“Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning. Earning is attitude, effort is action.” Dallas Willard
Effort as action that flows from a sense of security, love, acceptance is necessary, healthy, it’s beautiful in any relationship.
*To see someone work to do more, want to become more…because of a deep love for someone, is beautiful.
Earning as an attitude that flows from insecurity, a need unfulfilled, a lack of acceptance is unhealthy, in any relationship.
*To see someone desperately working for another’s acceptance, trying to earn love…is tragic.
The Reformation was a theological movement with vast social impact that included the important biblical principle of: Grace alone.
This was a response to the belief that we could do things to earn or merit God’s favor.
But there was never a doubt for the Reformers that we should and could do things to grow in our experience and expression of God’s favor…just that we could not work to earn that favor.
Today, we are in chapter 4 of Paul’s letter to pastor Timothy.
*In Paul’s three pastoral letters he speaks to the necessity of a work ethic 68 times.
He talks of hard work in jobs, of the hard work of prayer, hard work of understanding and preaching the word, hard work of dealing with difficult people, hard work of training for godliness…which is a phrase that sums up his work ethic.
“Train for godliness”
We do not “try to have relationship with God”…it is a gift.
We absolutely must “train in godliness”…it is our responsibility…and our privilege.
4 The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.
That sounds strange, horror movie-ish
In our minds eye we see people eyes rolling back in their heads.
That kind stuff does happen…but mostly this looks like normal, educated people teaching what sounds reasonable…but is wrong.
It is the “scholars” of the Jesus seminar, from a few years back who dressed nice, spoke with great confidence, and trotted out their academic credentials, to people sitting in comfortable conference rooms, sipping coffee…
-teaching demonic lies so that people would abandon the faith.
The Holy Spirit has given Paul wisdom that is beyond human discovery…he sees through this stuff.
I have heard people say that “The Spirit” has told them things that are clearly wrong.
They tend to pay little or no attention to what is in Scripture (except verses taken out of their context), they disregard common sense (which Proverbs has a lot to say about), and they despise the input of others.
“Why listen to a human…I have a direct line to the Holy Spirit.”
Here there is a contrast between Paul, a man held in check by the gospel, his knowledge of the OT, his interactions with the disciples of Jesus, and his unique role in Christian history…a man who is fixed on the revealed truth of God…to whom the Spirit has revealed things to.
And those who are to be prone to teach and believe things with demonic origins.
2 Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.
This sounds really harsh…we should be careful about using this kind of language ourselves.
*This is descriptive not prescriptive…it tells us how Paul wanted Pastor Timothy to understand these people who were up to no good.
It doesn’t tell us that we should casually talk this way about others we disagree with.
Normally, Paul would not use this language to describe someone…just look at his teachings in his other letters about being careful to use words that “build others up.”
But since a lot is at stake here, he has to go for clarity rather than diplomacy.
President Reagan called the Soviet Union an “Evil Empire” in a 1983 speech.
He was criticized by those who thought his remarks were “undiplomatic”.
But they failed to understand that he was not going for diplomacy in that historical moment, because the world needed clarity.
The Soviet Union was an evil empire…killing upwards of 60 million people in just over 60 years at the time of his speech.
Here Paul is giving an apt description of these teachers who had thrown the truth of the gospel overboard…so he needs to be crystal clear.
There no fine line between those, like Paul, who teach the gospel…and these who teach lies…there is a chasm, a deep and terrible difference between the truth and lies.
Not “your truth” vs. “My truth”…it’s not nuanced.
*There are some things…lesser doctrines than the gospel that are nuanced…but here he is talking about…the truth of God versus demonic lies…and there are times when people force you to deal with them decisively.
*Last Sunday, Christy and I were out of town and were worshipping in a church in Denver.
-During the service a man began to talk loudly to a young woman, sitting next to him…she didn’t know him.
Clearly she was uncomfortable…as was everyone around him.
He was undermining worship and drawing attention to himself.
-Scripture teaches that worship is be marked by order, and when someone brings disorder they are to be addressed.
*Sometimes the intention is not bad…but the result, none the less can disruptive.
*Like an unruly child who needs to be removed, or even an adult who lacks situational awareness.
*But this person clearly had problems…and was creating a problem.
At one point there was an opportunity for me to coax the man out of the main worship area into a side room by asking him some questions about himself.
It became clear, as he talked…that he is mentally ill, if not also controlled by demons.
I was hoping to keep him occupied until the service was over…but he suddenly became very agitated and left.
The situation was difficult for the people in that setting…on the one hand, you want to treat everyone with the respect that is due them as an image bearer of God.
On the other hand…that does not mean they are to be allowed to do whatever they please.
When we allow people to act in divisive and disruptive ways out of a desire to be kind…we are often being kind to the wrong people.
And not really being kind to the disruptive person either…they need be shown the dignity of accountability.
To be clear, that church on Sunday, was moving to take action…I was just in a position to help out.
But it is not kindness to allow one person to do what they want, at the expensive of many more.
There is a tension here…we are not to be mean and combative…but we are also not to be passive in the name of kindness…and to allow divisive and destructive, disruptive behavior, wrong teaching to continue uncontested.
Paul is using very descriptive language here…but he is more like a doctor diagnosing a disease, for his young protegee in training, Timothy…than an angry person calling someone names.
He gives the diagnosis of these teachers of demonic doctrines:
-With seared/scarred consciences
This is not pejorative…it is a description of what these people have become.
The phrase “hypocritical liars” describes people who are so good at what they do that they are super convincing.
Paul is using a word that describes a skilled actor on a stage.
When I watch Daniel Day Lewis in the movie Lincoln, I feel like I am actually watching Lincoln, not an actor playing Lincoln.
That’s what’s so dangerous here…they are just so good, that people are easily drawn in.
They are really good and convincing at selling lies.
It’s because of another factor of Paul’s spiritual diagnosis…their consciences, this God-given GPS that ought to help us navigate towards what is good and true…has been disabled in them.
Not just by the same sin nature we all share…but by their own willful rebellion and pride.
They are dangerous…because they are so good…and they have become untethered from a good conscience.
And because truth matters so much…temporally and eternally…this is just not the time for Paul to exercise diplomacy…Timothy needs clarity.
Next he describes some of the things they are teaching.
3 They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. 4 For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.
Really, that’s this terrible, demonic teaching?
Don’t get married and don’t eat certain food?
Okay…not good, but not that bad.
Paul often uses short-hand to describe larger issues.
Marriage and foods are two examples of the insidious teaching of these, demonic Oscar winners.
Heb. 13:4 sums up the Bible’s view of marriage; “Marriage should be honored by all.”
Not that all should be married…Jesus wasn’t. Paul probably wasn’t, Timothy wasn’t.
All should honor and respect marriage as the good gift that it is.
I can see music as a good gift…while I lack the gift of music myself.
Paul doesn’t elaborate on what exactly is behind this teaching, maybe because he and Timothy had dealt with it before…thus, the shorthand.
Timothy knew exactly what he was talking about.
Whatever it specifically was, it was destructive because it was about spiritual pride, and attempting to earn God’s favor:
“I’m not married, I’m too spiritual for that.”
“I’m better than you, I can help God out.”
Probably had to do with the sexual component of marriage.
Both marriage and food were about physical disciplines.
A sense of pride for how I am above the normal bodily desires…I don’t eat that food, I don’t engage in sexual activity…even God ordained sexual activity.
This is not restraint and discipline for God’s glory and the good of others…but physical discipline because of spiritual pride.
It all looks “spiritual” because it looks like “training for godliness”…but it is a distraction from the truth of the gospel.
It is not effort prompted by faith and love…it is an attempt to earn prompted by pride.
The man I dealt with in Denver was clearly a broken person…but he was exceptionally arrogant as well.
He spoke non-stop for 10 minutes about himself….in ten minutes I knew about his first car, his beliefs…you name it.
He finally asked me, I think because he figured out I was trying to keep him in the room…If I was “vegan”, I said “no”.
He jumped up, angerly, with a show superiority and looked over his shoulder as he left the room, huffed…”Go vegan and we can talk.”
He is an extreme case, but many believe their personal disciplines earn them special status with God and in comparison to others.
They are just better because of what they do or don’t do.
Paul dealt frequently with people who thought certain physical disciplines…made you “better”.
He wrote in 1 Cor. 8:8 “Food does not bring us close to God; we are not worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.”
These may have been two of the big-ticket items for this group…don’t marry(no sex), don’t eat certain foods…this makes you special, gives you credit with God.
But the destructive principle behind them is the idea that we can “rack and stack” ourselves in a sort of spiritual hierarchy by the things we do or don’t do.
Spiritual disciplines (prayer, fasting, self-control, etc.) this about training for godliness…they are not to try earn favor with God, they are to enjoy relationship with him.
If I don’t discipline myself in ways that allow me to be close to Christy…be kind, get work done so I can spend time with her…then I am the one who misses out.
I don’t need to earn her love…but discipline is essential for me to really enjoy it.
But these false teachers were convincing people that they can earn favor with God, or they are better than each other…because of certain disciplines.
What is especially ironic about this is that these are two of God’s gifts…marriage (sex) and food.
Marriage and food are just two examples of the whole range of bounty God’s created world furnishes. (Pastoral Epistles).
When he says they are to be received with Thanksgiving it doesn’t mean we merely offer a prayer before marriage and meals… though that is a good idea.
It implies ongoing relationship with God…living in a grateful state towards God for daily bread, marriage and every other good gifts that he provides.
No attempts at earning from God…but to give attention and effort to being grateful, to live with God-centric focus.
God gives us our daily bread…we are to remember that..
Look back at verse 5, Because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.
God speaks to his people through his Word, his people speak to him through prayer.
This is another shorthand for something much larger…an ongoing perspective shaped by growing, grateful relationship with God.
As we move through life letting his word and prayer shape us…our hearts are protected from becoming cold and indifferent to his many gifts.
As well as keeping our eyes and hearts open to our missional/others centric calling.
We are protected from earning and comparing…and free to enjoy and share life together.
6 If you point these things out to the brothers, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, brought up in the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed.
Paul is really moving from the general to the personal in the rest of this letter.
In chapters 1-3 he uses 3 second person verbs “You”
In chapters 4-6 he uses 23 of them.
What this demonstrates is Paul’s pattern of first laying a theological foundation then making practical application.
If Timothy, personally teaches the things discussed so far…he will be serving well, the people God has called him to lead and love.
In addition, he needs to be careful not just to talk the talk, but he must walk the walk.
Timothy, like all Christian leaders was to be a “player coach”
The last Pro-baseball player/coach was Pete Rose, in 1986…it used to be common, not anymore.
You still see it with club teams, recreational sports.
But in HS, college, pro sports…there are coaches and there are players.
In fact, many coaches absolutely could not play the sport…at any level…that they coach.
Andy Reed, could would get killed if he stepped on the field with the Chiefs.
That’s okay in sports…not in ministry.
Timothy, like all Pastors, and indeed…all Christian leaders, was to be both teacher and practitioner…coach and player.
He is to train (teach others)
He is to train himself for godliness.
Paul even uses an athletic analogy himself.
7 Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. 8 For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.
Here Paul is addressing some ideas that are so ridiculous that you shouldn’t give time and effort to them.
It doesn’t mean belittling people who hold them, but don’t be distracted by them.
It means we focus more on the truth, rather than on every new current issue, blog, website, conspiracy theory that someone can dream up.
Because the truth stays constant…new ideas can be created every minute.
We need to stay current with culture…but not try to keep with the truly ridiculous.
Godless myths are stories, ideas, that are evil…void of what is good and godly.
Old wives tales…means “silly” down right “dumb”.
But many find these endlessly interesting…much more so than training to know God and love others.
Training for godliness is non-spectacular…not going to impress others…like “look at me, I don’t eat this, I don’t do that!”
So Paul is warning Tim…don’t be drawn by the new and weird…stick with plain old training for godliness.
You grow spiritually just like you do physically…through training.
They knew then, what we know now…to improve physically, you do physical training…it takes consistent effort over time.
Physical training, Paul said…we know is valuable…it has benefits in this life.
This from a guy who walked somewhere around 9,000 miles in his life.
Physical toughness has value…for life and mission…Paul knew that well.
But the larger training is for godliness.
*Last week my dad, who is soon to be 91 went to the Y with me.
-He wanted to schedule weekly time with a trainer…
-Why? To maximize his physical health…why? to better accomplish his life mission.
*Which for him is to invest in others…and he wants to be able to get around in order to invest in others as long as he can.
We do ministry in these bodies…so it is good to do what we can to maximize physical health within the boundaries of faithfulness.
But if we focus on physical health at the exclusion of spiritual health…we are foolish.
But physical training is valuable for this life…training for godliness has much more value…it has value both now and forever.
WE have talked in the past about the difference between “trying and training.”
Trying is “pass/fail”…you did or you didn’t.
Training is “continual improvement”…you only fail if you fail to train.
*Put me on the piano and said “try” I would fail.
Training for godliness is not about trying to earn something from God, or to compete with others…it is training to know and love God better…and in turn love others well.
How do you train for godliness?
Word, Prayer, obedience, relationships, worship in community, confession, thanksgiving.
It is not spectacular…it is just living the faith in daily life over a lifetime.
Imagine someone who wins the gold medal in the 100 meter…world’s fastest man or woman.
Celebrated, rewarded, great satisfaction.
What did they do to get there?
Mostly they ran.
Lifted, stretched, diet…all that.
But mostly, they ran…that’s how the spectacular happened.
This is how godly men and women of old…became that…they prayed, they read, they obeyed, they had friends, the endured difficulty, the practiced grattitude…and they did this most days for a lot of days.
They trained…they didn’t chase the spectacular (or when they did and were disappointed and got back to training)
Now for the third time Paul says that what his is teaching is “trustworthy” and deserving of Timothy’s full heart/mind embrace and application.
9 This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance 10 (and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe.
He told Timothy to train for godliness, and Paul himself is a player coach.
He is giving his full effort for the glory of God and the good of others in the gospel.
His full out effort is sustained by his “hope in God”
His hope in training is not in in his training, but in God.
Once again, we see that great practical tension…we train to know and love God better, because we are fully known and loved by God.
We want to enjoy and experience more fully what is fully ours in Christ already.
11 Command and teach these things.
Aaron spoke several weeks ago about culture’s general dislike for authority.
That being said, this phrase…has a strong authoritarian feel to it.
It is, the equivalent of a military order…but authority, as established by God is for human flourishing, not oppression.
A study of the number of combat soldiers with PTSD per unit revealed that good, strong leadership was key to individual physical and mental health
-Units with leaders who were clear, competent, and who lead for the good of the mission not for self-serving purposes…had lower per capita cases of PTSD under the same combat exposures.
The solution for bad leadership is not no leadership…it is good leadership.
What is it that this “Command” was about?
1:5. “The goal of this command is love.”
Timothy is not to approach his spiritual leadership with a sense of:
-Self-serving, or timidity
-He is to know exactly what is good to believe, value and do…and to without flinching, teach, command that.
For God’s glory and the good of others…for the sake of love.
*Love cannot flourish when leaders can only say…
“I’m not sure”. “Well, maybe you will figure it out” “You have to do what is best for you”
Paul told Timothy…make sure those under your charge, flourish…by telling them, giving them the command to live the gospel.
But why does Paul feel the need to give Timothy this strong admonition?
He knew Tim and his situation…none of this came easy for him.
It doesn’t come easy for anyone to balance…servant leadership with leadership boldness.
So…he tells him…
12 Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.
We don’t know how old Timothy was, probably not yet 30, but that is not important…what is important is that he was not old (like Paul was)
His relative youth might cause older believers in Ephesus to not respect him, or him to not have full confidence himself.
*I remember doing my first wedding and hoping that no one would ask me how many weddings I had done…I was insecure about my inexperience in that important moment
-You have to have one that is your first one.
-By the way someone did ask me…it was okay.
So how do you “not let anyone look down on you?”
That is left column…you can’t control what others think, feel, say or do.
But that is not what Paul is saying here.
He is not saying Timothy is to go around trying to ensure others don’t look down on him…that would be a sure way to get others to look down on him.
He gives him the right column path to making sure others cannot, in fact, look down on him.
By his example…speech, life, love, faith, purity.
*There was an insecure leader…he was so determined that his people not look down on him that he was a demanding, unreasonable person.
-It back fired…they universally looked down on him.
*He was replaced by a secure, others centric leader…he was concerned with leading his people, their well-being…they universally looked up to him
*By the way, it’s not unreasonable to be wary of youthfulness.
-Age often brings perspective to many situations.
*If you are young…the way to move through life is not to presume to be wiser or more experienced that you actually are…it’s not to demand respect or show disrespect out of insecurity.
The path forward is example.
It doesn’t matter if you know “two true things”…that’s okay…”do those two true things” and you will garner respect.
As you collect more truth…apply more of truth to your life.
I look around on Sunday mornings and smile when I see the gamut of age and experience worshipping together.
if you are “young”…don’t pretend to otherwise, don’t be insecure that you are young, don’t try to act like you have what you don’t.
You can only have the experience of years…with years…there is no shame in it.
But you can set a profound example…in speech, life, love, faith, purity.
*I had an older man look down on me when I was young(college)…he sort of mocked my passion.
-He had become old and cynical.
-I knew he knew more than I did…but I did not want to be him.
*Another older man, who knew infinitely more than me…was patient with me, encouraged my passion.
-I did want to be him someday.
If you are older…don’t look down on youth…learn what you need to learn from them…often that means to remember what passion looks like.
When the passion of youth, teams up with the experience of age in the church…it is dynamic, powerful.
Let’s finish up…
13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. 14 Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you. 15 Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.
What we do in here is incredibly important…I take your time seriously because I take your life and God’s word seriously.
I’m all in…or as Paul tells Timothy…”give yourself wholly to them.”
In a similar way, you are God-called to your profession…Paul wrote elsewhere… “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all for the glory of God.”
You must be all in as well.
Look at that great phrase…”give yourself wholly to them that everyone might see your progress.”
Progress…Training not merely trying.
Direction not perfection.
Training for godliness…includes “mess up/fess up”…we are not going to reach sinless perfection in this life.
Training includes failing…we don’t try to fail, but we will.
We must live in God’s grace personally, and give other’s grace interpersonally…as we train together.
16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.
God alone saves by his grace.
Paul hasn’t suddenly changed his mind and started believing that salvation is by works not faith.
He is focusing Timothy on right column living…Pay attention to what you believe, value and do…his focus is on training.
Take right action, perservere…your choices impact your life and the lives of others.
Grace is the foundation for training.
“While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
We are children, whose Father needs nothing from us and we need everything from Him.
You don’t have to, you can’t “work for his love”…it is yours if you will receive it.
Like a child…you must work, train to become like your Father.
Like the well-loved child…we want to be near, to be like, enjoy our Father.
Our effort is to be from joy, not from insecurity, or pride.
As the child grows, he or she, finds that the effort that must be expended to become like their Father is challenging, difficult, take perseverance.
But the training reinforces the reality of the Father’s love and acceptance and empowers the training more and more.
Has training become dull drudgery? External effort with no internal transformation?
Remember what the training, the effort is for…it is to enjoy and express God’s love, not to earn it.
We train for joy…to enjoy.
We don’t train to impress others…that’s dumb.
We want the pleasure and applause of God…and the good of others.
*The runner who trains, enjoys running more and more.
*The runner who doesn’t train, doesn’t enjoy running at all.
Train for godliness, train for joy.