Guard the Faith

1 Timothy 6:20-21

Listen to the experts, supposedly the prevailing philosophy of our day is postmodernism. Claim to believe there’s no absolute truth, if there is we can’t know it for certain; no big story that applies to everyone and gives answers to ultimate questions; right / wrong for you doesn’t necessarily apply to anyone else. And this is supposed to be new, the successor to modernism. If we are to engage people who think this way – bring the Gospel to them, communicate spiritual truth to them – must come up with new and exciting ways to do it.

That must mean Satan was just playing games when he asked Eve: “Did God really say that?” “That may be true for God but it doesn’t have to be for you.” “God’s standard doesn’t have to apply to anyone but God!” From the beginning, truth has been under assault – by Satan, then by Adam and Eve, continually in every generation since.

So, truth is truth, what’s the big deal? Can’t the truth take care of itself? Especially since the church, the household of God, is the pillar and ground of the truth 1 Tim. 3:15. Yet Paul thought it necessary to plead with Timothy – “guard what has been committed to your trust”; “guard the good deposit entrusted to you”. 1 Tim. 6:202 Tim. 1:13-14

Guard the faith, that body of Gospel truth entrusted to the church and Christ’s servants. Guard the truth from dilution, distortion and deviation; do so in the grace the Lord of the Church supplies.

A. dilution – you need this plus

Jerusalem council – Acts 15:1“Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.

Christ and faith in him is not enough; you need that plus circumcision, Christ plus Jewish ceremonial custom

these works / sacraments – RC church

“…no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life.” CCC, par. 2010

“Only Jehovah’s Witnesses, those of the anointed remnant and the ‘great crowd,’ … have any Scriptural hope of surviving the impending end of this doomed system” Watchtower

these peoples’ ideas – Mary Baker Eddy, Joseph Smith

Christian Science – “Your dual and impersonal pastor, the Bible, and “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” is with you; and the Life these give, the Truth they illustrate, the Love they demonstrate, is the great Shepherd that feedeth my flock, and leadeth them “beside the still waters.””

Mormons – “The [Mormon] Church believes the word of God contained in the Bible. It accepts the Bible “as the foremost of [the Church’s] standard works, first among the books which have been proclaimed as…written guides in faith and doctrine.”

the world’s methods – seeker-sensitive; targeted programming; creative scheduling

whether church planting, church programming, church growth strategies, church employment opportunities and benefit packages – have more in common with corporate America than the Bible

“Graded [Sunday School] Lessons do not need to be argued to-day as they did a few years ago: their success, where they have been given a fair trial, is sufficient justification for their use.” Miller, Making the Old Sunday School New, 1917

“This professional demographics company is geared to church planting needs. …you’ll get insight into community preferences for church programs (‘how do we meet their needs?”), styles (“how do we appeal to their tastes?”), and communication (“how to we contact them?”).” http://www.nextchurch.org/links/helps.html

How about: how do we give them what the Bible says they must have?

B. distortion – using a different dictionary

Pharisees

“Love your neighbor” means it is also right to “hate your enemy” Matt. 5:43

Calling my resources beyond essentials “Corban”, devoted to God, means I can be relieved of taking care of my parents

same words but with alternative meanings

doesn’t have to be “Christian code” – can be standard Bible vocabulary

Robert Schuller – “Sin is any act or thought that robs myself or another human being of his or her self-esteem.”

parallel conversations – using words that are familiar but have significance miles apart; leads to wrong conclusion: they must be on the same page, using the same language – umm, no

Bible codes, DaVinci Code

Equidistant Letter Sequence – 1st letter, 50th letter, spells a word; hidden message encoded in original language

DaVinci Code popularized idea of hidden books – gospels missing from the Bible

same principles but with alternative application

“by his stripes we are healed” – charismatic healing;

Isa. 53:5, Matt. 8:17 “Jesus healed the sick so that “it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the Prophet, ‘Himself took our infirmities, and bore our sicknesses’.”

health & wealth

Mal. 3:10Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this,” Says the LORD of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it.”

and the real kicker:

3 John 1:2 “I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health” KJV

same practices but with alternative significance

Lutheran baptism (Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod)

“In baptism, however, we do not do something for God, rather he does something for us and in us. He works to either create or to strengthen faith.”

RC communion, Lord’s Supper

“At the heart of the Eucharistic celebration are the bread and wine that, by the words of Christ and the invocation of the Holy Spirit, become Christ’s Body and Blood.” CCC 1333

C. deviation – changing to a different goal

Demas only one kind of example – 2 Tim. 4:10

sent greetings with Paul to church in Colosse; did same to Philemon, was classed with Mark, Aristarchus and Luke as Paul’s fellow laborers

loved the Lord, served the Lord, up to a point – was not ready to sacrifice his life for the Christian cause

might have been convinced he wasn’t martyr material, could not do it well; in process, abandoned his ministry and apostle Paul

orthodoxy without orthopraxy

Rev. 2:2-4 church in Ephesus nailed their doctrine; made sure anyone in the church claiming to be Christian believed right doctrine, rejected those who failed the test

but… according to Lord Jesus in his letter to the church: “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.”

goal had shifted from loving Christ to loving doctrine, from living right way to liking right books

Barth / van Til types

start out ok but then focus on single doctrine or method of interpretation, end up with banjo that only has single string

result: get weird, unbalanced in their understanding of what the Bible teaches, fall into serious error

for example: God is holy, he is “other” from us, different from us in being and glory

important to keep God’s holiness in mind, not minimize or neglect it; should not make God so “other” that he is “wholly other”, so radically different that there’s no possibility of communication or relationship

D. all of grace

God’s Word is a perfect, sure, right, pure, clean and true light, illuminating the character and plan of God, clear and understandable to the ordinary reader. What must we do to guard the faith? individually? corporately?

Paul said: 1 Cor. 15:10 “By the grace of God I am what I am” – it’s all of grace – all we are, all we know and understand, all we accomplish for Christ and his kingdom

his closing blessing – “Grace be with you” plural; not just “Grace be with you, Timothy”; “Grace be with you, Timothy, and all to whom you minister and all who will hear or read this letter.”

individually

what we believe – must be traceable without dilution, distortion or deviation to God’s Word; Bible is supreme authority for faith and practice – nothing equals it or outranks it, all other authorities must be in submission to it

what we teach – same standard, must point hearers to Bible as absolute truth, Christ as sole source for salvation

corporately

how we live – truth as it is found in God’s Word must be evident in life of the church

how we decide – reasons for doing things must be found in God’s Word – not results, what others do, what sounds good

Bottom line – if we are to guard the truth must know the truth, make sure to extent of our understanding that it is pure truth we are guarding. Just as important: must be close to the truth – the One who is the way, the truth, and the life. In too much of our culture Christians are known by what they are against. Should be known as those who are passionate for truth, in particular, the One who is the truth. Is your love for Christ evident? Are you at every opportunity pointing others to Christ and his sufficiency for all things? Keep your eyes on Jesus and depend on the Holy Spirit to guide you into all truth as it is found in the living Word and written Word of God.

“When we see salvation whole, its every single part is found in Christ, And so we must beware lest we derive the smallest drop from somewhere else. For those who seek this treasure-trove of blessings of all kinds, in no one else can they be found than him, for all are given in Christ alone.” Calvin

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