:) Finally had some time! Next week should be fun... we're heading into some messianic prophecies... :)

Happy studying!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

I Timothy Chapter 4

I Timothy Chapter 4

vs. 1-2- False teachings

- This is the third or fourth time that one of these books have hit really hard on false teachings. There is a very apparent theme here.

- Beware of false teachers and their teachings. Be careful to avoid falling into their deception. Do not turn away from Truth to follow a teaching that doesn't line up with the Word of God.

- I have a friend who has started on this path... He is a very intelligent man. And he was a very near friend whom I love dearly.

- About two years ago, we sat down to lunch and I was very impressed upon to ask him what he believed. Which I thought was an odd thing to really feel to ask because he went to my church off and on and he came to my house for youth nights... everything that we'd talked about up to that point all lined up with what I believed... so I thought it very strange... but I asked anyway...

- And he said that he had come to college hoping that for four years he could get away with no one ever asking him that question... uh oh... so then I started digging... curiosity killed the cat right? *sigh*

- This man had stumbled upon this belief that Christianity in and of itself is an impure religion. The Roman church had corrupted the faith in the beginning and therefore, Christianity as we know it today was not a true faith.

- No matter that this faith is all about relationship. Or no matter that Christ died for us anyway and it's a personal faith... not one that is dependent on someone else's actions or beliefs.

- The more we talked, the more I sat in wonder... This new faith that he has discovered believes that not ONLY do you have to believe that Christ is God come in the flesh, but you also have to go back to follow all of the Jewish laws dictated in the Old Testament.

- No matter that the temple is not in place, there's no priesthood in place to make sacrifices, and the general idea behind the laws and sacrifices completely does away with the sacrifice made by Jesus Christ which was the ultimate sacrifice to end animal sacrifices...

- This to me was a faith based solely in works. It was the Pharisees all over again. And trying to believe that Christ came to save us... AND believing that we had to follow all the laws to gain our salvation... just didn't line up with me. It completely did away with the concept of GRACE. And also the majority of New Testament teaching.

- And yet this man, who is very intelligent, who I would trust with my life, who I respected... here he sits telling me that I'm going to hell because I'm not following the intricacies of Jewish law...

- I've heard many versions of faith and many versions of belief in God... but this had to be the one that was the most off the wall that came from the lips of a personal friend.

- But this faith, has elements of truth... And for someone who is searching for truth and searching for something to believe in that makes sense... in a lot of ways I can understand why it seems right or real.

- For us to fully grasp the concept of Grace, is asking us to understand the mind of God Himself. To fully understand that God loves us enough to die for us and expects us to do nothing for Him in return but to love Him and trust Him with our lives? It doesn't add up. There has to be a catch somewhere... so we turn to works... We'll work our way to heaven. We'll earn God's love and affection. (Which is exactly what the Judaizers were doing in the New Testament church with some of the Old Testament laws like circumcision, that were forcing the Gentiles to try to follow the Old laws AND Christ.)

- This was the ultimate “works faith”. But in following the law... they put the sacrifice of Christ at the lowest possible priority. It was just an addition. Extra fire insurance... just in case they messed up a law somewhere...

- A lot of what was taught in my friend's new faith though... made sense. And it lined up with what sounded like Truth.

- For instance... “every word that God spoke was true and every word God spoke is to be followed.” or “faith without works is dead”. All that is in there... but it was all taken out of context.

- I don't know how many conversations my friend and I had over the course of a year in which he would take half a scripture, or a section of scripture and leave out portions that just didn't fit with what he wanted to be true. Or needed to be true.

- He would say that I couldn't use the writings of Paul to prove a point because Paul was not a direct disciple of Christ, and then he would turn around and use something out of Corinthians or Romans to prove HIS point.

- False teachings run rampant. Sometimes they're subtle. Sometimes they're obvious. Regardless, we must test everything against the Word of God. If it doesn't line up, it's not from God.

- My friend has since cut contact with what appears to be just about everybody... He is living away from his family and with people who believe like he does. His roommate from college can't even contact him... and they were basically permanently joined at the hip for four years...

- Romans 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
- II Corinthians 2:14-17, 3:1-18
- Galatians 1:11-24, 2:1-21, 3:1-29, 4:1-31, 5:1-26
- Ephesians 2, 3, 4
- Colossians 1:15-23, 2:6-23, 3:1-17
- Hebrews- basically the entire book...
- Jeremiah 30, 31
- Luke 22:20-30

- Paul in the first few verses is warning his readers not to turn away from the true faith.

- footnote- “False teachers were and still are a threat to the church. Jesus and the apostles repeatedly warned against them (I.e. Mark 13:21-23, Acts 20:28-31:2, II Thessalonians 2:1-12, II Peter 3:3-7). It is not enough that a teacher appears to know what he is talking about, is disciplined and moral, or says that he is speaking for God. If his words contradict the Bible, his teaching is false. Like Timothy, we must guard against any teaching that causes believers to dilute or reject any aspect of their faith. Such false teaching can be very direct or extremely subtle. Believers ought to respond quickly when they sense false teaching being promoted. The truth does not mind honest questions. Sometimes the source may prove to be ignorant of the error and appreciate the correction. But a first warning may at least keep potential victims from the disastrous results of apostasy that Paul described.”

- Isaiah 44:6-28

- So how do we spot false teaching in order to prevent against it?

- Well first of all, line it up with the Word. Go back to the Bible. Study it, live in it, know what it says.

- Secondly, watch for inconsistencies. Not once could I sit down and ask my friend to explain in depth what he believed without catching him in a contradiction of himself about halfway through.

- Thirdly, is it a selfish belief, or one that teaches about what YOU'RE going to get out of this faith...

- Fourthly, does it promote the wellbeing or the finances of the teacher.

- Fifthly, are they only using those parts of scripture that can be twisted to mean what they want them to. Are they cutting portions of the Word out to prove a point.

- Sixthly, are they teaching that Christ is not the ONLY way to salvation. Are they teaching that there are multiple ways to get to heaven/God.

- Seventh, does the faith control every aspect of a believers life through the constrictions placed on you by the leader or the elders... not by God.

- Eighth, do they draw major conclusions about the foundations of their faith from somewhere other than the Bible or God Himself.

- Ninth, did the belief begin with a modern-day prophet or angel appearing to the leader to announce a “new”, “changing”, or “altered” way of believing the same faith.

- Matthew 24:4-51, 25:1-46 (Mark 13:5-37)
- II Corinthians 10:1-18, 11:1-33
- Titus 1:9-16
- II Peter 1:12-21, 2:1-22
- I John 4:1-21
- Jude 1:5-23
- Revelation 16:13-16, 19:19-21, 20:7-10

- Paul says that false teachers will follow deceptive spirits and teachings that come from demons. Galatians 1:8 says to “let God's curse fall on anyone, including us or even an angel from heaven, who preaches a different kind of Good News than the one we preached to you.” And II Corinthians 11:13-15 says that “these people are false apostles. They are deceitful workers who disguise themselves as apostles of Christ. But I am not surprised! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no wonder that his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness...”

- Remember the Garden of Eden? Who came to Eve? Who used the Word of God to confuse her mind?

- “Did God really say you must not eat of the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?”

- Of course we can eat the fruit! Just not from one tree in particular... cause we'll die. (God providing for their wellbeing... a warning for their benefit.)

- “You won't die!... God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.” (God doesn't really love you... He's just using you... keeping good things from coming your way... He's selfish... He wants you to remain as you are and only knowing what He wants you to know...)

- See how Satan twisted the Word of God by creating doubt? So simple...

- It talks about angels coming to preach a new kind of Gospel... We have these religions in our culture believe it or not.

- Mormonism was started by the appearance of an angel to Joseph Smith by the name of Moroni. Who supposedly had golden tablets with all the religious theology written on them, so Smith translated everything on the plates and oh look! We have a new religion... with rules and laws and history founded much like the giving of the ten commandments to Moses...

- The Jehovah's Witnesses were founded by Bible scholars whose teachings change periodically to fit the culture or the time that they are living in. I remember a guy in our church telling a story about a couple JW's who came around to their door to talk to him and when he brought up some questions that they couldn't answer, they left. And a few days later came back with an answer that hadn't been there before, but was now very clearly dictated in their literature. Their main publication “The Watchtower” is looked to more than their bible is for many doctrinal answers. Each month, study issues of “The Watchtower” are distributed to congregations that help them answer JW doctrinal questions with more scriptural references so as to better support their arguments for their faith.

- Now... both of these religions use our Christian Bible. Both include aspects of Christianity. Mainly focused on concepts of being a good person or a moral person or doing good works for others. (which is a good thing... and those are all looked at by world religions in general as being things that are necessary to the idea of a “godly” person regardless of religion.) They both refer to Christ as a great prophet. (As does Islam, in which the present form was founded on a deity like being- the angel Gabriel (does that name sound familiar?)- appearing to a man- Muhammad- to form a new or better mode of that religion.)

- But the thing with these religions is that they do away with the idea of hell. JW's believe that when you die, you just go into a state of non-existence. Mormons believe that there is a many layered heaven... nobody goes to hell, but your placement in this hierarchical heaven depends on how good a Mormon you are. So we as Christians would be somewhere in the basement... The highest level of heaven is where God himself lives... and only if you are a very good Mormon will you get to go there.

- In Islam, there are only three sins will condemn you to hell. Disbelief, Dishonesty, and “Riba” which has to do with your personal economics- an increase in capital without any services provided (taking money with no reason, or stealing, or something of that sort.) or in capital exchanges of unequal qualities (cheating in trade.) (the two thoughts depend on which version of Islam you believe).

- Wow... If only it were that easy... I mean... if there is no hell, or I can just be bluntly honest about everything and go to heaven... I mean... there is no right or wrong anymore. Anything goes. I mean if I just have to watch my money... I can murder... and be honest about doing it... and STILL go to heaven!

- A faith that promotes a selfish desire... I can do anything I want... and still go to heaven... or at least not have to bear any consequences because I'm just going to die and turn to dust.

- In Paul's time, there were the Judaizers who set the bar so high that people were discouraged from following the faith. In our day, we constantly try to make things easier, more simple... just our kitchen appliances scream the idea of ease and comfort... So now we have these religions that are making it easy to get to heaven. They are teaching a way of life that justifies sin in a way that says there are no consequences... so live life the way you want to... with no guilt to follow you around.

- In verse 2, Paul says that “these people are hypocrites and liars, and their consciences are dead.” In the KJV, it says that their consciences have been seared with a hot iron. Each of us were created with a conscience in place. We intrinsically know what is right and what is wrong. However, if a child is born into a culture that teaches that there is no right or wrong and they are brought up to believe that they can do whatever they want without consequences... that child quickly sears the conscience.

- The picture of searing with a hot iron is one of a wound being burnt to close over with a scar. In battlefield medicine, wounds were often seared with hot metal to stop the bleeding as a quick fix-all. If a limb is cut off, the end is burnt so that infection doesn't start and so the bleeding will stop. However, searing a wound makes a horrible hardened scar.

- scars have no nerve endings. You can't feel anything in scar tissue. It is a hardened spot of skin with no feeling.

- A seared conscience means that they have continually seared the wound made by the conscience when it allows guilt to cause pain... in essence, they have dulled their conscience into scar tissue so that there is no pain or discomfort when sin is committed.

- Easy much?

- Has your conscience been seared? Do you try to avoid feeling guilty when you commit sin? Do you try to find a way to justify your actions so that you can live life the way you want?

vs. 3-5- Paul's examples of false teaching.

- Paul starts on all the things that false teachers may say. Keep in mind that some of these false teachings were from the Judaizers.

- It is wrong to be married. Why would it be wrong? Well, it could interfere with your relationship with God... so we'd end up with a religion completely founded on people like the monks and nuns in Catholicism. (Which doesn't do a whole lot for procreation...)

- It is wrong to eat certain foods. This goes back to the Jewish food laws. However, “God created food to be eaten with thanks by faithful people who know the truth.” In Mark 7:18-23 Jesus said “Don't you understand either?... can't you see that the food you put into your body cannot defile you? Food doesn't go into your heart, but only passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer... it is what comes from inside that defiles you. For from within, out of a person's heart, come evil thoughts sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.”

- I Corinthians 10:14-33, 11:1
- Romans 14:1-23

- I don't really think God's too worried about what we eat... If I'm starving and the only thing available is pork meat... I think I'd eat the pork... I don't think God's going to condemn me to hell for eating food to survive on...

- “Since everything God created is good, we should not reject any of it but receive it with thanks. For we know it is made acceptable by the word of God and prayer (and this is why we say grace before we eat... “bless this food for the nourishment of our bodies”... etc.)

- footnote- “In opposition to the false teacher, Paul affirmed that everything God created is good. We should ask for God's blessing on His created gifts that give us pleasure and thank Him for them. This doesn't mean that we should abuse what God has made (for example, gluttony abuses God's gift of good food, lust abuses God's gift of love, and murder abuses God's gift of life). Instead of abusing, we should enjoy these gifts by using them to serve and honor God. Have you thanked God for the good gifts He has given? Are you using the gifts in ways pleasing to you and to God?”

vs. 6-12- In Shape?

- Looking at all of the above in how to work our way to our salvation... how then do we gain our salvation? How can we be worthy in God's eyes?

- Well first of all, there is no working our way to salvation. We are worthy because we are God's creation, His workmanship, His masterpiece, His children...

- But Paul also tells Timothy this... “If you explain these things to the brothers and sisters, Timothy, you will be a worthy servant of Christ Jesus, one who is nourished by the message of faith and the good teaching you have followed.”

- II Timothy 3:10-17

- We are found worthy because of our faith. Because we are working as a missionary to the world around us. Because we are spreading the gospel where it needs to go. Because we do not waver in our faith, but rather, we keep pressing forward to the prize. We are determined in our faith and in our walk with God.

- However, we are not to waste time arguing over godless ideas and wives' tales.

- When I was maintaining a running conversation with my friend from above about religion... I was told to stop after a while. I had come to the end of myself. I had no idea what else to tell him or what other scriptures I could find to use. I felt like I had completely exhausted the entire supply of reasons against his opinions.

- So I was praying about what to say next. Where to go next. I was working on one of the bible studies and in looking up scriptures for one of the cross references, I came across Titus 3:9-11. “Do not get involved in foolish discussions about spiritual pedigrees or in quarrels and fights about obedience to Jewish laws. These things are useless and a waste of time. If people are causing divisions among you, give a first and second warning. After that, have nothing more to do with them. For people like that have turned away from the truth, and their own sins condemn them.”

- I thought that was a pretty clear indication of my next step... lol

- It's great to talk about religion. It's great to discuss aspects of the faith so to further ground yourself and your fellow believers... but when you start arguing for the sake of arguing? Or arguing points just because you want to be right about something? There comes a time when you need to stop.

- I've seen churches split over the color of the carpet. Literally. I've seen churches split over baptism and the rapture and end times in general...

- When it gets down to those kinds of things... You gotta learn to let it go.

- II Timothy 2:15-26

- There is no set protocol set about in scripture for baptism. It's not laid out step by step. I don't think God's going to annul the act just because you didn't say something right... it's meant to be an outward action that is symbolic of the action that is taking place in your heart and in your soul... And in the end... the heart's condition is what matters above all...

- Revelation and end times? Good grief... nobody knows what's going to happen or what the end result will be except God. In Matthew 24:36 Jesus said that “no one knows that day or the hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows.”

- And if the angels and Jesus Himself doesn't know when He's coming back or in what order things will take place... why should we worry about it when we don't even know if we'll be alive tomorrow?

- It is pointless to argue points that have no really solid answer. There are some things that we just have to take with faith... There is a massive element of Trust to this relationship with God. There are some things you just have to take on faith... and if it's going to hurt your relationship with fellow believers by arguing over it... don't do it...

- Instead of talking and arguing... go into training. Training? For what? A race? Well... sort of...

- Physical training and discipline is great... but to train for godliness is much better. So train yourselves, not to be able to fast for 40 days, or to be able to withstand any and all kinds of lust... but rather, train yourselves to seek God and to live a godly life. This is a whole lot less restrictive.

- Yes there may be a time when you are told to fast for 40 days... doesn't mean you have to prepare for the day so you can withstand the physical aspects of it. Yes you have to withstand lust and have to prevent against it... Doesn't mean you have to join a monastery and forever remove the opposite sex from view...

- With God living in you and working through you, whatever you are asked to do, you will be given the tools to complete the work. So train yourself to seek God in all things. Train yourself to maintain communication with Him. Train yourself to be in a relationship. In this way you WILL be able to withstand temptation. You WILL be able to complete a 40 day fast if so called upon to do it.

- footnote- “Are you in shape both physically and spiritually? In our society, much emphasis is placed on physical fitness, but spiritual health is even more important. Our physical health is susceptible to disease and injury, but faith can sustain us through any tragedy. To train ourselves to be godly, we must develop our faith by using our God-given abilities in the service of the church. Are you developing your spiritual muscles?”

- Our hope is not in ourselves. Where does our hope lie? With Jesus Christ. We are continuing in this faith, not because we have a hope that WE can save ourselves with our actions or with our ability to complete assignments... but rather because we believe that Christ has saved us and through faith in Him we have hope of salvation and eternal life with Him.

- “Don't let anyone think less of you because you are young.”

- Timothy was a young man to be placed in a position as pastor. But nonetheless, he had sat under the teachings of Paul and he was a man of faith... so when Paul left, he put Timothy in charge of the church. He knew he could handle it and he knew that Timothy was founded in his beliefs.

- Especially in this culture... wisdom was assumed to come with age... and a lot of it does... but when you're talking about walking with Christ, it's a question of personal relationship... you can be 80 and just starting your walk with God, or 30 and been at it for 15 years... And even if you go to church every Sunday, you may or may not have the kind of relationship with God that is ready to teach others.

- A lady in my church tells her story often... she was about 50 when she got saved... but she'd been going to church since she was a kid. She was a Sunday School teacher... and didn't have a personal relationship with God. It finally hit her one day that she didn't have a clue what this faith was about... She was just going through the motions. She was technically not in a position to be a teacher... she wasn't saved, she didn't KNOW God... but she'd been in church for basically all her life and knew ABOUT Him... so she should be a teacher right? Not really...

- Age doesn't matter to God. Hearts and their conditions matter... It's all about relationship.

- Titus 2:1-15

- So the way we live should reflect this. “Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.”

- If we live our lives as if we are in training for God... our lives should reflect that. We're not going to be going out every night to drunken parties, or sleeping around on our spouses, or constantly giving in to our angry outbursts, or living a selfish life surrounded by all the things that make us comfortable regardless of what it costs our families or ourselves.

- So what in your life reflects God? Is God's working in your life evident? Do those around you who aren't saved see something that they want? If you were following your own example, what kind of person would you be?

vs. 13-16- Entrusted

- Paul gives Timothy some instructions as a church leader until Paul can get to Timothy to help him or give him anymore advice.

- Focus on reading the scriptures to the church, encouraging the believers, and teaching them.

- As a pastor or leader in a church, these are things that need to be stressed in their ministry.

- Reading the scriptures to the church- At this point in time, churches were lucky to have one copy of the Old Testament (which is what scriptures refer to) let alone the circulating letters that were going from church to church from Paul or Peter or whomever. It was important to keep God's Word in focus.

- If we read the Word, it's like reading a letter from God. Instruction, Love, Concern for us... all of it's there... We need to better understand the mind of God. What better way than to read His letters to us?

- In a pastor's perspective, pastors should always go back to the Word and should edify the body with that Word. They should glean their knowledge from it and then teach it to the body they are shepherding.

- Encourage the believers. As a pastor, this means constantly being in a place that you can encourage the flock. As a believer, it means encouraging one another in Christ as often as possible.

- Teaching the Word. As a pastor, this is his main job... as a believer, this means teaching and discussing the Word of God to and with those around us.

- footnote- “Apparently Timothy needed some encouragement. Most likely, so do many people around you. Each day we have many opportunities to support and inspire family members, fellow workers, and even total strangers. People need help and affirmation all along the way. Paul modeled six important principles to help us encourage others:
1. Begin with encouragement. People who know we will encourage them will be happy to work with us.
2. Expect of others only what you expect of yourself. People will resist being held to unfair standards.
3. Develop expectations of others with consideration for their skills, maturity, and experience. People will reject or fail to meet expectations that do not fit them. Be patient with distracted or slow learners.
4. Monitor your expectations of others. Changing circumstances sometimes require revised or reduced expectations.
5. Clarify your expectations with others. People are not likely to hit a target that no one has identified.
6. End with encouragement. People love to be thanked for a job well done.”

- “Do not neglect the spiritual gift you received through the prophecy spoken over you when the elders of the church laid their hands on you.”

- Timothy was given a job. He was given a talent if you will... Remember the parable of the talents? In Matthew 25:14-30 Jesus told a story of three servants who had been entrusted with their master's money... Two of them were good stewards and invested the money and gained more. The third, hid the money and didn't do anything with it.

- When the master got home, he rewarded the two who were faithful in their handling of the money. But the third, was called a wicked and lazy servant and he took the money from the servant and gave it to the servant who had the 10 talents.

- “To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away.”- vs. 29

- As Timothy had been entrusted to be a pastor of this church and because this is what he has been entrusted with, he has also been given the duty of expanding on the money (saved souls and souls living for God) so to speak. He is charged to bring forth the increase... or at least provide for the possibility of increase.

- He is to give his complete attention to these matters... to throw himself into his tasks so that everyone will see his progress. To keep a close watch on how he lives and on his teachings. To stay true to what is right for the sake of his own salvation and for the salvation of those who hear him.

- If we apply those same ideas to our own lives and our own relationship with God, we too will see an increase in our walk and in the walks affected by our lives.

- So what kind of servant will you be? Will God have to call you wicked and lazy? Or will He call you faithful?

- Matthew 12:25-37

Sunday, December 26, 2010

I Timothy Chapter 3 (part 2)

I Timothy Chapter 3 (part 2)

vs. 8-13

- Paul is continuing instructions for church members. We are moving on to instructions for deacons.

- footnote- “Deacon means “one who serves.” This position was possibly begun by the apostles in the Jerusalem church (Acts 6:1-6) to care for the physical needs of the congregation—at that time, the needs of the Greek-speaking widows. Deacons were leaders in the church, and their qualifications resemble those of the elders. In some churches today, the office of deacon has lost its importance. New Christians are often asked to serve in this position, but that is not the New Testament pattern. Paul says that potential deacons should have high qualifications and be very carefully chosen.”

- Just as elders must be respected for their right behavior, so also should deacons.

- “Deacons must be well respected and have integrity. ” To be well respected means that they are looked up to as living life in a right manner. They are looked to for advice.

- Webster's defines integrity as the “adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.”

- They too have the instruction to not be heavy drinkers. If something else is controlling you... it's not a good thing... If anything else is taking control over your body or over your mind... it is in essence taking the place of the Spirit.

- “Deacons... must not be... dishonest with money.” Deacons are sometimes put in charge of treasury, or in charge of collections etc. They need to be trustworthy men/women with the handling of the church's money.

- Too many times the church is used by people to obtain money for selfish purposes. Trustworthy people need to be set in place so to make sure that church money goes for church usage or ministries and not for personal use.

- “Deacons... must be committed to the mystery of the faith now revealed.” The people put in the position of deacon, must be committed to Christ. They must be willing to go the distance.

- Church leaders have to show the living example of a life lived out for Christ. It's like my students last week... if Kindergarten had to teach fifth grade how to do a bathroom break, or how to go through the lunch lines, or how to play a playground game, or how to walk in the hallways... it would be quite the chaotic experience. On the other hand, if fifth grade has already had to follow all the rules for 5 years and they know all the procedures for everything, then they could very well walk in and teach kindergarten the basics of elementary school... However... kids learn more from watching than they do from spending any length of time in talking. The fifth grade class can talk about following the rules and talk about how to walk down the hallway... but if they don't DO what they SAY... then soon the kindergarten kids will follow their example rather than their words.

- Deacons and elders should be the same. They need to be living examples of their words so that the younger generations in the church can follow their examples and be stronger in their faith because of it.

- When trials come, what is your reaction? What do people see in your reactions to situations? If you were a kindergarten kid... would you follow your own example as a fifth grader?

- “Deacons... must live with a clear conscience.” A clear conscience is a thing greatly desired. On one hand, it means keeping yourself above reproach. Following God's laws and trying your hardest to avoid sin. We should to the best of our ability (with God's help) avoid sinning so that our consciences CAN be clear.

- On the other hand, how many times does Satan use our consciences to throw a million evils from the past at us to try and make us think that we are not worthy of God's love?

- To have a clear conscience means that we are not only in tune with God and His will for us, but we also are living in Grace. We are living in the knowledge that we are saved by Grace and that “there is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”

- We are free from sin and death through Christ. Our consciences should reflect that knowledge. I know we all get in places that seem really low... and Satan starts attacking us with our past... trying to convince us that we don't deserve God's love...

- But that's the beauty of it... we DON'T deserve it... but He gives Himself to us freely anyway.

- If you remember the story of Hosea and Gomer... He married her because God told him to. God said that their relationship would be a living image of God's relationship with Israel... Time after time Gomer left to go back to prostitution. She went back to the attractions that the world brought... and time after time God said, go back and take her back as your wife.

- God loves us... He doesn't condemn us, He doesn't hold our sin over our heads... if we repent, He forgives and forgets... So don't let Satan play tricks with your mind. Because NOTHING can separate us from the love of God.

- Romans 8

- “Before they are appointed as deacons, let them be closely examined. If they pass the test, then let them serve as deacons.”

- A few months ago, I ended up on the elder nominating committee at church. I felt so strange... here I am, feeling like a little kid sitting at the table with the pastor and women from my church who I look up to... trying to come up with the best candidates for elders in the church... I felt so out of place... we had to sit and discuss personal characteristics, leadership abilities, qualifications, and our perception of what kind of impact these men would have on our church as leaders.

- But having done that... I very much see the need for this kind of process. Maybe your church does things a little differently... and that's fine... But there is a need for a selection process that focuses on leadership ability and quality. In order for a church to be strong and grow stronger... there have to be Godly men and women in place at the foundation. They have to be solid in their faith and ready to take charge if they need to.

- Our church is really neat... A year ago, my pastor died very suddenly... and we all had to take on more responsibility... some new, some old... but in general... just MORE. Our elders banded together and somehow God held our church together... much through the leadership of these men. Had we had young, inexperienced men in those leadership positions, or men with a faith that was weak or founded on false teachings... our church would have fallen apart...

- As it was... our new pastor arrived about three months ago and we are continuing to move forward as a church body. Even without a pastor in place, we continued to grow until we could find a man to step in to take on that permanent role... because our leaders were ready and willing to take the responsibility to lead the church.

- “Deacons... wives must be respected and must not slander others. They must exercise self-control and be faithful in everything they do.”

- Our pastor was talking this morning about how our relationships reflect our relationship with Christ. Our actions at church might seem to be holy and righteous... but when we step outside the church and go out into the world... do we still represent Christ? Or do we become someone else?

- Our families and our relationships with them reflects our relationship with Christ.

- footnote- “Wives” can refer to women helpers or deaconesses. It could also mean wives of deacons or female leaders of the church (such as Phoebe, the deaconess mentioned in Romans 16:1). In either case, Paul expected the behavior of prominent women in the church to be just as responsible and blameless as that of prominent men.”

- If a husband is a pastor, elder, or deacon, his wife is generally expected to be a partner and extension of himself. His character should be reflected in her and vice versa.

- When my former pastor was first called to the mission field, he prayed that his wife would also get the call... he said God, I can't go without her and we are partners in this... she has to get the call as well... and a few months later, she also got the call in a very specific way. God doesn't call one spouse and not the other... He calls them both as a team.

- I have a friend who was dating this guy... but he was preparing for the mission field... and as they talked and as they prayed... she didn't feel the call... so ultimately, she ended the relationship because for him to be called to missions, and her to be called to a work at home... a deeper relationship would have been impossible in the long run...

- “A deacon must be faithful to his wife, and he must manage his children and household well.”

- Leaders in a church should demonstrate the characteristics of God Himself... God does not cheat on us, nor does He use us, or take us for granted, or abuse us constantly. So neither should deacons cheat on their wives, or use them, or take them for granted, or constantly abuse them.

- Instead, God treats us as special, as loved, as valued possessions. So should deacons treat their wives.

God does not allow His children (us) to run wild and do whatever we want. There are consequences for our actions and our sins. He disciplines us when we need it because He loves us dearly and doesn't wish to see us waste our lives away or to see us die in our sins with no hope for future life with Him.

- In the same ways, earthly fathers should discipline their children in love. “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” If children are taught respect, honor, trustworthiness, honesty, faithfulness, etc. at an early age... when they grow old and move out to live life on their own with their own families, those qualities will still be there. It may be hard at times...

- Proverbs 22:6

- I know that there were times that my parents probably had a hard time disciplining me... I know there were times that I didn't make it easy... but they still did it... and I love them the more for it.

- On the other hand, I see students even at the kindergarten level who I think could literally commit murder and their parents would still fight to prove their innocence in all things to avoid letting their child experience any kind of “bad” thing. These children are learning to be selfish, hard, unfeeling towards others, and completely ignorant of the effect that their actions or words could have on anybody besides themselves... and someday, not only will they feel the effects of their upbringing... but so will their parents... *sigh*

- Ephesians 6:1-9

- “Those who do well as deacons will be rewarded with respect from others and will have increased confidence in their faith in Christ Jesus.”

- If a deacon or an elder has all of the qualities listed above, they will be well rewarded for completing the duties of their positions. They will be respected by others. Why? Because they will have proved themselves to be trustworthy, faithful, honest, and a man/woman of faith.

- They will also have increased confidence in their faith in Jesus Christ. If you are a leader, it meas that you are expected to do more... and in a leadership position, you can be sure that Satan will try and attack you in any way, shape, or form that he can conceive. Your faith will be tried in the fire of conflict before you know it... if you can survive the trials that come against you, your faith will be strengthened and your confidence in Christ Himself will grow in leaps and bounds because you will have to depend on Him for more and more.

- A leadership position is not to be taken lightly. It is not something that you do for fun. It is not something that you can do just to have something else that will look good on a resume. To willingly take on a leadership position means that you are willing to fight for what you believe in and are willing to fight for those who are too weak to fight for themselves. It means standing when no one else wants to stand next to you. If you withstand all that comes against you... then you will be rewarded... your faith will grow in Christ...

(For scripture references, see last week's lesson on the first half of I Timothy. The cross-references for elders also apply to the deacons.)

vs. 14-15

- Paul is writing so that just in case he can't be with them... the church will still know how they are to conduct themselves.

- Paul was like a father writing a last letter to his kids just in case he didn't get to talk to them anymore. Paul was put in prison supposedly soon after this letter was written... He knew that he would eventually be tried again by the Romans... it was just a matter of time... so he was writing just in case he didn't get another chance.

- Should our lives not be like that? What if today was the last day? Would it not be better to tell our friends and family all that they needed to hear from us about God and His love for them? If they needed correction or admonishment in something, would it not be better to give it now than to wait until it is too late to give it?

- “This is the church of the living God, which is the pillar and foundation of the truth.” Should we not be a reflection of that God? Of that truth?

- Ephesians 2, 4, 5

vs. 16

- The greatest mystery of our faith...

- That God Himself came in flesh... to save US.

- Since we're in Christmas, we were talking about the Christmas story in Sunday school this morning... one of my little girls asked “well if Jesus fulfilled all the prophesies, why did the Jews not believe Him? Why did they crucify the One Person Who was actually sent to SAVE them?”

- For 400 years at least, the Jewish people had been reading these prophesies about the Messiah. The One who would come to save them. But for the most part, they were all expecting this great conquering king. A man who would rise up and take over the world from the worldly rulers they were under at that point in time.

- But nobody ever expected God... to come as a baby. A baby is vulnerable... dependent... not mighty and conquering...

- But this is how God chose to come... and He didn't come as a King either! He was born to poor parents... in a stable... in hay... next to the animals... in a little teeny town... with only shepherds to visit... who were smelly and dirty and not used to a whole lot of human contact outside their own niche.

- Doesn't seem like the way God would come to earth does it? Most of the time we think of God and we automatically think of a Zeus like figure. Ready with lightning bolts and quick to get really angry... always riding on a massive horse... looking like a... well... a god... lol

- Our brains do not think of the God of the universe as a baby cooing and spitting up on everything... or having to have his diaper changed... not what we think of as a Godly figure...

- But this is how God chose to come... why? Just so He could be spit on, cursed, and murdered... for us.

- He was seen by angels... announced to the nations... and still was rejected...

- And yet... He was believed in throughout the world and taken to heaven in Glory. After all that... He sits enthroned in heaven with God the Father... and we have salvation through His sacrifice.

- And THIS is the great mystery of our faith... that GOD... would love the world so much... would love YOU so much that He would humble Himself to be poor and simple and plain, would come as a baby rather than as a conquering king on a thundering steed... would give Himself up as a lamb to the slaughter to die in YOUR place... just so that He could give you the gift of Grace... just so your life could be saved from everlasting death.

- Isn't God great? : )

- Ephesians 3
- Isaiah 7:13-16
- John 1:1-18
- Romans 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9