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2020-10-04 1 Timothy 4:1-5 APOSTACY (2): IT’S CORRECTION

1 Timothy  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented
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APOSTACY (2): IT’S CORRECTION (I Tim 4:1-5) October 4, 2020 Read I Tim 4:1-5 – Our text is about apostacy – people who seem Christian, but one day suddenly “depart from the faith” and give themselves to the “teachings of demons” expressed thru “the insincerity of [human] liars.” The lie may take many forms, but there will be one common characteristic – the lie will deny the atoning value of Christ’s substitutionary death. Apostacy, in some way, involves the pretense that I’m good enough without Christ. John Kerr coached the Chicago Bulls in 1966, first year of their existence. At one point they’d lost 7 in a row. Kerr decided to psychologize! He recalls, “I told Bob Boozer to go out and pretend he was the best scorer in basketball. I told Jerry Sloan to pretend he was the best defensive guard. I told Guy Rodgers to pretend he could run an offense better than any other guard, and I told 6’8” Erwin Mueller to pretend he was the best rebounding, shotblocking center in the game. We lost to Boston by 17.” Mueller found him pacing in frustration later, put his arm around him and said, “Don’t worry coach. Just pretend we won.” But pretending didn’t change anything. Pretending doesn’t cut it – not in basketball; not in saving faith. So we’ve seen I. The Certainty of Apostacy -- the Spirit has predicted it will happen, so we should not be surprised that some who look so real turn away. II. The Deception of Apostacy – the fact that every departure is demonically inspired and human implemented. Now – an example. III. The Ephesian Apostacy Not all apostacy is the same. Truth is truth. Lies come in multiple flavors. People leave truth for a variety of substitutes. Some become naturalists, adopting the philosophy that the material world is all there is. Others get into New Age philosophy, Scientism, deity-denying cults; or hedonism. But one of Satan’s most devastating lies is asceticism, or its little brother, legalism – the idea that by depriving yourself of certain things, you can gain God’s favor and earn forgiveness. Many who apostatize in this manner never even leave the church. They hope to win God over by denying themselves in some way. It was happening in Ephesus. They supposed that by the false piety of denying their natural desires they could earn their salvation. 1 They had false teachers 3 who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.” The Ephesians were buying the lie that abstaining from marriage and certain foods would put God in debt to them. Thus they were departing from the truth Paul had taught, that salvation is “by grace through faith . . . not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph 2:8-9). They had their own version: “For we will be saved by avoiding marriage and by not eating pork.” And they had just entered the land of Pretend. Such ideas might have come from both their Jewish as well as Gentile background. In Jewish culture, there was a group living down by the Dead Sea called the Essenes who outdid even the Pharisees in their ascetic lifestyle. They forbade marriage, lived on a highly restricted vegetarian diet, and practiced ritual cleansings daily in hundreds of baths that have been unearthed. The dualism of Greek philosophy was similarly restrictive. Matter is evil; spirit, good. So, one must deny the desires of the flesh by avoiding marriage and following severely restrictive dietary laws. In Ephesus, false teachers were urging avoidance of marriage to the unmarried and abstinence sexually for those already married. Further, they were imposing dietary restrictions, in keeping with OT rules prohibiting the eating of certain kinds of food. This attitude took hold in the early church and prevailed through the Middle Ages by which time Leland Ryken says the dominant attitude of priests “was that sexual love itself was evil even if its object were one’s spouse.” This idea got so convoluted that even godly men like Ambrose believed the extinction of the human race was preferable to sexual relationship within marriage saying, “Married people ought to blush at the state in which they are living.” Augustine argued the sexual relationship was okay in marriage, but the passion that accompanies it is sinful. Make love – just don’t enjoy it! No wonder there was a Reformation – and thank God for the Puritans. Ryken says, “The Puritan doctrine of sex was a watershed on the cultural history of the West. The Puritans devalued celibacy, glorified companionate marriage, affirmed married sex as both necessary and pure, established the ideal of wedded romantic love, and exalted the role of the wife.” In Ephesus, as usual, Satan mixed a little truth with a lot of lies to pull people in. Are sexual desires to be controlled? Absolutely. But never to the extent of forbidding marriage. The false teachers in Ephesus were stricter than God, who delights in marital union with one exception: I Cor 7:5: “Do not deprive 2 one another (of sexual intimacy), except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer, but then come together again, so that Satan ma not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” Sex within marriage is not only allowed; it is blessed as the ultimate human expression of God’s love for His people, one of life’s greatest treasures. And the same is true of food. Certain foods were forbidden for a time as a means of teaching mankind that unclean, unholy things can never be allowed in God’s presence. But that OT object lesson was long over. Jesus says in Mark 7:18b: “’Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, 19 since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?’ (Thus he declared all foods clean).” When Peter did not want to eat certain foods forbidden in the OT, a voice from heaven challenged him: “What God has made clean, do not call common” (Acts 10:15b). Abstinence for fasting is encouraged, but no food is forbidden as a lifestyle. In Ephesus some were trying to substitute their own efforts in place of the trusting in the death and resurrection of Christ to get right with God -- trading the truth of God for a lie of Satan. Can’t work! It’s like the woman who was gardening when movers pulled up next door, allowing the new neighbors to see her in old clothes, dirt on hands, no make-up and generally untidy. Embarrassed, a few days later she invited the neighbors back. She colored her hair, put on a girdle, glossed her lips, applied false eyelashes, polished her nails, popped in her bright blue contacts and told her husband, “Now the new neighbors will see the real me.” Sorry – the neighbors already saw the real her, just like God has already seen the real us. All the legalistic make-up in the world to gain His acceptance avails nothing. We need Jesus’ righteousness. Even believers can get into a legalistic rut – thinking every sin requires some kind of make-up on our part to get back in God’s good graces. But only one thing will do -- Confession. Agreeing with God that we’ve been wrong, admitting it and turning from it. Then it’s covered by the blood of Christ. No penance, no make-up extra credit can top that. IV. The Correction to Ephesian Apostacy The correction to apostacy or legalism is to always obey God’s Word. And never add to it. We can go wrong either way. God has given us a beautiful world to enjoy – even in its fallen state. But every good gift of God can be abused –by avoiding its proper use, or by using it outside the boundaries He’s established. Paul help us discern those boundaries. 3 A. Does God talk to you about it? – First question to ask when confronted with a decision about a certain thing or activity – how is it made holy by the Word? Is this gift bounded by God in any way? In Ephesus there was confusion about the gift of sexuality and marriage. Does the Word help? Yes. First, the Bible clarifies marriage is God’s invention, not man’s. Thus, by definition, it is good. God tells Adam and Eve in Gen 1:28b: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” – make love and have babies. Shortly after in Gen 1:31: “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” There is God’s view of sex within marriage. Details come in Gen 2. Man finds no companion among the animals, so God creates a woman, brings her to man, and God marries them: Gen 2:24: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” That instruction wasn’t meant for Adam and Eve. They didn’t have a father and mother! It establishes marriage as a gift of God to all of human kind. And the Giver provides boundaries! All sex outside marriage between man and woman is forbidden in Scripture. So the gift is wonderful, but within boundaries. Just like fire is great – as long as it is confined. Atomic energy is great – as long as it is confined. So “everything created by God is good,” but “it is made holy (confined within appropriate boundaries) by the word of God.” This applies to across the board. Is this thing or the use to which I am about to put it, in accordance with the principles of God’s Word? One more example – especially for youth. Are friendships good? Absolutely. They are a gift from God. But, there are boundaries. Prov 1:10: “My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent.” So – are the friends leading you into questionable areas? Then, reconsider. Prov 13:20: “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” Are your friends wise – or are they trivial, foolish, unwise, especially in the things of God. Your friendship must be made holy by the Word – conform to the principles you find there. Prov 28:7: “The one who keeps the law is a son with understanding, but a companion of gluttons (someone who thinks only of feeding his desires) shames his father.” You get the principle, I trust. Our constant question is, am I using this gift from God in accordance with the instruction book? That covers everything from money, to ambition, to career, to sexuality, to the way I treat my body – is it in keeping with God’s will as 4 expressed in His word. Those boundaries are there not to restrict me, but to set me free, to help me flourish on the path He intends for me. B. Can you talk to God about it? – Paul says everything made by God is good and “made holy by prayer.” So, matter is not bad and spirit good. All is good. Six times in Genesis 1 God declares Creation good, and once, very good. There is nothing evil about material things. It is how we use God’s creation that makes it good or bad. So, we check it against God’s guidelines. Then, the second test, are you comfortable to talk to God about it? Whatever the thing or relationship or plan that you are making, can you be completely open to God about it. It’s made holy by prayer, and if you can’t pray about it, that’s a good sign you are violating God’s intended purpose. Just like we pray before meals, we should pray about every move we make. Ask God to bless it. Give it eternal purpose and worth. If we’re not at ease doing that, we’re probably over the edge. When I was a boy, some cousins visited one night. We found ourselves in the barn looking for adventure and someone suggested we ride the calves. I knew intuitively Dad would not approve of that. So I wasn’t about to ask him. It’s the same with God. Sometimes we just know that some plan of ours isn’t quite right. But if we can’t bring it to God to bless, we better let it go, right? If you’re not sure about something, pray about it until you get a clear indication. God will answer if you are truly seeking His will, and not trying to justify your own will. C. Can you thank God for it? – The false teachers in Ephesus were saying, “Don’t eat that.” Paul says, “Don’t eat that – until you thank God for it.” Why do we pray before meals – at least I hope you do? First, we are thanking God for His provisions, right? And – we are asking God to bless it to its intended use – to nourish and sustain our bodies. But thanksgiving needs to permeate the life of a Xn – not just for food, but for every good thing God has given us to enjoy. This is our heritage – to be thankful whether we have little or much. Paul says in I Cor 4:7b, ”What do you have that you did not receive?” So thank God constantly. G. K. Chesterton wrote: “You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the play and the opera. And grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing; And grace before I dip the pen in the ink.” That’s a lifestyle beloved – a glorious, appreciative lifestyle that’s our privilege as a Xn. 5 Someone who has left the truth of the gospel is hard pressed to be thankful. Why? Bc they’re trying to do what Jesus already did! They’ll hate God just like Luther did until he discovered that what God demands, God supplies! That will produce a thankful heart. And even as a believer, if you’re focus is on your little list of rules that will ingratiate you to God or put Him in debt to you, you will hardly be thankful. But when you realize He did it all to save you and does it all to sustain you, you’ll be thankful. Conc -- A young man named Adam was graduating high school, but as the family gathered, he ran to his car and returned with a dozen roses for his mom with a card that read, “Thank you, Mom, for all your love and support. I love you.” They hugged; she cried; and then she became mom again and chided him for being so extravagant. He said, “Don’t worry, Mom. I put it on your credit card.” Just like us with God. Even that which we give back to Him came from Him in the first place. How could we not be thankful? So Paul’s point is, to avoid legalism and apostacy, cling to the truth. Live in the Word; live in prayer; live in thanksgiving and the rest will take care of itself. Let’s pray. 6
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