: The Church must keep great oversight on what is being taught and be willing to confront doctrine that is unhealthy. Our threshold must be high and not give in to what is popular or the current trend.

Conclusion: Wilt Chamberlain mentioned Rick Barry in his biography as the one person who would shoot his free throws underhanded. He also mentions that Rick Barry led the NBA in Free Throw percentage each year. Rick says that one year he missed only 9 shots. 9! And the next year, he only missed 10. To put that in perspective, Lebron James misses about 150 free throws a year. Rick Barry made 90% of his free throws throughout his career. Lebron James? 73%! Wilt Chamberlain? 50%!

What made Rick Barry not care about what others thought? Well, His goal wasn’t to please others. His goal was to make the shot. He really didn’t care what people thought about him. And, the fact that others made fun of him didn’t bother him. His threshold was incredibly high.

So let me ask you: how high of a threshold do you have toward others making fun of you for not following the world? Paul had an incredibly high threshold. He’s encouraging Timothy to have a high threshold. And I’m doing the same for you: and that brings us to the applications for this morning…

Application: So what do we learn from this section of Paul’s letter? To check our:

  1. Our motives in teaching (in ministry): Love? Do you love your students? Do you love God’s Word? Is your heart pure, your conscience clear and your faith totally sincere.
  2. Our doctrine in teaching: on course with God’s Word?
    1. Books; be careful;
    2. Study Bibles: notes are not inerrant
  3. Our practice in selecting teachers. We should be concerned with each teacher. Not just filling vacancies, but finding good, competent, teachers.
  4. Our goal: lead people to Christ, disciple them and send them out.

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1 Timothy 1.1-3

*Note: the audio begins late… for the full audio version, you can visit our church’s Facebook page and view the service.

Title: 1 Timothy: An Introduction

Text: 1 Timothy 1.1-3

Introduction: Erin Brockovich is now famous for her legal work against a giant company. She herself was not a lawyer, but rather a legal clerk who worked for a small law firm. Her story inspires most because she represents many of us – at least that is the way we see it.

She didn’t look the part. She wasn’t educated. She had made many mistakes when she was young. She was judged on her appearance and not on her work. The snobs with the money judged her incompetent because she didn’t dress like they did. She didn’t have the law degree they had. It was a modern day David and Goliath story. Pacific Gas and Electric Company had been poisoning the land around Hinkley, California. Their reckless behavior made the people the people of Hinkley and the surrounding area sick – many even died.

Her story inspires because she stood up to the mammoth of a company that had money and lawyers to fight. But she never backed down. She spent countless hours learning the ins and outs of that company. She met and got to know the people of Hinkley. She knew the sick by name. She knew their spouses and what their spouse did for a living; she knew who their kids were and what grades they were in. She knew where they lived. She knew where they shopped; who their doctors were; the most intimate details about their lives. She knew the company was dumping hexavalent chromium and contaminating the water sources the people of Hinkley were drinking.

Her story inspires because she spoke out and defended the ones who could not stand up for themselves and won.

For me, the Pastoral Epistles inspire like that. Paul writes to these young men who are serving as pastors in their local churches and encourages them to speak out against those who are killing the people around them. He writes to Titus in Crete and to Timothy in Ephesus. Our focus this morning is on Ephesus and this letter to Timothy. The Letter is entitled 1 Timothy. If you’re using a pew Bible, you’ll find the letter on page ???

Paul states his purpose quite clearly in 3.14-15; rd 3.14f; you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth. Sound Doctrine is vital to a church’s existence. Unhealthy doctrine destroys a church. Sound Doctrine teaches a church 1) how to behave, 2) it represents God, and 3) is a pillar and buttress of the Truth!

Over the next 4 months, our church will be looking at 1st Timothy. I have invited 8 men to walk this journey with me, 6 of whom will preach to you at one time or another. I did not choose the sermons for the guys, nor their texts. It was all very random. The only part to this that I did know were the dates that needed to be filed. In some ways, I feel like Paul – and these men are like Titus, Timothy, Tychicus, Apollos, Zenas, etc.

Our basic goal this morning is to look at the introduction. We find the introduction in 1 Timothy 1.1-3 or on page ??? if you’re using a pew Bible.

Basic Outline: First, we will look at the writer (who the letter is from), then the recipient (who the letter is to), and his purpose, which he alludes to in v 3;

  • From: Paul
  • To: Timothy (and the church at Ephesus)
  • Purpose: you may charge…

Transition: that outline looks short, but the truth is, there is so much here, so let’s get to it.

  1. From: Paul

exp.: Paul wrote this letter somewhere around the years 62-66 AD. Consider the following

  • Paul was martyred by Nero in Rome. That is the historical tradition and has strong backing.
  • Nero died in 68 AD, so, we’ll start with that date.
  • Paul was near his death when he wrote 2 Timothy, his last book or letter that we have. If Nero put Paul to death, then Paul died before Nero. Make sense?
  • So, let’s put Paul’s death around 67 AD – that means 2 Timothy was written near that time.
  • There are at least two winters recorded in the Pastoral Epistles (Titus 3.12 and 2 Timothy 4.21).

Titus 3.12: When I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there.

2 Tim 4.21: 21 Do your best to come before winter. Another winter is fast approaching. Each reference is a different context. So: at least two different winters. They could be one year apart or more; winter of ’67; the winter of ‘65. So, that would put 1 Timothy somewhere around 62-64 AD. These are rough guesses, of course – give or take a few years on each side the largest span would be 62-66. You probably have a good guess at the introduction in your Study Bible at 1 Timothy.

Next, Paul is imprisoned in 2 Timothy, but in 1 Timothy, he appears to be writing after his imprisonment as mentioned in Acts 28. I tried to locate times and places mentioned in 1 Timothy with Acts and I can’t reconcile them. Allow me to show you what I mean:

1 & 2 Timothy place Timothy in Ephesus. I jokingly say that he is the pastor of the 1st Baptist Church in Ephesus. 1 Timothy has Paul going to Macedonia (1.3). In the book of Acts, Paul does travel to Macedonia from Ephesus (Acts 20.1), but Timothy has not been left behind in Ephesus. Instead, he is sent ahead to Macedonia (Acts 19.22). Added to this, Timothy accompanies Paul on his journey to Jerusalem (Acts 20.4). It is possible that Paul left at Timothy in Miletus when he was meeting with the Ephesian elders; however, Paul’s journey was toward Jerusalem in the opposite direction of Macedonia.

So, I can only conclude that Paul was released from prison after Acts 28. He ministered and wrote his letters (1 Timothy and Titus) between the dates of 62-66 AD. Then, at some point after those letters, he is thrown into prison again. According to 2 Timothy, he must have gone eastward after his Roman Imprisonment and not on to Spain, because he left his cloak and books at Troas. From his prison cell, during this 2nd Roman Imprisonment, he wrote his last letter, 2 Timothy.

app.: Paul has a sense about him that the end is near. Verse 1 tells us about his calling: apostle. That means he is a missionary, a church planter. His authority is from God, who has called him and commissioned him. But, as the years have gone by, he finds himself unable to keep up with his previous pace of planting churches and discipling new believers. Jail time has put a toll on his body. Long hours, long travel, persecution, stress, these all have aged him.

So, he has strategically placed younger men in places of service. 1.3: Timothy at Ephesus; Titus at Crete (1.5); He sends their replacements. 2 Tim 4.12: Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. Before that, in Titus, Paul sent Tychicus to Crete – evidently to carry that particular letter. Paul mentions that Zenas, the Lawyer, and Apollos have been there with Titus and that Titus should send them on their way to Paul. Crescens is in Galatia; Titus served in Dalmatia, as well as in Crete. Mark is serving somewhere along the way between Ephesus and Rome. It would be a hard, but fun study to locate all of the names of these young men and see where Paul had located them for service – with both locations and dates.

Now, added to their placement as overseers in their respective churches, Paul has given them instructions about how a church should look and act. Now, this is so important! Don’t miss that! That is what these letters, 1 Timothy and Titus, are all about; more on that in a moment.

t.s.: For now, let’s turn our attention to Timothy

  1. To: Timothy

exp.: rd v 2; he uses the same language with Titus; my true child in the faith. The Gk word here is legitimate. I think this means that Paul had a hand in their conversion to Christ and their foundation in discipleship. My guess is that Timothy was converted to Christ on Paul’s 1st MJ. We first meet Timothy in the book of Acts (16.1). Paul and Barnabas had finished their 1st MJ and had returned to Antioch to report their mission work. After some days and some disagreement about how they should handle things, Paul and Silas take off on Paul’s 2nd MJ. Their first stop is in Galatia, at Derbe and on to a small town called Lystra. This is where they meet a young Timothy, who has impressed the people of Lystra and Iconium – and Paul, too. Paul immediately recognizes his potential and wants Timothy to accompany them on their journey. And so begins a mentoring relationship between the two men that will last for the next 15 years or more. So great is this relationship, greater even than any other relationship Paul will have with many men, that Timothy appears in all but three of Paul’s letters. Galatians, Ephesians, and Titus. An interesting side note about that: Timothy was from Galatia and he was the pastor at Ephesus.

The rest of v 2 is a typical salutation – if there is such a thing. Paul has worked at refining his introduction through the years to reflect a high Christology. And, built upon that Christology is the authority given to Paul. It is typical in nature to other letters, but of course, reflects the change and growth in his faith. Listen to Gordon Knight:

This form of salutation reflects three factors: first, the teachings of the Christian faith have molded Paul’s adaptation of the standard form. Second, there is a great uniformity in this molding, especially in the grading section, which reflects a certain crystallization of his manner of expression of the essential Christian truths in these salutations. Third, there are certain variations that either reflect the recipients’ situation and need or anticipate and emphasize that which will be presented in the letter proper.

In all of his letters except the letter to the churches in Galatia, Paul refers to the recipients’ relationship to Christ (i.e.: to all the saints in Christ Jesus, as here – my true child in the faith, etc).

ill.: but here is where we can’t see the bond and what has forged it. As you read through acts you see Timothy right there with Silas and others, learning how to stand for Christ, learning that persecution will come. He is watching Paul as he suffers: in Philippi, in Thessalonica, in Berea as he watched Paul sail away alone – alone for his own safety; he is there in Corinth when the city erupted and wanted Paul’s head. Timothy was at Ephesus the first time Paul spoke there. He probably heard Paul’s promise to return if the Lord willed it. And the Lord did and Paul returned and stayed for two years. He watched as the people jumped up and down, screaming and yelling at the top of their lungs, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” He watched as Paul begged to address the thousands of people who wanted him dead. Paul saw a crowd where he could preach Christ. I’m sure Timothy was one of the men who begged him not to do that. The crowd yelled for two hours, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”

We have a bunch of material from Acts where Timothy watched and learned from Paul. But what about the “so much more” that we don’t have. What was it like in those prison cells as they had time for some one-on-one discipleship? What was it like for Timothy to listen to this brilliant man who knew the Scriptures and how to apply them? What was it like to watch as the man went from reading the Scriptures to quoting them because his eyes were failing him? What was it like to hear the story of Paul’s conversion and calling – to hear him tell it – the story we read about in Acts Chapter 9 without the inflection, without the emotion of Paul’s voice?

app.: As a pastor, I’m in awe of this relationship. Paul loves the people of Ephesus. He detests false teachers coming and leading people astray. He trusts Timothy to serve those folks – to teach sound doctrine and protect them from the foolishness that others try to bring into a church.

t.s.: which brings us to this last section… it deals with what I touched on at the end of the 1st section… the purpose of these letters, and this one in particular.

  1. Purpose: charge certain men not to teach a different doctrine

exp.: rd v 3; Paul gets straight to the point. This is why I left you there in Ephesus. This is why I’m writing to you! Paul deals with false teaching repeated through his ministry. We see it in just about every letter. We’ll see it in this letter, so you’re going to see it again and again (1.3-11; 13-20; 4.1-7; 6.3-10; 20-21).

  • Myths (1.4; 4.7)
  • Genealogies (1.4)
  • A concern with the Jewish Law and its application (1.7)
  • Empty sounds and contradictions referred to as ‘knowledge’ (6.20)
  • Deception (4.1-3)
  • Immorality (1.19-20)
  • Financial Gain (6.5)
  • Harsh Asceticism (4.1-5) through denying the self what God has blessed us with; rd; 4.1-5

ill.: false teaching is alive and well in the church today. Consider the following for us:

  • For the first 1500 years of the Church’s existence – teaching came only through hearing the Word. Very few people could read it and very few people had access to it. The Word of God was spread through copies and often times, those copies were chained to the altar at the church. Regular people did not have their own copies. The only time they got God’s Word was through the preaching.
  • Along come Guttenberg and his printing press, making it possible to have a copy of God’s Word. So, for the next few hundred years, the word of God could only be spread reading it and the public preaching of it. As the Word of God became more and more prevalent, it was outlawed in certain countries. The Church didn’t want it in the hands of normal people because they might teach falsely. I think it was more about control.
  • The Advent of Radio and Recording makes it much easier to access the preaching part. But today, with the internet and TV, with its 557 channels and nothing on, you can hear multiple preachers in any given hour. False teaching can be pumped into your homes and into your head anytime you want to listen to anyone who tickles your ears.

app.: For me, it is a scary time.

  • Consider Mayor Pete Buttigieg: the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, IN. He’s the next big thing for liberals because he is gay and he is married to a man. And, he is a very nice young man. He’s intelligent and articulate. He went to Notre Dame, Harvard, and Oxford. Ok, so far not too very different from most liberals. But, here’s the thing: he spouts his faith and declares his Christianity unashamedly. And this is where I think Sound Doctrine is of great importance to us. Just look at our text, down in v 8-11. Now, there are some, probably more on the internet than here in this room, who would say it is wrong from me to ‘judge’ him and his faith. I think to some degree that would be true. But this is where we need to be very careful. Scripture is clear on this issue. He may be sincere, but he is sincerely wrong according to Scripture. What is scary for me is that there is a group of young, progressive Christians who are pushing and supporting his rise through the Democratic party.
  • Al Mohler recently shared an article which came out in the New York Times questioning the foundational doctrines of our faith: the Trinity, The Virgin birth, The Resurrection of Christ. I’m guessing it was Easter and all – and that’s the perfect time to attack Christians. Nicholas Kristoph interviewed a Seminary president: Serene Jones. She is the president of Union Theological Seminary. And the article basically boils down to throwing out the main tenets of our faith. Serene Jones doesn’t believe in a resurrection. She says the empty tomb illustrates that “the ultimate love in our lives cannot be crucified and killed.” She says there isn’t a resurrection in Mark – only an empty tomb. Kristoph challenges her, not really, but just so she can expand on her thoughts: But without a resurrection, aren’t we left with just the crucifixion? She answers: “Crucifixion is not something that God is orchestrating from upstairs. The pervasive idea of an abusive God-father who sends his own kid to the cross so God could forgive people is nuts. For me,” she said, “the cross is an enactment of our human hatred. But what happens on Easter is the triumph of love in the midst of suffering. Isn’t that reason for hope? Well, according to Paul – No! If all we have is the crucifixion, if Christ is not raised, then we are to be pitied above all men. If Christ is not raised, then we are hopeless and our faith is futile.
  • Joel Osteen is a motivational speaker who masquerades around as a preacher. I’ve chosen not to slam other preachers, but I don’t think Osteen lands in this category: a preacher. Joel Osteen’s teaching revolves around the self. There is no guilt and shame – those things don’t belong at his church. He will not talk about sin – that is so degrading. What he focuses on is making you feel better about yourself when you walk out those doors.
  • The following is from CBSNews.com this morning:

Rachel Held Evans, a popular, progressive Christian writer who challenged the traditional evangelical views, died Saturday, her husband confirmed in a blog post. She was 37.

Evans was hospitalized in April for what she described in a tweet as “a flu + UTI combo and a severe allergic reaction to the antibiotics they gave me.” Her husband, Daniel Evans, had been updating on her blog about her health, writing that she had been placed in a medically-induced coma.

On Saturday, he wrote that she had been weaned from coma medication, but seizures had continued and severe swelling of her brain had been found, which he wrote caused severe damage that “ultimately was not survivable.”

“This entire experience is surreal,” Daniel Evans wrote. “I keep hoping it’s a nightmare from which I’ll awake. I feel like I’m telling someone else’s story.”

Evans was the author of several books, including “Faith Unraveled,” “The Year of Biblical Womanhood,” “Searching for Sunday” and “Inspired.” She spent more than a decade writing about what she described as “faith, doubt, and life in the Bible Belt” on her blog. 

Her popular writing and views on Christianity often enraged traditional evangelicals. In 2015, The Washington Post called her the “most polarizing woman in evangelicalism.” She was an advocate for LGBT membership in the church, urged fellow pro-life Christians to vote for Hillary Clinton and wrestled with the role of the patriarchy in the church. She served on former President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. 

She eventually left the evangelical church, writing in 2016 that “church universal is so much bigger than white American evangelicalism, and that’s going to become ever more apparent in the months and years to come.” 

I’m sad that this young woman died.

But the saddest part of her story is that so much of her ‘ministry’ was much like Hymenaeus and Philetus. She rejected the hard parts of the Bible and followed how she felt. Many have been led astray. She had a great point. I too have been sickened at the organized church; the power plays of individuals; the segregation that is most evident on Sunday mornings.

t.s.: So, how do we handle this? Well, a guilty man should feel guilty. Sin is what separates us from a holy God and we have to deal with our sin. Most people just don’t want to change. But God loves us too much to leave us the way we are.

Conclusion: We must act and respond like Paul, who is being very clear that Sound, Healthy Doctrine is vital. It is what should guide the church. It isn’t enough to just babble on and place your focus on things outside of Scripture, like how you feel. We must be clear about what is in Scripture. And that is the whole purpose behind 1 Timothy.

Application:

  1. The Charge: someone has to confront those who are teaching something other than sound doctrine. Someone has to cry out that the water has been poisoned. Don’t drink that water, but rather, come to the life-giving water. Here at Calvary, that is the elders’ responsibility.
  2. The Word of God is our Standard: It has to be the standard. Culture changes; laws change; emotions change; The Word of God is unchanging! For Timothy, he had the letter to the Ephesians, and he had this letter. This letter closes with a plural “you” – that is ‘the church’, so it appears that Paul had the intention for this letter to go to the church, too.
  3. The goal of this charge is love… v. 5; it isn’t to win arguments, but people. I’ll expound on this next week, but how can we say we love someone, but don’t love them enough to tell them the Truth.

As I think about Ms. Rachel Evans, I’m reminded that her passion was for those who were being rejected by the church. Something has got to change! But what must not change, is the Word of God on which we stand. What must change – is us. Love must drive us to understand God’s Word and use it as the standard for our faith.

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Filed under 1 Timothy, Christian Living, Doctrine, Ephesians, Evangelism, Gay Marriage, Homosexuality, Judgment, Scripture, Sermon, Sin

Romans 8.31-39

Title: If God is for us, who can be against us?

Text: Romans 8.31-36

Introduction: This week I read a story about a woman named Karen, age 35, who found out two years ago that she had cancer. She opted out of chemo and radiation and lived her life to the fullest. So, she says.

To hear her story is encouraging in a way. It makes you think about yourself and what you’d do if you had a death sentence hanging over your head. For Karen, she decided to live her life to the fullest. From what she recorded in her obituary, which was written by her, she did just that.

Our text today is similar in a way. The truth is we all do have a death sentence hanging over us. Physically speaking, we’re all going to face death at one time or another. Thank you, Adam and Eve. Spiritually speaking, too, we’re all facing death, unless, of course, Jesus faced that death for you. That’s where Paul is headed in our text.

Now that we’re at the end of chapter 8, how did we get here?

  • 1-17: A Regenerate Spirit because the Holy Spirit has come to live in you.
    • A new mind; a new mindset: life and peace.
    • A new hope: that the spirit will raise your bodies, too, just as Christ from the dead.
    • You are now part of the family of God because God has given you the spirit of adoption.
      • For this life
      • For eternal life
    • 18-30: There is hope now and it is not dashed to pieces because of suffering.
      • Suffering is all a part of our sin-soaked world.
      • Suffering is temporary in comparison to the hope of glory.
      • And, this Holy Spirit in us (Spirit of God; Spirit of Jesus) intercedes for us when we don’t even know what or how to pray, praying for us according to God’s will. And, God’s will culminates all of our experiences for Good.
      • Because of Christ and through the Holy Spirit, God has established his new covenant with those who love him. He foreordained, He predestined, He called, He justified and He glorified them.
    • 31-39: A crescendo of hope swells and culminates in these final verses as Paul asks: What shall we say to these things? And he answers his question with a question: If God is for us, who can stand against us? The simple answer is: no one! That is the answer to the message. You don’t have to pay attention anymore! Just kidding! But look at his answers:
      1. v 33: No one can bring a charge against us.
      2. v 34: No one can condemn us because God has declared us not guilty.
      3. v 35: No one can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. No one and No thing! Even in the face of suffering.

Do you know what happens when someone goes to court and there is no charge to bring against that person? Case Dismissed!

Paul knows a thing or two about cases being dismissed. He lived it! He was accused, beaten, imprisoned and then the magistrates responsible said – ah, let them go. Paul said, uh-uh! You have falsely accused us, beaten us and imprisoned us without cause. We’re Roman Citizens with rights. You’ve neglected to give us our rights. We’ll leave, but you have to come and lead us out. Those magistrates were scared. They’d broken the law and could have faced serious problems themselves. They had no case against Paul and he knew it.

Do you know what happens when a person stands in a place where there is no condemnation? The verdict is read: Not Guilty! So, there really is nothing to fear. But, what about the suffering? Doesn’t it seem that our suffering indicates that maybe the jury is still out? Even in suffering – in trial, in tempest, in tribulation; in facing sickness, in facing sorrow, in facing the sword; even as sheep who face being slaughtered (so says v. 36_ – we cannot be separated from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

How? How is that even possible? For the very reason we’re here this morning: Christ is Risen! The Lord is Risen indeed, hallelujah! That’s how it is possible. The very reason we’re here! It’s Easter!

If God is for us, who can be against us? And before he answers his own question, he states the reason for his answer. rd v 32; 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

Really, is there any greater gift that God could have given us than redemption? And yet, there is so much more…

Opening Story: Can I just offer a side note here? I think we miss out on so much of what life has to offer. We get bogged down in the ways of the world and wrapped up in the ways of the world and we miss so much that God has graciously given.

I think we miss the simplicity of a butterfly sitting on a flower; we miss the miracle of a single raindrop that falls from thousands of feet above and lands just where it lands; we miss the rustle of the leaves as the wind moves it where it wants. We miss the miracle of each moment. We miss out on so much of what life is meant to be.

Ill.: This week a woman I was visiting with was telling me about her two year old. She said she couldn’t find her keys. She knew where they were, but someone had moved them. A single mom with only one child, that leaves one other person in the house. She was running late, searching high and low. Guess where she found them? Behind the couch!

Now, that can be frustrating. But I also know another young lady who would give everything she has for a little boy who would lose her keys behind the couch. She and her husband have been trying for years to have children and it appears that it isn’t going to happen. Really, that heartbreak of not being able to have kids is like worse than having a son who grabs your keys and loses them behind the couch.

How might one look at a moment like that (2-year-old tossing your keys behind the couch) and be able to cherish losing your keys? Anyone here who is older and looking back can most definitely identify and would have some words of wisdom and help you see that moment as a precious memory. Remember George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life, how he wanted to throw that headpiece to the banister every single time he walked up the stairs, but when he was changed, he kissed it?

As you get older, you see that those deadlines you were late for, and many of the other rungs in the ladder were really tertiary matters behind your wife, your kids, and your family.

Wouldn’t you just love to live your life in such a way, that you could get to the end and look back to see that you truly enjoyed what matters most? Finding Christ early on is a huge help in this regard. But you might be asking: just what has Jesus dying and rising again have to do with, and make it where no one can stand against us? Well, the first answer is found in v 33; 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.

  1. No one can bring a charge against you because Christ has justified you.

Exp.: to be fair, Paul’s context is totally eschatological. That means he talking about the end times. One day, we will all stand before God and be judged for this life. And if you are a Christian, if you’ve given your life to Christ and found your sins forgiven – that is, you’ve been justified – then, there will be no charge brought against you. Your case was taken care of by Christ – no charges means case dismissed.

In comparison, these people were standing before earthly judges and having their property confiscated. They were being beaten and mistreated. They were being thrown in jail. And they were suffering by being entertainment by being thrown to the Lions and other cruel forms of persecution. That’s the persecution Paul is referring to in the previous verses. But that suffering, that persecution for them, really pales in comparison to the end time when they stand before God and hear him remind them that He has already declared them Not Guilty!

Ill.: The Insanity of God by Nik Ripken has been a real reminder to me of the tremendous persecution going on in the World – greater than any time in history since Christ was here.

App.: Live life backward… with a view of the present as if you could take the advice of the older people. Don’t sweat the small stuff!

t.s.: His 2nd answer is found in v 34; Who is to condemn?

  1. No one can condemn you because Christ was condemned in your place.

Exp.: To be fair, once again, Paul’s context is totally eschatological. That means he talking about the end times. Again. As these believers were standing before their judges and being declared guilty for following Christ, Paul was reminding them of the temporal aspect of this life. It really does go so quickly. Here, Paul is reminding them of why No accusation will stand because:

  1. Christ Died
  2. Christ Arose
  3. Christ Ascended
  4. Christ Intercedes.

Ill.: Here’s what we see: Satan stands and accuses you. You’re a liar, you use foul language, you cheat, you steal, consider the 10 commandments:

  1. No other Gods
  2. No idols
  3. Do not take the Lord’s name in Vain – profane God’s name
  4. Remember the Sabbath Day – to keep it holy
  5. Honor your Parent
  6. Don’t Murder
  7. Don’t commit Adultery
  8. Don’t Steal
  9. Don’t Lie
  10. Don’t Covent

App.: So, just one of those commandments, broken just one time, makes you guilty. You see, God is perfectly holy and just one sin separates us from him as far as the east is from the west.

t.s.: So who brings a charge against you: No One! Say it together, out loud, nice and loud… who brings a charge against you? No One! Who is then to condemn you? No One! Well then if no one can bring a charge against you and no one can condemn you, then maybe someone or something can separate you from God’s Love – so let me ask you: Who can separate you from the Love of God in Christ Jesus?

  1. No one can separate us from the love of God in Christ.

Exp.: Look at v 35 w/ me; Paul’s pretty clear isn’t he? But sometimes, it doesn’t feel that way – maybe that is what the Romans were thinking. To read about the Roman suffering is pretty distressing. Those believers were experiencing all of the above, but so had Paul. If you locate 2 Corinthians 11, beginning in v 16 and making your way down through verse 28, you’ll read that Paul experienced these exact struggles. He wasn’t talking about something he didn’t understand. That really comes out in v 36; rd v 36; take a moment to look at your references in the middle column, or maybe to the side of the page in your Bible. You’ll see that this is a quote from Psalm 44.22; The Jews had experienced these struggles, too. They were unsure of God’s presence. But Paul is using this to say, yes, in this life, you will have struggles. You will suffer. You will have your property confiscated by the authorities who don’t want you to be a Christian. And for sure, they don’t want you to tell them about their sin and their need for forgiveness. So the best thing to do to shut you up is to make you suffer.

Ill.: Consider the Christian Cake Bakers in the US. Really, though, our persecution doesn’t begin to touch what most Christians around the world are suffering. And Paul’s message must mean so much to them. It doesn’t matter what the world throws at you – even to the point of killing you. No One and no thing can ever separate you from the love of Christ.

App.: rd v 37-39

Conclusion: Craig Wiseman – you don’t know him but, you know who he is, anyway – Craig has this friend who goes to the doctor and the doctor reads this X-ray and identifies a mass. Craig’s friend is devastated. He’s counting the days, he’s thinking of radiation, he’s thinking of chemo, he’s thinking of his hair falling out, he’s thinking that he’s too cotton-pickin’ young to die. More than that, he is a young father. There is still so much he wants to see and do with his family. He’s thinking that if this is bad and that he doesn’t have much time left, he has certain things he wants to do. He’s got a bucket list. He didn’t know he had a bucket list, but he has a list of things he’s never done, never tried – and now that his time is short, he wants to experience life.

It was 10 days before he could get in to see his oncologist. Ten days is a long time when you are staring at a ‘mass’ and you don’t know what it is. He has some tests run, some more X-rays done and then the doctor comes in. “Dude, you’re fine. This is a little birth mass. Everyone is born is one, but they usually dissipate over the span of your life. Yours just didn’t. Really, you’re ok.

But that experience really spoke to him. It spoke to his friend Craig Wiseman, too. Craig has another friend, Tim Nichols. You don’t know him either, but you know of him. Craig calls Tim and tells him about their mutual friend. Tim tells Craig about this lady he saw on the News who was told she was going to die. She said all she really wanted to do with her time left was to climb some mountains in the Rockies. For those of you who know me, you know I get that.

Tim’s uncle was diagnosed with Leukemia. He’s fine now, but what that diagnosis did was cause him to quit his job – that is, to retire and do some of the things he always wanted to do.

As Craig and Tim were visiting about this, Craig grabbed his guitar – and you know the rest of the story…

I went Sky Divin’ I went, Rocky Mountain climbin’

I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fu Manchu

And loved deeper and I spoke sweeter and I

Gave forgiveness I’d been denying

And he said someday I hope you get the chance

To live like you were dying.

You know that song, right. Well, there’s a freedom there. There is a knowledge about something that changes the way you’ve been living. You get perspective!

That’s what Paul is trying to get them to see. This life is so short. And the things of this earth will all fade away. There is nothing you possess or will acquire that you will take with you. But look around. People are all that you’ll take with you. Your kids, your family, your friends.

A sideline to this story is that Tim McGraw never knew his father growing up. He didn’t actually meet his father until it was toward the end of his father’s life. It was about the time Tim got this song from Craig Wiseman and Tim Nichols that he found out his father was dying. And his dad died shortly thereafter. That is why this song was so very personal for Tim McGraw, that’s why it hit so close to home.

I have no idea what your relationship is with your earthly father, but did you know that you have a Heavenly Father who loves you deeply. He loved you before you even knew him. He loved you so much, that when you were helpless to do anything about your sinful situation, he sent his Son Jesus to die in your place. That’s what Easter is all about: that Jesus died for your sins and then rose again from the dead, proving he is God. You can know your heavenly father. You can know the promise of Heaven and Eternal Life.

Will you respond?

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Romans 8.29-30

Title: The “Those”

Text: Romans 8.29-30

Introduction: Let me begin with an outline of my process this morning:

  • Summary of the passage
  • A couple of thoughts to begin
  • The Work of the Spirit Step by Step in the Spirit-Filled Believer
  • Take-a-ways

Allow me to summarize the text to this point in short fashion: in 8.26-27, those who stand no longer condemned have hope in this life and in the life to come. Their hope extends to points beyond their present suffering. In their suffering, when they don’t even know how to pray or what to say, the Holy Spirit intercedes for them. In 8.28, we see that God combines their life experiences and causes those experiences (good or bad) to work together for good – no matter the circumstance. This is why I encouraged you last week not to tally up your life’s score at the halfway point. God isn’t through with you yet. Where you’ve failed him, own up and fess up! Then, live up to the calling you’ve received. There is more on this calling in our verses today.

The prayers of the Spirit on behalf of the ‘those’ are that they be conformed to the image of God’s son, Jesus Christ [the Spirit intercedes for ‘those’ the saints according to the will of God (27) and all things work together for those who are called “according to his purpose” (28) and that purpose is that they be conformed to the image of his son (29)]. “Those people”, that is the called, they can be confident that God will bring all of this about because he works all things together for good. They can be confident because he has set his covenantal affection up them:

  • He has predestined them to be like His Son, Jesus (i.e.: according to God’s will, according to his purpose, to be conformed to the image of his son)
  • He has called them to salvation,
  • He has justified them in that salvation,
  • And He has glorified them (aor. tense, as if it is already done).

A couple of Notes about our text before we look at that work of God:

Relationship

I want you to note that Paul is talking about certain people in this text, not everyone. Romans 8.1: There is therefore now no condemnation for… what does it say? … for those in Christ Jesus. There are those who are in Christ Jesus and there are those who are not in Christ Jesus. The people here are those in Christ Jesus.

He repeats it many times in our text today so that you’ll know this is a specific group of people: for those who or for those whom. 6x’s!

This all presupposes a relationship. What does Paul say about those people? They love God. And what does Paul say about God in relation to them? With God, he has called them. Relationship. Note the two ‘those’ phrases:

  • Those who love God. It sounds like they made that choice. And, that is true, they did. This has always been a prerequisite for God’s people – to love him. Have you ever heard of the Shema? Deut. 6.4-6; Love the Lord your God with… Classic Judaism. 2nd
  • Those who have been called. This sounds like God initiated the contact. This is His Action toward us. That’s why Paul says we cannot boast about our faith because God has acted on our behalf. No one saves himself. Eph. 2.8-9: For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

 

Mystery

The 2nd item to note is mystery… This dichotomy is a mystery. The free will of man and the sovereignty of God work simultaneously.

Ill.: I love the picture Brother Ken Brown painted for me when I was at Kirby Baptist Church as a young believer. He said something like:

Imagine you are walking along in life and you come to an entryway to somewhere. You see written over the entryway, “Whosoever shall come, may come.” And you do. You say, “Hey, that invitation is for me.” You make the turn and walk through the entryway in the Kingdom. But, as you make your way through the gates and to the other side, you pause and look back at the opening through which you just came. And on the other side, you read above the entryway, “Chosen before the foundation of the World.”

On the one side of this entryway, you and I, as lost people, we heard God’s call. Something inside us communicated God’s love to us and we responded. The Holy Spirit of God was wooing us. We didn’t know that was what it was, but we were being drawn. So, we entered in through the gate into this glorious salvation. And, it is only on the other side of this decision, this entrance and journey into the light, that we even become aware of God’s activity.

So our context today is that this popular verse isn’t just a slogan for hurting people – although it can be that for sure. It isn’t a mantra to be repeated by people who are going through a tough time – although it can be that, too. It isn’t just used by self-help gurus and sages. This is for a specific people: those who love God and those who are loved by God… aka, the called.

This bit of information is pretty overwhelming. There is nothing we’ve done on our part to deserve this ‘call’. God has initiated the call and we’ve simply answered. But you might be struggling with this concept, with this theology. It is truly mind-boggling. But, Paul knows that. Turn with me a couple of pages over to chapter 11.33:

33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!

How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

So, if you are having some trouble already – that’s OK. Paul tells us that you can’t wrap your mind around something so grand, so large, so incredibly complex, so God-sized. That’s OK! No one really can. What you know, even if you don’t understand and comprehend is: God is at work in all of these things causing them to work out for good in the lives of his people.

The question for us this morning is “How?” How is he at work? Look at what Paul lists as God’s work in “those” people:

  1. He foreknew them
  2. He predestined them
  3. He called them
  4. He justified them
  5. He glorified them

Let’s begin with #1…

I.     God Foreknew

Exp.: v. 29… for those whom God foreknew… now, stop right there. I think this verse gets hammered, particularly this word. Some people think that ‘foreknew’ means that God knew beforehand who would get saved. While that statement would be true (that God knew beforehand who would get saved, because he did and he does), it means that God foreordained those people to be saved.

Two reasons we have it translated this way:

  1. That is the lit.: pro – before; Gnosis – knowledge. My guess is that this is where we get our English word ‘prognosis’ from…
  2. That is what the word has always been translated. The problem is that this word doesn’t mean the same thing in its original context as what “knowing beforehand” means today.

To be quite honest, that’s a given that God knows. God is omniscient. So, yeah, he already knew. But this word has a deeper meaning in its original use than what 21st Century Christians water it down to.

The best way I can think to communicate this the idea of foreknowledge is by using the phrase in Genesis 4.1: Adam knew Eve and she conceived and bore him a son. You read that and you know it means more than just he saw her and said, oh, hey, I know her! BTW: you see that again in Genesis 4.25… Adam knowing Eve in this context infers relationship – a deep, intimate relationship. What I’m getting at is that ‘know’ means something different in a different time and language. Know doesn’t mean that God conceptualized in his mind. Knowledge is something deeper.

Amos uses this same wording about God and his people (Amos 3.2): You only have I known of all the families on the earth. Is God saying that he didn’t know anyone else on earth except the Jews? No, he created every single person on earth. He knows them all, but he has a special relationship with His people.

Write that one down: God has a special relationship with his people.

That is what foreknowledge means: Foreordained. #2…

II.    God Predestined

Exp.: Let’s keep reading; Rd 29; Keywords here: image, Son, brothers. God has chosen to put together a people that he will call his own. A family of sorts. He is the Father. He has a Son. The Son has many brothers and sisters who are being conformed to His Image. Knowing the Old Testament and the way he chose Israel – the way he put together a people that he would call his own, does this surprise you? God has blessed us with stories and actions that demonstrate for us his work. One example is that He gave us ‘types’ of Christ so that we would recognize him when he came (David; Jonah; Moses; Zerubabbel). This is similar to that.

I like Ephesians 1 as a parallel passage to Romans 8. Turn there. If you’re using your pew Bible, it’s pg ?? beginning in v 3; Rd v 3-13; [Compare and Contrast these two passages]

While we’re here at predestined, let’s add called.

III.   God Called

Exp.: to be fair, this is a hard doctrine. I’m thinking that those who are believers don’t necessarily have a tough time with the understanding that you were once lost, God called you from your lost state…wherever and whatever that was. You knew, somehow, that God was calling and you responded. You knew because God used someone or something to clearly communicate to you. You knew who you were and you didn’t want to be that way anymore. You sought Christ’s forgiveness and you’ve run to him time and again as you found yourself in need.

Ill.: this hits home for me from an earthly standpoint. Lisa and I were friends before we dated. As a friend, I loved and cared for her – as a friend. Yes, she was the prettiest girl in school. I mean that. I’m not just saying that because she’s my wife now. I would dare say that most of the guys in our school would agree with me. But, she was only my friend.

But Lisa didn’t feel that way toward me. She ‘fell in love’ with me way before I knew she felt that way. Now, for her to say to me, ‘Fred, I loved you before you ever knew me…’ doesn’t make me mad.

App.: Now, that is a weak illustration, I know. Here’s where I’m going:

  1. The Doctrine of election and calling is tough when you try to limit it to human understanding. But even then, does it upset you that God loved you before you even knew about him – before you drew your first breath? That’s absurd?
  2. This idea of election and calling is here in the Bible, so we don’t just skip it. We do our best to understand it. But the truth is, we just can’t totally grasp it with our small minds.

Let me offer you some guidance here. Paul’s purpose here is an encouragement to the one suffering. So, keep that in mind. Because Paul is simply trying to encourage those who are suffering, here in Romans, let me offer you some encouragement, too. The Father’s higher ways are not shared with us to make us feel elitist. So, do not use this doctrine as a battering ram. Do use this doctrine as a roadblock for fellowship or evangelism. Let this doctrine be a strong tower where you can run to and feel safe.

Caution: Some have said that if God truly predestined “the called,” then we need not evangelize. I would say, ‘You haven’t been reading your Bible.’ They would add that God is going to save those who he is going to save, so we don’t have to do anything. But, I would say, the same God who told you that you were saved from the foundation of the World has also said to you, ‘Go and make disciples…’

There is a phrase, I believe it comes from Spurgeon, that is so helpful to me: The One who determines the ends, also determines the means. God, who foreordains and predestines and calls, he has determined that the Gospel is the tool that will be used by the believer to convince a lost world to come to Christ. So we go because we’ve been commanded. That is the tool that God uses to call others. And then, they too, find that Christ loved them from before the mountains were formed or even the earth was brought forth.

Can I take a moment to ask you if you’ve been praying for someone who is lost? Who is your one? ? UR 1

If you’re not focused in on someone, would you? Set aside one minute every day at one o’clock to pray for your someone.

Paul says the purpose in this is that we be conformed to the image of his Son. There are pictures here of the Garden. We were created in his image. The Fall has marred that image. Christ is the perfect image of the Father – the radiance of his glory. God has purposed in all of this to conform you to the image of Christ. That is what he does through the doctrine of Justification… and that’s #4

IV.    God Justifies

Exp.: 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified… I love that Paul calls all of this a mystery. God foreordains all that is. God predestines believers to salvation, to be conformed to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. He calls us to believe through the preaching and teaching of the Gospel. And, when we believe, he justifies us by declaring us no longer guilty. Christ has paid our punishment in full and the Wrath of God has been satisfied. We are now in a right standing of God.

Finally…

V.     God Glorifies

exp.: and those whom he justified he also glorified. Aorist tense or past tense; He says it as if it has already happened. It was the first verse we read in Ephesians 1: who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. In Ephesians 2 Paul says that God has raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly places. Paul is saying what will be as if it has already happened. Don’t that just push your mind to the point of collapse? Its as if God has already seen it all and knows it will happen. And, by the way, he has and he does.

Closing Thoughts:

  1. There is no such person who wants to get saved but can’t because he isn’t predestined to be saved. That’s ludicrous. The very notion that a person desires to be saved is evidence of God’s call upon that person’s life.
  2. And, There is no such person who hates Christ and his church, who detests God and wants nothing to do with him, but will be forced into salvation because God will make him because he has been predestined. And he will continue in that vein, hating Christ, hating the church, but go to heaven. That, too, is ludicrous.
  3. Sovereignty vs. Free Will – I like to explain it this way: we know that there are times in Scripture when we find two truths which appear to be contradictory. But, we know both to be true. But there have been those in history who have established one to be a doctrine over the other. The deity of Christ. Was Christ God? Yes. And, some have said that because he was fully God he could not be fully man. Because he was not fully man he did not live in the flesh here on earth. Because he was not fully man, he could not fully die for our sins. But, you and I know that Christ was fully man. That he lived on earth and suffered and died on the Cross of Calvary. He got thirsty. He got tired. He got hungry. He was just as we are in human form, yet was without sin. He as 100% God and 100% man. Two truths which appear to be contradictory to Humans. But it isn’t to God. And neither is the sovereignty of God and the free will of man.
  4. The Doctrine of Election should set you free to evangelize with greater fervor – really, for two reasons.
    1. You now know that someone else’s reception of the Gospel isn’t up to you.
    2. You now know that someone else’s rejection of the Gospel isn’t because of you. If you are rejected, it isn’t you or your presentation. Your job is obedience to the Great Commission and you leave the results up to God.

Ill.: I tell my CWT class of the time I botched a presentation of the Gospel. I thought there is no way on earth this person is going to accept Christ. No way. My presentation isn’t even understandable to me. And when I offered an invitation, that person got saved. I was like, are you sure?

  1. Who is your one? ?UR1

 

 

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Romans 8.28

Title: Our Hope in Suffering

Text: Romans 8.28

Introduction: Joseph; all things seemed bad; actually, they didn’t just seem bad; they were bad; they were actually very bad; Consider:

  • His brothers hated him. Most of them wanted him dead.
  • They didn’t kill him, but they made his father think that he was dead.
  • They sold him into slavery. Human trafficking.
  • Purchased by Potiphar to serve in his household.
  • Falsely accused of rape – or attempted rape.
  • Thrown in prison and forgotten.

When Jacob had died, his brothers got scairt! They knew their deeds had been wrong. They feared for their lives. They said: rah-ro! Now that dad is gone, Joseph might want to repay us the evil we did to him. So they concocted a story – it might be true, but I’m not so sure it is. “Hey Joseph, Dad said that you should forgive us for the evil we did to you.”

But Joseph was very insightful and said: “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? 20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

Here’s an interesting understanding of God’s activity and our activity. I don’t fully understand it all, but I see it here very clearly: God is at work accomplishing his will, his purpose, his plan. And somehow, he does that through our actions in life.

God took all of the bad things that happened to Joseph – which were the result of this brothers’ evil toward him – and worked it for the Good. God had intention in their actions.

That’s deep!

Joseph’s story is a great illustration of our text: And we know that, for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

I love this verse (Romans 8.28). But I do worry that too many believers take a popular verse like this and apply it to their liking outside of its framed context. This is a real Danger for us. Not just for this verse, but for any verse, really… As we journey into this message and take a closer, deeper look at this verse, I want you to consider right now, that you’re seeing a caution sign. Caution: Don’t take this verse out of context. But maybe that isn’t strong enough. Maybe our sign should read Danger: Don’t take this verse of out of context.

Note: 2 parts – Sovereignty and the Free Will of Men & Context of Suffering

And speaking of context, the context for Romans 8 has not changed; the overall arching context of our passage is suffering. He hasn’t dwelt on suffering, but that is the context. The theme or the topic is the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit’s activity in the life of a believer. Paul is writing about certain people and that really comes out in the next couple of verses. Note how many times it says: for those who or those whom. 6x’s! And just who are these those? It is those who love God, those who have been called according to his purpose. If you go back a verse, to 27, you see the Holy Spirit intercedes for these same people in accordance with God’s Will, in accordance with His purpose.

This presupposes a relationship. I would like to stop right there and save this discussion for next week. For now, I want you to know that there is a special relationship between God and his people. Now, even though we won’t discuss them until next week, we need to remember that “those” people are who this verse applies to.

 

Our verse is 8.28: 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

This morning I simply want to look at this short phrase (all things work together for good) and talk to you about what we know because of whom we know. We are God’s and with that knowledge of him, we experience confidence. It comes back to the old adage: It’s not what you know, but whom you know!

It says in v.28 And we know (perceive; not experiential); in the original language of Gk there are these two different words for what we translate ‘know’. Other languages differentiate between these two understandings of this word. English, not so much. One word is γινώσκω and it is experiential knowledge. The other word is οἶδα and it means to perceive something.

Ill.: let’s say a boy is watching his dad hammer in a nail. The dad misses the nail and hits his thumb. The dad now knows by experience that when you hammer in a nail and miss the nail and hit your thumb, it hurts. That’s the word γινώσκω. The son, who is watching, he’s never hit his thumb with a nail. But, he’s watching closely and he sees his father’s reaction. He hears his father cry out. He sees his father recoil;  he grabs his thumb; he drops his hammer. The boy percieves his father’s pain. He knows (oida) that if you hit your thumb with a hammer it will hurt.

Paul writes: We know (we perceive) that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Because we know God, we can be confident that all things work together for good. But what if it doesn’t seem like it at the time? all things work together for good… Listen you can have confidence that just like Joseph, God is working his plan, just as he did for the people of Israel.

  1. πάντα: all things
  2. συνεργεῖ: work together
  3. εἰς ἀγαθόν: for good

How do you think we would live if we truly believed that God was sovereign? Some of you are getting scared! You’ve heard these verses and predestination, foreknowledge, election, and calling, those terms scare you. But don’t be. This is just a simple question: How would we live if we truly believed that God was in control of this world, even down to the bottom of our lives?

Would financial distress scare you? Would sickness, illness or even death scare you?

I read a story this week about some folks, some Moravian Christians, who were traveling on a ship sometime in the 1740s. They had gathered for worship on deck when a storm swirled up out of nowhere. The story goes that the storm wreaked havoc and many aboard the ship thought they would die. That is to say, many on board with the exception this small group of Christians who had gathered for worship. They just kept singing and worshipping. As the storm raged, they worshipped. One observer was amazed as he watched what he thought would be his last moments on earth, this band of believers singing without a care in the world.

As the storm subsided, these worshippers finished their time together. The young man who was observing them couldn’t help but stop and ask some who passed by him: Weren’t you scared? Weren’t you terrified during the storm? They calmly answered him: No. He pressed them: What about the women and the children? Weren’t they afraid? One of them stepped forward and said: No, our women and children are not afraid to die.

That astonished the Englishman and it stayed with him for days. He would later identify that moment as one crucial step in his becoming a Christian. By the way, the Englishman? John Wesley.

I often wonder at how my theology has affected my witness and how my witness has affected other non-believers observing my life and my struggle.

You see, I ask this question about God’s Sovereignty, but not as a preacher. I ask this question out of my personal experience. Most of you know my brother’s wife passed away from her struggle with cancer. But did you know that my biological mother passed away on Thursday? As I reflect on my life, I’ve got a bunch of questions that flood my mind. But not about God! And I don’t doubt or worry about what God has done and is doing.

Now, how is it that Christians can behave in a manner that doesn’t fit with their suffering? How is it that believers respond to suffering, death and what appears to be chaos in this world with total confidence? Like the Moravian believers on the ship? It is because … look at v 28… it is because we know that for those who love God … he works all things together for good.

We know… contrast this with what we saw in v 26; 26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. We may not know what to pray, but what we do know is that God is at work, working all things together for good.

Let’s take a moment and look at these word pairs:

  1. πάντα: all things
  2. συνεργεῖ: work together
  3. εἰς ἀγαθόν: for good

Even when we don’t know a lot about what is going on in this life, we still know that God is working all things together for good…

These two words in English, all and things, are really one word in the Gk. ‘Things’ is added to complete a thought expressed in the Greek, but not really communicated in English. The idea is that God is taking the totality of your life and doing something special with it. Let that sink in for a moment.

Ill.: The idea is that God is taking the totality of your life and doing something special with it. Have you ever thought about that? The good, the bad, the ugly… all things. Those mistakes you made? God is using them, too. Those poor choices you’ve made – let’s just call it what it is: sin. When you sinned against God and rebelled against his desires and commands – well, God is using those situations and circumstances for his glory and he’s working it out for the good.

Do you see those 2nd set of words: working together

These two words in English, working and together, are also one word in the Gk. This Gk word is the word from which we get our English word: synergy. Syn (συν): with; and εργός: work.

Ill.: As you guys know, this past week I was in Arizona to be with my brother who lost his wife. My job was to be there for him. So, I did my best to be available when I was needed. During this time, two people made theological statements. Their intentions were to encourage the family. These remarks were in passing and I don’t think they meant any harm. But these two people, really nice people made statements about God that just are not true.

I didn’t say anything. It wasn’t my place and I know these people had good intentions. But this is what crossed my mind: Sound, healthy doctrine is important. I can’t tell you why bad things happen to good people and what God’s purposes are in all matters. I don’t know why some people get cancer and die and other people get cancer and live. I don’t why a tornado hits a neighborhood and one house is demolished and the other house is untouched. I don’t know why two people make the same bad decision and experience two different outcomes. But I do know that God is at work in your life. And I know enough to tell you not to tally up your points halfway through the game of life. All things not just some things, all things work together for good.

This is what we know as Christians: God is working all things togetherfor good…

All things: the good and the bad, the expected and the unexpected, the suffering and the rejoicing, in laughter and in pain – those experiences; God is working all things together for good.

When I was on sabbatical, I read a few leadership biographies and autobiographies. One man I enjoyed reading about was Harry Truman. What I didn’t know about him was his sense of humor. He tells the story of a man who was hit on the head and the people took him for dead. This tells you how old the story is! He was picked up by the undertaker and taken to the funeral home. He woke up in the middle of the night and sat up in his coffin. He looked around and said, “Good night! What’s going on? If I’m alive then why am I in a coffin. And if I’m dead, why do I have to go to the bathroom so bad!”

Don’t judge what God is doing in your life in just one moment of your life. Because if you try, the totality of it all will not make sense.

Friday I got a call that my biological mother passed away. I knew this day would one day come. I mentioned it to Lisa when we talked through some decisions I had to make years ago. Let me explain.

I was abandoned by my mother at a young age. I don’t know the whole story because I was just a baby. There are six of us kids who share the same mom and I think they would all agree with me that her decisions and the decisions of our fathers really messed us up.

Now, I’m an external processor and I’m not trying to process this in front of you. The pulpit isn’t a place to do that. And, I don’t want to go into all of the gory details that have created this man of dysfunction that you’ve come to know and love. But I want you to know a little, so what I say will make sense.

As a young man, my biological mother blamed me for her messed up life – like it was my fault she did this and did that. As with all of her children, each of us was made to feel like we somehow were the cause of her failures. I abandoned that line of thinking and made the conscious decision to not put myself in harm’s way ever again. So, I’ve not spoken to my mom in decades. That was my decision. And she made it easy because she never called me. The last time we spoke, I called her. She wrote me two letters in my life. Once when I 18 years old and once when I was 50. I saw her at my grandmother’s funeral, which was about that same time (the 1990s).

So I get this phone call Friday morning that she has died and I look at this wake of destruction in the life of so many people. I’ve heard that she was going to church regularly these past few years. I’m glad. I can’t say this morning that she was or wasn’t a believer because I don’t know. I’ll probably hear some good stories in the days and weeks to come.

I’m reminded of a funeral I did for a woman in my church in Worland. It was probably my first funeral there. Rowena was in her 90’s. I’d know her for a very short period of time, but I what I knew of her was that she loved the Lord. She prayed for me regularly. She was reading her Bible and studying her Sunday School Lesson when she died. At the funeral, I told of my experience with her and stories other church members shared. I told people how much Rowena loved me, loved the church and how much I was going to miss her.

But after the service, her daughter approached me and told me that she didn’t know that woman. The woman she knew was not a believer and had left a wake of destruction in her life.

As I reflect on that, I remember now hearing stories about my Nana from her younger years. She, too, had made many poor decisions and hurt many people. I imagine some of my dysfunction can be traced back to her decisions. But that isn’t the woman I knew. The woman I knew read the Bible with me every night I was with her. She would rise early and make me a hot breakfast – always, a hot breakfast. Cold Cereal was for Saturday mornings and late night snacks. After she fixed breakfast, she would enjoy a cup of coffee and read her Bible. That’s the woman I remember.

So what I say to you today isn’t just some mantra I repeat that gets me through the tough times. It isn’t just some cliché I throw out with no feeling. This statement is a fact of my life. All things work together for good, for those who love God, who’ve been called according to his purpose.

Let me offer some take-a-ways:

  1. All things: Consider Joseph’s life, what a mess! Some might consider that he brought some of his struggles upon himself! He shouldn’t have been so arrogant toward his brothers or his parents. Bad things happened, and no matter who is responsible for those struggles, those experiences all work together for good.

Some of you might be thinking that I just don’t know all of the bad stuff in your life. I don’t have to! We hide that stuff well, don’t we? Our dysfunction? Our Sin? Our rebellion?

  • Some kid might say to you, ‘Dad, you got mom pregnant and then married her.’ Who are you to lecture me?
  • Or Mom, you were living with dad and you weren’t even married.’ You have no right to…
  • Or, ‘I remember when you stole that stuff.’
  • You used to smoke. Or cuss, or… .fill in the blank.
  • Your life hasn’t always been a model example of what a Christian is.

Listen, that’s what Grace is for. Tell those who know you best: Yes, Yes, and Yes. I did do that. I was that man. I was that woman. But it isn’t the gory stuff I want you to focus, but rather the grace of God that forgave this pitiful, wretched person.

You may not see it. You may not even be able to comprehend it. But God is working all things!

  1. Working together: Unless you’re dead this morning, your story is still being written. And if you’re dead, please let one of the ushers know. They might just think you’re sleeping through my sermon. Listen, your story is still being written. Don’t write it off! Let God do his work in and through you.

If you’ve messed up, own up to it. Confess it. Let it be an example of God’s incredible, amazing Grace! And then, trust that God is going to use, not just that experience, but the totality of your life to work all things for the good. This moment might be a struggle, but it will pass. Trust that this is one chapter of God’s book about you for his glory.

  1. For good: even when it seems it is so bad. There will be tears. There will be pain. There will be sorrow. Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name. For his anger is but for a moment and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.

Whatever you’re going through, hang in there. And then we come to these last words…

  1. For those: Who are the ‘those’ in this passage? Well, it is a topic I’d like to visit next week. But in short, it is those who love the Lord. Those whose lives have been committed to him.
  • If you’ve never done that, I want to give you the chance.
  • Maybe you just need prayer.
  • Maybe you feel the Lord’s calling on your life.
  • Maybe you’re interested in joining the church. We have a new member’s class scheduled for the 17th of May.

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