Wednesday, September 19, 2012

1 Timothy 4:1-5

Summary retelling of 1 Timothy 4:1-5

Paul now turns to warnings for Timothy.  He says that eventually some people will turn away from the Gospel of Christ and instead listen to speeches that are intended to cause some to go astray.  Paul talks of the people who teach these things as hypocrites (insincere), false-speakers (liars), and people who are unwilling to listen (consciences being seared).  Some of the false doctrines that they teach are a ban on marriage and abstinence from particular food.  Paul then reminds Timothy that everything God has created is good and when used in conjunction with God’s Word and prayer all things of God can be used in a righteous manner.

Thoughts for Today
First Thought:
Paul tells of people who will turn away.  This is really a sad place to begin today’s reflection.  People will get sucked into agendas that are not of God.  I think we should pay attention to this more than we already do.  God wants His people to focus on being vocal about bringing His love and grace to the world.  However, in today’s day and age of secular pluralism it is so easy to do ministry without ever mentioning God.  We want to help people, we want to be nice, we want to show God’s love; but we don’t want to be rejected.  So we often end up having wonderful service opportunities where nobody ever realizes that God should be at the center.  We start chasing the work and the feeling of doing good rather than chasing God’s desire that we proclaim Him and His love to the world.  When we do this, we are on the path of going astray.

Do you have anything in your life that may seem good, but it is not really God’s agenda?  How can we pay attention to our life and make sure that when we are doing God’s work we are actually proclaiming Him to the world and doing things in His name and for His glory?  What are some of the reasons that we start to chase other agendas and stop proclaiming God?  Are those reasons always bad?

Second Thought:
In this particular case, the false message that Paul is concerned about among the Ephesians deals with food laws and marriage.  The food laws issue is pretty straight forward.  Jews have the kosher laws; so those Jews who converted to Christianity are still thinking that they should follow the Mosaic Law.  The marriage issue is a little more complex.  There was a group of people in the early church who genuinely thought Jesus was coming back to earth in months or years, not millennia.  Thus, they were teaching that we should not get married, have children, or do anything like that because it would cause us to take time away from what little time we have to actually preach and proclaim God.  It’s the old argument that the more influences I have in my life, the less time I can spend with each particular influence.

Notice that both of these issues are fundamentally rooted in good thought.  One is rooted in a desire to be obedient to God’s Word as given to the Jews.  The other one is rooted in a desire to be as obedient possible to Christ’s command.  However, the result of these policies is a limitation on who can really serve and who is acceptable in the church.  After all, if I eat everything and worship in a church that says I can’t, then I won’t be allowed to serve.  Or, if I am married and worship in a church that says I can’t get married in order to lead, then I won’t be allowed to lead.  Thus, what often happens in human society is our legalism takes over and God’s ability to work through us is compromised because we make laws against that which God Himself does not say is sinful.

Why do we need some aspects of legalism?  Why did God give us His Law?  What is the use for the Law?  How do we know when legalism has gone too far?  How can we be legalistic enough to use the Law appropriately but remain free enough so that our legalism doesn’t jeopardize God’s ability to work through us?

Third Thought:
Paul reminds Timothy that everything that God has created is good.  This is the same message Jesus teaches to Peter when Peter is on the rooftop in Caesarea (See Acts 10).  However, Paul is also careful to remind Peter that everything can be used for good when we remember to pray about it and surround it with God’s Word.  What this implies is that we should not take for granted that everything is actually being used for good.  The creation can be used for good or for evil.  Therefore, how we approach the creation will determine whether we are using it for good or for evil.

Why is prayer such an important part of the discernment process?  Why is God’s Word an important part of discernment?  How do each of these things help ensure that we are doing things according to God and for His glory?  Are there any other spiritual marks of discipleship that can also help us ensure that we are using the creation to do things for God and to His glory?

Passage for Tomorrow: 1 Timothy 4:6-10
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