Throughout life, it seems the question that we often get asked is: ‘who do you want to be?’ As a child, it’s always “What do you want to be when you grow up?” An author, A gymnast, A fireman, A footy player. Growing up, I wanted to be a bank manager. Why? Well, I thought as the bank manager I would have access to all the money! Then at the end of high school, we’re confronted with that decision again; a decision that rests on a score out of 100.
As we become adults, the question: ‘what do you want to be?’’ then seems to take a different shape. Rather than people asking us, it tends to be us asking ourselves. Is this what I want to be? I remember in my 2nd-year of university, during the summer break, doing a six-week stint working as an auditor in an accounting firm. Well, that was enough for me to say: “this is not for me.” So off I went and pursued Human Resources. Along the way, it seems we’re forever answering the question. Do I see myself doing this for the rest of my life? Is this what I want to spend my time, my energy pursuing? Or do I chase something else instead?
1 Timothy 4 today is going to put something before us all, something that’s well and truly worth aspiring for.
If you point these things out to the brothers and sisters, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, ~1Timothy 4:6 (NIV)
Not you might be, you will be a good minister! The word minister there, it’s not talking about the paid minister, someone like myself, or any of the other staff here. No, Paul uses a different word here, different from the words: elder, overseer, deacon that he used back in Chapter 3. The word here is ‘servant’. It’s not a particularly impressive word. When was the last time you heard someone say they had ambitions to become a servant? I don’t think I’ve ever said to my kids: “Hey, forget becoming a gymnast when you grow up. Much better off chasing the dream of becoming a servant” What does a servant do? A servant serves. To be a servant, by its very definition, is to be the opposite of someone important; power and position, status, fame and recognition. These are off the table when it comes to being a servant because a servant serves. A servant doesn’t have on their radar questions like: Whether I’m appreciated, my reputation, recognition. No, because a servant serves. In the age we live in where it’s all about pursuing my dreams, my freedom, my rights, why would anyone want to aspire to be a servant!
Well, let’s break down what it means to be a servant of Christ Jesus. Christ Jesus, who as we saw back in the very first sentence of this letter. Christ Jesus who is our hope, our Lord (1Timothy 1:2). The one who came into this world to save sinners. (1Timothy 1:15) The one who gave his life as a ransom for all. (1Timothy 2:6) There is no greater privilege than to be a good servant of Christ Jesus! What does good looks like for a servant of Christ Jesus? According to 1 Timothy 4, a good servant of Christ Jesus is godly! There it is; godliness. What is godliness? It’s code for living out the truth about Jesus.
Specifically, the focus is on what comes out of the lips and whether it’s backed up with one’s lifestyle. Friends, if 1 Timothy has drilled anything into us over these past few weeks, it’s that truth matters. Especially in the household of God. But what matters just as much is HOW we live out the truth. It’s not enough just to speak the truth we also get to show how good the truth is. We get to show how onboard we are with the truth. We do that through our attitudes, our priorities, what things we say ‘Yes’ to and say ‘No’ to. We do that both within the church and before a watching world. That’s what we’re going to see here today in 1 Timothy 4.
Now, let’s go back to 1 Timothy 4:6
If you point these things out to the brothers and sisters, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus. ~1Timothy 4:6 (NIV)
OK, let’s stop there. What comes out of a servant’s mouth are ‘these things’. These things are directed to both men and women. Remember, Paul doesn’t want the women to miss out. He’s jealous they have every opportunity to learn. But what exactly are ‘these things’? The things a good servant points out with their lips are the sort of things we saw back in Chapter 1, things that advance God’s work, things that have love as it’s end point, things that have to do with a purified heart, a clean conscience and a sincere faith, things that involve the trustworthy sayings that are worthy of full acceptance. That Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. That there is one mediator between God and humanity, the man Jesus Christ. That pursuing the task of an overseer in God’s church is a worthy task. A good servant puts THESE things before God’s family because they’re well aware of the times we’re living in.
The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. ~1Timothy 4:1 (NIV)
Notice how THESE things are contrasted from THINGS TAUGHT BY DEMONS. One promotes faith and the other causes people to give up on Jesus altogether. Unlike a godly person who’s on about truth, this demonic teaching comes via verse 2... hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. Whereas the godly person has their walk and their talk line up, the hypocritical liars not only don’t speak the truth but they don’t live it out as well. It’s not like they are trying to turn things around either because their consciences have been dull and insensitive, rather than having their conscience pricked they don’t give a stuff about the truth anymore!
Well, come verse 3 - we get a window into the sort of lies they were spreading.
They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. ~1 Timothy 4:3 (NIV)
Right, so the lie was that you were somehow more spiritual if you stayed single and didn’t marry and if you didn’t eat certain food then that’s what made you holy. Well we know that can’t be right because God’s pro-marriage, He’s the one who invented it in the first place! And second, Jesus has declared all foods clean, so go ahead and eat your bacon, get stuck into
the shellfish! Being godly doesn’t mean pursuing the ascetic lifestyle where we deny and reject the very things God’s given us to enjoy. If you’re not a Christian and you’re tuning in then Number 1 - I’m really glad you’re checking out the things of God.
Number 2 - you may be thinking that there’s no fun in Christianity, that you’ll have to give up too many things if I want to side with Jesus. Well, you may have to give up some things but think of it from the other angle, at last, you now know who to thank for all the wonderful things you get to enjoy when used on God’s terms.
For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer. ~1 Timothy 4:4-5 (NIV)
Look I get that during lockdown, it’s become increasingly harder to be thankful. I’ve struggled heaps, more during lockdown 2.0. I’ve learnt to pause and wait for things to bubble up to the surface that I can thank God for. So let me rattle off a few things, I’m thankful for technology that enables us to stay in touch. Last lockdown our oven broke so I’m thankful for an oven that’s enabled home-cooked food, new recipes to try.
I’m thankful for the sunset I saw on THE Rooty Hill, thankful for the bike I can ride, thankful for these strawberries at $2 a punnet! and so sweet too! How good is it to be a Christian - we know who to thank! Gratitude, that’s what falls off the lips of a good servant of Christ Jesus.
Well, that’s one side of the coin called godliness, what comes out of our lips. The other side has got to do with our lives.
Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. ~1 Timothy 4:7 (NIV)
Notice how godliness is contrasted here with the false teaching that was all over Ephesus or modern-day Turkey, that contrast is important because it shows us that godliness has got to do with truth. Often, I’ve made the mistake of thinking that godliness equals goodliness or simply doing the right thing. I reckon we’ve done that because we’ve bought the lie that it’s all about what we DO, the good deeds I present before God , that’s what helps me earn God’s favour, that’s what gets me into heaven. That as long as on the balance of things, the good outweighs the bad then God will accept me. That would be your classic example of a godless myth that Paul says: have nothing to do with WHATSOEVER! Godliness has got to do with truth. In fact, it’s got to do with God.
Take a look back at 1 Timothy 3:16 in your Bible where we were told about the secret of godliness. Godliness has got to do not with myths about God but truths about God and then Paul rattled off six of them. That God appeared, that He walked out of that grave, Risen and Alive with real hands and real feet and real scars. Shortly after that, the Spirit confirmed he was the real deal, seen by angels, that he was to be preached to the ends of the earth so that people would believe in Him. And that now he’s been taken up in glory. Godliness begins and ends with having a grasp of who God truly is!
And so, on that basis, Paul now says “TRAIN YOURSELF”
WOW! That phrase “Train yourself” - if there’s ever a time when those two words took on fresh meaning now would be it, in the middle of a lockdown, train - not just because many of us have got more time on our hands. No train because with the constant changes and the never ending news cycle that makes us feel
Depressed, disheartened, causes anxiety, uncertainty and fear, that messes with our mental health, that throws us into financial panic. Now, more than ever is the time to TRAIN. Make the extra effort with discipline, put in the hard yards, roll up the sleeves, grit the teeth knowing full well, it won’t be easy but it’ll be worth it.
And not just train, but train YOURSELF. We all know the hardest person to lead is yourself but Paul wants us to feel the weight of responsibility falling on our shoulders, the buck stops with us. Now is the time to step up to be proactive. Of course that doesn’t mean you’re all on your own, yes you’re to take the initiative but there are heaps of ways to - as Paul says in verse 6 - ways to nourish yourself on the truths of the faith.
What will training yourself to be godly...what will that look like for you this coming week? Well, let me ask you how’d you go last week in nourishing your soul with God’s Word? Well, why not try and do a PB - a personal best - this week. So if it was zero times you opened up your Bible last week, that’s fine, train yourself to open it up at least once this week. If it was three times then why not aim for four. If you’re used to reading a paragraph then why not aim for a chapter. If you typically avoid reading the Old Testament, why not begin with a short book like Ruth, or Judges. Maybe you want to consider going deeper? Enrolling in a course. Maybe even Bible college for next year.
I’m more than happy to chat about some options. Wherever you are on that spectrum, let’s aim for a new PB! Of course training isn’t a solo thing, there’s plenty of others who God’s given us to join in this training program, your small group would be one of them
I remember one small group last year, during lockdown, they would organise a morning Zoom meeting only the cameras were off and it was just them individually spending time with God. But the fact they were all doing it and they knew others
were there doing it too, they all helped each other to prioritise it, but it’s been so encouraging to hear people live out those truths within small groups too. I’ve heard of small groups organising for groceries to be delivered when someone’s doing it tough. I
heard this week how one group, the leaders sent out home-delivered supper, so the group share it together over the study.
Sending a bunch of flowers to a member who’s doing it tough.
I’ve heard of group members phoning one another during the week, that’s godliness in action, word AND deed. Truth AND love, keep it up! So yes - train yourself but train yourself alongside others.
In verse 8 we come across another one of Paul’s trustworthy sayings that’s deserving of full acceptance.
For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. ~1 Timothy 4:8-9 (NIV)
Now I know that for a good number of you, you already fully accept the first half of this saying, up until lockdown, you were heading along to a gym. Maybe you were training for a marathon or a half-marathon. Others were heading out for walks - trying to get your 10,000 steps in. Many of you play competitive sports. Now in lockdown, I know a number of you have jumped on board with the Couch to 5K running app. Or you’ve got your home gym setup. To the notion that there is SOME value in physical activity I can hear many of you say a big AMEN.
Exercise, one of those wonderful gifts from God as we saw earlier. Nothing like a good sweat to clear the head!
But note - it’s of SOME value. Over my life, I’ve trained for a marathon, I’ve trained for a Spartan Race, I’ve trained for basketball games, I’ve spent lots of time at the gym, watching what I eat. Its involved plenty of physio along the way too.
Dragging myself out of bed early in the morning yes - it was worth it, I don’t regret it but all I’ve got to show for at the end of the day is a headband. Oh, and a sermon illustration. Godliness on the other hand, that’s our future. Godliness is the currency of heaven and so the effort, the strain, the spiritual sweat you put in now, you’re just getting a head start for what awaits in glory! Paul calls that a win-win, a win for this life and a win for the life to come.
That’s why Paul will go on to say two more things about how a good servant of Christ Jesus backs it up with their lifestyle.
Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. ~1 Timothy 4:12 (NIV)
We’ve reached a turning point in Chapter 4, so far Timothy’s job has been to expose error, to point out the lies. However, from this verse on, Timothy is to show how good the truth is by living a transformed life. And here in verse 12 specifically, rather than others looking DOWN on Timothy because of his youth, others are going to look UP to Timothy instead, all because of his speech and because of his conduct.
For Timothy, the way he speaks about Jesus, his God-talk, that’s to be worth copying. The stuff he speaks about, it’s not just head knowledge for him, Jesus is real to him, Jesus
impacts how he conducts himself, the way he goes about relationships. It affects all the stuff we saw last week in Chapter 3. Keeping his anger in check, alcohol, how he related to outsiders. Does the public and private life match up?
Do you remember those spot-the-difference games that were in the Sunday newspapers or in the puzzle book when you were a kid? You’d have two nearly identical pictures side by side and you’d have to try and see what was differences between them. On one there’d be a picture on the wall and in the other one it was missing. One the guy would only be wearing one sock whereas in the other one he was wearing both.
Well, when it comes to godliness, sure there might be differences between our speech and our conduct. Our walk doesn’t always match up with our talk but being a good servant of Christ Jesus involves naming it, not doing pretend. And then being committed to removing those differences, that’s why good servants of Christ Jesus pay attention to how they live and act because our lives are on display. People are watching, people are copying, everything from how you drive to what you post about on social media. How you treat your spouse, what your home life is like. From how you use your downtime to how you spend your money, how you dress. We have a tremendous opportunity to help one another, to model for each other what godliness looks like.
Have a think about the person who you looked up to, or look up to now as a Christian role model. You got someone in mind?
Chances are you picked that person because their walk and their talk lined up or at least they were self-aware and honest enough to know that was what they needed to train themselves in. They had set an example for you in speech and conduct. Why don’t you, before today is out, get in touch with that person if you’re able to, call them, message them, pray for them, express your thankfulness in some concrete way.
Timothy is to set an example, not just in speech and conduct, he’s to do so in a context of love, faith and purity.
Love is what’s behind everything Timothy says and does. He’s setting an example for their good. And not only that, when it comes to faith he’s contenting, he’s pursuing, he’s fighting the good fight of the faith. Showcasing those things as opposed to what others in this letter are described as doing, people like Hymenaeus and Alexander who we met back in 1:20, two guys who’ve shipwrecked their faith. Those who’ve abandoning the faith as we saw in verse 1 of this chapter. Or the greedy who wander away from the faith in 6:10.
And then when it comes to purity, Timothy, like all good servants of Christ Jesus, are to lead the way. Interestingly the only other time purity gets a mention is in 5:2 where Timothy is to treat the younger women WITH absolute purity. Good servants of Christ Jesus relate to the opposite sex in wholesome, appropriate and God-honouring ways.
Chances are, you won’t remember any of the sermons I have preached or will preach 10 years from now. That’s OK. I’m not offended. I don’t think I’ll even remember them myself! But I’m pretty sure you’ll remember how I’ve spoken to you, whether positively or negatively. You will remember whether I listened, how I handled a certain situation, whether I understood you, encouraged you, how I served, not just up-front but behind the scenes.
Those of you who’ve come into my home you’ll remember how I’ve tried to disciple my children, how I treat Teresa, how I made you feel welcome. Knowing that, knowing that’s the sort of stuff that determines whether I’m a good servant of Christ Jesus or not, that’s what inspires me to keep working at godliness.
And finally, part of living a life of godliness, living out the truths of God will mean that of Christ progress - not perfection - is the name of the game.
Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. ~1Timothy 4:15 (NIV)
Notice how Paul goes all out here, rather than giving yourself half-heartedly, he says go “all in”. Be diligent, make an effort, get absorbed in it like you would binge-watch the latest TV show because by doing so, the results will follow. Only in this case, we’re not talking about progress in terms of better test scores or a bigger paycheck. No, the progress has got to do with growing in godliness!
We often say here at MBM, as followers of Jesus, we want our best days to be ahead of us not behind us. That is, we’re all works in progress, I am, you are, we all are, none of us have fully arrived.
Whenever I’m chatting to someone about stepping up to leading the hesitation every time has either got to do with doctrine, “I don’t have the answers” or lifestyle, “I’m not perfect. I don’t feel I’m good enough”
Well, this verse should come as a relief, the pressure’s off, perfection is not what we’re after but rather progress. I’m glad you don’t have the answers because that’ll make you hungry to go and ask questions. I’m glad you’re not perfect because none of us are and you’re aware of what you need God’s help with!
I often say to couples during marriage prep that the test of a godly marriage will look like the husband saying to his wife: ‘I feel more respected by you this year compared to last.’ And a wife saying to her husband: ‘I feel more loved by you this year compared to last.’ That’s progress!
Progress is the name of the game when it comes to sin too. If you’ve been a follower of Jesus for a while, I would hope that there’d be certain sins you could look back on and say, they’ve been put to death from the time you first took the hand of Jesus. I heard one person share humbly this week about how certain TV shows he watched when he first became a Christian he just knows to stay right away from now.
We’re forever playing the long-game on that one in putting sin to death. Recently I’ve been really convicted about the sin of prayerlessness and in particular a shallowness to my prayer life. So, rather than being stuck there, what do I do? I go away, I put the work in. so that in 6 or 12or however many months time, my progress will be evident.
Well, that brings us to verse 16. A good servant of Christ Jesus has got good self-awareness.
Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. ~1 Timothy 4:16 (NIV)
They have got a keen eye on their speech and their conduct because at the end of the day, salvation is at stake. Now we know earlier, from this letter, there’s no doubt, we do not and cannot save ourselves. There is only one mediator between God and humanity, the man Jesus Christ.
But Paul wants to make it clear, we do have a role to play, just as the hypocritical liar or the false teacher leads people AWAY from salvation. So too, the person who takes godliness seriously, the person who’s talk about Jesus lines up with their walk with Jesus, how we speak, how we act, it’ll either help or hinder whether the gospel gets a genuine hearing.
I began by asking who do you want to be? Do you want to be a good servant of Christ Jesus? Are you willing to train yourself to pursue godliness? To put in the effort, the discipline, to get back up again when you don’t feel like it. Well if your answer to that question is Yes, then that will have tremendous blessings not just for your life here and now and not just for eternity. It’ll have blessings for the church you’re a part of too.
In the 10 years I’ve had the privilege of being part of this church, I’ve discovered by chatting to others who don’t call MBM home, that we here at MBM are known for many things.
A zeal for lost, introducing people to Jesus, seeing them move from death to life. We’re known for diversity, that’s probably one of the biggest reputations of MBM, after all that’s what the first M stands for, Multicultural.
It’s such a delight to see the United Nations gather Sunday by Sunday, I can’t wait for that day when we’re all together in person again. I pray it’ll be sooner rather than later. Not only that, we’re also known for our commitment to the Bible. That’s what the B stands for. That we’re devoted to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and teaching across all ages and stages, kids, youth and adults. And the final M in MBM stands for Ministry. See what makes up a Ministry? Ministers, servants, or more specifically based on what we’ve been looking at today, good servants of Christ Jesus. Without that, we’re a shell of a ministry. All show and no substance!
And so, if you call MBM home, I don’t know about you, but whenever someone asks, what is MBM known for. Yes - they’ll mention those things we’re already known for but my prayer is that they’ll be able to say ‘MBM, oh yeah - that’s right. That’s the place where there are truckloads of servants of Christ Jesus.
Servants who serve, servants who set an example when it comes to speech, conduct, love, faith and purity. Servants who take godliness seriously knowing that’s the one thing that’ll transition from this age, to the age to come. Servants who are committed to watching their life and doctrine closely.’
I thank God for the many servants of Christ Jesus who call MBM home already. Faithful servants, men, women, children, youth, young adults, singles, couples, parents and seniors. Who are switched to what Paul says in verse 10.
As servants of Christ Jesus, this is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe. ~1 Timothy 4:10 (NIV)
How about we pray to that end.
Help us to play our part. Doing whatever it takes. Please show us the areas that need to change. In this coming week. And in the days ahead. Especially in lockdown, help us take the initiative to train ourselves for godliness!