A dopamine hit brings about pleasure and then is quickly followed by pain, or a come-down writes…
Dr. Anny Lembke in her book, “Dopamine Nation: Finding Balance in the Age of Indulgence”
Dopamine is a neurochemical which brings on feelings of pleasure and motivation.
Like so many of God’s gifts…dopamine makes a great servant but a terrible master.
Sugar, social media, sex, drugs, TV…any number of dopamine-triggering stimuli, she writes, are easily available to us today.
Lembke, a Stanford Medical School psychiatrist, says that almost every behavior has become “drugified.”
We can turn about anything into an addiction.
When we are repeatedly exposed to pleasure-producing stimuli, our brains adjust, and eventually, we need more and more just to feel “normal”
It’s called a “dopamine deficit state”.
“We’re not able to take joy in more modest rewards,” Lembke says
We lose the ability to be content in all things, and we are instead content with nothing…we become human cravings rather than joyful, resilient, thriving sons and daughters of God.
Fortunately, our brains can be rewired, God has designed them such that our choices matter.
But we have to exert effort and discipline to do so…we have to retrain our brains and hearts.
The solutions she offers are rather biblical in nature.
1.Radical honesty with others and self…which life in community can provide
- Pursuing purposeful “pain” that keeps us healthy…exercise, resisting temptations, self-control, fasting from things…sounds similar to the spiritual disciplines designed to train us for godliness.
1 Tim. 6:6 “godliness with contentment is great gain.
Godliness is a word that describes the combination of belief in God, a heart that is learning to love God, and a life that reflects God.
Increasing godliness brings increasing contentment.
Training in godliness is a life lived for the glory of God and the good of others that leads us away from increasing discontent towards increasing contentment.
Today we look at Paul’s final words to Timothy in his first letter to him.
We will come back to the first two verses in chapter 6 in the Fall when we look at Paul’s letter to Philemon.
- First, because they deal with the same issue, slavery.
- Since the issue is important and the Biblical position can be confusing, we will spend several weeks on it rather than just part of one week.
We will begin today in 1 Tim. 6:3
Paul is writing to his protegee, a young pastor in a difficult church and cultural situation.
Timothy is in a tough spot…he has a lot of challenges, Paul understands, he is sympathetic…but he pushes Timothy none the less.
There is too much at stake for Timothy to shrink back in fear, or sit around and lick his own wounds…he just has to step up to the task God has given him.
3 If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, 4 he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions 5 and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.
Conceited is a word in the Greek, that could describe mental illness, Paul continues the illness metaphor in the phrase “unhealthy interest.”
Timothy has to continually deal with false teachers, many no doubt, more educated, more charismatic than he was.
But he doesn’t want Timothy to be confused or fooled by them…they are the ones who are out of touch with reality…they are sick in their worldviews.
These false teachers loved controversy and quarrels.
The result was envy, strife, constant friction…all kinds of bad stuff.
Compare this with the aim of the gospel message, 1 Tim. 1:5
Which is “love from a pure heart, good conscience, sincere faith.”
They are probably not actually mentally ill…but from Paul’s perspective they have a “sick obsession” with stirring up disagreement.
*These are not the regular people with whom you may have points of disagreement with.
-These folks are in a different category…they are notable in their destructive influence and in their messed up motives.
*This directive to Timothy to deal decisively with false teachers is not green light for us to become heretic hunters.
There are those, who in their attempts to root out what they believe to be “false teachers” take on the very characteristics Paul describes here…they create constant friction.
Listen to what Paul will tell Tim in his next letter regarding his approach those disagrees with:
“Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth”
I’m quite sure, that though Paul could not imagine a blog, he would say that his words apply even on the internet now.
There are plenty of heroic heretic hunters online…be careful how much you partake of them…too much can become toxic…it can misshape your heart and soul.
*There are people who have right doctrine, which is truth about God, who look nothing like God in their behavior or attitude towards others.
On the other hand, we cannot, in the name of “kindness” or “love” fail to deal clearly and decisively with what is just not true….that’s what Paul is addressing here.
Kindness and love must shape our timing, words, and attitude as we address people we believe are not in line with the truth…but we must pursue truth.
In verse 5 when he refers to these people who have turned pursuit of God into the pursuit of “financial gain”
Be careful not to be anachronistic (pushing contemporary ideas onto Paul’s time)
He is not referring to TV preachers, proclaiming a prosperity gospel…though the application is there…and their teaching is unbiblical.
His application can actually apply to us all…this is about replacing a “theology of the cross”…where we are to follow Christ’s example and die to self with a “theology of personal advancement.”
In other words, we can follow Christ primarily because we believe he will make our lives better now…better health, families, jobs, etc.
A consumer approach to the gospel.
There is a tension here…on the one hand, living in line with the truth does bring about positive outcomes for our lives.
Families, individuals…are healthier in measurable ways when they practice the truth of Scripture.
On the other hand…we don’t follow God just because of what he can do for us in this life.
WE follow God because he is God…and because he can give us life with him forever.
So, we do follow him because of a certain kind of self-interest…we want peace with God, we want eternal life…our hearts were made for him.
But this is not the same as seeing God as a means to our own ends.
What happens when our chosen measurables go away…health, pleasure, pain free life…someone dies, we lose our health, someone dear to us makes bad choices, we are fired?
When we have made the gospel into a pathway for personal advancement rather than a pathway to death to self in order to life with God…it is a matter of time before we will be disappointed and disillusioned.
Often, we blame God for failing rather than blaming our own wrong thinking.
Here is right thinking…
6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.
This is not Paul saying the acquisition of earthly possessions is bad, or should be avoided altogether.
Later he will give instructions to people with wealth on how to use it wisely.
Jesus relied on some wealthy women to support his ministry (Read Luke 8:1-3)
It’s not wrong to obtain wealth…but it is insane to pursue it over godliness.
“What matters most at the end, matters most now.”
“Look at what you had when you were born…yeah, that is what you will take with you when you die.”
Now, let that perspective shape you…into a person who is working against the gravitational pull of discontent.
So what if you don’t have food and clothing…some don’t…is it okay for them to be discontent?
What Paul is not saying… “Be content unless you lack food and clothing, then you are free to be discontent.””
He is saying “Train yourself to be content”
Train for godliness…….even if all you have is a little (just food and clothes(, be content…train to be content with God.
Because people whose hearts pursue stuff over God…ruin themselves.
9 People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
Paul has in mind those who have not grasped the riches of the sufficiency of Christ.
Money is not their problem…the love of it is.
What we wrap our minds around…is what we will wrap our hearts around.
Allowing wrong ideas to infiltrate our minds (these are the same people he began this chapter with)…means our hearts will learn to love the wrong things.
When our hearts wrap around anything other than God…it will show up in our lives.
Look at how he describes it here:
Trap, foolish and harmful desires…plunge people into ruin and destruction.
Some have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
-This is more graphic than it sounds in English.
-Pierce themselves…means to be impaled…a horrible wound.
That all sounds bad…but is he exaggerating?
Does this really happen?
What have you seen or experienced?
From what I have seen…he is far from exaggerating.
The phrase translated “love of money” is a single Greek word, philargyria (phil alar greia)
There is an ancient proverb that called philargyria “The capital city of all evils.”
Paul replaces “capital city” with “root.”
This love is a root…you don’t see it on the surface…but what grows from it is bad.
Again, money is not the root of evil…love of it is.
There are plenty of poor people who love money and plenty of rich people who don’t.
Verse 11 makes a major shift in the direction and tone of Paul’s challenge…
“But you, man of God”
Imagine Timothy reading this letter, his mind going to the people he knew personally who had opposed him, caused the church trouble…inside and out.
Thinking of this person and that…then suddenly he reads…
“But you, man of God!”
Paul’s eyes are on him…his literary finger is pointing right at him.
One of the most influential men in my life was a coach named Sam Goodwin.
He was full of faith and character…and was intense and disciplined.
I first met him in the WSU locker room…the conversation was 43 years ago but I remember it verbatim.
Partly because it was so brief and partly because it was so direct.
It went like this…
“Williams, I hear you are a Christian.”
“You are about to start acting like one.”
Then he turned and walked away…but that was just the beginning of his impact on me.
It was my “you man of God.”
11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.
Flee from all that empty nonsense.
You don’t just avoid these things, you run from them.
And you don’t just run from them…you run towards their opposite.
For every No! in Paul there is generally a corresponding and relational Yes!
Yarbrough, Robert W.. The Letters to Timothy and Titus
The “yes” includes 6 things:
This is not intended to be a checklist but a description what his life is be energized by.
Chase righteousness (living out of your union with Christ)
Chase godliness (a whole life shaped by the reality of God)
Chase faith (growing in full confidence in God versus self)
Chase love (putting the interests of others ahead of your own)
Chase endurance (train hard to be able to run far…living decided not deciding)
Chase gentleness (be a man of controlled strength…not shrinking back in fear and not being hard and edgy)
Paul is lovingly and firmly saying to Timothy…
“You are a pastor, a Christian, a leader…you are about to start acting like one.”
Two more action items follow…”fight” and “take hold”…first “fight”
12 Fight the good fight of the faith.
In his next letter Paul will tell Timothy that he himself has “fought the good fight of the faith…he has finished the race.”
This is no is no figure of speech, in that…Paul knows he is going to soon be executed.
He has, in fact…done what he told Timothy to do…he will go to heaven from that prison cell…he has been faithful to finish.
Fight the good fight of the faith, Timothy.
Don’t be surprised that it is hard.
Don’t be surprised that it is confusing at times.
Don’t be surprised that it feels like a daily war…be faithful.
Carl von Clausewitz was a 19th century general and military theorist.
One of his most famous dictums is called the “Fog and Friction of war.”
This a concise description of the complexity of war…
- It is always filled with more uncertainty than expected (fog)
- It is always more difficult than anticipated (friction)
Timothy, was in the midst of the fog and friction of spiritual war in Ephesus…both in his work and in his personal life.
He had truth to hold on to in the midst of the fog of uncertainties…and he must fight to hold onto it..
He had the power of God to deal the friction of difficulties…he must choose to train himself for godliness.
But having the truth of God and the power of God…doesn’t change the fact that the faith is described as a fight…a war.
More on this when we get to 2 Tim. 2.
“Fight the good fight”
Then, “take hold of”
Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
Eternal life is not “heaven when we die” it is life in the Kingdom of God that begins at conversion and does not end at physical death.
“take hold of” means to fully engage your life with God…now.
Live a single story life…where every single aspect of your life is shaped by the reality of your relationship with God.
13 In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you 14 to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which God will bring about in his own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.
In the Greek verse 13 begins with “I charge you”
What follows is a sort of oath of office…a swearing in for important duty.
The word for “charge” is very forceful…it is the verbal equivalent of grabbing Timothy by the shoulders and giving him a friendly and bracing shake.
I charge you…
- In the sight of God who gives life to everything
*There is no higher authority to which he can appeal
- And of Christ Jesus, who made his good confession before Pilate
*This statement ties what is happening with Timothy to more than just “religious” ideas and feelings.
Pilate was a real Roman governor who ruled over Judaea in Ad 26-35 and he presided over Jesus’ trial and execution.
That happened in real human history…this is not stirring up emotions…but living in real time and space in line with the gospel.
This is about the activity of God in human history….in the death and resurrection of Jesus…now in your life there in your own time.
“Keep this command” probably refers to all he has been teaching…the entirety of gospel ministry.
Without spot or blame refers back to a qualification of an overseer…this is not about sinless perfection…but a settled direction.
He is to live resolved to be a man of character…not hoping that he is faithful…but seeing to it that he is.
“But we don’t know if we will fail, we cannot presume to be faithful to the end.”
This is not about presumption it is about decisive action.
Sometimes, in a legitimate desire to be humble and to give credit where it is due, when asked… “How did you stay faithful?” “How did you endure?” “How has your marriage survived and thrived so long”
Someone will respond “It’s just the grace of God.”
That is true as the foundational reality of our lives…but just not helpful as a response to real questions about how we thrive and live faithful lives.
Is there anything we can actually do?
Paul thought so…we know so…we are responsible to choose.
“Okay, you endured through difficult times by the grace of God, anything else?”
“No, that’s it.”
“I guess my lack of endurance means God did not give me the grace to do so…or my marriage failed because God’s grace failed.”
No…there are real and important human choices that are to be made.
People need to understand that although God’s grace is assumed…human choices matter and we must pay attention to what those choices are and be careful to make them.
In the next letter he will tell Timothy to “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”
That is the balance… “Step up Timothy, be strong”…the grace of God is there…now go proactively live faithfully in it.
Paul knows Timothy will sin…but he tells him “pursue being blameless”…live decided not deciding.
*There is a cultural wind that blows in our time that says “You don’t really get to choose who you will be, how your life will go…it is all nature and nurture…what you were born with and what has been done to you.”
In fact, the hero narrative of our time is not the one who overcame their past and their natural limitations to accomplish much…it is the victim who cannot accomplish things because of things beyond their control.
That is the modern day hero…
I believe this is descriptive of a trend that is hurting people in catastrophic fashion.
The Christian version of this is to pawn off personal choice on the sovereignty of God
Paul is charging Timothy in very strong terms…step up, fight, choose, decide.
You would think that would be a great end to the letter…but Paul circles back to some practical applications for Timothy’s ministry.
Maybe Timothy is fired up, ready to charge…get after it.
So…Paul applies all that back to the reality in front of him.
“Here is a great chance to practice this Timothy…go Command those who are rich to not be arrogant or to put their hope in God.”
“Oh man, I was all ready to go…now I have to go actually apply this stuff…and to that rich guy, who is older and more confident than I am.”
17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.
Timothy was not rich, but he evidently pastored some who were.
And “rich” is a relative term…we are all rich in a relative sense, if we are able to eat three meals, and sleep in warm homes.
There is a temptation to either favor those we consider rich or to look down on them.
Both are forms of insecurity by those who are not rich.
Paul communicates neither here.
If Timothy can mentor the rich and keep them from destroying themselves because of a love of money they can be a benefit to the church.
The way he is to mentor the rich is to command them in two ways.
Using the word “Command” indicates that Paul wants young Tim to step into his spiritual authority and not to be intimidated by them.
Command them to not be arrogant (remember, the rich go out just like they came in)
Command them to not put their hope in wealth (you can’t buy a single hour of your life, or true happiness, or relationship with God)
This is not about negativity…but about God honoring positivity.
“Command them to put their hope in God” who what?
who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.
Don’t put your hope in “riches” which are uncertain…Put your hope in God who “richly” provides.
All that God is against is because of all that he is for…he wants us to enjoy him and his provisions.
He wants us to become increasingly content in godliness.
Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.
The rich are sometimes used to telling people what to do…or to looking down on others…Timothy is not to put up with this.
He is not to be impressed with them…or to belittle them…he is to pastor them.
They are just humans who have more resources than some…that’s it.
Help them be faithful with their resources
20 Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, 21 which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith. Grace be with you.
A final word on staying focused on truth.
What has been entrusted to him is spiritual authority in a congregation to preach the truth of the gospel…he must guard that trust.
Don’t get sidetracked by side issues.
6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that
Have you replaced a theology of the cross with a sort of me-ology of selfishness?
We can do this without malicious intent, we can do this slowly, imperceptibly as we lose focus.
For me, I grow more selfish, more demanding, less patient…when my heart drifts from the cross of Christ.
I think more of pleasure that the opportunity to serve and sacrifice.
I become quick to defend myself, my thoughts revolve around me.
A theology of the cross is an application of what Jesus said in Luke 9
“If anyone would come after me he must take up his cross and follow me, for whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.” Luke 9:23-24
To follow Christ we lay our lives down for him and others…we don’t see self-centeredness as acceptable or normal.
When we are ignored, or misunderstood, or face difficulties…we don’t complain against God and others…we consider Christ, who though was without sin went to the cross for us.
Godliness is a Christ-centric, cross-embracing life…it brings contentment and is all by itself…great gain.
Listen to the next verse, Luke 9:35 “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?”
It is a rhetorical question…the answer is, of course, no good at all.
God knows how we are designed…he understands dopamine deficiency and spiritual emptiness better than anyone.
When he says, in his Word…
6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.
This is an invitation and pathway to his greater joy.
I really want to us together, to take him up on that invitation and walk that path with more consistency and energy.
We continually find ourselves getting off track and we continually need to get back on track.
His word, his Spirit, his people…are key for getting us back on track.