If a farmer wants to see a good crop, it won’t happen just because he has good intentions. The same is true of an athlete who wants to run a 15k marathon!
Paul wrote to Timothy because of false teaching and living that were being spread in the Ephesian churches (1:3). The instructions in this epistle are important because of the essential role of the church, God’s people in this day and age: it is “the pillar and support of the truth” (3:15)
Beginning in chapter 4, Paul warns that local churches can expect to see the spread of demonically taught doctrines. How can churches deal with this? What can be done for protection? God’s people must live godly lives.
Protecting yourself and your church from apostasy requires three essential activities:
Definite Teaching, 4:6-7a
In order for you to be protected from apostasy you need to listen to definite teaching. Timothy is called “a good servant of Christ Jesus” (4:6). The difference between a good and a bad servant is what one does with the truth of God. Good servants of Jesus Christ teach “these things” of Scripture, not man’s ideas.
This definite teaching must be doctrinally based. Christians must be taught and learn “the words of the faith and of sound doctrine.” This refers to the gospel and all the doctrines that result from the gospel, which is simply biblical Christianity. The only other source of teaching is identified in 4:1 as “doctrines of demons.”
What must you do with this doctrinally based definite teaching? You must be “continually nourished” by it. Living a godly life involves more than just possessing good doctrine-you must be constantly nourished, continually trained by it. This isn’t something that just happened once in the past or occurs periodically-it must be your day-to-day habit. You must daily feed on the Word (1 Pet 2:1) and devote yourself to the public teaching of Scripture with God’s people, the church (Acts 2:42).
The continual growth and training that comes from attention to doctrinally based teaching necessarily requires separation from false teaching. There can be no tolerance of unbiblical teaching in your or the church’s life. Too many have a “smorgasbord approach,” picking and choosing whatever looks or sounds good (cf. 2 Tim 4:2-4). “Worldly fables” refers to teaching that is radically opposed to God’s truth-there is nothing sacred about it. In order to live a godly life you must “have nothing to do” with such teaching!
A second essential activity you must give yourself to in order to live a godly life is
Disciplined Living, 4:7b-9
False teaching and living is always a danger. God has provided you with the means of protecting yourself, so you must use them! You should not expect to merrily go along and expect to grow in Christ, just as the farmer shouldn’t expect a good crop to automatically pop up!
Protection from apostasy requires disciplined living. What will a farm look like if the farmer sleeps in until 9:00 a.m. everyday? The Christian life is no different-you must discipline yourself. The Ephesian and Roman cultures placed a premium on physical exercise and appearance, what Paul here calls “bodily discipline.” The idea is vigorous training.
As a believer, you must look at every aspect of your life and work to make them all consistent with, supportive of, and working toward God’s intentions. It’s not enough to just “believe” good doctrine or “belong” to a good church. What should you rigorously discipline your life for?
A disciplined life strives for godly living (4:7b). Godliness is a life that is consistent with and a result of God’s truth – a God-reverent life that is not merely one of form and appearances but of active obedience. You want to live this way and you’re doing all you can to live a life totally set apart, dedicated, and consecrated for God (1 Cor 6:19-20; 10:31). How can you have such a disciplined life?
Living a godly life requires prioritized living (4:8). Living a disciplined life involves saying “no” to things that might not be bad in and of themselves. You must do this so that you can give more attention to things that are of greater importance – “bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”
This isn’t a slam against physical exercise – the point is one of contrast. The good that physical discipline accomplishes is limited to this life-the good that spiritual discipline accomplishes is unlimited! Maybe you’re not big on physical exercise so this contrast doesn’t hit home as hard. Consider these things that may apply, areas that you do discipline yourself to accomplish:
- Make it to work on time every day
- Keep a tidy home
- Pay your taxes and bills
- Buy Christmas and birthday gifts and cards for your 85 children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews
- Remember when a certain video is out
- Not miss your favorite TV show
- Cook or bake an intricate recipe
- Keep thousands of tools cleaned and organized
- Take care of dogs, cats, rabbits, snakes, gerbils, spiders, fish, and birds
- Plan for a big family event or vacation
- Care for your body, hair, clothes, or nails
- Have a beautifully landscaped home
- Effectively fulfill your responsibilities at work or school
These things in and of themselves are not evil! But Christian-will you be occupied with them 100 years from now? What priority do the things of God have in your life that will help you be godly, such as Scripture, prayer, public worship, and service?
A last essential activity that you need to be actively involved in to live a godly life is
Diligent Service, 4:10
Protection from apostasy requires diligent service. The idea here is one of hard, exhausting work. There is more than enough to do in spiritual service. The Christian who says “there’s no place or program for me to serve in” probably isn’t looking or trying hard enough.
Diligent service is fueled by confidence in God. When you have a real knowledge of Who you’re serving and what He holds out for you, that gives you the motivation to train hard to be like Christ in your life.
What are you training yourself with-God’s truth or worldly truth? Is your life disciplined to serve God now? 100 years from now what will you be doing?
Pastor Greenfield preached this message Sunday morning, July 1, 2007