Monday, January 11, 2010

Ministry to the busybodies which could mean to you and me

Good morning my friends. We are moving on to Paul's first letter to his young friend Timothy. If you remember anything about Timothy you know he was a young man who Paul wanted to take with him and Silas on Paul's second journey. (Acts 16) Most likely he went along more in a servant's role, cooking, cleaning and doing the laundry. Paul would have taken the time to disciple him for a leadership role for the future. However, the future came quickly and we see , during their time in Macedonia, Timothy coming into his own. (Acts 17) It was here that Paul was run out of Berea and was forced to move on but he left Timothy with his partner Silas to continue the work for a time. Timothy was half Jew and half Greek so Paul had Timothy circumcised so he could continue working among the Jews. This should say much of this young man who willingly submitted himself to such pain at his age.

As we pick up on this letter of instruction we see that Paul wastes no time. Timothy has been left in Ephesus, which is the capital city in the region of Asia Minor. This is an area where Paul did a lot of work for many years. Now Timothy was left behind to deal with some problems. Considering the importance Paul placed on this area, the fact he left Timothy to deal with some potentially large problems speaks well of Timothy. The problem was with busybody men and with men who wanted to be something they were not called to and who wanted to take short cuts:

As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God's work—which is by faith. (1 Timothy 1:3-4)

Have you met any men like this? I have. Plenty of them. They major on the minor in order to make themselves feel more important and useful than they actually are. They would take the little bit of knowledge they had and try to build doctrines around it. They were and are a source of division, feeling it necessary to tear pastors and ministries down in order to lift themselves up. They cause people to take the emphasis off of what is important, God's work, in order to draw attention to themselves. Some of them want to make the choice of translation of the Bible the focus point instead of Jesus and the work we have been left to do. Their argument is mute because the only authentic version of the Bible is the original Hebrew and Greek version. But notice Paul had not given up on these people. He had left Timothy to instruct them to get back to God's work, which is by faith.

This emphasis on faith is important. We pay it lip service but we do not always live it. We limit it to faith in the context of believe instead of allowing it to be lived out in the area of trust. Paul goes as far as to write:

But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin. (Romans 14:23)

That is serious stuff. Everything we are involved in with the work of God requires us to be in a position of faith, of trust. Those of you who have been involved in God-sized works know that our faith gets tested and strengthened in these works. I could never put enough emphasis on this point but it also requires that we are absolutely sure that we are in the will of the Father. I dare say most of us are not because we are doing what we have decided we want to do instead of listening to what God wants us to do. I believe this is also why there is so little power in many ministries and works.

Paul goes on from this point on faith and takes it to the second of the three pillars in our spiritual walk (faith, hope and love). He wants Timothy to instruct these men on love and what is necessary for the right type of love:

The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Some have wandered away from these and turned to meaningless talk. They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm. (1 Timothy 1:5-7)

This is such a great danger for us in the Body of Christ; we want to get to the exciting stuff without having the fundamentals in place. We want to jump right into responsibility without the foundation, and this leads to the destruction of ourselves and sometimes the ones we work with. Paul says that love comes from having three things in place: a pure heart, a good conscience, a sincere faith. I feel an entire Bible study coming on so I had better leave it at this and allow you to explore these points later, or perhaps I can provide further reflection on these points in a different forum. It is enough to know for now that we need to go through training, discipling, as Timothy did, to learn and to put in place these fundamental matters before taking on great responsibilities. Sometimes our call must wait while we are equipped to fulfill it. Other times the equipping comes with teh service. It is important to discern the voice of the Spirit in these matters.

If we do not take the time to be mentored, discipled, trained, we could find ourselves in the terrible place of wondering off into the meaningless. What a terrible place to be; to realize that everything you have done and are doing has no meaning, no purpose in the Kingdom of God. These men that Timothy had to deal with saw themselves as teachers but they had no foundation to teach from. They taught from a selfish perspective and everything they taught was useless. This is what happens when we think the Kingdom is about position and importance. The Kingdom of God is about relationship and development of people through relationship. It is not about perceived power through position and importance. In the Kingdom, the more important a person appears the greater servant he or she must be. The only power is held by the head, who is Jesus Christ.

Let us make sure we are receiving proper instruction and that we have a good, solid, and developing foundation in place. Let us not choose the work for ourselves but instead wait to be invited by Dad to join him in what he is doing. Let us always be aware that we have no authority other than what is leant to us by the Spirit but all glory must go to the Father. Let us understand that without love we are nothing and have nothing (1 Cor 13) and in order for us to have love we must have a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. With this in mind let us head into this week confident in the Lord, that who he calls he also equips.

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