Pursuing Godliness

Chatswood Baptist Church https://www.chatswoodbaptist.com.au

1 Timothy 4

This year was going to be different for me. I told myself at the beginning of the year that I would actually write down my goals on a piece of paper, rather than just having it in my head. If I just wrote down my goals, then I’d have a higher chance of actually achieving my new year’s resolutions.

And so I wrote down my goals on this sheet of paper. If you want to take a peek at my goal sheet, come see me later! Here’s one of my goals: to exercises 2 days/week by the end of March. I thought that if I set the standard low enough, I’d actually achieve this goal. I mean, 2 days/week is nothing right? Well obviously, I didn’t set my standards low enough! I still haven’t achieved this goal. I mean, I was really hoping I would become a muscular guy like this. I’m definitely a hypocrite. I work as a physiotherapist and I tell people to exercise, but I don’t exercise myself!

Many of us set goals to lose weight, to go on a diet, and to exercise more. Anyone set those goals this year? Some of us succeed, many of us fail. We know that our diet and exercise is important to living a good life. But when we set goals for ourselves, do we stop and think about how we’re living as Christians? Do we set any goals for our growth as Christians? What should our diet and exercise be as Christians?

Or let’s think a bit more bigger picture: how does God want us to live? Is living God’s way important? Our passage today from 1 Timothy 4 will help answer some of those questions.

 

But before we go further, let me give you a quick overview of the letter and what’s happened so far. Paul’s the author of this letter, and he’s writing to Timothy, his close friend. Timothy’s a young man, probably in his mid-thirties, and he’s one of the church leaders in the church at Ephesus, which is in modern day Turkey. Paul’s worried about some false teachers and wrong teachings that were happening in that church, and so he writes this letter to Tim. Last week, we learned about how church leaders and workers should be like. Paul ended chapter 3 by saying how great the secret of godliness is, which is Jesus. And in our chapter today, Paul will tell Timothy more about godliness, what it is, and what it isn’t.

 

And so we come to our first point today: false teaching doesn’t lead to godliness. We see this in verses 1-3. Let me read it out for you.

1The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. 2Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. 3They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. 

Paul tells Timothy in verse 1 that there’ll be people in the church, even church leaders, who’ll stop trusting in Jesus, and teach wrong teachings, or as we call it today, fake news. In verse 2, we see that these false teachers don’t really have a conscience because they don’t feel like they’re doing anything wrong. But what was the fake news that they were teaching Christians?

In verse 3, we see that they were stopping Christians from getting married. They were also teaching people to stop eating certain foods. Basically, they were teaching asceticism. It’s a type of teaching where people were taught to have extreme self-discipline by avoiding certain things, so that you can be more spiritual, or be closer to God, or be accepted by God.

But this teaching is wrong. Paul even calls it as something taught by demons. We can never be more spiritual or accepted by God if we don’t get married or if we don’t eat meat or even anything at all. It’s understandable why we might think it could. If I’m struggling with a particular sin, but if I fast for a week, then I could say to God: “well God, I’m struggling with my patience and anger, but look how spiritual I am by fasting, surely God will be OK with me”. It’s a way to make me feel good about myself even when my heart is far from God.

But this doesn’t lead to godliness. This doesn’t lead to a relationship with God. But what does? It’s through trusting in the death & sacrifice of Jesus to bring us to God. Jesus is the secret to godliness. But the false teachers have left Jesus behind. They’ve stopped trusting in his death, and started trusting in their own actions, their asceticism, and they were teaching others to do the same.

We need to be careful with false/fake teaching because while it may appear to be good, it will actually bring great harm to us.

In 2008, one of the largest food safety event happened in China. Some milk and infant formula had melamine added to it to make it appear to have a higher protein content. The fake milk and instant formula made 6 babies die from kidney stones and 54000 babies get hospitalised. Fake things can harm us. In the same way, wrong teachings about how we can be accepted by God can actually cause us to face God’s judgment instead of receiving his acceptance.

 

Instead of avoiding marriage and certain foods, we’re to be thankful to God for them instead. We see this in verses 3-5.

They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. 4For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.

We’re to give thanks to God for everything that he’s created, because they’re good. Marriage is good, and food is good. Whether we’re married or not, and no matter what we eat, we’re accepted by God through trusting in the death of Jesus.

This is the truth that we’re to believe, not false teachings, because false teaching doesn’t lead to godliness. So what are we to do instead?

 

This moves us on to the next point. We must be godly by training ourselves. Be godly by training yourself. We see this in verses 6-8.

6If you point these things out to the brothers, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, brought up in the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed. 7Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. 8For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. 

Paul is telling Timothy here: “Tim, if you want to be a good servant of Jesus, make sure you point out these important truths to the believers.” But how can Timothy do this? In verse 6, the phrase ‘brought up’ can also be translated as ‘nourished’. And so Timothy must be well fed with the truths of the faith, the truths of the gospel or good news of Jesus. His diet was God’s Word.

As a physio, a lot of my work colleagues are women. Besides talking about the latest episode of ‘The Bachelor’, they also talk about what diet their doing right now. There’s the 5 and 2 diet, paleo diet, low carb diet, and so on. These diets require watch carefully what you eat, so that you can be healthier.

For Timothy and for us, our diet must be God’s Word in the Bible. We must read it so that we can know God more, know what he’s done for us, so that we can live in obedience to him and live his way. But I’ll explain more in just a moment.

 

We must not only have a good diet of God’s Word, but we must train and exercise in godliness too. Paul tells Timothy to have nothing to do with false teachings, but to train himself to be godly. Why? Because godliness is good not just for this life, but for the life to come as well.

The word ‘train’ in verse 7 in Greek is where we get our word gymnasium from. It means to train with one’s full effort, to be disciplined so that you’ll be in top working condition. Training ourselves to be godly requires our effort and attention, but it’s definitely worth it. We see this in verses 9-10.

This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance 10(and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe. 

God will save those who trust in Jesus. Godliness is beneficial for the person and for the people around them, and this is something we can trust and accept fully.

Let me share with you the story of General William Harrison. He was an American soldier who served in World War 2. He had the most medals in the best infantry division in WW2. He was one of the head negotiators in ending the Korean War. He was a very busy General.

But from when he was 20 years old, he would read through the Old Testament through once, and the New Testament four times annually. He did this until the end of his life, even when he was in the middle of war. When he reached 90 years old, he had read the Old Testament 70 times and the New Testament 280 times! The people closest to him said that in every area of his life, and in every problem he faced, he would act based on the wisdom of God’s Word.

I was quite challenged when I read that story of General Harrison. How can you be training yourself to be godly? How can you be feeding yourself God’s word? Maybe you could use a Bible reading plan that takes you through the whole Bible in a year or 2. For me, I’ve been subscribing to a daily email from a pastor in Sydney that takes you through a book of the Bible slowly with an explanation of the passage. Make it a priority in your life to feed yourself a healthy diet of God’s Word, and to train yourself to be godly. Be godly, by training yourself.

 

But as you grow in godliness, then teach others to be godly. This is our final point: teach others to be godly. We see this in verses 11-14:

11Command and teach these things. 12Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. 13Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. 14Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you. 

Paul here urges Timothy to command and teach about godliness to the Ephesian Christians. But how? He has to be an example to others. He has to watch how he speaks, what he does, how he loves others, how he trusts God, and in purity. He has to make sure that no one would look down on him just because he was young, but that he had integrity as a church leader. He has to continue preaching and teaching believers. But he must also work hard at doing this. We see this in verses 15-16:

Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. 16Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Timothy must think hard about being a model to others in godliness, and of course to live it out. He has to watch how he lives and his teaching closely. This is something we can definitely pray for our pastors here at church. Pray for them to watch their life and teaching closely. Pray that they’ll continue to read and teach God’s Word in a hardworking way. Pray that they may be a good model to others in their speech, behaviour, love and faith.

Modelling is a simple yet powerful way to teach others. To use a simple example, Seiko, my wife, and I have been trying to teach our 2 year old boy, Kenji, to put his toys back after he plays with them. We tried to teach him to put his toys back by showing him what to do, and thankfully he’s now learned from us to put his toys back. In fact, sometimes he gets angry with us if we don’t allow him to do all of it, or to put the final toy back into the toy box!

Similarly, our pastors are to model godliness to us. As they do that, we can be a model to others as well. Teach others to be godly by feeding them God’s Word and praying for them. One thing I started doing this year was to send daily bible verses to Seiko, and to another church member through Whatsapp. I might add a question or a reflection when I send those bible verses. Sometimes one of my growth group members might share a reflection or bible verse through our Facebook Messenger group. There are many ways to do it, so get creative! Teach others to be godly.

 

To finish up: How does God want us to live? How are we to be godly? Firstly, we must remember that false teaching doesn’t lead to godliness. Instead, we want to be godly by training ourselves through the Word of God. And as we do that, we must teach others to be godly. Be godly, and teach others to be godly.