Stand Firm. Trust God.

2 Chronicles 19-20, 1 Timothy 6

 You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the Lord will be with you. 2 Chronicles 20:17 ESV

Life can be difficult. Even for the people of God. Our relationship with Him does not guarantee us a trouble-free life or provide us with a get-out-of-jail-free card. Jesus Himself warned us, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 ESV). The thing we must constantly remind ourselves of is that God is with us. His power is never diminished. His love for us never fades or fails. His attention is never distracted from us. And He is never caught off guard by anything that may happen to us or around us. The key is whether we will trust Him to deliver us out of our troubles and predicaments. Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, would learn a valuable lesson on trusting God. When the combined armies of the Moabites, Ammonites and Meunites came against Judah, “Jehoshaphat was afraid and set his face to seek the Lord” (2 Chronicles 20:3 ESV). He assembled the people of Judah, proclaimed a national day of fasting, and prayed to God on their behalf. In his prayer, he echoed the words of Solomon's prayer on the day he dedicated the Temple. “If disaster comes upon us, the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this house and before you—for your name is in this house—and cry out to you in our affliction, and you will hear and save” (2 Chronicles 20:9 ESV). Jehoshaphat took his problem to God, saying, “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you” (2 Chronicles 20:12 ESV).

What does this passage reveal about God?

And God heard the prayer of Jehoshaphat and responded. “Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God's” (2 Chronicles 20:15 ESV). It's interesting to note that the first thing God said was to not fear. Fear was the result of focusing on their circumstances. And fear is a natural human reaction. But to stop fearing would require that they focus their attention on God. They had no trouble believing they were in trouble because they could see the size of the army aligned against them. They were going to have to believe that their God was bigger and stronger. God went on to tell them, “You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the Lord will be with you” (2 Chronicles 20:17 ESV). God made it clear – they were going to have to “go out” against their enemy. In other words, they were going to have to face them. But God was going to do the fighting. This situation is very similar to what happened when the people of Israel found themselves at the Red Sea facing the advancing armies of Pharaoh. They had no way of escape. But Moses told them, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent” (Exodus 14:13-14 ESV). They had ringside seats to what would be the greatest show on earth. God would miraculously part the waters of the Red Sea, allowing them to cross over on dry ground; then He would destroy the armies of Egypt by drowning them as they tried to cross over in pursuit. God brought the victory. But the people had to trust God. On the morning that God was to deliver the people of Judah from their enemies, Jehoshaphat encouraged the people, “Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be established; believe his prophets and you will succeed” (2 Chronicles 20:20 ESV).

What does this passage reveal about man?

The Hebrew word translated “believe” means “to be faithful, to trust, to stand firm.” Their belief was going to have to take the form of action. They had to get up and go out. They had to stand firm and face their enemies. They had to focus on the faithfulness, power, and promises of God. And they sang, “Give thanks to the Lord, for his steadfast love endures forever!” (2 Chronicles 20:21 ESV). And it says that when they began to sing and praise God, “the Lord set an ambush against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir” (2 Chronicles 20:22 ESV). God caused the enemies of Judah to slaughter themselves! And the people of Judah never had to lift a finger, except to carry off all the spoil. God had done exactly what He said He would do. But the people of God had to place their hope, faith, and trust in Him. They had to go out and anticipate a great victory, regardless of how bleak and desperate the situation looked. The end result was that the people were able to rejoice in the victory God had brought about. Their enemies found cause to fear God. And the nation of Judah enjoyed rest that was provided by God Himself. But all of this came about because they believed God. They heard His words and they stepped out in faith, trusting in the reliability of His promise. They could have run. They could have sought help from another nation. They could have tried to defeat their enemy in their own strength. But God had told them it was His fight. He had simply instructed them to “stand firm, hold your position and see the salvation of the Lord.” The salvation of the Lord comes when we trust in Him to be our Savior. We cannot expect God to deliver us if we turn to something or someone else as our Savior. God is in the delivery business. He wants to deliver His people. He wants to reveal His power and display His salvation on our behalf. But we have to believe in Him. We have to trust Him. We have to stand firm, holding on to His promises, and trusting in His power to accomplish the impossible.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

Paul told Timothy, “But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (1 Timothy 6:11-12 ESV). There is a sense in which we are to fight the good fight, but never forget that it is based on faith. We are to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness and gentleness – because they are all found in God alone. They are Spirit-provided fruit that can't be self-manufactured or duplicated in any other way. Paul told Timothy to “fight the good fight of the faith” because, at the end of the day, this is a faith battle. It is about who and what we will place our trust in. Every day we face a battle that will test our faith. We will be tempted to trust in ourselves or in someone or something else. But we must never forget that this battle is to be fought in faith. Paul reminded the believers in Ephesus of this very point. “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm” (Ephesians 6:10-13 ESV).

Father, help me to stand firm, not based on my own strength, but on Yours. May I learn to trust You more and more with each passing day, not swayed by the difficulty of my circumstances or the size of my enemy. You are greater and more powerful than my biggest problem. I want to learn to stand firm and see the salvation of the Lord. I want to watch You fight my battles. Forgive me for trying to fight them on my own or turning to someone or something else to deliver me when only You can provide salvation. Amen

When the Godly Live Godlessly.

2 Chronicles 17-18, 1 Timothy 5

The sins of some people are conspicuous, going before them to judgment, but the sins of others appear later. So also good works are conspicuous, and even those that are not cannot remain hidden. 1 Timothy 5:24-25 ESV

It doesn't take a seminary degree to understand that every human being struggles with sin. It is apparent all around us. We even see it in our own lives on a regular basis. The godly can do ungodly things. When the godless act in ungodly ways, we shouldn't be shocked or surprised. Paul reminds us that we were once just like them. “You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil--the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God” (Ephesians 2:2 NLT). Those who do not know Christ as their Savior, do not have the capacity for living godly lives. And yet, those of us who have been redeemed through the work of Christ on the cross are still capable of turning our backs on the blessings of God and satisfying our sin nature by making God-less decisions. Jehoshaphat, the King of Judah, is a textbook example of how the godly can do ungodly things. Unlike so many of the kings of Israel and Judah, Jehoshaphat is described as a man whose “heart was courageous in the ways of the Lord” (2 Chronicles 17:6 ESV). We are told that “the Lord was with Jehoshaphat, because he walked in the earlier ways of his father David. He did not seek the Baals, but sought the God of his father and walked in his commandments, and not according to the practices of Israel. Therefore the Lord established the kingdom in his hand” (2 Chronicles 17:3-5 ESV). Jehoshaphat was determined to serve God, even sending his officials all across the land of Judah to teach the Law of God to the people. As a result, he enjoyed God's blessing and a time of peace. He grew in strength and power. But then Jehoshaphat made an ungodly decision. He determined to make an alliance with King Ahab of Israel. Ahab was a godless, wicked king who was the poster boy for apostasy. He and his queen, Jezebel, were a tag team of spiritual rebellion and idolatry. But Jehoshaphat made a marriage alliance with Ahab.

What does this passage reveal about God?

One of the things that God had made perfectly clear to His people was that He expected them to live holy lives, set apart from the ways of the nations that surrounded them. God had given them His law and articulated His commands concerning all aspects of life. Jehoshaphat, of all people, should have known and understood what God's expectations were. He had gone out of his way to ensure that his kingdom reflected his love for God and his desire to live in obedience to God's law. There is little doubt that Jehoshaphat knew about the sins of Ahab and the rampant idolatry of the northern kingdom of Israel. Making an alliance with Ahab would have been no different than making an alliance with the Philistines, something God would have never condoned. The kingdom of Israel was living in open rebellion against God. Ahab is described in highly unflattering terms. “And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord, more than all who were before him…Ahab did more to provoke the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him” (1 Kings 16:30, 33 ESV). God's hand was against Ahab, but He had made Jehoshaphat prosper. God was pleased with Jehoshaphat's obedience and faithfulness. But what would God do when Jehoshaphat proved to be faithful and made an ungodly decision?

What does this passage reveal about man?

Jehoshaphat's decision to make an alliance with Ahab would put him in an awkward position. Any time we determine to cozy up with the world, we will find ourselves facing the temptation to compromise on our convictions. James puts it rather bluntly. “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4 ESV). If we want to associate with the ungodly, we will find ourselves tempted to do ungodly things. And Jehoshaphat found that his innocent alliance would soon force him to make a difficult decision. Ahab would ask him to join forces with him against the Syrians. And even when God had given ample warning through His prophet, Micaiah, not to go up against the Syrians, both Ahab and Jehoshaphat would refuse to listen. They would reject the word of the Lord and listen to the lies of the false prophets. And Jehoshaphat, the godly king of Judah, would find himself fighting in a battle God had not sanctioned and surrounded by Syrian soldiers who mistook him for King Ahab. He wasn't where he was supposed to be. His ungodly decision making had gotten him in trouble and he was faced with possible death because he had refused to listen to God. But God did not abandon him. When Jehoshaphat cried out, God heard and He answered. “And Jehoshaphat cried out, and the Lord helped him. God drew them away from him” (2 Chronicles 18:31 ESV). Jehoshaphat's God delivered him in spite of his godless behavior. But the godless King Ahab would be struck by an errant arrow, and slowly die, propped up in his chariot.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

We all know that we are going to sin. It is the inevitable consequences of having a sin nature. But John reminds us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 ESV). When we cry out to God, and confess our need for Him, He answers. He forgives. He cleanses. In his letter to Timothy, Paul warns his young disciple, “Do not…take part in the sins of others; keep yourself pure” (1 Timothy 5:22 ESV). He also tells him, “The sins of some men are conspicuous, going before them to judgment” (1 Timothy 5:24 ESV). Such was the case of Ahab. His sins were many and painfully obvious to anyone with eyes to see. But Paul also says, “the sins of others appear later” (1 Timothy 5:24 ESV). Jehoshaphat's sin was not quite as apparent as Ahab's. His alliance with Ahab didn't appear to be so wrong at first glance. But it would prove to be an ungodly decision that would have dangerous consequences. In chapter five of 1 Timothy, Paul gives his young protegé some invaluable advice concerning the conduct of those within the church. He talks about how to interact with older men and women. He tells him how to care for widows in the church. But he also warns him that there will be those whose “passions draw them away from Christ” (1 Timothy 5:11 ESV). He reports that “some have already strayed after Satan” (1 Timothy 5:15 ESV). And then he tells Timothy, “As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear” (1 Timothy 5:20 ESV). Paul was serious about godlessness among the people of God. He knew it would happen. But he also knew that it must be dealt with seriously and soberly. Sin is a constant reality, even for the believer. So we must be alert and always ready to confront it in the lives of others and confess it when it appears in our own lives. Like Jehoshaphat, when we find ourselves in trouble for having made ungodly decisions, we must cry out to God for help. We must turn to Him in repentance and allow Him to rescue and restore us. 

Father, I know all too well my capacity for making ungodly decisions. I do it far too often. But I thank You for Your faithfulness to me, allowing me to cry out to You when I get myself in trouble. You have never failed to rescue me and restore me to a right relationship with You. Give me a growing desire to do things Your way and an increasing hatred for sin – both in my life and in the life of the body of Christ. Amen

Training for Godliness.

2 Chronicles 15-16, 1 Timothy 4

For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe. 1 Timothy 4:10 ESV

For Paul, godliness was the goal. It was to be the sole objective for the life of the believer. In a world filled with all kinds of distractions, it was essential that Timothy keep his eye on the prize: “the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14 ESV). Finishing well was important to Paul. It wasn't enough to start strong. Paul wanted to complete the race of life in full stride, giving every last effort for the cause of Christ. He would later write to Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8 ESV). Paul knew that there was more to life than what was visible to the eye. He believed in a hereafter. He knew that the pursuit of godliness would prove to be beneficial “in this present life and also for the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:8 ESV). Peter believed this same truth and also knew that God was the one who provided means by which we could live godly lives. “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire” (2 Peter 1:3-4 ESV). Peter would go on to encourage his readers to pursue a life of godliness, telling them to “make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:5-8 ESV).

What does this passage reveal about God?

In some ways, godliness in this life is a dress rehearsal for the life to come. It is to live with God at the center of your life, focusing on Him and relying on Him for all your needs. The prophet, Azariah, told Asa, the king of Israel, “The Lord is with you while you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you” (2 Chronicles 15:2 ESV). He went on to remind Asa, “when in their distress they [Israel] turned to the Lord, the God of Israel, and sought him, he was found by them” (2 Chronicles 15:4 ESV). In other words, when they turned to God and relied on Him, He made Himself available to them. He stepped in and provided assistance to them. When they lived godly, God-focused lives, they found themselves experiencing the power and presence of God in their lives. From his own experience, David would write of God, “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them” (Psalm 145:18-19 ESV). James would express a similar sentiment when he wrote, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (James 4:8 ESV). There is a real sense in which we must constantly remind ourselves of our desperate need for and dependence upon God. We will not only face the reality of our own sin nature, but the constant presence of a fallen world that stands diametrically opposed to Him. We will face difficulties, trials, temptations and spiritual warfare in this life. Our very survival is dependent upon God. But we must seek Him. We must rely upon Him. We must put our hope and trust in Him.

What does this passage reveal about man?

Asa would start out well, but finish poorly. Early on in his reign, when faced with the presence of a massive enemy force and threatened with annihilation, he would turn to God for help. “O Lord, there is none like you to help, between the mighty and the weak. Help us, O Lord our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this multitude. O Lord, you are our God; let not man prevail against you” (2 Chronicles 14:11 ESV). And God answered, providing a great victory and a tangible reminder of the efficacy of trusting Him. Asa would go on to institute a number of religious reform, removing the false gods from the land of Judah, repairing the altar of the Lord, renewing the covenant between God and the people, and even executing those who refused to seek God. But when Asa found himself facing an eminent attack from the northern kingdom of Israel, rather than turning to God he turned to the king of Syria. He paid King Ben-hadad to break his treaty with Israel and side with Judah. And while his plan seemed to work just fine, God had a different perspective. He sent word to Asa saying, “Because you relied on the king of Syria, and did not rely on the Lord your God, the army of the king of Syria has escaped you. Were not the Ethiopians and the Libyans a huge army with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet because you relied on the Lord, he gave them into your hand” (2 Chronicles 16:7-8 ESV). Asa was reminded that the last time he found himself surrounded by a formidable force, he turned to God. But this time, he had turned to Syria. God had given him a great victory over the Ethiopians and Libyans, but rather than remember what God had done, Asa came up with his own plan. God told Asa, “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him” (2 Chronicles 16:9 ESV). God wanted to provide support to Asa, but it would require that Asa be devoted to and dependent upon God.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

Paul told Timothy, “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” (1 Timothy 4:7-8 ESV). There is a sense in which we must constantly remind ourselves that the God-centered life is the sole objective of this life. We are not to allow ourselves to get off focus and distracted by the cares of this world. Paul would tell Timothy, “Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him” (2 Timothy 2:3-4 ESV). My goal in life should be to please God. One of the key ways I can please God is to live in dependence on Him. When I seek Him, I will find Him. When I rely on Him, He comes through for me. When I seek His will and attempt to live life on His terms, He provides blessings beyond measure. That doesn't mean my life will be trouble-free or without difficulties. I will face trials and temptations. I will encounter enemies along the way. But when I make godliness my goal, I will find “the eyes of the Lord run to and fro through the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him” (2 Chronicles 16:9 ESV).

Father, I want to live a godly life. I want to make You the center of my life, putting my hope, faith, and trust in You. Teach me to seek You with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. You have promised that if I seek You, I will find You. You will give strong support if my heart is blameless toward You. Show me how to make that a reality in my daily life. Amen

The Mystery of Godliness.

2 Chronicles 13-14, 1 Timothy 3

Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory. 2 Chronicles 12:1 ESV

We have already had more than enough evidence of the sinfulness of man. At one point in human history, things had gotten so bad, that God destroyed everyone on the planet, except Noah and his immediate family. The sad state of affairs that led to this devastating consequence were as follows: “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5 ESV). And even after the flood, when mankind was given a second chance, the descendants of Noah ended up in the same sad condition – living in sin and in disobedience to God. So God chose Abram, in order to create a nation with whom He would have a unique and special relationship, dwelling among them and allowing them the privilege of experiencing His presence and living as His chosen people. But even the people of God would find themselves living godless lives more often than not. And yet, along the way there were a few glimpses of goodness and godliness along the way. “Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God” (Genesis 6:9 ESV). The book of Hebrews describes Abel as a man of righteousness, Enoch as having pleased God, Abraham as obedient to God, and Moses as a man of faith who “considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt” (Hebrews 11:26 ESV). There have been men and women throughout history who have been faithful to God and who have lived their lives, according to the book of Hebrews, “by faith” in the promises of God. Many of these individuals never had the pleasure of seeing the ultimate fulfillment of the promise for which they waited. “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth” (Hebrews 11:13 ESV). Their faith was in God, the one who made the promise, not the promise itself. They were willing to trust God to fulfill what He had promised to do, because they believed in His character and relied on His faithfulness.

What does this passage reveal about God?

It should amaze us when we read about a man like King Asa. “And Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God. He took away the foreign altars and the high places and broke down the pillars and cut down the Asherim and commanded Judah to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, and to keep the law and the commandment” (2 Chronicles 14:2-4 ESV). This man was like a breath of fresh air in a stagnant, polluted land. His reign would be marked by peace, and it was the direct result of his faithfulness to God. God was blessing Asa for doing what was good and right. Unlike his predecessors, he removed the idols to false gods. He commanded the people to “seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, and to keep the law and the commandments” (2 Chronicles 14:4 ESV). Asa placed his faith and hope in God, because he knew that he and the people of Israel were totally dependent upon God. “And Asa cried out to the Lord his God, ‘O Lord, there is none like you to help, between the mighty and the weak. Help us, O Lord our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this multitude. O Lord, you are our God; let not man prevail against you’” (2 Chronicles 14:11 ESV). And we're told that the Lord defeated the Ethiopians before Asa and before Judah, and the Ethiopians fled. God responded to the faithful, dependent call of Asa. He graciously stepped in and rescued the nation of Israel from the threat of possible annihilation at the hands of a much superior enemy. All God was looking for from them was godliness. In other words, He wanted His people to be focused on Him, dependent upon Him, and faithful to Him.

What does this passage reveal about man?

Godliness was not impossible in the days of Noah, Moses, Abraham, Joseph, David, or even Asa. But it was not easy. Only on rare occasions did some of these men enjoy the indwelling presence and power of the Holy Spirit. So much of what they had to do was dependent upon them. The writer of Hebrews makes it clear that they had to live by faith. They had to place their trust and hope in God, based on nothing more than the promises of God. Asa didn't know whether God would save he and the people of Israel, but he knew that God could. So he turned to God. Again, the writer of Hebrews reminds us, “And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets — who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated — of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth” (Hebrews 11:32-38 ESV). These people all placed their faith in God and were able to endure great trials and accomplish great deeds on God's behalf. They key was the object of their faith: God. He was the source of their strength and salvation.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

In his letter to Timothy, Paul writes of the conduct of the people of God, stressing how believers “ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God” (1 Timothy 3:15 ESV). He writes about offices of elder and deacon, stressing a man selected for either of these roles should 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” (1 Timothy 3:2-3 ESV). They “must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain” (1 Timothy 3:9 ESV). Paul was describing godly conduct within the church, the family of God, the “pillar and buttress of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15 ESV). But then Paul gives the secret to godly conduct. He says, “Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness” (1 Timothy 3:16 ESV). Then he goes on to describe this great mystery. It is the birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. In other words, it is salvation made possible through faith in Jesus Christ that makes possible the life of godliness. Man cannot achieve true godly behavior apart from Christ. Man's salvation and redemption is made possible solely through the work accomplished by Jesus on the cross. And His sacrificial death and atoning sacrifice was proven worthy and acceptable to God by His resurrection from the dead. God raised Him back to life because His sacrifice had accomplished its objective. Jesus was “vindicated by the Spirit” through the restoration of His life by the power of the Spirit. Angels were the first to see the resurrected Christ at the tomb. Men were given the unique privilege of seeing Him alive after having seen Him die. They proclaimed this great news to anyone and everyone who would listen, saying, “He is risen!” And because He is risen, we have been given the power to live godly lives, through the power of His Spirit living within us. We can conduct our lives in a godly manner because we have been given God's own Spirit. All because of what Jesus Christ accomplished on our behalf. God has done for mankind what we could never have done for ourselves. He has made possible the life of true godliness. And when we live in His power, as the people of God, we become the pillar and buttress of the truth, displaying the love and faithfulness of God to a world that desperately needs to see it.

Father, I cannot live a godly life without Your help. But by Your power, You have given “to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:3 ESV). Thank You for sending Your Son to not only save me, but to provide the means by which I can live a life that is pleasing to You. Amen

God-less Living Vs Godly Living.

2 Chronicles 11-12, 1 Timothy 2

When the rule of Rehoboam was established and he was strong, he abandoned the law of the Lord, and all Israel with him. – 2 Chronicles 12:1 ESV

After the split of the kingdom, Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, retained two tribes – Judah and Benjamin – as well as control of the city of Jerusalem. And when he made plans to attack Jeroboam and the people of Judah, God told him, “You shall not go up or fight against your relatives. Return every man to his home, for this thing is from me” (2 Chronicles 11:4 ESV). God had brought about the split of the kingdom because of the disobedience and unfaithfulness of Solomon. Because Rehoboam listened to the word of the Lord, he was able to maintain control over the nation of Judah. He even found that those living in the northern kingdom of Israel, who were appalled by Jeroboam's idolatry, soon joined forces with him and “they strengthened the kingdom of Judah, and for three years they made Rehoboam the son of Solomon secure, for they walked for three years in the way of David and Solomon” (2 Chronicles 11:17 ESV). In other words, they remained faithful to God for three years. Then something happened. “When the rule of Rehoboam was established and he was strong, he abandoned the law of the Lord, and all Israel with him” (2 Chronicles 12:1 ESV). As his kingdom became stronger, Rehoboam became increasingly more independent and saw less and less need for God. He let his success go to his head and it had a direct impact on his heart.

What does this passage reveal about God?

So God stepped in. He brought the Egyptians, along with the Libyans, Sukkum and Ethiopians against Jerusalem. And God made it clear to Rehoboam why this was taking place. “You abandoned me, so I have abandoned you to the hand of Shishak” (2 Chronicles 12:5 ESV). As had happened all throughout the period of the judges, God brought “plunderers” against His people in order to teach them a lesson. And this latest threat had the same impact as all those before them. “Then the princes of Israel and the king humbled themselves and said, ‘The Lord is righteous’” (2 Chronicles 12:6 ESV). They acknowledged that what God was doing was just, righteous and right. They deserved it. They were guilty. And when God saw their response, He said, “I will not destroy them, but I will grant them some deliverance, and my wrath shall not be poured out on Jerusalem by the hand of Shishak. Nevertheless, they shall be servants to him, that they may know my service and the service of the kingdoms of the countries” (2 Chronicles 12:7 ESV). The NET Bible translates that last line as, “Yet they will become his subjects, so they can experience how serving me differs from serving the surrounding nations.” They were going to learn the difference between faithfully serving God and having to unwillingly serve a pagan nation. God wanted His people to be godly. He wanted them to live with Him as the focal point of their individual and corporate lives. But because the people of Judah had turned their backs on God and, in essence, become God-less, He allowed them to experience what life could be like without Him. Shishak and the Egyptians ransacked the temple, taking away all the treasure David and Solomon had accrued. Yet, God spared Judah from complete destruction because they humbled themselves before Him, admitting their guilt and His justified actions against them.

What does this passage reveal about man?

It is amazing that God continued to bless Rehoboam in spite of all he had done to forsake Him. “So King Rehoboam grew strong in Jerusalem and reigned” (2 Chronicles 12:13 ESV). He would reign for 17 years in Jerusalem, “the city that the Lord had chosen out of all the tribes of Israel to put his name there” (2 Chronicles 12:13 ESV). And yet, Rehoboam would not learn from his mistakes. He would not respond to God's grace and mercy with godly living. Instead, “he did evil, for he did not set his heart to seek the Lord” (2 Chronicles 12:14 ESV). Like Israel's first king, Saul, and his own father, Solomon, Rehoboam would forsake God. He started out well, but finished poorly. He went from godliness to godlessness. And the amazing thing is that his actions took place even while God was in the midst of blessing him and prospering his kingdom. 

Over in the book of 1 Timothy, Paul encourages his readers to live godly lives. He challenges them to be people of prayer. He instructs them pray for “all people”, including kings and all who are in high places. His goal? “That we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (2 Timothy 2:2 ESV). Our prayers are to be focused on asking God to provide a safe and fertile environment in which to live god-focused lives so that we might influence the culture around us. We are to pray for an atmosphere in which we can live for God and share the good news of Jesus Christ with everyone we meet. Paul encourages the men to be prayerful, uncontentious, and not quarrelsome. He tells the women to be modest in their dress, respectable in their appearance, and self-controlled in their behavior. At the heart of Paul's message is the power of and need for prayer in the life of the believer. As Dr. Thomas L. Constable so clearly explains, “Prayer is so important because it invites God into the situation we pray about and it secures His working on behalf of those in need” (Dr. Constable's notes on 1 Timothy, 2007 Edition). Prayer expresses our dependence upon and need for God. It is at the core of godly living. To live a life without prayer is to live a god-less life. It communicates to Him that we have no need for Him in our lives. When Rehoboam and the people humbled themselves before God, they were acknowledging their need for His help and forgiveness.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

God desires His people to live godly lives – lives that are empowered by His Spirit, obedient to His Word, and dependent upon His help. To forsake God does not require that we completely turn our backs on Him or worship other gods in place of Him. It can simply mean that we have chosen not to depend on Him. We can become self-sufficient, autonomous in our decision making, and convinced that we can somehow live our lives in our own strength and according to our own wisdom. I can't help but keep reflecting on the fact that Solomon had wisdom and knowledge that had been given to him by God. Yet he ended up turning his back on God and worshiping idols made with human hands. Not exactly the wisest decision he could have made. But even godly wisdom is useless if we don't put it into effect. It is useless to us if we choose to disobey it. Godliness is nothing more than God-centeredness – living our lives completely dependent upon Him. It is leading peaceful and quiet lives, godly and dignified in every way. “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4 ESV). When we live godly lives, made possible through the work of Christ on the cross, we become living testimonies of God's grace and His life transforming power.

Father, I want to live godly. I want my life to reflect my dependence upon You and reveal Your power through me. I want to be a man of prayer, a man who lives to serve, please and obey You in all that I do. Amen

Robbing God of Glory.

2 Chronicles 9-10, 1 Timothy 1

To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. – 1 Timothy 1:17 ESV

Solomon had been given his wisdom and knowledge from God. His kingdom had been handed to him on a silver platter by God. He enjoyed immense wealth and unsurpassed peace as a result of God's good graces. Solomon had it all. In fact, he described his situation in great detail in the book of Ecclesiastes. “I made great works. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself. I made myself gardens and parks, and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees. I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees. I bought male and female slaves, and had slaves who were born in my house. I had also great possessions of herds and flocks, more than any who had been before me in Jerusalem. I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I got singers, both men and women, and many concubines, the delight of the sons of man. So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me. And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil” (Ecclesiastes 2:4-10 ESV). It seems that Solomon knew nothing of simplicity. His life was marked by ostentatiousness and overindulgence.

Solomon was not only wise and wealthy, he was famous. His reputation spread throughout the known world and attracted other dignitaries and royalty from other nations, including the Queen of Sheba. And Solomon was not shy about showing off his great wealth and impressing his guests with his wisdom. He seemed to enjoy it. But what is interesting is that the Queen of Sheba ended up worshiping Solomon, not God. She was more impressed with the creation than she was the Creator. She seemed to believe that God was blessed for having made Solomon king over His people. She even gave offerings to Solomon, but not to God. Somewhere along the way, Solomon had lost focus and wrongly assumed that he was the center of the universe, not God. Not once in this account does he attempt to deflect any of the praise, glory and honor given to him to God.

What does this passage reveal about God?

God had made it clear that He was a jealous God. “I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols” (Isaiah 42:8 ESV). He was not in the habit of sharing His glory with anyone or anything. Man existed for His glory. Creation was a testament to His glory. Solomon's wealth, wisdom, and kingdom, were intended to reflect God's glory. The nation of Israel existed because God had ordained it. Solomon's reign was a direct result of God's will and in keeping with His promise to David. Solomon should have used his great wisdom and wealth as a platform for declaring the glory and the greatness of God. Like his father, David, Solomon should have used his unique station in life as an opportunity to lift up the name and reputation of God. David had written, “I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever. Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable” (Psalm 145:1-3 ESV). But 2 Chronicles 9 begins with these telling words: “Now when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon…” (2 Chronicles 9:1 ESV). She came seeking Solomon, but he could have used the opportunity to introduce her to his God. God would give Solomon ample opportunity to spread the glory of His name among the nations. But it seems that they were more impressed with Solomon than they were with his God. “Thus King Solomon excelled all the kings of the earth in riches and in wisdom. And all the kings of the earth sought the presence of Solomon to hear his wisdom, which God had put into his mind” (2 Chronicles 9:22-23 ESV). Solomon existed for God's glory, but somehow he had turned that truth around. He had become the center of his own universe. 

What does this passage reveal about man?

Because Solomon ended up glorifying himself and worshiping false gods, he would find all his great wealth and wisdom meaningless and unfulfilling. “For of the wise as of the fool there is no enduring remembrance, seeing that in the days to come all will have been long forgotten. How the wise dies just like the fool! So I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me, for all is vanity and a striving after wind” (Ecclesiastes 2:16-17 ESV). His own self-confessed vanity would lead him to disobey God's commands, surrounding himself with great wealth, so much so that “silver was not considered as anything in the days of Solomon” (2 Chronicles 9:20 ESV). He even made himself a great throne made of ivory and overlaid with gold. He amassed thousands of horses and chariots. In fact, he imported horses from Egypt and all the lands – all in violation of God's commands. “Only he must not acquire many horses for himself or cause the people to return to Egypt in order to acquire many horses, since the Lord has said to you, ‘You shall never return that way again.’ And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold” (Deuteronomy 17:16-17 ESV).

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

Solomon had lost sight of the fact that his fame and fabulous wealth were God's doing, not his own. He existed for God's glory, not his own. As his fame spread, he began to believe his own press releases, somehow thinking himself special. But Solomon's greatness was all a result of God's graciousness and goodness. Solomon's wisdom and wealth were to be a testimony to God's blessing. Had Solomon remained grounded and remembered that he was totally undeserving of all that he had inherited, he would have been able to recognize the unbelievable grace of God in his life. Paul reminds me that I too must never forget just how blessed I am by God. Speaking of his own life, Paul writes, “formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 1:13-14 ESV). He fully understood that God had redeemed him in order that through his life, “Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life” (1 Timothy 1:16 ESV). Paul's life was a testimony to God's amazing grace. And Paul was more than willing to give God all the praise, glory and honor. Like Paul, I must learn to recognize God's greatness and grace in my own life. I am what I am because of Him, not me. I owe all that I have and all that I am to Him. When I lose sight of that fact, I can end up robbing God of glory. I can find myself making much of me, instead of making much of Him. But when I make myself my own god, I will reach the same sad conclusion Solomon did. “This also is vanity and a striving after wind” (Ecclesiastes 2:26 ESV). 

Father, forgive me for the many times I rob You of glory. Forgive me for making it all about me so much of the time. Help me to understand just how much I owe to You. I owe You not only my salvation, but my very existence. Never let me forget that “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17 ESV). Amen

The Goal of Godliness.

1 Timothy 6:11-21

But you, Timothy, are a man of God; so run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. – 1 Timothy 6:11 NLT

As Paul wraps up his letter to Timothy, he gives him one last charge. He calls him to live differently and to see he life as distinctive and set apart from all those around him, including those who are crave money and have wandered from the faith. Unlike the false teachers for whom godliness was merely a way to become wealthy, Timothy was to run from that kind of attitude and make true godliness his sole goal, along with ever-increasing faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. Paul tells him to "pursue" godliness – which in the Greek meant "to run swiftly in order to catch" or of one "who in a race runs swiftly to reach the goal." Money, materialism, popularity, power, pleasure, significance, comfort – none of these things were to be the focus of Timothy's life. And while Paul is addressing this last section of his letter to Timothy, it is really a call to all believers of every age. Paul had made it clear to Timothy that he was to "Teach these things … and encourage everyone to obey them. Some people may contradict our teaching, but these are the wholesome teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. These teachings promote a godly life" (1 Timothy 6:2-3 NLT). Everything Paul had shared in his letter was intended to be practiced and promoted among the people of God. As a leader, Timothy was to be an example of godly living to all those under his care. Paul had told Timothy, "Don't let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity" (1 Timothy 4:12 NLT).

As believers, our lives are always on display, and others are watching. Our behavior and conduct is constantly being witnessed by God Himself, our fellow believers and the lost. Paul wanted Timothy to live his life well and consistently. He told him to "fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you" (1 Timothy 6:12 NLT). For Paul, perseverance and consistency of faith was essential. He wanted Timothy to finish well. He wanted him to keep his eyes on the goal, which was the return of Christ. The reality of that event was to never be far from Timothy's heart and mind, so that he would live his life in such a way that no one could find fault with his character or conduct. There would certainly be those who disliked and disparaged his life because he lived it for God, just as Paul had experienced. Suffering for the sake of Christ was always acceptable and expected. But Pauldidn't want Timothy to do anything that would harm his reputation as a believer or bring dishonor to God.

Paul gives Timothy one last message concerning those who are rich in the things of this world. He doesn't condemn them, but simply warns them that they are not to put their trust in their money, because it is unreliable. It makes a lousy god. Instead, they were to put their trust in God, who is the ultimate provider of all that we need. Those who had been blessed with money were to see it as a God-provided resource to be used for the care of others and the cause of the Kingdom of God. They were to be "rich" in good works and generous to those in need. God called them while they wealthy, so God must have had a purpose for placing them in the body of Christ in that condition. By focusing their attention on obedience to God and service to others, they would learn that their wealth was just a tool in the hands of God, not a treasure to be horded and held onto.

Some of Paul's last words to Timothy were, "guard what God has entrusted to you" (1 Timothy 6:20 NLT). He was to see his own salvation and the news of salvation through Jesus Christ as invaluable and worthy of his constant protection. Leadership in the body of Christ is a dangerous calling and it comes with great responsibilities. Timothy had been entrusted with the message of the Gospel and the care of the flock of Jesus Christ. He had an obligation to put the needs of the congregation ahead of his own. And yet, he was also to guard himself – watching over his character and conduct constantly. The same message applied to Timothy that Paul shared with the elders from Ephesus: "So guard yourselves and God's people. Feed and shepherd God's flock – his church, purchased with his own blood – over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as elders" (Acts 20:28 NLT). The goal for all spiritual leaders should be godliness – not only for themselves, but for all those under their care. But godliness without God's grace is impossible. This journey of faith to which we have been called is only possible through an ever-increasing dependence upon God. We need His Word to teach and guide us. We need His Spirit to empower us. We need His grace and mercy to miraculously meet us where we are along the way and constantly remind us that godliness is our one and only calling.

Father, make us godly. Continue to mold and make us into the likeness of Your Son. Keep us focused on the one and only goal that we should all have – our godliness. Don't let us get distracted by the things of this world. Prevent us from loving the world more than we love You. May our godliness as individuals and as members of the body of Christ be what drives and motivates us all the days of our lives – until You call us home or send Your Son to come and get us. Amen.

True Godliness.

1 Timothy 6:1-10

Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content. – 1 Timothy 6:6-8 NLT

True godliness should make a difference in the way we live our lives. In this short series of verses, Paul addresses three different groups of people in the church in Ephesus. His point was to remind Timothy that the Christian faith was to be a practical part of everyday life. It was to make a difference in the way believers lived and interacted with the world around them. First, he addresses slaves – specifically those slaves who had come to faith in Christ and were now part of the body of Christ. Slavery was a huge part of the culture in Ephesus, with all kinds of slaves living and working in the community. Some had been sold into slavery. Others had been forced into slavery because they had been unable to pay their debts. And these slaves would have been of various backgrounds and cultures. There would have been both Jewish and Gentile slaves. But the ones to whom Paul is referring are believing slaves – those who had placed their faith in Jesus Christ and were now part of the local fellowship in Ephesus. Paul encourages Timothy to teach these individuals to show respect to their masters and to work hard. Paul doesn't spend time condemning slavery or attempting to disrupt the social fabric of his day. He doesn't condone slavery, but neither does he condemn it. He simply wants those who find themselves impacted by it to live their lives in a way that would honor God and illustrate godly behavior. In his letter to Philemon, a Christian slave owner, Paul was asking him to receive back Onesimus, a runaway slave who had become a believer. Paul encouraged Philemon, "he is no longer like a slave to you. He is more than a slave, for he is a beloved brother, especially to me. Now he will mean much more to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord" (Philemon 1:16 NLT). Faith in Christ does not always change our circumstances, but it does change the way we should live within them.

The next group Paul addressed were false teachers – those who were contradicting Paul's teaching and stirring up "arguments ending in jealousy, division, slander, and evil suspicions" (1 Timothy 6:4 NLT). These individuals were obsessed with arrogant and lacked true understanding. They had turned their back on the truth of God and were concocting their own version of the truth. And their motivation was purely selfish and financial in nature. Paul said, "to them, a show of godliness is just a way to become wealthy" (1 Timothy 6:5 NLT). Their ministry was materially motivated. And their godliness was all for show.

But Paul had a different understanding of godliness. It was to be, in and of itself, the objective. It was not to be a means to and end. Godliness was not to be used as a device to gain respect, power, or financial gain. It was sufficient in and of itself. And when godliness was accompanied with contentment, it would prove more than profitable to an individual's life. That's why a godly slave could remain a slave and be content with his lot in life. Circumstances have little or nothing to do with godliness and should have virtually no impact on the degree of our contentment. Godliness is not dependent upon material possessions. The godly individual does not rely upon the accumulation of things to find contentment. Which is why Paul writes, "So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content" (1 Timothy 6:8 NLT). The motivation of the false teachers was money. The motivation of the godly is Christ.

Paul ends up this section talking about those who love money. Each of these three groups were part of the church in Ephesus. There were slaves, false teachers and lovers of money participating in the body of Christ there. And not all those who had a love affair with money were false teachers. There were obviously some who had much and wanted more, and there were those who had little and dreamed of having more. In both cases, the love of money would prove to be dangerous. "…people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction" (1 Timothy 6:9 NLT). Their lives are not marked by contentment. Godliness is not their goal, the accumulation of wealth is. God is not their provider and protector, money is. Paul does not condemn money or wealth. He simply points out that the love of it and obsession over it is potentially harmful for the believer. It can have devastating consequences on a believer's pursuit of godliness.

True godliness is accompanied by contentment. The desire for more of anything, other than Christ, can be deadly to the believer. The desire for something other than Christ for our contentment, joy, fulfillment and hope can also prove to be harmful to our spiritual maturity. Slaves needed to be content with their circumstances and live godly lives right where they were. The false teachers needed to be content with the truth of God's Word and the message of Jesus Christ, just as it had been preached, and live godly lives without expecting any financial reward in return. Those who loved and long for money were to be content with their current financial status and live godly lives regardless of how little or how much money they had. Godliness combined with contentment is the real currency of God's Kingdom.

Father, may we learn to pursue godliness more than anything else in this earth? We get so obsessed with changing our circumstances, thinking thatis the key to happiness and contentment. But the reality is that You are and have always been the only source of contentment for our lives. Help us to continue to discover that true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. Amen.

Choose Wisely.

1 Timothy 5:17-25

Remember, the sins of some people are obvious, leading them to certain judgment. But there are others whose sins will not be revealed until later. In the same way, the good deeds of some people are obvious. And the good deeds done in secret will someday come to light. – 1 Timothy 5:24-25 NLT

Paul has already addressed the qualifications for elders earlier in his letter, but now he deals with the more practical realities of how Timothy is to interact with these essential church leaders. It's interesting that he chooses to address elders immediately after giving Timothy advice on how to care for widows in the church. It would seem that, to Paul, both groups are important to the life of the church, and neither are to be overlooked or taken for granted. It would be easy to forget about widows in the church because they tend to be out-of-sight, out-of-mind even in society. Paul didn't want that to happen in the church as well. But the same thing could be said of elders. Once a man is chosen to serve as an elder, it would be easy to overlook him and just assume that all is well and that his spiritual life is just fine. It would also be easy to take these men for granted and end up neglecting their needs or failing to show gratitude for the significant role they play in the health and care of the church.

So Paul tells Timothy to care for those men who voluntarily commit their time, talent and energies to the oversight of the local church. They should be honored, respected and cared for, especially those who preach and teach. In the early days of the church, these men may have received financial compensation for the time they spent minister to the spiritual needs of the church. It would appear that they may have been bi-vocational, holding down secular jobs and sacrificing part of their work hours to serving the needs of the church. Serving as an elder, which would have included teaching, preaching, leading, and praying for the local congregation, would have been a time-consuming job. So Paul encourages Timothy to ensure that these men are taken care of adequately. Quoting Deuteronomy 25:4, Paul compares the efforts of an elder to those of an ox used to tread grain. "You must not muzzle an ox to keep it from eating as it treads out the grain." An ox, as it pulled a stone wheel over the stalks of wheat to separate out the grain, was allowed to reach down and eat as it worked, providing it with incentive to continue to do its job. In a similar manner, elders who worked hard on behalf of the body of Christ, should be compensated and cared for, in order to reward and encourage them for the efforts.

And because elders served in a leadership capacity, they were going to be open to criticism and accusations. There would be those who disagreed with their teaching and disliked their leadership at times. Paul tells Timothy to "not listen to an accusation against an elder unless it is confirmed by two or three witnesses" (1 Timothy 5:19 NLT). He was to give these men the benefit of the doubt, refusing to take at face value the word of one individual who might bring an accusation against an elder. If Paul were to ever discover that an elder has sinned, he was to confront them in private, and if that man proved unrepentant, he was to be reprimanded before the entire congregation, serving as a strong warning to the other elders and reinforcing the seriousness of their role as the spiritual leaders of the church. In all of this, Timothy was to act as an objective party, not showing favoritism or taking sides. While treating elders with respect and honor, he was not to unfairly side with them over and against the congregation.

Paul also warns Timothy not to be too hasty when appointing elders. To lay hands on a man, ordaining him for this highly important spiritual role, was a serious matter and should be done soberly and carefully. The one who appoints a man to this high office, only to find out that he is unqualified for some reason, shares in his sin and shame. He is culpable for having put the congregation at risk. So Timothy was to be extremely careful when selecting men for the role of elder. But Paul knows that not all sins are obvious at first glance. There would inevitably be those cases where a man was appointed to the position of elder, only to find out later that he had some hidden sin in his life that disqualified him. It was going to happen and, when it did, Timothy would have to deal with it. But there would also be cases in which a man's good character might lie hidden and unseen. There would be those men in the church who were less obvious and whose good deeds were done behind the scenes, out of sight and unrecognized by those in the congregation. That's why it was so important for Timothy to choose carefully. The "obvious" candidates are not always the right candidate. He must look into the hidden character of each man considered for the role of elder. As God told the prophet Samuel when he was looking for the next king of Israel, "The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7 NLT).

Finally, Paul gives Timothy a little personal health advice. Knowing that all of this could prove to be stressful for Timothy and that this young man suffered from some sort of ongoing health issues, Paul recommends that Timothy "drink a little wine for the sake of your stomach because you are sick so often" (1 Timothy 5:23 NLT). Leading a church can be difficult and stressful. It is a huge responsibility and must be taken seriously. So Paul pleads with Timothy to take care of himself. He must be in good health if he is going to care for the body of Christ well.

Father, leadership in the church is serious business. Forgive us for taking it so lightly at times and for taking those who lead us for granted too often. May we hold these men in high regard, but at the same time, may we hold them to a higher standard. Help us to choose wisely and esteem them highly at all times. Far too often, we take our pastors and elders for granted, seldom considering their spiritual well-being. Their role in the ongoing health of the church is essential. May we never take them for granted. Amen.

Family Matters.

1 Timothy 5:1-16

Never speak harshly to an older man, but appeal to him respectfully as you would to your own father. Talk to younger men as you would to your own brothers. Treat older women as you would your mother, and treat younger women with all purity as you would your own sisters. – 1 Timothy 5:1-2 NLT

In the closing part of chapter 4, Paul gives Timothy three essential tasks he must master if he wants to be successful as a man of God. He must teach others, train himself to live a godly life, and he must typify with his life what it means to love and serve God. Now Paul gets even more practical, giving Timothy concrete examples of how to apply what he is learning to everyday life within the body of Christ. While Paul has encouraged Timothy to never "let anyone think less of you because you are young" (1 Timothy 4:12 NLT), he is also not to arrogantly flaunt his position as a shepherd of God and treat those under his care with disrespect. He is to give special attention to his relationships with older men and women in the church, honoring them as he would his own father and mother – giving them the respect they are due. And he to look on those younger men and women in the church as his brothers and sisters in Christ, showing the younger men dignity and interacting with the younger women in purity. Paul wants Timothy to know that being a minister of the Gospel isn't just about disseminating information and doling out discipline to the unruly and unfaithful. Everything hinges on relationships. The church is a family. It is a God-ordained collection of individuals from all walks of life who have been divinely joined together and commanded to care for, love and support on another. Personality conflicts, disagreements, residual sin natures, and personal problems will all tend to cause conflict within the local body of Christ. Timothy needed to know how to deal with the practical side of ministry – dealing with people and problems.

There are always constant needs within the church. In Paul's day, widows were a significant concern, because in that culture, they tended to be overlooked and neglected. Women were often considered second-class citizens with few rights and privileges. Marriage was their safety net. Being a wife and mother was a necessity for most women, providing a roof over their heads, a source of respect within the community, and a means of making ends meet in a culture where jobs for women were few and far between. That's why widows were especially vulnerable. They were viewed as having little value, and were neglected by the culture at large. But Paul encouraged Timothy to care for those widows who had become part of the family of God. He was to see to it that they were cared for, knowing that these women were looking to God as their help and source of hope. The church was to be the hands and feet of Christ, ministering to these women, ensuring that their families were caring for them properly. When there was no family to meet their needs, Timothy was to make sure that the family of God stepped in and cared for them properly.

As usual, these cases are never cut-and-dried. There are always underlying circumstances that must be considered and dealt with. It would be so much easier if we could just say, "Take care of the widows in the church." But there are always insinuating circumstances that make our decisions a bit more difficult and more grey than black-and-white. Timothy was to consider and all circumstances regarding widows. He had to consider their age, existing family relationships, and most importantly, their character. Not every woman who was a widow was to be the responsibility of the church. Careful consideration was to be taken when investigating the needs of these women. In some cases, their families were to be confronted and held accountable for having refused to step in and care for their own. Obviously, there were cases where sons and daughters had chosen to neglect the needs of their own mothers. This was unacceptable and the church was not obligated to take on their responsibility. Younger widows were not added to the "list" of those who received regular support from the church. It was still possible that they could remarry and have their own families and a means of support. It would appear from Paul's statements that the older widows who received care from the church willingly dedicate their lives and service to the body of Christ in return for financial support. They evidently vowed to not remarry, instead giving themselves in service to God. Younger women, if added to this list, if presented with the opportunity to remarry, would find it hard to live out that kind of commitment.

This is a very specific issue that was a real problem in the church in Ephesus. It is less a principle or law establishing the biblical requirements for how to care for widows in the local church than it is a glimpse into the kind of careful consideration that must be applied by shepherds when caring for their flock. The bottom line is that the church is all about relationships. It can be messy and, at times, difficult. There are always variables and certain circumstances that make decision making anything but easy. There are many things to consider when dealing with people and relationships. We must often apply a careful combination of biblical wisdom and common sense.  We must do our homework, considering carefully and prayerfully what God would have us do, always striving to treat all with dignity, respect and honor.

Father, the church can be messy at time. It is filled with so many individuals and so many potential conflicts. The needs are great and sometimes they can seem overwhelming. When it comes to making decisions, it isn't always a case of black-and-white. We have to take the time to find out what is going on and determine what it is You would have us do. Thank You for providing the Holy Spirit as a means of guidance and Your Word as a reliable source of wisdom. Help us learn to live together in love and unity, illustrating for the lost world what it means to be the family of God. Amen

The Exemplary Life.

1 Timothy 4:6-16

Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity. – 1 Timothy 4:12 NLT

Our lives are meant to make a difference. But not in the way that the world would have us believe. In this age, the sign of significance is measured in assets, popularity, job title, income, the neighborhood we live in, the kind of car we drive, or even the number of friends we have on Facebook. We live to impress. We exist to consume. We long to make a different in the world, but the terms by which we measure the success of our contribution can be shallow and exceedingly temporal. Paul would have Timothy use a different standard. He wanted this young man to keep his eyes focused on what really mattered, so he gave him a few basic tips to living a life that truly makes a difference.

First, he tells him to teach. Paul wanted Timothy to take what he was learning and share it with those all around him. Knowledge that is never shared is wasted. Wisdom that is never passed on to others ends up being selfish and senseless. Paul's letter to Timothy wasn't meant for him alone. Paul's intention was that Timothy teach the truths contained within it to those under his care. He told him to "explain these things to the brothers and sisters." He challenged him to "teach these things and insist that everyone learn them." The truths of God's Word are meant to be shared, not horded. We are to pass on what we learn.

Secondly, Timothy was to train. And Paul was quite specific when it came to the kind of training he was talking about. Paul said, "train yourself to be godly." The Greek word Paul uses is gymnazō and it means "to exercise vigorously, in any way, either the body or the mind." It is the word from which we get gymnasium. Paul was expecting Timothy to put effort into his pursuit of the spiritual life. Godliness is to be our goal in life, not material success, financial reward, physical health, or personal fulfillment. Paul reminds Timothy that he will receive far greater benefits from the pursuit of a healthy and vibrant spiritual life than he ever will from getting into better shape. Godliness has both temporal and eternal ramifications for the life of the believer. We benefit in the here-and-now as well as the hereafter.

Third, Paul tells Timothy to typify what a believer looks like. He was to be an example of godliness to those around him – in every area of his life. In the way he lived, in his love, his faith, and through a life of purity. Purity includes sexual purity and integrity of heart. The Christian life is to be a holistic life – with no compartmentalization. In other words, there are no hidden or secret areas where the light of God's transformative power does not shine. Timothy's godliness was to touch every area of his life and it was to be a clear model of Christ-likeness to all those around him. And Timothy's young age was to have nothing to do with it. Godliness is ageless. It has nothing to do with the number of years we spend on this planet. But it has everything to do with the amount of time we spend in the Word, with the Lord, and submitted to the Holy Spirit. Godliness is to be lived out for other to see.

Paul gives Timothy one final charge: "Give your complete attention to these matters. Throw yourself into your tasks so that everyone will see your progress. Keep a close watch on how you live and on your teaching. Stay true to what is right for the sake of your own salvation and the salvation of those who hear you" (1 Timothy 4:15-16 NLT). Timothy was to teach others, train himself and typify the life of a believer. And he was to throw his entire energy into making this a reality in his life. The Christian life is not to be a half-hearted life. It's a full-time job that requires our constant attention. We have to regularly examine how we're doing and assess our spiritual well-being. There is no room for complacency or contentment with the status quo. There will be constant distractions along the way. We will be tempted to become satisfied with where we are and how far we've come. But Paul warned Timothy that the goal will not be realized on this earth. Our salvation will be consummated in heaven, not here. This life is not to be all there is. This world is not out home – we're just passing through on our way to somewhere better. Our salvation awaits our glorification. That is our ultimate goal and objective. That's why Paul told Timothy to train himself for godliness. Eventually, our godliness will be complete. We will be done with all the training. We will be finished with the race and done with all the exercise. John reminds us, "Dear friends, we are already God's children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is" (1 John 3:2 NLT). That day is coming. But in the meantime, we are to teach, train and typify. So let's get busy!

Father, give us focus. Help us to not lose sight of the goal – our godliness. It is so easy to let the things of this earth distract and derail us doing what You have called us to do. We need to be about teaching Your truth, training ourselves for godliness and typifying for the world around us what a true Christian looks like. May we take these tasks seriously. May we pursue them diligently – until You call us home or Your Son returns. Amen.

The Foundation of the Truth.

1 Timothy 3:14-4:5

I am writing these things to you now, even though I hope to be with you soon, so that if I am delayed, you will know how people must conduct themselves in the household of God. This is the church of the living God, which is the pillar and foundation of the truth. – 1 Timothy 3:14-15 NLT

The world in which Paul lived was mired in falsehood, much like it is today. This world is the domain of Satan, who is the father of lies (John 8:44). Everything in this world is deceptive and deceitful. As Satan has always done, he has taken what God has made and attempted to distort and twist it in such a way that it leads mankind away from God. As Paul stated in Romans, "And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles" (Romans 1:21-23 NLT). As a result, "They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself" (Romans 1:25 NLT). John reminds us that Jesus "came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him" (John 1:10-11 NLT). Men preferred the darkness over the Light. They rejected the Truth over the lie in which they were living.

So Paul tells Timothy that the church, the body of Christ, is now the instrument of God to spread and support the truth of God in this world. His whole purpose in writing Timothy is to help him understand how people are to live within the household of God, the church. And I think Paul is specifically thinking about the local church context. The local church is the testing ground of our faith. It is where the truth must be applied with love and grace. Even God's life-transforming power made possible through Jesus' death on the cross doesn't work the local body of believers, we are hopeless. But Paul believed it could and should. First and foremost, the church is a household, a family. It is not an institution or organization. It is a collection of different individuals who have all shared in God's undeserved, unmerited favor by placing their faith in Jesus Christ. They have been adopted into God's family and been declared His heirs, all due to the sacrificial, sin-cancelling death of Jesus Christ on the cross. Paul describes this as the great mystery of our faith. "Christwas revealed in a human body and vindicated by the Spirit. He was seen by angels and announced to the nations. He was believed in throughout the world and taken to heaven in glory" (1 Timothy 3:16 NLT).

This is the truth of God's redemptive plan for mankind. It is this truth that the church is to support and uphold. There is no other version of the truth. It is this truth that leads to godliness. It is this truth that makes the church a living organism, not an organization. It is this truth that provides power through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. It is this truth that gives us hope for the present as well as the future. The church, the body of Christ, is where the message of new life in Christ gets lived out, and where the Light of the world illuminates the darkness of this world. And Paul knew the necessity of the these things because he had seen firsthand the impact of falsehood and heresy within the local church. The enemy was alive and well in his day, attacking the fledgling churches with half-truths, convincing lies, and distorted views of reality. Where there is truth, there will always be falsehood. The Good News regarding Jesus Christ would always be accompanied by counterfeits and knockoffs. One of the things Paul was constantly fighting was the tendency for people to buy into the formula of Jesus + something. Anything that added to Christ's all-sufficient work on the cross was to be rejected as false – a lie from the enemy.

The real and constant danger to the church is compromise. If the enemy can get us to compromise our convictions by ever-so-slight revisions to the truth of God, he can destroy our effectiveness. It is exactly what he did with Adam and Eve in the garden. He got them to question the word of God by cleverly twisting it – leading them to doubt it's veracity and reliability. But the church must be the pillar that supports the truth in the midst of all the falsehood and lies. And the lies Paul warns Timothy about are subtle and deceptive. Whether it was asceticism, the belief that abstinence from certain physical things leads to spiritual maturity, or legalism, the belief that adherence to certain rules and rituals were essential to salvation – these things were to be rejected as lies. They had no place in the household of God. They were dangerous and highly destructive. The key to the church's survival in the hostile environment in which it is called to exist is the truth. We are called to be a "faithful people who know the truth" (1 Timothy 4:3 NLT). It is the truth of God, found in the Word of God, that gives the people of God the capacity to see the lies of the enemy and reject them. Knowledge of the truth brings health and vitality to the body of Christ. Living according to the truth makes the people of God a powerful force for change in the world, causing us to shine brightly in the darkness that surrounds us. Compromise is like a blanket thrown over the church, diminishing its capacity to shine.

Father, we are Your ambassadors and emissaries. Show us how to live in such a way that we truly are the pillar and support of the truth. May the local bodies of Christ around the world become agents of change and beacons of light in the darkness. But for that to happen, we must stand on and stand up for the truth. Your Word must become our only source of truth. Give us the capacity to spot falsehood and reject it for what it is – the lies of the enemy. The world is full of deception. May we become the standard for truth in the midst of all the deceit and distortion. Amen.

A Worthy Aspiration.

1 Timothy 3:1-13

This is a trustworthy saying: “If someone aspires to be an elder, he desires an honorable position.” – 1 Timothy 3:1 NLT

All men aspire to something. They each have goals and ambitions for which they dedicate their time, talents, and energies. For some men, having a successful career is their greatest ambition and it impacts their entire lives, as they spend every waking moment attempting to make it happen. A few men have legitimate and realistic aspirations for making a name for themselves in the competitive world of sports. Then there are those who simply aspire to be good employees, fathers, husbands, friends and members of the community. But Paul would give us a different aspiration. He would encourage us to aspire to something of a slightly higher nature. It is a job with few perks, a lot of responsibilities, high expectations, no income, a certain degree of anonymity, and some pretty lofty hiring guidelines.

The job Paul would have us consider is that of an elder in the local church. He states, 'If someone aspires to be an elder,he desires an honorable position." The word he uses that is translated "aspires" is the Greek word, oregō which means "to stretch one's self out in order to touch or to grasp something, to reach after or desire something." But it had another meaning as well: "to give one's self up to the love of money." In fact, Paul uses this secondary meaning in chapter 6 when talking about the love of money. "For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows" (1 Timothy 6:10 NLT). It's interesting that one of the qualifications or characteristics that Paul gives for an elder is that he must not love money, because money will become his aspiration.

Instead, Paul tells Timothy that it is a good thing to aspire to be an elder. But it would seem that Paul's emphasis is less on the idea of a position or job, than on the qualities of the kind of man who would be recognized to fill it. Paul does not go into great detail on the job description of an elder. Instead. he points out the character requirements necessary to be considered as an elder. And I would argue that these qualities should be the aspiration of every God-fearing, Christ-following man in the church today. The Greek word Paul uses is episkopē and it means "overseer." Paul seems to use it almost synonymously with another Greek word, presbuteros, which typically gets translated "elder." Both words convey the idea of someone who has authority for and responsibility over the spiritual well-being of the flock of God. In the book of Acts, we have recorded a meeting between Paul and the elders from the church in Ephesus where he warned them, "So guard yourselves and God's people. Feed and shepherd God's flock--his church, purchased with his own blood – over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as elders" (Acts 20:28 NLT). Elders had a high calling and a lofty responsibility to guard both themselves and the people of God. Therefore, they had to be godly men of strong character and impeccable morals. They didn't have to be perfect, but they did have to strive to be blameless and above reproach in every area of their lives. It is interesting that the characteristics that Paul lists cover just about every area of a man's life. An elder had to be a man with no compartmentalization in his life – no hidden or secret areas. His home life was just as important as his church life. Every one of the things that Paul lists would have been easy to assess and ascertain – by just about anyone in the church. The qualities Paul lays out are visible or external, open for anyone and everyone to see and evaluate. But they reflect an inner character that flows out into every area of life. The kind of men who were to be considered as elders were men whose hearts had been are were continuing to be transformed by God. They were men who were living under the control of and in the power provided by the Holy Spirit.

But shouldn't the qualities and characteristics Paul outlines be the aspiration of every man? Why wouldn't every man of God aspire to live the kind of life Paul describes, whether he ever gets appointed as an elder or not? The church needs men who are above reproach, faithful to their wives, self-controlled, wise, with good reputations, hospitable, moderate in all things, gentle in spirit, the spiritual leaders in their homes, and respected in their communities. The local church should be filled to the brim with men who are viable candidates for eldership. Remember, Paul told Timothy that if a man aspires to be an elder, he desires an honorable position. To aspire is "to stretch one's self out in order to touch or to grasp something, to reach after or desire something." What we should desire as men is not the role or responsibility, but the character of an elder. The position is honorable because the men who occupy it are honorable. Their character is Christ-like and holy. They are not perfect, but they are men who are willingly and regularly being perfected by God. The church needs more men like that today.

Father, some of us aspire for a position more than we do the character required to qualify for that position. We want to be recognized as something and fail to realize that our character is what qualifies us for that for which we aspire. You desire all men to aspire to live their lives in such as way that they naturally qualify to be elders in the local church. Raise us a generation of men whose lives qualify them to shepherd Your flock. We need shepherds today. We need men who, like David, are men after Your own heart, who love Your sheep just as much as You do. Amen.

Sound Teaching and Teachers Needed.

1 Timothy 1:1-11

The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith. – 1 Timothy 1:5 NLT

Timothy was Paul's disciple. He had evidently been led to the Lord by Paul during one of Paul's missionary travels to Lystra. During Paul's second missionary journey, Timothy accompanied him to the cities of Troas, Philippi, Berea, Thessalonica, Athens, and Corinth. Timothy was a part of Paul's third missionary journey to the city of Ephesus, and was sent by Paul to minister on his own in the region of Macedonia. This young man also made it to Rome while Paul was there under house arrest. He was well-traveled and well-respected by Paul, having earned the apostle's trust. Paul had sent him to the city of Ephesus, where Timothy was ministering when he received this first letter from Paul. Timothy had evidently written Paul, sharing his desire to return to his side and accompany him in his ministry. But Paul was going to break the news to Timothy that he was needed right where he was. In fact, verse three tells us that when Paul and Timothy went to Ephesus on that third missionary journey, Paul went on to Macedonia, leaving Timothy behind with a job to do. "When I left for Macedonia, I urged you to stay there in Ephesus and stop those whose teaching is contrary to the truth."

By this time in the story of the spread of the Gospel, there were churches all over that area of the world. The Good News was spreading fast and people were coming to faith in Christ at an incredible rate. The problem was that there were far too few men who were equipped to minister to the large numbers of churches springing up. There were infant believers everywhere and no one to lead and feed them. Paul was limited. Much of his time had been spent in prison or under house arrest. He couldn't be everywhere at once. There were no seminaries churning out pastors and teachers. There were no schools raising up and equipping elders for the local churches. But there seemed to be no shortage of false teachers and ill-informed individuals with potentially destructive viewpoints on a wide range of topics. So Paul turned to Timothy. Yes, he was young. He was inexperienced. But he was needed. Knowing that this young man was probably feeling a bit overwhelmed by the task at hand, Paul reminded him what the true purpose of all biblical instruction should be about. "The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith" (1 Timothy 1:5 NLT).

Paul's letters to Timothy have less to do with the teaching of doctrine than the defense of it. The content is practical, not theological. Paul wants Timothy to know how to encourage the believers in Ephesus toward true life change, marked by love that manifests itself in daily life. Paul is looking for practical expressions of love. He knows that there are three things that will prevent that from happening in any believer's life: An impure heart, a conscience that is burdened by shame, and a lack of trust in God. This is basic stuff. It trumps a head full of theology and doctrine every time. But Paul warns Timothy, "some people have missed this whole point. They have turned away from these things and spend their time in meaningless discussions" (1 Timothy 1:6 NLT). Somewhere along the way, they had become obsessed with things that were not resulting in increased faith and love. Debating had replaced serving. Controversy had become more popular than showing mercy and expressing love to one another. Paul had warned the elders in Ephesus, "some men from your own group will rise up and distort the truth in order to draw a following: (Acts 20:30 NLT). These "false teachers, like vicious wolves, will come in among you after I leave, not sparing the flock" (Acts 20:29 NLT).

The main problem seems to have revolved around incorrect teaching regarding the law of Moses. There were those who were presenting their interpretations of the law and its application to the lives of believers, and their instructions were wreaking havoc on the health of the church. Their focus was not on increasing the love and faith of the people of God, but on being seen as experts on the topic at hand. Paul tells Timothy, "they want to be known as teachers of the law of Moses, but they don’t know what they are talking about, even though they speak so confidently" (1 Timothy 1:7 NLT). These individuals were cocky and confident, assured that their view was the right one. And all of this discussion and debating was causing confusion and conflict within the church. Paul reminds Timothy that love should be the primary motivation for any teacher of the Word of God. Teaching that does not edify and instruction that does not increase faith is misapplied and misses the point. Debating doctrine is useless if it does not ultimately foster more love for God and others. If it does not produce increased devotion to and dependence on God, it is a waste of time.

Which is why the church at Ephesus needed Timothy, and the church today needs men and women who understand that increasing the love and faith of the people of God are the primary responsibility of those who teach the Word of God. Knowledge alone is not enough. It produces pride. Doctrine by itself is insufficient. It can become sterile and little more than head-knowledge. Theology, even that which is sound and biblically-based, is incomplete if it does not result in more love and greater faith.

Father, the church is still in need of those who will take seriously the teaching of Your Word. But we need to understand that our motivation needs to be the same that Paul had. We want to help those we teach havehearts free from impurity, consciences free from disabling shame, and genuine faith in You. That way, their lives will reflect true love for You and others, and a growing faith in You. Amen.


The Great Gain of Godliness.

1 Timothy 6

But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. – Vs 6

Godliness and contentment. The two go hand in hand. They are inseparable. You cannot have one without the other. That seems to be Paul's message to Timothy in this chapter. There were those in the church in Ephesus where Timothy was ministering who "supposed that godliness is a means of gain" (Vs 5). These individuals were "men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth." They were pursuing godliness for what they could get out of it, and most likely it was financial gain they were seeking. They were "those who want to get rich" (Vs 9) and whose lives were characterized by a "love of money" (Vs 10). But Paul tells Timothy that they were missing something in their pursuit of godliness: CONTENTMENT.

They had their priorities out of whack. They were seeking from a life of godliness what it was never intended to deliver – financial gain. But Paul stresses that there really is great gain from a life of seeking God, but it is must be accompanied with contentment. It will involve faith, not financial gain. There will be a realization that the things of this world are of no value when put up against the value of having a relationship with God. This is a common theme for Paul and one he expresses quite well in his letter to the Philippian church:

I once thought all these things were so very important, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I may have Christ and become one with him. – Philippians 3:7-8 (NLT)

Paul was willing to give up everything and anything in order to make knowing Christ his highest priority. He was content with having food and covering, if he could have Christ. For him, it was better to run from the love of money and the things of this world than to risk having his faith compromised and his priorities skewed. He tells Timothy to do the same thing:

But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. – Vs 11

He tells Timothy, and us to:

Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called. – Vs 12

For Paul, this was serious business. Anything that distracts us from our pursuit of godliness – an intimate relationship of dependence on God – should be run away from like a dangerous predator. Anything that we seek other than God, in an effort to find contentment, should be seen as what it is – a dangerous diversion from the truth. And in our world today we are surrounded by all kinds of diversions. They distract and detour us off the path of godliness. They tempt us with offers of false contentment. They assure us that they can meet our needs and bring us fulfillment. These diversions take the form of financial gain, personal comfort, materialism, entertainment, power, prominence, and any other thing that we tend to fix our hope (Vs 17). Instead, we are to fix our hope on God, "who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy" (Vs 17).

Contentment. Do you have it? Are you enjoying it? It goes hand in hand with a life of godliness. They are inseparable. You can't have one without the other. Is it enough for you to have God? Are you willing to let go of everything else, even run from it, in order to gain Christ? There is nothing inherently evil in money and things, but they can be dangerous to a serious-minded believer. They can become distractions and diversions that keep us from finding our contentment in a life of godliness. So, "flee from these things, you man (or woman) of God" (Vs 11).

Father, give me the strength to run away from the love of money and the temptation to find my contentment in anything other than You. Open my eyes so that I can see the truth behind the lies that surround me and bombard me daily. Don't let me buy into their offers of satisfaction and fulfillment apart from You. Don't let me become distracted by the things of this world. Help me pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness" and to find my walk with you accompanied by contentment. Amen

Visible Godliness.

1 Timothy 5

…deeds that are good are quite evident, and those which are otherwise cannot be concealed – Vs 25

In this chapter, Paul starts dealing with some very specific issues and groups within the church. He talks about neglected widows and neglectful husbands. He discusses the compensation for worthy elders and even the medicinal use of wine for Timothy's ongoing stomach problems. But the verse that jumped out the most to me was the very last one in this chapter. He simple says, "…deeds that are good are quite evident, and those which are otherwise cannot be concealed." The Message puts it this way:

The same with good deeds. Some you see right off, but none are hidden forever.

Paul has been dealing with a lot of relationship issues. Remember, chapter three talked about our conduct in the household of God. Chapter four talked about exercising spiritual discipline. Now he is getting into specifics of what conduct or behavior in the household of God should look like. He gets very practical and specific. But the bottom line is that our good deeds, like our sins, are very visible. They are right out there for others to see. When we do what is right, when we exercise godliness, when we do good deeds, others can see them. They are hard to hide. But our "bad" deeds, while hidden for a while, will also come to light. They'll show up sooner or later. Just as our sins cannot stay hidden for long.

This is still all about conduct within the church. It is about relationships within the body. Paul is encouraging young Timothy and us to be discipline ourselves to live lives that exhibit good deeds. Not for any accolades or applause we may receive, but because they are profitable for us as individual believers and for the family of God. Do them and they will be readily visible to all around. Fail to do them or do deeds that are selfish and self-centered, and they will become evident as well. But they will not be profitable for anything.

As we discipline ourselves for the purpose of godliness, our deeds will become evident. Our godliness will become visible through our actions. Our heart transformation will influence our behavior toward one another. And the world will see.

Father, help me to be a man whose good deeds come from my pursuit of godliness. Let them be the by-product of a disciplined pursuit of You and Your Word. I want my actions to be the reaction of a relationship with You, not based on some self-effort that I try to manufacture in a lame attempt to look spiritual. I want what I do to be an outcome of who I am becoming in You, of who I already am in You. A son of God, a righteous priest in the household of God. Amen


1 Timothy 4

discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness… – Vs 7

We are a hard-working society. Most people put in more hours per week on their jobs than any other generation before them. We even work hard at our leisure and recreation. Not content to have one hobby or fitness passion, many of us pursue a wide assortment of exercise options, putting in countless hours at the gym or working out at home. We bike, run, lift weights, do aerobics, Pilates, Yoga, and a range of other popular fitness fads. None of which are bad. But how many of us put the same level of energy and effort we put into work and recreation into our spiritual development?

Paul had to have been an exercise nut, because he refers to the topic quite a bit in his letters. Or it could be that he was writing within the context of a culture heavily influenced by Greek thought, that was obsessed with the human body. Exercise was a huge deal in his day. A well-formed, fit human body was considered a thing of beauty. And it was worth working for. So Paul took that same mentality and applied it to his reader's pursuit of godliness. He says, "discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness" (Vs 7). The word there for "discipline" is the Greek word gymnazo, which literally means, "to exercise vigorously, in any way, either the body or the mind." It's the same Greek word from which we get our words gym and gymnasium. It was a popular word with the apostle Paul.

Godliness is profitable for all things

Paul tells Timothy, and us, to discipline himself for godliness. He is to exercise vigorously both his body and his mind so that he might become increasingly more godly. Why? Because godliness is profitable. It is advantageous. Not just for the life to come (heaven), but for the present life. So it is worth laboring and striving for (Vs 10). It should become a high priority in our lives because it gives us an advantage in this life. Godliness is what allows us to navigate the rough seas and storms of this life. It is what gives us the stamina to take the next step, when we think we can't go on. It is what provides us with the energy we need when we are feeling tired and ready to give up. Godliness is not just about more Scripture knowledge and religious platitudes. It is the key to survival in a very inhospitable place.

So if it is so important, why don't more of us as believers spend more time disciplining ourselves in the pursuit of godliness? Because the world is screaming at us that it is NOT important. It is a waste of time. There are more pressing things to be concerned with. Like working more hours so you can make more money. Or increasing your weekly mileage so you can run a faster 5K. Or getting in better shape so you can look better in your bathing suit this summer. There's nothing inherently wrong with any of those things, but when they become more important than our own spiritual growth, we have lost perspective. We have gotten our priorities mixed up. Paul says bodily exercise is only of little profit. It may make you look better, allow you to live a little longer, give you a bit more stamina, and improve your self-esteem, but time spent pursuing godliness has both short- and long-term implications. It is profitable and advantageous. It has lasting results that won't diminish with age or time.

Father, forgive me for not spending more time exercising spiritually and for allowing myself to get out of spiritual shape. It leaves me spiritually lethargic and lacking in the energy I need to live the life you've called me to live. I get tired too easily. I run out of spiritual breath too quickly. I find myself lacking the stamina I need to run the race to win. Help me see spiritual exercise and the pursuit of godliness as a non-negotiable in my life. May I make it a priority each and every day of my life. Because it holds promise for this life and also for the life to come! Amen

Living Out What's Inside.

1 Timothy 3

…so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth. – Vs 15

If you spend any time reading and studying the writings of Paul, you quickly discover that he was extremely passionate about the conduct or behavior of believers. It is a popular topic in all his letters. Partly because the church was young and the converts to this new faith called The Way were bringing a mixed bag of religious beliefs and pagan influences along with them. There was no written code of conduct. They didn't know how followers of Christ were supposed to act. You had Jewish converts attempting to bring the requirements of the Law and mix them with their new-found freedom in Christ. You had Gentile converts trying to blend their pagan practices with the teachings of Christ and the apostles. So it was a confusing and potentially dangerous time for this fledgling band of brothers and sisters known as Christians or Christ followers.

The household God

Paul went out of his way to emphasize to his readers that they were members of a new household. This was God's family. They had entered into a new relationship with God that was communal and not just individual. They were part of a family of faith that was going to rely on interaction and interpersonal relationships. It wasn't just "you and God" anymore, but it was going to be about you as a member of the family of God. Like any family, how all the members get along is what will determine the health of the family. If everyone simply looks out for their own self-interests, you will ultimately have conflict. So interpersonal relationships and behavior are critical in the family of God.

The church of the living God

This new family is the church of the living God. It is HIS church, not ours. We represent Him on this earth. He started the church and He placed it on the earth so that it might reflect who He is. In the earliest days of the church, recorded in the book of Acts, we see that there was a sense of oneness, openness, community, and care that made the church attractive and vibrant. The love they had for one another was contagious. The community they shared with one another was infectious. They were the church of the living God and as a result, they drew people to God in mass, and so the church grew rapidly.

The pillar and support of the truth

But along with being a place of community and a representation of God on this planet, the church is to be the "pillar and support of the truth." We are to hold fast to the truth of God as found in His Word. We are to teach it, preach it, believe it, and live it daily. When the church fails to do so, the foundations begin to quickly crumble. We can see this happening in our own nation as churches and denominations abandon their responsibility to uphold and support the truth of God. They bend the truth or simply manufacture their own version of the truth. The result is chaos and confusion. The community loses its moral compass. The nation begins to do what is right in its own eyes instead of what is right in the sight of God. The church is to stand as a beacon of light in a dark world. The church is to lift up God's Word and model the power of its truth through godly behavior and loving relationships. We are to prove that His truth is true and that His ways work.

Live like you believe it

The world needs to see the church living out what it says it believes. We need men and women of godly character modeling the Christ-life for all to see. We are not perfect, but we do have a power present within us that allows us to live lives that are truly transformed. As elders who lead with integrity. As deacons who serve with dignity. As men and women who exhibit purity. As families that model Christ-like unity. As parents who know how to lead patiently and lovingly. As members of the church of God who support the truth faithfully.

Father, may I see myself increasingly more clearly as a member of this magnificent organism called the church of God. Help me to die to my self-centeredness and selfishness and see myself as part of a living, breathing community of faith. Together may we be all that You have called us to be. May we support and hold up the truth of your word as we live it out daily in every area of our lives. Amen

ALL Men.

1 Timothy 2

First of all, then, I pray that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men. – Vs 1

Do you have any people in your life for whom you refuse to pray? You know the ones I'm talking about. They're those hard-to-get-along-with type of people who rub you the wrong way or who just make your life miserable. Maybe it's your boss or a coworker. It could be a neighbor or even a family member. But we all have them. Then there are those individuals we don't even know, but who we feel no real desire to pray for. They could be a politician, a prominent person in the community, or the corrupt leader of a third-w0rld country who lives in luxury while his people starve to death. Those are the kinds of guys I basically refuse to put on my prayer list. In my mind, they don't deserve it. If I pray for them at all, it usually isn't for their well-being. Then I run into 1 Timothy 2!

…on behalf of ALL men

There it is. No arguing semantics or hermaneutics. It is pretty simple. Paul urges us to pray for all men. Even kings and those who are in authority. That includes every politician from either party in our own country, as well as every corrupt leader in every nation on the face of the globe. Paul says that praying for these people is "good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior." God wants us to pray for all men and women everywhere. But what does He want us to pray? For their removal if they are corrupt? For their further success if they are of our particular political persuasion? For their failure if they don't happen to come down on the right side of the political fence?

No, Paul makes no distinction. He just says to pray for all men. What makes this a particularly powerful statement is that the Roman Emperor on the throne as Paul penned these words was the infamous Nero. Here are just a few excerpts from Easton's Bible Dictionary to describe the man in power while Paul was writing Timothy:

He became emperor of Rome when he was about seventeen years of age (A.D. 54), and soon began to exhibit the character of a cruel tyrant and heathen debauchee.

And in their [Christians] deaths they were also made the subjects of sport; for they were covered with the hides of wild beasts and worried to death by dogs, or nailed to crosses, or set fire to, and, when day declined, burned to serve for nocturnal lights. Nero offered his own gardens for that spectacle.

Nero was the emperor before whom Paul was brought on his first imprisonment at Rome, and the apostle is supposed to have suffered martyrdom during this persecution. – Easton's Bible Dictionary, M. G. Easton

Quite a guy. Yet Paul encourages the believers of his day to pray for him. But what was Paul asking them to pray? From the context it would seem that Paul was encouraging believers to pray for nothing less than Nero's salvation.

"This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" – Vs 4

Paul wasn't praying for Nero's downfall or removal, but for his salvation. Paul took every opportunity to try and introduce every prominent political figure he met to his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ – from Festus and Felix to Agrippa and probably even Nero, if he ever got the opportunity. But he more than likely prayed for each of these men every day.

Who should we be praying for?

Who are the Nero's of our day? There are plenty of corrupt political power brokers out there who are taking Nero's reign of terror to new heights. They are persecuting the church. They are imprisoning believers and putting many to death for their faith. And while we should pray for the persecuted church, are we willing to pray for the salvation of those responsible for the persecution? Paul would. Because Jesus Christ gave Himself "a ransom for all" (Vs 6). Jesus died on behalf of all men. He payed the price for not only my sins but the sins of the world. So Paul says, "I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension" (Vs 8). The believers of Paul's day probably felt like they had every right to be angry at Nero for his atrocities. But Paul said they were to replace their anger with prayer. They were to not allow "dissension" or reasoning within themselves to convince themselves not to pray. No, they were just to pray – for all men, everywhere. And leave the results to God.

Father, I confess that there are many in this world I do not feel the urge to pray for. I may want to pray them out of office or pray for their ultimate failure, but praying for their salvation just doesn't seem right or fair. In some way, I feel as if they do not deserve it. But then You remind me that I did not deserve salvation either. The truth is, the only way men can live a "tranquil and quite life in all godliness and dignity" (Vs 2) is if they come to a saving knowledge of Your Son Jesus Christ. Put in me a growing desire for all men to be "saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (Vs 4), because that is what You desire. Amen

God's Great Grace.

1 Timothy 1

Yet I was shown mercy…and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant… – Vs 15

Mercy and grace – two words that should bring a smile to any believer's face. Because without them, we would still be hopelessly lost in our sins. Yet as it was with Paul, God showed us mercy. Rather than giving us what we deserve, He showered us with His unmerited favor in the form of mercy. Paul was "a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor" before coming to Christ, but he was shown mercy by God. What an incredible gift. And I have received it as well.

Amazing Grace

But that's not all Paul and I have received. God showed us grace. He accepted me just as I was. He didn't make me get my act together or clean it up. Instead He just loved me in spite of me. One definition of grace I particularly love is "grace is the face love wears when it encounters imperfection." When God saw me in my sin, He didn't turn His face away in disgust, but He showed me love, and He didn't make me measure up first or somehow earn it or deserve it. Because I would have failed.

In his book, Knowing God, J. I. Packer describes grace this way:

What is grace? In the New Testament grace means God’s love in action towards men who merited the opposite of love. Grace means God moving heaven and earth to save sinners who could not lift a finger to save themselves. Grace means God sending His only Son to descend into hell on the cross so that we guilty ones might be reconciled to God and received into heaven. ‘(God) hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.’

Encouraging Grace

Lately, I have been becoming increasingly aware of just how amazing grace really is. It's not just a gift I received that will somehow allow me to get into heaven. It is an atmosphere in which I live as a believer. Grace is the environment in which I am loved by God regardless of my performance. I don't have to meet certain criteria to be loved by God. I don't have to do more good things and less bad things to be loved by God. I don't have to keep a list of rules to be loved by God. I am just loved by God. In spite of my flaws and imperfections, and that is grace. God's love in action.

Paul said God's grace was "more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus" (Vs 14). In other words, God's grace overflowed to Paul. But God didn't just show him grace on the road to Damascus, He poured out His grace each and every day of Paul's life. That's why Paul could write in Romans "where sin increased grace abounded all the more" (Romans 5:20). God's grace abounds in the presence of sin. It doesn't fade away or turn away. Grace is God's love reaching out to us in our imperfections, even after having come to Christ. Like Paul we can say,

"For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want." (Romans 7:18-19)

Paul was experiencing the daily battle with the flesh common to all of us. But he was also experiencing God's abundant, amazing grace in the form of His love in the face of our own sin. Which bring to mind an old hymn we sang when I was growing up as a child.

Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,

Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!

Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured,

There where the blood of the Lamb was spilled.

Grace, grace, God’s grace,

Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;

Grace, grace, God’s grace,

Grace that is greater than all our sin.

Grace Greater than Our Sin, Julie H. Johnston

Father, thank you for your amazing, abundant, boundless grace. You never run out and You never hold out. You love me in spite of me. You show me grace each and every day of my life and for that I am eternally grateful. Amen