Let’s say there are two people who are training others in the laws of gravity.
They teach at Gravity school
- One gravity school teacher is selfish and a generally bad guy.
-His motives are terrible, but he actually teaches the truth of gravity.
-So his students are safe.
- The other teacher is not self-seeking, maybe well intentioned…but teaches uneducated people that gravity can be defied.
-His students jump to their deaths off a cliff.
It was during his first stint in a Roman prison.
Paul is writing his letter; we call the book of Philippians.
In the first chapter he gives thanks for his chains because his incarceration has served to advance the gospel…he then goes on to write…
“Sure, some preach Christ out of envy and jealousy…they are trying to make my life harder here in prison. But the important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached and because of this I rejoice.”
Amazing to me that he would say this
These were not good guys…and they had it in for him…yet we was able to rejoice in the fact they proclaimed the gospel.
Then go to his letter to another group of churches, we call it the book of Galatians.
There he wrote, “Hey, even if we, or an angel from heaven preached another gospel that that which we have preached to you…let him be accursed.”
Wow…pretty harsh…why the difference?
In first case, writing to Philippians about the guys who were trying to take Paul down…the content was true…even though their motives were wrong.
In Galatians, the content was not true…so their motivation was irrelevant.
Think about how different this perspective is than the one commonly held that says “motivation is everything.”
What really matters is if you mean well.
Paul, on the other hand…knows that truth is ultimately essential.
What really matters most, when it comes to the gospel message…is it true?
*For Paul, truth about the gospel is in the category of gravity
Of course he would prefer both truth and good motives…but the point is…truth trumps intent.
Because in matters of life and death…physically and spiritually…gravity and gospel…truth matters in ultimate ways.
So, Paul is going to tell Timothy to pay attention to his own character, his motives, his attitude.
But he continually tells Timothy to focus on the truth of the gospel.
Not “his truth” but “THE truth” of the gospel.
The story of Jesus…what he did in history and what that means…because in that event…God has made a way for humans to be saved.
If people believe this is actually factually true, and trust God to apply what Jesus did on the cross to their lives…then they are eternally changed.
So it matters that it happened, and it matters what it means…the historical and theological facts of the gospel.
It doesn’t even matter if the one telling the facts of the gospel…is a bad person…this is how powerful the truth of God is.
Let’s finish up in 2 Tim. chapter 2…so far Paul has encouraged Timothy to be strong in the grace that is in Christ.
Which means he is to apply full effort…to fully trust Christ…not his own gifts.
If this feels complex to you…it’s because it is.
It is difficult to know how to live this way…but we are to wrestle with it none the less.
There is balance and growth in the wrestling…if we give up and either say “Its all on God not me” or “Its all on me and not God”…then we begin to lose our way.
He is to keep this tension and embrace the suffering that is inevitable…and pass this on to others.
Then he gives him some practical, tactical guidance for pulling this off.
14 Keep reminding them of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen.
- Keep reminding them of the truth:
*We leak perspective…we need a continual inflow into our hearts and minds.
Often we don’t need new information as much as a continual reminder of what we already know to be true.
We need to hear the old truth in new ways…so this is not an excuse to be boring…or to sound irrelevant to what is currently happening in the world.
For me the truth is so interesting that it is a tragedy when it is presented in less than compelling ways.
The gospel may not be received by people because they choose not to believe…but it should not be rejected because it is putting them to sleep…or seen as out of touch with the real world around them.
The gospel is the most interesting and compelling truth story ever told…if we grow bored with it…we don’t need to go looking for more compelling truth.
Because there isn’t any.
How do we become more fascinated, interested in the truth…or see our own boredom with the gospel as a heart problem, not a problem with the truth itself?
I think a combination of humility and gratitude are essential.
The fact that I may be become less amazed by amazing things isn’t a sign of maturity or growth…but a shrinking, hardening heart.
Rich Mullins wrote a beautiful song that describes this awareness of cynicism or coldness…as not being a sign of growth, “Growing Young.”
I’ve gone so far from my home I’ve seen the world and I have known So many secrets I wish now I did not know ‘Cause they have crept into my heart They have left it cold and dark And bleeding, Bleeding and falling apart And everybody used to tell me big boys don’t cry Well I’ve been around enough to know that that was the lie That held back the tears in the eyes of a thousand prodigal sons Well we are children no more, we have sinned and grown old And our Father still waits and He watches down the road To see the crying boys come running back to His arms And be growing young
I’ve seen a trend in TV/movies (which both reflect and set aculture)…where the cynical, hardened, unable to be impressed by anything hero is the model for what cool is.
In fact, sometimes it is young children who are presented as already being “wise” and “cool”…by being cynics already…hardened to joy and life.
And cool…is what most people most want to be…but this is tragic.
We want to love the truth…to not grow bored with it.
So, first tactical guidance here…keep reminding them of THE truth.
*THE truth…not my or their truth.
- Don’t let the truth(gospel) get buried in all the chatter.
Warn them (before God) to not argue about words.
Chris Synder: Combat Controller
-Secure trailers…there is constant noise, beeps, squawks.
-Then he has multiple screens with tons of information…chat from fighter pilots, tanker pilots, drone pilots, commanders here and there.
Recently were we talking about this and how you know what is most important with all that chatter.
He said, the system was designed so that the most important information stands out…with distinct warnings…sounds, screen indicators.
Paul is telling Timothy…to not let the essential truth of the gospel become lost in all the non-essential, and in some cases, ungodly chatter.
This doesn’t mean words and their meanings don’t matter…they do….just don’t argue about stupid stuff.
Speak the gospel.
*I was reading recently about an influential man in Canadian church planting (mid-20thcentury)…who lost his way and his impact…when he became willing to fight over any and everything.
-He first gained influence by his tenacity with the gospel in the face of persecution…he lost his influence…when he began to fight anyone about minor, silly points of dispute
Clearly this doesn’t mean that Timothy is to remain silent…to not weigh in on anything controversial.
Timothy needed to use words…to tell others to not argue about words.
Debate, discussion, and strongly asserting that some things are true and some things are not true…are important.
What is the point here?
He is teaching Timothy to have good SA…situational awareness.
To discern when it is time to speak, correct…and when to speak is merely to engage in idle chatter…he wants Timothy to be sure and not let the important be submerged under the unimportant.
You find this kind of SA in Proverbs 26
Verse 4: Don’t answer a fool according to his folly
Verse 5: Answer a fool according to his folly
Wisdom requires knowing what is the right approach in each situation.
When every single issue seems to be of great importance to us, then eventually every issue looks to be of no real importance.
*So…Timothy…keep the gospel in all its applications front and center in terms of importance.
*I’m not saying you shouldn’t take up certain important causes as God leads.
I’m just suggesting that you should be aware that not every kind of chatter out there is worth engaging with…especially if you say so much that no one hears you when you speak about what is essential.
- Keep reminding of the truth
- Keep the truth priority
- Work hard at this
15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.
This is Paul the coach telling Timothy… “when it comes to the truth, leave everything on the field.”
“To present yourself to God as one approved”
This means that this all out effort is not for the approval of others…but rather for the applause of God.
Timothy as a pastor serves the people in his church but he doesn’t work for their approval.
There is a tension here.
When leaders fail to work hard to serve those they lead…when they are unconcerned with their impact on them…then their leadership is corrupted because it is self-serving.
When leaders work merely for the approval of those they serve, then their leadership is likewise corrupted because it is self-protective.
“Do your best with the truth for the applause of God.”
Seek to bless not to impress…this is what impresses God…and he is the one you want to impress.
What is he impressed with?
So…do your best to present yourself as approved by God…a workman, unashamed.
Unashamed of what…how you handle, live for, teach the truth.
This is in my mind, the most helpful term to describe a Pastor’s calling…Workman…worker.
Maybe a Christians calling in general…workman…we are all to be bluecollar truth workers.
Timothy’s task is to give his life for hard and productive labor…to work for the approval of God…and to be unashamed to fulfill “his own task and calling.”
This task and calling is to know, live, teach the truth of the gospel.
I have been reading stories of pastors who wanted to become and did become…famous.
-Obtained celebrity status.
-And for some of them…it led their spiritual, relational, and even physical…crashes.
-At the same time-
I been reading a book about a guy named, Tom Carson…ever heard of him? Exactly.
It was written by his somewhat famous son, D.A. Carson, and it’s called “The Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor.”
DA had to piece together his dad’s life because his dad was just too busy being ordinary as truth workman…to ever think his life would turn into a book.
In fact he suffered his entire life with a perpetual sense of failure, like he was not doing all that he should.
This was not good or necessary…and DA says so telling his dad’s story.
But his dad was a worker in the “truth”…a roll up his sleeves, blue collar truth worker.
Timothy…Paul writes…be a worker…a workman in the truth.
In verse 16 he returns to those who do not deal in the truth and their impact on people’s lives.
Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. 17 Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 who have wandered away from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some.
Truth is health…it is life giving, life sustaining.
Teaching that is untrue, Paul likens, to a wasting disease…like gangrene.
The impact of godless chatter spreads and is super destructive…truth is health, this is disease.
What is the nature of these guys false teaching and why was it so destructive?
They were not talking about the resurrection of Jesus as already having happened…of course it had.
But they were probably teaching that Christians are already fully changed…with some important and terrible applications.
The truth is, our salvation is already/not yet…we are fully forgiven, but not fully sanctified and not yet glorified.
We are a work in progress…it matters what we do now in our bodies…we are to please God with them…be holy with them.
There was a false teaching at the time (and in our time) that you can do whatever you want with your body…your soul has already been saved forever.
Paul addressed this same lie in his letter to the Corinthians.
That church had members engaging in sleeping with prostitutes, incest…crazy stuff…that started with an idea.
That the physical doesn’t matter…only the “spiritual” matters…a truly corrupt two-story life.
This is how the world works…ideas shape our minds, hearts, and ultimately our choices.
If they are bad, untrue idea…they create disease in people and cultures.
If they are true…they bring health and life.
What starts in the Head/ takes over the Heart/activates the Hands (actions)
- An idea started in the mind of Marx/Engels:
- Became a full-fledged world view…that people devoted their lives to
- That killed well over 100 million people in USSR, China, Cambodia, Cuba
-Equally dramatic, but smaller in scale
- My friend believed, that God wanted him “happy” not “holy”…a wrong idea
- His allowed his heart to wrap around another women… “he fell in love” and “fell out of love”
- He left his wife and sons.
Truth matters…what we believe, shapes what we love, becomes who we are.
- Don’t get tired of telling the gospel truth.
- Don’t let it become submerged under the chatter
- Roll up your sleeves and work hard at it
- Because the stakes are really, really high.
By the time Paul is writing this he has spent over 30 years doing what he is telling Timothy to do.
And he has done this in the face of near constant and sometimes lethal opposition.
Machen, J. Gresham. Christianity & Liberalism (p. 103). GLH Publishing. Kindle Edition.)
So, to keep Timothy from overreacting or becoming overwhelmed and underreacting…he offers some perspective to keep him active but not panicked.
19 Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.”
When Timothy sees the threat of false teachers he needs to remember…God has this under control
Be a workman…not a worryman.
Even when it looks like lies are winning the day…either in large scale movements of cultures and nations…or individuals in your home, school, workplace….
God’s reign will not be undermined…God’s foundation will not fail.
“The Lord knows those who are his” and “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness”…
These are quotations from an OT story that Timothy would be familiar with.
Moses was God’s designated (and reluctant leader) in the long trek from Egypt to Canaan.
At one point a guy named Korah…who was jealous that he didn’t have a larger leadership position…he wanted more status…lead a large group of well known and respected leaders in a revolt against Moses.
Korah, was convinced he was right and that Moses…who actually had the word of God, the truth on his side…was wrong.
You can read the story in Numbers 16…let’s just say it went very badly for Korah and his team.
The rest of Israel…either moved towards God and the truth and were safe…or followed Korah’s lies and were destroyed.
So that’s the backstory on that verse…let’s read on.
20 In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. 21 If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.
Large house…is a residence of the rich…at the time, only the rich would have gold and silver vessels, etc.
These houses have articles that are made of costly material like silver and gold and some of more common…wood, clay.
Some of vessels are used for noble and some ignoble purposes.
It doesn’t take much imagination to think of the different types of fixtures in your own house…and what noble and ignoble looks like.
You can, by the way, buy a gold toilet…gold plated but they work…for about 3k.
An actual solid gold toilet was stolen a couple of years ago…came out of Churchill’s childhood home.
The basic point is this.
Some members of the church appear more distinguished in their makeup and responsibilities than others.
Hymenaeus and Philetus, probably looked to the church…like the silver and gold vessels…but they did great harm and not great good.
They were, like gold toilets…not used for noble purpose.
On the other hand, there are others…who look like wood and clay…who are greatly used by the master.
It is possible for all of us to choose to be used for God’s great purposes…whether you see yourself as gold, or clay…common or uncommon.
When he writes… “Cleanse yourself” he is not talking about atoning for or paying for your own sins…but rather choosing to turn from the things that are contrary to the will and ways of God.
Move to the truth of the gospel…and resolutely stay there.
The encouragement from these verses, 19-21 can be summarized like this:
- Timothy…hold to the truth, don’t be discouraged by those who are influential who oppose you.
- God’s foundation will hold…it always has.
- He will keep those who belong to him…and will empower them for long term faithfulness.
- So we need to keep choosing and God will keep us as we do…
So, what do we have so far?
- Don’t get tired of telling the truth.
- Don’t let it become submerged under the chatter
- Roll up your sleeves and work hard at it
- The stakes are really high
- Be encouraged, God will see that your labor is effective.
Now, he is going to give some training…pro-tips.
22 Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.
Here is both defense and offense.
Defense: Flee the evil desires of youth.
-Being young is not bad
-Not all the desires of youth are bad
-He is not picking on youth
*This is specific to Timothy’s situation, he is young… (if Timothy were old Paul would have said, “Flee the evil desires of old guys”)
What are the evil desires specific to youth?
Depends on the youth…generally…pride, selfishness, the pursuit of pleasure over what is good, being a people pleasure…or trying to look cool.
Flee from this stuff…
But you don’t win by just playing defense…
You can lose if you don’t play defense, but you can’t win if you never play offense.
Offense: Pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace
The context of this is in interpersonal situations where conflict and disagreements are likely to happen or are actually happening in Timothy’s life and ministry.
Flee the evil desires of youth…pride, people pleasing, being combative
Pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace
Imagine how that would shape any leaders ability to lead if they just did that.
23 Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. 24 And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25 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, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.
So, Timothy, in order to be positioned to lead in situations where there are foolish and stupid arguments…leading to quarrels…he has to train himself to respond well.
He has to play defense against sinful desires, and play offense in the pursuit of the qualities of righteousness, faith, love and peace.
In order for him to be prepared to deal rightly with opposition…he has to train himself to see what is actually happening (some people are in the enemy’s trap)…and to respond correctly.
Again, situational awareness is required here…because in the next chapter he will talk about a group of evil people with whom Timothy is told to have nothing to do with.
So, SA is essential for the pastor, spiritual leader…really for the Christian generally who wants to be effective.
SA is the ability to correctly read a situation and make the right response to it.
Some he is to be patient with…some he is to avoid all together…he needs to know the difference.
Okays, let make a final application…then do some reflection.
In chapter 4 we will hear Paul talk about people who flock to teachers who tell them what they want to hear.
That is a temptation for all of us…to believe what we want to believe…rather than what is actually true…even if we wished it were not true.
You might think… “I only believe the truth…and all that I believe is true.”
This is called circular reasoning…and it is foolish.
We can all be susceptive to wanting to have our “ears tickled” rather than our “hearts and minds challenged.
How do we become or remain people…who want to hear, what we need to hear?
How do we train our minds and hearts to love the truth of God, the gospel…and not be perpetually looking for the new, that isn’t true?
Machen, J. Gresham wrote a book 1923 that could be written today.
“It is true that gospel is an account, not of something that happened yesterday, but of something that happened long ago; but the important thing is that it really happened. If it really happened, then it makes little difference when it happened. No matter when it happened, whether yesterday or in the first century, it remains a real gospel, a real piece of news. The happening of long ago, moreover, is in this case confirmed by present experience.”
How do we become or stay lovers of the truth of the gospel?
How do we, as we grow old…learn to learn to continually grow young?
Children are infatuated with the ordinary…a bird, a stick, a sucker…as we age, we are tempted more and discontent with virtually everything.
How does the age old gospel truth…become continually confirmed by our present experience?
This is tricky…
First, we don’t seek the experience
-We do the hard mental work to remember the truth, the historical facts of the gospel…we nurture our commitment to Christ.
*We remember what happened…Christ died, Christ rose
*We remember what it means… “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us”
-Just like we don’t stay happily married by spending our time trying to evoke wedding day feelings but rather by remembering wedding day vows.
-Remember the facts of the gospel and your faith commitment…this positions you to experience God personally.
If we look to feelings first, the facts often fade…and feelings will fade with the facts.
Look to the facts of your faith…and feelings will eventually come round.
But even when feelings are absent (Psalmist)…you can endure…because your foundation is fact not feeling.
THE truth, not Your truth.
Second, we learn to love what we invest our lives in
-Our hearts follow our investments…we get to choose what we value and love.
-Again, we don’t grow in our marriage bonds by hoping for love feelings…but by living out of the facts of our vows in daily choices.
*WE do what love does…and our hearts follow our investment.
-Paul is telling Timothy to continually, intentionally…do the hard work of investment in truth.
*By the way if you believe that true love, true devotion, true spirituality, true art…true anything ,shouldn’t require hard work…
You need to rethink that…truth requires a “blue collar/workman approach”
*Let’s reflect on what God has done in the gospel.
While we were sinners Christ died for us.
While we are sinners still…Christ continues to love us and forgive us.
We are going to use music to help us reflect deeply on the gospel…with our minds and emotions.
Rodney is going to sing that Rich Mullins Song…consider what it would mean for you to “grow young”
If you are the prodigal son or daughter…your father wants to embrace you again.
If you feel your heart has grown old and cold…it can grow young again.
Then, we will sing a song that outlines clearly the facts of our faith.
*When I survey the wondrous cross…pay attention to the words…they describe a historical event and what event means.