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Take Heed

March 24th, 2017

Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee. (1 Timothy 4:15-16 KJV)

The Spirit had burned one desire into the heart of Paul as he wrote young Timothy – that he would become an effective servant of Christ. And if he could learn to be an effective minister, then he would be God’s instrument to bless others, bringing deliverance from evil and the life of God to them, and also he would be blessed himself with the same life of God.

The fourth chapter seems a list of random aspects of life that he should be careful of, yet, to me, almost two thousand years later in history and after more than 45 years of full time service for Christ, they appear strategic issues that every servant of Christ – whether lay or called – should be careful about.

To briefly outline of these matters:

  • Be on your guard against the conflicting spiritual powers, 4:1-3: There will always be evil spiritual forces at work and their work is characterized by hypocritical leaders, licentiousness, or legalism with austere rules, and a perverted worldview, demoting God as the Creator and seeking to substitute a different view of life.
  • Teach that the Christ is to live in freedom under the authority of the Word of God and the leading of the Spirit, 4:4-6: It is our freedom that infuriates the demonic powers, that wish to enslave us to passions, lusts, prideful imaginings, etc. But in Christ we are set free from the perversion of sin.
  • Maintain some physical exercise, 4:8: Timothy seemed to have a tendency to neglect his physical health and Paul instructed him here to put some value in physical exercise and in 5:23 he advised him to drink a little wine for his frequent stomach infirmities. We have this treasure of the new spiritual life in Christ in earthen vessels, namely our bodies (2 Cor. 4:7), so we should exercise proper care for them through reasonable exercise and good, healthy diet.
  • Maintain study and discipline in knowledge and spiritual life, 4:7-8: Timothy was warned not to accept “old wives fables” (KJV), or the typical superstitious nonsense that one would hear on the streets of First Century Mediterranean cities. Superstition does not require study. It is a lazy person’s art. It is motivated by fear and ignorance. But the Christian is to approach knowledge with confidence that we may gain learning and knowledge of God’s truth through the study of His Word. 
  • Endure both labor and reproach for Christ, 4:9-10: The Christian should be tough, not timid, not frightened by those who do not believe and who may react angrily in the flesh at our gospel and lifestyle. Actually, the anger directed toward Christians validates the Christian gospel, that men are lost and need to be saved and transformed.
  • Do not let people despise your youth, 4:12: Another thing that young Christians endure is the rejection by the world and sometimes even by other Christians due merely to their youth. Young believers should not be discouraged and we older ones should not discourage them. But they should not attempt to lord it over others, rather to show their sincerity by setting the right example, through a transformed lifestyle, through the example of love, genuineness of spirit, in their faith and purity.
  • Do not neglect your spiritual gift, 4:14: God gives every Christian a means to serve Him (1 Cor. 12:7), some spiritual gift by which he may make a difference for Christ and contribute to the health of the body.

These instructions are as valid today as then, as relevant for our situations as they were for theirs. He was to “meditate” on these things, and this word meant to put them to practice and not merely to think about them. They were to see his “profiting” and this word, prokope, did not mean financial profiting, rather “forward progress” as it is translated in Philippians 1:5 as “the furtherance of the Gospel.” It is the identical idea that was spoke by Jesus, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16 KJV).

This means that none of these things are to be done in a way that bring attention to us, other than that others may more easily and readily see Jesus in us. This is the point he made when he wrote “take heed” or “give attention to yourself and your doctrine.” The servant of God should be aware of his own spiritual health, and not presume that all is well with his soul when it is not. He should be quick to confess his sins, be aware of the spiritual dangers to him that lurk about, and to know what is happening in his soul. He should also be careful of what he believes of the truth and what he proclaims to others. He should be sure that his faith is based upon the Word of God and is not merely the common misconceptions of undisciplined minds, whether they be Christian or not.

And if he did these things he would “save” both himself and his hearers. “Save” and “salvation” in the Bible is a much broader concept than we use it as today. We think of saving from hell or from judgment, but the word means to be saved for God, not only to be delivered from danger but also to be brought into a condition of blessedness and life. God desires that His servants experience the peace and the life that we preach to others.

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