Summary: A series exploring body life behaviors encouraged by Paul in I Timothy. This first message explores our lifestyle witness.
Today we are starting a new series entitled, “Behaving Like Believers.” The question we are asking in this series is, “Does life inside the church look any different than life outside the church?” Or another way to ask it might be, “Do Christian’s lives look any different than those who do not hold to a saving faith in Jesus Christ?”
And while we would all be tempted to answer right away, “Of course!” Truth be told, it is getting more and more difficult to identify believers from non-believers in the world today.
For example. According to the George Barna Research firm, 54% of all Americans polled indicated that they are committed to having a deeper connection with God, and that they would do whatever it takes to get and maintain that deeper relationship. 54%.
Now how high do you think that percentage jumped for mainline Protestants like ourselves? If 54% of all Americans are committed to having a deeper connection with God, and are ready to take action to make that happen. What percentage of people in churches such as ours do you think the same holds true for? The answer. . .49%.
According to George Barna, there are actually fewer people inside the church with a desire for a deeper connection with God and a readiness to do whatever it takes to make that happen than outside the church. Hardly a sign that we are behaving like believers.
How about if you ask the nation what their highest priority is. How many would say their faith is their highest priority? Of all the people in our nation, those who would hold their faith as their highest priority, comes in right around 15%. Of those in mainline, denominational, protestant churches like ours, it jumps up all the way to. . .18%.
According to Barna’s research, less than one out of every 5 people in a church like ours even sees their faith as their highest priority. In some ways, we don’t look all that different from the world, do we?
How about one of today’s political hot buttons? 45% of all adults in our country say that abortion is a morally acceptable behavior. 45%. When polling people that identify themselves as born again Christians, you would expect the percentage to plummet, right? Well, it does, all the way to 33%. One out of every three self proclaimed born again Christians find abortion morally acceptable behavior. Are we “behaving like believers?”
How about one more? From the put your money where your mouth is, or “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” department –
3% of all American households tithe to their place of worship. 3%. That number jumps when you look at born again Christians to. . .9%. And for evangelicals like ourselves... also 9%. Less than one out of every 10 Christians, and only 6% more than the number including all non-Christian households in America tithe their income to their church.
The picture in the world today, the picture being drawn of believers by those who call themselves believers, does not look all that different than the unbelieving world. Not just in what we believe, but in how we act.
We could look at other areas and see that church divorce rates are just as high as divorce rates in un-churched households. Suicide rates differ very little. Our distinctives are harder and harder to distinguish.
And not just in how we live our lives as individuals, but also in how we treat others. And how we treat each other, within the body.
Well, Paul knew this would be a problem way back in the 1st century. So he wrote a letter to his friend Timothy. Timothy was a native of Lystra. His father was Greek, and his mother, Eunice, and grandmother, Lois, were godly Jewish women. In fact, it was through the influence of these women that Timothy learned the Hebrew Scriptures as a child.
And Paul calls Timothy a “true son in the faith”, suggesting that he was converted during Paul’s first missionary visit to Lystra that you can read about in Acts 14. So at the beginning of Paul’s second missionary journey, Timothy was chosen by Paul to accompany him and Silas. They were going to be preaching to Jews, so Paul had Timothy circumcised. There is no question of Timothy’s commitment at this point.
After various travels and trials, Timothy is left in Ephesus to confront some false teachers who are infiltrating the church while Paul went on to Macedonia. It is Timothy’s charge to make sure that the false can be differentiated from the true in this new church. To make sure that there is a difference between the world and these new Christian believers.
It is from Macedonia, that it is believed that Paul wrote this first letter to Timothy. And if you want to know why this book is in the Bible, or what the purpose of this letter was, you have to look no further than I Timothy 3:14-15. Because Paul makes it crystal clear, the reason why he is writing these things.