Monday, December 5, 2016

"This is how you do it ..."

Day #341

Scripture Reading:  I Timothy 1 - 3 …

Teaching a child how to do something that seems simple to you requires a great deal of patience … so imagine how much patience GOD has as He teaches His children how to live in this world for Him!!  As Paul writes to his young friend and partner in ministry, Timothy, Paul is nearing the end of his life and desires that Timothy and others would carry on the work of proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Only about thirty years had passed since Jesus ascended into heaven and poured out His Spirit.  Paul knew his own story and how God had saved him by His grace, so he explains now to Timothy:

"Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance:  Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - of whom I am the worst.  But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display His unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on Him and receive eternal life" (1:15-16).

Every true believer will echo Paul's words as we rest in God's grace and patience through faith in Jesus Christ.  There is no boasting except in the Lord!  "To the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen!" (1:17).  So now Paul instructs Timothy in his labor for the Lord and begins by telling him to remain in Ephesus in order to "command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer, nor devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies" which promote controversies (1:3-4).  He grieves because the goal is love, from a "pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith" (1:5), but some have turned to "meaningless talk" (1:6) about the law.

In other words, the teaching being done was based on the law, not on love for Christ!  In the following verses Paul explains that the law is for the unrighteous, for those who don't yet know Christ.  That doesn't mean believers aren't called to obey God, but obedience flows from faith and love.  Many people fail to understand this today.  Christianity is not a bunch of rules, but rather, a relationship with God through Christ in which the very Spirit of God produces in believers the desire to obey God's Word.  

The Law is good, convicting the hearts of sinners, but without Christ the law causes even greater rebellion in the hearts of those who are spiritually dead.  Paul wanted to be sure that Timothy understood GRACE, and we need to be sure today that our message is one that consistently points to God's grace in Jesus Christ.  Our obedience is a response of thanksgiving.  If your heart is not in tune with God and you lack the desire to please Him … if you feel you HAVE to do certain things the Bible says are good, but you don't WANT to, draw near to God today, confess your sin, ask Him to work in your heart and to transform you from the inside out.  He will hear your prayer, forgive your sin through Christ, and renew you by His Spirit.

The rest of Paul's instructions to Timothy focus on the Body of Christ, the Church.  His emphasis is on prayer and preaching the truth of the Gospel. For all those who think there are more ways to come to God than that revealed in God's Word, Paul writes, "there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all men …" (2:5-6).  Paul's use of the word "all" here, and in verse 4 ("who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth") is not intended to be "all-inclusive."

Prior to the day of Pentecost, when God poured out His Spirit from heaven, Israel, the Jews, were the chosen people of God and very few "Gentiles" were saved in the days of the Old Testament.  Beginning with the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, God's plan was to fulfill His promise to Abraham that in his "Seed" all nations on earth would be blessed (Genesis 12:3).  Therefore, the "all" here, and in verses like II Peter 3:9 ("not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance") means people from all nations … not every single person.  God's offer of forgiveness through His Word is real and genuine, yet He knows that no one will believe UNLESS His Spirit changes their hearts.  God desires that ALL those whom He has chosen, who are Jesus' sheep, will come to Him, and these WILL … for God will give them His Spirit and not one will be lost.  That is the assurance true believers can have.

Meanwhile, we must proclaim the Gospel to ALL, so that some will believe and be saved.  As we do that, we must be sure WE don't get in the way, so Paul gives instructions for the conduct of those within the Church, both men and women, and leaders.  These instructions must be received by us in the context of Christ and His Church.  As in the family, Christ has established roles in the Church.  Not everyone has the same role.  Men and women, leaders and followers ... each has been given gifts to use for the building up of the Body of Christ.  Together, in submission to Christ, who is the Head of the Body, we become a picture of His grace to us and our grace to each other.  The goal, as Paul said earlier, is "love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith" (1:5).

Having given instructions for "overseers" (another word for "elder" or "presbyter") and "deacons," Paul explains his desire that Timothy would "know how people ought to conduct themselves in God's household, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth" (3:15).  Of all the Church has to offer the world, TRUTH is our most precious commodity.  Those who would give up truth today and replace it with "love," fail to understand that LOVE means speaking TRUTH!  

God, grace, Jesus, the Church ... and believers ... living together for the glory of God, proclaiming a message that must be heard.  God is patiently at work in His people and through His people to build His Church until Jesus returns.  Read His Word and pray for His Spirit to inspire you to greater zeal for Christ and the Gospel of grace and God will tell you how to do it!

"My Father in heaven, Your love and grace have given me the assurance that through faith in Your Son Jesus Christ I AM SAVED!!  My life is Yours and my heart's desire is to please You.  I need You today, and I will need You tomorrow.  I rest in You, my Father and my God, my Savior and my Lord, my constant companion and Helper.  To YOU I give my praise and my LIFE, in Jesus' name, Amen"

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