I've filled in a few times to teach Sunday School class - including this past weekend - so I thought I would post my notes from the newsletter I write for the class, which includes the outline of my lesson ...
Have you ever noticed that during the sermon in Big Church, the ones most loudly yelling "Amen!" or proclaiming, "That's right preacher!" are usually the older crowd?
At what age will our class be the ones doing that? When we hit, what, 50, 60, 75, it becomes natural, you stop caring what others think and you just start letting it out?
In other news, don't forget Saturday night is Daylight Saving Time! Move your clocks FORWARD one hour Saturday night or you will be late!
This weekend I taught our lesson since Steve was quarantined, lest he and his family start "The Stand" and wipe out most of the planet.
(Hey, it's a Christian story. At the end God sets off a nuke to kill all the evil people in Las Vegas. No?)
We started Sunday morning with the new Spring Lifeway book focusing on the Pastoral Epistles, Paul's letters to Timothy and Titus.
1 Timothy was written about A.D. 62 while Paul was on a missionary journey and after he left Timothy to pastor the church in Ephesus, which is on the west coast of modern-day Turkey. Ephesus was famed for its cult worship and temple dedicated to worship of Artemis.
In his letter, Paul heartened and guided Timothy. As John Pollock (Billy Graham's authorized biographer) wrote in his biography of Paul, "Timothy, timid and delicate yet sometimes self-willed, still very much a young man in Paul's eyes, needed encouragement and care."
If you spent any time in a youth group you surely read and studied a lot of Timothy, the official book for hormone-crazy teenagers trying to make it in a world of peers, teachers and parents.
Paul wrote the letter during an unsettling time, with persecution in Rome, Judea teeming with rumors of messiahs and unrest about to explode in the Great Rebellion of A.D. 66 that all led to fomenting ideas old and new.
Pollock writes, "It was essential to build up healthy, expanding churches under local leadership, for 'God our savior desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.'
"The two letters of this period, the First Epistle of Timothy and the Epistle of Titus, quickly became classics of pastoral wisdom wherever Christianity spread. Timothy in Asia and Titus in Crete were shown how to select and train elders, instructed about church discipline and worship ..."
In this week's lesson I taught about recognizing false teaching. (Hopefully not my own!)
In Acts 20:28-31 Paul warned the Ephesian elders that false leaders from their own group would distort the truth and lead people astray, and it happened just as he said:
Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock that the Holy Spirit has appointed you to as overseers, to shepherd the church of God, which He purchased with His own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. And men will rise up from your own number with deviant doctrines to lure the disciples into following them. Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for three years I did not stop warning each one of you with tears.
GOAL OF SPIRITUAL INSTRUCTION
1 Timothy 1:3-7 - As I urged you when I went to Macedonia, remain in Ephesus so that you may instruct certain people not to teach different doctrine or to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies. These promote empty speculations rather than God’s plan, which operates by faith. Now the goal of our instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. Some have deviated from these and turned aside to fruitless discussion. They want to be teachers of the law, although they don’t understand what they are saying or what they are insisting on.
- Paul left Timothy to oversee the church in Ephesus.
- Timothy's assignment was to confront people who were teaching a different doctrine than the gospel of Jesus Christ.
- True spiritual teaching comes from:
-- A pure heart.
-- Forges in the believer a good conscience.
-- Sincere faith, a genuine, enduring trust in Christ for everything.
- Philippians 3:7-11 - But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ—the righteousness from God based on faith. My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead.
- To teach incorrectly because of an honest mistake is one thing, but to mislead from selfish motives or willful lack of understanding is inexcusable and could damage the church.
- 2 Peter 2:1 - "Damnable heresies" to teach lies and cause others to lose their souls for eternity.
VALUE OF SOUND DOCTRINE
1 Timothy 1:8-11 - But we know that the law is good, provided one uses it legitimately. We know that the law is not meant for a righteous person, but for the lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinful, for the unholy and irreverent, for those who kill their fathers and mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral and homosexuals, for kidnappers, liars, perjurers, and for whatever else is contrary to the sound teaching based on the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was entrusted to me.
- The law is good but doesn't have the power to make you right with God.
- Moral degradation was all too common in the Roman Empire as today. Teaching that leads to condoning these behaviors is not sound teaching.
- Sound teaching isn't based on human opinions; it stands on the gospel.
-- Our culture tells us that all beliefs are equally valid. Culture states there is no way to discern if one belief has more authority than another belief, even if they conflict. How many times have you heard someone talk about "my truth" or "personal belief system?"
- John 14:6 - Jesus flat out says, "I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the father but through me."
-- There's no other way, no other truth, no other belief.
EXAMPLE OF THE TRANSFORMED LIFE
1 Timothy 1:12-16 - I give thanks to Christ Jesus our Lord who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, appointing me to the ministry— one who was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an arrogant man. But I received mercy because I acted out of ignorance in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord overflowed, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. This saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them. But I received mercy for this reason, so that in me, the worst of them, Christ Jesus might demonstrate His extraordinary patience as an example to those who would believe in Him for eternal life.
- Paul holds up his life as the example of the gospel's transforming power.
- Paul offers a thanksgiving for God's abundant grace that transformed him from a persecutor of the church to an apostle.
- The Lord showed mercy on Paul despite being a blasphemer, persecutor and an arrogant man.
- Paul uses the first of the trustworthy sayings (core truth from which Christian teachers must never stray): "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners."
- Either teachers aren't doing their job or followers aren't believing as much anymore. The Barna Group polled protestants in 2011, and only 56 percent agreed that the Bible is completely accurate in all of the principles it teaches. That's down from 61 percent in 1991.
PRAISE TO GOD
1 Timothy 1:17 - Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
- God is:
-- Eternal - Able to give believers eternal life.
-- Immortal - He knows no end.
-- Invisible - Yet he revealed the Godhead in the incarnation of Jesus Christ.
-- The Only God - None can compete with Him, for there is none like Him.
- God is worthy of our utmost honor and glory.
- He lives to equip and enable His servants to do the work of the ministry.
BE ON GUARD
"The unattended garden will soon be overrun with weeds; the heart that fails to cultivate truth and root out error will shortly be a theological wilderness." - A.W. Tozer
The late Adrian Rogers, pastor of Bellevue Baptist for many years, wrote about five tests for identifying false teachers:
- The Source Test - Is his source the word of God?
- The Savior Test - Do they see Jesus as the virgin-born son of God, and God the son, the Messiah, God in human flesh?
- The Subject Test - Is their subject the gospel of Jesus?
- The Salvation Test - Do they teach salvation by grace alone through faith alone?
- The Sanctification Test - Do they teach and are they endeavoring to lead a holy life?
The Pastoral Epistles continue to speak in meaningful ways about life and ministry in the local church. The theme of godliness runs throughout the Pastorals.
In a culture in which church leaders are commonly caught in scandalous sins, Paul's demand that a leader set a godly example remains just as relevant today.