Summary: 1st in a series from 1 Timothy. In spite of the world’s conclusion that the church is inneffective, God still calls on today’s believers to "Hold Fast" and rely on His grace.
Lessons for a Healthy Church:
Understanding Our Message
Introduction (Mention the devotional insert in the bulletin):
Years ago the following ad appeared in a London Newspaper: “Men wanted for hazardous journey, small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success.” Would you believe there were thousands of men who responded to this? The reason for such a turn out was the noted Artic explorer, Sir Ernest Shackleton, placed the ad. It causes me to wonder what kind of ad Jesus would give to us today. “Men and women wanted for the task of helping to build my church. Even those working with you will often misunderstand you. You will face constant attack from an invisible enemy. You may not see the results of your labor, and your full reward will not come until all your work is completed. It may cost you your home, your family, your friends, even your life.”
As we see in the Bible, Timothy was willing to answer the ad. He took on some tough assignments in the churches Paul founded. He came from a mixed home; his dad was Greek, and his mother Jewish. Because Timothy faced times of discouragement, Paul wrote to him to help him understand how the local church should be managed. (Above from "What am I to do with my life?" by by Dennis Selfridge, sermoncentral.com)
But how can leaders properly manage the church when the manual they follow sometimes appears to disagree with itself? One example: Jesus told the church to reach out to the world (see Matthew 28: 19), while the Apostle Paul told the church to separate itself from the world (see 2 Corinthians 6:17). How do we handle what appears to be contradictory tasks?
Proposition: There is no discrepancy here! The church has the most distinct and unique message in all the world.
1. Some things do separate us from each other (verses 3-5)
Paul immediately reminded Timothy of his reason for being in Ephesus.
He was to command that those teaching false doctrines, myths, & genealogies would stop.
As much as he valued harmony in the church (Rom 14:19; 1 Thess 5:13), Paul realized that peace & unity are not our highest priorities. Peace at the expense of truth does not advance God’s work.
In fact, where there are deviations or compromises on the truth, there is no real harmony.
We are not sure of the details, but anything that produces pointless controversies will distract God’s people from God’s truth & God’s work.
True Christian teaching produces love. This love from God neither divides nor separates. It embraces all who embrace it. Paul had a particular type of love in mind: one that flows out of a pure & cleansed heart, a good and clear conscience, and a sincere faith founded on the truth.
False doctrines only produce controversy & confusion. Paul urged Timothy (& us) to oppose them directly & decisively.
While our Fellowship and Education Center was under construction, we as a church wrote scripture verses on its floors and studs. Southeast Christian Church in Louisville did the same thing. Bob Russell told of one of the small groups that had volunteered to help clean the building one afternoon. As they were preparing to leave, Marty Rice, prayer leader of the group, said, “Why don’t we write down a Scripture reference in one of the rooms before we leave?” So they found a small room that didn’t have any Scriptures yet. Rick Nally, one of the group members, said, “How about the passage where Jesus said, ‘Where two or three of you are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of you’?” Marty asked what the reference was. “I think it’s Matthew 18:28,” Rick said. Marty stooped and wrote, “Matthew 18:28” and the group’s name on the floor in permanent marker.
Later that evening at a restaurant, Rick brought in his Bible from the car to double-check the reference. He said, “Oh no. It’s Matthew 18:20, not 18:28.” Someone asked the obvious question: “What’s verse 28 say?” Rick read, “When that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.”
Russell said, “I suppose if you are ever in our building and, while standing in certain classroom, suddenly have the urge to choke someone, you’ll know why!”
But aside from that, the building became a dramatic reminder to all of them that the church has been called to stand upon the Word of God. This is the essence of Paul’s exhortation to Timothy in chapter one. We have to ask ourselves the obvious question: Are we standing upon the Word of God? Does the Word which is preached from this pulpit permeate our lives in a very real sense or are we non-distinguishable from the culture around us?