What Do You Look for in a Leader?

This sermon can be watched or listened to at www.templebaptistchurch.ca!

“’Close the emergency doors!’ ‘They’re already closed, Sir,’ the first officer replied to the captain, whom he would have addressed as E.J. under less stressful conditions. “Send to the carpenter and tell him to sound the ship,’ responded the captain. But the carpenter had already perished in the attempt to make repairs. As the hull rapidly took on water, the instruments on the bridge clearly indicated the ship’s rapidly declining chances of survival. While the steam sirens screamed in agony, the captain barked out several orders at once: ‘Wire distress signals,’ ‘Fire the rockets in case any ship can offer assistance,’ ‘All hands on deck.’

One wonders what other thoughts and emotions stirred in his heart just then. Less than one year earlier, the aging captain had tarnished his excellent record in an embarrassing collision with the HMS Hawke. Soon thereafter, he had damaged his newly repaired ship again by sailing it over a submerged wreck. After patching up the broken propeller blade, the captain had determined to patch up his reputation to quell rumors of his deteriorating capacities. This voyage was to have done just that.

Sticking his head into the radio room, the captain directed, ‘Send the call for assistance.’ ‘What call should I send?’ the operator asked. ‘The regulation international call for help. Just that,’ came E.J.’s reply as he hurried away.

When the captain began this journey, he set a course. He set the speed. He alone was responsible for the safety of the ship and its passengers. But the course he set took his ship into peril, even though he had been warned of the danger. And the speed he set ultimately determined their fate.

Although policy clearly dictated ‘moderate speed and maximum comfort,’ the captain had treated his new charge like a sports car on a road with no speed limits. He had thought that arriving ahead of schedule would be just the trick to remove the stain from his reputation. During the most dangerous part of the journey, the confident captain had left his third-in-command on the bridge while he boasted to his dinner guests how the ship could be cut into three sections and each would float. He believed the ship to be unsinkable.

Little more than an hour after this boast, he issued his last command: ‘You have done your duty boys; now every man for himself.’ Captain Edward J. Smith perished with more than one thousand other passengers in the icy Atlantic that night. His reputation went down with the Titanic.”[1]

What a reminder from Bill Thrall in his book The Ascent of a Leader that many of us are driven by past wounds and make decisions that eventually will cause us to hit our own iceberg. The first man, Adam, hit his own type of iceberg. Like Captain Smith, Adam was enjoying luxury. Adam was in paradise, the Garden of Eden. And like Captain Smith, he abdicated his role to another, to his wife Eve. Eve was then deceived by a serpent and broke the only rule God gave Adam and Eve. And from that time on, we have always been looking for a leader who would steer us in the right direction.

What do you look for in a leader? Last week we learned from 1 Timothy 2 how important women are and their role in the church. We learned that God is restoring the creative order and defining the roles of men and women in His Kingdom. To catch up on the 1 Timothy 2, I have developed a chart that you can see on the screen behind me as well as a chart I have placed in your sermon notes on how God is restoring the creative order.

creative-order-chart

We learned that the Bible teaches “male-female partnership with male leadership.”[2] 1 Timothy 2:11 teaches, “A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness.” Therefore, women are to submit themselves to the leadership of their husbands and the elders in the church. However, that submission is first to God and husbands and elders must be demonstrating they themselves are following God. Steven Tracy teaches, “A wife must not submit to her husband when obedience to him would 1) violate a biblical principle (not just a direct biblical statement); 2) compromise her relationship with Christ; 3) violate her conscience (if not just her preference or based on self-centeredness); 4) compromise the care, nurture, and protection of her children; 5) enable (facilitate) her husband’s sin; and 6) mean that she or others will be physically, sexually or emotionally abused.”[3] Husbands are to love their wives with a self-sacrificial love. Elders/Pastors are to lay down their lives for the sheep.

And so we are going to focus on male leadership today. In other words, what is the role of men in the church? Simply, be a leader! Men, lead in your home and lead in the church! We are going to find out what the specific characteristics of a leader are from 1 Timothy 3:1-13. We are going to see how God is restoring the Creative Order for men as well. I am praying that two things happen today: First, that God would show us as a church who are our leaders. We are actually in a leadership deficit! However, I believe God cares for His Church so much. He actually has the leaders already here; we just have to find them. Therefore, at the end of the service I am going to give you time to fill out a card of the names that God brings to mind as leaders. Some questions will help us identify those who are already serving as leaders even if they don’t have the position as leader. The second thing I am praying for is that some of you men who are sitting on the sidelines would get into the game. That you would step up as leaders in your home first and church second. Maybe some of you will feel the call of God today to be a leader in the church? Maybe you have been holding back and you have not surrendered your life to Christ? Maybe you have not fully surrendered your life to serve Christ as a pastor, missionary, elder or deacon? You come see me afterwards! But let’s first read 1 Timothy 3:1-13! Read 1 Timothy 3:1-13!

We start out by reading in verse 1, “It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do.” Being an overseer or elder or pastor (the words are used synonymously in the NT) is a fine work. Today, elders and pastors are not esteemed as they were once in a community. Some of that is for good reason with moral failures and abuse scandals. However, may I remind you men out there that there is nothing harder and nothing more rewarding than being a good leader in your home and a good leader in your church. Ask Ed Hodgins, a high level leader in the educational world, how hard a transition it has been to church world. God will give you a desire for this work. Yes, “church leadership can attract some people with mixed and sometimes outright sinful motives.”[4] I once had a man tell me he wanted to be an elder after his first Sunday at church. I said get to know and love the people first. He never came back. And yet God will give you a desire for the work. I love my work as a pastor. It is never boring! My wife Lori was saying to me as she was watching the recent elections in North America that I could be a good political leader. First of all, she thinks way too highly of me. Second, why would I want a demotion to become prime minister, premier or president? Leading in God’s Church is the highest calling I could ever have.

But you have to be qualified! These qualifications are listed in 1 Timothy 3:1-13! I find these qualifications very sobering. I want to briefly examine each one, but first we need to summarize the qualifications of a church leader. A church leader is a Christ-like man called by God who leads first by example and character and competently manages his family, emotions and money well. He should be able to control his anger, his tongue, his alcohol, his money and his lust. He should be a man of prayer, humble and teachable. If he is an elder he will lead through a shepherding ministry. If he is a deacon he will lead through a serving ministry. What are the qualifications of an elder?

  • “Above reproach” (blameless) – Not sinless but “there is nothing about you or your past that would be an embarrassment to the church and name of Jesus Christ.” (Dr. Dave Barker) THERE IS NO CONCERN ABOUT YOU! Some of you may be thinking, “Wow! In my old life I’ve done a few things I’m not proud of!” But have you confessed those things? Have you personally reconciled with others you have wronged? Has your reputation been irreparably been damaged from your past? These are questions you need to ask yourself.
  • “The husband of one wife” – a one-woman type man, whose eyes are only for his wife. No creepers!
  • “temperate” – careful and balanced; Warren Wiersbe says, “Short tempers do not make for long ministries.”[5]
  • “self-controlled” (prudent) – “with mind” = using your head (cf. 2 Timothy 4:5)
  • “respectable” – orderly
  • “hospitable” – has a love of strangers, the word is used of opening their home to travellers, not just someone who holds tea parties. Elders must love the outsider!
  • “able to teach” – not necessarily a preacher, but one who can explain the doctrines of the faith to others.
  • “not addicted to wine”“wine is not always around them”; they don’t turn to substances for comfort or satisfaction
  • “not pugnacious” – not a brawler, argumentative, a quarreler (c.f. 2 Timothy 2:24-26) “An elder must listen to people and be able to take criticism without reacting.”[6] (Warren Wiersbe)
  • “gentle” – “Gentleness is the Elder’s normal style!”[7]
  • “peace-loving” – seeks reconciliation
  • “free from the love of money” – This is very dangerous because one can’t serve both money and God as Jesus taught in Matthew 6:24. However, many times we look for a successful businessman to become a leader in the church. Kent Hughes puts it this way, “If a man is drunk on wine, you’ll throw him out. But if he is drunk on money, you’ll make him a deacon.”[8]
  • “manages his household well, including his children under control with all dignity” – “to stand in front of to protect.” “The children must reflect the character of their father’s leadership.”[9] (George Knight) “If a man’s own children cannot obey and respect him, then his church is not likely to obey and respect his church leadership.”[10] (Warren Wiersbe)
  • “not a new convert” – In order to not fall into the snare of the devil, you must not be a recent outsider or have a bad reputation with outsiders.
  • “a good reputation with outsiders” – This evidences a consistently both inside and outside of the church.

 

In regard to deacon qualifications, they are the same as the elders “except for the omissions of ‘able to teach,’ ‘gentle’ and ‘not contentious in interpersonal relationships.’”[11] And of course, we want deacons to be gentle and not contentious. Why are these two qualifications missing? Probably it goes to the function of a deacon. Deacons are never said in the Scriptures to rule or govern. It is when one is governing that they need to be reminded to be gentle and not contentious. 1 Peter 5:3 commands elders not to lord it over their flock. A deacon is to be a servant. “There is nothing self-promoting in the word deacon.”[12]

Verse 11 is also controversial whether it describes deacon wives or deaconesses. You will see this in the margins of your Bibles for this word “deaconess,” especially if deacons are non-governing leaders taking authority over the church. We know that by 110 AD that churches along the Black Sea had deaconesses. How? The earliest extant Roman document regarding Christianity, a letter from Pliny to Emperor Trajan, describes Pliny torturing deaconesses.[13] It was recognized that women assist men in the leadership of the church and this is why I women are “to be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate and faithful in all things.” Oh how many times have I seen men who miss out on being a leader because their wives disqualify them. A ministry wife can destroy a man’s ministry with their attitude and how they treat people. “An elder or deacon must have a wife who has a respectability that matches his own.”[14]

Now this list is sobering. Who is qualified? Actually we all should be! When you look at this list, would you say that only leaders in the church should have these qualifications or should all members have these character qualities? Return to the definition: A church leader is a Christ-like… Notice that it is Christ that enables us through His Holy Spirit to have and display these godly characteristics.

I fear some of you are sitting on the sidelines because you don’t think you measure up. Who does? Christ does! And He’s in you! Furthermore, some of you are on the sidelines because you or your family have been burnt in the past. It would be wrong for me to tell you that becoming a leader won’t be hard and you won’t suffer. Paul told Timothy in another letter, “Indeed, all you desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3:12) I could inspire you with stories from my own life as pastor’s kid with how God helped me when my father was attacked by those in the church. But the ultimate reason why you need to step up and lead in your home and in the church is because Christ did so for you. Can you imagine if Christ would have stopped when He was maligned and rejected by the chief priests and elders of Israel? When His brothers rejected Him? When those He loved yelled, ‘Crucify Him!’ Yet, Christ led by dying on a Cross for you! Men, that’s why we lead! I am wondering no matter your age if some of you would dare to stand up and say I want to lead like Christ did for me. I want to lead God’s family. I want to lead in my youth group! I want to lead in my family! Because Christ did! Stand up! Afterwards I want you to come up and talk to me.

For the rest of us, we believe that “elders and deacons should be elders and deacons before they are named elders and deacons.”[15] When you are selected as an elder and deacon, you already have been one in function for a while. You should be a person who is leading and serving whether you have an official title or not. This is important because as my grandfather used to say, “Some people grow when you give them responsibility, most just swell.” Now we need your help. We want to be a church that trains and raises up leaders for God’s Kingdom. We don’t want to sink the ship because men were busy with the luxuries of life that last for a couple of hours, when many are speeding to death and eternity without Christ.

List all the names of men (young and old) at Temple[16]:

1)    Who you respect enough to follow as an Elder? 

2)    From whom you have learned the Word of God?  

3)    Who you would go to if you needed counseling in your spiritual life?

4)    Who you would seek out help with a physical need?

 

Some of these men may not be ready to lead yet, but we will watch and mentor those you identify. As you leave today, please hand the cards to our ushers. Let’s conclude by praying for God to raise up Christ-like leaders!

[1] Bill Thrall, Bruce McNicol & Ken McElrath, The Ascent of a Leader (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1999), 8-9.

[2] Andreas J. & Margaret E. Kostenberger, God’s Design for Man and Woman (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2014), 20.

[3] Steven R. Tracy, “What Does ‘Submit in Everything’ Really Men? The Nature and Scope of Marital Submission,” Trinity Journal 29NS (2008): 267-312.

[4] R. Kent Hughes & Bryan Chapell, 1-2 Timothy: To Guard the Deposit (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2012), 77.

[5] Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary – Volume 2 (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1989), 221.

[6] Wiersbe, 220.

[7] Hughes & Chapell, 82.

[8] Hughes & Chapell, 82.

[9] George Knight, Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Commentary, 1992), 161.

[10] Wiersbe, 222.

[11] Knight, 167.

[12] Hughes and Chapell, 87.

[13] Robert J. Morgan, On This Day, “This Superstition…” – January 25 (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1997).

[14] Hughes and Chapell, 90.

[15] Walter Liefeld, The NIV Application Commentary Series on 1 & 2 Timothy, and Titus (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999), 139.

[16] Questions adapted from Walter Liefeld, The NIV Application Commentary Series on 1 & 2 Timothy, and Titus (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999), 127.

 


What is the role of the Women in the Church?

This sermon can be watched or listened to at www.templebaptistchurch.ca!

“On a cold Sunday in 1873, a dignified woman and her portly companion trudged across Clark Street Bridge in Chicago. College administrator Emma Dryer and evangelist D.L. Moody were discussing a Christian school for Chicago. Dryer insisted that such a school be coeducational, but Moody disagreed.

Miss Dryer decided to raise the money herself and in 1882 her institute opened with 50 students. Moody, watching from afar, was impressed and agreed to lend his support if Chicagoans could raise $250,000. Moody said, ‘I will tell you what I have on my heart. I would like to see $250,000 raised at once; $250,000 for Chicago is not anything. Take $50,000 and put up a building that will house 75 or 100 people, where they can eat and sleep. Take $200,000 and invest it at 5% and that gives you $10,000 a year to run this work. Then take men that have the gifts and train them for this work of reaching the people.’

Men, he finally agreed, and women. It happened, and Emma Dryer, who had kept the vision before Moody for years and provided educational and organizational expertise to the school’s beginnings, resigned to make room for Moody’s leadership. Land and buildings were acquired, and on January 16, 1890, Moody Bible Institute was dedicated.”[1] To this day, over 45,000 of Moody Bible Institute graduates have spanned the globe to proclaim Christ is Saviour and Lord. I am one of those graduates.

I am so thankful for Moody Bible Institute, for D.L. Moody and especially for Emma Dryer. Why? Because without Emma Dryer’s vision, not only for a Bible School, I wouldn’t be the pastor I am today. More importantly, if it wasn’t for Emma Dryer insisting Moody Bible Institute be co-ed, I would not be married to my wife. You see, I met my wife Lori at Moody. She is a tremendous partner in ministry and we just got back from Cuba where she taught many pastor’s wives the truths of God’s Word.

I think this story is very instructive and helps us answer the question: What is the role of women in the church? This question has brought much contention in churches, even dividing whole denominations, but it doesn’t have to be divisive. And we also don’t have to be apologetic for what the Scriptures teach. Andreas & Margaret Kostenberger summarize the Scriptures best when they write, “In both Testaments, we find male-female partnership and male leadership.”[2] Let’s unpack that further with talking about what women can do. Can women be visionaries? Was Emma Dryer a visionary? Absolutely, she started the school that transitioned to become Moody Bible Institute. Can women be administrators? Again yes, Emma Dryer brought organizational expertise to Moody Bible Institute. Can women raise money? For sure! They may even be better at it than men because they see a need and try to meet it. Lottie Moon was a single Baptist missionary to China in the 1800s and greatly advanced missions for women as well as for all missionaries. She would rally women in the West to raise funds for overseas ministry. In fact, “The annual Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for Missions has raised a total of $1.5 billion for missions since 1888, and finances half of the entire Southern Baptist missions budget every year.”[3] Women are highly gifted and without them, the church would be greatly diminished.

One of the charges often leveled at the church is that we suppress women. Nothing can be further from the truth. It was the church that helped with giving unprecedented rights to women. Starting with Jesus’ followers, many were women who supported His ministry financially. Luke 8:1-3 records, “Soon afterwards, Jesus began going around from one city and village to another, proclaiming and preaching the kingdom of God. The twelve were with Him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and sicknesses: Mary who was called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward and Susanna, and many others who were contributing to their support out of their private means.” Women not only funded Jesus’ ministry, they were the first to proclaim the central doctrine of the Christian faith. After Jesus died and rose again, He appeared first to a woman. Mark 16:9 summarizes, “Now after He had risen early on the first day of the week, He first appeared to Mary Magdalene, from whom He had cast out seven demons.” The story is expanded upon in John 20:15-16 where we see Jesus coming to Mary who was weeping thinking somebody had stolen His body, “Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” She said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him and I will take Him away.’ Jesus then said to her, ‘Mary!’” This is significant! Dr. William Lane Craig explains, “What’s really extraordinary is that this empty tomb story should feature women as the discoverers of the empty tomb in the first place. Women’s testimony was regarded so worthless that they weren’t even allowed to serve as legal witnesses in a Jewish court of law. The fact that women are the first witnesses to the empty tomb is most plausibly explained by the reality that – like it or not – they were the discoverers of the empty tomb.”[4] And so when Mary went and told Jesus’ disciples that she saw the resurrected Lord, she was the one who was given the privilege of proclaiming the resurrection first.

Elevating the status of women continued with the Apostle Paul where he says in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” This verse does not minimize the distinctive differences between men and women, but maximizes God’s grace for both Jew and Gentile, slave and free, men AND women! S. Lewis Johnson reminds us, “It is not speaking of relationships in the church, but of standing before God in righteousness by faith.”[5] This is why I say the church has done more to elevate women than any other group in the history of the world. Certainly there have been times when the church has held women back, but “there were also many devout Christians who were suffragists who helped align the National Council of Women in England behind the women’s right to vote.”[6]

So I want to state that a woman can do most of the things a man can do and often women do them better. That is not the question though. It’s not about a woman’s capability, but her responsibility. As Daniel Block explains, “Leadership involves primarily the exercise of responsibility rather than the exercise of power.”[7] Can you imagine if all our leaders understood their role as an exercise of responsibility rather an exercise of power? This would help us so much!

Let’s get specific! What is the responsibility of women in the church? What should a woman do in the church? Instead of listing all the many things she should do, let’s think of this like a soccer field. What are the boundaries that women and men can strive their best in to score many goals for God’s kingdom? In other words, you have to know what the rules and boundaries in order to win the game. God wants us to win as a church. He doesn’t want us to lose our way! How can we win as a church where gender roles are all confused in our society. We now have people who self-identify as gender fluid and gender variant meaning they sometimes lean more male and sometimes more female. We also live in a world where there are still protests around the globe for women who are oppressed and objectified. To find out a woman’s role in the church, we need to turn to 1 Timothy 2:9-15. In this passage, we will find the Apostle Paul’s instructions about a rightly ordered church and what the boundaries are. Let’s read 1 Timothy 2:9-15! Read 1 Timothy 2:9-15!

Let’s think about these boundaries as four sides of the field: 1) Worship; 2) Leadership; 3) Teaching; and 4) Family. Here is how women can score in each of these four areas. Paul starts with worship in verses 9-10, “Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly garments; but rather by means of good works, as befits women making a claim to godliness.” Before I explain about dress, the first word is key: “likewise.” The word points backwards to the context of verse 8, “Therefore, I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension.” Paul is calling men to pray with hands lifted to God, not hands lifted at each other with fighting and dissension. This is hard isn’t it guys? I’ve discovered that men don’t naturally pray. It’s private! Women have confessed to me how much they desire that their husbands pray with them. I, at times, have had a hard time carving out time in my schedule to pray with Lori. However, Paul is saying that prayer is an act of surrender that leads to worship of God.

In the same way, women generally love to adorn themselves. Maybe it is clothes and make-up? How much time ladies does it take you to get ready in the morning? Women don’t naturally choose modesty and discreetness. Not so long ago our family was getting ready to go to a wedding. Now this meant that our daughter Jessie really, really wanted to go out and get a new dress for the wedding and to be honest I didn’t mind the thought either. So my wife took her to that great store Value Village (now don’t judge, I’m not a cheapskate – Lori tells me they can get name brand beautiful dresses at second hand thrift stores and who am I to argue?). When the day of the wedding came, my wife and daughter had to curl their hair, paint their nails and accessorize to be ready for a wedding where everyone is only going to be looking at the bride anyway! Contrast that with our boys, who did not understand all of the time it took to get ready for a wedding, they just played around until we made them go get church clothes on! Which they were totally put out about. Now did anyone have to teach my daughter that this is the beauty regimen that women have to go through to get ready for a wedding? No! It’s just comes naturally to most women to want to dress up and look beautiful.

The trouble is as Warren Wiersbe warns, “A woman who depends only on externals will soon run out of ammunition. She may attract attention, but she will not win lasting affection.”[8] If all it took was maintaining your physical beauty to make a lasting marriage then there would be zero divorces in Hollywood, but that it is not the case. Marriage requires Christ being at the center of the relationship. This is why men praying with holy hands and women dressing modestly requires being dependent upon God – an act of worship. Our appearance can often be a way to draw attention to ourselves with either immodesty or showiness. Instead, we need to show off God, not ourselves! How? Through our good works! Women can score in huge ways for God’s kingdom by their good works. Think of Katie Davis who gave up her college scholarship to take care of orphan girls in Africa. She has shown off God. You can read her story in the book Kisses from Katie. We need to remember, “The way we pray and conduct ourselves has everything to do with the cause of the gospel.”[9]

The second area is leadership. Women can be tremendous leaders as serving specialists. They can assist men in significant and mission critical ways. In Romans 16:1, women like Phoebe were commended as choice servants. Remember Paul wrote Romans! The same Paul who did not permit women to take authority over or teach a man as described in 1 Timothy 2:12, “But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.” So obviously women like Phoebe, who some have classified as a deaconess, made tremendous contributions to advancing the cause of Christ. However, it would seem that she followed the creative order of complimenting or assisting men. Eve was a helper to Adam. This is why I see women can be non-governing leaders who make mega contributions to the ministry of the church. We men should seek women’s opinions. You know the saying, “Behind every good man, is a better woman!” Our church is blessed with strong and capable women. Our Elder’s wives were the creative geniuses behind our Next Chapter discipleship classes. It started when they prayed together! I suspect more ideas will come out of yesterday’s women’s prayer retreat. Retreating in prayer is an act of war against the enemy. We produce women warriors here at Temple that make a difference for all eternity! Our Elders are smart enough to listen to them.

The key is that men are to take the protective leadership role. We are to stand out in front of women. I believe this is God’s way of restoring the creative order. As Paul says in verse 13-14, “For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.” Where was Adam when the serpent tricked Eve? He abdicated his role. She is out front and took the hit! God wants to restore that role to men as protector of women. Women tend to be more trusting and are therefore more easily deceived. I watched this in Cuba when we were at a hotel. Josiah and I went off to throw a ball around and when we came back there was a man talking to my wife. I just stood there and he got the point despite me not knowing how to speak Spanish. I asked Lori what he wanted. She said that he just wanted to practice his English on her. I said that he was flirting with her and then she thought about it that he was. Now men can be deceived too! It isn’t that women are more dangerous as leaders or lack wisdom to lead. My wife supplies lots of wisdom. Recall it was the male false teachers who were dangerously leading people astray by “teaching abstinence from certain foods, marriage and probably sex.”[10] We read this explicitly in 1 Timothy 4:3, “men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth.” God is just restoring the creative order and reversing the curse. When women assist men to fulfill their leadership roles in the church and home, everybody wins!

This leads to the third area and that is teaching. Paul makes it clear that women are not to teach men. He was not saying that women can’t teach other women, otherwise he would be contradicting himself in Titus 2:3 where the older women are to teach the younger women “what is good.” Discipleship in the context of husband and wife is also allowed since Paul thanks Priscilla and Aquila in Romans 16:3 with Priscilla mentioned first, “Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus who for my life risked their own necks, to whom not only do I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.” “This surely means Priscilla was as active as her husband in conveying the truth of Christ to Apollos and others.”[11] But they did so privately! This is why men need to take the lead in teaching, dispensing and explaining the doctrines of the faith. When they do the creative order is restored. No wonder, “In the Pastoral epistles, ‘teaching’ always has the sense of authoritative public doctrinal instruction,”[12] and this was reserved for men only. However, it is the role of women to teach other women. And this is why I am so supportive of women pursuing as much education as they can to not only inspire, but teach other women the truth of God’s Word. My own wife is working towards her Master’s degree for such a purpose. She and other women teachers are scoring big for God’s Kingdom. And this understanding of women’s role in the church allows for women to prophesy as Acts 2:18 reports and as we see with Philip’s daughters in Acts 21:9. Women are allowed to pray and prophesy (proclaim God’s truth), but under the protective leadership of their husbands and elders. This will be tested at times. Last Sunday, Lori was asked to preach at the Methodist Church in Baracoa, Cuba. Could she have done a good job? Absolutely! However, I was preaching at First Baptist Church, Baracoa and so I wouldn’t have been there to teach with her as she supplemented my teaching. Women are not to teach men alone but in assisting their husbands.

Lastly, we have verse 15. Let’s just skip that since it is one of the hardest verses in the Bible to interpret, “But women will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.” Does this mean that we should just tell women to get married and have babies and this will save them? Is our beloved Discipleship Pastor’s wife, Nicki Ottaway, who is about to give birth saving people through childbirth? If so, what is the big deal about Jesus dying on the Cross? We just need women to get married and give birth. Some religions like Mormonism teach that women will be married and have continuous children in heaven. But marriage doesn’t save nor does childbirth. Notice that women are described in verse 15 as “continuing in the faith.” Faith in Christ is what saves us!

Others have interpreted this passage to mean that we were saved through the Virgin birth of Christ. However, the grammar is future tense, not past. I think the best interpretation is to remember that childbirth was cursed at the Fall and now it is being redeemed through Christ. Women’s role is to disciple her children along with her husband. This is very practical and let’s use the immediate context to interpret the passage. Andreas Kostenberger reminds us, “1 Timothy 4:16 is just a few verses away in the same letter, which speaks about ‘preserving” both yourself and your hearers. The word for ‘save” or ‘preserve” indicates spiritual protection and preservation, rather than actual salvation from sin. By focusing on her role of discipling her children she will be kept safe and out of trouble. Trouble from what? The Devil who is trying to spread his discontentment to humanity, ‘You can do better than abiding by God’s design and submitting to the man. Assert your independence, you deserve it, don’t let anyone tell you what to do.’”[13] But a woman and the world wins when they follow God and His design for them.

To recap, what is the role of the women in the church? To worship God by showing Him off and not themselves. To lead by assisting men. To teach other women. To disciple their children. I’m ready glad women do. I’m glad my mom taught me about Christ. I’m glad Donna Waggott, my Sunday School teacher, told me on Easter Sunday 1979 that Jesus died on a cross for my sins and rose again. God’s uses women to advance the gospel. You may have heard the phrase, “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.” May I remind you that actually the hand that rocks the cradle is actually the same hand that points to the One who rules the world.

[1] Robert J. Morgan, On This Day, “Young Man…” – January 16 (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1997).

[2] Andreas J. & Margaret E. Kostenberger, God’s Design for Man and Woman (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2014), 20.

[3] Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lottie_Moon. Accessed January 26, 2017.

[4] Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998), 217-218.

[5] Wayne Grudem & John Piper ed., Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1991), 160.

[6] Source: http://www.christiantoday.com/article/suffrage.the.churchs.rocky.relationship.with.rebellion/67361.htm. Accessed January 26, 2017.

[7] Daniel I. Block, “Leader, Leadership, OT.” New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (Nashville: Abingdon, 2008), 623.

[8] Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary – Volume 2 (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1989), 217.

[9] R. Kent Hughes & Bryan Chapell, 1-2 Timothy: To Guard the Deposit (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2012), 71.

[10] Grudem & Piper, 181.

[11] John Dickson, Hearing Her Voice (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014), 17.

[12] Chapell & Hughes, 71.

[13] Andreas J. & Margaret E. Kostenberger, 215-16.


What are the 3 Uses of the Law?

This lesson can listened to and watched at www.templebaptistchurch.ca dated January 15, 2017!

Are we still supposed to keep the rules? And if so, which ones? This morning we studied 1 Timothy 1:8-11 and learned the law is good, but the gospel is better! But this morning I didn’t have the time to go into depth in verse 8 which declares, “the law is not made for righteous man, but for those who are lawless and rebellious.” So tonight I’d like us to look at this verse and unpack it’s implications for us a bit more. One of the immediate things we learn from this verse is that rebels need rules, not the righteous! Can you imagine if we got the word out that following Jesus was not about keeping the rules? The irony is that we Christians are often known for what we don’t do: we don’t drink, smoke and chew or go out with girls who do. Instead, we should be known for what we do! And yet there are some who understand the concept of grace and do not want it either. They think that Christianity gives people a free pass and one can do whatever they want because God will forgive them. Actress Keira Knightley is quoted as saying, “If only I wasn’t an atheist, I could get away with anything.” She sees Christianity, especially Catholicism, as license for sin as long as you confess the sin – you’re all good.

I think this shows that there is a lot of confusion about grace and how we Christians are to relate to the rules. Tonight I want to tackle the subject and discover if the law (rules) have any use today. Brad Hooper did an excellent job last week giving us some high level teaching on the law from Galatians 3 and 4. I had been already planning to teach on the subject and so that confirms in my mind that the Holy Spirit wants us to press in on this subject. Tonight I want to cover what John Calvin called the three uses of the law and then work out some of the practicalities. For example, if we have a problem with seeing violence and sex on our screens, should we put a whole bunch of rules in place to safeguard us like how my grandparents did at one time with their family where watching TV was forbidden? If we overeat, should we put rules into place about our diet? If we struggle with alcohol, should we make communal rules that ban the use of alcohol? And then there is the whole realm of parenting. There is probably no where else that we need to know how to relate to the rules than in our child-rearing because it sets the tone for all of life. We all know the problem with kids who have no rules. Even small children can recognize when other children are being naughty and need some discipline. However, as parents we too quickly revert to rulekeeping. This is why I want to encourage parents to sign up for the Paul Tripp Parenting conference in Traverse City, Michigan at https://newhope.cc/event/parenting/. The conference will help us learn how to parent with the gospel in view.

You see, there is a larger issue at stake. Could people who don’t follow Christ also institute the same rules and see a transformation take place in their life? In other words, is it the rules or the Holy Spirit that changes us? Or how does the Holy Spirit use rules in our lives to change us? These are nagging questions and I doubt I’ll be able to answer all of them tonight, but I think you can see that this issue has relevant and practical implications to our life.

The other reason why I wanted to address this topic is because some people have overemphasized grace at the expense of obedience. We are a church that was once heavy on the rules side and are now embracing our newly found freedom, but I don’t want to overcorrect. One of the young pastors that I enjoyed learning from was Tullian Tchividjian. He was the pastor who followed James Kennedy at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church. He wrote a book entitled Jesus + Nothing = Everything, which I have quoted in past sermons. The book is good. He believed “the law serves us by making us thankful for Jesus when we break it and serves us by showing how to love God and others.”[1] However, this grandson of Billy Graham ended up falling morally and some attribute it to the fact that they think he was too soft on being obedient to Christ’s commands.

I do believe bad thinking leads to bad living, but as we walk through 1 Timothy, the New Testament and observe in life, people who overemphasize the rules fail and those who emphasize freedom fail as well. It’s just that those who overemphasize the rules often are lawbreakers if not in action, but in attitude. They are usually too harsh and do not act in love, which means it profits them nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). And the result is that they fall the hardest! This is probably why Jesus had the greatest warnings for the legalists.

So let’s dig in to see if there are any proper uses of the law? The Reformer John Calvin was the first or at least most well known to categorize the uses of the law. R.C. Sproul describes the threefold use of the law with the following purposes[2]:

1) The first purpose of the law is to be a mirror that shows us God and ourselves. The law of God reflects the perfect righteousness of God. The law tells us much about who God is. John Newton, who wrote Amazing Grace, puts it this way, “The law is lawfully used as a means of conviction of sin. The law entered, that sin might abound: not to make men more wicked, though occasionally and by abuse it has that effect, but to make them sensible to how wicked they are. Since eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, man’s sense of the knowledge of good and evil has been corrupted so we need an objective standard that was constituted at Sinai. And yet, when we use the law as a glass to behold the glory of God, we use it lawfully.”[3] Therefore, the law shows us God, but also shows us where we fail to measure up. The law acts as a severe schoolmaster who drives us to Christ (Galatians 3:23). Kent Hughes and Bryan Chapell call this use of the law the “condemning use.”[4] The law is good when it reflects Christ, but it is devastating when you see yourself in that mirror. It reminds me about the story my dad told me. “Three men were sitting together bragging about how they had given their new wives ‘duties.’ Terry had married a woman from the USA, and bragged that he had told his wife she was going to do all the dishes and house cleaning that needed done at their house. He said that it took a couple days but on the third day he came home to a clean house and the dishes were all washed and put away. Jimmie had married a woman from Australia. He bragged that he had given his wife orders that she was to do all the cleaning, the dishes, and the cooking. He told them that the first day he didn’t see any results, but the next day it was better. By the third day, his house was clean, the dishes were done and he had a huge dinner on the table. The third man had married a Canadian girl. He boasted that he told her that her duties were to keep the house cleaned, dishes washed, lawn mowed, laundry washed, and hot meals on the table for every meal. He said the first day he didn’t see anything, the second day he didn’t see anything, but by the third day most of the swelling had gone down and he could see a little bit out of his left eye. Enough to fix himself a bite to eat, load the dishwasher, and call a landscaper.”[5] Now I don’t know if this is true because I married an American girl, not a Canadian girl, but it does remind me of how the law works. You try to control the law and it will control you. That is why the law applies to everybody. The first use of the law is for everybody:

  1. The Ignorant – The law condemns those who don’t know the rules because it is written on their hearts. People really do know right from wrong before they are told! (Romans 2:12-15)
  2. The Knowledgeable – The law condemns those who do know it. (Romans 3:20)
  3. The Law-keeper – The law condemns those who try to keep it for salvation. (Romans 2:17-23)
  4. The Law-breaker – The law condemns those who break it. (Romans 2:12)

The Law affects everybody. This is why it is a good strategy to start our

gospel presentation with people understanding that they have broken God’s laws. Frederick Buechner has said, ‘The Gospel is bad news before it is Good News!”[6] This is why we should use the law “as entrance to preaching the gospel.”[7] People like Ray Comfort and his ministry The Way of the Master have led the way in calling people back to using the law at the front end of explaining salvation. Listen to what Brad Hooper reminded me. He said that nearly 500 years ago, Protestants in Belgium wrote The Belgic Confession (1561), the oldest Reformed confession, concerning the law: Article 25: The Fulfillment of the Law – “We believe that the ceremonies and symbols of the law have ended with the coming of Christ, and that all foreshadowings have come to an end, so that the use of them ought to be abolished among Christians. Yet the truth and substance of these things remain for us in Jesus Christ, in whom they have been fulfilled. Nevertheless, we continue to use the witnesses drawn from the law and prophets to confirm us in the gospel and to regulate our lives with full integrity for the glory of God, according to the will of God.” We need to use the law in our gospel presentations to show people their sin and need instead of just saying that God loves them and offers a wonderful plan for their life! We need to acknowledge evil and so do they, which leads to the second purpose of the law.

2) The second purpose of the law is to be a wall that restrains evil. The law in and of itself cannot change human hearts. It can, however, serve to protect the righteous from the unjust. Certainly, oppressive laws can hurt religious freedom, but generally God has given us government to punish the evildoer (Romans 13:4). “Without law, everyday public life would be impossible.”[8] Try living in a society without rules and all hell breaks lose literally. Who is familiar with the book or movie The Lord of the Flies? It tells a story of some boys who are stranded on an island without adult supervision and soon chaos breaks out with the stronger boys bullying the younger ones. They are sadistic to each other. Without law and order, people digress into animal-like behaviour. We don’t evolve, but we can start to act like animals if that is what we believe we are! We don’t get better, we get worse! Maybe this is why bullying is increasing in society, the Bible is decreasing in popularity. I think this makes sense to us so I won’t spend a lot more time developing this point. Just remember, “Rebels need rules!” Let’s move to the third purpose of the law.

3) The third purpose of the law is to reveal what is pleasing to God. There are some who believe that the third use of the law is sanctifying. They draw upon phrases calling us to a “law of faith” (Romans 3:27), that we “establish the Law” and we “fulfill the Law” (Romans 3:31) because we follow Jesus as the Law-fulfiller (Romans 8:2-3; Matthew 5:17). Kent Hughes and Bryan Chapell hold the position that the Holy Spirit uses the law to sanctify. They say, “the third use of the law defines the parameters of a graced life.”[9] In other words, because we know that we are saved by grace and are loved no matter what by God, love motivates us to obey God. Love motivates obedience! This is why the rules don’t feel like rules. Isn’t this what we read in 1 John 5:3, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.” Let me give you this illustration from baseball or softball. Let’s say there is a player on first base. The batter steps up and hits the ball in the gap. He starts running and is faster than his teammate on first base. The batter starts to catch up to the runner in front of him and yells, “Run! Run! Run!” This is a commandment; an imperative! But does it feel like it? Would the lead runner stop and say, “Why are you yelling at me?” No, the command speeds both of them up and they both end up scoring. The command was not burdensome. It was a motivator to do what needed to be done! This is how I see the law functioning now in our lives. It is only good and the rules become for our benefit! As James MacDonald says, “Don’t! Don’t means don’t hurt yourself!” I think even David hinted at this in Psalm 119:16 to a future day beyond the Cross and its fulfillment of the Law, “I shall delight in Your statutes; I shall not forget Your Word.” We can embrace the rules, not because they save us, but because they protect us from hurting ourselves and others. And more importantly, they show love to God. Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” (John 14:15)

Before I take a few questions, I think R.C. Sproul summarizes well our relationship with the law and rules, “Our redemption is from the curse of God’s law, not from our duty to obey it. We are justified, not because of our obedience to the law, but in order that we may become obedient to God’s law. To love Christ is to keep His commandments. To love God is to obey His law.”[10]

Q & A

Question – How does the law work against habitual sins?

Answer – Sometimes when a person is so steeped in sin, they need to be removed from the sin. In other words, the law must be applied whether that is criminal law (i.e. arrest and imprisonment), civil law (i.e. lawsuits) or ecclesiastical law (church discipline as described in Matthew 18:15-17). A person caught in sin will need to exercise their own discipline and remove themselves from the sin that is causing them to stumble (Matthew 5:29-30). However, prayer, fasting and gentle restoration by the church must accompany this discipline (Galatians 6:1). This is where the law and love are inseparable.

Question – Will there be rules in heaven?

Answer – In the Garden of Eden, there was only one rule – do not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:16-17). In the new heavens and new earth, there may be rules, but I believe they will all fall under the umbrella of the royal law of Christ to love one another (John 13:34; Galatians 6:2).

[1] Source: https://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/justintaylor/2010/05/26/an-interview-with-tullian-tchividjian-on-gospel-and-law/. Accessed January 11, 2017.

[2] Adapted from R.C. Sproul, “The Threefold Use of the Law” https://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/sproul/threefold_law.html. Accessed January 10, 2017.

[3] John Newton, The Letters of John Newton (London: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1960), 46.

[4] R. Kent Hughes & Bryan Chapell, 1-2 Timothy: To Guard the Deposit (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2012), 37.

[5] Phil Stairs via email entitled “Canadian Girls”, May 24, 2005.

[6] Frederick Buechner, Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy and Fairy Tale (San Francisco: HarperOne, 2009).

[7] Kent & Hughes, 38.

[8] Kent & Hughes, 37.

[9] Kent & Hughes, 38.

[10] Sproul, “The Threefold Use of the Law”


You’ve Been Found Out!

This sermon can be watched or listened to at www.templebaptistchurch.ca!

Who wrote “I was capable of anything, I had not the least fear of God before my eyes, nor (so far as I remember) the least sensibility of conscience”[1]? Any guesses? I’ll give you a hint: he wrote the most famous hymn in the English language “Amazing Grace.” John Newton! John Piper writes, “John Newton was born July 24, 1725, in London to a godly mother and an irreligious, seafaring father.”[2] Newton wrote about his father, “I am persuaded he loved me, but he seemed not willing that I should know it. I was with him in a state of fear and bondage. His sternness broke and overawed my spirit.”[3] Fathers can often break and overawe our spirits so that we pursue a life doing whatever we want trying to show our dads that we are our own person. You probably have chosen some paths in life simply as a reaction to your parents. This is especially true if you have lost a parent.

John Piper goes on to explain, “Newton’s mother died when he was six. Left mainly to himself, Newton became a debauched sailor – a miserable outcast on the coast of West Africa for two years; and a slave-trading sea-captain. One night he awoke to a violent storm as his room began to fill with water. As he reached for the deck, as he saw the fellow sailor immediately washed overboard. Newton was assigned to the pumps and heard himself say, ‘If this will not do, the Lord have mercy upon us.’ It was the first time he had expressed the need for mercy in many years. He worked the pumps from 3 in the morning until noon, slept for an hour, and then took the helm and steered the ship till midnight. At the wheel he had time to think back over his life and his spiritual condition. At about six o-clock the next evening it seemed as though there might be hope. ‘I thought I saw the hand of God displayed in our favor. I began to pray: I could not utter the prayer of faith; I could not draw near to a reconciled God and call him Father…the comfortless principles of infidelity were deeply riveted…The great question now was, how to obtain faith.”[4] Maybe some of you feel like Newton? God is like a quickly passing shadow to you. You know something is happening in your life, but it is scary. You have ignored, rejected, and mocked God. You feel you are capable of anything without the least fear of God. But there will be a time in your life when you are desperate and you know you need help from the Only One who can truly rescue you, but you are not sure how. You need to do what Newton did! “He found a Bible and got help from Luke 11:13, which promises the Holy Spirit to those who ask.”[5] Newton wrote about this experience with these profound words, “I stood in need of an Almighty Savior; and such a one I found described in the New Testament. Thus far the Lord had wrought a marvelous thing: I was no longer an infidel: I heartily renounced my former profanes, sincerely touched with a sense of the undeserved mercy I had received, in being brought safe through so many dangers. I was sorry for my past misspent life and purposed an immediate reformation. I was quite freed from the habit of swearing, which seemed to have been as deeply rooted in me as a second nature. Thus, to all appearance, I was a new man.”[6]

A new man! A new woman! Only God can transform such a life! Today I am going to talk about how you’ve been found out! That phrase has a double meaning. It sounds negative! It sounds like what Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the writer of Sherlock Holmes, once did to “the five most prominent men in England. He sent an anonymous note to each man, which simply said, ‘All is found out! Flee at once!’ Within twenty-four hours, all five men had left the country.”[7] Maybe some of you are feeling a little guilt-ridden and exposed. Don’t flee! Realizing that you’ve been found out can become one of the most liberating truths in your life. Knowing you’ve been found out can mean that God has found you and wants to take you out of the guilt and bondage you are in.

This is what a guy by the name of Paul discovered. He was a man who hated the Church. He thought the Church was misled and so he hunted Christians. His first kill was a deacon turned preacher named Stephen. The Book of Acts in the Bible tells us, “Stephen even had a vision where he saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. Stephen said, ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’ But the religious leaders cried out with a loud voice and rushed at Stephen with one impulse. When they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him, and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul (later called Paul.)” (Acts 7:55-58) Paul was as calloused as an ISIS executioner with a knife in his hand standing over the kneeled body of a westerner in an orange jump suit. He didn’t care about any visions from God. The only vision Paul had at the time was to get rid of every one of these so-called blasphemers. “He became a callous, pious, self-righteous bigoted murderer, hell-bent on a full-scale inquisition.”[8] And yet, Paul had it wrong big time. Maybe some of you who have despised and dismissed Christ and His Church have it wrong too? Let’s read what Paul says in 1 Timothy 1:12-17! Read 1 Timothy 1:12-17!

After reading these verses, one is confronted with a big question that each of us must answer, are we a sinner or a saint? Are you a sinner or saint? Often we think both! Sometimes we act like a sinner; other times a saint! But the question doesn’t allow for a “both and answer.” You are either a sinner or a saint! The surprising truth is that often we think we are saints when actually we are sinners. When Paul was hunting Christians, he thought he was totally in the right. He thought he was actually pleasing God. Acts 9 tells us that he gained permission from the high priest in Jerusalem to go on an international hunting trip for Christians. Paul had a real license to kill before James Bond was ever a figment of Ian Fleming’s imagination. Paul had killed so many Christians in Jerusalem and Judea that it was time to go on an international man-hunt for Christians and particularly to Damascus in Syria. Sadly, even in our times Syria is a place where Christians are hunted and killed. According to Michael Chapman, “In 2011, there were 1.25 million Christians living in Syria; now there are 500,000, most of them either killed or displaced.”[9]

There would have been a time that Paul would have cheered at such a stat. He was on a mission to wipe Christians off the face of the earth. “It was 150 miles to Damascus (about a week’s travel) by foot, but he would have travelled months for the privilege.”[10] And yet, Paul discovered that he was chasing the wrong people and in fact, God was chasing him. He says in verse 13, “even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. But I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly.” Warren Wiersbe summarizes Paul in one word as a “bully!”[11] Bullies don’t often know what they are doing when they hurt people. Just like when Jesus was killed! Pilate, Herod, the Jewish religious leaders and the Roman soldiers all knew what they were doing on one level as they murdered Jesus, but as Jesus prayed on the Cross, “Father, forgive them! For they do not know what they are doing!” (Luke 23:34) You and I do not understand the depth of our sin against God even when we rebel deliberately against Him! Paul says that he was ignorant and acting in unbelief when he killed Christians. Could I ask you skeptics to consider whether maybe your animosity against Christ and His Church is actually misguided and you are doing the opposite of what you would if you knew the truth?

God wants you to know the truth! How do I know? He’ll stop us from hurting ourselves and others! That is what He did to Paul! “Paul, an untamable tiger, met the Lion of Judah, Jesus Christ, at the Damascus off-ramp.”[12] Jesus blinded Paul to show Paul how blind he was to the truth. But Paul discovers that this blindness was actually an act of love. Love blinded him! Verse 14 describes this truth, “and the grace of Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus.” Grace, faith and love overwhelmed Paul and can overwhelm the vilest of sinners. Do you have somebody in your life who is so opposed to God? They mock you for your faith. They give you trouble all the time. Well, think of that person and multiple that by 100 and you have Paul. If God can turn someone like Paul around he can turn that unbeliever in your life around so fast, it will make your head spin!

But He also wants to turn you and I around! Paul makes this statement in verse 15, “It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.” Paul essentially called himself the # 1 sinner! If Paul was # 1, I think I am # 2! Why? Because my sins are not done in ignorance. I grew up in a Christian household. I have been taught the commands of Jesus. I have been highly privileged to go to Bible College and Seminary to study the Bible. I have been given an amazing Christian family with parents, in-laws, wife and siblings who all know Jesus and I have sinned. But here is the awesome truth: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners!

But perhaps you’re looking at Paul’s life and you’re finding it hard to relate. You’re thinking, “I’ve never killed Christians. I’m not an opponent of the church. I grew up in the church – I’ve been a Christian for as long as I can remember! But have you killed fellow believers’ reputation with gossip and criticism? Have you harboured bad thoughts about others? Have you have ever been proud and critical against the church? Have you ever lived in opposition to Christ by your behaviour? We must see ourselves as Paul did or we will not truly marvel at the mercy of Jesus for our wretched sinfulness. When you sing the words of John Newton, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.” Do you really believe that? You must! Or the mercy and grace of Jesus will not thrill your soul.

Do you see your wretchedness? Because Jesus did not just save us! Oh, that would have been good enough! No! God is patiently waiting to turn you from a sinner to His servant! From a rebel to God’s worker! From a murderer to a missionary! From a pervert to a preacher! Paul makes this clear in verse 12, “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful putting me into service.” No wonder why Paul made such an impact on the world and wrote most of the New Testament as well as bringing the truth to the Gentiles (the non-Jews). He lived a life of gratitude. Friends, I think this is the key to your life. If you and I wake up each morning thanking God for how He saved us from our great sin, we would change the world too!

God is patient! He is patiently waiting to turn you from a sinner to His servant. Notice Paul’s explanation in verse 16, “Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost (sinner), Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.” You’ve been found out! “All is found out! Flee at once!” Flee to Jesus and you will discover not only how wicked you really are, but just how loved you really are! You are loved by God! He is patient! He is constantly calling you to leave your life of sin!

Like He did for Ross Hood. Whose Ross Hood? A young man from California who grew up an alcoholic and chasing women. He was mean drunk and got into fights, but eventually convinced a girl to marry him. They had two kids. His daughter was invited to church, but this infuriated Ross. He was abusive! When his teenage daughter would try to go to church, he would in a drunken rage pull the plugs in his own truck so she couldn’t go to church. He would throw a bible against the wall and say, “If God was real, He would strike Him dead!” Yet, God was merciful and constantly calling him. His wife and son came to faith in Christ as well as his extended family. Ross became surrounded by Christians! But his heart was hard! For 86 years he rejected Christ. But then one day while Ross was in the nursing home, having already lost his wife to cancer, a local pastor visited him. Even though he had heard the gospel many times, this time his heart was soft and he received Christ. Ross for the last 6 months of his life became a new man – kinder and gentler as the nurses would say. I know Ross’ story because Ross Hood was my wife’s grandfather.

God’s patient! He’s got time, but you don’t! It’s time to turn to Christ. He wants you to have eternal life. Eternal life is not just a quantity, but also a quality of life. Christ wants to give you eternal life. This will cause you to declare who God really is in your life. The King! Eternal! Immortal! Invisible! The only God! Be glory forever and ever! Amen!

[1] Richard Cecil, Memoirs of the Rev. John Newton (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1985), 12.

[2] John Piper, The Roots of Endurance (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2002), 41.

[3] Cecil, 2

[4] John Piper, The Roots of Endurance (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2002), 41 & 48.

[5] Piper, 49.

[6] Cecil, 49.

[7] John Baker, Life’s Healing Choices (New York: Howard Books, 2007), 103.

[8] R. Kent Hughes & Bryan Chapell, 1-2 Timothy: To Guard the Deposit (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2012), 43.

[9] http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/michael-w-chapman/2011-christians-syria-125-million-2016-christians-syria-less-500000. Accessed January 19, 2017.

[10] Hughes and Chapell, 43.

[11] Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary – Volume 2 (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1989), 212.

[12] Hughes and Cahpell, 43.


Thank You “Aunt Stella”!

 

CCF12012017_00000.jpg

                                           Stella Brueckner                                  (Oct. 28, 1931 – Jan. 11, 2017)

On behalf of the family, thank you for coming today and being with them during this bitter-sweet day of celebrating Stella’s life.  On behalf of Temple Baptist Church (www.templebaptistchurch.ca), our deepest sympathy and prayers go out to the family. We loved Stella very much. Our church family first met Bill & Stella nearly 60 years ago when their son Ken was 2 years old. Bill & Stella’s neighbour Vera Devalle knew that Bill & Stella were having a hard time making it out to church services at the Anglican Church. Vera offered to take Ken to her church, Temple Baptist Church, which had a nursery. It wasn’t long until Bill and Stella started attending Temple and received Christ as their Lord and Saviour together under the ministry of Temple’s first pastor, Pastor Rowan. Bill felt that the sermons were lovingly directed at him from God. From then on, Bill and Stella were consistently in church on Sunday morning and evening as well as Wednesday night prayer meeting until they went into the nursing home. In fact, their world revolved around their family and church family, even going on camping trips together. Stella was a faithful servant, serving as a baptism assistant, on the Women’s Ministry Fellowship and Mission’s Committee. She made clothes for the Old Fashioned Sundays we used to have. In fact, she was quite the seamstress sewing all her kids and some of her grandkids clothes. She made lots of quilts and gave them to her church family. Anybody have one of those quilts? However, what Stella was known for the most was being a Sunday School teacher in the toddler room. The kids called her “Aunt Stella.” Who here called her “Aunt Stella”? Bill & Stella’s love for toddlers was passed onto their son Bill Jr. who started working in the toddler’s ministry at age 16 and has continued until now.

I wish I would have known Stella more. She was creative, making crafts, but not just crafts. Sort of like my wife Lori who is always envisioning new décor for the house. Stella was constantly painting and rearranging the furniture in her house. Where does that come from? We read earlier from John 14 that Jesus promised to prepare a place for us. Maybe He keeps making more and more improvements to our new homes and Stella was just following in the vein of her Lord and Saviour in her constant improvements to her home.

Stella was accepting and hospitable, maybe it was because she was down home Newfie! She loved to sew both in the home and outside the home as a textile worker. She would sew, bake pies and can vegetables and she taught her daughter-in-law Patti to do them as well. She welcomed outsiders and was very hospitable to others, including boarders and cats. She hosted Child Evangelism Fellowship meetings for little children. Stella even welcomed in Temple’s first pastor who would drop by for a tea and toast and then he would fall asleep on their couch. Her house was always very tidy, but warm and inviting. Stella was hospitable to others, but her first love was to her family. Both her and Bill would have the grandchildren over to spend the night. Bill, Jr. remembers that they would even keep often 11 toothbrushes on hand for such an occasion.

Stella was the leader of her home, but did everything with her husband Bill. They loved each other like few I have ever seen. When I would visit Bill and Stella, they always sat together so close like teenagers, but with a love that was not just passionate. No, it was a more robust love. There are four types of love: family love, erotic love, friendship love and unconditional love. Stella and Bill were together so long, enjoying the sunny days and weathering the stormy times in such a way that all the best part of those loves had melted into one to become the type of love one can only describe as full union. Few enjoy such intimacy on this earth. It is a heavenly type of love! So it makes me ask this question: Can you die of a broken heart? This has recently become the topic of public discussion because of the sudden death of actress Carrie Fisher followed by the death of her famous mother Debbie Reynolds. Debbie died while making funeral plans for Carrie. Both women died of a heart attack and it brought much speculation that Debbie died of a broken heart being so close to her daughter Carrie.

I raise the question because it was not very long ago that we gathered in this place to say good-bye to Stella’s beloved husband Bill, Sr. I wonder if Stella died of a broken heart. If so, she had a heart after God. You see, God loves the brokenhearted! Psalm 34:18 declares, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those crushed in spirit.” I’ll say that again to you Bill, Jr. and Ken, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those crushed in spirit.” Why is the Lord so near to the brokenhearted? Because He suffers from one too! We have broken God’s heart from our wandering away from Him! From doing our own thing! Here is the good news from Psalm 51:17, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.”

How do we know that God will not despise the broken hearted? Because Jesus Himself died of a broken heart. He said on the Cross when He was dying, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46) He felt everybody’s broken heart at that moment, but especially felt God’s broken heart of what our sin did to His Father. Our sin broke God’s heart and separated us from God. We were torn apart from God and each other.And yet, Jesus came to mend us back together. In a similar way to Stella sewing scraps of material into a beautiful mosaic of a quilt, Jesus’ death sewed us back together. How? Jesus rose from the grave! All that was ever lost was recovered at the Cross and His resurrection. See the promise Jesus declares in John 11:25-26, “I  am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and  everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?

The Bible says that death is an enemy, the final enemy. (1 Corinthians 15:26) But as Dr. Goodwin said nearly one hundred years ago on the brink of his death, “Ah, is this dying? How have I dreaded as an enemy this smiling friend.”[1] Dr. Goodwin understood something profound and unique to Christianity and as does Stella understand this truth right now. Only Jesus can turn enemies into friends, even enemies like death. We can die with a broken heart, but only Jesus can heal the broken heart. The enemy death, which feels like an impenetrable barrier actually becomes a bridge to seeing Christ and our dead loved ones who have trusted in Jesus. Can you die of a broken heart? Yes! The better question is will you live forever with a healed heart that only Jesus can heal? Stella was so concerned that her extended family know and follow the Lord. If she were to come back, and she wouldn’t want to after being reunited with Jesus and Bill, Sr., she would ask you one question: will you live forever with a healed heart that only Jesus can heal? Her heart is healed because she knows Jesus loves her. Let’s sing her favourite song, the last song she sang before leaving earth, Jesus loves Me!

[1] D.M. Lamont, Our Friends After Death (London: Robert Scott Roxburghe House Paternoster Row, 1920), 25.

 


What Does the Law do for Us?

This sermon can be watched or listened to at www.templebaptistchurch.ca!

“An old man lived alone in the country. He wanted to dig his potato garden but it was very hard work as the ground was hard. His only son Fred, who used to help him, was in prison. The old man wrote a letter to his son and described his predicament:

Dear Fred,

I am feeling pretty bad because it looks like I won’t be able to plant my potato garden this year. I’m just getting too old to be digging up a garden plot. If you were here, all my troubles would be over. I know you would dig the plot for me.

Love, Dad

A few days later he received a letter from his son…

Dear Dad,

For heaven’s sake, don’t dig up that garden! That’s where I buried the BODIES.

Love, Fred

At 4 am the next morning, FBI agents and local police arrived and dug up the entire area without finding any bodies. They apologized to the old man and left. That same day the old man received another letter from his son.

Dear Dad,

Go ahead and plant the potatoes now. That’s the best I could do under the circumstances.

Love, Fred.”[1]

I tell that story because it shows that the law can work for our good and for our bad. We know that the law punishes wrongdoing, but sometimes it does us good. The law punished Fred and put him in jail for his crimes, but Fred used the law to help out his poor elderly father!

Today, I want to talk about what the law does for us from 1 Timothy 1:8-11! As you are turning to 1 Timothy 1:8-11, you might wonder what law? Well, God’s Law! His standard! The Law is found in the Bible! There were 613 laws in the Old Testament to be exact! This Law has greatly influenced our own criminal and civil law system in the West. “Human dignity, sanctity of life, gender and racial equality, property rights and labor laws”[2] all find their source in the Judeo-Christian tradition. This is why in his book Law and Revolution: The Formation of the Western Legal Tradition, distinguished Harvard law professor Harold J. Berman argued that, “It is impossible to understand the revolutionary quality of the Western legal tradition without exploring its religious dimension.”[3] Students, one of the ways to defend the Christian faith is to ask your teachers and professors what life would be like without laws that promote human dignity, sanctity of life, racial and gender equality? And point out to them that these are sourced in the Bible.

You see, we are starting a new series in 1 Timothy called the HAND OFF! The goal of the series is to teach us how to hand off the faith to others, which presupposes that we have a faith to hand off. Do you have a faith in Jesus Christ to hand off? This is important because we learned last week that only 2% of Canadian children attend church. If nothing is done to reverse that trend, Christians in Canada will become an endangered species. Worse is that the Church is supposed to be a beacon of light, truth and goodness in our society. The Church acts like a restraint against evil and if we just assimilate to the common worldview that there is no right or wrong in this world, then we will die. As Charles Stanley has said, “If the church marries herself to the spirit of the times, she will find herself a widow in the next generation.” Instead, we must remain married to Christ – the only truth to knowing God and how to live. Let’s read 1 Timothy 1:8-11 to find out what the law does for us and see why we should we keep the rules. Read 1 Timothy 1:8-11!

Let me summarize 1 Timothy 1:8-11 and actually the view of the New Testament regarding our relationship to the Law by saying the law is good, but the gospel is better! How is the law good, but the gospel is better? Well, the law leads to the need for the gospel and the gospel leads to the glory of God! This is how the law is good but the gospel is better. Before I go any further, some of you might wonder what the gospel is. We are getting an ever-increasing number of people at Temple who are investigating what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ so I don’t want to presume people understand the term gospel. The gospel is simply the Good News of Jesus Christ that He came to die for those who have broken God’s law by fulfilling the Law through a perfect life and has now risen from the grave to give us a new Law to live – the royal law to love one another (Galatians 6:2). That is what I mean by the gospel.

The Apostle Paul writes to Timothy reminding of how the law leads to the gospel and how we have been entrusted with this gospel to tell others. Notice Paul’s explicit statement in verse 8, “We know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully.” I am going to go deeper into that statement tonight at our evening service but for now, we need to understand that it is good to have the law. Two reasons: The first reasons is that laws shows us when we do wrong, otherwise we will just keep doing the wrong thing without knowing it. Probably you have done something wrong and not realized you were violating some legal or cultural rule. I remember once when I was living in the United States renting an apartment. It was garbage day and I didn’t get the garbage out in time. The garbage truck had already gone but I knew it hadn’t got to the neighbouring street. Since I thought we all pay our property taxes, what is the problem putting our garbage with another person’s garbage. Well, we got a phone call from the owner who dug through our trash looking for our name and address. Lori took the phone call and chewed her out. I then learned that people are personally billed for the garbage in that town and I was wrong to do what I did. The rules showed me my wrongdoing. Any neighbours listening out there, I do not put my garbage with yours now.

The second reason is that laws protect people from evil. It is that second reason that Paul focuses his argument 1 Timothy 1. He says in verses 9-10, “realizing the fact that the law is not made for righteous man, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers and mother, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching.” That last part of the verse is peculiar because it seems that Paul is talking about bad behaviour when all along the behaviour was only a symptom of bad thinking and teaching. Bad thinking leads to bad living. This is why we should be so concerned because we are being taught in our schools and in the media that these behaviours are acceptable and normal and that there is no objective standard to live by so live as freely as you want. Paul, a guy who calls himself the chief of sinners (1:15), would vehemently oppose such a false belief. Instead, we could summarize his argument by concluding Rebels need rules, not the righteous!

Now, immediately some of you are putting yourself in the righteous category. Maybe your inner lawyer is telling you to plead not guilty. Fire him or her! Be honest! We have all been lawless and rebellious, ungodly (not like God), sinners, unholy, and profane. Yes, maybe you haven’t killed your father and mother, been a murderer, been immoral (though I doubt that very few of us can say we have lived a completely pure life in thought and deed), a homosexual, a kidnapper, or perjurer, but you probably have lied. We have all done wrong. Lying is in the same list as homosexuality and murder. Let me address homosexuality briefly. If you are struggling with same-sex attraction, we want you to know that you are welcome here, we love you and want to hear your story. We are all sexually broken. And yet God’s created order and His Word clearly makes holy sexuality to be only between one man and one woman in marriage for life. I needed to say that because this is the pressing topic of our day.

And yet there are other issues as well. Paul had the 10 commandments in mind when creating such a list. Compare the 10 Commandments to Paul’s list[4]:

1 Timothy 1:9-10                            The 10 Commandments (Deut. 5:6-21)

– lawbreakers, rebels, ungodly                    – You shall have no other gods before Me!

– killers of their fathers or mothers           – Honor your father and your mother

– murderers                                                         – You shall not murder

– adulterers and perverts                                 – You shall not commit adultery

– slave traders (kidnappers)                            – You shall not steal

– liars and perjurers                                          – You shall not give false testimony

against your neighbour    

 

So in our society, do people put other things before God? All the time! That means they are lawbreakers, rebels and ungodly. Do we have anybody now a days who kills their parents? In 2008, Psychology Today reported, “the fastest growing homicide is parents who are killed by one of their children. This type of homicide has been increasing steadily from 9.7% of all family homicides in 1980 to 13% in 2008. Children killing their parents is the fastest growing type of family homicide.”[5] It is really serious when children start killing their parents, but back to the list. Is it common for people to commit adultery? One stat I read says that 1 in 5 married people cheat on their spouses.[6] Sadly, some of you have been on the side of being cheated on. However, we are not just talking about adultery but anything sexually immoral. This includes looking at porn! The numbers are astronomically high at some saying at least 80% of the population looks at porn regularly! Homosexuality seems to be on the rise, at least its acceptance. And the human slave trade is not just a problem overseas, but also here in Cambridge. It is generally accepted that between 20-30 million people worldwide are enslaved to sex trafficking.[7]

But it is easy to see these issues as a public problem and not a personal one. So let me ask you some questions that Ray Comfort, a Bible teacher who often interviews people on the street, asks: have you ever put something before God? What does that make you? An idolater. Have you been dishonoring to your parents? I think the best of us would have to say yes. Have you ever committed murder? Probably not, but Jesus raises the stakes and says in Matthew 5:22, “Everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court.” So if you have ever hated somebody then that makes you a murderer in thought and desire! How about adultery? Maybe you have not cheated physically on your spouse, but have you ever lusted after somebody who wasn’t your spouse because that is the standard Jesus says in Matthew 5:28, “Everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart”? That makes you an adulterer! And finally, have you ever lied? Let’s admit that we all have. This makes us to be liars! These are cold, hard truths. You need to understand how bad your situation is before you can appreciate what Christ has done for you. Warren Wiersbe says, “The Law and Gospel go together, for the Law without the Gospel is diagnosis without remedy, but the Gospel without Law is only the Good News of salvation for people who don’t believe they need it.”[8] Sort of like my daughter who found out she had gallstones. At first we hardly believed it, but the ultrasound undeniably showed us the problem. However, knowing the problem wasn’t good enough, she needed a remedy. She tried to manage it with diet and cleansing, but what was needed was removal. That is the same for us. We can’t just manage sin; we need it removed! The Good News is that Jesus came down to earth to die and rise again to remove our sin. That is what baptism so clearly symbolizes. The sin has been washed away, which is why you need to be baptized like the two people being baptized today since it symbolizes Jesus washes away your sins. (1 Peter 3:21)

You see, the law is good, but the gospel is better! We can’t live up to God’s standard, but God can! This is why He sent His Son Jesus to live for us. Rebels need rules, but not the righteous! So how do you go from being a rebel to a righteous person? Bible scholar George Knight explains, “The ‘righteous’ are those living in conformity to the requirement of the law by the word of Christ through the Spirit in them.”[9] Christ makes you righteous because you receive His righteousness. It is then that you can act righteously. Timothy Keller helps us to understand, “We are not saved by the law, but for the law. The law is how we regulate our love relationships with God, not the way we merit the relationships.” Remember, the law is good, but the gospel is better!

Why? Because the law leads to our guilt and the gospel leads to God’s glory. Paul makes this clear in verse 11, “the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted.” And you and I have been entrusted with this gospel that brings glory to God and us too. We do not need to fear the law. It is like when we are driving and your passenger points out a cop on the side of the road trying to capture speeding motorists. If you are not speeding, you don’t need to fear. Jesus has made us so we don’t need to fear.

Now instead of fear, there are two responses to this gospel:

  • Embrace it – Have you recognized your rebellion and trusted in Jesus to make you righteous before God?
  • Explain it – Can you explain the gospel starting with the Law and showing how Jesus fulfills the Law for us? If so, who are you going to explain it to this week?

Remember, when I told the story about a father and a son who needed to dig

up the ground to produce potatoes and recall how the law didn’t find any of the supposed bodies in their back yard. Well, there was another father and son. However, this father was not looking to raise potatoes, but to raise people. The Son was in prison, but when the law came to find the murdered body. It was gone. Or should I say He was gone. Jesus rose from the grave and because of Him, we too can be planted in God’s great garden to raise up and produce spiritual fruit – handing it off to the next generation. Embrace the gospel and explain the gospel!

[1] Phil Stairs via email, “The Plot” (June 15, 2005).

[2] “Legatees of a Great Inheritance: How the Judeo-Christian Tradition Has Shaped the West” (Kairos Journal, 2008) http://www.kairosjournal.org/misc/FINAL.%20Legatees%20of%20a%20Great%20Inheritance.pdf. Accessed January 10, 2017.

[3] Harold J. Berman, Law and Revolution: The Formation of the Western Legal Tradition (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University, 1983), 165, 29-33.

[4] Walter Liefield, The NIV Application Commentary on 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999), 64.

[5] Source: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/iage/201311/children-killing-their-parents. Accessed January 12, 2017.

[6] Source: http://www.nbcnews.com/id/17951664/ns/health-sexual_health/t/many-cheat-thrill-more-stay-true-love/#.WHe6AbHMzYV. Accessed January 12, 2017.

[7] https://www.dosomething.org/us/facts/11-facts-about-human-trafficking. Accessed January 12, 2017.

[8] Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary – Volume 2 (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1989), 212.

[9] George Knight, Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Commentary, 1992), 83.


How Do We Pass on the Faith?

This sermon can be watched or listened to at www.templebaptistchurch.ca!

As we begin this New Year, we start a new journey. It reminds me of a recent trip my family took to Kansas to visit Lori’s parents over the holidays. It is a long 20 hour drive from here to Kansas and we have driven it many times. There are two main routes we have taken! This year, Lori’s father recommended we take a different route, instead of going through Iowa on I-80. We usually take this road since we at one time lived in town on I-80 in Illinois and know the area very well. And instead of taking the other route, I-70 through St. Louis to Kansas City, Lori’s dad encouraged us to take the more scenic route of Route 36 from Hannibal, Missouri (the birthplace of Mark Twain) to Cameron, Missouri.  It definitely was more scenic with little traffic and it was actually shorter, but it wasn’t an interstate. In fact, it was windy! We found ourselves on this road after many hours of driving very sleepy and swerving! We almost went off the road!

So I’m wondering if there are any of you listening today who maybe are a little sleepy and swerving in your life. Maybe you overindulged during the holidays? You got out of your routine! Maybe you are feeling a little blue and lethargic? Today is a wake up call! Lives are at stake! You see, when we were sleepy and swerving on our trip through Missouri, it wasn’t just Lori and I driving like when we were first married. No, God has given us four precious children that we now take along on this journey. Sleepy and swerving driving puts them at risk. This is also true in the Christian life. Sleepy and swerving Christians puts the next generation at risk. It’s time for us to wake up and be alert! Because our role is to pass on our faith! I know there is a belief out there that children need to make up their own minds as to what religion, if any, they will follow. Many parents have fed and clothed their children and taken them to endless activities, but have underdeveloped their children spiritually. We can raise kids to gain the whole world, but forfeit their souls! Many parents have chosen not to take their kids to church. However, children don’t get to make up their minds about following Christ if they don’t get to know Him through the teaching of His Word and seeing it lived out in the church. We are at a crisis! According to David Pinkerton who works with children as the Assistant Director with Children Evangelism Fellowship Ontario, less than 2% of children in Canada attend church. We must do everything we can to see families and children come to faith in Christ. If you want to make one commitment at the beginning of this year, one of the best commitments would be to worship at church every Sunday, even on vacation. I don’t say this to be legalistic or for you to think God would love you more if you attend church, but you should have a desire to be with God’s family each week if you are a Christian. It begs the question, Are we going to pass on the faith of Jesus Christ to the next generation? Or as some of our men were challenged a few years ago at a men’s conference, are we going to be the weakest link in the chain of faith? I am asking this question of myself daily. It is a burden that lies heavy on me as I am a third generation pastor. Will my family’s heritage of following and serving Jesus end with me?

And I don’t just say that for us married with young kids. Every one of us, married or single, young and old, at Temple carries this burden: are we going to pass on the faith of Jesus Christ to the next generation?  You find yourself single? You actually might have more opportunities to mentor those younger. You find yourself without children? Pass on the faith to kids God brings into your life. Chip and Joanna Gains have been labeled America’s sweethearts. They have a show on HGTV called Fixer Upper. But before they became a famous decorating duo, they were a young married couple just starting out a business, when some 10 year old boys in their neighborhood were goofing off behind their store. Chip yelled to them one day, “Want to earn some money?” They said, “Sure!” And Chip got the boys to sweep up their shop for a few bucks each day and more importantly, the boys got to see the Gains live out their faith in Christ in real time.[1]

Let me tell you about another man who took a young protégé under his wing; somebody he wasn’t related to! His name was Paul and he identified a young man by the name of Timothy who he mentored. Everybody needs a “Timothy” in their life and everybody needs a “Paul” in their life. We are starting a new series to kick off the New Year entitled The Handoff! Who are you going to hand off the faith to? I used to run track and in relay races. The handoff is critical. In some ways, it doesn’t matter how fast you run. If you drop the baton on the handoff, your team is done. We saw that last summer during the Olympics.[2] It was one of the most tragic things I have seen in sport when the runner in the first leg of the race fails to hand off the baton and his teammates who spent years practicing, didn’t even get to run. The handoff is critical! How much more so is the handoff of the faith! Years wasted on the track is tragic, but people missing out on heaven and knowing Jesus is catastrophic. So who you handoff the faith to is important but how you handoff the faith is even more important? Let’s find out how to hand off the faith by reading 1 Timothy 1:1-7! Read 1 Timothy 1:1-7!

How do we pass on the faith? We go with Jesus, we stay with grace, and we stop swerving into strange teachings! Go with Jesus, stay with grace and stop swerving into strange teachings! Think of it like a traffic light, especially being on a journey. Green means go with Jesus!  Yellow means stay (not go faster, but yield) with grace and red  means stop swerving into strange teachings. That is the summary of this message. However, to understand this letter, we need a little background. Paul is the one writing the letter. Paul was a man who hated Christ and the Church. He tried to kill Christians, but then Jesus showed up in a vision and asked Paul, “Why are you persecuting Me?” (Acts 9:4) Jesus made Paul literally stop in his tracks! Jesus blindsided him and actually blinded Paul temporarily to show him how blind he was chasing the wrong vision! Maybe you find yourself chasing the wrong vision? Maybe you are actually hurting people who are doing good? Paul did! And God called him away from that wrong vision and gave him a new vision. God’s call always involves being called away from something harmful to something good! This is why Paul introduces himself in verse 1, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus according to the commandment of God our Savior, and of Christ Jesus, who is our hope!” Paul as an apostle meant he was “a sent one.” For that is what the word apostle means! But he wasn’t just sent. No, the difference was who sent Paul. If the Queen of England sent a messenger over to personally invite you to live in the palace, that would be different than if you just got an email from a travel agent inviting you to visit some English castles. Jesus sent Paul! Jesus is the King of Kings! He sent Paul to invite people to live with God forever and ever!

But there is more! Paul was not just sent by Jesus! That is not what preposition Paul uses to describe his apostleship. The prepositional ending conveys “an apostle OF Christ Jesus.” Paul belonged to Jesus and Jesus in a very real sense went with Paul. Paul was on a mission, not just for Jesus, but with Jesus! This is why our mission statement at Temple is “On Mission with Jesus to turn broken people into whole people who multiply Christ followers.” It is why we call our radio program “On Mission with Jesus.” Paul was on mission with Jesus! He was commanded to go! But not like when you might command your kids to go clean their room. There was no drudgery. The command was full of hope. Paul explicitly says this as he links his call back to Jesus being hope itself. Jesus is our hope! And this is why we go with Jesus! He is the only green light in our life! Lots of people think that following Jesus is a no-go and is all about the rules. Actually, all the promises of God are yes in Jesus (2 Corinthians 1:20). Going with Jesus produces great hope in our lives. Paul experienced the hope of Jesus! You and I can too!

This gives you a little background into Paul and Jesus, but we haven’t mentioned much about the man whose name adorns the letter – Timothy! Timothy, we learn from Paul’s second letter written to him, was born into a family whose grandmother and mother were Jewish converts to Christ. 2 Timothy 1:5 records Paul’s words, “For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I’m sure that is in you as well.” So is there anybody listening today whose grandmother or mother was a Christian? Maybe she prayed for you? The rest of your family didn’t want much to do with Jesus, but your grandma or mama was passing on the faith. You mamas or grandmas or even daddies and granddaddies can pass on the faith and make a huge impact like Lois and Eunice did. And if you are lacking parental spiritual guidance, often God will bring a spiritual father into your life.  We see this evidenced in how Paul adopted Timothy as “his true child in the faith.” (1 Timothy 1:2) Timothy might have been younger than Paul, but he was a major player in the New Testament. Being a major player was costly though! In Acts 16:1-5, we read that Timothy voluntarily was circumcised as an adult in order to go on a missions trip. I doubt too many of us going on missions trips now would go through such an ordeal. We can’t really complain about getting immunization shots for a missions trip after reading that, can we? Timothy wasn’t timid! We read in 1 Timothy 1:3 that Paul urged Timothy to remain at Ephesus! Timothy probably wanted to go with his mentor Paul, especially when it meant having to stay in Ephesus. Ephesus was a difficult place. Many people would have thought of it in that day as a place like Niagara Falls. It had the Temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. The Temple of Artemis was where Diana, the virgin Roman goddess of the hunt, moon and nature, was worshipped. But Ephesus was also the place where Paul faced great opposition and a riot occurred when he preached the gospel (Acts 19). He was hunted. Maybe this is why Paul actually called the men of Ephesus “wild beasts.” (1 Cor. 15:32) And so this wicked and wild city was the place where Paul told Timothy to stay.

What was Timothy to stay and do? He was to stay with grace! Paul says this explicitly in verse 2, “Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” Paul wanted Timothy to continue to know, experience and stay true to the teaching of grace, mercy and peace of God. Our Christian life starts with grace. This means that there is nothing we can do to earn favour with God. We are rebels – thoroughly bent on pleasing ourselves if we are honest with our true motives. You might think that serving your family and kids is not about you. But often it is about your reputation and dreams. Paul Tripp nails it when he says, “Parents tend to be angry and disappointed with their children, not first because they’ve broken God’s law, but because whatever they have done has brought hassle and embarrassment to them. We don’t need a vision of what we want our children to be, but a vision of what grace could cause our children to be.”[3] We may acknowledge that grace makes us right with God at the beginning, but then we think that God leaves it up to us to get better. We never outgrow grace! I am still learning this!

The danger is that we get bored and start to think that the grace of Jesus that saved us is too basic – we think in order to grow as a Christian we must move onto something else. We need strategies and new methods. We think the grace of Jesus at the cross was good enough to save us, but not enough to change us. The danger is that we can diverge to something added to Jesus! Jesus +![4] Paul actually had Timothy stay at Ephesus to “instruct men not to teach strange doctrines, not to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God, which is by faith” (verses 3-4). Many are prone to want to find some secret revelation, a new insight from God. Sometimes we think a teaching is deep just because we can’t understand it. Some abandon the core Biblical teachings that they grew up with. Even those who want to figure out all the intricacies of Bible prophecy. In my mind I confess that I am thinking when I run into such people, “Have you got the basics down and not like a checklist but ever growing reality in your life? Have you been baptized? Are you a person of prayer? Do you know and share the Gospel with others? Do you give generously to the Lord’s work? Do you know how to disciple others? Who are you discipling right now? Are you are living out the “one anothers”? Are you serving using your spiritual gift? Are you being obedient to the teachings of Christ in living a holy life? Those are the questions that run through my mind. I’m still working on these fundamentals that are clear in Scripture, and yet some people are eager to know the secrets of the Bible. A lot of the stuff promoted on TV and on the radio is wacky. I know that may sound hypocritical as our church’s teaching is on the radio. I would be the last person to say I have the corner of truth, but I must call us to live out this memory verse from 1 Timothy 4:16, “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.”

How do you know if you are watching your life and doctrine closely? Your behaviours always reveal what is going on in your heart. What spills out when you are bumped? When things don’t go your way? Anger? Lust? Despair? Paul told Timothy in verse 5, “But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” Love produces purity in our thoughts and actions without regrets and others take notice. They see you as genuine and sincere. Walter Liefeld puts it this way, “Healthy doctrine produces healthy living.”[5]

Contrast this with those who swerve into strange teachings. Paul identifies what this means in verses 6-7, “For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions.” Bad thinking will always lead to bad living! Your life will swerve here and there. You may even find yourself in the ditch of life. Not because bad stuff happened to you but because bad stuff happened through you. These teachers were adding something. The Bible itself wasn’t good enough. One of the things I love about my dad is that he reads less books than he used to. It isn’t because he has stopped learning, but instead he just wants to read the Bible and know it. He wants to know Jesus more! That is what we need to do too! We go with Jesus, we stay with grace and stop swerving into strange teachings!

The Lord’s Supper would be an example of going with Jesus, staying with grace and avoiding strange teachings. If you think about how Jesus just took a piece of bread and said to His disciples, “This is My Body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” It didn’t get all weird! The disciples would have understood that the bread didn’t morph into His body as our Catholic friends teach. Jesus just made it clear that they needed Him, something outside of themselves, to save them; to be for them. And that they should never stop remembering Him, His death and His grace! They should stay with Him! Some of you have never just said, “All I need is Jesus!” Today you can make that commitment! Some of us have left, “All I need is Jesus!” Come back to Jesus! All are welcome if you truly believe and can say, “All I need is Jesus!”


[1] Chip & Joanna Gains, The Magnolia Story (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2016), 80.

[3] Paul David Tripp, Parenting – 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family (Wheaton: Crossway, 2016), 20.

[4] Tullian Tchividjian, Jesus + Nothing = Everything (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2011).

[5] Walter Liefield, The NIV Application Commentary on 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999), 60.