Monday, September 12, 2016

1 Timothy 4:6- 16: “Remaining Faithful To The End”

After  last week’s   Scripture reading and exposition of  1 Timothy  4:1-6, entitled “Some will depart from the  Faith“, you might have  wanted to ask, like the disciples in response to Jesus  statement at the last supper,  “One of you will betray me”,   …  “Is it I Lord?” (Mk.  14:18-19). 
Others might have asked, "Can I remain  faithful to  God until the end?" 
"How do I know that I will remain faithful to the end?" 
Good question, and I am so thankful that the apostle  is reading  Timothy’s mind  and  our anxious thoughts here,  and therefore  his counsel to us this morning is very helpful and practical.

To begin with then, please take note  of the background against which Paul says this to Timothy, the young pastor at Ephesus. He says this against the background of spiritual deceit and  apostasy and false teaching which he calls in  v.7  irreverent, silly myths, or more literally,   ‘profane and   old wives myths’.    
Our modern society   is no different. Just looking at a magazine shelf at a bookshop   leaves us under no illusions what  our  people   preoccupy themselves with in terms of  finding ultimate satisfaction. And so there  is a  true market place  for all sorts of  therapies and techniques from Astrology to Zen Buddhism to relieve stressed  souls -  all of course apart  from   the prescriptions  of  our God and Creator. 
Jesus  never said,   do yoga  or transcendental meditation,  and de-stress yourself  as you  surround yourself with positive energy fields by  doing Feng Shui on your house and  buy  crystals, in order to be delivered  from whatever worries and ails you.  
He never said,  “Go to an African witchdoctor or  his  counterpart in  many a charismatic  church, the  so called “man of God” who  magically removes all your love problems and  financial burdens.  
Jesus said : “Come to me all  who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn  from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest  for your souls.” (Matt. 11:28,29)

Some  in Ephesus apparently forbade people to marry  and others focused on  what to eat and what not to eat, when the basic simple truth is that  EVERYTHING God created is GOOD, and when   we give  thanks for and pray over our food   then it is even more  good, because God is  honoured by our eating and drinking.

Others appear  to be absorbed with their bodies. This too is a  phenomenon  of our modern  culture. There is, of course, nothing wrong with exercise. It has “some value“, says Paul. But surely the excessive attention  and endless  energy  given to our  outer  appearances   impresses others  for a short while  - but what more does it do?  How does that keep us faithful to the end and for eternity?

If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.

I am learning  never to  take practical  godliness for granted  in Christian people. Paul did not! In writing to Timothy, Paul  felt it necessary to remind him  to  “put these things before the brothers”.  We are to train others, but in order  to train others, the trainer himself   must be subject to the  rigors  of  training. As a pastor in a difficult  environment  at Ephesus  is important  that  He keeps himself  in  spiritual shape, if he is going to be faithful  to the end…. For many have made shipwreck of their faith. The training associated with  godliness  is  far more valuable  than  physical training.

The ground  and substance  for training in godliness is to be  in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine.
Negatively,  he is to avoid  getting  caught up in irreverent, silly myths.  A good servant of Christ is  not called to chase rabbits . He is to be a single minded man.
Positively speaking  He is to train (Gr. gumnazō)   himself in godliness.  Let us focus on this  for a moment  and let  this  counsel encourage us  to  see how we may persevere to the end  without any fear that ‘we may lose it’ .

Principles for training in godliness  :
Commitment:  Train yourselfNo pain – no gain”.  No one  makes it to the level of Olympics without  paying the price of daily rigorous training. Similarly,  godliness  does not come without  paying the price of daily spiritual training which God has designed for our growth in godliness. 

There is a price to godliness. It doesn’t come cheaply, nor does it come  easily. You need to plan for it, and more importantly  you need   to actually do it.  The Greek word  “train”  from which  we get our  English word  “gymnastics“   implies hard work and perseverance with painstaking , diligent effort, therefore  implying commitment.

Timothy was personally responsible for his  growth and progress in godliness. It is true that all we  do for God  is by grace, and yet  it is also true  that grace does not come if we do not  work out  our salvation  at the same time (Phil. 2:12,13). 
Somebody put it like this: “It takes two to grow a potato: God and the farmer !”  God is first.  
The farmer second. God uses farmers to  produce potatoes. That is the way in which God works.  The same is true  for the work of the church. 
God is first. We are second. God uses  His people   to do the work  of  evangelism  and discipleship. And so, potatoes do not grow without  farmers  and churches do not grow without evangelism and discipleship.  

But  our text is not speaking primarily here about evangelism and discipleship. It speaks about something far more basic. It speaks of   a basic, underlying  discipline called  godliness, and many of us struggle more with this  than we  realize. We are essentially very focused  on our daily  existence, and are  disciplined  in keeping our  business, studies, home, but not disciplined at all  when it comes to training  in godliness .  That is why there is such a  tendency to look for shortcuts.  People  always look  for  a miraculous infusion of godliness.  The truth is that God does work in a mysterious way to make us  godly, but He does not  do this apart from  calling us  to  exercise  the personal responsibility to train ourselves in godliness.

We all need training in this area. Timothy needed it.  Paul reminded  Timothy  in 2 Tim  1:7 that “God did not give us a  spirit of timidity,  but a spirit of power, of love and  of self discipline“. Timothy  needed to grow  out of his natural timidity. He needed to grow in these three areas mentioned. He need to learn  to be   bolder, and to understand the  nature of biblical love better (1 Cor.  13:4-7) and to   be  more self- disciplined. 

Jerry Bridges reminds us  that one meets many talented and capable Christians, but one meets fewer godly Christians. The emphasis in our  age is on serving  God  and accomplishing things for God. As good  and necessary as that may be, it is not the first thing  we need to do.  The first thing that we need is to grow in godliness.  
Here’s an important thing to understand.  In God’s economy being is before doing!  Many Christians  invert this, and  this leads them to self- absorption and idolatry. 
Many   think  and say to themselves,  “I do, therefore I am a Christian!”  The truth is the other way around: ”I am a Christian, therefore I do.. .”   There  is  a  wide  gulf between the two. The first is called ‘dead works’ and the  other is called  ‘ a faith that pleases God ‘  (Hebrews 11). The one leads to  duty-ism, and the other leads to joy. It is for joy that we have been redeemed by Christ.   

And now you will see why  Paul says  what he does in  vv. 9-10: The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Saviour of all people, especially of those who believe. 
The Christian  life, the godly life, must be lived from the centre. Who is at the centre? Jesus Christ ! So,  the  training that you need to be engaged in is to constantly  focus  sharply on the Lord Jesus Christ and on His attributes. What   is it that Timothy and we need in this regard? Ah,  says Paul, "don’t be intimidated by  the thought of your youthfulness (don’t look at the outward), but  focus on   portraying  and being like Jesusset the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity." That is godly behaviour. And it takes training, because it is not natural for us to think and act like that.

What else   must Timothy do  to increase  personal godliness?  Paul says: “Timothy, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching”. Expose  your people   to the reading, preaching  and  teaching of God’s Word in order that they may be trained in godliness!  That is the work of the pastor. That is Timothy’s  work.   
But we can also turn it  around.  How can I  as a church member grow in godliness? By regularly  sitting under the  Word of God  brought  by   my  God appointed pastor.  My advice is that you need to take every opportunity to bring yourself under the Word of God. Every Christian should be  a thorough student of the Bible. The Hebrews  were rebuked,   since they  should have been able to teach others, they still needed to be taught  in the elementary truths of God’s word  (Hebr. 5:11-14). 

If we are to train ourselves  in godliness  we must give  Bible study  priority in our lives . The results of this   will be evident. 
Proverbs 2:1-5 tells us :  1  My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, 2 turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, 3 and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, 4 and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, 5 then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.

In conclusion Paul says: Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.
Practise… progress… persist … TRAIN. 
What is the outcome? “By so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.“  By doing this you will make it to the end !

WHERE CAN WE FIND THE TIME TO DO ALL THIS ? 

You  will always find  time  to do what  is important to you.
How important is the practice of godliness to you? Is it important enough to take priority over your own routines  and your excessive desire  for  recreation and scores of other activities ?  

Unfortunately  many professing Christians  are  busy with many things, but not  busy  with cultivating  those  Christian graces  which are essential to  being Christ-like and  therefore godly. For this reason many  Christians seem to  display   little fruit and power in their lives. Our best time and energy should be  invested in  the pursuit  of training ourselves for the purpose of godliness- to be more like  Jesus. Paul says that this practice   holds promise for both the present life and  the life to come. This practice  alone will ensure that we remain faithful to the end.

Amen !  





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