Friday, December 9, 2011

Watch Out – 1 Tim 4:16

Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. (ESV)
Watch Yourself
Who is watching you? If you are a parent, you children watch you. They imitate you and even later in life, they have some of the same mannerisms. Terri (my wife) and I visited my brother and spent a few days with him and his wife. Afterwards, Terri commented about how much alike we were. I’ve seen some of the same things in myself that I saw in my dad, and I’ve seen them in my son. We are all very much different people but we have some learned habits that we picked up from our parents.

When we admire someone, we will try to emulate them. What is really scary though, is that I’ve even caught myself picking up characteristics of people that I don’t want to emulate. These are things like shrugging my shoulders or raising an eyebrow, not necessarily anything wrong. However, I’ve also seen people who have purposely tried to copy another person’s mannerisms.
Eph 4:21-22 Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. (NLT) Mannerisms are one thing, but lifestyles are another. According to this verse, before we came to know Jesus, we learned a lot of corruption. Many of the habit that we learned from our parents, teachers, or other we admired were simply wrong. We have to watch ourselves to make sure we have thrown off those things and have replaced them with godly habits.

Because others are watching, and most importantly because God is watching, I need to be more self-aware. Ps 39:1 I said, "I will guard my ways, that I may not sin with my tongue; I will guard my mouth with a muzzle, so long as the wicked are in my presence." (ESV) I need to be always on guard to make sure that I don’t sin and it just isn’t because of the influence I have on the people who might imitate me, but it is also because of those who are wicked. When I’m not watching myself closely and slip up, it gives the wicked opportunity to speak evil of God.
Many verses command us to take heed to ourselves. Deut 4:9 Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. (NKJV) This one was very interesting because it points out how easily we can forget what God has done for us. When I’m not depending on God daily, it is easy to think that I’m in charge and am able to accomplish things in my own strength. It would be easy to drift away and end up at the end of my life having even done things “for the Lord” but having my heart far from Him.

Watch What You Teach
I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. We are all teachers to one degree or another. What we don’t teach by word, we teach by action. Some of us are more able to teach by word than others can. With blogs and self-published books, it is easier to put our teaching out to other, even millions of people. James 3:1 Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment. (NASB) I need to be very careful that my teaching lines up with the Word of God. Anyone who reads my writings must be alert as well; however, I am the one that is ultimately accountable for what I teach.

What kind of accountability will teachers face? Jesus said that it would be better for a person to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck if he caused a little one to stumble (Matt 18:6). This is in the context of keeping other from coming to Jesus or putting obstacles in someone’s path. This is probably best applied to a person who teaches a totally false doctrine and isn’t a believer himself. However, the intensity of the punishment should warn anyone who knows Jesus to be careful about what he teaches.
Some people rightly denounce sinful lifestyles as something that God hates. However, the way they do it, without presenting God’s mercy, love, and sacrifice of Jesus for that sinful lifestyle, turn people away from Jesus. It isn’t always what I teach but the way I teach it that causes problems. I can be 100% theologically sound in what I say, but say it in such a way that places a stumbling block in the way of those who are seeking God. I just have to watch my teaching all the time.

Who Gets Saved
As I see that I’m accountable for what I teach, it explains how I’m able to save myself. Paul isn’t telling Timothy that he can earn salvation by teaching. That would go against everything he has taught in Eph 2:8-9, Titus 3:5, and in other verses. This is more on the order of avoiding loss because of building on the wrong foundation (1 Cor 3:15).

In Ezek 3:17-21, God calls Ezekiel to be a watchman who is to warn Israel of their sinfulness. If he fails to do what God has called him to do and a wicked man perishes, God says, “I will hold you accountable for his blood.” (Ezek 3:18 NIV) Again, this sounds quite ominous and almost like losing your salvation. However, a watchman would not lose his salvation but his life if he failed in his duty. In the same way, I would suffer God’s disciple if I failed to do what He wants by not teaching or not teaching correctly. Certainly, in Paul and Timothy’s time, some were disciplined and died because of sin (Acts 5:1-10 and 1 Cor 11:30).
Now when it comes to my hearers being saved, that could be a very different story. As I’ve mentioned, if my teaching is done in such a way to encumber the Gospel so that people are turned away, then it may indeed result in someone not coming to salvation. Of course, there is also the possibility that teaching a false doctrine would lead people into believing they don’t need to repent of their sins and accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. That would certainly prevent hearers from being saved. Another problem could be teaching that there are other ways to heaven than by faith in Jesus.

So I hope that it is clear to all who hear my teaching that salvation is only through faith in Jesus and Him alone. Faith in Jesus is faith in God, but faith in God without Jesus won’t save. Faith must result in repentance and obedience to Jesus to show that it is genuine. In other words, I can’t simply say I believe in Jesus without it changing my life.

As a watchman, I say, “If you haven’t already put your faith and trust in Jesus for your salvation, then you need to do it now.”

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