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Category: 1 Timothy

Praying for the salvation of those across the aisle

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
1 Timothy 2:1–4

“Pray for all people but especially the civic rulers, leaders, and authorities.” I’m not political and I don’t intend to change that with this post. But I can’t help but comment on Paul’s charge to Timothy and the local church in Ephesus to pray for the salvation of earthly authorities. He asserts that doing so is pleasing in the sight of God and that it is God’s desire that none perish but that all people be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.

What’s interesting about Paul giving this command is if you consider the context and atmosphere in which Paul was writing this letter to Timothy. The Roman Empire was shaky and the resentment and persecution of Christians was escalating. Being a Christian was not the “popular” thing at that time (kind of like today). In fact, it could be downright dangerous. Despite all of this, Paul’s desire is that the church would pray for the salvation of all who are in high positions.

Just as interesting is what Paul didn’t say:

  • Pray that the rulers and authorities with which you disagree are removed from office
  • Pray that the rulers and authorities start making decisions with which you agree and align with your personal values and principles
  • Pray for the rulers and authorities that are affiliated with your political party of choice
  • Pray for the rulers and authorities who you think have earned it or are deserving of your prayers

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t pray for God’s Holy Spirit to move in the hearts and minds of the men and women that govern us so that they might make decisions that bring honor and glory to God. All I’m saying is that Paul’s focus was on their salvation not their policy. He desired that their hearts would be transformed more than seeing their voting record transformed. He realized that redeeming the person was more important than redeeming the politics. He realized that if hearts are changed, behavior follows.

Here’s the challenge for you: whenever you are tempted to rail against how godless your political leaders are, use it as a trigger and a reminder to pray that by the power of the Holy Spirit their hearts would be captivated by the love of God and that by His grace they might be saved and enter into new life. Remember that it is only by grace that you have been saved, a gift from God that you did not earn. Ask Jesus to fill you with compassion for your political leaders and desire that they also would receive the gift of eternal life.

Would you really be happy if your political leaders legislate in a way of which you approve but never come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ? Would you really be pleased if they pass “good” laws but go to hell?

Ask God to search your heart on this matter and perhaps He will also more fully reveal His own heart.

Resume of a Sinner

I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.
1 Timothy 1:12–16

In support of our growth initiatives for this year, we are staffing up at work. This means that I have been busy with the recruiting and hiring process which involves the review of many resumes and interviewing many candidates. Imagine what it would be like if you got to be a fly on the wall during one of the interviews I was conducting and you witnessed and heard the following play out:

Me: “Tell me why you are the right fit for this role.”

Candidate: “Well, I’ve waged a very active and successful social media campaign where I have spread false and damaging information about your company that has resulted in many of your potential and current customers to gravitate toward your biggest competitor. In fact, I’ve even started my own business that is targeted at poaching some of your smallest but most loyal customers. I’m also responsible for physically assaulting some of your employees as they leave the office at the end of the work day. In fact, I beat some of them up so badly that they were pronounced dead at the scene.”

Me: “I want you to come work for us. You’re hired!”

Aside from questioning my discernment and hiring practices, you would probably struggle to reconcile how someone with a testimony and resume like that could even get interviewed let alone offered the job. And yet, that is what happened with Paul. And, if we are honest with ourselves, that is what happened with all of us who have received the gracious gift of life through the mercy of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. There was nothing desirable about us. We had nothing on our resumes that would qualify us for being used by Him. In fact, everything on our resumes disqualified us. And yet, He saw fit to extend to us the gift of salvation, purchased with His own blood, that we might not only be reconciled to the Father but that we might also be His ambassadors on this earth. But Why? Why would He do this?

He does it so that He “might display His perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.

God wants your redeemed life to provide a living, breathing testimony of His grace and His mercy and the power of His spirit. God wants His glory to be revealed in you and through you. God wants to set your heart on fire for Him that others might gather around and watch you burn.

Your sin and transgressions, your faults and failures, can never be greater than God’s mercy and grace. If we confess our sins to God He is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness.

It’s not about your sin. It’s all about His grace. Let your life be a living testimony of that fact.

Do not neglect the gift

I was reading in 1 Timothy 4 this morning and came across this verse:

Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. ~ 1 Timothy 4:14

The context of the rest of this chapter is Paul encouraging Timothy that, in the midst of the false teaching that is happening in Ephesus, Timothy should continue training himself in Godliness and practicing and preaching sound doctrine that will benefit both him and his hearers.

During my reading this morning I really paused and meditated on verse 14 and considered what we (the contemporary church) could learn from the early church. Although I despise trying to make anything in the Word of God formulaic, there are a few key things I see in (or can infer from) verse 14.

  • God has given Timothy certain gifts
  • Timothy recognizes these gifts and wants to be a good steward of them
  • The church elders publicly acknowledge that Timothy has these gifts
  • Timothy is commissioned and encouraged to use those gifts in service to God and His church

How active is the church today in playing their role in acknowledging the special gifts that God has given His people for His service? How well does the church train and equip it’s people to most effectively use their gifts to God’s glory? Or, is the church too focused on on running it’s people through their standardized programs that don’t acknowledge and develop the individual gifts of it’s people but rather forces round pegs into square holes? How often does the church “force” people into service roles just to fill a gap versus creating opportunities to unleash the special gifts that God has given His people?

I should stop now and offer a couple of caveats. First, when I talk about the church I include myself. Secondly, my intent is not to speak negatively of the church as I would never seek to offend the bride of Christ nor the groom Himself. If anything, I would seek to exhort the church. Thirdly, this is all just random, stream of consciousness thoughts. I’m thinking out loud and more often than not, after I share my thoughts here, I end up with a completely different understanding or opinion. My apologies to those that thought I actually write, edit, re-write. This is all first draft material.

As I consider verse 14, here are the takeaways I’m thinking about:

  • As a parent: I want to observe, study, and know my children well enough that I can develop an awareness of their strengths, interests, and gifts. I want to look for how God is working in them to equip them with special gifts that they might use for His glory. I want to be a prayer warrior for them and ask God to cultivate those gifts in them and even more importantly, to cultivate a desire to use those gifts in His service and for His glory alone. I want to pray that they maintain a spirit of humility regarding those gifts. I want to affirm and acknowledge to my kids that I recognize their gifts and I want to encourage them in being good stewards of those gifts.
  • As the church: I want to help other believers consider the fact that God has gifted them in a unique way so that they might benefit His body of believers in a unique way and bring Him glory in a unique way. I want to encourage them to seek out what their gifts might be. If they feel as though they don’t have any gifts, I want to encourage them to ask their Heavenly Father for gifts that they might serve Him. I want to help them be good stewards of their gifts. As a church, I want us to not squander those gifts and to provide opportunities for people to exercise their gifts.

As I’m writing all of this it reminded me of a book that I read a few years ago titled, The Trellis and the Vine: The Ministry Mind-Shift That Changes Everything. In it, authors Marshall and Payne offer a series of ministry mind-shifts that must take place if the church is to migrate from growing structures to growing people who are disciple-making disciples of Jesus Christ. These shifts include:

  1. From running programs to building people
  2. From running events to training people
  3. From using people to growing people
  4. From filling gaps to training new workers
  5. From solving problems to helping people make progress
  6. From clinging to ordained ministry to developing team leadership
  7. From focusing on church polity to forging ministry partnerships
  8. From relying on training institutions to establishing local training
  9. From focusing on immediate pressures to aiming for long-term expansion
  10. From engaging in management to engaging in ministry
  11. From seeking church growth to desiring gospel growth

After reminding myself of this book, perhaps I’ll stop ruminating about what I think and instead just re-read The Trellis and The Vine. Happy Memorial Day!

The church: a pillar and buttress of the truth

I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.
1 Timothy 3:14-15

Here in 1 Timothy 3, Paul reveals his purpose for writing this letter to Timothy. In summary, he sent this letter so that Timothy (and the church that he is pastoring in Ephesus) may know how to conduct themselves as members of God’s household. If you are going to be a member of a family, it seems like it would be pretty important to understand the behavioral expectations of that family. But this morning, what’s interesting to me is how Paul describes the church.

The household of God – the church of which I am a member has a mission statement that reads, “A family growing together”. To some this may seem hokey. But it’s a great reminder that we are to think of ourselves as a family. We need to be aware of the fact that we are members of the household of God. Not only should this influence and inform our interactions with other members of the household but even more importantly, it should inform and influence how we interact with the head of the household.

The church of the living God – the church is not a building and it is not someplace you “go”. It is also not “owned” by a denomination or a group of people. The church is God’s possession and it exists by Him, for Him, and through Him. The church is a collection of people that have been redeemed from their sin, called out of the world, empowered by the Holy Spirit, and assembled together by God for His glory.

A pillar and buttress of the truth – both pillars and buttresses are architectural elements and their purpose is to offer support and strength. In this case, Paul is saying that the church is to support and offer strength to the truth. John Stott says this, ‘Just as those pillars held up that massive roof, so the church holds the truth aloft, so that it is seen and admired by the world … the church’s function is to display the truth.”

So, perhaps as 2011 draws to a close it is a good time for us to invite the Holy Spirit to search and know the heart of the church and to reveal any ways that might be offensive to the living God. Is the church operating and interacting as a family of saints? Or, is it operating and interacting like a collection of individuals, each with their own objectives and selfish agendas? To the outside world, would they be able to look at us and tell that we are Christ’s disciples by the love that we have for one another? Or, would they see a group of gossipy, slanderous, backbiters? Are we being the church or do we just go to church? Are we both standing on a firm foundation of the truth as well as putting the truth on display in everything that we do (especially on Sunday mornings)? Or, do we spend more of our time, talent, effort, and energy putting ourselves (our righteous acts and deeds, our clever programs, our talented musicians, our articulate and compelling teachers, etc.) on display for the world to see? Are people leaving a Sunday service more impressed by us or more convicted by the Holy Spirit and transformed by the truth of God’s word?

Hopefully, as we consider these rhetorical questions that I’ve posed, our humility and desire to be continually refined and purified as members of God’s household will supersede our unwillingness to be broken and convicted of our pride.

It’s my prayer that in the year 2012, God’s church will be strengthened and will bring Him the glory and honor that He is due.

High Standards

In reading through 1 Timothy and Titus over the past week I was reminded of the Biblical qualifications for church elders and deacons. Usually when I read through these sections of scripture I like to think to myself, “aren’t these attributes that any mature Christian should posses?” But if you really take the time to review the qualifications as outlined by the Apostle Paul and if you are really honest in asking the Lord to search your heart, it can be very humbling. At least for me. Let’s review shall we?

If anyone desires the noble task of being an elder, he must be:

  • above reproach
  • sober minded
  • respectable
  • able to teach
  • a husband of one wife
  • self-controlled
  • hospitable
  • a good manager of his household
  • well thought of by those outside the church
  • a lover of good
  • upright
  • holy
  • disciplined
  • a man that holds firm to the trustworthy word so that he may give instruction in sound doctrine and rebuke those who contradict it

He must not be:

  • violent
  • a lover of money
  • a recent convert
  • a drunkard
  • quarrelsome
  • arrogant
  • quick tempered
  • greedy

The above lists were compiled based on my perusal of 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. Some pretty serious qualifications. And what do you do if there is no one in your church body that fulfills each and every one of these attributes? I stumbled across the following thoughts from John Piper this week and found it to be helpful. Here is his take on lowering standards to fill church leadership roles:

The acceptability of a church lowering its standards in order to fill leadership roles is this: “low” is partly relative, isn’t it?

If you have a church that’s made up mainly of long-term, seasoned, wise, mature, Bible-knowing Christians, your standards of who should lead in that group are going to be high, because in order to lead you have to be ahead of somebody.

In a church made up of newer believers or just simpler non-studying believers who don’t know as much about their Bibles, what it will take to be ahead of others in that situation will not be as far ahead in Bible knowledge as in another kind of church. So for that to be called “lower” is, I think, fitting.

So, yes, there is an appropriate way to adjust our expectations. Like when it says that an elder must be apt to teach, OK? He must be a good teacher. Well, how good? How skillful does he have to be in handling his Bible to take people from where they are to where they need to be? In one kind of church he has to be really skillful, because these people know a lot. And in another church, if he has been a Christian for five years and knows where Romans and Psalms are, he might be ahead.

So, there is a good deal of relativity that comes into assessing the qualification of elders. We want them to be qualified with biblical qualifications, and that’s a relative judgment in some of the cases.

Some good (and realistic) pastoral counsel. Do you agree? Do you have a different perspective or opinion? What are your thoughts on this?

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