MSG 8-11 It’s true that moral guidance and counsel need to be given, but the way you say it and to whom you say it are as important as what you say. It’s obvious, isn’t it, that the law code isn’t primarily for people who live responsibly, but for the irresponsible, who defy all authority, riding roughshod over God, lif, sex, truth, whatever! They are contemptuous of this great Message I’ve been put in charge of by this great God.
This is probably the toughest “first” chapter so far for me. I struggle with the use of the law. I want to understand the law as a standard for correction that results in the victory of restoration not a cattle-prod of control but when push comes to shove that’s pretty hard to live out. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “hate the sin but love the sinner.” That’s the ideal. That’s easy to believe but that’s also where all the confusion about the use of the law comes into play.
I found this quote in a commentary: “The demands of the law exceed our ability, and the knowledge of our sin that comes from these demands leads us to repentance.” That quote revealed some truth to me about my use of the law. My limited ability to understand the use of the law is as big an issue for me as it is for that sinner. The reality is the sin the law reveals in someone else has an impact on me. My response to the law and that sinner makes their sin my issue. God has planned for the law to correct the sinner, but wait…there’s more. The revelation of their sin that’s meant to lead their sinful heart to repentance and the use of “that moral guidance and counsel needed” that “exceeds” my ability…is meant to change my heart too. The law is not “us versus them.” Repentance for the inability of my heart to empathize with the needs of another heart is the victory God desires from His law. Lord, work that victory out in me too please.
The observance of Advent and Christmas has served it’s purpose. The darkness of night was lit up with the special lights we hung. We heard the annual music of bells being rung outside many stores. Those once-a-year cookies were both the taste and the aroma of the season.
It’s complete, but it’s not over.
Everything around us in that season was designed [by God] to reawaken our physical senses. Once again we’ve been stimulated by the external celebration to see for ourselves whether the fullness of these words from Mark 12:30 can become real in us: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”
The season is complete, but it’s not over.
These words from I Timothy 3:16 are our challenge now to carry on: “Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great: He appeared in the flesh, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory.”
We’ve moved beyond the external stimulation of this Christmas season and that long-ago story of God’s intervention to restore “our” broken world. Now it’s become personal; can Jesus, the Christ, restore “my” broken world?
It’s not over, it’s just beginning.
I Timothy 1:12-16 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service. 13 Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. 14 The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.
The Apostle said “Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief.” There’s not one of us who doesn’t want mercy and grace. It reminded me of buying a car in a way. Features you might want often come packaged together so you can’t just take one, you have to take them all.
You don’t just get mercy and grace as individual features either. They come packaged “with the faith and love that are in Christ.” They are not meant to excuse our ignorance and unbelief. They give us the courage to admit the power of Christ to recover the destructive effects of our ignorance and unbelief “as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.”
Take The Package Deal.
I Timothy 4:14-16
14 Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you. 15 Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. 16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.
—Dietrich Bonhoeffer LETTERS AND PAPERS FROM PRISON
“I discovered later, and I’m still discovering right up to this moment, that is it only by living completely in this world that one learns to have faith. By this-worldliness I mean living unreservedly in life’s duties, problems, successes and failures. In so doing we throw ourselves completely into the arms of God, taking seriously, not our own sufferings, but those of God in the world. That, I think, is faith.”
Bonhoeffer’s description of worldliness is not the dismal, possibly even evil, description that would have come to my mind. The world is God’s creation. He has not given up on it. We are His people in the world. How did it happen that “living completely in this world” became a bad thing? Maybe it’s time to rethink just what Jesus’ prayer on our behalf in John 17:15 really means. “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” Isn’t that our clue that we should have the courage to embrace our world absolutely?
Life is all about continuing to discover how to live our life in Christ in the midst of life’s duties, problems, successes and failures. It’s the effort that diligence requires that makes our words begin to take on meaning that actually changes us. That change becomes visible evidence to those around us that something special is happening.
Maybe Bonhoeffer got it right that the world is the place God created where “one learns to have faith.” Paul urges us to “give yourself wholly” and persevere in that effort to get it right. Jesus’ prayer should give us the assurance to throw ourselves unreservedly into HIS kind of faith-building worldliness. May it be so Lord.
I Timothy 2:8-15
8 Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing. 9 I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes,10 but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God. 11 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. 15 But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.
This chapter is where Paul gets himself in trouble with me. I don’t like verses 11-15 at all. This list is how they read to me.
• Be quiet about what you’ve learned
• Don’t question
• Don’t disagree
• Don’t be a teacher
• Don’t be in charge
• Eve pushed Adam into deception
• Having a child will validate a woman
I admit my list is pretty contrary and defensive. I have a whole different slant that in my mind reconciles my list and Paul’s writing. It goes way back to Creation and Genesis 1:27 “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
This is scriptural truth about God’s Creative seven days. HE made the decision that his image required both Adam and Eve to complete. Then he created two unique and complementary individuals with no hierarchy or appropriate behavior list needed. All was right…AND God said it was good.
I don’t know how long it was from that first week until when Paul wrote these strong words about the role of women in I Timothy. I don’t like them but I do give him Godly credit for this: he put his finger on the tension and the conflict men and women have lived with since then. It began way back in that perfect place when the two perfectly created people made their choice to take charge of their own lives instead of being Godly. And so the list begins…
I Timothy 1:16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.
On of the most difficult things in my life of belief has been that dreaded word “outreach.” I am expected as a faithful believer to tell others of Christ and to offer them entry into His forever Kingdom. I know the facts. I know what they need to know to have eternal life. What I’ve been less sure of is why I’m so timid about speaking up. I think it scares me that people’s response to the message of eternity is sometimes tepid and sometimes really negative.
This morning I had a reading blip in I Timothy. Here’s what I read for that last part of verse 16…“as an example for those who would believe in him and receive EXTERNAL life.” The moment I realized my mistake I also realized this may be really important. When you’re telling somewhat what walking into the Kingdom might mean to them, “outreach” may mean telling them more about how God will impact their EXTERNAL life than the glorious, but far-off, facts that impact their eternal one. What do you think?