[audioplayer file=”http://thegatheringcommunity.in/wp-content/uploads/jinson-28-may-170528_1116.mp3″]

A new missionary recruit went to Venezuela for the first time. He was struggling with the language and didn’t understand a whole lot of what was going on. Intending to visit one of the local churches, he got lost, but eventually got back on track and found the place. Having arrived late, the church was already packed. The only pew left was the one on the front row.

So as not to make a fool of himself, he decided to pick someone out of the crowd to imitate. He chose to follow the man sitting next to him on the front pew. As they sang, the man clapped his hands, so the missionary recruit clapped too. When the man stood up to pray, the missionary recruit stood up too. When the man sat down, he sat down. When the man held the cup and bread for the Lord’s Supper, he held the cup and bread. During the preaching, the recruit didn’t understand a thing. He just sat there and tried to look just like that man in the front pew.

Then he perceived that the preacher was giving announcements. People clapped, so he looked to see if the man was clapping. He was, and so the recruit clapped too. Then the preacher said some words that he didn’t understand and he saw the man next to him stand up. So he stood up too. Suddenly a hush fell over the entire congregation. A few people gasped. He looked around and saw that nobody else was standing. So he sat down.

After the service ended, the preacher stood at the door shaking the hands of those who were leaving. When the missionary recruit stretched out his hand to greet the preacher, the preacher said, in English: “I take it you don’t speak Spanish.”

The missionary recruit replied: “No I don’t. It’s that obvious?”

“Well yes,” said the preacher, “I announced that the Acosta family had a new-born baby boy and would the proud father please stand up.”

In this case, this was just an embarrassing funny incident but when it comes to following the crowds, the question is how do you know that you’re not led into following some type of false doctrine? I liked the way Saju described false teaching: “False teaching always finds its way through the present cultural myths, ideas and thought patterns.” We are bombarded with so many different thought patterns from our culture, how do you know that you are not being swayed by some kind of false teaching? And sometimes it can be very subtle. Let me give an example, we can have accountability groups or sessions where we communicate that no one will be judged and it’s an open place for us to share anything and everything. But unless the sin is identified as sin and repented of, it’s doing no good for anyone in the group. Without talking about the promises of God to victoriously defeat sin, without coming to specific ways to fight sin, it’s going to be a useless exercise. So you’ll have week after week of accountability sessions where the members of the groups are super honest and super vulnerable but not repentant. And guess what, that is a thought pattern that agrees with our culture which tells us to not judge anyone but live as we want to live. The context of this entire letter has been revolving around confronting the false doctrine in the church at Ephesus. When we think about confronting false doctrine, we probably expect some sort of fierce argument and debate taking place between Timothy and the false teachers. Interestingly that’s not the advice Paul gives him. The instruction is quite the opposite. Let’s look at our passage for today.

[11] Command and teach these things. [12] Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. [13] Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. [14] Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. [15] Practice these things, immerse yourself in them,[c] so that all may see your progress. [16] Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.

What Paul is essentially trying to say in these 6 verses is that our lives need to be shaped by the gospel if we need to confront false teaching. What does a gospel shaped life look like?
1. Right teaching
2. Right living
3. Right Community
4. Right Scrutiny

1. Right teaching

Right sound Scriptural teaching needs to be heard, meditated upon and shared.

11 Command and teach these things.

Timothy had been given specific instructions in this letter on what needs to be taught to the Ephesian church….the sound doctrine which needs to be declared to them. The whole letter is filled with these instructions from Paul who is writing with the authority and commendation from God. When Timothy reads this letter, he isn’t reading it thinking that it’s just Paul writing to him. He sees it as what it truly is “the Word of God”.

[16] All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, [17] that the man of God[a] may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Tim 3:16, 17)

And so should we also look at Scripture. This is the very Word of God…way more weightier than the letter from the President of the country, way more purer than pure gold, way more sharper than a double edged sword, way more powerful than an army of a billion soldiers.

Therefore, how do you know if you are listening and absorbing right teaching?

a) The Word would be exalted and treasured through that time of preaching.

It won’t be about quips or fun stories or the charisma of the speaker, but just how precious is each and every word from the Bible.

b) Christ would be made much of.

Christ would be the centre of attention, his life of holiness and purity, his sacrificial love to come to us and die on a horrific cross, his humility to serve us, how glorious he is and how dependent we need to be on him. That would be the focus.

c) It would bring you to repentance and faith.

When we are confronted by a Holy God as being revealed in Scripture, our response can’t be one of arrogance or self righteousness but of humility and repentance. Just like Isaiah says “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Is 6:5)

Or Peter in Luke 5, when he sees that impossible miracle take place where he catches a large number of fish, he realizes he’s in the presence of God. He says “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man O Lord”. Christ tells him, “Do not be afraid, from now on you will be catching men”.

2. Right living

2 Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. [13] Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. [14] Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you.

There are three aspects to this:
a) Setting an example
b) Devoting to Scripture
c) Actively using the gifts

a) Setting an example:

Scholars estimate that Timothy was in his late 20s or mid-30s when Paul wrote this letter. By this time he had been an experienced missionary and served with Paul for 15 years. (Acts 16:1-5)

Why would he be despised for his youth?

He was probably young compared to the older men in the church. Usual perception is that men get wiser with age. Also, the same is expected spiritually, where one assumes that older men are more spiritual than younger because younger men are immature. Youthfulness has always been paralleled to rebellion and indulgence.

So how was Timothy to express his maturity?

Not by telling everyone and announcing that he was mature but by setting an example for them. In other words had to display his maturity by being someone who was worthy of imitation.

He had to show his maturity in his speech. We live in a culture where people are applauded for speaking their mind but what we speak reveals a lot of what is in our hearts. (Luke 6:45) Unfiltered conversations or unwholesome talk is a condition of the heart primarily which needs to be changed and repented of.

He had to show his maturity in his conduct. His behavior.

He had to show his maturity in his love. The way he would love his brothers and sisters. Show charity and forgiveness and patience.

He had to show his maturity by his faith. Showing confidence and reliance on Jesus. His convictions on the truths about Scripture isn’t frail or weak. Strong confidence in what he believes.

He had to show his maturity through his life of purity. Holiness is very important to him because it matters to God. It’s God who says “Be Holy for I am holy”. (1 Pet 1:16) His lifestyle of holiness points to God who is Holy.

Do we have a lifestyle worthy of imitation?

It’s something that even the unbelieving world understands to a degree. They know that respect belongs to those who have a lifestyle of high morals. Leaders by definition are to be pacesetters. All of us however are called to be leading someone. When we read Matt 28:19 -20

[19] Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[b] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, [20] teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.

We know it applies to each and every believer across all ages. We are all called to be disciple-makers by baptizing people and teaching them to observe all that Jesus has commanded. Now the teaching them to observe part is not just a verbal teaching but actually disciplining people by modelling obedience for them. Showing people how to forgive when someone has wronged you. Showing people how to be patient when someone keeps frustrating you. Showing how to trust in God’s provision through prayer.

Unfortunately we live in a generation where people want others to imitate their doctrine but not their lifestyle. It doesn’t make sense.

b) Devoting to Scripture:

[13] Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.

This instruction is specific to Timothy’s calling of being an elder – therefore the call to exhort and teach. I think this can also broadly apply to our need to be devoted to Scripture. Being devoted to reading, applying and teaching others Scripture. I know I’ve been challenged this week with asking myself of how important Scripture means to me. Do I only read Scripture when life is okay and comfortable? Is Scripture reading driven by my circumstances or is it food for my soul? Brothers and sisters, I know it seems so basic but it’s something which we sometimes fail to see the value of. We feed our souls with all kinds of worldly stuff and go around hungry, we try different ways to self-medicate ourselves from the troubles and pressures of life, but we are never happy. We try to find our identity in our work, our righteous deeds, our church activities but are left purposeless. It’s only Scripture – true words of God that can fill us, heal us and change us. If we were created to know God and relate with Him, then the Bible is the medium God uses to communicate with us. Anything else and everything else just leaves us restless.

c) Actively using the gifts

[14] Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you.

Looking at these two verses it does seem like Paul’s referring to Timothy’s gifting of preaching and teaching God’s word. And this call and ministry came from God himself. So the instruction is to not take it lightly. What if God told that to each and every one us “Don’t take your gift lightly”? As we’ve been learning over the past few weeks, God has graciously given the church gifts so that they can build up each other. Let’s realize that one of the key ways by which God wants you to live out your faith is by using your gifts to help and build up your brothers and sisters. One of the reasons why people feel lifeless in their faith is not just due to sin but also because they aren’t using the gifts that God has specifically given them to build up another person. Some of us may still be thinking “Oh…I don’t know what my gifting is. How can I use it?” And it’s often because we think about one or two gifts particularly and compare ourselves against them. That’s not how you should be thinking about it. Rather look at it in this way, find out what people in your church need and then look for ways to serve them. As you do that, you will discover what gifts God has given you. For example Barnabas in the Bible meant Son of Encouragement. Now I don’t think they called him that because he had a skill in giving compliments to people. I think it was because whenever he interacted with people, God gifted him with the ability to provide encouragement to those specific areas of need.

3. Right Community

[15] Practice these things, immerse yourself in them,[c] so that all may see your progress. [16] Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Twice in these two verses, Paul brings out the community angle. He tells Timothy to carefully pay attention and practice these things so that “all may see your progress”.

Piper has a famous quote where he says “Sanctification is a community project”. It’s not you who can attest and confirm your maturity but it’s your community that you live life with. When you aren’t able to see the chink in your amour, it’s your community of believers who will be able to show that to you. That’s why Christian growth cannot happen outside of Christian community. There are some moments in the Christian life when you wouldn’t be able to trust your own self because of sinful erroneous thinking, just know that in those times you can trust your brother or sister in Christ.

Second part in v16 says “Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.”

Paul is not trying to say that by works Timothy will save himself and his hearers. We know that we are saved by grace through faith alone in the finished work of Jesus. But what he is saying is that Timothy’s perseverance in the faith will impact the faith of his community too! That’s mind boggling. Have you ever considered the fact how your faith is affecting the person sitting next to you? It’s true in the positive and negative sense. In the positive sense, your faith can spur and lead others to love and trust God more consequently pointing to genuine saving faith. In the negative sense it means unrepentant persistent sin. It can move through the members like yeast.

4. Right Scrutiny

[16] Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching.

I find this a fascinating verse because this is an instruction Paul gives to his spiritual son Timothy. Timothy has faithfully been with him for 15 years. In Philippians 2 he says about Timothy, that there’s no one else like him who is genuinely concerned about the church’s welfare. Such a solid, dependable guy. But still Paul says “Keep a watch on yourself and on the teaching”.

It’s not because he didn’t trust Timothy. He trusted him completely but Paul understood the sinful desire of the heart and the schemes of Satan.

And this is consistent with Paul’s other letters when Paul says:

[5] Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! (2 Cor 13:5)

He is writing this to the Corinthian church! Paul actively discipled these guys and now he’s asking them to test their faith! Again I think that illustration helps: of how we know we are alive because we are breathing and not just because we were born on a certain day in the past.

Brothers,[a] if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. (Gal 6:1)

Spiritually mature brothers and sisters are supposed to restore people who are caught in sin with gentleness. However, they need to be careful and watchful or they themselves be tempted. Why would Paul mention that if they were mature already? That’s because he realizes that sin desires and the attacks of Satan won’t completely be eliminated until Christ comes back again. As believers we still experience the effects of that. God has given us the Spirit and also these warnings to help us.

It’s not a bad practice to evaluate your day…think about what was said, what was done in light of Scripture. However, this should lead you to repentance and greater dependence on Christ. If the end result of evaluating your life is either self-pity or judgmental…then it’s not right scrutiny! Right scrutiny is one that comes to Christ helplessly seeking forgiveness and grace to live out the Christian life. A person who constantly engages in this type of scrutiny and repentance will find that this experience draws him/her closer to God.

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