January 21, 2016 | by: 0 Comments|
For the last few months I have been sharing pastoral reflections from twenty-two years with the same congregation. In previous posts we have discussed Gospel centrality; the priority of prayer; spiritual leadership; spiritual sweat; and healthy relationships in church life. Each of these posts mirrored the Apostle Paul’s instruction in the pastoral letter of I Timothy.
In this sixth and final post, there is strong challenge to live in light of eternity. In other words, a living out of Jesus’ instruction in the Sermon on the Mount “to lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven” and to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. (Matthew 6:20,33)”
The Apostle Paul, in a similar charge, calls Timothy to warn those under his care of the dangers of loving money and living for this world. For me, this theme is an ongoing challenge of the pastorate to give an impassioned plea to invest our lives in eternity, to lay up treasure in places where moths can’t destroy and thieves can’t steal.
Notice the following statements in Paul’s closing chapter, I Timothy 6.
1. Godliness with contentment is great gain, v.6.
By godliness, Paul is referencing what should be the pursuit of every believer in Jesus Christ, namely the pursuit of God as the passion of one’s life. This would include a reverent fear of the Lord, a love for God that comes from a heart of faith, and a desire to honor him in all things.
Paul states the obvious to which we are often oblivious as we forget that we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing with us. We are to use that naked reality to cultivate gratitude. If we have food and clothing, and as these basic needs are being met, then we would experience a contentment that is otherworldly.
However, we do not gravitate toward contentment, rather we often churn with restlessness. Contentment with our present circumstances is an elusive mindset. There are pulls and tugs to our hearts that scream for fulfillment, and we will not rest until these cravings are met.
Rodney Clapp some years ago wrote an essay published in Christianity Today entitled, “Why the Devil takes Visa.” In the article He addressed the battle Christians face with covetousness.
The consumer is schooled in insatiability. He or she is never to be satisfied—-at least not for long. The consumer is tutored that people basically consist of unmet needs that can be appeased by commodified goods and experiences. Accordingly, the consumer should think first and foremost of himself or herself and meeting his or her felt needs. The consumer is taught to value above all else freedom, freedom defined as a vast array of choices.
These “vast array of choices” are what Mark Buchanan call “the Cult of the Next Thing” which has as its motto, “Crave and spend, for the Kingdom of Stuff is here.”
Since the fall of Adam, human beings have had a difficult time with contentment, satisfaction, and fulfillment. Sin is, at its very root, a dissatisfaction with God. We begin to say to ourselves, “I deserve this.” “This will make me happy” only to discover later that what we once prized has become boring.
Vance Havner once said, “One hour in heaven and we shall be ashamed we ever grumbled.” To live with contentment as we enjoy the Lord’s provision is one of the greatest treasures we can know in this groaning world.
2. Fight the good fight of the faith, v.12.
Paul introduces a contrast between money loving materialism and what it means to be given over to a life that honors the Lord. v. 11- “flee these things,” what things? The love of money and materialistic salvation, 6:5-10. Instead of hungering for that which perishes and leads to spiritual disaster, Paul calls for the pursuit of these things: righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, and gentleness.
What a corrective! When I come to commands like these in the Bible, it underscores for me the incredible wisdom found in God’s Word. Pursuing these things are part of what it means to fight the good fight of the faith and to take hold of the eternal life.
3. Take hold of that which is truly life, v.17-19
In a concluding warning, the Apostle Paul gives instruction not only to Timothy but to every pastor charged with shepherding a local congregation:
“As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life. (I Timothy 6:17-19)”
In closing this series of posts, the pastorate is a weekly, monthly, yearly, life-long call to remind God’s people of these truths. In the context of a local church, for the people under my care, I have a joy to remind them regularly that:
*The Gospel will forever be the power of God unto salvation and the world needs to hear it.
*Nothing replaces the Bible
*The local church is the place to be and serve until Christ comes
*Prayer is the conduit of God’s power
*God is always taking his people to new pastures of growth and blessing
*His grace is greater
This is what it means to live in light of eternity. Investing in the Kingdom of Christ and making known far and wide that there is a Redeemer who came that we might have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10)”
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