Summary: Four ways to make our faith in Jesus public to those around us.
Just how much of our faith in Jesus should we make public and how much should our faith in Jesus remain private? Our culture tells us that faith is a private affair, like having a hobby. Our secular culture tells us that faith is a private issue, to be kept hidden in the privacy of our home or our church. In fact, the Yale law professor Stephen Carter wrote an entire book about this a few years ago, when he wrote The Culture of Disbelief.
Yet when we read the New Testament we learn that the essence of being a Christian is following Jesus Christ in a very public way. Although we have a private relationship with Jesus, following Jesus has implications for how we do business, how we pay our taxes, how we deal with conflict with a boss, and so forth. Jesus himself told us that if we’re embarrassed of him, he’ll be embarrassed of us (Luke 9:26). Yet embarrassed is the way a lot of people feel about their faith.
It’s impossible to live the life of following Jesus described in the Bible in total privacy. How do we make our faith in Jesus public?
Christians sometimes do the strangest things to make their faith in Jesus public. When I first became a Christian back in 1982, I starting putting Christian bumper stickers on my car. Soon I had a whole collage of bumper stickers on the back of my root beer brown Ford Pinto. That made me especially aware of my driving habits, but is that really what the Bible means by not being ashamed of Jesus? Others buy Christian merchandise, whether it’s a Christian t-shirt or jewelry, like the What Would Jesus Do wristbands. Some Christians go so far as getting tattoos to make their faith in Jesus public.
Today we’re going to look at how to make our faith in Jesus public in ways that go beyond bumper stickers, t-shirts, and even tattoos. You see, the problem with these other approaches isn’t that they’re too extreme, but that they’re not extreme enough. They don’t get to the real heart of the issue, of what a public faith in Jesus looks like.
We’ve been in a series through the New Testament books of 1 and 2 Timothy called Deepening Your Life With God. We’ve discovered so far that a deepened life with God comes as a result of accurate beliefs, spiritual practices, and authentic Christian community.
Now the part of 1 Timothy we’re going to look at this morning has special significance to me personally. No other part of the Bible has had more of an impact on how I approach my role as a pastor than the text we’re going to look at today. Next Saturday will mark my tenth anniversary as your pastor of teaching here at Life Bible Fellowship Church. I was 28 years old when the elder board invited me to that role, and for the first few years I felt very inadequate and unqualified. During my first year back in 1991 I went to a one day spiritual retreat. As I was wrestling with my feelings of inadequacy and fear during a time of solitude, God led me to the section of the Bible we’re going to look at today, and this section became foundational to how I have tried to conduct myself the last decade of ministry. So in addition to talking about how to go public with our faith, I want to share personally how this section of the Bible has led me to approach being your pastor of teaching.
So turn to 1 Timothy 4:11 and take out your outline, as we look at four ways to make our faith in Jesus Christ public.
1. Our Example (1 Timothy 4:11-12)
We begin with vv. 11-12. Paul’s protégé Timothy was a relatively young man, so was having a difficult time bringing correction to the spiritual errors he was confronting in the church in Ephesus. Now most Bible scholars feel that Timothy was somewhere in his early to mid 30s when Paul wrote these words. In the ancient world you were considered young until you were 40 (Marshall 560).
But really young is relative to the situation you’re in and the people you’re around. I’ve met pastors in their 50s who struggle to lead their congregations because most of their church members are in their 60s and 70s. These church members look down on them because of their youth. You can see this kind of spiritual generation gap throughout churches, no matter how old or young the pastor might be.
Now the reality is that Timothy can’t stop people from looking down on him because of his youth. So the encouragement here seems to be for Timothy to not be intimidated by older people, even when they do look down on him because of his inexperience and his youth. Since Timothy can’t control other people’s attitude toward him, he should focus on his own attitude. "Don’t be intimidated because people don’t take you seriously because of your age," Paul seems to be saying.