Summary: The Word contains many warnings that we must watch our life and doctrine closely.
April 19, 2009
Anyone who has used a computer has seen something like this. It’s called an error message. Error messages usually come at the most inopportune times – just when you don’t need such distractions.
There are all kinds of error messages, related to almost anything on your computer. Here are a few more I discovered.
Sometimes error messages just make you angry – why can’t my computer just do what it’s supposed to do? Sometimes, error messages inform you something catastrophic has just happened, or is about to happen.
But all of the time, error messages indicate something is wrong. Your computer is not working properly, or thinking properly. Sometimes it’s a minor error that’s mostly just annoying, but other times that error indicates something quite serious, or it can lead to further complications, and then you really have a problem. It could cause a system crash, and then you’re out of business, at least as far as your computer is concerned.
Sometimes error messages include a code to help diagnose the problem. That got me to thinking. Wouldn’t it be nice if, in life, and in our faith, when something is wrong, and perhaps that wrong means something catastrophic is about to happen, we got some sort of error message, like those that pop up on our computer?
These messages mostly annoy us when they come up on our computer, but sometimes, they save us a lot of grief, because they inform us there’s a problem, before that problem gets bigger.
How about an error message that said to us:
Bad theology! Bad doctrine! Beware!
And how about if there was a code that accompanied that error message, such as a scripture reference.
Well, the Bible is full of error messages. Not errors, mind you. Error messages, much like our computers seem to pop up so often. They’re alerts that tell us to watch out, be alert, something’s wrong. Admonitions to keep our lives in order and running smoothly. Encouragements to pay attention to sound doctrine.
Oh, Bill. Not another message on sound doctrine. Haven’t we heard this before?
Yes, we have. And we’re likely to hear such a theme again. If none of the elders ever preached a message like you’ll hear this morning, we wouldn’t be doing our jobs.
Titus 1:7-9 (NIV) 7 Since an overseer is entrusted with God’s work, he must be blameless--not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. 8 Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. 9 He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.
So, this morning, I’m doing my job. I’m holding firmly to the trustworthy message, as it has been taught to me. I’m encouraging others by sound doctrine. And maybe doing some refuting of those who oppose it.
1 Timothy 4:16 (NIV) 16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.
The two go together. Our lives and our doctrines. There’s a stream of thinking in the church called the Emergent Church. One of the problems with their thinking is that they believe orthopraxy – that is, how we practice our faith, is more important than orthodoxy – our doctrine.
But I believe the two are inseparable, and both are vital. As followers of Christ, we might more easily understand this admonition when it comes to our life. We know that we must be on the alert – constantly guarding against sin which can so easily destroy us.
Yet, here we see the apostle Paul encouraging Timothy that he should also watch his doctrine, or teaching, closely.
Let me note that the word save here has nothing to do with his salvation.
(1 Timothy) opened with a description of the false teachers who were causing havoc among the people of God. Paul is telling Timothy that by faithful adherence to a godly life and to the word of God, he will save himself from these false teachings and he will also rescue his hearers from them as well. Believer’s Bible Commentary
So, let’s remember this opening admonition this morning as we move along. “Watch your life and doctrine closely.”
Doctrine is not a popular subject in much of the church at large today. Experience is popular. The manifest presence of God is popular. Many other new things, the latest and greatest moves of God, are popular things drawing people to some churches.
C.S. Lewis in The Screwtape Letters called this phenomenon “Christianity and…” as well as… “The Horror of the Same Old Thing.” In writing to his junior tempter Wormwood, Screwtape writes that: