Church Outdoors

Fight for What Matters

Over the last several months I have been studying Paul’s first letter to Timothy for a series I am preaching entitled: Be the Church. Through this series, our church is exploring Paul’s wisdom and commands to Timothy in an effort to be the church that God desires. One of themes Paul explores in his letter has to do with battling false teaching. In 1 Timothy 1:18 in an effort to encourage Timothy to keep fighting Paul says,

“This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare,” (1 Ti 1:18)

While the passage as a whole is helpful, the last phrase – “wage the good warfare” – is what I want us to explore in today’s post.

This phrase indicates that some battles matter while others don’t. So let’s think about that for a few minutes.

What battles don’t matter?

If you remember, in 1991 the US went to war with Saddam Hussein in what was known as Operation Desert Shield, or the Persian Gulf War. By all accounts, the US and it’s coalition forces were successful against Saddam’s army. In all, an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 Iraqi forces were killed in comparison with only 300 coalition troops.

While the number of those killed on our side was low, when you look at the statistics you find that 24% of the US troops who lost their lives were killed by friendly fire. The very people our troops were supposed to be fighting with against the enemy killed them.

You know what? Friendly fire can take out those in the church too. That is especially true when we fight battles against each another, which more times than not end up being battles that don’t really matter. The fights that I have in mind are those over:

Non-Essential Doctrines

These are things that don’t determine whether a person is saved or not. Things like:

  • The mode of baptism. Should we dunk, sprinkle, or pour?
  • When is the rapture going to take place, if it is going to take place at all?
  • When is the millennium going to occur, if it is not occurring right now?

All these are important doctrines that should be studied, discussed, debated because they are will determine how your church functions. But it’s not necessary for us to beat someone up over them, or kick them out of the church because someone holds a different view. We can still fellowship with people who believe a little different than we do in these areas.

Other fights that don’t really matter are typically fought over:

Church Traditions

How we have always done things. If someone wants to change the way something has always been done, then they better be ready to duke it out. But is that how it should be?

Still other fights that don’t really matter have to do with:

Practical matters that have little spiritual consequence.

I was reading a book recently where one pastor lamented over a dispute that happened in his church over a coffee stand. The hospitality committee had put a coffee stand in the foyer for that Sunday’s service. The Monday following the service the head usher of 25 years quit saying it was a sacrilege to the church to offer coffee before the service.

The head usher quitting wasn’t the end of the conflict. A fight over whether the coffee stand should stay in the foyer or not went on for weeks, causing a huge division in the church. Eventually, the issue was resolved but not before a lot of time, energy, and resources were wasted on this matter instead of actual ministry.

Battles, then, over non-essential doctrines, church traditions, and practical matters that have little spiritual consequences are battles that don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things.

If you are still wondering how to determine the difference between a good and bad fight, let me give you a few questions to ask yourself before you take up the fight.

(1) Will this matter a year from now?  If it won’t matter, then it probably doesn’t matter much now. And it’s not worth fighting over.

(2) Am I enjoying the dispute and conflict it causes? If so, you may be fighting for the wrong reasons.

(3) Am I fighting for myself or others?  It is one thing to defend someone else’s spiritual interests, or the glory of God himself; it is a very different thing to look out for your own interests.

(4) Am I constantly justifying my actions, either to myself or to others?  Something really worth fighting about is too obvious to require much explanation.

What are the battles that matter?

The battles that matter are those battles over the essential doctrines of the Christian faith. These are all first level doctrines. Things you must believe in order to be considered a Christian. Things like:

  • The reality of the Trinity – Is God three persons, yet one?
  • The deity of Jesus Christ – Is Jesus God?
  • The necessity of Jesus’ atoning death for sin – Is it Jesus’ sacrifice that reconciles us with God or does our works?
  • The sufficiency of Christ’s death on the cross – Is Jesus alone all we need for salvation, or do we need something more?

Another I will include, even though it does not determine whether a person is saved or not, but is crucial to the faith since not believing it will make it hard for you to believe and hold to the above, and probably lead to all kinds of error and heresy, that is:

  • The inerrancy of Scripture – Is God’s Word in its original form without error?

These, then, are the battles that matter and are things we should fight over because they represent the core of the Christian faith.

We need to do everything we can to make sure we are fighting for what matters. If we aren’t vigilant in this area, we can easily crawl out of the trenches and back into the barracks where we end up fighting one another instead of our true enemy, which is sin and the ideas and practices of the sinful world.

Question for Reflection

  1. Are you currently fighting a battle that doesn’t matter?

Resources

Image

Post developed from my sermon: How do Christians do battle against sin and the sinful world?

Faith Sustains Us

How Can I be Assured of My Salvation?

How can you be assured of your salvation? Should you look to a past event like walking an aisle, saying a prayer, or being baptized? Is it found in a hyper-spiritual activity such as speaking in tongues. How about church membership? Does it seal the deal when it comes to assurance of salvation?

While all the above can hint at one’s salvation, they don’t necessarily mean someone is saved. You can walk an aisle, say a prayer, be baptized, join a church, and even act as if you are speaking in tongues, and not be a Christian. I don’t believe, then, that any of the above provides the assurance many want and desire.

How Can I be Assured of My Salvation?

The Bible, however, doesn’t leave us high and dry when it comes to the question of assurance. While I can’t provide every biblical reference related to assurance in this post, here are a number of them paired with 7 questions to ask yourself. As you work through these questions, notice the continual nature of each question.

1. Do I have a present trust in Christ for salvation?

  • Colossians 1:23 —> Do I continue to trust that Jesus is my Savior who has repaired my relationship with the Father by dying in my place? See also Hebrews 3:14 and John 3:16 where “Believes” is continual, meaning you continue to believe.

“if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.” (Col 1:23)

2. Is their evidence the Holy Spirit is at work in my life?

  • Galatians 5:22-23 —> Fruit of the Spirit. Do I sense these in myself? Can others see them?

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Ga 5:22–23)

3. Do I continue to believe and accept sound doctrine?

  • 1 John 2:23-24 —> What you heard from the beginning is the teachings about Jesus, God, Sin, Man, and Salvation found in God’s Word.

“No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father.” (1 Jn 2:23–24)

4. Do I continue to read and delight in God’s Word?

  • 2 Timothy 3:16-17 —> Does knowing that God’s Word provides everything you need for life and godliness regularly drive you to Scripture?

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Ti 3:16–17)

5. Do I continue to abide in Jesus?

  • John 15:4, 7 —> Abiding not only means that you continue to trust Jesus, but you fellowship with him regularly in prayer, worship, and Bible study.

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me….If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (Jn 15:4,7)

6. Do I continually live in obedience to God’s Word?

  • 1 John 2:4-6; 3:9-10, 24; 5:18 —> You will never be perfect in this life, but do you strive to live for and like Christ?

“Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” (1 Jn 2:4–6)

“No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.” (1 Jn 3:9–10)

“Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.” (1 Jn 3:24)

“We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.” (1 Jn 5:18)

7. Do I continually love my neighbor?

  • 1 John 4:7-8 —> If you don’t love your neighbor, then you haven’t experienced God’s love.

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 Jn 4:7–8)

Question for Reflection

  1. After working through these texts, do you have a greater sense of assurance?

Resources

Image

Wind of the Holy Spirit

Does Your Awe and Need of the Cross Grow or Diminish Over Time?

In 1 Timothy 1:12-16, Paul recounts his testimony to Timothy in order to differentiate himself from the false teachers, and give Timothy a reason why he can be trusted over and against them. After recounting his testimony, Paul breaks out into spontaneous worship of God. In verse 17 we read,

“To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Ti 1:17)

At the thought of God’s grace and his salvation, Paul can’t help but worship God, praising and magnifying Him for who He is.

Likewise, when we think about how God’s grace and mercy worked in our life to provide us with salvation, we should be driven to worship God as well. Our awe and worship of Him should only grow as we grow in Christ.

For some, however, that is not the case. Their awe and need diminishes over time instead of grows. So we don’t make this mistake, it’s important we explore these two mindsets. Let’s start with the negative before moving to the positive.

Awe and Need Diminishes Over Time

awe-and-need-diminishes

As you can see in the diagram above, the cross starts out big, but then it gets smaller over time. This is how some people see their Christian walk. They see a need for Jesus at the beginning, but as time goes on, they don’t believe they need Him or His grace as much. As a result, they start to believe that they can handle most things on their own, and they might even get to a point where they think they are good enough to secure their own salvation.

The above, however, is far from the biblical idea of salvation and our need for God’s grace. We always need Jesus, and He is the One who always sustains our salvation.

Even though that is true, some still go down this path. You know they have gone down that path because this type of thinking produces people whose awe of God and His grace diminishes instead of grows over time, which results in someone who is proud, arrogant, and self-righteous. Someone who isn’t willing to admit they are a sinner or even talk about their sin. As well as it produces someone who thinks they don’t need the church, God’s Word, or prayer.

All this ends with someone who doesn’t worship God as they should. Instead of giving God the glory, they give themselves the glory, patting themselves on the back for what they have accomplished instead of for what God has accomplished through them.

Awe and Need Grows Over Time

While the above represents those whose awe and need diminishes over time, this next diagram represents those for whom awe and need grows over time.

awe-and-need-grows

As you can see, for this person the cross grows bigger and bigger as they grow in Christ. The crosses growth is a result of this person gaining a clearer picture of who they are — an unwise sinner who desperately needs God’s grace and wisdom. Coming to that recognition, they lean on God more and more instead of less and less.

This type of thinking produces people who are humble, who have a sense of unworthiness, who live in awe of God and are driven to worship Him. As well as it produces people whose prayer life is robust, and those who see a need for the church and God’s Word in their lives.

True Christians Grow In Awe and Need

If we are true Christians, the second diagram will represent us. The cross won’t grow smaller in our lives, instead it will grow bigger.

As the cross grows, we won’t hesitate to say with Paul, “I am the chief of sinners.” Neither will we hesitate to break out in worship when we think of our salvation, and the grace that God continues to pour out in our lives. We won’t hesitate to humble ourselves and praise God because we know our salvation and continued acceptance isn’t based on our work, but God’s work. He is the One who saved us, He is the One who continues to sanctify us, and He is the one who will glorify us.

When we recognize what God has done and continues to do, and when we are willing to admit that we are the chief of sinners, and praise God for His salvation, we know that the gospel has changed us. We know we are God’s children because only someone who has been changed by the gospel will recognize and admit their need for a Savior, and will humbly praise God for their salvation, leaning more and more on Him as time goes by.

Question for Reflection

  1. Which diagram represents you?

Resources

Image

Post developed from my sermon How do we become someone who is used by God for His service?

Ideas are mine, but the diagrams were originally seen in this sermon