Text: 1 Timothy 4:9-16
[Note: this sermon was preached the Sunday after the appalling killings carried out by ‘Islamic State’ in Paris on Friday 13th November, 2015. Hence the introductory comment.]
There was ‘a moment of relative calm’ in Paris yesterday afternoon as Davide Martello played his piano outside the concert hall where dozens of people had been killed just a few hours earlier. The song? John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ – ‘Imagine there’s nothing to kill or die for. And no religion too.’
Understandable sentiment, in the circumstance. But Jesus Christ leads his followers not to lives filled with fear, hatred, and coercion, but to faith, truth and love: faith in the God who saves, truth as it is revealed in God’s word, and love manifesting itself in deep and meaningful relationships. I want to look behind what Paul says to Timothy to what kind of church he was to pastor. Is this the kind of church we want to be – Gospel-focused, Bible-based, and people-centred. Is that really the church we want to be?
Do we look like people who have ‘put our hope in the living God’? v10.
Do we behave as if God is ‘the Saviour of all men, and especially of those who believe’? v10. ‘Saviour’ = protector, provider. Life to all, eternal life to all who believe.
Thy providence is kind and large
Both man and beast Thy bounty share;
The whole creation is Thy charge,
But saints are Thy peculiar care.
(Isaac Watts, ‘High in the heav’ns’)
God is kindly disposed to all. Not just an elite. Are we? Lk 6:35 “love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back…and you will be children of the Most High, [who] is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.”
Are we persevering in our efforts to save ourselves and others? V16. Of course, eternal life is the gift of God. But God works through means, and here it is the means that are stressed. Cf. Phil 2:12 ‘work out your salvation with fear and trembling…’ 1 Cor 3:6.
Are we getting to know our Bibles better? Public reading of Scripture’, v13. Biblical illiteracy. ‘Millionaire’ £64,000 question: ‘Which one was a king of Israel – Samuel, Solomon, Simeon, or Samson?’ Don’t be a Bible tourist, be a Bible explorer. Listen to the Bible’s ‘melodic line’.
Do we really listen to God’s word when it is read and taught? V13. Stop-watch; spy-glass; grasshopper, umbrella; well bucket (going down deep into the water of life and carrying off as much as we can).
Are we doers of the word, and not hearers only? V13 – ‘preaching’ = ‘exhorting’. James 1:22.
Are we setting a good example to others? V12. ‘A pint of example is worth a gallon of advice’. Speech (personal conversation), life (everyday conduct), love (genuine concern for others), faith (settled confidence in God), purity (moral uprightness).
Are we effective at recognising and releasing one anothers’ gifts? V14. Timothy’s gift had been recognised by the church; was being nurtured by Paul; and needed to be fanned into a flame by Timothy himself (2 Tim 1:6). Paul says elsewhere (1 Cor 12:7) that a ‘manifestation of the Spirit’ is given to each one, for the common good. The fact that some gifts have been misused is not adequate reason for them to fall into disuse.
Are we making visible progress? V15. 35 year-old ‘baby’.
Race – Heb 12:1f ‘Let us throw off everything that hinders…and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.’
Sun – Prov 4:18, ‘The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.’
Gospel-focused, Bible-based, people-oriented. If that’s the church we want to be, then we will be becoming the church God wants us to be.