Summer is officially wrapping up. Whether you mark it by the first day of school, which for most of us has passed, or Labor Day weekend, which is just around the corner, it is about over. That means sweatshirts and sweaters, jackets and windbreakers, will be moving to the front of our closets.
But before we leave the summer, Bob Levey of the Washington Post provided a column documenting the “Best T-shirts of the Summer”. You know, those shirts full of wisdom and catching sayings like, “I’m with stupid.” Anyone ever own one of those?
Here were some of the ones he included in his latest list –
- (around a picture of dandelions) I Fought the Lawn and the Lawn Won
- (on one woman) So Many Men, So Few Who Can Afford Me
- (a somewhat spiritual theme to this one)
God Made Us Sisters, Prozac Made Us Friends
- (another religious one) If They Don’t Have Chocolate In Heaven, I Ain’t Going
- (many of us can relate to this one) My Mother Is A Travel Agent For Guilt Trips
- (which can lead to this one) I Just Do What The Voices Inside My Head Tell Me To Do
- (this one was seen on the back of a passing motorcyclist) If You Can Read This, My Wife Fell Off
- (for the philosophers in the crowd) What If The Hokey Pokey Really Is What It’s All About?
- (I could wear this one) I Didn’t Climb to the Top of the Food Chain to Be a Vegetarian
- (another one for the women) Coffee, Chocolate, Men . . .Some Things Are Just Better Rich
- (here is some profound truth) If At First You Don’t Succeed, Skydiving Isn’t For You
All right. So maybe the most helpful of advice can not be found on the back of a t-shirt. However, back in the 1st century, the apostle Paul had some sayings that he really wanted to make sure the young pastors he was appointing and training were communicating to their congregations.
In fact, five times in his letters to pastors, he uses the words, at least this is how they are translated in the New King James Version, “This is a faithful saying.” Five faithful sayings that he highlights, and are worthy of our brief exploration today.
The first one comes early in his first letter to Timothy, which we have been exploring for the past few weeks. 1 Timothy 1:15 (read).
The first faithful saying. . .
A. JESUS CAME TO SAVE SINNERS.
Last Sunday night David Durst and I were talking about this coming week’s sermon. I told with him that I wasn’t sure what I would be preaching on. I thought I might be going a different direction than I had previously mapped out, and I have. But I joked with him that whatever passage I preached, I knew the sermon would include a call to evangelizing the lost, a call to ministry within our city, and then whatever the Scripture God led me to was really about.
While I was just joking, I will admit that I am finding it harder and harder to read the Word of God without consistently finding a call to share God’s love with the lost of our community. And is it really any wonder? Is it any wonder that the story of God’s desire to redeem people would consistently pull us back to the very purpose of Christ’s life? Namely, to save sinners.
In simplest terms. The word “world” in this passage refers to all humanity. The word “save” means to deliver or rescue. Jesus came to rescue all humanity. Christ came to die for the sins of men and women, and thereby to save sinners, of whom I, like Paul, am chief.
Some churches talk about “target audiences”, or people groups they are marketing their ministries and services towards. The longer I am involved in ministry, the more my target group matches Jesus’: sinners. The lost. If that is why Jesus came to earth and died, I kind of feel like it would be a worthwhile way for me to spend my life.
Jesus said it like this in John 10:10, “I have come that they might have life, and have it more abundantly.” The abundant life is available in Jesus, but notice that without Jesus there is no other option but death. He did not say, “I have come that they might continue to live, or live better.” He said, “I have come that they might have life. Without me, there is no life. I have come to save them.”
In Matthew 18:11 Jesus says, “For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.”
Some churches have gotten in trouble for having “seeker sensitive” services. Their mistake wasn’t in the type of service they offered. Their mistake is in what they named it. They should have just called it their “Jesus” service. He said, “The healthy don’t need a doctor. The sick do.” Makes you wonder whether He would want churches holding services for themselves, or for the people out there.
When we talk about basic doctrine. When we talk about basic truth. When we talk about foundational principles of our faith. If someone were to ask you, why would God come down to earth? There you have it. “This is a faithfully saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”
A second faithful saying is found in 1 Timothy 3:1 (read).
Paul uses the term “bishop.” This Greek word that is translated for us refers to a person who oversees a congregation. A word that in today’s culture would often point to the profession of being a pastor. In his work, the bishop, or pastor, was to oversee the flock of God, to shepherd his people, to protect them from enemies, and to teach, exhort, and encourage. He was to accomplish this primarily by being an example to his people. He was to do this willingly and with an eager spirit, not by coercion or for financial gain.
Awhile back, H.B. London, and Neil B. Wiseman wrote a book entitled Pastors at Risk, and then even provided an updated version of the book entitled Pastors at Greater Risk. This isn’t a cry for help, but if you would have a desire to know better what it is like to live as a pastor, or how better to pray for your pastor and my family, I would be more than willing to make available my copy of the book for you to read. Here are some of the statistics they share in the text –
- Eighty percent of pastors believe that pastoral
ministry affects their families negatively.
- Thirty-three percent say that being in ministry
is an outright hazard to their families.
- Fifty percent feel unable to meet the needs of the job.
- Ninety percent feel that they were inadequately
trained to cope with ministry.
- Forty percent reported a serious conflict with a
parishioner at least once a month.
According to recent Ellison Research for Facts & Trends, the following was revealed about pastor’s families:
- 93% of pastors have children, including 43% with adolescents
- 14% of pastors are the child of a pastor.
- 93% of wives believe there is extra pressure being married to a pastor
- 91% feel there is extra pressure being the child of a pastor
- 85% believe church-goers often expect pastors’ families to be “better than” other people’s families.
- 60% say their role as a pastor leaves them
with insufficient time for their family.
If the internal pressures of the job and the implications it has on the home aren’t enough. According to the latest survey from Gallup, the number one reason for people joining a church is because “they like the pastor”. The number one reason for leaving a church other than relocation is “disappointment with the pastor.” How do you think pastors of small churches interpret their attendance numbers in light of these types of surveys?
The life of pastor, the call to be a pastor carries a great deal of weight, stress, and intensity. Most Christians would say that a person’s spiritual life is more important than their physical health, but wouldn’t conversely say that being a pastor is more stressful than being an cardiologist, or neurosurgeon. Few of us would argue that what our children learn about Christ is more critical to their eternity than what they learn about algebra, but we wouldn’t ascribe the role of pastor as more critical than school teacher.
In our country we pay our athletes, our politicians, and even our orthodontists inordinate amounts of money, but who do we call when there is a crisis in our homes, and we need someone to help us and pray for us?
So why would one do it? Why would anyone aspire to be a pastor? Because as Paul writes. . .it is a faithful saying that. . .
B. THE CALL TO PASTORAL MINISTRY IS A GOOD CALLING.
Apparently, from what we can read in the text, these two young pastors Paul is writing to are already dealing with all kinds of stresses and pressures. It appears that Timothy is being harassed due to his age. In fact, look at chapter 5 verse 23. It looks like the stress of pastoral ministry has begun to cause Timothy some physical problems. 5:23 (read).
Who knows. Ulcers. Stress related illnesses. Something is going on that is causing Timothy to be frequently ill. So Paul recognizes that Timothy’s call is not an easy one.
However, despite all the tension and pressure, Paul wants these young men to remember that the call to pastoral ministry is a good calling. A call to defend the faith. To protect the teachings that have been passed down to you. To take into your care the spiritual development and walk of the people God leads to your body. To become an ER surgeon for the spiritual sick. To represent Christ in a lost and dying world.
The call to pastoral ministry is a good calling. Third, Paul says it is a faithful saying that...
C. A SPIRITUAL WORKOUT IS A WORTHY WORKOUT.
Jump forward to 1 Timothy 4:8 (read through verse 10). Paul talks about bodily exercise. Exercise was the normal term that was used for the physical training of the great Greek, Olympic like athletes of the day. Paul compares a true spirituality, godliness, to that type of training and says that walking in godliness requires the same kind of training.
And while there is short term profit in physical exercise. He says, the long-term benefits of godliness make the spiritual workout a truly worthy workout. Discipline in godliness affects both the present and future life of the believer. The present aspect includes obedience and a life of purpose. The future aspect involves greater rewards in the coming reign of Christ.
What are some the spiritual exercises that we can find in the Bible? How about. . .
Psalms 119:32 says, “I will run the course of Your commandments, For You shall enlarge my heart.”
Hebrews 12:1 says, our kids should know this one from camp, “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”
What about. . .
Romans 6:4 says, “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”
2 Corinthians 5:7 says, “For we walk by faith, not by sight”
Galatians 5:16 says, “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.”
Ephesians 5:1-2 says, “Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.”
Later on in Ephesians 5:15 Paul writes, “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise.”
Colossians 2:6 says, “As you therefore receive Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him.”
I John 2:6, “He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.”
3 John 4 says this, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.”
There’s more. . .
Luke 6:22-23 says, ”Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you, and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Man’s sake. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! For indeed your reward is great in heaven, For in like manner their fathers did to the prophets.”
Into lifting? That’s a spiritual exercise.
Psalms 25:1 says, “To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul.”
Psalm 28:2 says, “Hear the voice of my supplications. When I cry to You, When I lift up my hands toward Your holy sanctuary.”
Psalms 63:4 says, “Thus I will bless You while I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name.”
Psalms 121, “I will lift up my eyes to the hills – from whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”
Psalms 134:2 commands, “Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, and bless the Lord.”
Even Paul writes in I Timothy 2:8, “I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.”
(joke about different hand positions)
One more form of exercise. Not a real Wesleyan one. . .but biblical nevertheless.
Psalms 149:3 says “Let them praise His name with the dance.”
The final Psalm declares, “Praise Him with the timbrel and dance!” (150:4)
In fact, you will find, the more you open yourself up to praise and worship, the more of a physical exercise you will get in the midst of your spiritual exercise.
Well, I’m in serious time trouble with two more to go. A fourth saying that Paul declares as faithful and true is found in his second letter to Timothy. II Timothy 2:11 (read through verse 13).
Now usually, in your Bibles, when you see something set aside like it is in my Bible for this passage, it is referring back to a previous prophecy or song in the word of God. But these words don’t come from anywhere else in the Bible.
In fact, this section is probably a hymn or confession or creed of the early church. It is believed by some that it may have even been used as part of the liturgy in the early church when they baptized new believers. It resembles the parallelism that you find in Hebrew poetry. And it draws an incredible connection to the partnership between believes and Christ.
Paul is declaring that it is a faithful saying that...
D. OUR PARTNERSHIP WITH GOD IS A POWERFUL ONE.
If we die with Christ, we live with Him. That is a resurrection partnership. That is powerful.
If we endure with Christ, we will reign with Him. That is a regal partnership. That is powerful.
And then check out the power of this partnership. If we are faithless, He remains faithful. Why? Because He can’t deny who He is, or what His word says He will do. Even when believers fail their Savior, He remains faithful. For Christ to abandon us would be contrary to His faithful nature.
A partnership where when one side fails, the other side remains true. . .that is a powerful partnership.
Let’s look quickly to the last one. Paul’s fifth faithful saying. Found in his letter to another young pastor, Titus. Titus 3:8 (read).
Paul says, this is a faithful saying, and you need to constantly affirm this and remind your congregations of it.
E. IF WE ARE BELIEVERS, WE SHOULD BEHAVE LIKE IT.
He says to be careful to maintain good works. Continue to be good and profitable towards other men. That is why we have been exploring this first letter to Timothy and studying what it means to behave like believers.
What has that looked like so far in our series?
- Being an example to other believers in word, conduct, love, spirit, faith and purity.
- Using our spiritual gifts to glorify God and edify the body of Christ.
- Taking care of ourselves physically and spiritually
so that we can be used by God.
- Acknowledging that we are the rich of this age,
but that we need to put our trust in God, not money.
- Recognizing that there are no financial guarantees on this planet, and that riches here on earth do not buy our way one step further into heaven.
- Learning to be a blessing to others by learning
to give possessions and riches away.
- Every one of us treating everyone else in the body of Christ with the respect due Godly family.
- Encouraging with a pure heart.
- And knowing the foundational doctrines of our faith.
- Staying true to them without getting caught up in endless debates and disputes or fables and erroneous teachings.
Just a short list of actions. Lifestyle behaviors. Good words that that we should constantly be about as we behave like believers.
The original question of our series, a little more than a month ago was, “Does life inside the church look any different than life outside the church?” Or asked another way, “Do Christian’s lives look any different than those who do not hold to a saving faith in Jesus Christ?”
I hope we are seeing some ways in which it should. We have one week to go, and the final week is much more about attitude than action. But it is still a significant difference in how we should behave like believers. I hope you will join us as we confront contentment.