Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Pain of Perseverance and How to Avoid Apostasy: A Quick Look at 1 Timothy 4

This morning, with mug of java in hand, I sat down at my kitchen table and read 1 Timothy 4. I have always been intrigued with this passage, but today I decided to work through it in greater detail than I have in the past. These are my thoughts as I wrote them down at breakfast:

I see a warning, written by the Apostle, spoken by the Holy Spirit in vv.1-5. It is very obvious that there will be in "later times" a falling away from the faith. Supposed brothers and sisters in Christ will abandon what we hold precious and simply walk away. That is sobering and frightening. I do not want to be in that number. How does one find themselves included in the withering faith that ends in withdrawal? I think 1 Timothy lays it out pretty clearly.
  • Embrace Falsehoods - v.1 - "...paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons..." There is a switch from listening and heeding Truth and being deceived into passionate pursuit of demonic lies. Unfortunately, sometimes these very well may be propagated from the pulpits in our nation, on our TV and in our hometowns.
  • External Focus - v.3 - " who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods..." Suddenly the heart is neglected (partly due to a seared conscience) and outward behavior becomes the prominent focus. Ironically these heretical claims fly in the face of the blessings of what God has given us.
Is there something that I can do to ensure that I do not embrace falsehoods & focus on externals? Yes. Scripture never leaves us wanting in "training in righteousness". Listed below are the preventative measures to keep oneself from falling away:
  • Train in the Word & Sound Doctrine - v.6 - "...constantly nourished on the words of faith and the sound doctrine which you have been following..." The primacy of God's Word in one's life is key to persevering! That means you must be constantly in it. There is no other way. Also, listen to others that are constantly in the Word and learn from them. Don't try to re-invent the wheel in your biblical education. Read solid authors, listen to podcasts from godly teachers and pastors, tune your radios to Truth when possible. Let the water of the word wash through your mind constantly.
  • Reject Falsehoods - v.7 - "...have nothing to do with worldly fables..." With a knowledge of the Word comes discernment. Discern what is right and wrong and reject the untruths held by the culture around you. This might not be a popular stance, but one that will ensure that you persevere.
  • Exercise for the purpose of Godliness - v.7 - "...discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness..." It does take effort to be godly. It's not always fun and games in this process of perseverance. But it is well worth the effort! This godliness that is achieved through discipline profits us not only in the life to come, but also this life as well! (v.8) How cool is that? It's win-win for the believer in pursuit of persevering for their Lord!
What kind of intensity should be involved in our persevering? Again, the answer is found in 1 Timothy 4:
  • Take pains with these things, be absorbed in them - v.15 - as we so carefully move through our study of the Word, as we allow it to work in our lives and mold our hearts, this progress will be noticed by everyone around us.
  • Pay close attention to:
    • Yourself - v.16 - why? So that you don't stray from the Truth. So that your heart and mind are holding to Truth.
    • Your teaching - v.16 - why? So that you don't lead others astray. So that what pours out of your heart only encourages others in this pursuit of perseverance.
In maintaining this intensity, you will " salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you..."

May God help you take pains with your perseverance and avoid apostasy in your life! Study 1 Timothy 4 further - because there is sooo much more in this chapter. God bless!

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