Guarding Our Spiritual Health
June 1, 2008 Speaker: Allen Snapp Series: Life in the Local Church
Passage: 1 Timothy 6:2–8
Guarding Our Spiritual Health
We began this series in 1 Timothy in January and I appreciate those who have shared how they have enjoyed and benefited from this series. God has met us and fed us from this inspired letter.
We will be finishing up over the next 3 weeks and I want to share a little about the series we will be in over the summer. I want to whet your appetite for it and also ask for you to be praying that the Lord will meet us in a distinct and powerful way through this series.
The series will be called "Expect God" and, not surprisingly, the goal of the series will be to encourage our expectancy to encounter God and see His activity in our lives. My prayer for this series is that it will raise the water level of our faith and expectancy - knowing that God moves among His people more or less depending on their level of faith and expectancy. So please be in prayer and in a state of expectancy for this next series.
1 Timothy 6:2B-8
We are used to Paul warning Timothy about the false teachers now, but here he uses a different metaphor - medical terminology - to describe the toxic teaching of the false teachers.
Just as we can be physically healthy or physically unhealthy, we can be spiritually healthy or unhealthy. Christians can be, and churches can be. Paul is concerned with the spiritual health of the Ephesian church, so he exposes for Timothy the malignant effect of the teaching of these false teachers. But it begins with call for Timothy to be a true and faithful teacher of God's Word:
Teach and urge these things...
Hearing the Word isn't enough. It's not enough for a pastor to teach God's Word - though that is necessary. We need to be urged to apply it. Urged to do God's Word! Storing up information about the Bible is never enough. Spiritual health is the product of applying God's Word.
Spurgeon: Where the application begins, there the sermon begins.
"If anyone teaches a different doctrine and do not agree with the sound (healthy) words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing." (vs 3-4)
Jesus' words are sound (healthy). They are good for our soul and heart. If they are followed and obeyed, they have power to produce spiritual health in us. Biblical teaching accords with this - it means when rightly understood and grasped with faith it produces godliness - an inner heart change that manifests itself in an outward life that increasingly reflect the righteousness of God.
Peter was so right when he said to Jesus, "Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." There was no where else to go. Jesus Christ descended from heaven with words of life - only antidote for this spiritually dead world. When Jesus died on the cross he became the only Savior for this sin-sick world. As Moses lifted up the bronze serpent and those Israelites who looked at that serpent lifted up were protected from poisonous bites of the snakes around them, so we who look at Jesus lifted up on the cross are saved from the deadly poison of sin. "I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men to myself."
These false teachers are teaching a different doctrine - and Paul begins to outline the diseased spiritual fruit that this false teaching is bearing. It was pretty ugly.
In the church I attended as a teenager there was a guy named Pete Penney. I really don't remember much about Pete except that at one point he became very ill and the doctors diagnosed him with cancer (I think it might have been liver cancer). When they opened him up in surgery they found the cancer had spread so badly through his body that they just closed him back up again and he died shortly afterward. There was nothing they could do.
Paul puts them on operating table and opens up the fruit of their teaching for us to see its disease. Their teaching is like a spiritual cancer - it grows and it spreads. Consider the trail of disease:
I. They have a deluded self-assessment (vs 4)
...he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing...
He thinks he knows everything and in fact he knows nothing. It's ironic: he is puffed up with conceit - but it's empty - he actually understands nothing. Ignorant and arrogant.
Humility has been described as an accurate self-assessment. Conceit distorts our assessment making us think we are bigger, faster, stronger, smarter, righter than we are. These teachers are puffed up - they think they are exceptionally knowledgeable and they understand nothing. C.K. Barrett calls the man a "pompous ignoramus." Our spiritual health is guarded by humility.
II. They have an unhealthy appetite for controversy and quarreling (vs. 4)
He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words...
They have a sick appetite for stirring up controversies and arguments. They love to pick a fight. Major in the minor. Have ever met someone who seemed to have a desire to start some controversy? I've met people who went from church to church just looking for something to criticize. Someone has said they not only split hairs, they do it with a chainsaw!
Now, don't get me wrong, there are times when we are called to stand against something that jeopardizes the gospel, and can't avoid controversy or conflict when it is necessary. Paul is calling Timothy to such a stand here. But it's to be over essentials, not peripherals. And we aren't to love it. Beware when you have an appetite for it. You shouldn't be looking for a word battle.
III. Their cancer eats away at their relationships (vs. 4-5)
Next we see how this spiritual cancer metastasizes to their relationships with others.
- envy - Philip Towner describes envy this way: a vice characterized by an incessant craving for things or positions possessed by someone else. It is being eaten alive by a desire to have what others have."It's not what you eat, it's what's eating you." Envy eats away from inside out
and it inevitably destroys relationships.
- Dissension or strife. There is a spirit of contention.
- Slander (or malicious talk) - words that attack and defame others. Talk that is meant to hurt someone's reputation and character. The toxic air of the false teachers reminds us of the air of hell, for the devil is called the slanderer.
- Evil suspicions -The trust that is needed for relationships to be healthy is eroded and dark suspicions grow against everyone's motives but our own.
- Constant friction - no peace. No harmony. Constant friction - constant problems, quarrels, contention, backbiting, in-fighting. Unhealthy teaching of these false teachers produce sick fruit in area of relationships.
IV. Their minds are rotted and robbed of the truth (vs 5)
Frightening verdict: their minds are corrupted - breaking down, rotting. Robbed of the truth. Somewhere they rejected the sound, health-producing words of Jesus and now as they spiral downward into spiritual destruction, they are unable and unwilling to grasp the truth. Minds are not capable of grasping the truth - robbed of the truth.
V. Their view of religion's purpose is diseased (vs 5)
From their corrupt minds that are robbed of truth, flows a view of religion that is diseased: for them religion (godliness) has become a means to personal gain. Instead of God being the treasure that they seek, God has become the means to the treasure that they seek: financial and material gain.
They shamelessly used God and religion in Middle Ages when indulgences were sold.
We can see this spiritually unhealthy mindset today in some high profile figures like the Reverend Ike who teaches large numbers of people things like:
"I don't want pie in the sky when I die; I want cash in the stash here and now!"
When asked what his personal salary is, he explains, "It's whatever I need."
"See, there are some people that believe not in prosperity... As broke as they are, they go walking out church with their little finger up, 'cause Satan's got their minds blind. They've been blinded in their minds. They don't want to hear about prosperity. They don't want to hear ...that God is a God that wants to put money in your hand, that God is a God that has prosperity on His mind. They don't want to hear that. "Bless God, I want to hear about love and joy and peace." Well, you need to hear about money, because you ain't gonna have no love and joy and peace until you get some money!" ~ Creflo Dollar
When preachers promise you great financial blessings if you will only send in your "seed money" they are exploiting faith for financial gain.
But there are more subtle ways that this can creep in that we need to be watchful about: God blesses, but do I begin to love the blessing more than I love God? Does God become the means to the blessings (whatever they are) I crave? Even in subtle ways do I begin to use God to get what I want?
Paul corrects this twisted view of godliness, and reminds us of what spiritual health looks like, not by denying that godliness is a means to gain - in fact he strengthens it - means to great gain, but by reversing the meaning of that sentence. Doesn't mean financial or material gain. Something far better.
VI. There is great gain in godliness...with contentment
There is great gain in godliness - but the gain isn't the things that godliness gives us in life - the great gain of godliness is the ultimate and great goal of godliness: Christ! Christ is the treasure of true godliness and there is great and eternal gain in knowing Christ.
Godliness is "itself a sufficiently great gain to us because through it we become not only heirs of the world but are enabled to enjoy Christ and all His riches" ~ Calvin
And so we come full circle: spiritual health is in Christ. Life that is centered on self - even if it uses Christian jargon and looks centered on Christ - is spiritually sick. A life centered on Christ - where Christ is the treasure we pursue, is spiritually healthy. Christ is the great gain of our soul.
Why is contentment a necessary part of this equation?
Discontentment is symptom of coveting that these false teachers are filled with. They want more stuff. More position. More recognition. Envy and covet what belongs to others. Discontentment says there's something more this world has to give me that I need to have.
Written by a 14 year old boy.
It was spring but it was summer I wanted; the warm days and the great outdoors.
It was summer but it was fall I wanted; the colorful leaves and the cool dry air.
It was fall but it was winter I wanted; the beautiful snow and the joy of the holiday season.
It was now winter but it was spring I wanted; the warmth and the blossoming of nature.
I was a child but it was adulthood I wanted; the freedom and the respect.
I was twenty but it was thirty I wanted; to be mature and sophisticated.
I was middle-aged but it was twenty I wanted; the youth and the free spirit.
I was retired but it was middle-age that I wanted; the presence of mind without limitations.
My life was over but I never got what I wanted.
Philip Ryken observes that discontentment is life's burglar. It steals us of the joy of what we do have.
We came into the world empty handed, and we will leave empty handed. We can't take it with us.
I've never seen a hearse pulling a U-Haul.
So we should be content with what we have - and if we have enough to live, with that we should be content. Because that's not what life is about. It's about Christ and serving Him. That we can take with us. That has great value - infinite value - for the next life.
Paul forces us to see our lives from an eternal perspective.
More in Life in the Local Church
June 15, 2008Taking Hold of Eternal Life
June 8, 2008A Christian's View of Riches
May 25, 2008Relationships in the Family of God, Pt. II: Honoring Widows