Marks of Godly Leadership 2 (1 Timothy 6:11-21)
Throughout the book of 1 Timothy, we have regularly encountered Paul’s commentary on both good and bad leadership; as well as the central theme of holiness. He maintains a determined passion to oppose bad leadership (which we looked at yesterday) and to encourage true leadership that flows from holiness. At this stage, we can all see the inseparable connection of leadership and holiness.
Remember before Timothy arrives, the existing leadership of the church in Ephesus had plunged the church into crisis. These leaders lacked the moral character, godly desires and competent gifts required to lead God’s people (1:6-7, 19-20, 3:6-8, 4:1-3, 6:4-5). However, through the words of Paul, we can see leaders who inspire trust because of holy character (3:2-12), who build the church to fulfill its purpose (3:15), who sacrificially serve the people God has entrusted to them (5:17) and who are wholeheartedly committed to a radical pursuit of holiness (2:2, 8, 10, 3:2-13, 4:6-10, 16, 6:6-7, 11-16).
As we have already seen from this chapter, leadership flows from the heart. Yesterday we saw that bad leadership comes from a heart full of ‘evil roots’. Contrastingly, Paul now goes on to describe & encourage Timothy towards godly leadership, which flows from a heart that has been radically transformed by the power of the gospel. Let us consider three characteristics of godly leadership:
Firstly, godly leadership flows from a leaders identity in Christ. “But as for you, O man of God…” Paul describes Timothy as a man belonging to God. It is such a simple phrase, so easy to overlook in a chapter with so much being discussed, and yet it might possibly be the most powerful statement! That is because there is power in knowing that we belong to another. God had to change us, redeem us, remove our sins, pardon us in His court, reconcile us to Himself and transform our hearts from stone to flesh. It is a fundamental change of our entire identity, which inevitably leads to a change in how we live. This simple, powerful statement is the foundation of all good and godly leadership. Our belonging to God enables our living for God.
Secondly, godly leadership involves a proactive participation in a relationship with God and a pursuit of personal holiness. If leaders belong to God, they are therefore empowered to “flee” and to “pursue” (verse 11), to “fight” and to “take hold” (verse 12), “to keep the commandment” (verse 14), to “charge” (verse 17), to “guard” and finally to “avoid” (verse 20). This passage is full of verbs and commands, clearly communicating that the life of a leader involves a lot of action! This is a summary of a central theme in the whole book: believers must actively pursue and train themselves in godliness. Leadership flows out of who God has made us to be and how He is empowering us to live.
Finally, godly leadership looks to the future. Leaders regularly recall the eternal reality of Jesus’ victory and our glorious future with him. “…until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ,which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords,who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see.” Paul here is breaking out into another moment of doxology (praise) as he is himself amazed at who God is – its like he can’t contain himself! However Paul also has a deeply theological foundation that he is communicating here. This future when the victorious King Jesus comes back for His church is a certain reality that we are all moving towards. This is our certain hope. This will be the fruit of our labour. It motivates and preserves all that leaders do now.
These marks of godly leadership summarise the central themes of leadership and holiness throughout the book, and they form Paul’s concluding remarks. They will keep us in the love of God, embolden us to keep serving His mission in the world and stir us to keep pursuing a deep and transformative relationship with Him. What a powerful encouragement for us all.
Grace be with you.
SOME QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
- As we have reached the end of the book, what concluding thoughts do you have on good and bad leadership?
- How is your life characterized by the kind of intentional pursuit of holiness that we read in 1 Tim 6?
- How does a gospel shaped certainty in the future encourage us to live and lead for Jesus now?
Contending for Holiness & Justice (1 Timothy 5:1-16)
To contend for holiness is to contend for justice.
Over the last few chapters we have seen a recurring theme. Paul’s wartime dispatch to Timothy contains a simple message, that believing in the gospel changes you. You can hear the gospel, know the gospel or even study the gospel, and still be left utterly unchanged. However you cannot believe in the gospel and be the same. It will transform you.
In this chapter we see Paul take his recurring theme, and, just as he did in chapter 2, apply it to specific situations that Timothy needed to address in the church. We know that Paul is contenting for the holiness of the church, because his concern is for ‘purity’ (verse 2), ‘honor’ (verse 3), ‘godliness’ (verse 5) and ‘good works’ (verse 10). Paul also calls out a variety of sinful behaviors that have taken place (verses 8, 11-13). Paul is like a broken record, playing the same beat over and over again, determined that the church should display the beauty of God’s holiness.
What might be surprising to us as we read however, is how much time Paul spends focusing in on one particular group within the church; the widows. It seems strange, perhaps weird, that in such a short letter so much ink and paper would be spent here. If you are surprised, then a quick survey of the whole bible will completely confound you! Widows are directly mentioned over 80 times, with a few key verses here below:
- “…father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.” (Psalm 68:5)
- “He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing.” (Deut 10:18)
- “Leave your orphans behind, I will keep them alive; And let your widows trust in Me.” (Jeremiah 49:11)
- “You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child. If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry, and my wrath will burn…” (Exodus 22:22-24)
Do you see the theme of justice permeating throughout these verses? Lets remind ourselves of the people that these verses, as well as Paul in 1 Timothy 5, are focusing on. Widows are often among the most marginalized and powerless in any society throughout history. They are among the least important, those without voice or agency, with little hope of a brighter future. So the idea that God, the Alpha and Omega, is so determined to love, support and protect widows is an awe-inspiring revelation! It’s so counter cultural, so unexpected and oh so beautiful! It reveals the holy beauty of God to us in a remarkable way. It reveals who He really is.
So back to 1 Timothy, and Paul’s charge to us who believe in the gospel is to live out the gospel and therefore become more like the one we believe in. Just has God has always done, we also are to love, care for, empower, highlight, restore dignity and empower all of those who have been marginalized in our communities. As the Adam Clarke commentary on 1 Timothy 5:3 says, the word ‘honor’ means to support or sustain. This is an active, sacrificial, intentional command from the bible. This is what Paul is charging the church to do. This is a challenging reminder, to put in the center of our attention and service those who the world is trying so hard to marginalize. It is the inseparable fusion of holiness and justice, and we cannot simply read this section of scripture and not obey its commands.
Our holiness, the thing Paul has been talking about throughout this book, is not just about character attributes we should nurture. It is also about good works that we should dedicate ourselves to, which is why James (1:27) describes real belief as looking after widows. To contend for holiness is to contend for justice, and lets remember that as we do, we display the love of Jesus to the world around us.
SOME QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
- In your own words, why does Paul spend so much time focusing here on widows?
- How is our personal holiness connected to living justice-shaped lives?
- How are you challenged to change your life so you can be obedient to the command to ‘honor’ the marginalized and disempowered in society?
In my experience, church leaders generally are good at pursuing one type of holiness (fruit of the spirit) but are not as intentional about pursuing the type of holiness that Paul has challenged us on today. Leaders must lead by example in living justice-shaped lives. To live passionate about gospel-centered justice means changing how we live, sacrificing things in our lives so we can be obedient to the bibles commands and so we can show other people the love of God. Don’t duck out of this. Be bold. Count it as joy. Be a leader.
 Accessed 11/12/2019. Walker, Austin. 2015. https://www.crossway.org/articles/why-does-the-bible-say-so-much-about-widows/.
 Accessed 11/12/2019. https://www.studylight.org/commentary/1-timothy/5-3.html
Affectionate Mentorship (1 Timothy 4:11-16)
Words have value and power. When spoken words can heal, restore and build. Conversely, they can be used to cause pain, bring down and tear apart. All words have power. However, the words that matter the most to us are the words that come from the people closest to us. The value of these words comes from the value that we hold for the people that are speaking. The people closest to us hold our affections, passions and commitment. Therefore they’re words represent a communication of they’re heart towards us.
Throughout this book I have found the intimate relationship of Paul and Timothy beautiful. It has endeared my heart and warmed my soul, because the relationship is a beautiful model that is so tragically missing in many churches today. In our devotionals we have already seen how this relationship has been leveraged to encourage and strengthen Timothy. Paul has been pouring himself out onto paper, with the desire of equipping his spiritual son. In secular places we would call it ‘mentorship’, but we can call this ‘fathering’. The active, on-going, ‘doing’ of a strong and loving father figure towards his children.
We see throughout 1 Timothy, but I highlight this now because Paul seems to get personal. Beautifully personal. Lets remember two things at this stage. Firstly, Paul has given Timothy a challenging assignment. Going to Ephesus without backup, confronting the established, power-hungry, leaders. Correcting behaviour from church members. Secondly, Paul has been writing about holiness, and the need for the Ephesian church to reclaim godliness as a means of displaying the power of the Gospel.
We should remember these two things as we enter this part of the chapter, because it explains why Paul gets personal with Timothy. After admonishing and encouraging the church towards holiness, Paul turns his focus towards his son-in-the-faith Timothy. He strengthens Timothy towards strong and brave leadership when others might look down on him (verse 12). He encourages Timothy towards practicing leadership gifts wholeheartedly (verse 13). He reassures Timothy that his leadership is based on grace gifts given by God and recognized by church Elders (verse 14). Finally reminds Timothy to intentionally steward these grace gifts as well as his own holiness (verse 15 & 16).
Paul’s words are a blindingly bright display of his affection for Timothy. Look at Paul’s desire to see Timothy pursue holiness and live out the gospel. As Matthew Henry says, “Those who teach by their doctrine must teach by their life.” Look at the desire to protect and strengthen Timothy’s leadership; to see him thrive and establish himself. Look at how specific he gets. Paul knows what to check, what to encourage and what to challenge. The church today is meant to be filled with these discipleship relationships. It will advance the kingdom, transform the church and bring glory to the one we are all imitating (1 Cor 11:1).
SOME QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
- How does Paul guide Timothy in this passage?
- What do you think are Paul’s main concerns for Timothy?
- How are you being a Paul or a Timothy in the church today?
- How has this passage challenged you to grow your personal leadership gift?
Paul strikes a great balance in this book between guiding Timothy, and letting him discover and develop himself as a leader. Paul gives some instructions, some pointers, but he isn’t in the trenches with Timothy in Ephesus. Timothy has to build the strategy himself. Have the confrontational conversation himself. Change procedures and disciple new leaders himself. The ‘discipler – disciplee’ relationship is a balance, and this passage can be instructional for both roles. Invest the time. Commit to the challenge. Raise new leaders. Be transformed.
God’s Sovereign Word (1 Timothy 4:1-10)
I want to start of by asking a question: Are we looking at the Bible through the world’s eyes or are we looking at the world through the Bible’s eyes?
You see, there is a difference; and history is full of horrible examples of how people have manipulated God’s word to do the unthinkable. Both Apartheid and the Crusades were fueled by the misinterpretation of scripture and the arrogence of self centered leaders. This is unthinkable! How could people be so easily deceived?
Verse 1: “by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons”
These people did not devote themselves to God’s Spirit and God’s Word. Rather than being changed by the Spirit of God and His Word, they tried to change God’s Spirit and God’s Word to suit themselves. They looked at the scriptures to prove their worldly view, to justify their sinful hearts. Is there an area in your life where you do the same?
The Bible is there to interpret the world around us. It is not just a book full of wonderful stories of God’s faithfulness, it is a guide to our everyday life. It is the living word!
Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart”.
We have been given a weapon to fight these deceitful teachings: God’s Word. His word will enable us to discern between right and wrong. We must thus study His word and apply His word.
Verse 4-5: For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.
You see, if we live in the world through the guidelines of God’s Word, God will keep us safe. I think alcohol is a good example of what is talked about in verse 4. Alcohol in itself is not bad; drinking a glass of red wine per day actually has cardiovascular benefits! However we all know the consequences of abusing alcohol; it is the cause for so many hurt in our society today. There are things in our lives, like drinking alcohol or watch certain TV series, that can be made holy by the word of God, when used in the ways that honors God. The word of God is there to guide our every move in life, so that we can to grow in godliness. In other words, the gospel transforms everything!
Verse 7: “have nothing to do with irrelevant, silly myths. Rather train yourself in godliness ( being like God). For while bodily training is of some value , godliness is of value in every wayas it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”
Believers must first be dedicated to God’s word and His teachings, before we spend our time reading weird and wonderful theories of other peoples interpretations of God’s word. We should rather use our time to grow in godliness and place our hope in God.
Verse 10: “For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God You see our hope can not be in other people with fancy words, new teachings and interpretations. Our hope is in Christ Jesus and in His Word.”
I want to end of by honouring all of you that do read this bible plan and who are dedicated to His word. Keep going, training yourselves in godliness for it has value even in the life to come!
My hope today, is that you will be encouraged in reading the Word and equipping yourself to discern between what is good and evil in these confusing times. I hope this scripture challenges you to not only read His word, but to allow His word to change the way you see the world around you. How can you apply His word today in your life and the lives of the people around you? For God’s Word is alive, and is actively working in you!
The House that God is Building (1 Timothy 3:1-16)
Sometimes it is possible to forget that the church isn’t ours. It is God’s people, brought together as His family, united by His blood, to advance His mission and magnify His glory. For sure, we are the church, strengthening and taking responsibility for its purposes on Earth, however it’s not ours to mold and change as our own. Don’t mess! This is God’s house!
Paul holds a deep concern for the church, as it is the household of God. This explains the whole letter, but verse 15 is especially helpful when reading chapters 2 and 3. Paul states that his purpose in writing is so that we “may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.” If we read chapters 2 & 3 again, understanding that the church belongs to God, we will see that God himself cares deeply about how His church is being built. That’s why, at the very onset of its inauguration, in Matthew 16:18 we read that Jesus claims ultimate responsibility for building the church.
Paul’s deep concern for the well being of the church comes from remembering what the church is. In verse 15 we get three different descriptions of the church. It is the household of God, referring to the church as the family of God. Next is the church, meaning the assembly / coming together of God’s people. Finally we get the church as “the pillar and foundation”, because whilst in the world the church is meant to be both the firm foundation and the high tower of truth. These are awe-inspiring truths of who we are as the people of God, and it demonstrates how intentionally God is building His bride.
God’s concern for His people is shown in chapter three through his concern for the holiness of leaders. Found in the list of Elder and Deacon characteristic’s, we see practical examples of the kind of gospel transformation Paul has been exhorting throughout the book. These ‘qualities’ are also a direct contrast to the false teachers influencing the church in Ephesus. At the heart of the churches problems was a failure of leadership character, necessitating Paul’s detailed descriptions of what godly leadership should look like.
One of the fundamental problems behind all church failures (not just in Ephesus) is a failure of character, and this failure will always be found when leaders over-emphasize their importance in the church. Then egos begin to inflate (1 Tim 1:7), sound doctrine begins to wane (1 Tim 1:10) and church roles begin to get muddled as people are not guided into holiness (1 Tim 2).
When I was young up I had the privilege of growing up in a church plant with leaders who were clear that the church would not rise or fall based on their abilities. From my childhood onwards, I learnt that church leadership is about gospel transformation, internal character and spiritual dependence on the God who is building His church.
This chapter is a continuation of Paul’s concern for gospel transformation in the household of God. It is an incredible gift to the church from God Himself, as it will protect us from bad leadership and constantly point us to good leadership. But we also should be regularly asking the Holy Spirit to encourage and challenge us personally, trusting that God is transforming us as He is building His church.
SOME QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
- Why do you think Paul is so concerned that Timothy establishes healthy leaders in the church?
- What does these two lists of leadership characteristic’s reveal about the heart of God towards His church?
- How could these lists help you to assess your own spiritual transformation?
These lists are incredible gifts to help guide us as we seek to grow more and more into imitators of Jesus, and they are worth our regular meditation. You may find it beneficial to ask others you trust to help guide you through them. Remember, God is transforming you. God is building His church. These character traits are not about performance, or striving to be better. They are about seeing an inner renewal by the Holy Spirit through the Word of God.
 This is the ‘most likely’ understanding as verses 4, 5 & 12 use the same word is used to refer to family households.
 You can read 1 Tim 1:7 & 6:4-5 to see how different these church leaders were from the standard that God required in His household.
The Danger of Closed Ears (Hosea 5:1-15)
Hosea Chapter 5 reads like a charge sheet or the pronouncement of the judge of the misdemeanours committed in a court proceeding against Israel/Ephraim (the Northern Kingdom).
The priests, the royal family & the leaders of Israel have led Israel into a snare/trap with their idol worship and their ‘deep slaughter’ (vs2 in ESV might refer to child sacrifice see 2 Kings 17:17).
Israel was so thoroughly gone, so far from God that reconciliation at that point seemed impossible; “Your deeds won’t let you return to your God. You are a prostitute through and through, and you do not know the Lord” (vs4 in NLT).
They might go and seek God to make sacrifices with their livestock, but they will not find God for ‘he has withdrawn from them’ (vs6). Nothing is more terrifying than this! That God removes Himself from us, that He won’t reply any more to our calls. That is the very definition of hell – existence without God, without the possibility of God, listening, without God willing to respond to our cries for mercy, grace or help. Hell, CS Lewis said was a monument to human freedom – people want nothing to do with God and so that is what God eventually gives them.
The leaders of Israel are full of dishonesty, corruption & injustice like those who move their neighbour’s landmarks (stealing land from people) (vs10 in ESV).
And because of all of this the day of judgment is coming, war is coming, and Israel will be reduced to a pile of rubble (vs 9 in NLT), ‘The people of Israel will be crushed and broken by my judgment because they are determined to worship idols.’ (vs11 in NLT).
When Israel realised the terrible moth-eaten state of her clothes, when they saw that destructive rot had set in to eat away their wooden things (vs12) – they called out for help.
But they did not call out in repentance to God the only One who could truly help them. Rather they sought political & military alliances with surrounding nations to secure protection. They paid money to Assyria (2 Kings 15:19) to buy protection – but these nations, these men can’t help Israel (vs13)!
We are like this sometimes aren’t we? We have made some mess of our lives, wandered from God, and when we realise our predicament we don’t repent and turn back to God the only One who can truly help us, we make a plan, seek wisdom, solace or solutions from those around us. And yet we know, God is the One we need. Christ Follower, don’t be like Israel was.
Foreign nations will not be able to stop what God has determined. Israel and even later Judah too are going to be punished by God (vs14). God is going to ‘tear them to pieces’ and ‘carry them off’ like a lion does it’s prey (vs15). Israel will be judged, punished and taken off into exile for God has finally declared; ‘enough!’ (see 2 Kings 17).
And yet even this terrible day that awaits Israel is not the end of the story;
Then I will return to my place until they admit their guilt and turn to me. For as soon as trouble comes, they will earnestly search for me.” (vs15 in NLT)
God is anticipating that judgement will produce repentance in the future and a change of heart and a longing for God again. There is a flicker of hope still as God vs15 hints at God’s desire for this to be restorative justice that will re-unite His people to Him in the future.
What does this mean for you and I today?
- Remember that God is slow to anger and abounding in mercy. This judgement of God on Israel was a long time in coming (approximately 200yrs and the reign of 13 kings).
- God had spoken over and over and over again to Israel through the prophets (2 Kings 17:13-14); however, they would not listen but rather were stubborn in their idolatry and unbelief.
- Decide today not to be like Israel was! Decide today to listen to the soft inner promptings of the Holy Spirit, the whispers of God through your own Bible reading and listening to Bible-based preaching, listen and repent, turn back to God when He whispers to you. Because if you don’t listen to the private whispers, God will eventually raise the volume and what was private will become more and more public.
- What’s God been trying to whisper to you about that you’ve maybe been shutting your ears too? Speak to God now, repent now, return to Him the only One who can truly help.
The Secret of Contentment (Philippians 4:10-20)
Contentment is a rare thing. We are bombarded by a myriad of multi-billion dollar advertising campaigns that reach into every nook and cranny of our conscious lives. These campaigns have saturated our senses with images and taglines all carefully designed to breed discontentment to fuel sales.
And so, whatever device or vehicle or shoe or item of clothing we have or holiday we had is quickly superseded by a new one we now desire.
Against this background, from prison, Paul’s statement strikes a stark contrast;
“I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.” (Philippians 4:11-12)
Wow! As we have seen before in Philippians, it is the “whatever” that makes this sentence remarkable. It is easy to be content in good situations or in blessed situations – therefore ‘whatever’ is code for being content in bad situations.
Before you rock back and think this is impossible for me, note that Paul wrote that this had been a process for him. He had ‘learned’ how to be content in whatever situation he found himself in. This was something he had grown in as he followed Jesus.
How content are you at the moment? What is causing you to experience discontentment? Not just materially, but in the stage of life, you are in?
How might God want you to grow, to learn to be content in that situation? How might God want to mature you, or grow your character in the situation you are in right now?
Paul could testify that he had learnt to be content in plenty and in lack – but how? What was his secret?
13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
The secret Paul had learnt, was to tap into the empowering presence of God in all circumstances in his life. God, in him, was enough. The awareness of God’s presence with him was the single biggest X-factor that enabled him to endure all things with contentment.
It’s not written here outright, but the sub-text of this section is Paul’s underlying resolute trust in the sovereignty of God. He believed that God had either brought about the circumstances he was presently facing or God had allowed them to happen – God was not having any crisis meetings to work out what to do next; instead the plan and purpose of God was relentlessly moving forward even when he could not understand it or see how it was doing so.
We see this belief and trust in his statement in vs19 and his worship in vs20.
19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. 20 To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen
The Unequal Team (Philippians 2:12b-18)
I love the glorious and unequal harmony of Philippians 2:12b-13. These precious verses reveal an unequal team that collaborates to accomplish something of great significance – our sanctification.
We are unequal partners, like a father and a small child in a rowing boat. We are partners. We each have an indispensable role and responsibility for progress. And yet our Father in heaven has the greater responsibility and commitment to our progress.
We are to work out our life response to the good news of what God has done for us in Jesus – this is our responsibility (vs12b).
And yet we do so, knowing that God is working within us — working in the realm of our desires, causing us to want to live in such a way that we please God (vs13).
Both oars are in the water pulling, but we would never hope to make any progress if it were not for the work of God in our hearts changing our very desires so that we begin to want what God wants more and more.
On the back of this confidence that God is at work within every believer, Paul commands the Philippian believers to; “do all things without grumbling or disputing” (vs14). This is only possible through the enabling work of the Holy Spirit, changing us from the inside out.
We are to embrace life and life’s circumstances free from the quiet murmerings of discontent (‘grumbling’) and free from more public debate and arguments (‘disputes’). We are urged to live in such a way so that we might be blameless, known for our innocence as believers in Jesus – God’s children.
Merely seeking to work out obedience to this one command contained in vs14 will make us extra-ordinary people to those around us.
Grumbling and moaning are like national sports in South Africa at the moment. But we are not to be like this as God’s children.
We are also to avoid public spats, disputes that do nothing to advance the cause of Christ. Social media posts and comments that have no real building potential come to mind.
We are to be those who shine amid great darkness, those who shine like stars amid a crooked and twisted generation. We are called to be different, to be holy as God enables us and places within us the desire to please Him.
We live this way by holding ‘fast to the word of life’ (vs16). God’s word is our road map, our guiding light as we navigate through life seeking to honour God in all we do as we work out our salvation with fear and trembling (vs12b).
Questions for Reflection:
- How does seeing your role & God’s role in your sanctification in vs12b-13 change your understanding of progress in sanctification (becoming more and more like Jesus)?
- Is there anything you have been grumbling about or disputing that you feel God is wanting to speak to you about from this passage? What is God saying He wants from you?
- In what ways do you feel God wants you to shine amidist the darkness around you? What is God challenging you to do, or to stop doing so as to shine?
Confidence! (Philippians 1:1-11)
What are you confident in? What are you relying on when it comes to faith and the continuation of that faith? Life is filled with unexpected complexity and challenge – so what anchors you and your faith?
Paul prayed for these Philippian believers, thanking God with great joy and certainty for their faith because he had great confidence that was anchored in God alone.
The early converts of this church were a successful businesswoman, a redeemed fortune teller & a converted jailer (see Acts 16 for the full story of this churches inception). This diverse bunch of newly saved ones must have faced many challenges to their faith. Challenges that came from both from within & from outside the church.
To this group of believers in Jesus Paul could write;
“I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (vs6)
He wasn’t there to hold their hands! But he was confident that they would make genuine progress in spiritual growth. So what was Paul’s confidence anchored in?
1. That salvation is a work of God
No doubt Lydia, the Slave-girl & the Jailer could all remember the day that they put their faith in Jesus. But this is not Paul’s confidence; it is not that they ‘really’ believed. His confidence is that God started it all! Acts 16:14 says of Lydia’s salvation moment; “the LORD opened her heart”. God was at the bottom of it all as Charles Spurgeon said;
One week-night, when I was sitting in the house of God, I was not thinking much about the preacher’s sermon, for I did not believe it. The thought struck me; How did you come to be a Christian? I sought the Lord. But how did you come to seek the Lord? The truth flashed across my mind in a moment—I should not have sought him unless there had been some previous influence in my mind to make me seek him. I prayed, thought I, but then I asked myself, How came I to pray? I was induced to pray by reading the Scriptures.
How came I to read the Scriptures? I did read them, but what led me to do so? Then, in a moment, I saw that God was at the bottom of it all and that he was the Author of my faith, and so the doctrine of grace opened up to me, and from that doctrine I have not departed to this day, and I desire to make this my constant confession, “I ascribe my change wholly to God.” — Charles Spurgeon
Friend, your faith is sure and secure only if God is at the bottom of it all.
2. God will bring what He started to completion.
‘So my faith had a good start, but will I be able to keep it going?’ – I hear you wondering.
Friend, Philippians 1:6 says that not only was God the originator of your faith in Him, more than that it is God Himself who will bring to completion what He started in you.
God doesn’t do half-jobs. God doesn’t get distracted or dejected because of slow progress. The writer to the Hebrews says it like this; “Therefore, he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” (Hebrews 7:25 in NIV).
It would make no sense; it would not honour Jesus’ life, death & resurrection in our place for our sin for God to start and not bring to fullness our salvation. Friend, God is supremely invested in, God is behind not just the origination of your faith but the sustenance and progress of your faith. For some more verses on this theme check out: 1 Corinthians 1:8-9 & 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 & Colossians 1:21-22.
3. The Outcome and the Day are Guaranteed
There is a timeline when this completion will be fully realised. It is not today or tomorrow or in 1years time, but it is on THE DAY of Jesus Christ – the day Jesus returns in glory.
Sometimes spiritual progress in our own lives or in the lives of those we love or lead can feel like three steps forward and two backwards! Don’t despair, don’t give in during the long dark nights when you feel like you have to hold on to what faith you still have.
There is a day coming. And you can be confident that God who inaugurated your faith will bring it to complete fullness by the time of the return of Jesus Christ. That day on which you will see Him face to face, and you will be transformed & raised in glory (1 Corinthians 15:42-43 & 51-55).
If you have believed in Jesus, you can know with absolute certainty that you have believed because God is at work within your life, and you can rest assured that what God has started in you He Himself will continue until it is fully complete at the Day of Jesus Christ. Be secure, be full of praise and thanks!
Help as you Change (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24)
“Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24)
Spend some time marinating in these two verses!
What is being promised here that will produce godly hope and assurance in us? Who is doing the heavy lifting here? What is our role in our own sanctification (our continual changing more and more into the likeness of Jesus)?
Don’t rush, read these verses again and again. Let the truth in them assure you of God’s commitment to your holiness. You are not on your own as you seek to please God by growing in Christlikeness (see 1 Thessalonians 4:3).
Pray now and ask for the Holy Spirit to fill you afresh, and rest in the knowledge that your personal growth in godliness is something God is totally committed to according to these verses – you are not alone!
What do you rejoice in? (Romans 5:1-5)
What types of things get your joy-juice flowing?
And what form does your rejoicing take?
In popular culture, the most common public expressions of joy are often supporters arms aloft, jumping, hugging strangers and yelling because their team scored.
I have the joy of serving with a fantastic fellow elder, Sibongiseni Dlamini who simply cannot contain himself in certain moments in church life. He can not stop his feet and arms from doing a little high-speed mini-dance at certain times. Like when he sees God at work in someone’s life, or that moment in one of our church services (www.recroadchurch.co.za) when a diverse crowd of Christ followers is passionately worshipping God’s name all in unison or when someone comes to faith in Christ – pure joy!
What do you rejoice in?
In Romans 5:1-5, Paul mentions two but lists four things we rejoice in as Christ followers.
1. We are at peace with God
2. We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God
3. We rejoice in our sufferings
4. We rejoice that God has poured His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit
1. We rejoice because we are at peace with God
May we never tire of rejoicing in the wonder and goodness of our salvation – that God has justified the ungodly (Romans 4:5). We were saved FROM the consequences of our sin, but we were saved FOR relationship with God and access into His presence continually.
Those who have been declared righteous by God because of their faith in Jesus now are in a position of ‘having peace with God’. We were God’s enemies (Romans 5:10), but now we have been reconciled to a right relationship with Almighty God.
More than this as we will discover in later in Romans 8 we are granted the privilege of being adopted as the children of God because of our faith in Jesus (John 1:12) and therefore we have free access into the presence of the Holy God, calling out “Daddy” as we come to him (Romans 8:14-17).
When they were young (and to some degree still today) my children never asked if they could please interrupt me by bashing open my office door or bedroom door! If they wanted me, they came in without hesitation. They were confident and secure that whatever I might have been focused on was not as important as they were.
Come like that, rejoicing that you are at peace with God because you have been declared righteous (justified) by the grace of Jesus. Come knowing this is where you belong.
2. We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God
We rejoice knowing that we are not what we once were (‘sinners’ & ‘enemies of God’) and that we are not all that we will one day be! The best is yet to come. Although we have access into our Holy Father’s presence already, there is greater unlimited access & proximity to come in the new heaven and the new earth when this will happen;
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new..Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! (Revelation 21:1-5 & Revelation 22:20)
This is our hope. Unrestricted eternal access in the presence of God living in a new earth where all of the damage of sin and death and suffering has been eradicated! It’s hard to imagine, but it is our eternal and sure hope which we rejoice in. The future is very, very bright for the believer in Jesus.
3. We rejoice in our sufferings
Oooooh. This seems to be the odd one out. Seriously is there not a typo here? The most challenging word here is the word “knowing” in verse 3. Paul expects the believer in Jesus to rejoice in sufferings because they know something. Do you KNOW it? You need to KNOW it before you’re in it because once you’re in some suffering/pressure/hardship that will not be the right to try to get to KNOW this thing that Paul assumes you KNOW.
We rejoice in our sufferings because we KNOW;
1. That although in this age we suffer because of the sin of others, and because of the effects of the fall all around us in our bodies, creation & society around us. We know that Jesus is both with us in it, and ultimately is coming back to make all things new!
We know that; “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)
2. We also rejoice in our sufferings in that we know that they are not outside of the loving, sovereign control of our Heavenly Father who will use even the worst things, even sinful things to shape us more and more into His likeness and show us His love for us. We KNOW that suffering with a right perspective (Hebrews 12:10-11) results in us developing the muscle of endurance. A muscle which can only grow with the resistance training of hardship. We also KNOW that endurance produces authentic character in us, Christ-like godliness, which is only formed under pressure. And lastly, we KNOW that godly character results in a view of the world that is filled with hope because we are convinced of what Scripture says about the future coming age of Christ.
It is only possible to rejoice in sufferings if you KNOW God is still in control, if you KNOW God loves you, if you KNOW your loving Father is able to work through all things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28), if you KNOW that this suffering has some purpose & that it will end and be swallowed up by eternal life to come and superseded by glory!
4. We rejoice that God has poured His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit
We rejoice because God the Father loves us with a love that is purer, deeper and more powerful than anything else in all creation. And we rejoice because this love has been given to us, not in some small measure, it hasn’t been rationed to us, it has been poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit! So rejoice, that you get to drink deeply of the love of God, by at any time inviting the Holy Spirit to overwhelm you again and again with the fullness of God’s love.
We have so much to rejoice in!
Thirst, drink, be filled (John 7:37-39)
Jesus is at the Passover Feast and He stands up and cries out;
“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ ”
What is Jesus referring to?
We don’t need to speculate because John tell’s us in vs39 that Jesus was speaking about the Spirit those who believed were about to receive once Jesus had been glorified. Jesus was speaking of the baptism in the Holy Spirit which we can read of again being promised in Luke 24:49 and then can read about being poured out in Acts 1-2.
But what is ‘Baptism in the Holy Spirit’?
Baptism in the Holy Spirit is a personal encounter with the person of the Holy Spirit, who then gives us spiritual gifts to equip us to witness effectively, to break with sin and to enable us for life and godliness.
Baptism in the Holy Spirit is:
- A promise to be clothed with power from on high (Luke 24:49)
- A gift (Acts 1:4-5)
- Experiential (Acts 2:1-4, Acts 8:18, Acts 10:44)
- Allowing yourself to be totally immersed in God (meaning of the word – baptised)
- Power from on high for service to God (Luke 24:49 & Acts 1:8)
- Enabling power for life and for godliness (2 Peter 1:3)
- Most often evidenced by the receiving of the gift of tongues (Acts 2:1-4, Acts 10:46, Acts 19)
Jesus told the disciples to wait until they had received power from on high (Luke 24)
Clearly Jesus thought that the baptism in the Holy Spirit was essential because in John 16:5-11 he told the disciples; ‘it is to your advantage that I go…because then the Helper will come” And who doesn’t need help?
Different Groups of people with regard to the baptism in the Spirit
- Those who are longing to be filled (Acts 2) spoke in tongues praising God
- Those who were receptive (Acts 8:14-19). These were Christians who had a second experience unclear what happened but was ‘wow!’ enough for Simon to want to buy it
- Those who are hostile – Saul (Romans 8:1-3, 9:1-2 & then was filled with the Holy Spirit 9:17-18) 2nd experience spoke in tongues as a result of this encounter
- Those who were unlikely (it’s for all), Gentiles (Acts 10-11) spoke in tongues praising God
- Those who were unaware previously but grew in faith by hearing (Acts 19:1-6)spoke in tongues and prophesied
How do I get baptised in the Holy Spirit?
- Believe in Jesus (John 7:38)
- Look to Jesus he is the one who baptises with the Holy Spirit (John 1:33)…
- Thirst/desire the baptism of the Spirit (John 7:37)
- Ask God for the baptism of the Spirit (Luke 11:9-13)
- Receive/drink (John 7:37-38 see ESV footnote) have your thirst satisfied by the Holy Spirit
But is baptism in the Holy Spirit a second experience – do we not receive the Spirit at salvation?
Well the answer is, ‘yes and yes’. As PJ Smyth says;
“Just as it is biblically indefensible to underplay the receipt of the Spirit at conversion, so also is it to underplay the on-going receipt of the Spirit after conversion…Importantly, whether or not you claim a major ‘baptism in the Spirit’ experience or not, you must remain in on-going pursuit of the Spirit, because scripture speaks of ‘fillings’ of the Spirit post both conversion, and, depending on your interpretation, post a major ‘baptism of the Spirit’ experience that followed conversion.”
Way too much time has been wasted haggling over when we get filled with the Holy Spirit, what is far more important is that we are continually filled with the Spirit so as to bear fruit as Jesus’ words ring in our ears; “apart from me you can do nothing”.
We need to be continually filled with the Spirit in order to live the Christian life, therefore we believe in and anticipate an infilling of the Spirit at conversion (which can’t happen without the work of the Spirit) and also anticipate subsequent in-fillings of the Spirit that are real and tangible as recorded in the book of Acts.
So, keep being filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18) so that you might be full of the life of God (John 7:37-38)!
Satisfy (John 4:31-34)
All through the gospel of John, Jesus uses physical everyday items people knew about to describe spiritual realities. Up to this point in the gospel Jesus has used the following everyday items;
- Light (to communicate the spiritual reality of Jesus’ purity in John 1:4-5)
- Temple (where God & humankind meet, which is now Jesus Himself in John 2:19-22)
- Physical Birth (the need to be born again, born spiritually in John 3:3-8)
- Wind (relating to the move of the Spirit in John 3:8)
- Water (the Holy Spirit within believers in John 4:7-15)
- Food (that which truly satisfies John 4:31-34)
In this encounter with the woman at the well, there is a moment when the disciples return from their mission to find some food in the village. They are astounded that Jesus is speaking with a woman, especially to a Samaritan woman (vs27) but don’t say anything to Jesus.
Maybe they were changing the subject onto something less controversial, maybe they did not wanting to risk delaying lunch with a new teaching from Jesus…? Whatever it was they urge Jesus to eat something (vs31).
Jesus’ reply must have surprised them further. “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” (vs32). I can imagine the disciples maybe even feeling agitated that Jesus had some secret stash of food that they hadn’t shared in or didn’t know about. ‘Had someone in this foreign town brought food to Jesus they wonder?’
But Jesus was once again doing what he often did, using an everyday item to explain a spiritual reality. Jesus goes on to say;
“My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to accomplish His work.” (vs34)
Jesus had told the woman that He had water that would sate her thirst forever (vs13-14), here Jesus explains to the disciples that there is something more satisfying to Him than even food! They went into town, hungry, eager to find satisfaction for their hunger. They urge Jesus to eat, in order that He can be satisfied too. Jesus replies; I have something that satisfies me more than food!
Jesus lived with a longing, a desire, a motivation pulsing inside Him to do the will of His Father. Jesus’ passion to fulfill the will of the Father, to please the Father, is a theme that will develop all through this gospel (see John 6:38 for example).
Jesus’ passion to do the will of God was so real, so tangible Jesus likened it to what the disciples were feeling, their hunger for food. Jesus compares the satisfaction they felt after eating with the satisfaction He felt when He had done the will of the Father.
What a challenge! What satisfies you? What do you wake up longing for?
May I, may we be more and more like Jesus who was motivated to constantly do the will of the Father in all circumstances and was in turn satisfied, felt that happy full feeling when He knew He had done the will of the Father.
What does God want? (1 Thessalonians 4:3-6)
What does God want from you and I as believers? There are times in our lives when we are not always certain of the answer to that question. Maybe you’re in a place of needing to make decisions and you’ve asked God for Him to reveal His specific will to you and at the moment you honestly could say that you don’t know what God’s will is in this thing that’s before you…
And yet here in today’s passage, Scripture affirms with absolute conviction and clarity what God’s general will is for all of us.
“For this is the will of God, your sanctification.”
The direct translation of the last word translated as ‘sanctification’ can also be translated as ‘holiness or purity’. God wants everyone of us to be pure, to be holy, to be more and more like He is. Note how this is an absolute and unqualified statement, it is always God’s will for all of us, it is not relative, it does not change.
In the passage, Paul zero’s in on an issue that many in Thessalonica seemingly battled to be pure in and an issue that many today still battle to be pure/holy in – sex.
Our world is awash with loose morals, the prevailing sexual ethic of our day is something like ‘everything is permissible as long as there are two or more consenting adults!’
Sadly, God’s moral law found throughout Scripture which makes it clear that there ought to be no sex outside of the covenant of marriage is disregarded by many both in and outside of the church.
The whole realm of sexual purity is one of those areas in which so often many of us could not be described as being pure or holy. But this is not God’s will for us.
Rather, God wants us to;
“…abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, 5 not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God”
And what is meant when the bible says God wants us to abstain from sexual immorality?
The Greek word used here is broad and so includes all sex before marriage and or outside of the marriage covenant between a husband and his wife.
Brothers and sisters, we need to be re-sensitised! We often see sex as a personal choice, and in one sense it is and yet God through Scripture warns us abundantly clearly that to engage in any sex outside of marriage is against God’s will for you.
More than that, the passage goes on to warn us saying;
“the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you.” (vs6)
God is not unmoved by our ‘personal choices’, rather we grieve and anger God when we live as the unsaved person does, when we do not keep ourselves sexually pure before Him. This is a solemn warning, and warnings are of no use unless we take note of them and adjust accordingly.
So let’s not be like those who do not even know God, let’s not be guided by passions and lust but rather let’s be those who desire to please God and because we do want to please God, let’s be those who control our own bodies (vs4) and keep our bodies pure and honourable before God who sees everything.
What does God want? He wants His children to be sexually pure.
And what if we haven’t been?
The good news is that we have been given the most amazing gift by Jesus – we can always repent and He will forgive us because He died in our place for our sin. But, repentance requires that we change, that as Jesus said once to a woman caught up in sexual sin we are to; “go and sin no more.”
Do you need to repent? You can! You will be forgiven!
But then you need to make changes with the help of the Holy Spirit.
And if you need help, speak to someone in leadership you can trust.
What does God want?
He wants us to be sanctified, to be transformed more and more into the perfect holiness of our Saviour Jesus.
How now shall we live? (1 Thessalonians 4:1-2)
“Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 4:1-2)
These verses are the ‘hinge verses’ in this letter. Up until now, the apostle Paul has been referring back this whole time, looking back at their visit to the Thessalonians, taking them back to the Gospel that was preached amongst them.
From this point onwards, Paul suddenly switches looking to the present and future addressing certain practical ethical problems of Christian conduct which were evidently troubling the Thessalonians or were ethical life-issues that Timothy had observed and felt needed correction. So, Paul switches from explanations regarding his own behaviour to instructions regarding theirs because of their faith in God.
One of the great weaknesses of contemporary evangelical Christianity is our comparative neglect of Christian ethics, in both our teaching and our practice.
– John Stott
Paul presents a striking contrast when compared to our current neglect of ethics in our day. For the rest of this letter, he gives detailed instruction in Christian moral behaviour. Contrary to much of the thinking in our day and contrary to so much of the emphasis in our churches teaching, how we live really matters!
‘you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God’ (vs1)
Paul can say that these Thessalonian believers had received something from Paul and his team, they had left a deposit of how to live SO AS to please God. He could say that the Thessalonians knew the instructions they had been given on what gospel life should look like in practice.
Living to please God is an overarching guiding principle of all Christian behaviour. John Stott says the following about living to please God;
“First, it is a radical concept, for it strikes at the roots of our discipleship and challenges the reality of our profession. How can we claim to know and to love God if we do not seek to please him? Disobedience is ruled out.
Secondly, it is a flexible principle. It will rescue us from the rigidities of a Christian Pharisaism which tries to reduce morality to a list of do’s and don’ts. True, we still need to be instructed … how to live in order to please God (1), and this for us will necessitate the developing of a Christian perspective through biblical meditation. Nevertheless, our incentive will be not so much to obey the law as thereby to please the Law-giver, and this will become increasingly a matter of Christian instinct as the Holy Spirit trains Christ’s sheep to discern their Shepherd’s voice.
Thirdly, this principle is progressive. If our goal is to be perfectly pleasing to God, we shall never be able to claim that we have arrived. Instead, we are summoned to please him more and more.” (extract from “The Message of Thessalonians” – J.Stott)
May we, make it our life ambition to live in such a way that pleases God. After all, if we truly love God we will want to live in such a way that will please God. And so as we read on in this letter which focusses on ethical teaching regarding how we should live, let’s remember that to do so is not legalism but rather practical help to those who want to please God.
And finally, lets remember that pleasing God is something which is never complete but rather something we want to do ‘more and more’.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for so radically giving Your life in order to sacrificially save my life. I worship You and am so grateful to You.
Thank you for the gift of repentance and the offer of forgiveness because of your life lived in my place and your death died for my sins.
Today Lord I re-commit myself to living in such a way that will please you, finding out what does please you and then making changes to what I do and do not do, how I think, and how I speak and act towards others. Holy Spirit, I invite you to challenge and change me more and more so that I might live in such a way that pleases You. Amen.
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