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Message Notes: 1 Timothy Week 5

1 Timothy

Week 5: Chapter 4

Pastor Rick Henderson                February 24-25, 2024


I want you to grab a Bible or use your phone and find 1 Timothy 4. It will be a few minutes before we start reading, so don’t feel like you have to race to get there.

Lately I’ve been getting different versions of the same question being asked over and over. It comes from men, and it comes from women. It comes from people with all kinds of backgrounds. It’s coming to me in conversations, in emails, and in text messages. Maybe, just maybe this is the question that’s messing with you today.

QUESTION: How should I relate to church leaders from my past who sincerely taught me something that I now disagree with?

Because of the series that we’re in and some of the things that we’re talking about as a church, it’s natural to make this about men and women in leadership. I get that. And yet this is a question that every single person is going to have to wrestle with at some point in your life. And it could be about anything. Believe it or not, it’s not limited to religious people and church people.

  • How do you relate to your parents if they sincerely taught you something that you now disagree with?
  • How do you relate to a mentor if they sincerely taught you something that you now disagree with?

There are pastors and church leaders from my past whom I dearly love, and they dearly loved me. I now disagree with some of the things they taught me to believe. What do I do with that!? But this question doesn’t stop there. There is a corollary that we also must ask.

QUESTION: How should I relate to church leaders who are sincerely teaching me something right now that I disagree with?

What do you do if you ever find yourself thinking, “Rick, I just don’t agree with you on how you interpret this passage or how you apply this passage.” What do you do then!? It’s going to happen at some point.

The first question may be the one that grips you right now. The second question may be the one that’s got you in a vice grip right now. Eventually, one of these questions is going rear up in your life and demand an answer.

I think what we’re going to read today will help us. So, let’s start by reading all of chapter 4, with a disposition of curiosity and openness to how God wants to speak to us through his word.

1 TIMOTHY 4:1-16 The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. 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. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer. If you point these things out to the brothers and sisters, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished on the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed. Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For 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. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe. Command and teach these things. Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you. Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Before we answer the question about how to relate to a church leader from our past or a church leader in our present who we just don’t agree with, let’s start here.

There’s a difference between a WRONG teacher and a FALSE teacher.

I hate it when people ask questions in which the answer is obvious. It annoys me. And yet, I’m going to do that now. I’m going to risk annoying you because sometimes it’s helpful to pause, to breathe, and to remind ourselves about what is fair to expect and what isn’t fair to expect. Are there any unfair or unreasonable assumptions that have snuck into my thinking?

  • Do I believe there is any church leader, living or dead, who is right about everything? Of course not.
  • So, should we be surprised when we disagree, or should we expect to disagree?

Here’s the next set of super obvious, possibly annoying questions.

  • Do I believe that I am right about everything? Of course not.
  • Do I want the people in my life to love me and accept me, even though I’m not right about everything? Yes.
  • Do I give myself permission to learn, grow, process, and even change my mind? Yes.

So, if I don’t believe any church leader has ever been right about everything, why would I ever be surprised or upset when I discover that I believe a church leader is wrong about something? If I want people to love and accept me, even when they disagree with me, why wouldn’t I do that for others? If I give myself permission to learn, grow, process, and even change my mind, why wouldn’t I extend that to others as well?

If there is someone from your past or someone from your present with whom you disagree, what’s stopping you from relating to them in this way? I appreciate you giving me the best you had to give. I’ve come to see it differently than you do. Let me say it again. I appreciate you giving me the best you had to give. I’ve come to see it differently than you do.

If no one is right about everything, every pastor, every teacher, every church leader is going to be wrong about something. And that means you’re going to be wrong about something. What’s keeping us from responding this way? I appreciate you giving me the best you had to give. I’ve come to see it differently than you do.

Let’s crank up the intensity and urgency. What if you think someone isn’t just wrong? What if someone is a false teacher? What does that mean? How do you know the difference between a wrong teacher and a false teacher?

1 TIMOTHY 4:1-2 The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.

What does it mean that the Spirit clearly says? It’s very possible he’s referring back to something he told them years earlier. You can read about this in Acts 20. The Apostle Paul prophesied that false teachers, who were like wolves, would try to make their way into the church at Ephesus. That has now happened. There are wolves in sheep’s clothing. I heard a pastor say once, a wolf isn’t someone who annoys the sheep. It is someone who wants to eat the sheep. How do we identify a false teacher, someone who is a wolf?

FALSE TEACHERS:

  • They elevate something else over the authority of Scripture.

In the church in Ephesus, the Gnostics were doing that, the Judaizers were doing that, and those influenced by Artemis were doing that. And it happens today also. It happens whenever tradition edges out Scripture. It happens when cultural influences edge out Scripture. It happens when political allegiances and our love affair with power edge out Scripture.

The content of their teaching is ultimately demonic in origin. If that makes you uneasy, may I remind us? We can’t take Jesus seriously without taking Satan and demons seriously.

  • They break with the essentials of the faith (orthodoxy).

False teachers are always going to try and redefine something about God. And I promise you this, the redefinition of God is always going to give permission to that false teacher’s favorite vice. That redefinition of God is going to ultimately give permission to sexual sin, pride, misuse of power, or greed.

False teachers are always going to institute some sort of hierarchy. And those at the top are those who enable the false teacher’s anti-gospel, self-centered, abusive behavior.

False teachers are going to redefine what makes someone saved, or acceptable to God, or acceptable to the group. That means they are either going to remove commands from Scripture, or they are going add more commands to Scripture. And whatever it is that makes people acceptable to the false teacher will be something that serves to feed the false teacher’s greed, sexual appetites, or lust for power.

False teachers always bring abuse. We must be so incredibly careful and attentive when allegations of wrongdoing are raised. I promise we are going to talk about that in week 7.

  • They are hypocrites who pretend to be something they are not.

Just because a church leader or an attendee of a church does the opposite of what they believe, that doesn’t them a hypocrite. You can sin and mess up and be honest about it. That’s going to happen. A false teacher, a hypocrite, is someone who is purposefully trying to pass for someone who they are not.

  • They spread lies.

People can spread lies unknowingly. Sometimes people deceive because they are deceived. Paul is referencing people who are doing this knowingly. These are the characteristics, the qualities of false teachers.

I hope this is really coming into focus.

There’s a difference between a WRONG teacher and a FALSE teacher.

Remember our circles of context.

Message Notes: 1 Timothy Week 5

Let’s keep this in mind. If we look at other passages written by Paul, they’ll help us to better understand how to navigate whatever tension we feel. We don’t tolerate and we don’t have any patience for false teaching and false teachers. But we should have massive amounts of tolerance and patience for people who we think are wrong, people who see a non-essential of the faith differently from us. I think Romans 14 can help. It’s both stunning and practical, and maybe even a little convicting.

Paul wrote this to people who were all in the same church and they disagreed on things that were deeply emotional and profoundly important. I hope you notice that Paul never once tells them which is wrong and which is right. Instead, he told them how to disagree while staying on the right track.

ROMANS 14:3 The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them.

Their disagreement about food may seem nonsensical to us. We don’t have to get it to get it. All we need to know is that there was a huge disagreement that intersected with culture, preferences, ethnicity, and diverse religious backgrounds. In the same congregation, there are going to be people who disagree. Disagreement is allowed. Contempt and judgment are not allowed.

ROMANS 14:5 One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind.

Disagreement is allowed. Be convinced without having to convince the other. It’s OK to disagree. And check this out. People can share with us what it is that convinced them without us getting defensive. Do you know why? Because you are not defined by your viewpoint. Because they are not defined by their viewpoint. The gospel reminds us that we are in Christ, and we are defined by him, not by what we do and not by our viewpoints. Isn’t gospel community a profound gift!?

ROMANS 14:7-11 For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living. You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written: “ ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.’ ”

Isn’t this one of the most liberating things you can imagine? We don’t judge each other. We don’t hold contempt for each other. Jesus is the authority. We stand before him not each other. We stand before him AND we stand with each other. Let me say that again. We stand before him AND we stand with each other. This is at the core of what Jesus wants most for his body the church.

ROMANS 14:12-13,19 So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God. Therefore let us stop passing judgmenton one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister…Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.

How do we cause each other to stumble? That’s what a stumbling block is. Think of it this way. How would we trip someone as they’re trying to follow Jesus?

  • Treat them with contempt.
  • Judge them.
  • Push them to violate their conscience.

We’re just not going to do that. But in those times we do get it wrong this is what we do. We confess it. We apologize. We course correct. This is part, a big part of making every effort to do what leads to peace.

If you want another hand-hold on how to really grasp the difference between disagreement, the freedom to be wrong, and not tolerating false teachers—maybe this will help.

Wrong teachers are wrong about NON-ESSENTIALS of the faith. False teachers are wrong about the ESSENTIALS of the faith.

If this feels a little complicated, that’s OK. This is grown-up faith. This requires maturity. This requires wisdom. This requires a conscience that is calibrated to the gospel.

1 TIMOTHY 4:2 Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.

Searing our consciences is like using anesthesia. We can make choices that ensure we just don’t feel it anymore. And if we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that we are all vulnerable to numbing our consciences.

Before I go further with this, let’s make sure we are all on the same page. Your conscience is not the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is not your conscience. Your conscience is like the traffic light of your soul.

Message Notes: 1 Timothy Week 5

It is your internal, moral compass. It’s what tells you to keep going, this is right. It’s that thing that says, you need to stop, this is wrong. It’s what tells us to slow down or change direction. That’s what your conscience does for every moral intersection of your life. Now, for all of us in the room who have been told or who have told others, “Go with your heart. Go with what feels right.” We need to rumble with this next point.

Your conscience is only as accurate as it’s INPUT and only as strong as your INTEGRITY.

Have you ever rolled up to an intersection in which the light wasn’t working? Maybe the light was working but seemed to be off. Something was wrong with the programming, and it needed to be corrected. In the same way, your conscience is only as accurate as its input. I’m going to be vulnerable and use an example from my own life.

When I was a kid, my dad told me that if I ever brought home a girl of another race, he would kick me out of the house. So, when I was young, and I saw couples of different ethnicities, my conscience flashed a red light, telling me that was wrong. That’s because bad, racist, anti-gospel programming was inputted into my conscience at a young age. Of course, I see it differently now. But the inputs had to change first.

Who in here has ever run a red light? The traffic light tells you to stop but doesn’t force you to stop. It’s the same way with our conscience. We can choose to ignore it. The more we do that, the number we become to it. Who has been ignoring the check engine light so long that you don’t even notice it anymore? We are all equally vulnerable to doing that exact same thing to our conscience.

Becoming a more fully devoted follower of Jesus requires calibrating our thinking and calibrating our conscience to God’s Word. Verses 6-11 are about understanding Scripture, aligning with Scripture, and then teaching it so that others can align with it.

Do I have permission to ask you vulnerable questions about you?

  • Is your conscience calibrated to Scripture, or is it possible that it’s calibrated to something else?
  • Are you sensitive to your conscience, or do you find that you’ve numbed your conscience?

If you’re giving yourself a pass on things that you know are out of step with Jesus—if it’s greed, gossip, lust, being unkind or contemptuous, or being judgmental, and it’s not really bothering you—If other people point these things out to you and it’s easy for your to ignore them or justify yourself—could it be that you’ve anesthetized or seared your conscience?

If that’s the case, we humbly repent and begin to download God’s Word. It is to our benefit to study God’s Word. It is to our benefit to have faithful, good teachers of God’s Word. Not perfect teachers. Not teachers who are right about everything. It’s to our benefit to have teachers who humbly submit to God’s Word, who give us the best they have, and who keep pointing us to Jesus.

1 TIMOTHY 4:12-13 Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.

There seems to be some evidence that Timothy battled insecurity and health issues. He was a young leader and gifted teacher. And yet, he had some challenges to overcome. It also appears that people in this church attempted to weaponize his insecurities against him. At the very least, they wanted to use his age as a weapon to get him to shut up and back down.

I can tell you from personal experience, it’s very difficult to lead, to serve, to teach when people are trying to make you feel badly about yourself. It’s hard to teach when the folks in the church are trying to intimidate you or tear you down. That’s what he was facing. And what instruction did Paul give to him?

Don’t be ASSERTIVE. Be an EXAMPLE.

Don’t bow up. Don’t bully them into submission. Don’t be aggressive and show them who’s boss. Instead, be an example of Christlikeness to them. Show them the gospel in the way you are present and let that be enough.

A couple of weeks ago we talked about the Greek word authentein, that’s translated assume authority, from 1 Timothy 2:12. Paul was not permitting a woman to do that. That’s off-limits to all followers of Jesus. Notice that Paul’s instruction to Timothy is all the ways to be the opposite of authentien. Don’t strong-arm them. Just be like Jesus. And let that be enough.

I think this is something I need to hear. I think this is something we need to hear. I think this is something the American, evangelical church needs to hear. For far too long, we’ve been drunk on power, on forceful leadership, on high-capacity leaders who get stuff done. Leadership is great but it’s not about greatness. More than our skills, talents, and competencies—the thing we need most is Christlikeness. We should expect it from our leaders, and we should expect it from ourselves.

I want to close with the final words of the chapter.

1 TIMOTHY 4:15-16 Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Paul expected Timothy to grow and keep progressing. And he expected him to do it in a way that others could see. In the Jesus way, in the gospel, leaders aren’t the people who have it all together. That’s not a prerequisite for leadership.

I’ve been doing this long enough to know that there are some of you in this room that you’ve held back. You haven’t stepped up. You haven’t served, you haven’t led, you haven’t invested your influence because somewhere in the backstory of your life, something convinced you that you aren’t good enough, that you don’t have it all together.

The truth is that nobody has it all together. That’s not the point. The point is to just learn and grow and make progress. And when we trust Jesus enough to grow and make progress in front of others, it lets them know that it’s OK to not have it all together too. And it makes it safe for all of us to keep taking our next steps.

Do I have your permission to not have it all together and to grow? Then would you give yourself permission to do the same thing? I want to remind us of our series thesis.

SERIES THESIS: We teach WHAT we know but reproduce WHO we are.

We get to decide what we are going to let people see. When we are humble and gentle. When we elevate being an example over being assertive. When we reject contempt and judgment and instead give ourselves permission to grow—I promise you that people will be open to what we teach because they are attracted to who we are.

And here’s the secret. We’re just trying to be like Jesus. The whole point is to live like him because we want others to be attracted to him, too.