Today you should read: 1 Timothy 4:6-16
Picture an old scale with two plates on each end. It is balanced at the center, and is used to see differences in weight. When one side has more weight than the other, the scale leans that way. When the scale has an equal amount of weight on each side, it balances at the center.
As followers of Jesus, there is a certain amount of balance we should strive for in a variety of spiritual elements. We could talk about this with evangelism and discipleship, or prayer and Bible reading, or corporate worship and private worship, or spending time with believers and non-believers, etc. But Paul addresses a different balance in today’s text that can be hard to attain: how we live and what we believe.
We must make sure that there is a healthy balance just like getting those plates to be even. Paul challenges us this way in 1 Timothy 4:13-16. At the beginning of the chapter, Paul addresses apostasy, that people in the church who participated in worship or service will fall away. He says that the Holy Spirit “clearly” tells us this will happen. We can bank on it. This is addressing the last days, but we see glimpses of it today. This ties to what Paul addresses in 13-16. To protect our church from this, we must be true to the Bible and live righteous lives. He says:
Until I get there, focus on reading the Scriptures to the church, encouraging the believers, and teaching them. Do not neglect the spiritual gift you received through the prophecy spoken over you when the elders of the church laid their hands on you. Give your complete attention to these matters. Throw yourself into your tasks so that everyone will see your progress. Keep a close watch on how you live and on your teaching. Stay true to what is right for the sake of your own salvation and the salvation of those who hear you.
There are many morally upright churches out there today filled with people who do good things like serve in the community and donate to the poor. This is very common in the Unitarian Universalist movement. They keep a close watch on how they live but that doesn’t get them to heaven. Only Jesus can do that. Somewhere along the way, even the once rock-solid denomination of the Presbyterian Church (USA) turned from right doctrine and headed downhill quickly. God didn’t save them — or us — to just be the Kiwanis Club.
The other side has also seen this. There are people who know what they believe but don’t allow those beliefs to affect the way they live. That’s just as bad; dying denominations prove that. They forgot the importance of impacting the world for Christ. They stopped sharing that hope with those who need it, and their faith became a “secret handshake” of sorts. Sure, they kept a close watch on their teaching, but they forsook the life they were supposed to live. God didn’t save them — or us — to become theological eggheads.
Keep a close watch on BOTH how you live AND what you believe (“Keep a close watch on how you live and on your teaching”). Be the do-gooder because you have One living in you who did eternal good on your behalf at the cross. But don’t forget to protect and preach the sacred message of the Bible. Keep that scale balanced; it’s an indication of being a true believer (“for the sake of your own salvation”). Point others to Jesus (“the salvation of those who hear you”).
Posted by: Todd Thomas