What is the role of a pastor? This is one of the issues raised by COVID, both sides of the vaccine debate have wanted me to tell the congregation to get vaccinated or not get vaccinated, I can see why. The best of both sides are driven by love and are concerned for the health of our community, I have unapologetically said “I am a pastor, I am not a scientist nor a doctor” I go to my doctor who I trust for my health, I don’t go to my pastor friends.
But behind the question is my failure to teach the difference between Truth and truth. That is the Big 'T' truth concerns special revelations from God in the bible and the Small T truth concerns everything else from science, politics and psychology. Big 'T' truth is timeless and without error the Small 'T' truth is experimental, open to be tested and examined.
My role as pastor is to speak to what is timeless and revealed, so when I bang on about preaching the gospel as of first importance and love being the most excellent way and that there should be no division in the church of Christ, it's because its revealed truth. I will go to jail for Big T truth not Small T truth. It may not be where you’re itching right now, but my task is to preach what is revealed in season and out of season.
The history of the church is filled with pastors and priests who have over reached, saying the earth is flat or that political leader is the antichrist or in the 70s we were told bankcard was the mark of the beast. Gresham Machen, awesome bible teacher, protested against traffic lights as a violation of human rights. It didn’t take too long before they were made look foolish and made Jesus look bad.
Pastors are to teach what is revealed, no more and no less. I'm not saying that there is not a relationship between Big T truth and little T truth but the Bible has a lot to say about government but it doesn’t say whether we should be a constitutional monarchy or a republic. So, when Christians DIVIDE the church on little 'T' truth, like views on vaccine, I want to say 'you’re over reaching'.
It's not surprising that when it comes to Big 'T' Truth, Timothy guards the deposit that has been entrusted to him. He is charged to avoid godless chatter, this sounds like social media to me, this is the 3rd time that he names false teaching and it's the 3rd time Paul charges Timothy to guard the truth. He is to teach it, guard it, fight for it and take hold of it, verbs like insist, command, refute and silence. The test for big 'T' truth is if it:
… agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching ~1 Timothy 6:3 (NIV)
There is a benchmark of revealed truth. It is Gods Word and not the NEWS nor the INTERNET. Behind false teaching is bad character
they are conceited and understand nothing. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words ~1Timothy 6:4 (NIV)
PRIDE making them unteachable, who stir up trouble, claiming special “knowledge” - but have nothing to say. They start arguments and simulate imagination, their words betray their motives.
result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth ~1Timothy 6:4b-5 (NIV)
5 words that result in divisions in the church, you know them by their fruit. How much damage is done by false teaching? One of the truths to be guarded is God's word on GREED
False teaching motivated by financial greed.
…who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain. ~1Timothy 6:5 (NIV)
Nothing new, nothing shames the gospel more than greedy pastors and evangelists. That is why at MBM all staff wages are set by the Anglican diocese and at MBM we take the minimum. All full time staff members… The money for the books that I write and the conferences we speak at all goes back to church funds. If we teach for you to be content on your salary then we better be content on ours. There is a special word for all of us. As you know there are millions of people who have more than you but there are billions who have much less than you.
A command to those who have less
But godliness with contentment is great gain. ~1 Timothy 6:6 (NIV)
The real gain or profit is to be found in being godly and thankful for what you have. I took a funeral of Dave from the Parramatta campus and Julie his wife said they made a decision they were not going to chase after possessions. They had a life filled with love and the Lord Jesus, there were 10 eulogies on how much Dave was a blessing to his family, his church and his non Christian friends. I thought that most billionaires wouldn’t know the joy that Dave experienced.
The way to stay content is to take a step back
For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. ~1 Timothy 6:7-8 (NIV)
You start your life with zero dollars and you end your life with zero dollars. In between we spend a lot of time worrying and a lot of energy chasing stuff. You may say ‘well my kids will get it’ Did you know that most wealth doesn’t survive 3 generations. The 1st generation makes it, by the 2nd generation only 30% hold on to it and by the 3rd generation its down to 9%. The point is to sit tight with Jesus and sit loose with your stuff and teach your kids to as well. God has a low bar for us to be content.
But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. ~1 Timothy 6:8 (NIV)
Food and clothing is CODE for basic NEEDS not WANTS. So, when you see a friend with a better car, a new house, the latest phone, a loving spouse and I'm feeling jealous, frustrated, resentful or angry, I am to ask myself - Did I eat today? Yes. Do I have a bed to sleep on? Yes. Have I got a roof over my head? Yes. Am I a child of God who has been blessed in heavenly realms with every special blessing? Yes … that is enough… thank you Jesus. This doesn’t stop people being ENTREPRENEURS it means you won’t panic.
The question before us is clear are you seeking to be content in COVID? Contentment is a challenge for those who have less or more. A British movie director was on a luxury liner with 4 Billionaires, he asked them “What do you want in life?” They all said at the same time, “MORE”. My ability to give does not hang on what I earn, it hangs on how content I am. I loved what one MBM pensioner said ‘The first two things I do when I get my pension is I put money for Rent and for the Church’ She gives her best not her leftovers because she is content with food and clothing.
Let me stop and say if you find yourself in desperate financial need then let us know. I’ve had a number of conversations with people who have lost their job because of the economic downturn or no jab no job. I want you to know you are our family. There is a command to be content and a warning if we are not. A warning for those who want to be rich.
Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. ~1 Timothy 6:9 (NIV)
While everyone is sharing in the excitement of a pay rise, investment return or unexpected inheritance, God says, oh be careful, you’re sitting on a ticking time bomb, the wealth will incite twisted desires you never knew you had and can plunge people into nightmares you can’t imagine.
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. ~1Timothy 6:10 (NIV)
We know that it’s not money but the love of money that is the issue. Jesus already said. You CAN’T LOVE MONEY AND ME! One of us will have to go. I’ve never met a person who said that they love money, we just love what money can buy …lifestyle, status, security, significance, power connections. How many have lost their faith because of EAGERNESS FOR MORE?
Example 1 The older couple receive an unexpected inheritance, they sell house and buy an expensive RV and spend days on endless travel - lost marriage - lost faith. It would have been better if they had died then got that inheritance.
Example 2 A young couple buys a house they can’t afford, they over mortgage and now are working 2 jobs with no time for GG, they are too tired for church and off they go slip sliding away.
Example 3 The price for retail therapy or gambling is that they end up drowning in a sea of credit debt and with it, depression. If that is you, there is hope! We can direct you to good financial counsellors.
A command to those who have more.
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. ~1 Timothy 6:17 (NIV)
It’s a command from Christ - Don’t be arrogant. Everything you have has been given to you, what a concept! No matter how clever, how hard you worked, no matter what your parents gave you. Everything you have has been given on loan to steward. Which means everything you have can be taken from you. It took just one Global financial crisis and billionaires went bankrupt, just one little BRAIN Aneurism and your personal bank balance is reduced to nothing.
Unlike false teachers, God wants us to enjoy his good gifts, contentment is not about destroying desires, that is Buddhism and Stoicism, I think it was Luther that said, “The problem with greed is it breeds discontent and we end up NOT enjoying what we do have.” Don’t be arrogant be generous
Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. ~1 Timothy 6:18 (NIV)
The King of Kings commands us to be rich in good deeds – in case you missed it, that means, being generous and willing to share. I want to say how much the Sudanese suffering with COVID were thankful for the many who offered help.
John Grisham the Christian Novelist said “I judge a good year not by how much I get, but by how much I give” He knows you can take it with you after all.
In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. ~1 Timothy 6:19 (NIV)
Calvin said ‘When you migrate to another country, you send your goods ahead, you know your old country is not home anymore. You make a decision about your possessions knowing you’re going to a new home. We are to lay up treasure not in this age but for the coming age. Lets be very clear, you can’t buy your seat in heaven, that was purchased by Jesus blood alone. But as a citizen of heaven you can invest in it. John Wesley was right. “Make as much as you can… save as much as you can ... so, you can give as much as you can.”
What helps is knowing that Heaven is for everything I never had time or couldn’t afford on earth. I haven’t missed out, I've just delayed my gratification. You can’t be neutral when it comes to money and greed, friends we are engaged in a war, flee from greed - fight the good fight of the faith.
2. Fight the good Fight.
But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith… ~1 Timothy 6:11-12 (NIV)
Greed is the hardest sin to diagnose, only one person in 30 years has confessed it as a sin to me. In my prayer diary each Thursday under the topic of confession, I meditate on 2 questions - How much of my treasures am I storing in heaven? and am I excelling in the grace of giving? Greed is a virus more contagious than Ebola or the delta strain of COVID. The only VACCINE TO GREED IS generosity. We are to swim against a current of consumerism.
I don’t mind reality TV shows like the block or fixer-uppers but understand, it is making us discontent not thankful. We love the convenience of Amazon and eBay but they bring the false promise of satisfaction when my package arrives and it never lasts. Today is the day to lay treasure in heaven.
3. Who is this God that commands?
Who dares challenge me on what I do with my money?
I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in his own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honour and might forever. Amen. ~1 Timothy 6:14-16 (NIV)
The charge is made in the sight of God who sees everything. It's issued in light of Jesus return who remembers and rewards all those who are generous. The good God who gives us everything to enjoy, the God who alone rules as King of King and Lord of Lord, there is no point trying to outsmart him. He is the God who is truly blessed, He is eternally happy and wants you to be happy, it's why he says It's more blessed to give than receive. The God who alone is immortal - death has no hold on him … but then gives us the gift of immortality, that we may share eternity with him. This God lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see but one day we will see his face. We will see how our generosity will put a big smile on the face of God. As he shows us around the new creation, he will point out how much treasure you laid down in heaven.
This is Big T Truth, we want to give you the opportunity to lay some treasure in heaven. We are inviting you to fill out your pledge for next year, I thought given we are online and with questions about restrictions. But is that not what contentment is all about? I don’t wait for circumstances to change before I am content and from my contentment, in Christ, I can give.