Fighting the Good Fight

February 24th, 2017

… fight the good fight, keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith. (1 Tim. 1:18-19 NASB)

Is the Christian a fighter?

Yes, if Paul’s words to Timothy have meaning. Those who teach the truth must fight with the truth of God, against the lies of the devil and of the world. We are to do so in faith and a good conscience, not in anger or pride, but neither in timidness and confusion.

Keeping faith - Faith is more than confidence in His Word, though it certainly includes that. It is fidelity to the Lord Himself, to know Him and to love Him. It is evidenced by trust in Him in all circumstances and at all times. The Christian’s life is a life of faith.

A good conscience - A good conscience is one that listens to the inner voice of the Spirit, and of the New Person created like God. These are not the same - the Holy Spirit is more than our conscience, but a Christian’s conscience should be shaped and continually re-shaped by the Holy Spirit.

It is not correct to teach that the Christian has no law to obey - we are called to obey “the law of Christ” or the law of the Spirit, which is expressed from Christian to Christian through the bearing of each other’s burdens: “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2). And to the world as loving them for Jesus’ sake:

When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ. (1 Cor. 9:21, NLT)

An essential element in our good fight is the evangelization of the world. Everyone on earth needs Christ, needs to know of His love for them, needs to hear the call to repentance and faith in His name so that they will be saved from their sin.

Love is the principle that the “law of Christ” rests upon. Yet true love does not violate the other principles of God’s moral law. Some think that love should only be expressed as patience and acceptance, giving in to the desires and wishes of others. While we should be kind in our manners toward all people, we should also speak up for what is right and moral, as the Spirit has inspired to be placed in the Bible.

It is contradictory to suggest that the Spirit may say something to our hearts today that is contrary to His inspiration in the Scripture, because He is the Author of the Book. In this dispensation of grace we still depend on the moral laws that were revealed in the Old Testament - not the ceremonial or legal Old Testament laws but the moral codes and moral principles. This has led Bible-believing Christians to renounce the slaughter of the unborn through abortion and the elevation of homosexual love as pure and harmless. Also to the upholding of the sanctity of marriage and the dignity of human life - in fact there are many moral principles in the Old Testament that we should respect - even the fair and ethical treatment of animals (See Proverbs 12:10 and Luke 12:6).

A good conscience must speak against what is false as well as uphold what is true. And it is to do so in love, with patience and gentleness but also with firmness and clarity. Our motivation must remain the love of God, but if we do not speak up then we are obeying the voice of God, not keeping faith or exercising a good conscience.

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The Call of Service

February 23rd, 2017

As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions. (1 Timothy 1:3-7 ESV)

The Apostle Paul was clarifying for young Timothy the motivation of Christian service - and this applies to lay people and ministers alike, in fact, it applies to all that we do for Christ in our worship, devotion, service, behavior, obedience, prayer, witness, and lives. The motivation is to be nothing other than love for Christ that comes “from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”

False motivations: For lay people and for ministers there can be many false motivations. Among many there is simply the motivation to appear intelligent or educated. Many people receive little respect at their work place or among their family and friends, so they seek respect in the church. They wish to appear wise before others. In the verse above we read about those who devoted themselves to myths, genealogies, and speculations. These had to do with the Gnostic heresy of the First Century church, that had speculated on a long mythological genealogy of Christ. It might be impressive for someone to be able to rattle off names of mythical (not biblical, like Matthew 1) names of fictitious beings, but this was not from God.

There are also motivations of financial rewards, but, honestly, these seem not to be so common because, frankly, there is not so much money in Christian work. That is not to say that there is none, however, and some, such as Marjoe Gortman, did find a way to manipulate people in the name of Jesus to give him a lot of money. But there are motivations for service in the name of Christ just for the sake of our old sinful nature, and not for the glory of the Lord. So, lust, pride, and every evil thing can come from anyone in church leadership who is there for nothing other than selfish ambition: “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice” (James 3:16 ESV).

And there are other inferior motivations: Some serve Christ and desire positions of leadership out of guilt or pressure from their parents. Some service Christ and in the church because they know how to do it and are simply comfortable in it.

It is important to recognize these false motivations because even when we are motivated by the truth, we might still receive some of these other “rewards” and desire them. But we should see them properly that the respect of others, the financial rewards, the affirmations of parents and others we respect, or the sense that we are involved in a good and noble work - none of these should be the reasons we serve, nor if they are taken away should they be the reasons we stop serving. I have known a number of people to quit the ministry simply because they did not receive the support of people that they thought they would receive.

True Motivations: The true motivation for service is love for Christ “that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” Paul in His first epistle to young Timothy did not dwell on the injustices of ministry for Christ, or even the difficulties that the minister will face from the hands of Christ’s people themselves, rather his focus was upon the grace of God that had been directed to Paul. He wrote: “But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life” (1 Tim. 1:16 ESV).

Jesus said, “He who is forgiven little, loves little” (Luke 7:47). And in the context the meaning was clearly laid out that the disciple who is aware of how great the Lord’s mercy and grace to him are, will love Christ the greater and will serve Him the more sincerely.

A sense of personal call is also an element of sincere motivation for service. It must be coupled with love for Christ, along with this sincere conscience and genuine faith. The call is the inner sense that God has spoken to us personally and called us to serve Him in the Ephesians 4 sense, as a pastor-teacher. The call should be confirmed by the body of Christ, and not just claimed when the body of Christ cannot see or sense evidence of the call.

An awareness that salvation is found in Jesus alone: Another true motivation is the confidence that Christ is the answer for the needs of the world, that salvation is found in Him. We are not the answer, but He is. It matters little or nothing for me to be recognized by others, but it matters greatly for Christ to be recognized. Paul called himself and the others who served with him stwards of the mysteries of God (1 Cor 4:1).

Christ calls us to be servants, stewards, bond-slaves, but He has also called us friends (John 15:15) and even His brothers (Rom. 8:28-29). These are the motivations for service. Whether we are respected, obeyed, followed, rewarded, or admired really means nothing. The only admiration a true disciple should long for are the words of Christ: “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of the Lord.”

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