For those of you who might have missed it, last Sunday we began our “Call of Duty” series based on the book of 1 Timothy. And in this series, we are looking at our responsibilities as Christians, as Paul lays them out for us in this letter to Timothy.
So we started off by looking at our responsibility not to waste our time in meaningless discussions, but rather to spend out time helping each other to live a life of faith in God. And sometimes that involves asking each other the hard questions: Is you conscience clear, is your heart pure, are you being genuine in your faith? Hard questions to ask – but they are absolutely essential in keeping each other on track.
Now today we pick up where we left off – in 1 Timothy 1:18.
18 Timothy, my son, here are my instructions for you, based on the prophetic words spoken about you earlier. May they help you fight well in the Lord’s battles. 19 Cling to your faith in Christ, and keep your conscience clear. For some people have deliberately violated their consciences; as a result, their faith has been shipwrecked. 20 Hymenaeus and Alexander are two examples. I threw them out and handed them over to Satan so they might learn not to blaspheme God. 1 Timothy 1:18-2:7
Ok now, hang on a minute. Before we get too far, let’s back up a bit. Verse 18:
18 Timothy, my son, here are my instructions for you, based on the prophetic words spoken about you earlier. May they help you fight well in the Lord’s battles.
What’s this talk about fighting the Lord’s battles? We don’t do that sort of stuff anymore. The ancient Israelites fought the Lord’s battles. Joshua, Samson, King David – these guys fought the Lord’s battles. Wiping out Jericho, slaying the Philistines – It would make sense for God to instruct these guys to fight well in the Lord’s battles. But Timothy – the pastor of the church in Ephesus? Or us – citizens of the tiny hamlet of Mirror in 2010? What kind of battles are we suppose to fight for the Lord?
Ephesians 6:10-12 will give us some insight:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
So our battles are not physical battles like we read about in the Old Testament – where David kills the giant or Samson wipes out 1000 men with the jawbone of a donkey. Paul’s instructions to Timothy were not to help him defeat the Philistines or Amalekites or even the Romans.
The battle that Paul is equipping Timothy to fight is a spiritual one. A fight against (as Ephesians 6:11 puts it) – a fight against the devil’s schemes. And I don’t think we fully realize what a fight that is. According to 1 Peter 5:8, this is a fight that we had better take seriously. It says…
Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8
Satan wants to devour you. He wants to destroy you. He hates you because he hates God. And the best way He can assault God is by destroying what God loves – that’s you and me. But that is why we fight. And that’s why Paul goes on to continue in verse 19 and He tells Timothy…
“Cling to your faith in Christ, and keep your conscience clear.”
These are the two ways that Satan is most successful in knocking Christians out of the battle.
He causes us to lose our faith.
He causes us to cloud our conscience.
Let’s look at those two things for a few moments: First of all what is faith?
“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1
Now some people have used the example of sitting on a chair as an illustration of faith. You sit down, having faith in that chair, that it will hold you up. But that doesn’t really fit the definition of faith that we see in Hebrews 11:1. Because is says faith is being certain of what we do not see. I can see the legs underneath the chair. I can’t say for certain that it will hold me up, but it sure looks like it. So that’s not really faith. Perhaps a better illustration of faith would go like this.
[ask a blindfolded person to sit on a chair]
That’s faith. [____________] was sure that there was a chair there – He was certain even though he did not see it.
Now let’s get back to our verse: “Cling to your faith in Christ”. Hold on to it. Don’t let go of it. Why? Because Satan is going to try to take it away. To use our chair illustration, he is the voice in the background of your mind that whispers “Are you sure you can trust this guy? There probably isn’t even a chair there. He’s gonna get you to fall on your backside and you’ll look like a idiot.” Had [___________] listened to those doubts, he probably wouldn’t have sat down.
And Satan casts the same kind of doubts on your faith in God. “Are you sure you can trust this God? Is God even real? Is what the Bible says really true? Am I really saved? Is there really a heaven – is there really a hell? Does God really love me? And Satan will casts all these doubts in your mind.
But Paul says “Cling to your faith in Christ.” Don’t give up an inch. When those times of doubt come, you have to hold on to your faith for dear life. But of course, that means we have to know what we believe in the first place. We have to be in our Bibles, checking it out for ourselves. Don’t just go by what I say or what your parents say or your friends say. You need to “be sure of what you hope for and certain of what you do not see.” If you’re going to cling to your faith, you had better know what you have faith in.
In our men’s group we’ve been talking about being bold enough to speak the truth. Being man enough to tell others what you believe is true. But maybe the reason that we don’t do that very often is because we aren’t certain of what we believe. We can’t debate with others about important spiritual truths because we aren’t sure of them ourselves.
We need to be “be sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” And then when those doubts come, we need to cling to our faith in Christ. Otherwise, Satan will render us powerless and we’ll be useless in battle.
“Cling to your faith in Christ, and keep your conscience clear.” 1 Timothy 1:19
The second thing that Satan will do to render us ineffective in battle, is he will cause us to cloud our conscience.
In other words, he will cause us to sin. Now, he won’t “make us sin” – the choice is ultimately ours whether we sin or not – but he will do everything He can to cause us to sin. He will tempt us. He will deceive us. He will distract us.
And more often that we’d like, it works and we sin. We no longer have that clear conscience. And everyone of us knows that feeling of guilt – emptiness – distance from God – that we get when we sin. Our conscience is no longer clear. And I want to show you what happens. [Glass of water]
This clear, clean water represents your clear, clean conscience. Everything is right between you and God. Now when I look through this glass, I can see all of you quite well. In fact, if this glass wasn’t curved, I’d probably be able to see you as clearly as if there was nothing between us at all. In the same way, when our conscience is clear, we can see God clearly too. We can clearly hear what He has to say to us. We can clearly see where He is leading us.
But when we sin, our conscience becomes cloudy. [baking soda] Suddenly, it’s not quite so easy to hear or see God anymore.
That’s why Paul exhorts us to “Keep our conscience clear.” If we are in battle, we need to be able to clearly see our leader. We need to clearly hear his voice. But we can’t do that with a cloudy conscience. And as long as we let that sin lay unconfessed and un-repented of, there will be a barrier between us and our commander – and we’ll be useless in battle.
So I encourage you this morning to keep short accounts – with both God and man. If you sin against someone, deal with it right away. Confess it and make things right. If an apology is required, do it right away. If restitution is required, make it happen as soon as you can.
Being a Christian doesn’t mean that you’re never going to sin anymore, but when we do sin, we need to deal with it and make it right. We need to keep our conscience clear.
And it is then, as we cling to our faith in God and keep our conscience clear, we can fight well in the Lord’s battles. We have have victory over the devil’s schemes and we can advance the kingdom of God.
Now I can’t speak for you, but I sure don’t want to live a defeated life. I want to live a victorious life. I want to live in such a way that God can use me however He sees fit, to accomplish great things for Him for as long as I live on this earth.
If you want to live that victorious life too, then I would ask you to join with me as we pray today.