Summary: Our English word "hygiene" comes from the Greek word for "sound" (sound doctrine; sound faith; sound speech) used in the Pastoral Letters - this sermon evaluates these signs of good spiritual health.

Going to the doctor for a checkup is something a lot of people do religiously. They want to make sure their health is not failing in ways they can’t detect on their own. Not a bad idea.

Likewise we are prone to miss some signs of poor spiritual health if we don’t check up on it regularly.

In Paul’s letters to the pastors Timothy and Titus he uses a word that helps evaluate spiritual health. The word is "sound". We get our English word "hygiene" from the Greek word Paul uses.

When the Bible speaks of "sound doctrine", "sound faith" and "sound speech", it is therefore talking about "healthy doctrine", "healthy faith" and "healthy speech".

How do we maintain good spiritual hygiene? How do we know we are spiritually well?

This is a very important question on several different planes. One of current importance is, "how do I know if I’m truly spiritual since there are so many different claims of spirituality in today’s society?"

The Word of God tells us:

"My dear friends, don’t believe everything you hear. Carefully weigh and examine what people tell you. Not everyone who talks about God comes from God. There are a lot of lying preachers loose in the world." (1 John 4:1 - The Message)

The first test of good spiritual health is our relationship to "sound doctrine". This is the foundation. If our spiritual health is going to be good it has to be based on the right information.

Consider what the Bible says about "sound" or "healthy" doctrine:

Titus 2:1 - "You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine."

2 Timothy 1:13 - "What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus."

In Titus 1:9, while giving the character qualities of a pastor, the Bible says, among other things...

"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."

Sound doctrine then, has an encouraging and uplifting effect. One of the reasons we find reading, studying and hearing teaching and preaching from the Word of God so beneficial is that it is very encouraging! Sound doctrine is healthy and encourages us because it is true and trustworthy!

About halfway through a PBS program on the Library of Congress, Dr. Daniel Boorstin, the Librarian of Congress, brought out a little blue box from a small closet that held the library’s rarities.

The label on the box read, "Contents of the president’s pockets on the night of April 14, 1865." Since that was the fateful night Abraham Lincoln was assasinated, every viewer’s attention was seized. Boorstin then proceeded to remove the items in the small container and display them on camera. There were five things in the box:

A handkerchief, embroidered "A. Lincoln."

A country boy’s pen knife.

A spectacles case repaired with string.

A purse containing a $5 bill - confederate money!

Some old and worn newspaper clippings.

"The clippings", said Boorstin, "were concerned with the great deeds of Abraham Lincoln." One of them actually reports a speech by John Bright which says that Lincoln is "one of the greatest men of all times". Today that’s common knowledge. The world now knows that British statesman John Bright was right in his assessment of Lincoln, but in 1865 millions shared quite a contrary opinion. The President’s critics were fierce and many. His was a lonely agony that reflected the suffering and turmoil of the country ripped to shreds by a costly war.

(Story from "The Quest for Character" - pp. 62-63, by Chuck Swindoll)

Can’t you just imagine President Lincoln pulling that newspaper clipping out of his pocket every once in a while just to read something encouraging in the midst of all the discouragement all around him?

One of the most encouraging things we can do is pick up and read a message that is more than just the opinion of man. We have the privilege of being encouraged by the Word of God!

Sometimes our spiritual health grows weak because we are pulled down by all the discouraging things around us. Our hope is in a constant diet of sound doctrine.

False doctrine on the other hand leads to a spiritually unhealthy lifestyle.

1 Timothy 1:8-10 - "We know that the law is good if ones uses it properly."

"We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers, and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers,"

"For adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers - and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine..."

Why are some lives spiritually unhealthy? The doctrine they have been listening to and following is not sound. We cannot maintain good spiritual health if we are following false teaching.

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