October 21

1 Timothy 1

1 Timothy is a letter written by Paul to Timothy, one of three pastoral epistles (1 & 2 Timothy, Titus). Timothy was part of an apostolic team, and eventually became the pastor at Ephesus. The letter was probably written in 64 AD after Paul’s first Roman imprisonment. As we read this book, let’s remember to read it as an apostle speaking to one of his pastors, overseeing a church that the apostle started. Paul will encourage Timothy in the difficult task of correcting doctrinal errors and practical problems. He will give instruction on responsibilities and qualifications of leaders. As we read 1 Timothy, if you are not a pastor, you can still glean truth from this letter, but keep in mind the intended recipient.

Paul doesn’t take long to address a people issue for the young pastor. There were Jews, who desired to be teachers of the Law, who were puffed up, causing disputes instead of edification by talking about endless genealogies and fables. They strayed from the truth of the Gospel and emphasized idle talk, or topics that really aren’t that important. Some teachers, for the love of teaching, can get off into subjects that simply don’t hold much substance, especially when they are focused on themselves instead of what the hearer really needs to be taught. Some of these teachers were emphasizing the Law of Moses, a law that Paul appreciated, but a law that applied to show the need for salvation. It was not a law that needed to be taught to those already made righteous by the blood of Jesus. I love how Paul then begins to list his own wrongs before his conversion, “but I obtained mercy!” “The grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant!” Then Paul says to Timothy, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” Then a big HOWEVER, “for this reason I obtained mercy” and lifts up Jesus and the redemptive work He accomplished at the cross. It’s a good thing when a preacher acknowledges their personal rescue with a humble heart. The moment a pastor thinks he has to be something in his or her own strength, pride and legalism enter the leader’s heart. This is a good encouragement for everyone.

Then Paul gives a charge to Pastor Timothy, calling him a son. Spiritual authority is a Bible principle that deserves mention. It is that of a spiritual mentor, likened to a caring father. This relationship is special and carries a lot of weight in the spirit; however, like any truth, this spiritual fatherhood can be taken into extreme and error, leading to manipulation and abuse. Pray for discernment. Timothy served Paul, the church founder, so Paul was his authority. Timothy received instruction and position from Paul. If the founding pastor is the pastor of the church, there is no Scriptural requirement for an apostle to be over the church; however, many pastors find strength and accountability in associating with other pastors and church planters. Paul mentions two leaders by name, leaders Paul “delivered to Satan” that they may learn not to blaspheme. Again, spiritual authority is a responsibility to care, instruct, and correct those on their team. I would say that Paul saw these two were under the influence of Satan, they refused correction, so Paul washed his hands of it. People have choices, and if they choose not to repent, pastors should honor their choices and let them go.

What if you aren’t a pastor? There are times when people we love and care about get into error or refuse to submit to spiritual authority. It is not good for them. They need to stop their rebellious behavior and turn around. If we maintain fellowship with a rebellious heart, we could encourage them to continue in their rebellion or in their error, which is not a good message for the ones we love. If we really love people, tell them the truth. If they refuse to submit, let them go. You can still love them and turn them over to God’s capable hands.

Jeremiah 5-6

Jeremiah 5:6 says, “Their backslidings have increased.” The Hebrew word is meshubah, meaning “turning back, turning away; defecting; faithlessness, apostasy, disloyalty; reverting, backsliding.” The word repent means “to turn” but refers to turning around, or to return. To backslide means the person is pulling away from God, withdrawing from God, going farther away from God. Backsliding is a heart condition of resisting the Lord, hardening the heart to His affection and His prompting.

Backsliding is not going through what some would call a dry season, where perhaps the heart of the believer is being tested to wait on the Lord. These are times when maybe you don’t sense or feel His Presence as strongly as you have in the past. The dry season, some say wilderness season, is when the Lord is drawing us closer, wanting us to pursue Him more. It’s often a season of strengthening our faith, requiring action, pursuit, endurance.

Backsliding can be a direct defiance that happens suddenly. It can also start small, even unknowingly, with a slight hardening or distrust due to a hurt or a disappointment. It could be an offense, a touch of bitterness and unforgiveness. It could be that pride began to rise up, undetected.

Jeremiah has already regarded backsliding as a condition or position that requires healing and restoration following the turnaround of repentance (Jeremiah 3:12-22). Anytime we pull away from God, we pull away from His life, which is our life. Anytime we pull away from life, we are vulnerable to the pain and destruction in the world. God is always on our side, merciful, longsuffering, not willing that any should perish but that all come to Him in repentance (2 Peter 3:9). God understands the effects of sin, and He doesn’t want any of us to experience those harmful and heartbreaking effects.

This is one reason why it is important to regularly gather in church settings. When we are in the Presence of God, collectively worshipping, it is a time of evaluation, where God searches the heart. He shows us things about Himself, and He shows us things about us. He searches us if we we’re keeping anything from Him, hiding a part of our heart. He reveals if anything is keeping us out of alignment with Him. When we are sensitive to His Spirit, we pick up if something is veiling our worship. This can happen when we’re alone with Him, as well, but if we are backsliding or our heart isn’t right, withdrawing from church is one of the first signs. Withdrawal from church can be the result of someone simply deciding not to go. Withdrawal can happen by allowing work, family, or any other excuse to be reason for absence. Withdrawal can happen from a person volunteering every week in children’s ministry or other ministry that keeps them from being in service.

There are other red flags that indicate backsliding beside withdrawal from church. One is when a person asks to stop serving on a team or ministry. Another is when a person stops tithing or giving. Private indicators could be neglecting personal Bible reading or prayer, isolating from Christian friends, keeping a distance or a boundary from people who offended you.

The word “return” is shuwb in Hebrew, and it is translated 1066 in the Old Testament, over 100 times in just Jeremiah. God is pleading with His people to turn from sin and turn back to Him. If this is you today, and the Holy Spirit has shined a light on an area of your life that needs yielded to the Lord, I encourage you to follow His prompting, and surrender it. God is for you. He will never leave you. He will never forsake you.

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