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2020-10-11 1 Timothy 4:6 A GOOD SERVANT (1): LOVES TRUTH

1 Timothy  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented
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A GOOD SERVANT (1): LOVES TRUTH (I Tim 4:6) October 11, 2020 Read I Tim 4:6 – A number of years ago, Dr. Harry M. Sparks retired as president of Murray State U, but found himself busier than ever. He told one interviewer, “I used to work for the board of regents, and they met every three months. Now I work for Lois Sparks, and she meets every morning.” Well, we have a master who also meets every morning, right? But it’s a glorious privilege to serve Him, and that’s what this passage is all about. Here’s a quick outline of I Tim 4. As we’ve seen, vv. 1-5 tell Timothy what to expect. Expect apostacy driven by false teachers. Vv. 6-16 tells what to do about it. Vv. 6-11 deal with how to overcome apostacy specifically – warn against it and develop a robust personal holiness. The combination of exposing error and practicing truth is a powerful antidote to heresy. Vv. 1216 then give general guidelines for church leaders. That’s the big picture. The key phrase is 6b: “you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus” – easy to gloss over but a powerful incentive. Sometimes Xns are called “slaves” of Christ (δουλος). Here, the word is “servant” (διακονος). Slave emphasizes submission to His will. Servant emphasizes serviceability or usefulness. The word “good” (καλος) could be translated “noble, admirable, or excellent.” So this paragraph describes how to be a noble, revered servant for our Savior. Every true Xn should want this. In Jesus’ parable of the talents, He describes the absolute apex of Xn experience. The servants in that parable who served well heard this from their Lord: Mt 25:21, 23: “Well done, good and faithful servant.” No reward of crowns or mansions could be better than that. “Well done, good and faithful servant.” John Stott says, “JC has ministers of all sorts – good, bad and indifferent – but I cannot imagine a nobler ambition than to be ‘a good minister’ of his.” This is living with high purpose, and Paul is going give us 5 characteristics to help us achieve a lofty but infinitely worthy goal – being good servants of Christ Jesus. What comprises a “good servant of Christ Jesus”? I. A Good Servant Warns Against Error 6If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus.” What things? The things he’s just talked about in vv. 1-5 – the danger of “depart[ing] from the faith,” and following the “teachings of 1 demons, 2 through the insincerity of liars.” That’s a constant danger – the danger of someone with enticing words painting a verbal picture of greener grass somewhere else, telling people what they want to hear rather than what they need to hear, thus, enticing them away from the truth of the Word. A good servant of Jesus must “put these things before the brothers” -- must warn against the danger of leaving the truth of Scripture for the half-truths of Satan presented in a convincing manner by a seductive charmer who can spin error to sound like profound truth. It happens every day, and we must be warned. That’s what Paul just did when he took on the false teachers in Ephesus who were convincing people that an ascetic lifestyle, denying marriage and sex and abstaining from certain foods, was the way to God. Sounded good to them, but it was unscriptural, and Paul called them out. But what of the thousands of other lies? There is only one True truth, but a million lies that lead people astray. They abound in our day, and we must call them out just like Paul. The seeker-friendly church movement developed with all good intentions. Make visitors feel welcome and wanted. Nothing wrong with that. But it soon turned into, ask they people what they want in a church. Do surveys. Find out what would attracts them. The problem is, it isn’t long before the message is compromised. Easy to see why. The message that the basic problem of all people is that they are sinners, that they cannot save themselves and their only hope is that Christ died for their sins and to gain forgiveness, they must die to self and come alive in Him. That is not now and never will be a popular message. But that is the truth. And we must tell the truth, or why do we exist? Our desire for popularity is killing us. We’ve adopted the world’s dress code, entertainment philosophy, manner of speaking and are far down the road to adopting its moral code. The world’s attitude toward pre-marital sexual relationships has invaded the church to such an extent that we hardly think twice about it anymore. And church after church has caved on the issue of homosexual relationships and marriages – all of this despite clear and unambiguous teaching of Scripture in all of these areas. Where are the warning voices of good servants of Christ Jesus? Too often, they’re MIA. Michael Horton writes, “I think the church in America is so obsessed with being practical, relevant, helpful, successful and perhaps even well-liked, that it nearly mirrors the world.” That’s the kind of message you would hear in church after church this very morning – how to be relevant, helpful, successful and tolerant. Clear back in 1966 the WCC published a directive that said, “The world must set the agenda for the church.” Really? I thought 2 Christ set the agenda. When the world sets the agenda, and it looks just like the world, why do you need the church? Where are the warning voices? Compromise always fails in the end. Look at Judges 1. Israel has come into Canaan and is taking the land. Two tribes – Judah and Simeon go fight the Canaanites and Perizzites and 4b “the Lord gave the Canaanites and Perizzites into their hand.” Great. But 6 “Adoni-bezek [the king] fled, but they pursued him and caught him and cut off his thumbs and his big toes. 7 And Adonibezek said, ‘Seventy kings with their thumbs and their big toes cut off used to pick up scraps under my table. As I have done, so God has repaid me.’” Sounds like a great victory for God and country and justice prevailing, right? And that’s how it is usually interpreted. But – that’s completely wrong. This passage has to be interpreted in light of Deut 7:2. A few months earlier Moses told the people, 2 “and when the Lord your God gives them [conquered people including Canaanites and Perizzites] over to you, and you defeat them, then you must devote them to complete destruction. You shall make no covenant with them, and show no mercy to them.” Elsewhere God notes they’ve had 400 plus years to repent and refused to do so. Now, judgment has arrived. Except – Israel did not fully obey. They did not fully destroy. They eased up. And this incident frames the book of Judges, where compromise leads to increasingly evil enemies, but also to increasingly weak judges creating a downward spiral such that by the book’s end, Israel so resembles Sodom that Israel has become Sodom. So says God: Isa 1:10: “Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom! Give ear to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomorrah.” When people leave the truth of God’s Word, not only do they become like the world around them, their evil often outdoes the evil of the world around them. Where are the voices of warning? Here’s one. Franklin Graham on Xn compromise regarding gay marriage: “True followers of Christ, whose salvation is based entirely upon God’s Word, cannot endorse same-sex marriage, regardless of what our President, the Congress, the Supreme Court, the media or the latest Gallup poll says.” He said, “There are many things in Scripture that Xns disagree on, but the Bible is crystal clear about the sanctity of life and marriage. It is also clear that homosexuality is spelled out as sin – there are no ifs, ands or buts. In the end, I would rather be on the wrong side of public opinion than on the wrong side of Almighty God who established the standard of living for the world He created. Marriage is a biblically moral issue, not a political or theological one.” There’s a good servant of Christ with a warning voice. 3 It is amazing how many times churches don’t warn people of the dangers of false teaching and disobedience because they do not want to offend. Don’t be negative; always be positive. But Paul says if we would be good servants of CJ we must warn of the dangers of departing from God’s truth. I take it that it would be better to offend someone than not warn them at all. But if offense comes, it must be at the truth, not our attitude. Too often our warnings are harsh and self-righteous. When Paul says, “Put these things before the brothers,” he uses a mild verb (ὑποτίθημι) – to lay before, to remind. It urges gentle persuasion – firm, but loving. Just like Eph 4:15: “Speaking the truth in love.” John Stott says, “Some leaders are great champions of the truth and anxious to fight for it, but display little love. Others are great advocates of love, but have no equal commitment to truth. Truth is hard if it is not softened by love, and love is soft if it is not strengthened by the truth.” Good servants of Christ speak truth – in love. II. A Good Servant Feeds on the Word Now comes a wonderful trait of a good servant – “being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed.” “Being trained” is ἐντρέφω – literally, being nourished, brought up in. I say, “I was raised on meat and potatoes,” and you know what I mean. Those defined who I became. I am what I am physically due to that nourishment. Well, we know how Timothy was nourished spiritually. II Tim 3:15: “and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings.” Timothy was spiritually nourished on the OT – the Bible of his day. But he didn’t eat to a point and then stop, any more than I stopped on meat and potatoes! The need for food is continuous. And so is spiritual nourishment for a good servant of Christ Jesus. So Paul urges Timothy to be continuously (pres tense) “being [nourished] in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed.” “The faith” = OT plus NT truth that Paul brought with him when he found Timothy at Lystra. Jude 3 urges believers to “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” That’s the truth delivered by the apostles showing that Jesus fulfilled all the OT prophecies and promises. That’s the good doctrine (teachings) that Timothy followed. It’s what we have in our Bibles. So what Paul is saying is, “Timothy – before you can teach anyone else, you must continue to nourish yourself. Keep feeding yourself so you have something to give others.” Every mother knows this. Before your can nurse your baby, you must feed yourself, right? Eat the wrong thing, and that little 4 baby is going to let you know about it – in more ways than one! As you feed your family, you must feed yourself, or soon no one will be getting fed. And Timothy must not feed on junk food. We’ll see that next week – “irreverent, silly myths” – don’t go there. Go to the Word. Get nourished there. Ever have a professor teaching from the yellowed notes of 50 years ago? Hasn’t learned anything new for years? Has tenure and just going through the motions. Talk about boring. He’s committing intellectual suicide, and taking others with him. A good servant of CJ doesn’t do that. We must be in the Word, searching out its treasures if we are to serve Him well. No teacher of God’s Word can be a good servant without personally feeding on that Word. John Stott says, “Behind the ministry of public teaching there lies the discipline of private study. All the best teachers teach well because they learn well.” This is sadly lacking today. Much contemporary preaching is weak and produces weak churches bc it lacks Bible knowledge. For many pastors, study is an unwelcome intrusion into their schedule. Their sermons use a text as a launching pad into personal stories and conventional wisdom. The result is impotent sermons that fall on hard hearts and have little impact. Contrast that with William Tyndale, the brilliant linguist who translated the NT and much of the OT into English resulting in his eventual death. You’d have to say he knew the Bible. Yet, in prison, shortly before his martyrdom he wrote asking for “a warmer cap, a candle, a piece of cloth to patch my leggings. But above all, I beseech [the governor] that he may kindly permit me to have my Hebrew Bible, Hebrew Grammar and Hebrew Dictionary, that I may spend time with that in study.” Conc – So, we’ve seen two characteristics of a good servant of Christ Jesus this morning. A good servant is wise enough to warn himself and others of theological error. A bad servant might lead others into error – as Jesus warned the Pharisees in Mt 23:15: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.” A good servant would make sure he is not doing that, but is wise enough to discern clever lies presented as truth so he can warn against them. And to do that, a good servant must be constantly feeding himself on the truth of the Word. He is digging ever more diligently into the deep things of God so that his or her own soul is nourished, finding truth to live by – and so that he can warn others of error that would lead them away from God. 5 Virtually the last words that Paul wrote from prison prior to his execution were II Tim 4:13: “When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus in Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments.” These are copies of Scripture and commentaries. Now get this! Here’s a man who wrote 2/3 of the NT himself, but he’s still studying – still searching out the deep things of God. Still, to the last, Paul was nourishing his soul on the truth of the Word. Not long before he died, Billy Graham said this: “One of my great regrets is that I have not studied enough. I wish I had studied more and preached less. People have pressured me into speaking to groups when I should have been studying and preparing.” He went on, “Donald Barnhouse said that if he knew the Lord was coming in three years, he would spend two of them studying and one preaching. I’m trying to make it up.” That should tell us all we need to know about our priorities, shouldn’t it? These are God’s choicest servants, studying even harder at the end of their lives. And so, let us work at being good servants together. Don’t you want that? If you’re real, you will. Let’s pray. 6
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