Friday, June 28, 2013

Guard Yourself – 1 Tim 6:20-21

Timothy, guard what God has entrusted to you. Avoid godless, foolish discussions with those who oppose you with their so-called knowledge. Some people have wandered from the faith by following such foolishness. May God's grace be with you all. (NLT)
What has God entrusted to you? Perhaps the first thing that comes to mind is salvation. We aren’t saved just for our own sake. If we think that, then we believe that somehow, we are worthy of salvation and the truth is that no one is worthy of being saved.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. (Eph 2:10 KJV)
We are saved because God has a higher purpose. It is to demonstrate His work in us. Think about that for a while, God took this rotten, sinning, lump of flesh and created a person that is going to look like Jesus. We begin to look like Jesus after He cleans us up by the power of His Holy Spirit and we start doing the things He has planned for us. When our work on earth is done, whether we die and go to be with Him or He returns in glory, we will be like Him (1 John 3:2). If that’s not impressive enough, He planned this well before we were saved. See Romans 8:28-29 as well.
And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. (Mark 16:15 KJV)
He has entrusted the Gospel to us. If someone were to ask you what the Gospel is, would you be able to explain it clearly and distinctly? Since gospel means good news, some have difficulty trying to distill all God’s blessing down to something that will cause someone to want to be saved. Others use church words that people outside of a Christian upbringing don’t understand. The U.S. is becoming a nation where “Jesus Christ” is just another swear word and have no knowledge of who He is or what He has done. So we need to be prepared to share our hope (1 Peter 3:15)
Paul provided the distilled Gospel in 1 Cor 15:1-4. We are saved by believing and taking our stand on this Gospel (vs 1-2); Christ died for our sins according to the Scripture (vs 3); He was buried and raised on the third day according to the Scriptures (vs 4). For the uneducated in Christian terms, we may have to explain what being saved really means. We may have to explain what sin is and why only Jesus’ death could pay for the penalty. We may have to explain what His burial proved and what His resurrection proved. We may have to explain why it is important to understand that the Scriptures predicted this beforehand. However, if we tell someone these basics of the Gospel, they are without excuse.
So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, till I proclaim thy might to all the generations to come. (Ps 71:18 RSV)
He has entrusted us with the next generation. Whether the next generation is our own children or the children of friends and relatives, it is still our responsibility to reach them and tell them about Jesus. Jesus commanded that the children should be brought to Him (Matt 19:14). There is a horrible sin in the world today that teaches parents that they should abstain from teaching their children about God so that when they grow up they will be able to make their own decisions. This goes directly against God’s commands in the Old Testament to be diligent in teaching our children.
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. (Deut 6:4-7 ESV)
These words form the beginning of what is termed the "Shema" ("Hear") in the Jewish Services, and belong to the daily morning and evening office. They may be called "the creed of the Jews."[1]
How important is it to teach children about God? It is foremost in what God has commanded His people even before the Church came into being with Jesus as its Head. See how important it still is to Orthodox Jews. The highest declaration of our duty to God, to love Him above all things is followed by the command to teach children. Every part of our day should be an opportunity to teach. The previous lesson talked about how a TV can help or hinder our ministry. Can you imagine trying to talk to your children about how much you love God; can you explain how wonderful and glorious He is while you are watching 99% of what is on TV?
Would you say that refusing to teach your children about Jesus is a sin? Would you say that keeping information about Jesus’ power to overcome sin in their lives would increase their temptations to sin? If so then we should take Jesus’ words to heart.
One day Jesus said to his disciples, "There will always be temptations to sin, but what sorrow awaits the person who does the tempting! It would be better to be thrown into the sea with a millstone hung around your neck than to cause one of these little ones to fall into sin. (Luke 17:1-2 NLT)
Our world is changing with what seems to be more and more perverts who prey on children. We are suspicious of strangers and are on the lookout for anyone that may be a threat to our children. Unfortunately, this has all but stopped the ability of people to influence children other than their own. I haven’t heard of any churches recently that send a Sunday school bus out to pick up kids from families that don’t go to church. I haven’t heard of anyone going to a park to set up chalk talks for kids.
Does this mean that we can’t get to know children in our neighborhoods? No, it simply means that we have to first gain the trust of their parents. These are the parents that have grown up with little or no knowledge of churches and most importantly, Jesus. They are the parents that have had some bad experiences with a church or parents over religion when they grew up. This doesn’t excuse us from trying.
So-called Knowledge
How much of your time is spent in foolish discussions? How would you even recognize a foolish discussion? Sometimes, we need to know enough about what interests others to be able to engage them in conversation. We may chat about the last sporting event where our favorite team lost again, discuss eastern religions, or politics. When do they become foolish discussions? We can look to Paul’s example on Mars Hill in Athens (Acts 17:17-34).
For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing. (Acts 17:21 KJV)
Paul started talking to people about the Gospel in the synagogues and the marketplace. When some people heard him, they invited him to speak to them. Luke, the author of Acts explained the philosophers’ simply desired to talk about the latest ideas. They weren’t interested in truth and in a sense, all their talk was foolishness.
However, Paul started with some of their ideas and used it as a bridge to the Gospel. He made it clear that there will be a judgment for sin and that salvation comes by the resurrected Jesus. Many mocked him but a few listened and were saved. We have to judge how and when we can turn a discussion about foolish things into a witnessing opportunity. We may have to wait and put up with it for some time before they will listen.
I remember talking to a lady at work who was sure the economic crisis was going to be the end of life as we knew it in 1975. She was talking about burying coins in cans in her back yard so that she would have currency that had value when the crises came. When she started talking about those things, I would listen and interject that it sounded a lot like the book of Revelation. Over a period of a few weeks, I would listen and make the comment again. One day she stopped and asked just what I meant. She was ready to hear what God had to say and came to know the Lord.
Others tout their knowledge of science over spiritual matters. Some spout spiritual knowledge that has no basis in reality. What does God say about them?
Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, (Rom 1:22 KJV)
For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. (1 Cor 1:21 NASB)
God has equated the world’s wisdom with foolishness. All that people think is wise but doesn’t bring them to a knowledge of God is utter foolishness. While science may tell us how things work in the world, it has become foolishness when it ignores the One who designed these things. They put the created thing above the Creator by insisting that creation evolved. By ignoring God’s work in creation they ignore God and worship creation (Rom 1:20-23). God’s answer is to preach a message of salvation by the blood of Jesus shed on the cross to save those who would believe in Jesus. The world thinks that is foolish but the whole point is so that no one can boast before God and therefore all the glory goes to God (1 Cor 1:26-29).
Wandered from the Faith
Just how does wandering from faith happen? Is it possible that simply talking about things can lead someone from faith? That’s exactly what Paul says. Following foolish discussions has caused some to wander from the faith. It can happen in several ways but there are two that seem obvious to me.
The first one is prevalent in the media. Headlines carry a huge impact on what people think. They shout an idea loudly and it is repeated over and over. Today’s headlines (June 27, 2013) shouted that the Supreme Court’s decision was a huge victory for gay rights. Those are positive words carefully crafted to convey many ideas and concepts without reading the article. Victory and rights conjure up the idea that this has been a battle for something that is good. It says that anyone who opposes it is a looser and wrong. The concept is that if you shout something loud enough and long enough, as has been done in the media in this and other issues, people will eventually believe a lie.
There are many lies that have been shouted about God, Jesus, and Christianity that someone without a foundation in the Word will eventually believe. If the lie isn’t about these, it can be about what is sin or is not sin. These all can lead people away from faith.
See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. (Col 2:8 NIV )
Another way foolish talk leads people astray is by wrapping up a lie with many facts gleaned from research, exploration, and even conjecture. A long chain of logic can then arrange the facts or statistics in such a way as to come up with the truth any way you want. The theory of evolution is good example. Most people don’t know the difference between a theory and a proven fact. They don’t know the difference between scientific proof and legal proof or a preponderance of evidence. As a result most people consider evolution as science and creationism as foolishness. When human logic contradicts God’s word, people often believe the lie and wander from faith.
For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. (2 Peter 3:5-6 NKJV)
This is a very telling verse. The root problem of sin in believing lies is exposed at the very beginning. People are willing to forget what God has said. The ESV says the deliberately forget. The chain of lies is believed because people are sinful and willing to believe things that will keep them from being accountable to the God who made them.
Paul closes with a simple blessing, “grace be with you.” Considering all the instructions and warnings we have received in this first letter to Timothy, we need grace. Just what is grace?
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. (Titus 2:11-14 NASU)
Grace is God’s favor on us to bring us to salvation in spite of our sinfulness. We can’t earn it and we don’t deserve it. It is a gift of God. Grace doesn’t stop at salvation but enables us by teaching us to live lives that will please God. It is grace because we can’t do it by our own will power. It is available when we ask and depend on His Holy Spirit to work in us.
Grace keeps us going by looking forward to Jesus’ return when all hope appears to be lost. It doesn’t matter what trails or temptations we are facing. It doesn’t matter if the world has gone crazy with ungodly laws and behavior or zombies are threatening to eat our brains. We remember it is Jesus who has redeemed us and is purifying us for Himself so that in the darkest of circumstances we can continue doing what is right. We know He has the victory in the end.
Grace be with you!

[1] Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc.

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