August 25, 2010 David Balzer

1 Timothy 4: Train yourself to be godly

Perhaps you’ve heard it said that young people are the future of the church. That’s wrong! It’s unhelpful, it’s wrong-headed, and it’s not Biblical!

The truth is young people ARE the church… And so are OLD people. And so are women and men. And so are preachers and Kids church teachers. And so are morning tea helpers and musicians and Bible readers and pamphlet folders and face-painters and BBQ’ers and singers and pray-ers and Home Group leaders and Committee of Management members, and elders. And so are cookers and sweepers and Scripture teachers and Kids talk presenters and event organisers and telephoners.

Church is ALL of those people who are involved in serving each other, and serving God. And so, young people ARE the church.

Today is our Youth Service. We have one about once a term. And the Youth run it. And you get to see them doing things up the front. But that doesn’t mean they’re only part of the church TODAY, and then next week they go back to only being the FUTURE of the church.

Because, WHOEVER YOU ARE, if you’re involved in serving and in being served, in any way, then you’re part of the church.

Now, normally, we just follow the regular preaching program. But this time, we’re going to focus on ONE VERSE. It’s Youth Group’s THEME verse. 1 Tim 4:12

12 Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young/, but SET AN EXAMPLE for the believers/ in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.

And what our young people want to be reminding themselves, and US, is that being a Christian SHOULD MAKE A DIFFERENCE. PRACTICALLY.

And we’ll hear from some of them in a few minutes about what the verse means to them personally.

It’s the idea behind the name of Youth Group. It’s called WIRED. Which stands for WALKING IN RIGHTEOUSNESS EVERY DAY.

If you’re a Christian, there should be REAL, CONCRETE, TANGIBLE differences in your life. Differences people can SEE. Differences EVERY DAY.

Is that how it is with YOU?

12 Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young/, but SET AN EXAMPLE for the believers/ in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.

Let’s take a step back, and have a look at the BIGGER PICTURE around this verse. The book 1 Timothy was a letter the Apostle Paul wrote to the young leader of the church in Ephesus. He’s TIMOTHY.

It’s a book that’s got lots to say about how to run a church – about what’s important, and what’s not. What things to encourage people in, and what to WARN them about.

And for THAT reason it’s got lots to say to ORDINARY Christians about what’s important in THEIR lives. What matters in church, and in their life OUTSIDE church.

And from chapter 4, there’s THREE BIG IDEAS I want to focus on. They don’t get any BIGGER. You could make them your three-part life motto. And you’d be doing pretty well.

Three biggies for Timothy as he led the Ephesian church. Three biggies for our YOUNG PEOPLE as they work out what it means to live for Jesus in THEIR world. And three biggies for US, as WE live for Jesus in our corners of his world.

So what are they? Here they are:

1. Put your hope in the living God, the Saviour of all men.

2. Train yourself to be godly

3. It’s not all about you.

1. Put your hope in the living God, the Saviour of all men.

Big idea number one. Put your hope in the living God, the Saviour of all men. That’s from v10.

It’s why Paul and Timothy, and all the other church workers, do what they do. It’s what puts the fuel in their tank, and the spring their step. V10, talking about his work.

10(and for this we labor and strive), that (or because) WE HAVE PUT OUR HOPE IN THE LIVING GOD, WHO IS THE SAVIOR OF ALL MEN, and especially of those who believe.

When it comes to leading a church, when it comes to teaching and keeping people safe, and on the right track, and away from danger. If you had to trust in YOUR OWN STRENGTH, you’d go crazy. For Paul, and for Timothy, what keeps them going is that their hope is in the living God who is the Saviour of all men, not in themselves.

It’s hope in the living God that gives them PURPOSE and DIRECTION. They’re not choosing their OWN path. They’re follows God’s priorities and agenda.

It’s hope in the living God that ENCOURAGES them. Without God powerfully changing people as they hear and respond to the gospel, church ministers would be nothing more than hand-holders, social workers, meeting chairmen, and counsellors. Without God actively KEEPING and PROTECTING people, ministry would be a constant discouragement. Of people giving up and falling away.

But God is LIVING and ACTIVE. He changes people, and keeps people, and restores people.

And Paul and Timothy keep proclaiming Jesus to EVERYONE because God is the SAVIOUR of everyone. He doesn’t discriminate on the basis of race or education or sex or age or personalities.

And so, we shouldn’t be surprised that churches are going to LOOK like that. A melting pot of all different sorts of people. A weird mob. A hospital of sick people. Often not the people WE’D choose to hang around with, or to build a church around. But God’s saving ALL SORTS of people, so we put our hope in HIM, not in ourselves.

That’s the FIRST big idea. It puts fuel in your tank, purpose in your step, a reason to get up, and a strength to keep going. And nothing else you put your hope in can SUPPORT you. Put your hope in the LIVING God, who is the Saviour of ALL MEN.

2. Train yourself to be godly

Second big idea. What’s it going to LOOK like when you put your hope in the living God? Where does the rubber hit the road? V7. TRAIN YOURSELF TO BE GODLY.

When God SAVES you, he gives you his Spirit. And his goal for you is to become more and more like Jesus. And by his strength you actually are able to MAKE PROGRESS.

It’s Paul’s message to Timothy, and the message Timothy’s to devote his time to delivering. It’s the trustworthy saying of v9 that he’s to labour and strive for. “Train yourself to be godly.”

But the point that’s made again and again in this chapter is that it’s going to take EFFORT. You can’t just sit back and expect God to do all the work.

TRAIN yourself. It’s a bit like PHYSICAL training. You’ve got to put in THE EFFORT if you want to see the RESULTS. No pain, no gain.

Look at the phrases Paul uses:

V10 LABOURING AND STRIVING in his work of leading

V13 DEVOTE yourself to the public reading of Scripture.

V14 DO NOT NEGLECT YOUR GIFT

V15 BE DILIGENT in these matters, give yourself WHOLLY to them.

V16 PERSEVERE in them

Which will mean we shouldn’t be surprised when things get DIFFICULT in our Christian lives. If God WANTS us to be godly. And if training in godliness requires EFFORT and PERSISTENCE and HARD WORK, then we should expect that the Christian LIFE will BE like that.

How do you think God is going to make you PATIENT? By sending you things that will TEST your patience, and STRENGTHEN it. There’ll be people who push all your buttons RIGHT HERE IN CHURCH because God wants you to work hard at PATIENCE.

Or what about self-control? Same thing. You can’t TRAIN yourself in self-control unless there are things that cross your path to TEST your self-control.

Same thing with humility, or faithfulness, or purity. You’ve got to EXERCISE your godliness, PUSH yourself.

And there are GOOD REASONS to do that. Let’s have a look at what this chapter says. WHY train yourself to be godly? Why go to all that effort?

Firstly, because godliness isn’t about stopping fun. That’s there from v4. One of the things the false teachers were teaching was that GODLY Christians didn’t marry, and they didn’t eat certain types of food (there in v3). We don’t know the exact details, but the point is they thought God would be impressed if you STOPPED yourself enjoying certain pleasures. Like food and sex.

But Paul wants to say that’s not what godliness is about AT ALL. V4.

4 For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving,

When God made the world, he made everything VERY GOOD. And he ENJOYED it. Same with US. EVERYTHING in the world can be ENJOYED, if it’s done in the right way. If it’s done with a recognition that God’s the one who MADE it, and who deserves the thanks.

Which is great news for our young people. Who are tempted to think they’re MISSING OUT by being Christian. That God’s a cosmic killjoy who wants to STOP their fun. But that’s not true at all. True godliness enjoys all of God’s creation, and gives him the thanks. Which makes it all EVEN BETTER.

Second good reason to work hard at godliness is there in v8. Godliness has value for the present and the future.

8 For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.

Physical fitness is SOME use. You’ll live longer, and enjoy life because you’ll have more energy and the ability to do more things. But it doesn’t matter HOW FIT you are, eventually this present life will FINISH. The best diet, and the fittest body in the world can’t stop death.

But godliness, GOD fitness, has benefits for the PRESENT AND the FUTURE. Walking with God and following him makes THIS life better. You enjoy life, because that’s the way God MADE it. But you’re also preparing for your TRUE life. The one you were made for. Eternity. Enjoying God in an undiluted way, with all the barriers and pain and sin and injustice and sickness destroyed.

That’s the SECOND reason to train yourself to be godly.

3. It’s not all about you

Finally, we come to the THIRD big idea from this chapter. It’s not all about you. A good message for teenagers to hear, because that’s often what they think. But we need to hear it just as much. Perhaps we’re just not as OBVIOUS about it.

1 Put your hope in the living God. 2 Train yourself to be godly. 3 It’s not all about you.

God didn’t design Christianity to be for Lone Rangers. Putting your hope in the living God, and training yourself to be godly is a TEAM SPORT, not an individual one.

Look at some of these verses in ch 4.

V5. IF YOU POINT THESE THINGS OUT TO THE BROTHERS, you will be a good minister.

V11. COMMAND AND TEACH these things.

V12 SET AN EXAMPLE for the believers. (that’s the Yth Group verse)

V15. Be diligent in these matters, SO THAT EVERYONE CAN SEE YOUR PROGRESS.

And finally, v16.

16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, YOU WILL SAVE BOTH YOURSELF AND YOUR HEARERS

That last one’s a scary verse for leaders of churches. Our spiritual health, the degree to which we’re growing in hope and godliness is LINKED to the health and growth of the people in our care.

But, in some sense, that’s true for ALL OF US. It’s as I see YOU training yourself to be godly. As I see your hope in the Living God grow in the face of trials and disappointment, that I’m ENCOURAGED TO DO THE SAME.

God uses EVERYONE to play their part. No one is unnecessary. Don’t think you’re not needed, that no one will miss you if you stay home. God can’t do what he wants to do with his church if you don’t come.

And when Timothy was tempted to think he was too young, too insignificant to be any use for God’s church. Paul reminds him. V12

12 DON’T LET ANYONE LOOK DOWN ON YOU BECAUSE YOU ARE YOUNG, but SET AN EXAMPLE for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.

And whether you’re young or old, the challenge is the same. Look past your own feelings of inadequacy, of weakness, and set an example. Because people are watching. You mightn’t think so, but they are. Your kids, your parents, your fellow Bible study group members, the people you talk to at morning tea, or invite to lunch. Or DON’T invite to lunch.

And there are five areas Paul mentions. Set an example in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity.

And, I think, they’re OVERLAPPING categories. Life is the BIG one. I guess it includes all the others. But perhaps we can narrow it down to setting an example in the GENERAL DIRECTION of your life. In the things you chase. In your priorities. In what motivates you, and in where you get your self-worth.

And Dean’s going to share something of his challenges in this area. ***

Another BIG category is LOVE. Set an example for the believers in LOVE. It’s an area that can really set you apart from those around you. Because the Christian’s love is to be unconditional, and sacrificial, and pure, and other person centred. And it’s to defend the weak. Which is revolutionary in this world. But also incredible ATRACTIVE.

Speech is ANOTHER area that’s really practical when it comes to godliness. And Kelly and Lauren had some thoughts on THAT area. ***

Faith is the next category. In some ways, it seems a bit abstract. How do you set an example in FAITH? But I think our life shows the things we TRUST in VERY obviously. WORRY shows a lack of faith. On the other hand, PRAYER shows faith.

Trusting in yourself, or in your money, or your health, or your job, or importance or influence. All of these things SHOW themselves in actions and attitudes. In the choices we make. In how we go about doing things. Even ministries in church.

What do those things say about YOU?

Instead, Paul says we’re to put our hope in the living God. Set an example in FAITH.

The final category is PURITY. It’s the OPPOSITE of pollution, of staining. It’s the opposite of being influenced by the world. Instead, it’s about the purity of JESUS infecting your life, and then you becoming CONTAGIOUS. The purity of your thoughts and attitudes and motives. The purity of your goals and words. And Matt had a few thoughts on that. ***

I hope you’ve been encouraged by all the different examples you’ve seen this morning.

Pray for our young people. Pray for our leaders. Pray for our church. But more than that. Let me leave you with one final challenge. For those of you who are parents. Did you notice Timothy’s BACKGROUND, there in v6?

6 If you point these things out to the brothers, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, brought up in the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed.

Timothy’s faith and ministry were the result of a mother and grandmother who’d shared their faith with him. Who’d TAUGHT him, and SET HIM AN EXAMPLE. And as he’d GROWN, he’d taken on that teaching, and that example for himself. And now he was SETTING it and TEACHING it FOR OTHERS.

Isn’t that the legacy you want to be passing on to your kids? Isn’t that what you want to leave behind?

Do you PRAY for that?

Is THAT more important for you than that your kids do well at school, or have lots of friends, or get into a good Uni course, or have a good job, or have their own happy family. All of that stuff is good.

But it’s NOTHING on the legacy of your kids growing to put their hope in the living God, the Saviour of all men. That they train themselves to be godly, setting an example in speech, life, love, faith and purity.

May God answer prayers LIKE THAT!

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