2 Timothy 2.3-7 – Soldier, Athlete, Farmer

Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.

Here Paul encourages Timothy to take the attitude of a soldier, an athlete, and a farmer

The soldier willingly takes orders from his or her commander-in-chief. As a believer in Jesus, He is yours (Joshua 5.14). The soldier is brave, courageous, singularly focused on the task at hand, and gives all of himself or herself to the task right until the very end. A good soldier will not quit when things get tough, they will double-down and work even harder.

An athlete prepares rigorously for their chosen task. They take care of their bodies, they take care of their time, and they take care of their activities based on how they want to compete when the big day comes around. As a believer in Jesus, we ought to be doing the same; building our lives around the opportunity to compete for Him in a culture that seems to be detaching from objective truth faster and faster.

farmer is hard-working and doesn’t seek external recognition. Just think – do you know who the best farmer in the world is? Do you know or follow on Instagram the world champion farmer? Didn’t think so…The farmer is hard-working, unassuming, but unrelenting in his or her approach and application to the task at hand. They value their flock/herd/land highly, and will stop at nothing to do what is best for whatever it is that they are caring for. As a believer, the work ethic of a hard-working farmer must be present in our lives.

If we are to join with the Lord and His pastors in teaching others (see yesterday – 2 Timothy 2.1-2) then we simply must be dedicated to His task like soldiers, we must be building our lives around Him like an athlete preparing for an event, and we must have the work ethic of a hard-working farmer to ensure that we leave no stone unturned in our witness.

Are you a soldier, an athlete, and a farmer for our Lord?

1 Timothy 6 – Final Words

This is adapted from a session I taught at a conference in South Asia recently to a group of pastors and Bible college students.

We are wrapping up the letter today with a final word to the pastor, to the church leader, to the potential church-planter, to the person in ministry, to the believer, to Timothy.

I am not Timothy, you are not Timothy, our churches are not where this church was, but we can learn from what Paul wrote to Timothy. So this says what it says and means what it means, there is one interpretation, yet many applications.

Why do I need to be like this?

Why do I need to live like this?

Why do I need to live humbly as the leader, as a believer?

Let all who are under a yoke as bondservants regard their own masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be reviled. 2 Those who have believing masters must not be disrespectful on the ground that they are brothers; rather they must serve all the better since those who benefit by their good service are believers and beloved.

Teach and urge these things. 

The church is the place where we leave our worldly status at the door, who the world says we are at the door. Why? So that the name of God and the teaching may not be reviled.

In Bahrain, we have lots of military people -senior generals and enlisted men who fellowship and worship together.

As the leader, as the church planter, as the believer, you need to model this. 

Who did Jesus talk and interact with? Everyone. 

Leaders. Slaves. Priests. Sinners.

The church itself was a place where slavery was destroyed. It was not uncommon for a master and a slave to go to church together. This teaching was especially important in the ancient world, where slaves might be treated very differently from master to master, and where there was sometimes intense racism and hatred between slaves and masters.

This cannot be present in the church, in our churches.

These verses, and these first few chapters, this is the kind of life we are to live, to model. Then, in vv.3-10, things NOT to do…

3 If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, 4 he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, 5 and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. 6 But godliness with contentment is great gain, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

Do you know the worst thing? Notice with me the end of v.5

…imagining that godliness is a means of gain.

While not ignoring the blessings of following Jesus Christ, we must proclaim the need to follow Jesus because He is God, and we owe Him everything as our Creator. What is right before God, and what glorifies Him, is more important than whatever benefit we may gain (Enduring Word).

We need to be Christians who are more concerned with what glorifies God than with what benefits me.

The main point for the minister seems to be in vv.11-16.

The life you live is just as important as the doctrine you teach.

11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 

13 I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, 14 to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.

Timothy, as a man of God, was to do the opposite—to flee from all this, flee these things…

The same is true for you as a man of God, a woman of God, but as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses

Is that you?

Maybe the characteristics sound familiar…

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires

Galatians 5

Back to Timothy…

12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

Charles Spurgeon said that it is the same as God feeding the birds;

He provides the seeds,

But does not throw them into the nest.

It is the same with us;

The faithfulness of Jesus is there,

The doctrine, the teaching of and about Jesus is there,

The life of Jesus is there,

Fight for it.

Take hold of it.

Will you fight for it?

Will you teach it?

Will you live it?

Have you taken hold of it with two hands?

Paul then gives Timothy a charge, an instruction.

13 I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, 14 to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.

So, in the presence of God, and of Christ Jesus, 

Live this life.

Keep it unstained.

Be consistent.

The life you live is just as important as the words you use to teach.

Being questioned by Pilate in Matthew 27, Jesus said only a few words, but His life spoke so many words.

If you say lots of things about Jesus, but do not live like He is real to you, you are doing more bad than good.

That is not unstained.

That is not above reproach, as we read of in chapter 3.

So Paul wrote about slaves and masters, about the poor, and now about the rich…

17 As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.

20 O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,” 21 for by professing it some have swerved from the faith.

Grace be with you.

I once read that being a believer and being blessed with financial prosperity is only for the purpose of being generous and ready to share. It’s not for you. God gives it to you, but as Christ did not count equality with God something to be grasped, but added humanity to His Deity and came to live among us for our benefit, material riches are given to us for others.

As Paul wrote, we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.

We are taking hold of the eternal life on offer to us through our faith in the faithfulness of Jesus

Even if we feel we are not good enough, He is, and through faith in Him, we are counted righteous in the eyes of God.

Why do I need to be like this? Why do I need to live like this? Why do I need to model this teaching and teach this teaching?

Because, to your people, your church, your family, you are the hands and feet of Jesus.

Why do I need to live like this?

…to show Jesus to your people.

…to introduce your people to Jesus…

…with everything that you say…

…and everything that you do…

The life you live is just as important as the doctrine you teach.

One last thing…

Maybe you feel like you can’t do this, I can’t do this, I am not strong enough…Remember Zechariah 4.6,

…not by might, not by power, but by my Spirit…

Think about this – Jonah – do you know story?

Think about this then – God’s plan for Nineveh was one man – Jonah.

God’s plan for humanity was one man – Jesus.

God’s plan for your city, your village, your church, your nation, needs only to be one man…is that you?

Romans 2.17-29 – Carrots and peas

I want you to imagine going to the supermarket and buying some tins of food. Even if you never buy food in tins you can still imagine this…so you go to the supermarket and you think “What I need now is a tin of peas”, so you buy your peas, get home, open the tin to eat them for your lunch and find that you’ve actually bought a tin of carrots. I know, carrots are fresh and delicious and better not bought in tins, but, shock, your tin of peas is actually a tin of carrots. How would you feel? This tin is labelled peas, but it’s actually carrots.

You bought it in good faith, but the outer label doesn’t match the inner goods. 

Today Paul is writing as much to the Romans, 

17 But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God 18 and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; 19 and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— 21 you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast in the law dishonour God by breaking the law. 24 For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

25 For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. 26 So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? 27 Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. 28 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.

Just as calling yourself a tin of peas if you are actually a tin of carrots is wrong, so is calling yourselves a Jew if you actually aren’t, says Paul (vv.17-24). He says that if your outer label says something that your inner goods are not, our label is meaningless (v.25), and that, in reality, if our inner goods are right, correct, and proper, then our outer label will be regarded as right, correct, and proper, regardless of what it said previously (vv.26-27). 

As soon as we call ourselves Christians, followers of Jesus, or believers, we have a label to live up to. Sadly, when we inevitably don’t due to our inherent human nature we tarnish the label. Think how sad you were when you opened the peas and saw carrots…But, instead, we should be focused on what is inside, our inner goods. The inner goods receive praise not from man but from God, and He will change our label accordingly.

We focus on the inner person, which is being renewed day by day to conform to the image of Jesus.

Point to ponder – Does my outer label match my inner goods?

Prayer – Father, help me to focus on being a believer, on being a follower, on being a disciple. Help me today to think of this first and foremost, to live a life of righteousness that brings only glory to You and Your name. I pray that my actions match my words, and my deeds match my claims. Amen.

Romans 2.12-16 – Your moral compass

So often nowadays we hear people justifying their lifestyle by saying things like “Only God can judge me”, which of course is true. Or sometimes people get all morally relative and say things like “I’m a good person, I’ve never killed anyone.”, but the comparison game has to come to a head somewhere, doesn’t it. Often people are working from their own moral compass, that thing inside of us that tells us whether something is right or wrong, our conscience. But the problem is that our consciences can be violated, as a result of our inherent sinful nature, our conscience can not be so true, and our moral compass can point somewhere other than true north. Paul speaks to this in Romans 2.12-16,

12 For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. 14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

We see that, basically, there is no excuse whether we have the law or not (v.12), and, actually, even if we hear the law, and even if we hear the Good News of Jesus, simply hearing doesn’t actually save us (v.13), we need to do something with it! 

Paul goes on to say that even those without the law in front of them can still abide by it because it is written onto their hearts (Jeremiah 31.33 and the New Covenant). This is a wonderful privilege we have; to be living under the New Covenant of grace and to have the law of the Lord written on our hearts. That still, small voice, the tug of the conscience from inside, our conflicting thoughts that accuse or excuse, this is all our moral compass at work.

Through being in right relationship with God the Father through faith in God the Son, Jesus, we have God the Holy Spirit living in us.

This guarantees us that our moral compass is pointing to the absolute True north and means that no matter the circumstance, situation, dilemma, or problem we may face that we always have the right path before us, because God has put His law within us, and it is written on our hearts

Point to ponder – Is my moral compass pointing True?

Prayer – Father thank you for the world changing, life giving sacrifice you made for us by sending your Son to die for our sins. We know that this was the turning point in the history of the world, and in our own lives too, when we came to acknowledge and accept this. Help us to keep our minds on your law, and help us to keep our moral compass pointing to You. Amen.

Interested in morality? Our worldview devotional series covers the four big questions a worldview has to answer; origin, meaning, morality, and destiny. 

Read it here.

Romans 2.1-5 – Me? Never.

We finished yesterday with a long and lewd list of sins that God has very clearly told us will lead to eternal separation from Him if we practice. The kicker was the last statement, not only those who practice, but those who give approval too. If you think about it, if you are endorsing and approving something, you are as good as doing it, you are saying that morally, you believe it’s ok.

The human part of us then looks at this list and becomes ultra defensive, ultra moral, and ultra judgmental. Something like 

Me, no, I would never A/B/C”, 

That’s horrible, I never…”. 

Paul starts chapter two by addressing this very attitude,

Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. 2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. 3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.

We know that at some point in our lives, we have walked this way. We know we were under bondage to something found in vv.26-31. They are a pretty all-encompassing group of flaws in the human condition. Paul is saying look, if you pass judgement on those who are still struggling and suffering with these sins, as a lifestyle, you condemn yourself, because we have all been there.

Here in this passage we see the way out of such bondage;

God’s grace past, present, and future. 

Paul writes do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience; kindness towards our old self, forbearance with our slowly learning and sanctifying self, and patience as we work towards who we will be one day. God treats us this way in order that we repent, which means to turn away from the old and head actively toward the new. This is not to be confused with remorse, feeling bad about what you did but then heading back to it.

We really should lose the judgemental, ultra moral mindset when confronted with a list of sins like Paul presented here, and humbly think, and know, that we too were once slave to this way of life. 

Through His amazing, saving, justifying, sanctifying, and ultimately glorifying grace we have been set free. We are free to turn away from the lives we once lived, and to move toward the life that He wants us to live, which simply has to begin, continue, and finish with faith in Jesus. 

When we see others still living this way, let us not judge. Let us thank God that we no longer are slave to sin, let us pray for those still under its grip, and let us model with our whole lives what faith in Jesus looks like. 

Point to ponder – Who was the person who didn’t judge me for living in sin, but instead showed me what a life lived by faith in Jesus looked like?

Prayer – Father again we ask that you help us not to judge those who are living in sin. We know this is your job, not ours. We also know that at one time we lived like this, but we also know that in an amazing demonstration of your love for us, Christ died for us whilst we were still sinners. For this we say thank you. For you kindness, forbearance, and patience we say thank you. Help us today to live a life of continued faith, of continued repentance, in your unending grace. Amen.

Romans 1.26-28 – The natural relationship

In an example of how far society has ‘progressed’ since the latter half of the nineteenth century, Charles Spurgeon would not read aloud this passage at church. In the house of God, the house of prayer, where His name is lifted, glorified, and His people are being sanctified, this passage was not to be read. It (and the following paragraph) contains practices that are not glorifying to God, neither are they truly edifying to His people. 

Sometimes the Word of God we read in our Bibles can be a little hard to really grasp, where knowing the context can make all the difference, or perhaps understanding the original languages. Romans 1.26-28 is not one of those passages. It details a sinful lifestyle as a punishment for sin. It details a way of life that, sadly, many gladly pursue in spite of what God says.

Paul wrote to a culture where homosexuality was celebrated. When we consider the emperor at the time was Nero, and when we consider the abhorrent sexual lifestyle he lived, as the ruler, we can see how little society has progressed. Paul writes to challenge this,

26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonourable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.

If we have exchanged the truth about God for a lie as we read yesterday, then one punishment for this is to be given up to dishonourable passions

The freedom to do as we please is, actually, a judgement in itself. 

We are actively working ourselves away from God when we choose to live in these kinds of ways, when we exchange natural relations as Paul puts it. Being given over to our debased minds and when we do what ought not to be done, we exchange the truth about God, the way He wants us to live, for a lie.

The lie that you can choose what will make you happy – God knows what will make you happy.

The lie that if nobody is being hurt its ok – God is being hurt by our choices, and ultimately so are we.

The lie that we know better than the all knowing, all powerful, all wise Creator of heaven and earth. We don’t. 

The natural relationship we are to pursue, bigger picture, is with God. When we pursue this relationship, He sends His Spirit to live in us, and all of our earthly relationships are reevaluated, reassessed, sometimes reinvigorated, and sometimes replaced. 

Point to ponder – Am I pursuing, first and foremost, the natural relationship of child to Father?

If yes, then how does this influence my thoughts about my earthly relationships?

Prayer today – Lord, help me to live today first as a believer in You. Help me focus first on the natural relationship of child to Father. Give me your perspective, your love for others, your heart for those around me. Help me to be the salt and the light in the community you have called me to. Help me to live for You today.

Amos 1.2-2.3 – The Lord roars

Sometimes we go deep in our teaching and devotions, sometimes we go wide to look at the general principle being communicated, it’s all part of taking the whole counsel of God’s Word. Yesterday was more of a deep dive into a singular verse, today a wide view of a chapter; what is being taught here?

Well, v.2 sets the tone for the coming chapters,

“…”The LORD roars from Zion and utters his voice from Jerusalem; the pastures of the shepherds mourn, and the top of Carmel withers.”

Carmel is a mountain in Northern Israel we read of in 1 Kings 18 and serves as a reminder of idolatry and the enemies of Israel; basically they are going to shake at what is coming to them.

The rest of today’s passage is very formulaic, it follows a set pattern. Each of Israel’s neighbours (Amos almost drew a descending concentric circle around Israel as he wrote) has sin, upon sin, upon sin, upon sin; For three transgressions…and for four…I will not revoke the punishment…So I will send a fire…

In the Old Testament, fire is a very literal, physical tool used in the judgement of God, in the New Testament, it is more of a spiritual thing, think 1 Peter 1,

“6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith–more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire–may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

The point from Amos 1.2-2.3 is this; even though these are not God’s people (that is tomorrow), even though they are not professing to live by God’s Word, abide in His will, follow His ways, even though they not believers their sinful lifestyle will still result in punishment from the just, righteous, Almighty God.

They are still humans made in His image, they still have to make a choice as to their eternal destination, and God still wants them to choose the right way, and through His absolute impeccable character and holiness will act if they do not.

Surely, then, this must motivate us to live the most consistent witness we can, to show people that there is another way to live.

Surely this should stoke the fires of evangelism within us, to tell people that there is another way through our words and ways.

And surely this should renew within us a healthy respect and reverential fear for our great God, to make us know deep down that He is so holy and just and righteous that the behaviours and lifestyles we read of here are simply not acceptable before Him.

There is some pretty challenging stuff to come in Amos, but, the last verse of the last chapter points to our salvation – and we will point to this verse often -, the reward for not living in sin, upon sin, upon sin, upon sin,

“I will plant them on their land, and they shall never again be uprooted out of the land that I have given them,” says the LORD your God.” (9.15).