One of the voices of yesteryear that any student of American history comes to appreciate is that of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He was the man that campaigned against Herbert Hoover in the 1932 presidential election by saying as little as possible about what he might do if elected. To read the testimony of them later, the then “President-elect’s” closest associates barely knew him, (of course excluding his wife), Eleanor. Roosevelt was warm publicly, but closed personally. His public charm kept him at arm’s length from most people. In campaign speeches, he was buoyant and optimistic, and sometimes sounded more like a kindly parent. By 1933 the depression had reached its depth, and Roosevelt’s first inaugural address was delivered to outline, at least in broad strokes, how he hoped to pull America from the pit.
Roosevelt said: “I am certain that my fellow Americans expect that on my induction into the Presidency I will address them with a candor and a decision which the present situation of our people impel. This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days…”
This was the beginning of a new confidence for the people who sat by their radios, and gathered around the general store radios in the center of their towns, to hear the voice of the new President of the United States. People were losing hope with the crash of the stock market. The system had failed, and many were penniless and broken. Roosevelt knew that he needed to restore confidence in the people before they could begin to restore the system. As much as I would enjoy it, this is NOT an American history lesson, and I am not adequate to properly make it one. I mention it because it illustrates a truth that we will encounter in our study of the Word in this passage.
Key Principle: People will not attain victory in troubled times by acting like frustrated victims. They will only begin to speak with clear and optimistic words when they trust the One in charge (the Sovereign God).
Believers are not supposed to see themselves as victims of a world gone wild. We are ambassadors for the Ever Present Living One, who sits above the highest council of men and of angels. We serve the God Most High, and when we get caught up in angry protest and defensive speech – we show that we do not understand the true power of the God that we serve.
Last time we started our series “Renewing Our Values” in the first chapter of 1 Timothy and discussed “Costly Grace” – the notion that we are saved by grace through faith alone, but true faith never remains alone. It carries with it the natural companion of change. Real faith isn’t an orphan, it is the parent of a series of works in life – children of change that come naturally. Orphaned faith is theoretical, and it is false. It doesn’t save, or James should be ripped out of the New Testament. On the positive side, real faith SHOWS ITSELF. It works its way out, and responds to the prompting of the relationship of new life in Jesus! The relationship that begins entirely by faith, is grown in shoe leather outworking. What follows is one of the products of a grace through faith relationship – a sincere call to men who need to be reminded that a relationship with God REQUIRES growing lines of proper communication. Without asking for volunteers to share testimony, some of our ladies understand why God had to spell out the need for communication to males.
Some men in the church, like Hymenaeus and Alexander, were teaching destructive things – even blaspheming God in their error. They were brazen men – not unlike those in modern culture that brazenly overturn the plain moral tenets of Scripture with complicated explanations that end up as license to do wrong. If you look back into chapter one, you will note that they made Tim want to RUN from the work (1:3). They so tied up forward progress of the people and the leaders by leading people into distraction rather than real growth in Jesus, Tim was ready to jump off the ship and swim to a deserted island. The distractions were speculative histories that added such complexity to the truth they made right and wrong hard to discern. They moved from the “main things” to the “trendy things” and Tim found himself disheartened with the hunger of the crowd to chase after the frivolous.
Paul refocused Tim by recalled the goal of sound teaching of the Word (1:5). That is the key component to growth that should capture the heart of any growing believer – a right understanding of God’s Word. If we would be a disciple of Jesus, we have to have more than the ZEAL to follow Him, we must know the FACTS of following Him. The goal of the teaching of our faith must be recited, learned and used as a bench mark for materials presented in the church. Paul spelled it out:
The goal of our instruction is this: We desire to produce LOVING ACTION (other person centered actions as defined in Scripture). These actions must have no agenda but come from pure motives (pure heart), clean moral character (good conscience) and a Biblical world view (faith).
Focus on what that looks like in the local church today:
• Our teaching and instructional program cannot simply be geared to the theoretical – it must have a practical bend.
• Our teaching cannot lead one to be comfortable living in a self-centered way – but should produce “other person centered” service qualities.
• Our teaching cannot be jaded or shaded by other secretive agendas – it must flow from the text of Scripture like clean and pure water.
• The moral premises of our teaching cannot and must not flex with popular sentiment – they must be fixed to the moral parameters of the principles of the text.
• Our teaching isn’t shaped by the pressing influences of the fallen world system and its values – it is a transformed view of life based on Biblically revealed truth.
Let’s reduce it down to an even simpler statement:
The teaching of the church of Jesus Christ should produce working Christians, who show their love for Jesus by serving each other and the world with no compromised agenda nor morally breached testimony. It should produce active Christians that define right and wrong by the Word, not the world.
In the background, we should remember Paul’s admonition… Other teaching is a distraction that leads us in the wrong direction as believers. Emotional appeals based on logic that has flimsy textual foundation will not produce well balanced and properly grown Christians.
Our emotions are tied up in patriotic feeling, personal bias, and limited experience – and that can lead us to strongly hold positions that SEEM RIGHT, because we FEEL so strongly about them. Of course you love your country – that is a GOOD thing. Of course you see things through your own life experience – we ALL do. The issue is this: That cannot determine our teaching. We need to be careful that we are not more stirred by PROVOCATIVE TONE than by facts of Scripture. Wrong foundations produce weak and collapsing structures – and there are plenty of those all around us.
Paul told Tim to cut the frivolous discussion (1:6), stay on track and press for greater competence in the Word for those who want to try and teach it (1:7). He told Tim that pursuing the goal of proper teaching of the faith would be a battle, but it was worth it! He reminded Tim to lift his eyes and see the King and His salvation, to stand back in awe and wonder at God’s great saving work! (1:12-13). That is where we left off in the last lesson – the WONDER OF THE GOSPEL!
Voyager One left earth in 1978 when I was in High School. Almost one month ago in October of 2013 NASA held a press conference to say that they are now prepared to confirm that Voyager has successfully left the heliosphere – our SOLAR SYSTEM and its magnetic influence. Voyager 1 is now almost 19 billion kilometers from earth – hurling away from our SUN (the star that lights us) and toward its next nearest sister star. It will reach it, if nothing hinders it, in record time – about 40,000 earth years. Don’t wait up! Step back and behold the sheer size of the galaxy, and then recognize it is but one of millions upon millions of galaxies. Those who have analyzed the data so far supplied by Hubble’s deep space pictures estimate they have solid evidence for at least 176 billion galaxies, known to be in the Universe at this time – but that number is tentative and rising. The Bible very clearly says in Colossians 1:16-17 that Jesus created them all, as an agent of the Father. Yet that wasn’t His greatest work. That wasn’t selfless – the Gospel was. The death of Jesus on the Cross was, Biblically speaking, the greatest work ever performed by God.
The Bible says that I am more than Joanie Mitchell’s stardust. I am more than “Dust in the Wind”. Both of these are just a nice way of calling us nuclear waste of the big bang. I am not that – I am a child of a powerful, masterful, majestic, loving, personal, funny, creative and rock solid stable God. I stand on the truth of His revealed Word, and I celebrate His soon coming. I have to close my net browser and look at stars to see the truth – the Heavens are shouting God’s glory!
Have you lost the wonder of the Gospel? Have you so been swayed by the provocations and emotional appeals of those who are signaling the death of our economy or the existential threat to our freedoms in America that you forgot how BIG our God is? If you have, then the first few verses of 1 Timothy 2 are for you. These verses are for those who have forgotten God’s Sovereignty and fallen into anger and disputation – thinking we have to win people to God by an argument in stead of by a prayerful and empowered life. This is for the defensive Christian that wants to get back on the offense squad, but it too discouraged to really do so. Don’t miss the heart of these eight simple verses. 1 Timothy 2:1 opens:
“First of all, then, I urge that entreaties [and] prayers, petitions [and] thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. 3 This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, [and] one mediator also between God and men, [the] man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony [given] at the proper time. 7 For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying) as a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. 8 Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension.”
Look how simple Paul’s words to Tim were:
Verse one opens with a call to urge men to recognize they shouldn’t only pray for who they like, but for everyone in authority, whether we voted for them, like their party, or agree with their moral platform. Lay out before God all those who rule over you – so that your lives may be peaceful. Political activism doesn’t imply PANIC – it implies peaceful engagement based on confidence in the Sovereign One and a positive commitment to lay every decision in God’s hands. I have to KNOW that I don’t understand the whole plan of God, nor do I know His timing. What I do know is HIS DESIRE for men and women – that they would know Him (2:3-4).
Verse two reminded Tim that if he wanted REVERENCE and WORSHIP to be at the centerpiece of his life, he needed to pray for rulers who may not even know God. That principle is part of a believer’s call to obedience. We cannot claim to truly revere God and be angrily grousing or fearfully cowering because of those who rule us. It is simple, praying for them is the sign that we truly recognize God is Sovereign– we reverence God when we obey Him and pray for THEM and the decisions they need to make.
Verses three to seven renew the clarion call to a singular focus in Jesus – the Gospel is our MAIN THING. God’s richness can only be experienced when one surrenders their heart to Jesus and opens their eyes to the truth found in His Word. We don’t need a better party system nearly as much as we need a Gospel-filled land. We don’t need a more moral Hollywood as much as we need a more morally pure church. We don’t need a new set of social programs nearly as much as we need a clear understanding of Who made us and what He says about life.
The church needs Jesus – or the world will not see Him. We need Jesus to motivate us to SPEAK out the Gospel to our lost neighbor. We don’t need visitation on a Tuesday night – we need obedience that will draw us to lovingly engage our neighbors – to invite them over and share a meal with them. We don’t need ten more seminars in sharing our faith – we need to be in love with Jesus and in His Word daily, so the Spirit will have material to work with when someone asks of the hope that lies within us. We don’t need better priests and more potent public examples of truth – we have Jesus, and He shows truth perfectly.
We need people to KNOW their call and their appointment, like Paul said he did in verse 7. We need them to identify gifts they have from God, and begin to use them for His glory. Talk about the poor parenting in the nation, or volunteer in the nursery. Grouse about the problems in health care or visit the sick and bring them a meal. Yell about the violence of video games or take a kid for a burger and get interested in their life. Wag your finger about the one who watches too much that is immoral or engage them in a morally right activity. People will change when you stop being the angry thermometer, reading the news and playing the victim of existential fears – and start deliberately engaging people for God’s glory, using God’s empowering gifts.
Finally, Paul gets to the point that he has been drilling for – that the men would stop their disputing and grousing and drop to their knees.
Paul told them to open their FISTS and clasp their hands in prayer. He told them to CLEAN their hands of other agendas and seek to serve God by serving other people. He called them to put away the driving influence of provocations and emotions and get busy calling on God for a proper impulse to walk rightly before God. He was telling them to QUIT RAISING A PROTEST PLACARD until the FIRST sunk to their knees and called on God for direction.
• Worried about government? Seek God’s face.
• Uncertain about the future of the economy? Spend time with the God who made the stars.
• Angry about health care? Cry out about injustice to the Holy One and seek His knudge to do the right thing.
• Frustrated by a broken two-party system and a dysfunctional Washington? STOP! Drop the angry sarcasm and disrespectful and demeaning words of a people convinced of their victimization – seek the King’s BOSS – go to the throne of the Most High.
Paul’s formula was simple in verse eight: “Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension.” Do you see it?
1. Pray, but do it without anger, a bitter heart or hands dirty from disrespect.
2. Lift up your hands and confess your need for God’s help.
We must get past the programmatic answers offered by a Christianity run by publishing houses of “McChurch” and a world system bent on ABC – anything but Christ.
Paul said DON’T TRUST YOUR EMOTIONS. DON’T TRUST YOUR HEART. TRUST YOUR KNEES. Get there FIRST and then respond.
The church began by sending missionaries separated out by the Spirit from sustained prayer – not a program and application process. What started as a response to passionate prayer and public selection has been largely replaced by a “fill out the forms” process – a mechanical system to replace a dynamic move of God. Again, I am NOT saying God cannot work through systems – I am saying that I am a Christian leader that LONGS to see, at least one time in my life, a person selected out by the Holy Spirit in a room FULL of passionate praying Christians.
So that I don’t get an avalanche of emails, let me crystal clear:
• You can protest your government – but not until you PRAY and ask permission and for empowering.
• You can disagree with the executive branch – but not in a sarcastic and disrespectful attack.
• You can reason with the universities – but not without clear Biblical directives.
• You can question the courts – but not with ears that have no interest in their explanations, and hearts that are full of prayers for their best future.
Don’t threaten, don’t yell, don’t slam around – take the pain to God and the power you get back to them. Either we believe that God is Sovereign or we do NOT. That doesn’t mean we don’t engage and vote or voice objection to ungodliness when we need to do so. It means we do it thoughtfully, thankfully and by permission of the King.