Friday, January 28, 2011

Don’t Stray – 1 Tim 1:5-7

Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith, from which some, having strayed, have turned aside to idle talk, desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm. (NKJV)

Paul wants Timothy and us to understand love is the reason for his command to stop false teachers. The things that he listed, false doctrines, myths, and genealogies, do not promote love but disputes. So Paul wants to see more love in the Church and he gave the command to bring that about.


An interesting side note is to see how some people attempt to obey the command. A person was attempting to demonstrate to an atheist (his brother-in-law) the fallacy of his belief. (A little background on what an atheist believes: an atheist believes there is no God; because there is no God, there is no absolute truth; truth resides in each of us and my truth may not be the same as yours.) The Christian says to the atheist, “Show me a $20 bill.” The atheist hands over a $20 bill and the Christian puts it in his pocket and starts to walk away. The atheist protest and wants his money back. The Christian replies with a smirk on his face as he pulls out the bill and waves it in front of the atheist, “Oh this $20 bill, this is mine. My truth says it is mine and your truth says it is your and possession is 9/10ths of the law so it is mine.” The Christian keeps the money but uses it to buy the atheist’s kids ice cream.

The demonstration is very clever but the apparent attitude of the Christian bothers me. The smirk on his face and his taunting don’t appear to come from a heart of love. I can’t judge this person’s heart. He may have such a deep love of God’s Word and his brother-in-law that he is willing to risk anything to show him the error of his ways. Whatever his motives, it emphasized to me that I must not fall prey to confronting false doctrine in such a way that love is not demonstrated.

Pure Heart

In order to do this, I first of all need a pure heart. Ps 24:4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false. (NIV) Two things link clean hands and a pure heart together: not worshiping idols and swearing falsely. A pure heart doesn’t have anything on the throne other than Jesus. If I think I’m pretty good at confronting false teaching (patting myself on the back) or enjoy the admiration of others who think I’m really clever, then my heart isn’t pure. Jesus said in Matt 12:35, The good man out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil man out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. (RSV) If my heart isn’t pure, I may be able to come up with great arguments but my attitude will also betray the evil treasure in my heart. I may swear falsely by saying that I’m doing it for the best interests of the Church or the individual, but in reality, I get my kicks out of out smarting the other guy. God may actually use what I say to correct and bring repentance in the other person’s life, but my reward isn’t from the Lord when my heart isn’t pure.

Good Conscience

I also need to have a good conscience. A good conscience is the byproduct of a pure heart. It is the knowledge, confirmed by the Holy Spirit, that my motives are pure. 2 Cor 1:12 Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, in the holiness and sincerity that are from God. We have done so not according to worldly wisdom but according to God's grace. (NIV) I see e-mails all the time from people who have witty ways of putting down unbelievers. Unfortunately, they are put-downs. They don’t demonstrate holiness and sincerity that is from God. They are worldly wisdom used in an attempt to accomplish God’s goals. I can’t in good conscience do that.

Sincere Faith

Sincere faith is also requirement to correcting false teaching. Of course, I have to have faith. That seems pretty basic. However adding the word sincere ties it in with everything else I’ve said. My faith must be honest and must show that what I say is really meant, and what I feel. The King James Version says “faith unfeigned.” Authentic faith will win over more people than the cleverest of arguments especially when they don’t proceed from love.

How do I stray from love, a pure heart, a good conscience, and sincere faith? I think it can be seen in my lack of destination when I wander. If I’m wandering, I’m aimless. When I’m aimless, I’m satisfied with any destination. Unfortunately any old destination is not what God has in mind. Matt 7:13-14 "You can enter God's Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.” (NLT) Jesus made it very clear that we have to keep on a narrow path. When we let or minds wander from a strict Christian worldview, it is very easy for worldly goals to become confused with Christian goals.

A good example is modern day conservatism and liberalism. What it means to be a conservative or liberal has changed over the years. Today’s definitions are being formed by pundits (and I apply that term loosely) who are exactly like the people Timothy must silence. They claim to be wise and knowledgeable, critics of the opposition, and authorities on whichever side they belong. In some cases, their personal lives don’t match their public opinion. These people stir each other and followers up into unholy rages with their talk. They stretch the truth to fit their own worldview and encourage their followers to expend time and energy debating and arguing which keeps anyone from actually accomplishing what God wants.

Paul urged us to develop a Christian worldview. Col 3:1-2 If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. (NASB) The Christian worldview is requires you to have your mind set on things above. You will be no earthly good unless it is. When we wander into the world’s view, we are caught up in it; our value to the kingdom of God will diminish, and our effectiveness on earth will be less. If your goal is to lose your peace of mind and rile other up as well, then you will be very effective when you focus on the things of the world.

It doesn’t happen only in the world or politics. It also happens in the church. If I escape wandering into the world’s meaningless chatter, I can also wander into being a “biblical” scholar and teach all sorts of weird things. Right now, you should be wondering if Paul was warning you about my writings. I have no formal biblical training; to some, my writing looks like a lot of babbling about things of which I know little. Well, don’t think I haven’t thought about it. James 3:1 My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. (NKJV) I know that I am accountable to Jesus for what I say and how it affects others. It isn’t lightly that I publish what I think.

Whether it is me or any other person who publishes, preaches, or in way claims to have insights into God’s word, check it out. Don’t take my word for it, go to God’s Word and let the Holy Spirit transform your mind to conform to God’s mind (Rom 12:2). Do as the Bereans did. Acts 17:11 Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. (NIV) Don’t think that you only have to verify preachers and authors against God’s word. You have to apply political pundits and talk show hosts, Hollywood stars and every ideology in the word against God’s Word. If you do this, you will not wander into meaningless chatter or presume to be a teacher when you don’t know what you are talking about. Your pastor won’t have to come to you and tell you to knock it off.

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