I recently read about the work of the cosmetic and soap maker “Dove” and their interesting work with women. It seems from reports that the Unilever Corporation that makes Dove products hired FBI-trained forensics artist Gil Zamora to participate in an interesting experiment concerning women and their self-image. This isn’t the only foray they have made into this realm, but it caught my attention because of how consistent the results were in the small (almost anecdotal) test pool. The company asked a number of women who were picked by an accepted random process to come into a studio and sit facing away from Zamora, who drew the women solely on the basis of the self-descriptions of each woman. Next, Zamora drew the woman again, is time on the basis of the description of a stranger who was sitting and looking at the woman while describing her. The results were surprising, and they seemed to be consistent over a number of test subjects. The result were quite surprising to me – because the sketches of the women based on self-description were without question less attractive than the ones made by a stranger’s description. The study is too small to be conclusive, but certainly implied that many women don’t see clearly their own physical beauty. Clearly the mirror of our own mind is NOT ENOUGH to cast a right picture of who we are – we need something else…
Key Principle: The Scriptures will help us to see ourselves as we are – both for good and for bad.
I love the words of the Apostle James, who reminded us long ago the Scriptures are God’s Word, and they offer a reliable picture of us.
James 1:22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. 25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.
This passage offers us a clear idea of what the Bible can do for us, and what will result from pushing it out of our lives and refusing to do what it teaches. Listen again closely to James’s claim about the Word:
- It is meant to be lived, not just studied – so he sought to make his readers DOERS of the Word (1:22).
- Encountering the Word is like encountering a mirror and seeing a reflection that requires corrective actions (1:23-24).
- The Word is intended to be carefully observed (1:25a), as the word “intently” portrays.
- It offers a flawless reflection of us, not marred by our fallen state or our bias toward self-interest (1:25b), as the word “perfect” implies. The Word offers a true picture, or it is worthless as a life guide. Living with a flawed Bible is like following a map drawn by a blind man, it won’t offer reliable guidance.
- The Word was intended to set people FREE, not leave them in a state of condemnation (which is where they began before God revealed how to solve the issue). That is the point of calling it the Law of Liberty (1:25b). Making up our own moral tenets doesn’t make us free, following God’s Word does. When a society engages it principles with care, it thrives. When it replaces those for principles of their own choosing, it deteriorates. The Bible makes the bold claim that doing the opposite of its teaching is hazardous to individuals, families and society. Further, it makes the internal claim that following it frees people to become what God intended them to be when people “abide by it” (1:25b). The place of blessing is in the stream of obedience, not in the scorching sand of self-direction.
For a few minutes I want to look back into Paul’s letter to Timothy, and I want us to mentally make our own sketch of Paul. I want us to take his words and sketch out his face, his life and his ministry. As we do, one thing will become clear: walking in God’s Word, and living out its truth gave Paul a very clear view of himself. His self-image was not unduly enriched, nor needlessly defeated – his self-evaluation was a great picture of a man fulfilled, and self-aware, but also satisfied with his life rooted in obedience. Don’t forget, this was a man at the end of his life, and now imprisoned for the duration until the ax fell. Here is the text:
2 Timothy 3:10 “Now you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance, 11 persecutions, and sufferings, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra; what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord rescued me! 12 Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 13 But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”
Let’s take the remainder of our lesson and sketch Paul based on his words. I picked out ten traits, you may identify more. We aren’t misusing his words, since Paul made clear to Timothy that he WANTED HIM to look back at Paul’s life and take away the picture as a personal encouragement pattern.
“The Ten Traits of Paul”
Paul was not only a mentor to Timothy, he was a pattern moved by God and recorded by Scripture. If we look at what he presented of his own life to Tim, Paul claimed he was:
(“You followed my teaching”). Paul lived his life fixed to a body of truth that he taught both at moments of great reception before crowds of admirers and when the mob was angry and the rocks were flying. He simply related to Tim, “You know my teaching”. The term was “didaskalia” – a word that refers to his “doctrine” or his “set of unwavering beliefs”. Paul believed unapologetically that Jesus was God in human skin – and it didn’t matter what public opinion said about that. He wasn’t the only one who stood up to the world with this teaching. One writer reminds:
If Jesus is something less than God, he has no right and no power to forgive our sins. If Jesus can’t forgive our sins, we have no hope. Yes, the doctrine of the deity of Christ is worth contending for. And there is nobody God used more to contend for this biblical truth than Athanasius. Athanasius was born in the year 298 CE in Egypt. In his early twenties he was a deacon in the church in Alexandria (North Africa). During that time, the doctrine of the deity of Christ came under attack by a highly influential pastor named Arius. Arius taught that Jesus was a created being, that he had a beginning, and there was a time when Jesus was not. Therefore, according to Arius, Jesus is the son of God, but not God the son. His heresy was later known as the Arian heresy (named after Arius). It sparked a flame throughout the empire, that would dominate the church for 60 years. It was a 20 year old young man by the name of Athanasius, 40 years younger than Arius, that God would use to contend for the doctrine of the deity of Christ. Athanasius would endure decades of persecution, banished from the church, sent into exile five times, framed for murder, threatened with death, slandered by emperors and bishops, all for standing firm to the doctrine of the deity of Christ. In the end he prevailed, truth was preserved, and the church has stood on his shoulders ever since. (From a sermon by Mark Connelly, The Deity of Christ, 8/24/2011)
Paul lived a life TIED to the truth. He didn’t shift because those around him thought him to be ill-informed or obtuse about reality. He met Jesus, followed Jesus, preached Jesus and lived Jesus. For him “to live is Christ and to die is gain.” He knew how to draw hope from the truth of his message, no matter the circumstance. He faced death with confidence, and we can too! In fact, at death I’d rather be a “fumbling follower of Jesus” from a “flawed church” than an intelligent atheist with self-satisfied friends. Since my Savior has risen, my future is bright and personal, not an oblivion only abated by the memories of temporary earthly companions.
Get anchored in the truth, and you will be able to make a difference. You will become a fixture in the midst of the drifting lives around you.
(“You followed my conduct”). When Paul spoke of his “conduct” he used the term “agoge” – a word that means “carrying” or “guiding”. The idea behind the word was that Paul was acting out in life consistently with his teaching, and people could see that as a further life illustration of his teachings. Paul knew that he was being watched, and so are you and I. We need to be conscious of how we act, both from the standpoint of DOING RIGHT and the APPEARANCE of doing right. We cannot assume that people will understand when we act out of character with our commitment to Jesus.
In Washington D.C. there is a building called the “National Institute of Standards & Technology.” This facility is responsible for storing perfect samples of weights and measurements. They have what are called “prototypes” of pound weights and kilograms. Measuring rods for feet, yards & metric measurements like meters. For example, they have a “Meter Standard” a reinforced bar of platinum alloyed with exactly 10% iridium. When they want to know the exact measurement of a “meter” they cool this bar down to 0 degrees Celsius at a sea level of 45 degrees latitude then they know they will have the exact tip to tip measurement of a meter. That bar is known as “prototype #27, because the original is kept in a suburb of Paris at the International Bureau of Weights & Measures.
The value of the prototype is found in its consistency – just like the value of a testimony. It takes YEARS to build a consistent testimony of walking in the truth – but it has tremendous benefits. I have two friends that both think they are responsible people. One is an excellent time manager, and does his best at everything he puts a hand toward – while the other is frequently lax in his follow through on tasks. When each walks in late to a meeting, they get very different reactions from their colleagues. It is generally assumed the first one was tied up in something very important when he is tardy, while the second one is usually thought of as not having taken the meeting seriously enough. How people think of us in a specific situation is directly linked to our perception of them from their constructed testimony.
(“You followed my purpose”). Paul knew his life was in a “fish bowl” with enemies a-plenty watching for any failure or flaw. He said that Timothy knew his “purpose”, but that word doesn’t covey the whole richness of his chosen term “prothesis” – word not be confused with the word for artificial limbs. This term is a compound word from before “pro” and display or “thesis”. A thesis paper as we use the term today is a display of one’s academic acumen which is created to be scrutinized by scholars. Paul knew he was living on display as a show of God’s handiwork in a life interrupted by the Savior. The term “prothesis” was sometimes used of the “shewbread” in the Tabernacle, as that was also a display of God’s provision.
Don’t forget that Jesus doesn’t want to be “resident” in you – He wants to be “president” in you – in charge. He doesn’t want to “occupy a place” in your thinking – He wants your thinking to be rooted in His presence, and His principles.
A story is told that at the beginning of a new year, a high school principal decided to post his teachers’ new year’s resolutions on the bulletin board. As the teachers gathered around the bulletin board, a great commotion started. One of the teachers was complaining. “Why weren’t my resolutions posted?” She was throwing such a temper tantrum that the principal hurried to his office to see if he had overlooked her resolutions. Sure enough, he had mislaid them on his desk. As he read her resolutions he was astounded. This teacher’s first resolution was not to let little things upset her in the New Year.
Some people seem to care more IF they are ON DISPLAY, then they seem to care about WHAT they display when people are watching! We need to be careful to display Jesus and His goodness to us. A smile goes a long way! Paul displayed his faith by working, caring, sharing and teaching. You and I each have a unique combination of gifts that God has entitled us to use to serve HIM and show the world what He is like!
(“You know my faith”). Paul’s life was a clear reflection of his “faith”. He referred to the rich term “pistis” which arrives with it many practical out workings. For our purposes, we have learned the terms “Biblical world view” – specifically that faith is looking at the world through the glasses of God’s Word. Paul had a clear view of what was happening around Him because Paul trusted the truths of God’s Word, and leaned heavily on his relationship with a God who does not change in His purposes. There is a wondrous clarity that comes with seeing the world through the principles to God’s Word. It is important that we SEE life Biblically, but it is also essential that we CHOOSE life Biblically.
Billy Graham once said, “The strongest principle of life and blessings lies in our choice. Our life is the sum result of all the choices we make, both consciously and unconsciously. If we can control the process of choosing, we can take control of all aspects of our life. We can find the freedom that comes from being in charge of our life. So start with what is right rather than what is acceptable.” On another occasion, he was quoted as saying: “If you don’t make a decision, time will make it for you, and time will always side against you.”
Let me ask you directly: “How strong is your faith?” If you are actively seeking to know God through His Word, and are meditating on that word – bouncing it around in your mind in every direction – you are growing in understanding. The Spirit of God will use the Word of God to grow your understanding and transform your mind.
(“You know my patience”). I wonder how many of us could make such a claim to a traveling companion who knew us well for many years. I wonder if I could make the claim to patience if I was locked up and awaiting execution. … Paul said that he had a “long fuse”. He chose a term translated “patient” that is much more picturesque in its original form – “makrothumia”. The Greek word simply means, “long-fused” or able to withstand heat for a long time. Paul was not “tolerant” in the modern sense of the term, where no one is allowed to disagree with another or in any way challenge the assertions of another – but in a Biblical term of tolerance. The idea of the term was more that Paul could control and measure his responses, even when attempts at provocation were clear.
How did he manage to keep his cool in the face of attacks. First, he didn’t “weigh in” on too many issues. In fact, his commentary was ultra-thin on government policy and Emperor critique, and very directive on church polity and Christian behavior. Second, he kept a watchful eye on his “peace quotient”. Do you? Let’s suppose that reading articles on Facebook about the government gets you really upset, do you limit yourself from doing much of it? I am amazed at how many people KNOW what gets them aggravated, but cannot seem to limit their involvement with the source.
Stop and think about it for a moment. Perhaps the NSA collected every cell phone call you ever made. While you didn’t know about it, you kept living life. Now you know they did. Maybe you are enraged about the idea – but are you better off because you read article upon article about the program? Is your life enhanced for the hours of unhappiness that you live grousing about it? I am not suggesting you shouldn’t be informed, and that in a republic you should not weigh in at the ballot box. What I am suggesting is that we spend much more time deliberately deflating peace by feeding on fear and worry. We can vote and we can pray – but the world is not changed by whining and grousing – and I suspect that many of us have given far too much time to that! Are you watching your “peace quotient”?
(“You know my love”). Paul offered many words to people that out of the context of the relationships can be framed as “harsh sounding”, but that wouldn’t be contextually fair. He warned believers, but he LOVED them as well. He spent time in the homes of people, walked on the roads with his companions in ministry, and they felt more from him than just being measured. He said to Tim, you know my “love” that was obvious as we traveled together. Paul employed the word for Divine love, initiating love, active love – the term “agapao”. Our handy definition of the term is: “acting deliberately to meet a need, because there is a need, expecting nothing in return. Paul did it regularly and openly, and Tim observed it.
(“You know my perseverance”). The Apostle told his student: “You have seen me persevere!” The word “hupomeno” is the Greek for “the ability to remain under” and denotes one who has been strengthened to endure great weight placed up on him. Paul knew what it meant to have pressure on him. He felt the pressure of the sheer number of lost people in his life that he longed would receive Christ as Savior. He felt the pressure of those who were wavering because of persecution, and wanted them to look past the physical into the spiritual world beyond, and remain faithful to the calling of the Savior. He felt a strain when two believers were at odds, or a church was faltering. I am certain that he felt as I have so many times, going to bed exhausted, and then laying awake thinking of those you did NOT visit, and notes you did NOT write. He was tender at heart, but he had a very strong back! That strength made him resilient.
(“You know my sufferings”). Throughout his ministry, Paul was being hunted by those who could wound him emotionally and physically, and he had to learn to be both sensitive to the Spirit’s leading, and content when the Lord did not allow him to wiggle out of the grasp of wicked men (4:11). The term “suffering” is the term for “being put to flight amid chasing” and in some way refers to the way Paul had to stay “one step ahead” of those trying to hurt him. Clearly Paul suffered.
2 Corinthians 11 offers a little window into some of the tensions he faced: [I was often in] “more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty- nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches.”
He wasn’t whining, he was answering some bold and arrogant men who questioned his sincerity, and he unloaded the truck with things that showed he was no “light weight” in ministry. Paul was the real deal, and he wanted the men who opposed him to set their resumes side by side with his. He did it because he had built up resistance in midst of suffering the attack.
(“You know my persecutions”). Paul knew what it was to face persecution, and the term he used for it in verse 11 was laden with emotional negatives. Despite the frequent claims by modern preachers that God’s plan is to give us ease, wealth and comfort, God’s message through Paul was that God has always been more concerned with holiness than health. The Apostle even made the direct claim, in contradistinction to modern televangelists that Godly people ought to expect trouble (4:12). “Pathema” is painful troubles that overtake someone. They are hard things that “befall” one’s life, and must be faced. Paul’s status with God didn’t exempt him from the pain, it was the biggest reason for it!
(“The Lord rescued me!”). Paul passed through the struggle, but he felt the strong arm of the Lord lift him up when he was engulfed in troubles and unable to extricate himself. He accepted that God knew how to deliver him at any time, and that if he was not delivered, it was because aged did not so plan it. From the hand of a man who removed the scales from his eyes, to a basket in Damascus, Paul knew what a rescue of Jesus felt like!
How did Paul gain such a stature? He walked with God. He shared his life with the Spirit of God. He leaned on the Word of God.
The Scriptures will help us to see ourselves as we are – both for good and for bad.
Why is this absolutely essential? The simplest answer is because the fallen world system is carefully constructing a moral and ethical system in opposition to God and His Word. It is being carefully engineered in laboratories, university campuses and government think tanks. Hollywood and Washington will chime in together to push the agenda. The world powers will reward the US for every single departure from the Biblical past, as we rush headlong into European and Eastern arms.
A seminary professor was vacationing with his wife in Gatlinburg, TN. One morning, they were eating breakfast at a little restaurant, hoping to enjoy a quiet, family meal. While they were waiting for their food, they noticed a distinguished looking, white-haired man moving from table to table, visiting with the guests. The professor leaned over and whispered to his wife, “I hope he doesn’t come over here.” But sure enough, the man did come over to their table. “Where are you folks from?” he asked in a friendly voice. “Oklahoma,” they answered. “Great to have you here in Tennessee,” the stranger said. “What do you do for a living?” “I teach at a seminary,” he replied. “Oh, so you teach preachers how to preach, do you? Well, I’ve got a really great story for you.” And with that, the gentleman pulled up a chair and sat down at the table with the couple. The professor groaned and thought to himself, “Great … Just what I need … another preacher story!” The man started, “See that mountain over there? (pointing out the restaurant window). Not far from the base of that mountain, there was a boy born to an unwed mother. He had a hard time growing up, because every place he went, he was always asked the same question, ’Hey boy, Who’s your daddy?’ Whether he was at school, in the grocery store or drug store, people would ask the same question, ’Who’s your daddy?’ He would hide at recess and lunchtime from other students. He would avoid going in to stores because that question hurt him so bad. “When he was about 12 years old, a new preacher came to his church. He would always go in late and slip out early to avoid hearing the question, ’Who’s your daddy?’ But one day, the new preacher said the benediction so fast he got caught and had to walk out with the crowd. Just about the time he got to the back door, the new preacher, not knowing anything about him, put his hand on his shoulder and asked him, Son, who’s your daddy? The whole church got deathly quiet. He could feel every eye in the church looking at him. Now everyone would finally know the answer to the question, ’Who’s your daddy?’ “This new preacher, though, sensed the situation around him and using discernment that only the Holy Spirit could give, said the following to that scared little boy … “Wait a minute! I know who you are. I see the family resemblance now. You are a child of God. ” With that he patted the boy on his shoulder and said, “Boy, you’ve got a great inheritance. Go and claim it.” “With that, the boy smiled for the first time in a long time and walked out the door a changed person. He was never the same again. Whenever anybody asked him, ’Who’s your Daddy?’ he’d just tell them, ’I’m a Child of God.’” The distinguished gentleman got up from the table and said, “Isn’t that a great story?” The professor responded that it really was a great story! As the man turned to leave, he said, “You know, if that new preacher hadn’t told me that I was one of God’s children, I probably never would have amounted to anything!” And he walked away. The seminary professor and his wife were stunned. He called the waitress over & asked her, “Do you know who that man was who just left that was sitting at our table?” The waitress grinned and said, “Of course. Everybody here knows him. That’s Ben Hooper. He’s the former governor of Tennessee!” -From Bob Soullier courtesy of sermon central illustrations.
Without the Word of God and its clear admonitions, believers would walk in the dark on the path of their own lives, and could offer no relief to the hurting that fall in the brutal struggle about us.
One other thing, we would not know ourselves. Our knowledge of self is also tied to the Word. We would confuse “goodness” with “righteousness” and give ourselves a pass from the Cross in favor of our own standard of works. Who could argue that we weren’t nice people that did good things?
The Word tells the truth about the brokenness and sinfulness of men. It makes clear the need for a Savior. It highlights the way God can turn a life into someone beautiful. It defines truth, so the noise of the world can be filtered.