Watch Your Life And Doctrine
I Timothy 4:9-16
Some of you have taken courses on how to coach a team, either baseball or hockey or something else. In such a scenario, there are three levels. There is the person who teaches the coach, there is the coach and there are the players who are taught by the coach. The important thing in all of this is that the players will do well.
This morning, we want to look at I Timothy 4:9-16. We can look at this passages in a similar way. Paul, who wrote this, is the coaches trainer who is teaching the coach. Timothy is the coach who is responsible to help people play the game of being a Christian well. The text is written to Timothy and is applicable to church leaders to help them know how to lead the people they are responsible for. If I was speaking to a group of ministers, I would approach this text from that perspective. The important thing, of course, is that believers live their Christian life well and that is the perspective from which I would like to look at this passage. What is it that will help Christians live well?
A few weeks ago, we talked about training to be godly using the imagery of athletic training. At that time, we thought about how important it is to begin by the knowledge that we are loved by God and to respond to that love by loving God as we love others. This morning, we will examine a three other ideas, which are found in this text, which relate to training in godliness.
II. I. We Have Put Our Hope In The Living God Vs. 10
In verses 9,10, Paul tells Timothy that there is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance by all people and that is, in verse 10, that “we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe.” What a wonderful statement!
A. The Living God
If you would come to the doctor’s office and the nurse brought you into the examining room and there was a wax figure of a person with doctor clothing on and a stethoscope around it’s neck. What would you do if she would tell you to tell the “doctor” all of your problems. You would walk out of that clinic so fast it would make her head spin. You want a living doctor.
In Isaiah 44:15-17, Isaiah mocks the people of his day who cut down a tree and use part of it to cook their food and another part to make an idol, which they worship! The wooden god cannot speak or hear or act, but people put their hope in it.
But are we much different? We put our hope in pieces of paper we call money, but they are no more powerful or useful than dead gods. We put our hope in things, like governments or doctors and to a certain level that is OK, but if they are our only hope, then we are in trouble.
It is our privilege to put our hope in the living God! God is living and He loves us and has all power. Therefore, we put our hope in one who is worthy of that hope. One writer says, "as himself living and the source of life, God can bestow life on others..."
B. Putting Our Hope In God
What does it mean that we have put our hope in the living God? There was a missionary who was translating the Bible for a South Seas island tribe, he discovered that they had no word for trust or faith. One day a native who had been running hard came into the missionary's house, flopped himself in a large chair and said, "It's good to rest my whole weight on this chair." "That's it," said the missionary. "I'll translate faith as `resting one's whole weight on God.'" That is what it means to put our hope in God.
The word “put your hope” is in the perfect tense, which means that it is something we have done and continue to do.
C. Savior Of All Men
The reason we can put our hope in the living God is because He is the Savior of all men.
This is written to Christians and so in that sense we have put our hope in Him! When we realized that we are sinners and we will die eternally and we trusted Christ for salvation, God became our Savior. He forgave our sin and gave us eternal life. In that sense, we have put our hope in the living God.
But do we continue to put our hope in the living God?
As Christians, when we recognize our sin and realize that we cannot win over our sin - God is our Savior who sends His Spirit to fill us and to help us overcome the power of sin in our lives. Do we put our hope in the living God in this sense. He is the one who wants to be our Savior from living in sin.
The other day I met a man who got married when he was very young. The marriage did not go well and the mother of their child abandoned the family. He was broken and ended up divorced. Today, he is married to a beautiful Christian woman. They have children and are doing very well. God is the Savior of all men who can take the broken things in our life and bring blessing out of them. Do we put our hope in Him as the one who can take our brokenness and restore it to something good?
A number of years ago, I knew a man who had been farming. He had made a couple of bad decisions and the weather went against him and he saw that he was on the verge of losing the farm. He sold before bankruptcy happened and went to school to be a nurses aid, or orderly. For the past 15 years or so, he has been working in the health care system and enjoying it much more than he ever did farming. Do we put our hope in God as the one who can take our losses and bring blessing out of them?
The phrase at the end of the verses is rather difficult and has suggested to some people that God will save all people. Because of what we find in the rest of the Bible, I think we understand that that is not what is intended. One writer suggests that a better and legitimate translation is that He is the “Saviour of all men, in other words, those who believe.” That would fit with what we find in other parts of the Bible. The intent is not to teach universalism, but rather to indicate that God's salvation is available to all men and is applied to those who believe.
As your coach, I want to encourage you to put your hope in the living God because He is the Savior of all men.
III. Set An Example Vs. 12
The other day when I was at the conference in Grand Prairie, there was a young girl wearing a t-shirt and on the back of the t-shirt there was a verse. I read it and realized it was I Timothy 4:12 and since I knew I was going to be preaching on that passage this Sunday, I asked her why she was wearing it. She said that she was wearing it because it was free, but then she did say that there was meaning in it for her and that is that she was committed to living in an exemplary way even though she was young. She wanted her life in Christ to be noticed and to count. I asked her if I could quote her because it was inspiring to meet a young person who had such aspirations.
Paul, the coaching teacher, is dealing with his student Timothy. At this time, it is possible that Timothy may have been in his 30's and so quite young in terms of being an “elder” in the church. I Corinthians 16:10 may suggest that Timothy was not the boldest person around and so needed an encouragement to do God's work. That is why Paul encourages him not to let people look down on him because he is young.
I think this is a good verse for all of us, not only for Timothy or ministers. When I saw the words on the t-shirt which the girl was wearing, I was encouraged that it was right to say that all of us should be an example to each other. We expect mature believers, leaders and older people to be an example, but I think it is quite in order that no matter what age we are or who we are, we should be an example to each other.
A. Being An Example
The word “example” comes from a word that means “the mark of a stroke or blow." We do not live in isolation from each other, we leave a mark on others by our lives and actions. Each life leaves an impression on other lives.
That is why the Bible so frequently calls believers to be an example. There are at least 8 or 9 verses in the New Testament that have a similar message. One of them is I Corinthians 4:16 in which Paul says, “Therefore I urge you to imitate me.” Paul wanted to be a model, an example to others and encouraged those he taught to also be such examples.
As we think about being examples to others, there may be some who think, “Don’t watch me because it is too much pressure to live in such a way as to be an example.” That is simply self centered sin and worthy of rebuke. There may be others who think, “Don’t watch me, although I want to live well, I am not good enough and I am afraid of being watched.” That is pride and not a good reason to avoid being an example. The right attitude would be to say, “Although I stumble, I am trying my best. Don’t build your life on me, but I will try to live in an exemplary way.” This is the attitude of humble godliness and the attitude which will allow us to live our lives in a way so that others can watch us and be encouraged to come to God.
As your coach, I would like to encourage you to be examples to one another.
B. What To Exemplify
What is it that we are to exemplify? You will notice that there are 5 words, each with the word “in” in front of them which are the areas in which we are called to be an example. They are “in speech, in life, in love, in faith, in purity.” These are all important matters and worthy of our attention.
We are to be an example to one another in speech. I want to tell you something very sad. I have discovered that people are afraid to share with other Christian brothers and sisters because they are afraid that they will be judged and that their problems will be broadcast all over town. The intimacy and caring which is to be the mark of followers of Christ is seriously diminished because of the problem of inappropriate speech. One of my favorite verses about being an example in speech is Ephesians 4:29, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
“Life” is probably better translated “conduct” as it is in most translations. What is exemplary conduct? If you wear a cross around your neck you identify with Christ. Do the people around you know it by your deeds? If you have a “Christian fish” on your car, do you drive so that people can tell that you belong to Christ? If you wear a shirt with some Christian slogan on it, do your friends know by your attitudes in school that you are what you claim to be?
Furthermore, it talks about exemplary love. Francis Schaeffer has written a book with the title, “The Mark of A Christian” and speaks in it about love. May we learn to be known not for the rules we keep as much as the love we show.
Faith is a noun and so speaks about the ability to trust God. One of my favorite stories on faith is that of the man in Mark 9:16 who came to Jesus to ask him to heal his son. Jesus asked him “do you believe?” and the man responded, “I believe, help my unbelief.” We are all like that and that is why we need to be examples to one another of faith. At times, I will be strong and will be able to be an encouragement to you. At other times, you will be strong and be an encouragement to me.
Finally, there is purity. Purity is used most often of sexual purity, which certainly is meant here. It can also mean “integrity of heart” which is also a matter worthy of imitation. When we find that people living together before marriage, adultery, use of pornography and cheating on taxes is almost as prevalent among Christians as it is among the general population, that is reason for concern. In a recent book on American Evangelicalism, Ron Sider addresses these issues. May God help us be examples of purity to one another.
As your coach, I want to encourage you to build up godliness by being an example. What is really helpful is that if we all remember that we are examples to one another, it helps us to actually live the way God wants us to live.
IV. Watch Your Life And Doctrine Vs. 16
Finally, Paul coaches Timothy to coach the Ephesians by saying “watch your life and your doctrine.” What is most significant about this concept is that it brings together two things which some sometimes separate.
There are some who have gotten the idea that if you simply believe the right things that is all you need. This is what Ron Sider in the book I mentioned earlier on American Evangelicalism raises as a primary concern. There are those who say that if you believe that Jesus died for your sins then you are saved. Their life would not suggest that they have been saved from their sins, but they think they are OK simply by what they consider to be in their head. It is the problem raised and answered in James 2:17 which says that “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”
On the other hand, there are others who do not worry about right belief in some critical areas. They do not think it is necessary to believe that Jesus was really the Son of God, that He actually rose from the dead and so on. They believe that if you have good conduct, if you love others and are trying to live a good life, that is all that is necessary. This is the perspective which we sometimes find in some of the articles on the Free Press religion page.
Paul does not allow us to develop such a dichotomy. That is why I appreciate this verse when it tells us to “watch your life and doctrine closely.” We need to have a good grasp on what is important to believe and we need to live a life that fits with what we believe. Both belief and conduct are important.
We are the Rosenort Evangelical Mennonite Church. Although not true in all cases, there are times when Evangelicalism has emphasized doctrine without an appropriate lifestyle. Although it is also not true all the time, some Mennonites have concentrated so much on living well that some have been careless about doctrine. I appreciate the name we have in our denomination because it communicates that we want to be serious about both. We want to be those who do what this verse says and that is to pay attention to life and doctrine.
Those of you who have GPS, either in your cars, tractors or as a portable unit know that with these devices, your position on earth is identified using at least 3 satellites in space. They are in different positions and by reference to them, any position on earth can be fixed. Our position as followers of Christ can also be checked by reference to three different things. By keeping an eye on these things, we can watch our life and doctrine. Those three things are:1. The word of God; 2. The Spirit of God and 3. The people of God. As we read and study the Bible, allow the Spirit of God to reveal Himself to us and talk to one another, we will be able to watch and be firm in life and doctrine.
If you will humor me, I would like you to imagine that you are a team. You are a team that is very concerned about training in godliness – which of course you are. I would like to invite you further to imagine that I am your coach. It is my task, to teach and encourage you so that you can be well equipped in the life of godliness. This morning, I would like to encourage you in several matters of training in godliness. I would like to encourage you to put your hope in God. During the next days and weeks, when challenges come to you, remember that you have put your hope in the living God who is your Savior. I would also like to encourage you to be examples to one another. We need each other and as we remember that others are watching our life, we should let them see good examples of speech, conduct, faith, love and purity. Finally, I would like to encourage you not to neglect both your life and your beliefs. May God help each of us to be what He wants us to be.