In my last post, I shared from the Apostle Paul’s words to the young pastor, timothy, concerning Timothy’s need to rise above some of the stereotypical pitfalls of young people, specifically, young men, even more specifically, young male zealots. As we move farther into looking at what else Paul wrote to Timothy, the field of applying his words to everyday life broadens, and we will all be helped as believers who want to live out Jesus-exalting lives in our generation. Today, Paul instructs us about increasing our intensity to be solid examples in how we talk, how we behave, how we relate to others, how we believe and how we pursue purity. That’s a wagon load, so let’s pick up where we left off previously in the second half of 1st Timothy 4:12:
“…set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity…”
Every now and again, the Scriptures just tell us what to do. So much of the bible touches on mystery, with lofty ideas sourced in the heavenlies. This portion of Scripture? Not so much. Here we are instructed in how to live out our faith with others, thereby securing a solid testimony that accurately reveals the character of Jesus Christ to those we meet.
Our speech patterns – Yes, the bible says volumes about what comes out of our mouths. The bible warns us about lying, gossiping, complaining, accusing, dividing and crude speech. The bible actually forbids believers from swearing/cursing (Ephesians 4:29, 5:4; Colossians 3:8). According to Scripture, our mouths are meant for praising God, edifying others and proclaiming the Gospel. It is interesting to me that the first thing Paul focuses upon when it comes to living an exemplary testimony is the need to regulate what proceeds from our mouths. Our speech carries the fragrance of whatever is cooking in our hearts.
Our daily conduct – it is possible to have all the right words and still live in such a way that nobody values what we say. Though a modification of behavior is not what the Gospel is all about, it would be foolishly blind to dismiss the clear teaching of Scripture that reveals the truth that “a faith which saves is a faith which behaves”. Paul expected Timothy to conduct himself in a manner befitting a child of God. Without nosediving into a list of Do’s & Don’t’s, may I just remind us that we only live out what we truly believe? If our faith has not begun to transform our behavior, then our faith was dead on arrival. New creations in Christ have the pleasure of watching the old ways being removed, and the new ways being empowered (2nd Corinthians 5:17). What we do is sourced in who we truly are. Our activity comes forth from our identity. Paul was not being a legalist when he called Timothy to behave. We have the right to expect proper Kingdom conduct from each other. People are watching us and we must ensure that we move like Jesus moves.
Our relating to all others – Love. Love. Love. Love. May I say it again? LOVE. This common word love is not defined as “me making you feel good about you”. Love is best defined as me seeking your highest good, even at my own expense. Love is to be the foundation of all relationships. Go ahead an experience the conviction of reading 1st Corinthians 13:1-8 again. We never graduate from growing in love. We progress, but we never graduate. Love requires my intentional pursuit of getting over myself and then making you the priority. Paul told Timothy to out-love everyone whom he could. He told Timothy to be the example to all others in this. In my opinion, this may be the hardest of all this list today because it goes beyond outward obedience and presses into consistently denying oneself for the good of the other person.
Our deepening trust in God – Timothy does not seem to be a natural risk taker. When Paul writes to him, we frequently catch the air of Paul’s need to motivate Timothy. In Kingdom leadership, there is no place for constant hesitation. Trepidation leads to hesitation which leads to immobilization which becomes fossilization. We must move in faith. We have to take risks. Playing it safe is not a fruit of the Holy Spirit. As we know God, we hear God. As we hear God, we commit to God. As we commit to God, we follow God. Friends, God did not sit down to watch the clock run out. He is active today and heaven-bent on stretching every single one of His children out of their comfort zones. So important is this, that faith is actually one of the charismata listed in 1st Corinthians 12:8-10. That’s right, faith is so essential that God tells us to pursue it as an able-to-be-increased gift of the Holy Spirit. He is worthy to be fully trusted. We are to set the example in doing so.
Our pursuit of sexual purity – Ministry does nothing to sanctify a person. Timothy was a pastor, but that did not elevate him above the need to be reminded that he was to live an impeccable life in the area of his moral purity. Paul applied this verse more precisely in 1st Timothy 5:2 where he used the same Greek word to command Timothy to guard his purity around younger women, treating them like sisters and not sexual objects. Friends, I don’t really need to say much here, do I? Here’s the bible blueprint that has never changed: sexual activity is blessable by God in the context of marriage between a man and a woman. Anything outside of those parameters is sinfully impure. The Church needs to remain lovingly resolute in our position on this matter. Frankly, it’s not up for vote. Dost thou desire sexual pleasure? Then findest thyself an husband or wife, and then havest thineselves a gloriously good time in the marriage bedchamber as often as thou both art pleased. ‘Nuff said.
From this list, it seems that we have plenty to think about and, likely, much to work on. Yes, the Father is greatly interested in how we live out what we say we believe. It is not legalism, it is the revelation of our devoted commitment to a King who gave His own life to us. Our lives must look as His does.
We will pick back up in the next post about the high call to something that doesn’t always seem spiritual.