Sound Advice

How many of these familiar sayings have you heard before? “They returned safe and sound”, or “their business has been built on a sound foundation” or “he/she is sound asleep”. Maybe you have heard something like, “that person likes to sound off their opinions” or “you have a sound understanding on the subject”.  In life, we all benefit from getting sound advice on buying the right investments, vehicles, homes, and making other significant decisions. 

When life and faith come together there is much sound advice that we find in scripture. In his letter to Titus, the apostle Paul talks about sound doctrine, and being sound in our faith.

The word translated as “sound” in verses one and two of chapter 2 in this letter define a sense of “healthiness”, to be healthy or to be correct. Paul’s instruction or command to Titus was this, “You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine.” In other words, teach what is healthy and beneficial for those who hear your words. Paul, in an earlier letter to Timothy (1 Timothy 1:11) connects sound doctrine to the incredible truths laid out in the message of the gospel. 

The truth of the Gospel message is the foundation on which every Christ follower must find their feet firmly planted. Paul’s letter to Titus was written to encourage and instruct not just himself but the church of believers. This was a reminder for everyone to live by example, to live differently from the false teachers and the un-believing community they were a part of.  The sound advice given to Titus and the Christian churches in Crete was so much more than just knowledge and understanding of sound doctrine but living it out in their daily lives. 

To be sound in our faith implies that we as Christians understand and live according to the will of God. The promise of the gospel message for all of us is that we will one day be in the presence of our heavenly Father. By the grace of God our salvation is secured for us through the death and resurrection of his son Jesus Christ. 

Skillfully written into this letter given to Titus are references to more than a dozen teachings (doctrines) that help guide us in navigating life and faith in a culture that is seemingly counter-Christian. In many ways when we read the words of these letters to Titus and Timothy, we find ourselves facing much the same cultural influences that continue to distract people from the truths found in God’s word. 

The worldly distractions around us have the potential to deafen our hearts and minds from following this sound advice of living a healthy and productive life for Christ. So, what can we do to protect ourselves? 

First, embrace the truth of the gospel; through Christ’s death and resurrection and by the grace of God we have been brought into his family. 

Second, Pray & read. You and I do not have the power or the strength alone to live as fully devoted followers of Jesus on our own. Through prayer and scripture, we will grow into knowing the Lords will for our lives. 

Third, Live boldly for Jesus. Every day, live a life that sets you apart from the world. Be sound in your faith. 

What if the Shoe Doesn’t Fit?

 

Shoe fitHave you ever tried to wear a pair of shoes that didn’t fit properly? If they are too small your toes get a throbbing, aching pain in them from being jammed (no pun intended) together. If the shoes are too big, they will constantly rub on the back of your heel eventually causing you to get a blister. When it comes to shoes there is nothing better than a comfortable snug-fitting pair to keep your toes and heels intact.

The pastoral letters of First and Second Timothy hold a wealth of information for the training and encouragement of leaders today. Paul was writing to Timothy, his protégé, passing down instructions on how church leaders were to be shaped. 2 Timothy 4:5 offers up some heavy hitting instructions for Timothy and for us, “But you [Timothy, Steve, insert your name here], keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry”. A part of Paul’s charge to Timothy here was “to do the work of an evangelist”. Is this who you are? An evangelist? I have devoted a considerable amount of time over the past couple of years to understanding God’s call on my life. When I consider my gifting, my abilities, I don’t “fit the shoe” in the role of evangelist. So how can I take this verse, this charge, and apply it to my life? I appreciate Eugene Petersons translation of this verse in the Message, it reads, “keep the message alive”. You or I may not be called to be an evangelist but we are called to be witnesses, men and women that live a life that honors God and reflects his love and compassion to those around us.

We only have to read a few verses into the book of John to understand that he was a “witness to the light”, A witness who testified to “the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth”. (John 1:14b) You or I may not be the person who is called to “go and tell” (the evangelist), it may be that we are the ones to say “come and see” (the witness). Please don’t get me wrong and think that I am dismissing the role of the evangelist like I would a pair of old worn out shoes. The role of the evangelist is critical in the advancement of the kingdom of God. What I am saying is, if the “shoe doesn’t fit” find a pair that does (discover the gifts that God has given you) and do everything you can to “keep the message alive”. Let your life reflect God’s love, be a witness to the Good news of Jesus Christ, be the one who says, “come and see”, this is what the Lord has done for me.

Nourishment & Goodness

tomatoSome of the key ingredients to growing a “perfect” tomato is providing consistent water, temperature and just the right amount of daylight. According to Google there are 6,840,000 references to “growing perfect tomatoes”, that’s a lot of information to pick and choose from. I have tried to grow tomatoes over the years in varying ways that produced somewhat undesirable results. I am going to attempt another batch this year and the one advantage I have over the others years is an automatic watering system to provide consistent nourishment.

The apostle Paul talks about being “nourished on the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed” (1 Tim 4:6). He is writing a letter to Timothy, giving him direction through his letter so that if in his absence He, (Timothy) will know how the people should conduct themselves in the church. With instructions on proper worship and qualifications for overseers and deacons we have quite a list of requirements to live up to as leaders in the church. There are some high expectations to which we are called as leader in the church. In each and every one of us there is a goodness that God has created, it is a goodness that needs consistent nourishment, a source of sustenance that is found in the truth of His word. In order for the goodness to produce new fruit in His kingdom we must give ourselves fully to God, “we have to put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people.” (1 Tim 4:10)

I don’t know of any “automatic system” that will feed or provide the nourishment of God’s word into our lives. The writer of Hebrews describes the need to be nourished by the “solid food” (teachings of righteousness), the same truths of the faith and teaching that Paul writes about here in 1 Timothy. As mature believers, as leaders, we have to be disciplined in our time being nourished by the word. This means spending time in the word, reading and meditating on its truths, living by its example, encouraging others, training ourselves to distinguish good from evil (Heb 5:14) and faithfully teaching others. The word of God provides us the life giving nourishment necessary for growth, health and conditioning to be his leaders in the church today.

Pursuing Integrity

Pursuing-The-Face-of-GodWith much the same content, Paul writes this letter to Timothy with words of encouragement and instruction. Like he wrote to Titus we read about the instructions given to build and maintain a church and its leaders. Paul sets out to warn Timothy of the false teachers that are trying to draw people away from the truth of the gospel message, a similar yet different setting that shows us the widespread problem of disobedience to God.

Today, as I read through 1 Timothy, my focus was drawn to Paul’s charge to Timothy in Chapter 6:13, a charge that called him to live a life of integrity among a people and culture that practiced otherwise. Like any one of us Timothy was only human, he struggled with the pull of settling into the surrounding culture that could take the easier road. Paul’s charge to Timothy was to stand strong and live and act counter to what the culture was practicing, he was to be the counter-cultural model of a leader for the sake of advancing the gospel message. Timothy in his own strength could not accomplish this quest of true integrity on his own, he had men like Paul and others who walked beside him keeping him accountable to his faith and trust in God.

Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.” (6:11).

Can you step outside the front door of your church and walk through your neighborhood and confidently say that each person is pursuing righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness? I know I can’t, my hope is that I can come across at least one or two that are striving toward that end. I think we should be asking these questions: Can our neighbors see us pursuing these things? Is the church a living example of righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness in a culture that demands much less?