This is the fourth sermon in a series called “Downline” by Bryan Collier, which addresses the method and content for passing down-the-line what ought to be passed down-the-line: the meaningful, critical, central stuff.
We are in the fourth week of a summer-long series called Downline. We are looking at a relationship between Paul and Timothy in which Paul identifies what is meaningFUL versus what is meaningless in determining what is worth being passed Downline.
In week one Paul set the context for the whole conversation about receiving and teaching by saying, whatever we teach, whatever we pass down the line remember we have been great receivers of grace and therefore we are to be great givers of grace. He then, in chapters 2 and 3 gave Timothy (and us) something specific to pass down the line. In chapter 2 he said, “Live your life with others in mind” and in chapter 3 he points out that our “private life is more important than our public life” because our public life is the overflow of our private life.
Today we turn to chapter 4 to find what is next as we consider what is meaningful and worth being passed down the line.
The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.
If you point these things out to the brothers and sisters,you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished on the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed. Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.
Command and teach these things. Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you.
Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.
1 Timothy 4:1-17
Paul begins this chapter with some key words (really there are multiple key words in this passage). Certainly there are key words throughout this passage, but most of us would miss the key words that Paul BEGINS with: In verse 1 Paul says, “Now the Holy Spirit tells us clearly that in the last times…”
In The Last Times (4:1)
The early church thought of time in terms of two ages. There was this present age, which was altogether bad and in the grip of the evil powers; there was the age to come, which was to be the perfect age of God and of goodness. But the one age would not pass into the other without a last convulsive struggle. In between the two ages would come The Day of the Lord. One of the expected features of the last age was heresies (false teachings) and false teachers (Matthew 24:11; Mark 13:22; 2 Thessalonians 2:3).
Here in writing to Timothy, but you need to know in EVERY one of his letters, Paul addresses false teaching because it was a significant issue in the early church.
There is a wide variety when it comes to false teaching, but in Ephesus where Paul is writing to Timothy, Paul addresses the false teaching that anything related to matter or the body was completely evil (Gnosticism). So there were people who taught that as far as possible followers of Jesus should abstain from food—because food was for the body and the body was evil. They should abstain from marriage because the instincts of the body were evil and must be entirely suppressed.
Paul addresses these false teachings by pointing back at the Creation where God made everything and said “it is good” (Genesis 1:21) and that flesh itself (Adam and Eve) were very good (Genesis 1:31), because they were created in the image of God. Finally, “every living thing” (meat and grains and vegetables) were given to humans for food (Genesis 9:3).
With God’s word so clear, how does false teaching arise/crop up? The easy answer is…
In the last times people will not only follow “deceptive spirits” (false teaching) but they will also follow “deceptive or false teachers.”
The false teaching came from the demons (4:2), but it came through men. Here is the threatening and terrible thing. God is always searching for those who will be his instruments in the world; but the terrible fact is that the forces of evil are also looking for people to use. Not shockingly, false teaching comes through false teachers.
But what you need to know is that the issues with both false teaching and false teachers is they choose and are persuading others to choose the preferences of human beings over the truths of God.
In every generation people arise who try to be stricter than God (absolutely no alcohol on biblical grounds) and in every generation men arise who try to be more permissive/dismissive than God (we know more science or we are more intelligent and enlightened so we don’t have to obey that “guide”). People are drawn to extremes and therefore extremists are popular—be stricter than God or be more permissive than God—our world is full of people who would do both.
It all comes back to choosing the preferences of human beings over the truths of God.
And ultimately it all amounts to a distraction. If I can be consumed with doing more than this (Bible) then I won’t do this (Bible). This was Jesus’ problem with the Pharisees—they added to God’s Word and Law so much that they didn’t have time to show justice and mercy and care for others because they were consumed with doing “more than.” Likewise, if I can be consumed with arguing that this is wrong or dated or culture-locked in 2000 years ago, if I get consumed with a CAUSE—then I wont obey this (Bible).
Paul points at false teaching and false teachers and says, “don’t get distracted.” Because that is what they are—distractions.
Instead, Paul says…
Live as a Person/People of Truth
Paul describes Timothy’s reality/world (and ours) and asks the followers of Christ to live differently in the world—to pass downline what it means to live truthfully (literally full of truth).
So Paul asks followers of Jesus to live full of truth; and if we look back at week 1/chapter 1 Paul asks followers of Jesus to live full of grace.
As a point of reference lets look at John 1:14:
So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness (* says full of grace and truth).
So Paul is saying—I am asking you Timothy to teach those under your care to live like Jesus in the world. Who was full of grace AND full of truth. Not either/or but both.
The world’s only options are grace OR truth…All Truth/no grace or all Grace/no Truth.
But Paul says, full of grace AND truth.
We spent the first week talking about how to live gracefully (full of grace), so now how do we live truthfully (full of truth)?
Know Truth (4:7)
Don’t waste time…Train yourself in what matters.
Paul concedes that physical training “is of some value.” The Greek pros oligon could be translated “for a little time”—that is, for this life. But spiritual exercise is far more important, for it has value for eternity—“holding promise for both the present life and the life to come” (4:8). Train yourself in what matters.
Train yourself in godliness. The word here in the original language for “godliness” is also translated “holiness,” which makes sense—like god and holy—would be the same for a holy God.
When Jesus prays for the disciples in John 17:17 he prays to God the Father, “Make them holy by your truth. Teach them your word, which is truth.”
Training in godliness means focusing on the truth, not the distractions; learning the truth, absorbing the truth, soaking in the truth.
We train ourselves to think through exposure. If I want to become a mechanic, I expose myself to information, knowledge, the thinking of mechanics. I watch videos, I attend classes where I see how mechanics think and reason. We train ourselves to think through exposure. And this is true no matter if I want to become a teacher, doctor, lawyer or draftsman. We train ourselves to think through exposure.
So if we want to know the truth and have a perspective of truth—what do we need to expose ourselves to? The Truth (Bible). This is why we developed and are encouraging the summer reading program.
In light of the false teachings of the world, we are to live truthfully in the world, and the first step to living truthfully is to know the truth.
Then Paul says to Timothy..
Teach Truth (4:11)
Teach these things and insist that everyone learn them (there is that know the truth thing again).
If you really want to learn something, prepare yourself to teach it. And really what I mean here is repeat what you were taught—pass it downline. What your received, pass on. Not only because they need to hear it, but because it takes a deeper root in you when you repeat it.
I grew up in a basketball coach’s home and so from the earliest age I remember shooting the ball and I remember the mechanics rhythm I was taught—fingertip, control, backspin, follow through. But I remember when that mechanic really hit home for me. During my senior year, four of the boys team members were the teachers in the 4th grade gym class and we had to teach them how to shoot. Most fourth graders are not strong enough to have good mechanics and get the ball to the goal so they fling it or throw it or push it—but we had to spend all semester teaching them—fingertip, control, backspin, follow through and it not only became ingrained in me, but I saw how important it was for someone else.
That is what happens when we teach—and when we teach truth. When we repeat what we have been taught it becomes more ingrained, and it becomes more substantial in our own lives because we see how important it is in the life of another.
With that in mind, Paul says, know the truth but also teach the truth. Today I challenge you to know the truth, but I also want to challenge you to teach the truth. Repeat what you have heard me say the last three weeks and what you will hear from Will Rambo, our teaching pastor, in the weeks ahead.
In order to make that easier, we have created a “cheat sheet.” It is the basic outline of the message we are teaching with any pertinent quotes or scriptures and the bottom line. It is available on our app or on the website. If you don’t do anything else—review it yourself and ask someone, “can I share with you what I am learning.”
Live Truthfully (4:12)
Live differently. Live in contrast to the lies of the world. Live in contrast to the false teachings and the false teachers. Let your truthful life point at the truth you know and the truth you teach.
Live differently/truthfully with what you say.
Live differently/truthfully in how you live.
Live differently/truthfully in how you love.
Live differently/truthfully in expressing your faith.
Live differently/truthfully in purity.
Set your sights on doing what the text/truth you are knowing and teaching asks you to do. You are going to need to rely on God’s Holy Spirit—but you have the guaranteed help of that Spirit to live in this way.
Years ago my dad gave me a desk calendar that had this quote on it, “What you do, speaks so loudly that I can’t hear what you say.” That is probably all I need to say about what it means to live truthfully.
But here on Father’s Day I offer you one more instruction. I have shared this with The Orchard before years ago. In the summer of 1988, I was working as a counselor at Camp Lake Stephens when I received a piece of mail from home. It was a letter from my dad—the only letter I have ever received from him. Last month I was preaching a series of messages in the evenings at the Methodist Church in Baldwyn and we were talking about this example thing that we are talking about today. I told them a secret to keep and since then I have thought better of it. I told them that I had already planned some of my dad’s funeral. My dad is here this morning and so don’t panic dad I am not planning when that funeral is going to be, just what I am going to say. One of the things that I plan to do at my father’s funeral is to read that letter that he sent me 25 years ago. He hand-copied something he was reading. It was something that Douglas MacArthur penned for his son:
“Build me a son, O Lord, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak, and brave enough to face himself when he is afraid; one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat, and humble and gentle in victory.
Build me a son whose wishbone will not be where his backbone should be; a son who will know Thee and that to know himself is the foundation stone of knowledge.
Lead him, I pray, not in the path of ease and comfort, but under the stress and spur of difficulties and challenge. Here let him learn to stand up in the storm; here let him learn compassion for those who fail.
Build me a son whose heart will be clean, whose goal will be high; a son who will master himself before he seeks to master other men; one who will learn to laugh, yet never forget how to weep; one who will reach into the future, yet never forget the past.
And after all these things are his, add, I pray, enough of a sense of humor, so that he may always be serious, yet never take himself too seriously. Give him humility, so that he may always remember the simplicity of greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, the meekness of true strength.”
Then I, his father, will dare to whisper, “I have not lived in vain!”
Then I want to say—the way you get a son like that—is to be a father like that. Never underestimate the power of living out what you know and are teaching. Example is the greatest teacher of truth.
I share that with you today because of the power of example but also it would be a tragedy for me to wait until my dad is dead to say that about him.
You want to know what to pass Downline this week? Truth. In a world of false teaching and false teachers–know the truth, teach the truth, live the truth as a means of passing downline TRUTH.
Know the truth: (1) I am sounding like a broken record—join the reading plan, or (2) Memorize Scripture.
Teach the truth: (1) access the cheat sheet and share it with someone and (2) challenge others to memorize scripture with you.
Live the truth: Set before yourself the aim, by the Spirit of God to do what the text asks you to do. And ask God to help you do it.