More Commands To Practice   
1 Tim. 4:12-5:2
By Paul Robison

Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, awoke one morning in 1888 to read his own obituary!  Actually, his brother had died, but a reporter carelessly took it to be Alfred's death.  The obituary called him “the dynamite king” and explained how he had made an immense fortune from his explosives.  Not one of his more noble intentions and uses for dynamite was recorded.  This obituary had painted him to be a merchant of death.  As Alfred read this obituary, he resolved that he would make clear that destruction had not been the true purpose of his life.  In his will, he established a fund where cash prizes would be awarded to those who had done the most for the cause of world peace—the Nobel Peace Prize.  How would your obituary read if you had seen it this morning?  For what would your life be known?  How would you be remembered?  How would you influence be described (Raines in Swindoll)?  In the letter of 1 Timothy, we discover that the church in Ephesus has been in chaos.  Paul hopes to come soon to help the church get back on its feet, but until he can arrive, he writes this letter to help Timothy and the members there know how to conduct themselves and to carry on.  He gives instructions about avoiding the heretics, former church leaders who have shipwrecked their faith, about salvation (which is for all and not just for those with special knowledge), about lifestyle (a peaceful, evangelistic, and spiritual one that all members should display), about good church leadership (providing qualifications for elders and deacons), about essential truths that can't be compromised (Jesus' incarnation, His resurrection, His ascension, His Gospel, His church, and His glorification), and about the false teachings of the heretics (who were forbidding marriage and eating certain foods).  The rest of the letter has more instructions on how Timothy and members should conduct themselves.  In fact, the next section of the letter has some advice specifically for Timothy as an evangelist.  The advice given, however, could be made applicable for all Christians. So let's look at some more commands that start in 1 Timothy 4:12.
 
The first command is this: Be an example to other believers (4:12)!  Look at verse 12: “Let now one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” “Regardless of our age, members shouldn't be looking down on us because we should be living a life that is an example to other believers” (Monck). Paul says that this example should play out in almost every way you can imagine: our word or our speech, our conduct or our behavior, our love or our affections, our spirit or our desires, our faith or our trust, and our purity or our morality.  As members, we are to be examples to other believers.  Paul has set the bar high for us.  We are to live in such an exemplary way that others can imitate us as we model Christianity!  You never know who is watching you and upon whom you are having an influence.  Be an example to other believers!
 
The next command is: Read the Bible. Verse 13 states: “Till I come, give attention to reading.”  Paul wanted Timothy to read the Old Testament and the apostles' writings to the members when they were at church. There weren't many copies of God's Word in those days.  We now have both Old and New Testaments in printed editions that we can readily purchase.  Are you reading your Bible daily?  From our reading report sheets posted in the foyer, it looks like almost 65% of this audience is not reading your Bible [or if you are, you have not reported it].  The living God over the entire universe has revealed to us His will, His commands, and His desires.  Knowing these precepts can enrich our lives and help us to live abundantly!  Who is a blessed person?  Psalm 1:2 answers that it the person who delights in God's word and who continually thinks about it!  If you can't read alone, have you tried having a reading partner?  Read the Bible to enrich your life!
 
The next command is this: Learn to exhort and to teach!  Paul is telling Timothy to give attention to his preaching the Gospel and teaching healthy doctrine.  Look at Acts13:14-15: “But when they departed from Perga, the came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath Day and sat down. And after the reading of the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of synagogue sent to them saying, 'Men and brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say on.'” And following this invitation, Paul then preaches the Gospel.  You see, reading the Scriptures and exhortation or preaching were elements of the synagogue worship that Paul wanted to see become parts of Christian worship.  Now look at Colossians 1:28 where Paul shows his life's aim: “Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect [or mature] in Christ Jesus.”  How about this for a vision for this congregation: “Every member helping every member by exhorting and teaching to become a strong disciple of Jesus!  Every member helping every member by exhorting and teaching to become a strong disciple of Jesus!”  Learn to exhort and to teach!
 
The next command is: Use your talents to help the church!  Paul commands Timothy in verse 14: “Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership.”  Now Timothy had some sort of miraculous gift that Paul wanted him to utilize in his work as the evangelist there at Ephesus. Since the age of miracles has ceased according to 1 Corinthians 13:8-10, we no longer have spiritual gifts like Timothy did.  But we do have natural talents with which God has blessed us.  So let's try to utilize our talent to help the church.  Lynn utilizes his singing skills to enrich our worship services.  Johnnie has used his electronic skills to set up a computer for our literacy program (by the way, if you know anyone who would like help in learning to read, let me know).  Perry uses his video skills to record our sermons, which KTSS then broadcasts.  Now for some of you, it may take a little creative thinking on your part, but the church has so many needs and so many ministries which can be a blessing to others that you can probably find a way that your talents can be utilized to help the church. If you need help here, drop by the office sometime, and we can talk about it.  Use your talents to help the church!
 
The next command is: Think about your service (4:15)!  The first part of verse 15 is a command: “Meditate on these things!”  Paul is exhorting Timothy to slow down and do some serious thinking about the commands that he is asking him to put into practice.  Someone made this good observation: “There are four kinds of leaders: the pleaser focuses on the people involved; the dreamer focuses on creativity; the director focuses on the job; the thinker focuses on the results” (Dick).  Think about your service.  Slow down and do some self-evaluation: “What am I doing to please God?  How am I spreading the Gospel?  How am I making a difference in another's life?  How am I helping to strengthen this congregation?  What legacy will be left behind after my death?” Like Mr. Nobel, if you read your own bleak obituary today, would there be some changes you'd like to make with how you will be remembered?  “For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith” (Romans 12:3). Think about your service!
 
The next command is: Be a diligent servant!  Paul orders Timothy in verse 15: “Give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all.”  Here's how some other versions read: “Give all your energies to these things” (Phillips)!  “Immerse yourself in them” (Message)!  “Throw yourself into these tasks” (New Living)!  If Timothy will work diligently, the congregation in Ephesus will notice it, and they view him as a worthy evangelist (Kelly).  Are we being diligent servants?  Do others see us progressing, growing, and maturing as a Christian?  There was once a Hispanic young man who had dyslexia, dropped out of high school, and moved to Mexico.  Someone taught him to read, and a book by John Steinbeck changed to whole course of his life.  He wanted to become a writer.  He thought of plots, he read more than 5000 books, he wrote 9 novels, 65 short stories, and 10 plays, and all were rejected by publishers.  After 260 rejections, his first novel was published, and then more and more works were published.  Now many High Schools use one of books to help their students learn about Hispanic culture.  Did you notice that he kept writing even after hundreds of rejections?  Now that's diligence!  Will we work as hard to become mature disciples as this person worked to become a writer?  “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance, for you serve the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:23-24)!  Be a diligent servant!
 
The next command is: Take a spiritual inventory!  Paul admonishes Timothy in verse 16: “Take heed to yourself.”  Or this could be translated: “Give attention, watch, or take pains with yourself.”  Paul is wanting Timothy to take stock of his faith, of his example, and of his work as a minister.  That same idea involves each member looking inward and examining and evaluating himself or herself.  Again, slow down some and make the time to take a spiritual inventory.  Some of the questions that you might ask yourself are the following: Is my faith stronger or weaker now than it was six months ago?  Is my love for Jesus stronger or weaker than it was six months ago?  How much time am I spending in Bible reading, in prayer, and in service to others?  How often do I think about other members and their needs?  How well am I attending Bible classes and worship services?  How well am I bringing up my children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord?  How generous am I in my giving to the church?  How many people have I tried to influence with the Gospel?  What are my spiritual strengths and weakness?  What sins must I continue to work on in order to overcome?  How well am I fighting the good fight and running the Christian race?  Have you ever thought about talking about your spiritual growth with someone else in the congregation?  Take a spiritual inventory!
 
The next command is: Stay with the doctrine!  Paul encourages Timothy in verse 16: “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine!”  A more literal translation would be: “Given attention to the teaching!”  The teaching, of course, refers to the inspired teachings of the Jesus and the apostles. Have any of you ever heard of “the emergent church”?  It is called this because its teachings are not fixed but continually emerging.  You see, a person in the emergent church does not use the Bible to teach the truth. He uses the Bible to propose another opinion.  After all opinions of the participants have been mixed together, that consensus becomes the truth for that encounter.  It is a truth that is always subject to change and can never be absolute.  This is the way the emergent church approaches our postmodern culture which has already written off any absolute truth.  You can see very quickly that sinful behaviors, eternal punishment, and Jesus as the only Savior cannot be defended by the emergent church since these things would be too offensive.  Want a nice word to summarize the emergent church's approach: c-o-m-p-r-o-m-i-s-e.  Take a stand for the truth and stay with the doctrine!
 
The next command is: Keep promoting healthy teaching!  The last words of Paul in chapter 4 are: “Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.”  Paul is encouraging Timothy and us to stick to the previous commands and the inspired healthy teachings of the Gospel.  This sounds much like Hebrews 2:1: “Therefore we must give the more earnest to the things which we have heard, lest we drift away.”  Why are there these encouragements and warnings if once a person is saved, and then they always remain saved?  If we will keep promoting healthy teaching, we and those we teach will reap eternal life!
 
The next command is this: Treat fellow Christians as family!  Notice Paul's instructions in the first verses of chapter 5: “Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, with all purity.”  We have already seen how Paul calls the church the household or family of the living God (3:15).  In a family, parents are to be respected and honored, and this is how Timothy is to treat the older members.  In a family, brothers and sisters are treated as equals, and this is how Timothy is to treat the younger members.  And he should especially keep himself pure with the young women.  We should treat each other with respect, honor, equality, purity, and love.  Treat fellow Christians as family!
 
Be an example to other believers and read your Bible!  Learn to exhort and to teach, and use your talents to help the church!  Think about your service, and be a diligent servant!  Take a spiritual inventory, and stay with the doctrine!  Keep promoting healthy teaching, and treat each other like family!  A tombstone has a birth date and a death date and a dash between the two.  How will the dash in your life be remembered? Don't you want to be remembered as an active, faithful, and devoted Christian?  Become a Christian by putting on Christ in baptism or ask Jesus to help you to be a better disciple!  Nobel changed his legacy, and you can change yours beginning right now!  Jesus offers an abundant life both here and in the hereafter! Accept His offer!