1 Timothy 1:9-11
This means understanding that the law is laid down not for the innocent but for the lawless and disobedient, for the godless and sinful, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their father or mother, for murderers, fornicators, sodomites, slave traders, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to the sound teaching that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.
I urge you to consider these two straightforward thesis statements.
Thesis Statement One: Every one of us needs a mentor.
I have been fascinated to watch the workmen who have been remodeling our sanctuary. I have observed some of the finest craftspeople I have ever seen. As one who is mechanically disadvantaged, I am amazed at the skill I’ve observed on the part of those who have done the carpentry work, done the painting and staining, installed the new carpet, disassembled, refurbished and reassembled and installed the pews, done tile work, installed new lighting and sound equipment. I am overwhelmed by the giftedness of these workers.
What I’ve noticed as I’ve watched them is that often someone a bit older is showing someone a bit younger how to do a particular task. There’s a mentoring process.
Much of what we do we’ve learned from others, haven’t we? Perhaps that’s the reason why “The Apprentice,” starring Donald Trump, has done so well on television. Whatever you think of its star and the way he handles people, you watch with fascination as some of the brightest and the best apply to be accepted as competitors on this show. It promises not only an opportunity to learn, but maybe getting a good job working for the mentor is worth the risk of being told, “You’re fired!”
I am grateful for what I have learned from others about being a family man. I have watched my own mother and father and other husbands and wives learning both what to do and not to do in the husband/wife relationship. I have observed my own parents and other parents for lessons on how to be the best father I can be.
In ministry, I have taken great joy in the privilege of having served as an apprentice, a mentoree, to such faithful ministers of the Gospel as Harold John Ockenga, Norman Vincent Peale, Billy Graham and Bryant Kirkland. Take any one of those persons, and others, out of my life experience, and I would be short-changed.
Every one of us needs a mentor.
Thesis Statement Two: Every one of us is called to be a mentor.
Whether you want to be or not, you are a mentor to someone. You can’t beg off from this responsibility. There’s always someone watching. Those little eyes take in your every movement, attitude, action — learning from you. I don’t care what your circumstances in life are, how successful or unsuccessful you perceive yourself to be, you are a hero to someone. You are one of the most “significant others” to your child, nephew or niece, or even to someone you are unaware is watching you.
As a youngster, growing up in Boston, two of my earliest mentors were totally unaware of the important role they had in my life. They were the Wilson brothers, two fellows, several years older, who just happened to go to the church my father pastored. Their mother played the organ. Their father was a member of the church board. That’s not what impressed me. These fellows loved sports, and I admired the way they could play baseball at the annual church picnic. I wanted to be able to swing a bat and catch a ball the way they could. I saved up my money to buy a baseball mitt just like Marv’s. Then he began to date. I watched very carefully his relationship with Pauline, and he was never aware he was my model of what it was to be a young Christian. If perchance a copy of this sermon or tape of this message falls into his hands, Marv Wilson will probably be one of the most surprised persons in the world to know what an important mentor he was in my life!
Let’s be intentional in our willingness to mentor. People are watching. Let’s remember we can be either positive or negative mentors.
Every one of us needs a mentor. And every one of us is called to be a mentor.
Question: Why not let the Apostle Paul be your mentor?
Today we begin our preaching study of First and Second Timothy. These two letters are all about mentor/mentoree relationships. There are only four books of the Bible that were written to specific individuals. One is Paul’s letter to Philemon. Another is his letter to Titus. The final two are these letters to a young man by the name of Timothy.
Paul had met Timothy in his first missionary journey in the city of Lystra, in what is now central Turkey. The connection with this young man deepened and, on his second missionary journey, Paul returned to Lystra. You can read about these two visits in Acts 14 Acts 16. Timothy was the child of a mixed marriage. His mother, Eunice, and his grandmother, Lois, were Jews. His father was a Greek. Paul saw Timothy as a person who would be his traveling companion, helper, assistant, mentoree, the kind of person he could trust to carry out the work of pastoral care for some of the churches he started, as well as being his emissary to carry messages and financial resources from one church to another. One of his major responsibilities was to pastor the church in Ephesus, a complicated and difficult job. Paul refers to him as “my loyal child in the faith.”
Paul was committed to helping Timothy to develop into a man of Christian knowledge and character, who then could be a mentor to others. Paul, all throughout his ministry, realized the importance of not only doing the task to which he was called, but to help others to come to faith in Jesus Christ and be built up in their faith, and then to serve others. This chain of mentor/mentoree has continued down through the past 2,000 years to the present time.
I look forward to being mentored by Paul. No matter how old we get, how experienced we are, we need to be on the cutting edge of growth. Stop growing, stop learning, stop increasing one’s understanding and you might as well have a funeral service. That’s the beginning of death, the closing down of one’s vitality and creativity.
I also look forward to learning from Paul how better to be a mentor myself. I am going to try to pass on to you, and help you pass on to others, lessons from the real pro.
A mentor has credentials. Paul lists his. He declares, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope. To Timothy, my loyal child in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord” (1 Timothy 1:1-2).
Paul is aware that he has been sent out as an envoy, an ambassador, of Jesus Christ. He declares Jesus to be the Savior, God’s coming in personal form to show His love for us. And Jesus is our hope, who–through His life, death and resurrection–has given us the capacities to live creatively in this broken world, knowing where we came from, why we are here and where we are going.
As our mentor, Paul has seniority. He has been down some rough, narrow, winding roads. He can attest to God’s help in difficult circumstances. He alerts us to the challenges ahead. He does it in a way that emphasizes three wonderful gifts from God.
One, the gift of underlying grace — the gift of God’s unmerited favor, based not on what we earn but what God has done for us out of sheer generosity.
Two, the gift of peace — God’s wholeness, well being, completeness of life, even in the most challenging and difficult outward circumstances. At the very core of our being, God ministers to an inner contentment and well being.
Three, the gift of mercy — God’s lovingkindness. Paul opens most of his letters appearing in the New Testament wishing the believers who read them God’s grace and peace. In this personal letter, he adds the word “mercy,” which literally means “may God be good to you.” It describes God’s active intervention to be of encouragement and of help.
Why not let the Apostle Paul be your mentor? Why not allow these weeks ahead to be weeks in which we come not just to learn more information but to actually be mentored, be shaped into persons who have a much greater awareness of what it is to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.
Here at St. Andrew’s we talk a lot about our mission statement. Today we are privileged to enter this completely remodeled sanctuary, experiencing joyful, Christ-centered worship. But the reality is that some of us can just go through the motions with no sense of active participation. We can be objective observers, listening to musical performance, the prayers of others, maybe flipping a gratuity into the offering plate, and challenging the preacher to say something of entertainment value, and then we leave, commenting on whether or not we like the changes, the color scheme, until we feel like coming back again. Or we can actively engage, with hearts open, with God in Christ-centered worship.
There is someone here this morning who needs to receive Jesus Christ as Savior. You have been “playing church.” Or you are a questioner, and you have been looking in from the outside, wondering if there is something to this. We’re here to share God’s saving grace in Jesus Christ. That’s what this is all about.
We are here also to be nurtured in our faith. Hopefully, I continue to grow. Hopefully, you continue to grow if you have already received Jesus Christ as Savior.
We are to be deployed this week in servant ministry to others. That’s what this mission statement is all about. That is what we are here to do. And that is what First and Second Timothy is all about. The Apostle Paul is taking this young man and encouraging him to grow in his faith, to trust God in difficult times, to train others in their faith, to be active and faithful in the service of the Lord.
Another way of putting this is: Allow yourself in these weeks ahead to be discipled by the Apostle Paul and then to go out and be the discipler of others.
Let the Apostle Paul be your mentor.
Let the Apostle Paul teach you how to be the mentor of others.
Are you with me? Why not let the Apostle Paul be your mentor? You and I do need mentoring.
Paul moves on now to tell us that there are two major areas in which we need this mentoring.
First: We need mentoring in sound doctrine.
Whether it be the first century, the twenty-first century, or any of the centuries in between, all of us have a tendency to get off the track in terms of sound doctrine. Paul addresses this theme in the following way in 1 Timothy 1:3-7:
I urge you, as I did when I was on my way to Macedonia, to remain in Ephesus so that you may instruct certain people not to teach any different doctrine, and not to occupy themselves with myths and endless genealogies that promote speculations rather than the divine training that is known by faith. But the aim of such instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and sincere faith. Some people have deviated from these and turned to meaningless talk, desiring to be teachers of the law; without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make assertions.
It is very easy to get sidetracked from the truth. It can happen inadvertently, if we are not people of an open book, studying the Word of God, being mentored by the prophets and apostles who, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, have given us God’s truth, we can head off in all kinds of crazy directions. Truth can become distorted. Christianity is based on truth. Yet many Christians who have neglected the study of the Bible have become convinced there is no absolute truth. Research shows that 60 percent of evangelical teenagers now say that all religious faiths teach equally valid truths.
Some of you have played the party game in which a short story is told. One person is to pass it on to another, who passes it on to another, and then to another until, finally, the last person to hear it relates the story to the entire group. It is amazing how the story can change the farther we get away from the primary source.
Let me give you a case example of this communication deterioration that was shared with me this summer by my good friend, Roderick MacKenzie, in Scotland.
A school superintendent told his assistant superintendent the following: “Next Thursday morning at 10:30, Halley’s Comet will appear over this area. This is an event which occurs only once every seventy-five years. Call the school principals and have them assemble their teachers and classes on their athletic fields and explain this phenomenon to them. If it rains, then cancel the day’s observation and have the classes meet in the auditorium to see a film about the comet.
Assistant superintendent to school principals: “By order of the superintendent of schools, next Thursday at 10:30 Halley’s Comet will appear over your athletic field. If it rains, then cancel the day’s classes and report to the auditorium with your teachers and students where you will be shown films, a phenomenal event which occurs only once every seventy-five years.”
Principals to teachers: “By order of the phenomenal superintendent of schools, at 10:30 next Thursday Halley’s Comet will appear in the auditorium. In case of rain over the athletic field, the superintendent will give another order — something which occurs only once every seventy-five years.”
Teachers to students: “Next Thursday at 10:30 the superintendent of schools will appear in our school auditorium with Halley’s Comet, something which occurs once every seventy-five years. If it rains, the superintendent will cancel the comet and will order us out to our phenomenal athletic field.
Students to parents: “When it rains next Thursday at 10:30 over the school athletic field, the phenomenal seventy-five-year-old superintendent of schools will cancel all classes and appear before the school in the auditorium accompanied by Bill Haley and the Comets.”
You can see how distorted a communication can become. Even a genuine endeavor to hand on truth can become distorted by error.
Add to that, then, the realities of the Gospel of Jesus Christ being preached in the context of cultures that have a bias against the faith, and persons who are intentionally distorting the faith, and the satanic opposition to the things of God, and you can see how quickly we can lose our grasp of sound doctrine.
Paul talks about myths and endless genealogies. These were characteristics of the ancient world. Poets and even historians loved to work out romantic and fictitious tales about the foundations of cities and families. Fantastic stories were told about humans marrying the gods, or the ancestors of the leaders of a particular city/state. Fantastic stories were told about one’s genealogy. Alexander the Great had a completely artificial pedigree constructed for himself.
This tendency was present in two traditions.
There was the Jewish tendency to elaborate on the Scriptures. Jewish scholars loved to construct imaginary and edifying biographies of every name on the long lists of Old Testament names and genealogies. If Paul were here today, he would warn us about our esoteric approach to theology on the part of theologians who can spend a lot of time speculating about how many angels can stand on the head of a pin. And he would warn us about our tendency to take the prophetic teachings of the Scripture and elaborate on them to the point that we are too quick to identify the Antichrist and the exact time of the return of Jesus Christ. These idle speculations can lead us away from what is important in terms of a sound, explicit, clear doctrine outlined in Scripture. Watch out for such speculative approaches. How easy it is in our endeavor to be creative to end up adding to Scripture that which is not in Scripture. That’s why it is so important that we be faithful to the written Word of God.
There was also the Greek kind of thought, which came to be known as Gnosticism.
This produced many of the first and second century heresies. And, frankly, many of them are still with us today, both in the teachings of some of the radical feminist theologians and in the popular culture novels, such as Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. In oversimplified form, Gnosticism was a speculative way of explaining the origin of evil, sin and suffering. If God is completely good, God could not have created evil, sin and suffering. How then did they get into the world? The Bible says that God was before all and created out of nothing. The Gnostic said that before time, matter existed. This matter was essentially flawed, imperfect, evil, and explained the sin, suffering and imperfections of this world.
Do you follow this logic? If matter is essentially evil and God is good, God could not himself have touched and handled forming things out of this matter. Gnosticism comes up with a very elaborate game that sees God putting out an emanation. That emanation put out another emanation, and this process continued to distance far from God the creative process. It was not God who created but this emanation that created the world. And if each of the successive emanations knew less and less about God, you came to a stage in the series of emanations where there was complete ignorance of God, so that there was a complete hostility between the god who created the world and was actually quite ignorant of and completely hostile to the real and true God. The early church had some who incorrectly distinguished between the negative, hostile, ignorant god of the Old Testament and the true and real God of the New Testament. This highly speculative Gnosticism was intellectually snobbish, speculative and even came up with the strange notion that Jesus was just one of many mediators between God and man. That’s why Paul writes in Timothy, “For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself a ransom for all . . . .” (1 Timothy 2:5).
That’s why he also makes the statement in 1 Timothy 1:17, which reads: “To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”
Coming out of this Gnosticism, with its intellectual speculation, comes some very serious moral and ethical consequences. If matter is evil, then the body is evil. One branch of Gnosticism became extremely ascetic, putting down the body, flagellating the flesh, seeing creation as bad. That is anti-Christian teaching. As early as Genesis 1, we see all that God has made is good. Sin came through disobedience, not because the creation itself was evil. We, as followers of Jesus, are to celebrate God’s creation and be good stewards of what God has given us, praising God for what He has created and enjoying His creation.
At the other extreme, Gnosticism could develop into a libertarian approach to how we use creation. If the body is evil, it doesn’t matter what we do with it. So some argued then for unbridled freedom, lusts, passions, giving in to our lowest desires. We see this in contemporary life, don’t we?
Gnosticism put down the body. It believed in the destruction of the body in death, where only a soul survived. Historic Christian teaching is that, even after the resurrection from the dead, you and I will have a spiritual body provided by God.
Can you see the importance of sound teaching? Many of these notions are present in our world today. Allow yourself to get caught up in them and you will be taken farther and farther away from the truth.
Second: We need mentoring in godly lifestyles.
Last week we looked at Psalm 1. We talked about the importance of not only reading the Word of God, but how important it is to delight and meditate in the law of God day and night. The teachings of Scripture point out the wrongness of our ways.
Paul addresses the lifestyle aspect in these words of 1 Timothy 1:8-11:
Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it legitimately. This means understanding that the law is laid down not for the innocent but for the lawless and disobedient, for the godless and sinful, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their father or mother, for murderers, fornicators, sodomites, slave traders, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to the sound teaching that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.
If we had time, we could go through that list in detail, describing what is meant by each of these sinful categories. Paul is mentoring young Timothy in the first century and you and me in the twenty-first century with warnings that say that these practices are marks of ungodly living, lawless living, self-destructive living. Wherein we practice these, we are breaking the heart of God and self-destructing our own potential healthful existences. Some of these matters are spoken to directly in the Ten Commandments. We need to take seriously the teaching of God’s Word. We dare not let contemporary culture squeeze us into its own way of doing business. Murder is wrong. Premarital and extramarital sex are wrong. Homosexual activity is wrong. Slave trading is wrong. Lying and perjury are wrong. Whatever else is contrary to the sound teachings of God’s Word is wrong. It is sin! We need to face it for what it is. We need this kind of mentoring.
We need this mentoring in godly lifestyles.
Paul concludes his mentoring on sound doctrine and godly lifestyle with the high priority emphasis on the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Let us never forget the bottom line of the Christian faith. It is not bad news. It is Good News!
Paul is clear to distinguish between bad news and good news. He refers to those spiraling downward deviations from sound doctrine and godly lifestyles as that which “. . . is contrary to the sound teaching that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me” (1 Timothy 1:11).
Next week our mentor describes to us the change God brought about in his life as one who himself was on a downward spiral from sound doctrine and living an ungodly lifestyle.
I invite you to celebrate the Good News of the grace, mercy and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ. I invite you to accept the challenge to allow the Apostle Paul, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to be your mentor, helping to shape you to forward movement in your life of discipleship.
And I challenge you to the fact that you need a mentor and that you are called to be a mentor.
Precious Lord, enable us to take advantage of these teachings from your Word, directed to us by our mentor, the Apostle Paul, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to be men and women generated by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, sanctified by the nurturing presence of your Holy Spirit and energized to go out in servant ministries to others in your name. We rededicate our lives and ministries to you. In Jesus name. Amen.
John A. Huffman, Jr. is Senior Pastor of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, Newport Beach, CA.
Read the other sermons in this series:
Mentored for Sound Doctrine & Godly Lifestyles (1 of 12)
Christ’s Power to Save (2 of 12)
Prayer and Worship (3 of 12)
Servant Leadership (4 of 12)
Believing the Truth (5 of 12)
Relationships (6 of 12)
Greed vs. Contentment (7 of 12)
Strength in Suffering (8 of 12)
Perseverance & Persistence (9 of 12)
Workers Pleasing to God (10 of 12)
Following the Truth (11 of 12)
What Jesus Came to Enable You to Say (12 of 12)