The Lord is my Shepherd

If you are like me, and I know that is a long shot because I’m from the “Creek” and not much of my growing up was “normal”, you may have memorized the 23rd Psalm.

Once I had that memorized I’ve never forgotten it. I can plow through it still today. It’s easy to just say the words and miss the depth of glory here for us. The 23rd Psalm came alive for me last year as I read through my bible passages for that day. I’d like to share some of that with you.

First, its vital to commune with the Lord over his word. The Triune God will truly meet with us. Holy Spirit dwells in us, if you have believed the Gospel and repented of the rebellion. So, linger over the word. Dissect each word. Hang on every phrase. Ask for insight and for communication with the Lord. Listen for that almost audible but not quite a thought “voice” and take in the Lord’s speaking with you. You and I both need this.

Second, when this happens, and it should not be rare, take in the glorious reality of who the Lord is and who we are to him. He is not silent. Just slow down enough to listen. Busyness is the deafening blast to communion with the Lord.

So, join me in Psalm 23 for a few minutes:

The LORD is my shepherd – The God of the universe, in his grace in kindness to me has saved me and seated me with him in the heavenly places and he is the one who hems me in and guides me for my good and to protect me from evil. The Lord is my shepherd.

I shall not want – “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.”(Psalm 84:11) I will lack for nothing he deems good for me. I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures – The Lord will give me the needed rest for me and supply my strength in his grace.

He leads me beside still waters – The Lord provides peace for me, even if the world around me is not peaceful, he leads me to peaceful places on the inside of my very soul.

He restores my soul – The Lord will tend my soul. The Lord is the one who will care for me at the deepest levels of who he made me to be. He is my healer much deeper than my flesh.

He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake – I bear his name therefore he leads me to what is right. He has not left me to find it myself. He places his Spirit in me to speak and lead me. “And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘this is the way, walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:21)

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me – In the worst case scenario, walking into death itself, I do not have to fear evil. Why? He is with me!!! To be true to the new covenant, Spirit is in me! No evil shall befall me. He works for my good come what may (Romans 8:28). My Shepherd’s tools of defense are pointed in the other direction toward foreign invaders and he is my defender and shield. I fear no evil. I revel in his good for me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows – We are guests at the Lord’s table and even the enemies of the Gospel are powerless to prevent our enjoyment of all the delicacies of the Gospel and it’s work in us. We have food to eat that is not of this world. It is to do the will of the Father. Oh the joy in eating this kind of food. I am set apart, filled with the Spirit and have abundant life in Christ welling up to eternal life.

Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life – He will do nothing but good to me. I can trust that all must work for good to me. Even if it does not feel like it’s good I can trust that it is good. “I need not fear the knife when it is cutting out cancer.” – Josh Pilgrim

And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever – I will never be taken from the Lord’s hands. His sheep hear his voice and they follow him. He gives us eternal life and we will never perish. No one can snatch us out of his hand (John 10:27-30).

This is David’s inspired musing on what it is to be shepherded by the Lord. This is us. How deep the Father’s love for us!

 

Life Together on Mission: 1 Timothy 1:3-7, The Wrong Use of the Scriptures

1 Timothy 1:3-7

The Wrong Use of the Scriptures

“The sermon is a music of its own. No matter the text, no matter the topic, the tune is the joyous anthem of God’s slaying the dragon, a redemption song.” – Jared C. Wilson

The precise beginning of the church at Ephesus is not exactly known. However, we can construct what we do know from the book of Acts.

Priscilla and Aquila were involved early on in the shaping of the church and maybe in it’s founding as Paul left them there on a brief visit as he left off for Antioch (around 52 AD) while on the second missionary journey (Acts 18:18-22).

When Paul returned to Ephesus he stayed there for a 2-3 year stint preaching in the local synagogue and then in the hall of Tyrannus (Acts 19:8-10).

Paul’s ministry at Ephesus was a strong one. The Gospel did some transforming among the people. The idol making industry took such a hit that the idol makers created an uproar that led to the Ephesian riot (See Acts 19).

The ministry at Ephesus established a powerful ministry center for the Asian world as Ephesus was, perhaps, the most important city of the Roman province of Asia. From Ephesus the evangelization of Asia Minor was launched.

Paul addresses the Ephesian elders in his farewell address in Acts 20:25-31:

“And now, behold, I know hat none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming he kingdom will see my face again. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of you all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore, be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears.”

As Paul writes this letter of 1 Timothy a few years have passed. Maybe 5 years have passed (depending on when one dates the book of 1 Timothy and I date it at AD 64). Trouble has come to the church from within. Some savage wolves are after the sheep.

Paul has sent Timothy to Ephesus to deal with the problem(s). It’s vital that Timothy’s mission succeed, so Paul sends Timothy with specific directions about conduct and order in this book known as 1 Timothy.

As we saw last week, the greeting was intended to strengthen Timothy’s heart that these instructions are God’s instructions and that the Lord’s care for him was abundant and is more than able to overcome his weaknesses.

But at the same time, “…the greeting is ominous because it does not include Paul’s thanksgiving for the church that almost all of his letters contained. What was taking place in Ephesus was no cause for thanksgiving.”[1]

So Paul gets right to work charging Timothy with his task. Lets get to work with him…

1. Plant your life and command false teachers to stop teaching false doctrine v. 3, 6-7

Plant your life and charge people to teach what is right v. 3, 6-7 (stated positively)

“As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine.”

“Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.”

1. Right teaching is an immediate need and long-term task

“remain at Ephesus”

2. Right teaching involves demanding people to stop teaching different doctrine

“…charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine.”

a. The idea is that there is right doctrine and different doctrine is wrong doctrine

3. Swerving from right doctrine is to wander into vain discussion

“…by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion…”

a. The implication is that right doctrine has practical use

b. Another implication is that different doctrine is useless

4. Swerving from right teaching is ignorant not “deep”

“…desiring to be teachers of the law…without understanding what they are saying…make confident assertions.”

a. Rabbis were called “teachers of the law” (Luke 15:17; Acts 5:34). These “elders” in Ephesus seemed to be aspiring to be Christian versions of rabbis…authoritative interpreters of the deep things of the Old Testament.

b. Deep is not necessarily right. Deep may be an abyss.

2. What is the nature of the false teaching? v. 4a

“…nor devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations…”

A. Myths and genealogies

1. “The Old Testament is full of genealogies that made perfect fodder for ‘Jewish myths’ (Titus 1:4) – the fanciful allegorical creation of stories about the people in the genealogies. The Jewish tradition included books such as The book of Jubilees (135-105 BC), a fanciful rewrite of OT history from creation to Sinai. The later Biblical Antiquities of Philo (70 AD) retells more of the OT story from creation to the death of King Saul. Thus there were ample allegorical models for the Ephesian elders turned Christian rabbis to imitate.”[2]

B. Speculations

1. These allegorical tales made for speculating.

2. It may not be that these teachers set out to be heretical, they just wanted

to go “deeper” and beyond the simple exegesis of the text that Paul had done.

3. “They did not set out to abandon the gospel doctrine that salvation is by

faith alone, but in fact their progressive accretions smothered the gospel.”[3]

3. God practice comes from knowing God not by inquiring on how to do stuff better v. 4b

“…rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith.”

A. Stewardship from God by faith is contrasted with speculations

1. Stewardship – “oikonomia” – management or good order from “oikos” – house contrasted with “zetesis” – philosophical inquiry

2. These guys were seeking to “go deeper” and neglecting the practice of

managing the advance of the Gospel.

a. These are the 3 bible study guys who do nothing with their faith

b. These are the guys who are always asking questions but doing

nothing

c. These are the guys who are staying up until 3 am asking dumb

questions to equally stupid roommates and never acting on the

truth they know.

2. Notice: Stewardship is FROM God.

a. Right order/practice comes from God and to get right order one must know God.

b. Sound doctrine leads to sound practice not the other way around.

c. Knowing God is more vital than a plan. Plans come from

knowing God.

4. What is the purpose of the command to teach what is right and demand what is wrong be stopped? v. 5

“The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”

A. Love

What is this love? It is the Matthew 22:37-40 love. Jesus proclaimed the classic dimensions of love here when he summed up the 10 commandments by telling us to love God with all our being and our neighbor as our self and that all the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.

“Love is the overflow of joy in God which gladly meets the needs of others.”[4]

In other words, love for God leads to love for each other and their need for the good management of God’s people doing God’s mission NOT seeking more spirituality and deeper experiences.

Where does this love come from?

1. Love from a pure heart

a. This kind of love comes from a transformed heart

(Jeremiah 32:38, 39)

2. Good conscience

a. Conscience is one’s inner awareness of the rightness of their

actions informed by the Spirit and the Word. – Jolly

b. Here in 1 Timothy conscience means the sense of one’s moral

actions as part of the group. (I cannot isolate my actions from the

whole of the community; my actions affect the community and thus

must be filtered through what is good for the whole and what is not)

c. Biblical morality is in place and that causes love to issue forth.

d. If morality is off then love may be the first thing to go.

3. Sincere faith

a. Literally “a faith without hypocrisy”.

b. In other words, if one really believes they will really love.

Paul’s heart was pure, his conscience was clean and his faith was real. Therefore, he and the Apostles and other leaders could not but command that the false teachers stop. He loved the church too much and the false teachers too much to allow them to pillage themselves and others because the end for them would be destruction.

5. Ways to avoid false teaching as a false teacher or as a recipient of false teaching

 

A. Don’t presume to be a teacher flippantly (James 3:1)

B. Don’t come to expositional conclusions using extra-biblical texts. Use Scripture to interpret Scripture. If your conclusion cannot be attained by a normal, Spirit-filled, bible believing man / woman / pastor with no special degree it’s probably wrong.

C. Do not build theological systems on obscure passages of Scripture, particularly on obscure single verses. Remember, the bible one book, 66 chapters, one author,   many scribes, one story, many supporting cast members and one main character. Therefore, building systems on one verse isolated from the rest is a recipe for epic failure.

D. Leave your personal agendas on the table. Don’t go to the text looking to justify your deal. Go to the text with a blank agenda and let the text fill your agenda. Don’t use the bible like Adolf Hitler.

E. Gather with the people of God to be equipped, worship, filter your study through community and submit to biblical leadership.


[1] Kent Hughes, Bryan Chapell, 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2000), p. 26.

[2] Ibid., p. 27

[3] Ibid., p. 27

[4] John Piper, Desiring God (Portland; Multnomah, 1986), p. 96.

Life Together on Mission: Grace, Mercy and Peace

Life Together on Mission: Grace, Mercy and Peace

1 Timothy 1:1-2

 

Paul has left Timothy in charge of a difficult situation in the church in Ephesus, where false teachers (possibly some elders) are leading some house churches astray.

 

Paul writes to the whole church through Timothy in order to strengthen Timothy’s hand in stopping these straying teachers/elders and some younger widows who have followed them.

 

These challenges are present all over the church global: 1. 1 Timothy 4:16 “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.” Keep a close watch on the teaching and on whom the teaching is coming from. 2. Rescue those straying after things that are deadly to them.

 

1 Timothy is massively relevant at addressing the need to guard teaching, and not just the teaching of the bible, but cultural teachings that could be harmful or even downright counter to Christianity and the need to guard the individuals that are buying into those teachings. Does the teaching take me away from biblical truth and affect other areas of my life? Am I living like Scripture is the “manual” or like Scripture is an addendum to what I prefer?

 

Philip A. Towner of Covenant Seminary addresses the question of the relevance of the pastoral letters, saying:

“What do these letters have to do with our present situation? Consider the agendas for Christian action and evangelical response being set in many quarters of the church today. At the forefront are a number of very pressing items: the church’s role in a changing society, the church’s responsibility to the poor and the disfranchised (Christian response to kids in foster care and how to combat poor government systems that lead to fewer people being involved), the Christian message among competing messages, the secularization of Christianity, church and state. Consider some of the perennial issues: a Christian attitude to wealth and materialism, the church’s response to the cults, spiritual lifestyle, leadership and authority, the role of women, discipline in the church. Finally, consider some of the items on our personal agendas: the true meaning of godliness, faithfulness to the Gospel, suffering and life in the Spirit, responsibility to those in authority, the importance of Christian witness. For the church that seeks to understand its role in a complex world and for the individual Christian ‘who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 3:12) today, the Pastoral Epistles make very relevant reading.”[1]

 

I agree. 1 Timothy 2 Timothy and Titus are going to encourage us and challenge us at the same time.

1. Our instruction is from God (Father, Son and Spirit)

1 Timothy 1:1 “Paul an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope.”

A. These instructions are not from man for man

1. JR Vassar said this week, “Reading 1 Timothy 3 requirements for an elder. Paul left

out culturally savvy, creative and visionary. No wonder those NT churches were small.”

2. Our instructions are not culturally changing ideas that work for a season.

 

B. Our instructions are apostolic

1. Paul is writing as an apostle, one sent as an emissary/ambassador of Jesus Christ.

2. Paul is representing Jesus’ interests here. So, these instructions are Jesus’ instructions.

a. 2 Peter 1:16-21 – We have Spirit inspired Scripture relating Jesus’ interests

(since the church is his bride his interests are high)

 

C. Our instructions are commanded by God our Savior (usually “Savior” is designated for Jesus)

1. First, the designation of God as Savior is rooted deeply in the OT and common in

Jewish devotional language.[2]

a. This ties the church’s instruction to the God of the

OT thus rooting the church in the Gospel of the OT and the NT being recorded as Paul wrote.

2. Second, it is a command.

a. What we find here is to be practiced.

b. What we find here is to be practiced not on Sunday mornings, but as the

SOP of “life together on mission.”

 

D. Our instructions are rooted in Jesus Christ as our hope

1. Hope in the NT means certain hope, fully confident expectation of an as yet unrealized

fulfillment.

2. The church’s preservation, advancement and future victory is grounded in Jesus’ work

past (cross), present (sitting at Father’s right hand ruling the GC) and future (return to

complete the GC, judge, reward and reign forever)

3. These instructions are, therefore, no good if Jesus is not who he says he is. But if Jesus

is really our hope, then these instructions are fool-proof and one can build the church on

these instructions.

2. Instruction for the least, weak, loved and not alone

1 Timothy 1:2a “To Timothy, my true child in the faith:”

A. Timothy, as the appointed pastor to bring order, reflects the reality of all leaders and members

of the church: least and weak.

1. There are no “strong” leaders and “bedrock” members. We are all broken and need

“fixing”. We are all expendable!

2. Timothy came from a blended home of a Jewish believer and Greek pagan

3. Timothy was circumcised to avoid being a hindrance among Jews

4. Timothy was young (4:12)

5. Timothy needed to flee from the “evil desires of youth” (2:22)

6. Timothy was apparently timid (2 Tim 1:7)

7. Timothy had a fragile constitution (5:23)

a. Timothy was no missionary commando…very “un-Paul”.

8. Timothy would later become a prisoner for the Gospel (Hebrews 13:23)

B. Timothy was loved by Paul and was viewed as a “child” in the faith.

1. Paul loved Timothy and Paul loved the church at Ephesus

2. Paul, representing Jesus, makes clear that Timothy was special and loved

 

C. Pastors, hear this:

1. We are weak and strong

a. We have more weaknesses than we can count yet we have more strength than

we know because Jesus is our strength

2. We are shepherded by the Chief Shepherd and he will not let us down

a. 1 Peter 5:1-4

3. Pastors primary tasks: Shepherd = Pastor (teaching and counseling), Lead = Elder (set the course in word and deed), Manage = Overseer (organize the forward movement with details and great planning)

4. Members primary task: Hebrews 13:17 “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

3. Abundant blessing from the Lord

1 Timothy 1:2b “…Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.”

 

The standard Greek greeting was “greetings”. Paul has, in his writing, converted that to “grace”, creating a Christianized greeting that he combined with the standard greeting, “peace”. So, the typical Pauline greeting was “grace and peace.”

 

But in 1 and 2 Timothy Paul inserts “mercy” between them creating a triple blessing that is most fitting for Timothy and the situation he is in.

 

A. Grace – the goodness and kindness of God to his people purchased by Christ for his people’s

good, joy and his glory.

1. James 4:6 – He gives us more grace!

 

B. Mercy – God’s special care for a person in need.

1. The OT equal is “hesed”. “Hesed” carries the idea of help in a time of need.

 

C. Peace – Peace with God (Romans 5:1) and inner peace for living (John 14:27)

1. Personal tranquility and well-being

2. Interpersonal peace

a. …for the purpose of challenging the church to climb to the heights of the

church of the living God.

 

4. Invitation to worship

A. We have received instruction from God

B. We are not alone in our journey for “life together on mission”

C. We have received ample grace, mercy and peace and will continue to receive more!

D. Come and offer the fruit of lips that praise the Name of Jesus!


[1] Philip H. Towner, 1-2 Timothy & Titus (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity, 1994), p. 13-14.

[2] Kent Hughes, Bryan Chapell, 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2000), p. 20.

1 Timothy: Life Together on Mission

Life Together on Mission (Introduction Message)

1 Timothy 3:14-16

1 Timothy 1:1-2

1 Timothy 1:18-19

1 Timothy is inspired. It is Scripture. 1 Timothy is written to a young pastor as instruction on shepherding the people at Ephesus (possibly a network of churches in Ephesus not one gathering, but one body in multiple locations).

However, 1 Timothy is also written to the churches because Paul tells young Timothy in 6:2, “…teach and urge these things.” The intent is that the instruction to the pastors was to be instruction to the people as well.

By knowing the instructions the church at Ephesus could continue in the fight for the Gospel together as they were shepherded by their pastors. Timothy was to raise up other pastors and train them and they were to function together for the mission Jesus had given them.

Side note: in church history, as the church settles into establishing itself in peace and trumpeting their individual rights in comfort the church looses its grip on the global mission (The Kingdom Strikes Back). Part of the pastoral, elder and overseer function of the pastorate is to avoid or crush that kind of mission crippling comfort and division over petty and inferior things so as to guard the truth (1 Timothy 3:15c) of the Gospel in its full splendor not a focus on one of its facets.

Paul closes out 1 Timothy 3:14-16 speaking about the mystery of godliness. Paul is writing to the church he planted and oversaw and taught about the “mystery” of the Gospel. This theme is thick in Ephesus, so it’s no wonder Paul brings it up here.

This is important. Listen to Paul’s words from Ephesians 3:8-11:

“To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord,”

(Paul indicates that this mysterious work of the Gospel is revealed in the coming together of 3 pairs of relationships: 1. Heaven and earth 1:9,10 2. Jew and Gentile 2:11-3:6 3. Husband and wife 5:31, 32; The gospel mysteriously repairs these relationships and brings them together in the church!)

“1 Timothy is a letter on order in the church and how it ought to live so as to reveal that ‘mystery’.”[1]

As we stay on mission and lead the church to stay on mission using God’s ordering of things there is a supernatural nature to the church, nations can come together as one body and one family, and the home can be healed and lives made whole.

There is revelation of the Gospel so that as we go and tell there is power in our telling and supernatural strength in our striving and tangible graces in our living.

So, lets begin our journey in life together on mission!

1. The church has been given a mission and it is the vision statement of Jesus’ church

A. Matthew 28:16-20

2. Our head, Jesus, and our mission demand there be a standard of behavior for the church on mission

“…if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave…”

A. 1 Timothy 3:15a

1. Not a law to be adhered to for salvation

2. Instructions to be followed to accomplish the mission and to love each other

a. These instructions are intentionally applicable within every culture making

the church “plantable” in all nations.

1. No instructions on buildings

2. No instructions on content of worship services

3. Lots of “what” and not much if any “how”

3. The church on mission is the household of God

“…how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God…”

The idea of the church being the “household” of God is that the church is the specific family over which Jesus rules as King!

A. 1 Timothy 3:15b

1. We are the family of God, each adopted children of the King of the universe, brothers

and sisters

4. The church is a pillar and buttress of the truth

A. 1 Timothy 3:15c

“Paul is not here laying more stress on the church than on the truth…the church’s job is to bear witness to the truth as well as combating the false teachers,”[2]

5. Jesus, Senior Shepherd (pastor), is among his churches and he is here now

(church = gospel telling, expanding, guarding; baptizing; lords supper administering; all nations seeking gathering)

A. Revelation 1:9-20

1. This makes the gathering of the church essential

2. This makes the gathering of the church supernatural

3. This makes the role of preaching primary

4. This makes the gathering of the church a unique and special place of corporate worship


[1] Kent Hughes and Bryan Chapell, 1&2 Timothy and Titus, Crossway, Wheaton, p. 19

[2] D. A. Carson et al., eds., New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), 1299.