DashHouse.com

The Blog of Darryl Dash

This blog is about how Jesus changes everything. He changes:

Our relationship with God

Our relationship with others

Our vocations - how we live and work in this world

Our ministries

This blog exists to explore some of the ways that Jesus changes everything. It provides resources and articles that will help you think about the ways that Jesus can change every part of your life.

The Lord himself invites you to a conference concerning your immediate and endless happiness, and He would not have done this if He did not mean well toward you. Do not refuse the Lord Jesus who knocks at your door; for He knocks with a hand which was nailed to the tree for such as you are. Since His only and sole object is your good, incline your ear and come to Him. Hearken diligently, and let the good word sink into your soul. (C.H. Spurgeon, All of Grace)

A Good Church Fight (1 Timothy 1:6-11; 18-20)

  • I know that some of you saw the title of the sermon tonight, "A Good Church Fight," and assumed that we were having a business meeting
  • but no, instead we'll be looking at 1 Timothy 1
  • we're going to focus in on verses 6 to the end of the chapter, but we'll leave the middle part of the chapter, verses 12 to 17, until next week

  • but read with me verses 18 to 20
  • (1 Timothy 1:18) Timothy, my son, I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight,
  • (1 Timothy 1:19) holding on to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith.
  • (1 Timothy 1:20) Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.

  • military wisdom says, "Choose the mountain you're willing to die on very carefully"
  • and that's true not just in the military, but in church life
  • don't waste your time - your life - on battles that aren't worth the cost
  • be careful what you decide to fight for
  • people can get hurt; families can be divided; children turned against their parents; churches can even be split
  • don't squander something precious over a molehill; it's not worth it

  • but let me ask you: is there a place for a good church fight?
  • rephrased a little differently: are there some mountains worth dying on in church life?
  • are there some non-negotiable that are so essential, that when threatened, we must do battle?
  • my answer is that there are some things worth fighting for in the church
  • there is something called a good church fight
  • what is it?
  • I believe it's the Gospel - the truth about God's mercy and grace, his love and his patience, and the gift of eternal life for those who believe in Christ
  • Paul wrote to Timothy:
  • (2 Timothy 1:13) What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus.
  • (2 Timothy 1:14) Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.
  • the good deposit Timothy had to guard is the Gospel - sound doctrine
  • don't you think that's worth fighting for?

  • now, let's pause for a second
  • when you hear about doctrine and theology, what do you normally here?
  • perhaps the odd yawn - or somebody saying that it doesn't really matter
  • it's become fashionable to downplay the deposit that has been entrusted to the church in favor of application
  • but let's back up a little and think about that
  • John 8:44 tells us that Satan is a liar
  • God is a God of truth, but Satan is active sowing falsehood and error into the church
  • one of Satan's most persistent attacks on the church has been in the area of false doctrine
  • think about some of the warnings in Scripture:
  • (Matthew 7:15) "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.
  • (2 Peter 2:1) But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves.
  • the church has an enemy intent on destroying truth
  • he is behind every false teaching that enters a church
  • this is how the devil defeats the Christian - by lies
  • the truth about Jesus Christ and about salvation and eternal life is worth fighting for

  • that's why Paul writes in this passage, "fight the good fight"
  • I want to look at three features of a good church fight, before I give you a case study
  • THE FIRST FEATURE OF A GOOD CHURCH FIGHT IS THAT IT IS A SERIOUS FIGHT
  • (1 Timothy 1:18) Timothy, my son, I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight,
  • this could literally be translated "war the good warfare"
  • this is no little skirmish
  • it demands all the commitment of a dedicated soldier
  • Paul says, "Don't compromise. Don't give up ground. When it's a good fight, never give up. The stakes are eternal"
  • this is Paul's commission to Timothy
  • last week we read verse 3:
  • (1 Timothy 1:3) As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer

  • the evangelist D.L Moody didn't like his song leader Ira Sankey to use the popular gospel song, "Onward Christian Soldiers" in his campaigns
  • Moody felt that the church was a poor excuse for an army
  • but the church is in the middle of a serious spiritual fight
  • and it is to be on guard against lies

  • what kind of lies?
  • lies about the core of the Christian faith
  • lies that suggest that the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ wasn't enough to save you
  • lies that say that faith alone won't do it
  • that there is a code of rules you must obey
  • deadly lies that pollute and dilute and twist the Christian message - which is the only hope of eternal life

  • a second feature of a good church fight is found in verse 19:
  • IT'S A RIGHTEOUS FIGHT
  • (1 Timothy 1:19) holding on to faith and a good conscience.
  • there are two ingredients that Paul mentions for a good church fight in verse 19: the first is faith, and the second is a good conscience
  • in other words, this fight takes right doctrine - truth - and right motives
  • but if you are battling for the truth, and you have both good doctrine and right motives, then you're fighting a good church fight

  • let's pause here for a second
  • it's been my observation that in most church fights, one of these two has been missing
  • I've seen plenty of church fights in which there is plenty of right doctrine, but there's been very little of the second ingredient - a good conscience
  • it's not enough to be right - you also have to be pure
  • before you go to battle on a doctrinal issue in the church, ask yourself, "Where are my motives? Am I acting out of anger, or are my motives really pure? Am I a hothead? Do I have a little too much fun going into battle?"
  • you have to hold on to both faith and a good conscience if you're going to go to battle for God

  • and there's a third feature of a good church fight found in verses 19 and 20
  • IT'S A PERILOUS FIGHT - A DANGEROUS ONE
  • (1 Timothy 1:19) Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith.
  • (1 Timothy 1:20) Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.

  • let me go through 1 Timothy 1 and quickly list the false teachers and what they were teaching
  • verse 4 says that they were teaching myths and endless genealogies
  • it's likely that they were coming up with legendary interpretations of the Old Testament, centering on the pedigrees of the patriarchs
  • verse 4 also states that they were argumentative - they promoted controversies rather than God's work
  • verse 6 says that they had wandered away and had turned to meaningless talk
  • verse 7 says that they claimed to be "teachers of the law," without knowing what the law was about
  • in verses 8 to 11, Paul reminds the people of the purpose of the law
  • the law doesn't exist for the Christian, who is righteous before God
  • no, the law exists to point out the sins of the unrighteous
  • in other words, these people seem to have been using the law in a legalistic way against believers in Jesus Christ

  • verse 19 says that their errors were s hipwrecking the faith of some
  • it was a serious enough error that it was causing severe damage
  • so much so that in verse 20, Paul says he's going to two of them over to Satan so that they may be taught not to blaspheme
  • in other words, he's going to expel them from the church with the hope that this church discipline will snap them out of their error

  • we'll discover other characteristics of their errors later in the book, but their teaching was a perilous one
  • it held real danger for their own souls, and for the church

  • Spurgeon defined the work of the preacher like this: "To know truth as it should be known, to love it as it should be loved, and then to proclaim it in the right spirit, and in its proper proportions."
  • he said to his students, "To be effective preachers you must be sound theologians."
  • he warned that "those who do away with Christian doctrine are, whether they are aware of it or not, the worst enemies of Christian living . . . [because] the coals of orthodoxy are necessary to the fire of piety."

  • Two years before he died he said,
  • Some excellent brethren seem to think more of the life than of the truth; for when I warn them that the enemy has poisoned the children's bread, they answer "Dear brother, we are sorry to hear it; and, to counteract the evil, we will open the window, and give the children fresh air." Yes, open the window, and give them fresh air, by all means . . . . But, at the same time, this ought you to have done, and not to have left the other undone. Arrest the poisoners, and open the windows, too. While men go on preaching false doctrine, you may talk as much as you will about deepening their spiritual life, but you will fail in it.

  • friends, we're in a perilous fight for people - to keep them from spiritual shipwreck
  • what's the alternative to fighting the good fight?
  • only one thing: thrusting away from faith and a good conscience

  • let's apply this lesson to us today
  • first application: realize that we're in a war
  • don't be surprised when Satan attacks
  • Satan is cunning and the father of all lies
  • of course he's going to attack!
  • of course there are going to be false teachers!
  • what did you expect?
  • Jesus prophesied it...yet we seem almost surprised when his prophecies come true!
  • we need to understand that we are in a battle, and that the stakes are eternal
  • we need to fight the good fight ourselves

  • second application: become a theologian
  • resist the trend towards pragmatism
  • defend the truth
  • get to know the truth
  • resist the modern teaching that it doesn't matter what you believe; that doctrine isn't crucial; that all that matters is application
  • there are serious dangers lurking if we don't become students of God's Word, who can discern error

  • Paul wrote:
  • (2 Timothy 2:15) Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.
  • (2 Timothy 2:16) Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.

  • Paul said to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:
  • (Acts 20:29) I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock.
  • (Acts 20:30) Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.
  • (Acts 20:31) So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.

  • third application: be willing to die for some things
  • don't be a pacifist when it comes to God's truth
  • hold on at all costs to the truth that God's grace is for unworthy sinners; salvation is in Jesus Christ alone; that there is forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life
  • be willing to fight, and if necessary, to die for it

My Part in God's Kingdom (Colossians 4:7-14)

  • every single one of us here needs to feel appreciated
  • one of the worst feelings in the world is the feeling of being taken for granted
  • in fact, many people say that they would gladly go without that pay raise at work if only the boss appreciated them
  • wives say they don't even mind not receiving flowers - they just want to feel appreciated
  • somebody has said, "Appreciation makes people feel more important than almost anything you can give them"

  • when it comes to our place in the church, some of us need more information
  • there might be some here who don't understand what the Bible teaches about spiritual gifts in passages like Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4, and 1 Peter 4
  • I debated whether or not to give you more information this morning, but it's my guess that most of you know about spiritual gifts
  • you know the Bible says that you have at least one spiritual gift
  • you understand that it is God's will for you to use your spiritual gift
  • every Christian has been given a personalized purpose of service
  • and God expects you to use the gifts, talents, and opportunities you have to serve others
  • (1 Peter 4:10) Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms.
  • so some of you might need more information, but not many

  • some of you might need more guidance
  • you may understand that every believer has a spiritual gift, but your question is, "What is mine? What should I be doing in ministry?"
  • you want to get involved, and all you need is a path to follow
  • if that's you, then the good news is that Network is designed for you
  • if you take the program that began this morning, you will discover your gifts, passion, and personal style
  • at the end of the course, you will know what you should be doing in ministry
  • and you will have a personal and private meeting with a consultant, who will steer you into a ministry
  • six months later, that consultant will meet with you to ensure that you've found a good fit
  • so, as a special bonus for those of you in the Network program, I give you official permission to sleep through the rest of this sermon
  • you don't need it
  • you know about spiritual gifts, and you're on the right track to discover them and to get active in ministry
  • so I give you permission to find a comfortable position and to get a little sleep for the rest of the sermon
  • but if I see you snoring, I'll be checking next week to make sure you're in the Network class, so be warned!

  • but there are some here this morning whose primary need is encouragement
  • you don't feel appreciated within the church
  • you may feel that your gifts aren't significant, that you have nothing to offer
  • you may feel that you've done your part, or that you're too blank to get involved anymore
  • and you can insert where I said blank your excuse - too old, too young, too busy - whatever you'd like
  • last week I talked to a woman who is considering joining the church
  • she said, "I'm thinking about joining, but I know you're doing this spiritual gift thing. Next thing I know you'll have me teaching grade six boys, doing door-to-door visitation, and repairing the hot water heater every time it breaks"
  • I know that there are many here who feel one of two things:
  • "I have nothing to offer," or "I've already paid my dues"

  • rather than teaching about the theology of Network this morning, I am going to talk about spiritual gifts in action
  • I'm going to look at a passage that is obscure - I bet you haven't heard too many sermons on the passage that was read earlier for us in Colossians 4
  • and yet it's a perfect example of what happens when various people begin to use their spiritual gifts

  • please open your Bibles to Colossians 4:7, which is found on page 1329 in your pew Bibles
  • let's look at five observations from Paul's ministry:
  • OBSERVATION NUMBER ONE: PAUL WAS SURROUNDED BY HELPFUL PEOPLE
  • look down the list of people mentioned
  • none of these people are household names
  • I don't think anyone has named their children after any of these people
  • in fact, some of these names are mentioned here and nowhere else in Scripture
  • but as you read this passage - names like Tychicus and Aristarchus - you get the distinct impression that Paul was surrounded by helpful people
  • not well-known people, but helpful people

  • I've always thought of Paul as a rugged individualist
  • somehow he comes across sometimes as being very independent
  • but Paul's ministry was effective because he was surrounded by helpful people
  • people like the ones listed in this passage
  • others such as Timothy, Luke, John Mark, Aquila and Priscilla, Jason, Tertius, Gaius, Erastus, Quartas, Epaphroditus, Crescens, Titus, Onesiphorous, Erastus, Trophimus - and those are just the ones with easy names!
  • but these were the people that surrounded Paul and made his ministry effective

  • Paul understood that there were two possible approaches to ministry:
  • church addition - in which he carried the load himself and did all the work
  • or church multiplication - where everyone ministers
  • where everyone found their gift and used it for the glory of God
  • but observation number one is that Paul was surrounded by helpful people
  • Paul could not possibly do all that he did without the help, support, and gifts of others
  • in fact, two of the people on this list - Mark and Luke - are considered to be the authors of two Gospels
  • but it wasn't a one-man show - it was a team

  • OBSERVATION TWO: THEIR COMMITMENT TO TEAM MINISTRY WAS A COSTLY ONE
  • you're asking where I get this from
  • the answer is simple: the people listed in this passage risked personal danger by staying close to the apostle
  • Paul was in prison as he wrote this letter
  • being a friend of a prisoner was not a very popular thing
  • in fact, you risked being bullied by the rough characters who guarded the prisoner
  • you might be closely linked with a person deemed to be a danger to national security
  • in short, there was a price to be paid for their commitment to team ministry at that time

  • in fact, it would have been a lot easier to refuse to get involved back then
  • today we come up with excuses: "I'm too old," "I'm so busy at work," "I'll be on vacation" - I almost get the impression that ministry is what we do if we have any time or energy left over
  • after we've watched all our TV shows, done everything in our careers, then maybe we'll think about serving God with our gifts
  • to be honest, we have no idea of the cost that these people had to pay to use their spiritual gifts
  • it cost some of them their lives
  • as we read this passage and see the names represented here, there was a cost to be paid to be part of a team

  • OBSERVATION THREE: THE PEOPLE SURROUNDING PAUL HAD DIFFERENT BACKGROUNDS AND DIFFERENT GIFTS
  • if you look at the people in this passage, there were all different types of people
  • some were helpers; others were messengers; some prayed
  • some were Jewish Christians, according to verse 11, and some were Gentiles
  • one was a slave; another was a physician
  • the diversity of people was necessary to reach across national barriers
  • we'll look at each of these individuals in detail in a moment, but it's enough to say that the people Paul lists here had different backgrounds and different gifts

  • it's amazing the diversity of peo ple that God has given us here at Richview Baptist Church
  • how many people here were raised in a Christian background? how many were not raised in a Christian background?
  • how many people come here from a different denomination than Baptist?
  • how many people here would consider themselves extroverts?
  • I'd ask the introverts to raise their hands, but it wouldn't do any good
  • how many people are good on their feet talking in front of people?
  • how many people here would prefer to be behind the scenes, working without much fanfare?
  • I could go on and on - task oriented vs. people oriented, able to work with children, with youth, with adults
  • the tremendous variety of gifts represented here - those with mercy gifts, serving gifts, encouraging gifts, musical gifts, teaching gifts
  • that's what you call diversity - it threatens some people, but it's healthy within the church
  • the apostle Paul had all sorts of different people around him
  • they had different gifts, different backgrounds, different nationalities
  • and that's what makes the body of Christ very healthy

  • OBSERVATION FOUR: PAUL PUBLICLY AFFIRMED HIS TEAM
  • Paul wanted to make sure that everyone reading the letter understood that his was not a solo effort
  • he went to great lengths to publicly commend those who were working around him
  • he wanted them to know that his ministry was great not because of who he was, but because of all the people who were willing to come around him and help to make it happen
  • Paul did this not just here, but in other letters
  • in almost every book, Paul would take time to commend his co-workers and publicly affirm them

  • OBSERVATION FIVE: NOT ALL THE PEOPLE ON PAUL'S TEAM WERE QUALIFIED
  • this is beautiful
  • as we look at this list of people, it turns out that some of them would never have made our list
  • one of them was a total reject as a missionary
  • another one was a runaway slave
  • there were people who just didn't fit

  • some people say today that they're not qualified
  • they say, "I have nothing to offer. You don't know my background; you don't know what I'm struggling with at the moment."

  • what type of people did Paul have around him?
  • let's take a brief look at each of these players:
  • first, Tychicus in verse 7
  • beside this name you can write the word "faithful"
  • Tychicus is mentioned five times in the Bible, and every time he is mentioned he is helping Paul out
  • he traveled with Paul through Macedonia to Jerusalem
  • he was sent by Paul to Ephesus carrying the book that we now call Ephesians
  • and now he bears the letter to the Colossians, along with a personal message from Paul
  • here he receives the highest praise a Christian can receive:
  • (Colossians 4:7) He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord.
  • in fact, he was sent to the Colossians so that he would encourage their hearts
  • Tychicus was a man Paul could count on

  • then we see Onesimus in verse 9
  • beside Onesimus you can write "bad background"
  • Onesimus was a runaway slave
  • he met Paul in Rome, and became a Christ-follower
  • and Paul sent him home to Philemon, a wealthy member of the Colossian congregation
  • under Paul, he goes back to the place where he was nothing more than a runaway slave, and Paul calls him "a faithful and dear brother, who is one of you"
  • did you notice - there is no mention of his past, just a commendation that he is faithful and dear, and one of them
  • and perhaps you're sitting there today saying, "Pastor, I'm not sure that God could ever use me. You don't know where I've been, you don't know what I've done, you don't know what I've thought"
  • no, I don't, but it's okay
  • God has the great ability to take you where you are and through his grace give you a second chance and cause him to be effective for his kingdom

  • then there was also Aristarchus in verse 10
  • beside Aristarchus you can write "burden bearer"
  • according to verse 10, Aristarchus was in prison with Paul
  • if you look at Aristarchus in the book of Acts, you find that he is a traveling companion of Paul's
  • in fact, when the mob in Ephesus tried to seize Paul, do you remember who they seized?
  • they didn't get Paul, but they did get Aristarchus
  • he was taken prisoner with Paul
  • he went through a shipwreck with Paul
  • Aristarchus was a man who went through thick and thin with Paul
  • he was a burden bearer

  • then we have Mark in verse 10
  • beside Mark you can write "second chance"
  • do you remember Mark?
  • he is known for a failure
  • Barnabus supported Mark in the first missionary journey
  • the first missionary journey was Paul, Barnabus, and Mark
  • and something happened during the first time and Mark left Paul and Barnabus
  • we're not sure if he got sick or homesick
  • but we know this: he left, and Paul didn't like that
  • and when Barnabus wanted to take him the second time, Paul was so disgusted with him that he parted company and went on his own

  • now, all of a sudden, Mark's with him
  • not only that, Mark's a member of the team and a valuable one
  • the apostle Paul calls him a "comfort"
  • in 2 Timothy, Paul says that Mark is "helpful to me in my ministry"
  • he's perfect example of someone who failed once and came back and was used mightily by God
  • God is the God of the second chance
  • there are some people here this morning who have served God before, but they failed
  • and they're slow to get involved once again
  • but God is the God of the second chance; he used Mark, and he can use you

  • in verse 11 we read of Jesus who is called Justus
  • we don't know anything about him
  • but then in verse 12 we find Epaphras
  • beside Epaphras you can write "prayer warrior"
  • it appears that he founded the Colossian church, and we also find him in Philemon as a fellow prisoner of Paul's
  • but here he is known as a prayer warrior
  • (Colossians 4:12) Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.
  • how we need prayer warriors!
  • there might be some here who discover that their ministry is prayer
  • how we need this ministry at Richview!
  • this was the very valuable ministry of Epaphras

  • two more
  • in verse 14 we read of Luke
  • beside Luke you can write "successful"
  • Luke was a physician
  • he was well-educated and trained; a careful and exact historian
  • and yet he chose to travel with Paul pretty much all the time, after Paul's first missionary journey
  • in fact, he appears to be the last one to be with Paul
  • in the last book that Paul wrote, he said:
  • (2 Timothy 4:11) Only Luke is with me.

  • Luke chose to use his gifts for the kingdom
  • he most likely made part of his ministry tending to Paul and his physical condition
  • here is a man who was well-educated and successful, and he chose to make that secondary to serving God

  • finally we have Demas in verse 14
  • beside Demas you can write the word "quitter"
  • Demas is mentioned twice in Scripture as a co-worker of Paul's, but sadly, we read in Paul's last letter that Demas loved the world and deserted Paul
  • Demas ended up being a quitter

  • I guess what I'm saying is t hat God chooses a team full of people with different strengths and different backgrounds
  • God wants to use you
  • and there's no such thing as one who's more significant than others
  • we just have to submit ourselves to Him

  • would you bow your heads with me
  • Father, we thank you for this day, and we thank you for what we learn from Paul's life
  • and now, Lord, we come and submit ourselves to you
  • every man and every woman
  • we consecrate our gifts to you
  • we ask your blessings upon those gifts
  • we ask your Spirit would take and use them for your glory
  • they may seem insignificant
  • there may be some who tried and have failed
  • encourage them, Lord
  • there may be some with great gifts who have had to learn to submit those gifts to the body so that the body could prosper
  • encourage them, Lord
  • there may be those like Mark who tried entering ministry, and it messed up, but unlike Mark, they've stayed out of the ministry
  • encourage them to re-enter and be renewed
  • we surrender and give you and consecrate this day and every gift we have
  • and as the church body leaves, may there be a sense within us that we're part of the team
  • help us to learn that we become greater by becoming a servant of others
  • take our gifts, mesh them together as a team at Richview, for your glory, Amen.
Adapted from a message by John Maxwell

Let's Talk About the Pastor (1 Timothy 1:1-6)

  • "Talking about people," one pastor has said, "is a great sport. It's a popular sport because you can play and be the umpire at the same time. You can even make your own rules if you like. Just mind whose field you're on when you play. Your rules on someone else's home field make for an ugly game"

  • when Sir Winston Churchill was in the twilight of his career, he attended an official function
  • a couple of rows behind him, two people whispered to each other:
  • "There's Churchill. They say he's failing badly"
  • "So I've heard. They also say he's becoming quite senile"
  • at the close of the session, as Churchill was leaving, he leaned over to speak to his two detractors, and said, "They also say he's hard of hearing"

  • people also talk about the pastor
  • I think I've told you about the pastor who visited a home for lunch and asked the little boy what's for lunch
  • the son replied, "Goat"
  • the pastor said, "Are you sure?"
  • and the little boy replied, "Yep. I heard Dad say, ‘Let's have the old goat for dinner today'"

  • we're going to talk about the pastor tonight, as we begin to look at one of the pastoral epistles - 1 Timothy
  • they're called pastoral epistles because they're addressed to the pastors of churches - to Timothy in Ephesus, and to Titus, the pastor of Crete
  • open your Bibles to 1 Timothy as we set the stage for this epistle

  • THE AUTHOR is the apostle Paul
  • (1 Timothy 1:1) Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope,
  • Paul sets an example of assertiveness in verse one
  • he says he is an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and Christ our hope
  • Paul is God's personally chosen ambassador, and is not shy in listing his credentials, knowing that some who would read this letter would question his authority
  • right away, Paul seems to be telling Timothy, "People oppose me. They're going to oppose you. But I'm here by God's command, and so are you. Regardless of what they say about me, "I'm here as an apostle of Christ by the command of God"
  • "Expect detractors to criticize you - but keep on obeying your commander"

  • most likely, Paul wrote this letter from Macedonia after the events in the book of Acts
  • it was likely written sometime between AD 62-66

  • THE CHURCH was in Ephesus, some 400 miles from Macedonia
  • it was a city devoted to the worship of Diana, the patroness of sexuality
  • Paul founded this church, as we read in Acts 19
  • and we read about this church in Revelation 2 some thirty years later
  • by that time, it wasn't a healthy church

  • THE RECIPIENT is Timothy
  • we first meet Timothy in Acts 16
  • Paul was impressed by Timothy, and made him an intern on his missionary journeys
  • he seems to have been impressed by this young man, and sent him to Ephesus to lead the church there while he moved on to Macedonia
  • Timothy was evidently a gifted man, close to the apostle Paul - and yet a man who probably had some physical problems and a tendency to get discouraged

  • and THE PURPOSE of this book is to encourage and charge Timothy in his role as a church leader
  • Timothy was there as an apostolic representative - probably not as the pastor - and yet many of the principles are transferable to pastors and all of church leadership
  • Paul wrote this book to encourage Timothy, but also to explain how a church should be managed
  • it is a book that re-enforces his authority as a servant of God
  • it outlines, as we will see, the main responsibilities of those who provide oversight in the church
  • specifically, it outlines these two:
  • FIRST, that leaders defend Christian truth from distortion or perversion
  • SECOND, that leaders maintain spiritual discipline, so that Christians mature in their faith and become obedient disciples of our Lord

  • an advertisement appeared in a London newspaper:
  • Men wanted for hazardous journey, small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success.
  • thousands of men responded - because the ad was signed by the noted Arctic explorer, Sir Ernest Shackleton
  • Warren Wiersbe says that if Jesus Christ had advertised for workers, his announcement might have read something like this:
  • Men and women needed for difficult task of helping to build my church. You will often be misunderstood, even by those working with you. You will face constant attack from an invisible enemy. You may not see the results of your labor, and your full reward will not come till after your work is completed. It may cost you your home, your ambitions, even your life.
  • and yet there's not a better way to spend your life than serving God, and you'll never find a better master

  • why are we studying this book?
  • because it's crucial for us to know how the church should be managed
  • and because everyone here is either a church leader or under church leadership, it's crucial for everyone to understand what a church leader should be
  • what pastors and deacons will look like, and how they should act
  • we're going to study in this book some important topics, such as prayer, gender in church leadership, the care and protection of pastors, and Christianity in the workplace

  • but for the rest of this evening, let's talk about the pastor
  • let's talk about three indispensable characteristics that Paul mentions for the pastor in verses 3 to 7 of 1 Timothy 1
  • THE FIRST INDISPENSABLE: CERTAINTY OF LOCATION
  • (1 Timothy 1:3) As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer
  • in verse 3, Paul seems to indicate that he had been with Timothy in Ephesus, but had left him
  • there is a hint in verse 3, when Paul says "stay on", that Timothy might have wanted to move
  • but Paul tells him to stay where he is until his calling there is done
  • Timothy has a job to do there - to command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer

  • a few years ago, there were wildfires in Riverside, California, that destroyed many acres of trees, including some homes
  • after the fires were put out, the fire fighters were searching through the rubble for victims
  • they found a man - deceased, of course - who seemed to have broken every bone in his body
  • the strange thing was that this man was completely outfitted in scuba diving gear
  • a scuba diver in the midst of a deadly fire? it was a mystery

  • here's what happened
  • the forestry department uses specially equipped airplanes that swoop down to lakes and scoop up thousands of gallons of water which they can then take and dump on the blaze
  • they're called superscoopers
  • this poor man was in the wrong place at the wrong time
  • he surfaced from his dive just as a plane came and scooped up water with him in it, and took him miles away and dumped him onto a burning house

  • a pastor must be sure that he is not at the wrong place at the wrong time
  • Paul writes to Timothy, "Stay there so that you can teach..."
  • rather than being a pastor-at-large, Paul encouraged Timothy to stay where he was so that he could fulfill his task
  • H.B. London writes in The Heart of a Great Pastor:
  • When God sends them, modern Moseses must willingly go to tough places. Check two realities we seldom discuss:
    1. There are not enough easy assignments to go around.
    2. Most desirable places were difficult until a previous pastor loved the church into gr eatness. Face it - few Camelots exist in the ministry.
  • This means that ministers must sink their roots where the Father providentially places them...Pastors must commit to stay in an assignment until God gives them a genuine spiritual breakthrough or a clear-cut release. Many pastors need to become enthusiastic naturalized citizens of the place where they serve until they are used by God to establish a flourishing ministry.
  • Paul would say to pastors, I think, "Stay where you are. Accomplish the task given to you. Don't look for greener grass. Don't stay too long either, but don't view your current church as a stepping stone. Bloom where you're planted. Fulfill your charge where you're located."

  • the second indispensable characteristic of a pastor is found in verse 3 and 4
  • THE SECOND INDISPENSABLE: CONFIDENCE IN VOCATION
  • (1 Timothy 1:3) As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer
  • (1 Timothy 1:4) nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God's work--which is by faith.

  • the British are great at the patronage system
  • the story goes that for over twenty years, an attendant stood at the foot of a stairway leading to the House of Commons
  • at last, someone checked, and they discovered that the job had been held in the attendant's family for three generations
  • it seems that it originated when the stairs had been painted, and the grandfather had been assigned to a patronage position to warn people not to step on the wet paint
  • the paint dried up, but the job didn't

  • a pastor doesn't just hang around the church because he has a job there
  • God's Word tells a pastor what his job is
  • the pastor is there to guard against truth and decay entering the church
  • Paul writes, "command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer"
  • take a stand against the spread of erroneous teaching
  • according to Paul, Timothy's position is an authoritative one - he has the right to call people to account and to correct any false teaching that might be apparent within the Ephesian congregation

  • everything in the life of a church stands on biblical truth
  • someone writes, "Without gospel truth, what we call worship blurs into entertainment or emotional catharsis - a ‘feel good' experience at church. Without truth, teaching/preaching becomes either ear-tickling or guilt-provoking. Ignore the truths of God's grace and teaching becomes legalistic. Instead of experiencing freedom from guilt Christians are crushed, overwhelmed by feelings of worthlessness. Without truth, what is called evangelism/making disciples degenerates to anything that will draw a crowd"

  • this is serious
  • in an age that underplays doctrine in favor of practicality, Paul says to correct false teaching
  • stop people from devoting their attention to myths and endless genealogies - speculation about things not grounded in the truth
  • at the time, some of the Jews had developed an imaginative rewriting of some of the genealogies and accounts of the Old Testament - all speculative
  • it is even possible that some began to view this deeper type of knowledge as necessary to their salvation

  • the whole problem with these types of things, Paul says, is that they promote controversy, rather than God's work
  • the term used for God's work can be translated "God's saving plan - his redemptive purposes throughout history"

  • instead of focusing on somebody's hair-brained teaching, focus on the bedrock of truth - God's Word
  • don't follow the latest fads, or get your theology from the "New Books" section of the Christian bookstore, or even worse, from Chapters
  • open the Word of God, make it your textbook
  • when you preach, Timothy, put one finger in the air and another one on the text, and when the finger in the air gets tired, trade - but always keep one finger in the text as you preach and as you teach
  • correct false teachers, and do it with confidence and authority - that's your job

  • we read in verse five the third indispensable characteristic of a pastor
  • THE THIRD INDISPENSABLE: CLARITY OF VISION
  • (1 Timothy 1:5) The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
  • (1 Timothy 1:6) Some have wandered away from these and turned to meaningless talk.

  • Paul told Timothy to command certain people not to teach error
  • why? did Paul want Timothy to gloat in winning an intellectual battle?
  • no
  • the goal was love in the church

  • although Paul's command was about correcting error, it has a far deeper purpose: the purpose of establishing love instead of contention
  • I've known Christians who are so zealous for truth that they have no love left
  • they just want to win
  • but remember: truth without love destroys; love without truth deceives
  • love is the mark of Christians
  • Jesus said:
  • (John 13:35) By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
  • (Matthew 22:37) Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'
  • (Matthew 22:38) This is the first and greatest commandment.
  • (Matthew 22:39) And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'
  • (Matthew 22:40) All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

  • where does this love come from?
  • Paul tells us: a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith
  • is your heart pure? are you nursing judges? are you longing for things that are shameful?
  • should you ask God to purify your heart today?

  • do you have a good conscience? are you sensitive to wrong attitudes?
  • Paul tells us later in this letter that some people have had their consciences seared as by a hot iron
  • have you become so hardened that it doesn't other you at all to put someone else down, to gossip, or to be dishonest?
  • is your faith sincere?

  • do you have a sincere faith - an unshakeable conviction of salvation?
  • if you don't have a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith, then no matter how hard you try, you won't have love
  • it will be a fa?ade
  • without love, the church will be nothing more than a collection of proud, spiritually impotent people who just want to keep up appearances
  • and my job is to keep this goal of Christian love in view

  • so pastor, be certain of your location - be sure that you're serving exactly where you're supposed to be
  • don't long to be someplace else
  • maintain confidence in vocation - be completely convinced that you know what God has called you to do, and do it
  • and maintain a clarity of vision - be precise in your purpose
  • keep the church on track, moving toward the goal given in Scripture

  • now let's talk about you
  • I can only do what God requires if you let the pastor be the pastor
  • Jesus said very clearly:
  • (John 13:20) I tell you the truth, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me."
  • it is a serious thing to reject the messenger the Lord has sent
  • if you refuse to receive the instruction and guidance of a pastor, you had better be absolutely certain that the Lord didn't send him

  • this isn't a ploy to give me all the power and authority
  • but I do want to ask you: can you accept and support what God's Word here in Timothy says about pastors and church leaders?
  • if so, I want you to pray for me and a sk God to use me as your pastor to help you in your Christian growth and obedience
Adapted from a message by John Crocker

The Justice of God

  • (Romans 3:25) God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished--
  • (Romans 3:26) he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

  • in his excellent book Our God is Awesome, Tony Evans asks some pointed questions:
  • what would you say about a father who failed to warn his children of impending danger?
  • what would you say about a friend who saw you going down a dangerous road and knew disaster awaited you at the other end, yet he made no attempt to stop you?
  • how about a doctor who knew you had a life-threatening illness, but simply told you to take two aspirin, go home, and rest?
  • suppose a police officer saw smoke rising from your roof, or witnessed burglars breaking into your home, but never tried to alert anyone?

  • and then Tony Evans asks just one more question:
  • what would you say about a pastor who told you about God's love and forgiveness and patience, but never warned you of his wrath?
  • I'll give you his answer: "That pastor would be doing you a great disservice"

  • this evening I'd like to examine one of the less popular characteristics of God: his justice
  • the basic definition of God's justice is simple, and at first glance, not too disturbing: God always does what is right
  • God is just
  • let me begin with presenting the positive side of God's justice, and then let us look at the other side as we examine God's attitude toward sin

  • BUT FIRST THE GOOD NEWS
  • God is just
  • he always does what is right
  • in fact, so many passages in the Bible call God righteous, it's hard to know where to begin
  • (Psalms 11:7) For the LORD is righteous, he loves justice; upright men will see his face.
  • (Psalms 119:137) Righteous are you, O LORD, and your laws are right.
  • (Psalms 111:3) Glorious and majestic are his deeds, and his righteousness endures forever.

  • God's justice means that every decision God every makes is a good and right decision
  • furthermore, every single law that God has ever spoken into existence is a good law
  • (Psalms 19:7) The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple.
  • we can have confidence that even though we might not understand God, everything that he does is right
  • as Abraham says in Genesis 18:25:
  • (Genesis 18:25) Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?"

  • I love talking about this part of God's justice, because it means that God plays fair
  • as Bill Hybels says:

    God isn't swayed by the color of our skin, the size of our office, or the amount of our tithe check. His laws are "equal opportunity" and apply across the board. There is no discrimination, and no affirmative action either - just all-around, perfect righteousness. Every law protects us from harming ourselves, from harming or being harmed by others, or from squandering our lives and eternities. Each one emanates from an inherently righteous core and applies the same regardless of our gender, our age, our religious affiliation, or our heritage.


  • Moses could say of God:
  • (Deuteronomy 32:4) He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.
  • God is holy and just, and he only does what is right
  • it would be very comfortable to stop here, but there's the flip side to this
  • and I wouldn't be a very good pastor if I didn't give you the full story

  • THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STORY IS THIS: GOD INTENSELY HATES SIN
  • God loves all that is right and good, and everything that conforms to his character
  • but let's be honest and say that God hates everything that is opposed to his moral character
  • God hates sin

  • this begins to get a bit troublesome, because it affects you and me
  • God intensely hates all sin
  • because of his own righteousness, and the justice of his law, God must judge sin
  • there's no way around it
  • the Greek word for wrath indicates God's displeasure at sin and his judgment against it
  • don't go thinking that God throws temper-tantrums, or blows up like we do, but make no mistake about it: God is angry against sin
  • against big sins and little sins
  • all sin is repulsive to him

  • did you know that God hates sin?
  • his hatred of sin is intense and perfect
  • he can't stand sin
  • Psalm 5:4-6 says:
  • (Psalms 5:4) You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil; with you the wicked cannot dwell.
  • (Psalms 5:5) The arrogant cannot stand in your presence; you hate all who do wrong.
  • (Psalms 5:6) You destroy those who tell lies; bloodthirsty and deceitful men the LORD abhors.

  • the idea of God's wrath appears over and over in the Bible; you just can't ignore it
  • (Nahum 1:2) The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD takes vengeance and is filled with wrath. The LORD takes vengeance on his foes and maintains his wrath against his enemies.
  • (Nahum 1:6) Who can withstand his indignation? Who can endure his fierce anger? His wrath is poured out like fire; the rocks are shattered before him.

  • many people mistakenly think that God is a God of judgment in the Old Testament, and a God of love in the New Testament, but never changes
  • the New Testament speaks over and over again of God's wrath:
  • (John 3:36) Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him."
  • (Romans 1:18) The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness,
  • God hates sin

  • let's explore the idea of God's wrath a bit further
  • THE FIRST THING WE NEED TO UNDERSTAND IS THAT GOD WOULDN'T BE JUST IF HE WASN'T ANGRY AT SIN
  • are you sickened when you hear of men who beat their wives?
  • are you outraged when you hear about children who are molested?
  • what about when someone preys on the elderly and robs them of their life savings?
  • if we're outraged when we see injustice, imagine what goes on in the mind of an intrinsically righteous God!

  • part of God's justice is that he hates evil
  • (Psalms 45:7) You love righteousness and hate wickedness.
  • one aspect of God's goodness is the positive that God does
  • but the other aspect of God's goodness is his negative reaction to evil
  • and that makes God just
  • God wouldn't be just if he wasn't outraged at sin

  • WE ALSO NEED TO UNDERSTAND HOW GOD REACTS TO SIN
  • (Romans 11:22) Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off.
  • if your theology doesn't include both the kindness and sternness of God, your theology is lacking
  • if you don't think that God negatively reacts to sin, just because God is kind and patient, you don't understand God
  • you haven't read the Bible!

  • when Adam and Eve disobeyed God, they got booted out of the Garden
  • God destroyed the whole world with a flood in the days of Noah because of sin
  • God sent fire and brimstone on Sodom of Gomorrah because of the sickening sin of those cities
  • God sent plague after plague on the Egyptians
  • when Israel sinned, he said to Moses:
  • (Exodus 32:9) "I have seen these people," the LORD said to Moses, "and they are a stiff-necked people .
  • (Exodus 32:10) Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation."
  • when Jesus bore the sins of the world, God unleashed the fury of his eternal wrath on his only Son
  • if God's sinless Son didn't even escape God's wrath, we had better take this seriously!
  • (Psalms 7:11) God is a righteous judge, a God who expresses his wrath every day.
  • every time we think an evil thought or do an evil deed, God's anger is kindled because he is so perfect, he must react to unrighteousness

  • God's wrath is not only present today, but he is storing up his wrath for eternity:
  • (Romans 2:5) But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.
  • the Bible over and over speaks of coming age, when God will finally and decisively display his wrath at sin
  • it teaches that the wicked will enter into conscious, eternal punishment, suffering far beyond any experience of misery found in this world
  • the Bible describes hell as a place of outer darkness, a lake of fire, a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth, a place of eternal separation from the blessings of God, a prison, a place of torment where the worm doesn't turn or die
  • and it's eternal
  • "If you emptied the Pacific Ocean, the largest body of water in the world, and piled it full of sand as high as Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world, you would have a pretty big sand pile. Now suppose you got a bird and trained it to pick up one grain of sand every million years. How long would it take that bird to empty that sand pile? A long time. We probably don't have numbers to count that high.
  • "But guess what? When that bird has picked up that last grain of sand, you will have only spent your first second in hell. That's what I call an eternity!" (Tony Evans)

  • nobody likes to think about these things
  • I'd be lying if I said it didn't break my heart
  • as the Bible says:
  • (Hebrews 10:30) For we know him who said, "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," and again, "The Lord will judge his people."
  • (Hebrews 10:31) It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

  • but like all God's attributes, we should be thankful for his justice
  • viewed alone, it's hard to be thankful for his justice and wrath, but what would God be like if he were a God who didn't hate sin?
  • he would either be a God who either delighted in sin or wasn't troubled by it, and such a God wouldn't be worthy of our worship

  • BUT I'VE LEFT OUT THE GOOD NEWS ABOUT GOD'S WRATH, AND THAT'S HIS PATIENCE
  • (Psalms 103:8) The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.
  • (Psalms 103:9) He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever;
  • (Psalms 103:10) he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.
  • in fact, the very reason that God has not executed his wrath upon evil is because he is waiting so that more people can escape his wrath
  • (2 Peter 3:9) The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

  • God doesn't come out of nowhere and lower the boom on unsuspecting people
  • God is long-suffering - holding back for a lifetime what we truly deserve
  • you see, justice is getting what we do deserve
  • but mercy is not getting what we do deserve
  • and God is showing us his mercy

  • the good news is that God has allowed a substitute to bear the weight of God's wrath in our stead
  • Jesus took all of our sins, our rebellion, and our guilt, and paid for everything at Calvary
  • all sin had to be punished, or else God wouldn't be God
  • God has delivered us from the wrath of God through Jesus Christ:
  • (Romans 5:8) But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
  • (Romans 5:9) Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him!

  • a young man in Germany in 1505 had obtained his M.A. degree and had commenced further studies in law
  • in spite of his education, he was depressed
  • his sin troubled him and he was frightened of dying, for he knew that he would have to meet God as judge
  • Martin Luther knew that God was holy and also angry at sinners
  • his heart sank at the prospect of death, because he knew he deserved to go to hell
  • so how could he get in God's good graces?
  • how could he avoid hell?
  • that was his big problem

  • after half a term of studying law, Luther returned home for a brief holiday
  • on his return to college, he was walking along a lonely country road when a dreadful storm broke out
  • the young man was frightened, especially after lightning threw him to the ground
  • he prayed in fear
  • he was so scared that he vowed he would become a monk if God spared his life

  • well, his life was spared and he became a monk, and more earnestly searched for God and salvation
  • after a few months, he realized that he had failed to satisfy God at every point despite a strict religious life
  • ‘I was a good monk," he said, "and I kept the rules of the order so strictly that I may say that if ever a monk got to heaven by his monkery, it was I. If I had kept on any longer, I should have killed myself with vigils, fastings, prayers, and readings"
  • as he read the Bible, God began to show him that Jesus Christ alone had kept the law of God on our behalf and suffered the punishment for sinners when he died on the cross
  • at last, he found peace with God through trusting in Christ
  • he knew now that his sins were all forgiven through the Lord Jesus Christ

  • no, not even Luther deserved to be forgiven by God
  • he was a sinner like ourselves
  • but God is wonderfully kind and merciful towards us all
  • he offers a free pardon to hell-deserving sinners
  • (1 Peter 3:18) For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.
  • but God's patience will one day run out, which is why the Bible says in Hebrews 4:7-15 that today is the day of salvation

  • one final story:
  • in 1829, a Philadelphia man named George Wilson robbed the U.S. mail and killed someone in the process
  • Wilson was arrested, brought to trial, convicted, and sentenced to be hanged
  • some friends intervened on his behalf, and were finally able to obtain a pardon for Wilson from President Andrew Jackson

  • when informed of this, Wilson refused to accept the pardon
  • the sheriff didn't want to carry out the sentence: how could he hang a pardoned man?
  • an appeal was sent to President Jackson
  • perplexed, he turned to the U.S. Supreme Court to decide the case
  • Chief Justice John Marshall ruled that a pardon rejected is no pardon at all
  • George Wilson would have to face his sentence
  • Wilson was hanged, although his pardon lay on the sheriff's desk

  • God forbid that at the judgment, anyone here will have to bear the full weight of God's wrath because they turned down the pardon, freely offered by God to you, that's sitting before him right now!
  • let's pray

Canceling the Code

  • as of this morning, we have 273 days left before the next millennium
  • I'm sure that you've heard of all the things that could go wrong with Y2K, but this morning for a minute I'd like to give you the bright side
  • wouldn't it be great if on January 1, 2000, Revenue Canada could not figure out how much tax you owed them?
  • wouldn't it be wonderful if Visa and MasterCard knew how much you owed them, but perhaps lost your address in their database?
  • and for those of us who have mortgages and car loans and so on that exceed our personal wealth, wouldn't it be wonderful if some computer glitch led to all these being erased?

  • I've noticed how easy it is to get into debt
  • in a day of loans approved in 10 minutes, no payments and no interest - a day in which you can buy practically anything without having the money to pay for it, it is incredibly easy to get into debt
  • and many times this debt accumulates until it is absolutely out of control

  • there is a debt that is owed by every single person in this room - no exceptions
  • it is a debt that you might have thought about recently; it might have been very much on your mind
  • on the other hand, it is possible that you haven't considered this debt
  • it doesn't really matter; it's there anyway
  • the Bible mentions this debt in Colossians 2:14 in a very graphic way: as a written decree of indebtedness; as a record containing charges against us; as a handwritten IOU
  • some translations - the NIV. for instance - incorrectly take this as referring to the Old Testament Law; the 613 commandments given, and which condemn us because we haven't followed the commandments
  • what Paul is referring actually comes from two words
  • it refers to a handwritten acknowledgement of a debt that became a legal obligation
  • and this IOU was personally signed by the debtor and placed in a public location for all to see

  • times have changed, but not too much
  • whenever you take out a loan or borrow some money, you sign in your own handwriting a legal document that acknowledges how much money you owe
  • I used to dream as a child of signing an IOU in invisible ink, so that my acknowledgement of that debt would disappear
  • sometimes, banks or lending companies will take out a lien against your property to secure that debt
  • but make no mistake about it: you are indebted, because there is a note of indebtedness stating your obligations, and it is there whether you know it or not

  • put Paul makes another point about this debt that is owed by everyone
  • he says in Colossians 2:14 that this debt is against us; it is contrary to us
  • the King James Version says that it is a "handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us"
  • you and I know that there is good debt, and there is bad debt
  • we have all been in the position of borrowing money when it is in the interests of everyone
  • there is such a thing as good debt, although it is very rare
  • I well remember the days of the early 1980's when many homeowners had mortgage rates of five or six percent, while investment rates were in the high teens
  • in that case it was great to have debt at the lower rate, so you could invest the money at a much higher rate of return

  • but we also know what it means to have bad debt
  • many of us know what it is to be house-poor, or to have more bills coming in than we can possibly pay

  • Paul describes the debt that we owe as being against us; hostile to us; directly opposed to us
  • it is a promissory note that is definitely not in our best interests

  • if you've ever had a loan called when you've been unable to pay, or have had creditors sending threatening signals your way, with some hints of penalties and pain, then you know what I'm talking about here
  • but even if you've never been in that position, imagine it
  • imagine being carrying a debt that was so onerous that it consumed all your thoughts
  • the creditor is calling, and you have no way of paying
  • you are facing ruin
  • there appears to be little hope
  • there is nothing you can do to avoid collapse
  • now, don't just imagine it, because this passage says that you currently are in this position, or have been at some point in the past

  • what is this debt?
  • looking at this passage, it becomes clear that this is a reference to the debt that every single person in the world must acknowledge before God
  • for the Jew of that day, there would have been no argument
  • they had the Old Testament law
  • they knew their obligations before God
  • they had the written law, which told them that without question "There is no one righteous, not even one"

  • but what about those who don't have the law?
  • what about those who haven't had the benefit of going to church or reading the Bible or hearing about his standards?
  • well, the answer is that they are indebted too
  • every single person in the world, with or without the written law of God - every person has the inner voice of conscience that bears witness to God's law
  • as Romans says:
  • (Romans 1:20) For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

  • every single person bears within their conscience the acknowledgement that they have failed to obey God
  • every person is guilty of the same willful disobedience
  • every single person has, in one sense, signed a note of bankruptcy acknowledging their debt to God

  • I've known people who have owed tremendous amounts of money, and yet had the most casual attitude about it
  • given that the Bible says that everyone is a debtor to God because they have broken his law, the difference is not whether or not we are debtors to God, but whether or not we care
  • whether or not we are blinded to our indebtedness
  • but make no mistake: every single person in this world is in the position of having a note of indebtedness to God that is hostile and opposed to us, and that will lead ultimately to our ruin

  • so what's to be done with this debt?
  • you can't pay it off - the debt is too oppressive
  • no matter how much you try, you will be incapable of working hard enough to pay off this debt
  • you can't even make the minimum monthly payments on it - it is going to kill you, and you can't do anything about it

  • you could always try begging for mercy from the debt-holder
  • in this case, you could try to beg God to wipe out this debt; that he will unilaterally forgive the debt of obligation you owe him
  • there is one problem with this: someone has to pay for it
  • picture your brand new car sitting in your driveway
  • late one night, your next-door neighbor comes home drunk and turns into your driveway instead of his, and demolishes your car
  • you can forgive him, but somebody still has to pay for the damages
  • it's either going to be you or him
  • even God can't simply forgive - there has to be a payment made to settle the tremendous debt that you owe to him

  • which leads me back to the passage
  • because, besides spelling out this oppressive debt that we owe - a debt that we must all acknowledge - Colossians 2 goes behind the scenes to tell us what happened on that first Good Friday - the day that Jesus died
  • rather than tell us what happened in the foreground, Paul describes what was going on behind the scenes as Jesus died two thousand years ago
  • read with me Colossians 2:13-15
  • (Colossians 2:13) When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins,
  • (Colossians 2:14) having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.
  • (Colossians 2:15) And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

  • God did three things behind the scenes that first Good Friday
  • THE FIRST THING GOD DID IS THAT HE MADE YOU ALIVE
  • (Colossians 2:13) When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins,
  • your indebtedness had led to your death
  • your sinfulness had led to a spiritual condition of death
  • the Bible doesn't say that you were spiritually sick - it says you were dead
  • there was absolutely no way that you could respond to God
  • there was nothing as a spiritually dead person that you could offer God
  • you didn't even have a few redeeming qualities that God could work with
  • it wasn't a case of you doing something and God making up the difference
  • the Bible says that you were dead in your sins and in your sinful nature

  • but God made us alive
  • Jesus' death in the cross led to the forgiveness of our sins
  • and we were made alive

  • but secondly, and in a most graphic way:
  • THE SECOND THING THAT GOD DID BEHIND THE SCENES IS THAT HE CANCELLED ALL CHARGES AGAINST YOU
  • he cancelled the decree of indebtedness; the record containing charges against us; the handwritten IOU
  • Colossians 2:14 says in the King James Version:
  • (Colossians 2:14) Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;

  • the word that Paul used is a beautiful one
  • the word means "to wash over, to wipe out"
  • it refers to the wiping out of a memory of an experience
  • of canceling a vote, annulling a law, or canceling a charge or a debt
  • it is a word that was also used for washing out the writing on a papyrus in that day
  • it is a word that has completeness in its meaning
  • and what Paul says is that all our indebtedness was completely wiped out
  • the charges have been completely struck
  • as one person expands on this verse, "All sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean, that old arrest warrant canceled"

  • what happened to it?
  • Paul says that it was nailed to the cross
  • when Jesus died on that cross, he was settling the debts of every single believer in Jesus Christ
  • if you were there watching Jesus on the cross, you would have observed the suffering of Jesus
  • you would have observed the way that he suffered
  • you would have observed the sign that Pilate ordered
  • but you would not have observed what was happening behind the scenes
  • every single debt owed by every single believer was being nailed on the cross at that time
  • God was pouring out the fullness of his wrath on Jesus
  • and Jesus Christ was paying in full the penalty of our sins
  • our debtor's obligation was finally and decisively removed

  • think of it: God nailed the incriminating list of unpaid debts to the cross
  • the IOU that we owed spelled out a penalty for nonpayment - death
  • God didn't just tear up that note and throw it away
  • the full penalty was exacted in Christ's death
  • Christ stood in our place, taking our sin upon himself and taking away our guilt
  • in exchange, we received his righteousness

  • this morning, if you come to know Jesus Christ and have believed in him, your debt has been paid in full
  • there is therefore no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus
  • it's gone

  • in those days, another way a bond could be cancelled was to put a giant X through it
  • the charges beneath the mark, however, would have remained readable
  • what God has done is that he has completely obliterated your debts
  • they're gone
  • Jesus obliterated and canceled them at the cross

  • the third thing that was going on at Golgotha behind the scenes, not visible to any spectators, is mentioned in verse 15:
  • (Colossians 2:15) And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
  • THE THIRD THING THAT GOD DID IS THAT HE DISARMED AND TRIUMPHED OVER EVER POWER THAT STANDS OPPOSED TO GOD AND TO US
  • at the end of World War II, war criminals were brought before the Nuremberg Tribunal, and were exposed as being weak and beggarly
  • in Paul's days, a Roman emperor celebrated a victory by leading a parade of vanquished enemies
  • it is possible that Paul is referring to this
  • ironically, at the cross which was so full of suffering, Jesus was showing the greatest display of triumph, shaming them publicly by his victory on the cross
  • that's what was going on behind the scenes that first Good Friday

  • as one song says, "He took my sins and my sorrows, He made them his very own; He bore the burden to Calvary, and suffered and died alone"

  • this morning, you're here and you're in one of two conditions
  • you're here, and if you have come to know Christ as your Savior, have confessed him as your Lord, then you are here as someone who has a clean slate before God
  • your debt has been cancelled
  • you are completely righteous and just in God's eyes this morning
  • in which case, I think an appropriate response would be to sing, "Hallelujah! What a Savior!"
  • isn't it amazing to know that your sins - everything you've done wrong - all that has been completely obliterated at the cross, because of what Jesus did?
  • you might be in that condition this morning

  • or you could still be a debtor
  • you might not have known it, but you owe God a tremendous debt for every wrong thing you've ever done
  • today there's a decree of indebtedness; a record containing charges against you; a handwritten IOU
  • and you need to get that debt taken care of

  • if that's the case with you, then you can today have "all sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean, that old arrest warrant cancelled and nailed to Christ's Cross"

  • let's pray
  • Lord, we thank you for the wonderful salvation that you've purchased for us
  • we're amazed at what it cost you
  • and we thank you this morning that for as many as know you as Savior, our sins are forgiven
  • the record of our debts has been obliterated
  • we are clean in your eyes
  • and we thank you for this

  • and I realize, Father, that there might be somebody here who has realized for the first time that that they have this debt
  • I pray that they might come to you today, speak to someone before they leave, or even pray from where they are seated right now
  • "I realize that I owe this debt. I acknowledge that I can't pay it myself, no matter how many good things I do. I accept Christ's forgiveness today as I come and confess my sins, and trust in what he did at the cross for my forgiveness."
  • in Jesus' name, Amen.