Thursday, 26 September 2013

Why should I bother to live for God?


Paul commands Timothy to live for God

‘I charge you’, he says in v14, ‘to keep this command’.
Which command?
The command to (v11) ‘pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.’

They are precious qualities.
Godliness: (I’m putting this first because this is the quality that is also mentioned in 1 Tim 6:6) - god like-ness. Jesus was the eternal Son of God become human. So becoming like God is about looking at Jesus and desiring to become like him.
Righteousness: right-ness. But right-ness as God sees it. Pursuing righteousness is about putting God and God-stuff first.
Faith: seek faith, but this is not speaking about faith in general. The faith that is spoken of here is about a faith in God. Seek to live by faith in God each day, each moment: trusting him, doing it his way – even when you don’t like it.
They interviewed a woman out shopping in Nairobi last week. They asked her if she was scared after the Westgate attack. ‘No’, she said, ‘I am not scared. My life is in the hands of God. If I die I am with God’.
Love: pursue love – not to be loved (although that is important), but to love. To love like Jesus. To love your enemy in such a way that they become your friend.
Endurance: pursue stickability. Work at it. It doesn’t just happen.
Gentleness: it is a great quality. You can be immensely powerful and yet still be gentle. Gentleness has nothing to prove, it is content, it recognises how precious and how fragile the other is. Gentleness is great big hands holding a tiny baby.

It is very different from the other option that we are given here.

The way of the world is to pursue money and the things of this world.

Money offers us so much. It says get me, and I will make you happy, respected, satisfied, powerful and secure. I will give you what you want, when you want it.

There are three problems

1. Money does not give what it claims

Money cannot guarantee enjoyment, satisfaction, security or contentment. The more we have, the more we want. It can bring great unhappiness. Paul writes that the love of money can bring many griefs (v10).

I quoted Freddie Mercury at the Alpha course last week:
“You can have everything in the world and still be the loneliest man. And that is the most bitter type of loneliness. Success has brought me world idolisation and millions of pounds. But it's prevented me from having the one thing we all need: A loving, ongoing relationship.

2. Pursuing money makes us do things that are not good.

V9: ‘people who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap’

The pursuit of money makes us do dreadful things to other people. We treat them like mosquitoes treat rats. They are there to have their blood sucked dry.

I went to buy a carpet. I was told the price of the carpet and the cost of fitting. I said, Yes we would buy it. But when I went to pay, the price began to go up. They asked me for extras: the glue spray, delivery costs etc. So I got in a strop, said no thank you, and went to one of their competitors instead. I complained about them to him. He said, lots of people say that. They are being ripped off, or at least they are made to feel that they are being ripped off.
It is not nice to feel as if you are being ripped off – and yet I wonder whether we are guilty of doing the same thing

The love of money makes us work far more hours than we need doing jobs that we despise; it makes us borrow more than we can afford to repay; it makes us dream irresponsible dreams. It makes us lie – whether to the tax officer, our employers, the customers. It makes us reckless: we gamble and steal. It makes us arrogant (we look down on those who have less) or inadequate (because we are not as financially successful as our brother or sister).

Of course money says: ‘If you get me, you will be able to give’.
Yes, we will be able to give, but we probably won’t give.
If you do not choose to give when you have a little, you will not choose to give if you gain great wealth.
Parents, can I urge you to instill into your children the habit of tithing now. You give them £1 – get them to put aside 10p of that for giving. It is easy to do, especially if you give them regular pocket money. You can stack the odds in their favour. Give them £1.10 per week, and get them to give 10%. It is one of the most liberating life practices that you can teach them.

3. Money will not save us at the end.

One day we will have to let it go.

I have quoted from Edge of Eternity, which is a sort of modern day Pilgrims Progress. The hero, Nick, is on the road to the heavenly city. They pass by a glorious estate. The owner welcomes them in and shows them round. He sits them down for a banquet. And then he asks them what they think. Nick and his fellow pilgrims are in awe. But one of them, the oldest, looks at the owner and says to him, with tears in his eyes, ‘It is lovely. But it will be so hard for you when you have to let it all go.’

I make a suggestion.
If you’ve got it now, start getting rid of it now – especially if you don’t really need it.
Don’t upgrade, downgrade.
Don’t look to get more, look to have less.
Give. Give ridiculously. Give generously.

Paul says to Timothy, ‘Command them (those who have more) to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up reassure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.’ (v18f)

So what is the alternative to the love of, the pursuit of money?

‘Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.’

It is hard. Money seems very real and solid (although in reality it is just figures on some bank ledger). You can do solid stuff with it.
Godliness – becoming like Jesus Christ – seems so vague.
And everything around us tells us to pursue stuff.

It is a struggle, a battle. That is why Paul says to Timothy, ‘Fight the good fight of the faith’ (v12).

And he gives three reasons

1.  Because this is about eternal life (v12); it is about the life that is really life (v19).

I’ve been reading the writings of the men and women who are called the desert fathers and mothers. I’m not talking about Rommel, but about people who lived 1500 years earlier. They left civil society and went to form communities of faith in the desert for the sake of Christ.

We talk a lot about balance. They were gloriously unbalanced. They were loopy. They renounced everything. If it moved, they renounced it. If it stood still, they renounced it. They gave up: the company of other people, speaking, wealth, comfort, political power, status, sex, food.

We might question that, but we cannot question the reason why they did it. They did it for him, for a vision of righteousness and godliness, and for heaven.

Why should you choose to pursue godliness?

Why would anyone choose to be poor, to suffer, to be ridiculed and rejected rather than be rich, powerful, applauded and respected?

Might eternal life be a factor?

Paul writes of the first Christians: If Christ was not raised from the dead, then we are to be pitied more than all people.
Why? Because we have chosen to give up so much for nothing?
We pursue godliness for the sake of eternal life

2. Because you have said that you will do it – and your word is worth something.

Paul says to Timothy: ‘Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses’ (v12).

He is probably talking about what Timothy professed in his baptism.

And when you were baptised – and if you are a Christian, if you call Jesus Lord, then you must be baptised – whether as a child or an adult. It is what the bible commands. And if you haven’t been baptised, then please do speak to Matthew or myself. But when you were baptised, or – if you were baptised as a child – when you were confirmed or reaffirmed your baptism vows – you made a statement, in front of witnesses, that you would:

Reject the devil and all rebellion against God
Renounce the deceit and corruption of evil
Repent of your sins

You said you would turn to Christ and submit to him.

And the whole congregation said to you: ‘Fight valiantly as a disciple of Christ against sin, the world and the devil and remain faithful to Christ to the end of your days’.

Why should you pursue godliness?
Because you have said you will do it.

3.  Because God is with us

Paul says to Timothy: ‘I give you this charge [to pursue godliness] in the sight of God and of Jesus Christ. (v13)

We live in the sight of Jesus Christ.

When Jesus was standing in front of the Roman governor, Pilate, he was asked, ‘Are you the king of the Jews’. He could have said No, and escaped with his life. Instead he said Yes and sentenced himself to death.

It is worth pursuing godliness because of Jesus. He was faithful and obedient in the face of great suffering.

I meet a friend who is training for the ministry. He will make a great minister. He knows that God has called him. But he doesn’t want to do it. He said to me that he was praying that God would change his mind. He asked me, ‘Do you think that is OK?’

I think it is. Jesus prayed that God would change his mind. He prayed, just before he was crucified, that God would take the cross away and that he would not have to suffer the agony of crucifixion. But Jesus also prayed, ‘But in the end I will do not what I want, but what you want’.

We live in the sight of the one who was perfectly obedient.
But Jesus is not some google eye-in-the-sky looking down at us and jotting our every thought so that it can be used in evidence against us.

Instead it is a bit like going for a driving lesson with a parent. They are there because they love us and trust us, to a degree. And they want us to learn to drive. You’re doing the driving. And they may intervene at certain moments, even when you don’t want them to. But you also know that you can turn to them and say, ‘help!’. Why? Because they’ve been there.

Jesus has been there. And as we grow in godliness, he is here with us, by our side, even in us. We can cry out to him for mercy. And one day, Paul reminds us, Jesus will return and we will see him (v14).

And we live in the sight of God.

This is the God who
  • gives life to everything (v13)
  • provides us with everything for our enjoyment (v17)
  • is in control of time (v15)
And this God is beyond all imagination. He cannot be seen by human eye. He blazes with a light that makes our sun look like a night light. He is bigger than death, and ruler of all things.

Why should I pursue godliness, righteousness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness?

Because of eternal life
Because you have said that you will

Because God is with you. 

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