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Step Down!, Part 1

From the series The Book of 1 Timothy

If you looked up the word coach in the dictionary, you might see phrases like: “one who teaches, gives instruction, or provides special training.” In this program, Chip continues his series called “The Book of 1st Timothy.” He’s gonna unpack the next valuable life lesson the Apostle Paul taught Timothy – that we all need to be reminded of today!

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Message Transcript

It’s my senior year, it’s our year-end tournament, it was NAIA, and we were playing the number one team in the nation; they were in our league. We had the game of our life, we’re down two, there’s a jump ball, and some guy hacks me, the crowd goes silent, the other coach calls time out to ice me, I got the one-and-one, no time – well, one second left on the clock.

And it’s like, I mean, I’ve just been waiting for this my whole life. And so, I will never forget, the A.D. came in. He goes, “Look, Ingram, Ingram,” he was a former Marine. He goes, “Look. Look, you’re tired, we haven’t substituted, you’ve played the whole game. Aim for the back of the rim.” And I’m thinking, I guess that’s what some old Marine guy thinks. He doesn’t understand. Dude, I’ve been playing for a long time. I’m, like, I’m twenty years old!

And I always drop it right over the front. And I remember, there was about ten thousand people and it’s a big tournament and went through my regular routine: breath, knees, follow through. Whoo. That’s nothing but net, because I can feel it. And it came up just a little short because my legs were tired.

And I remember the next day, I was in a little diner and I was eating breakfast and, of course, we were out of the tournament. And some guy says to another guy, pulls out the paper, “Can you believe that West Liberty State took on the number one team in the nation and some idiot couldn’t hit a one-and-one?”

And think about that. I know it’s hard for you to believe, that was a lot of years ago for me because of how young I look. But I remember that because I willfully remember thinking, I know better. I’m not going to listen to him. And God has things to say to all of us and if you’re not really careful, the world’s pounding at you, there are other people, and you can kind of have this – you don’t even have to stick out your chest. It’s, yeah, I know better.

And coaches can’t help you and God can’t help us unless we are humble learners. And so, the apostle Paul is giving counsel to his young son. And remember he said, “Step up! Are you willing to stand for the truth for my church? There’s a lot on the line. And what is on the line is that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners and Timothy, if you don’t step up, a lot of people will never know or ever hear.”

The context is Nero is the emperor. And this is going to be really important. I mean, he is persecuting Christians. I mean, to step up and be a follower of Christ, he wasn’t saying, like, someone might say something bad about you on social media. What he was saying is there’s a good possibility that you’re going to end up dead. But are you willing to live for Christ?

Women at this time in world history were viewed as a piece of property. I’ll give you some data on that from an expert a little bit later, but for example, a Jew who treated women the best would get up every day and say a prayer, “Lord, I thank You that I am not a Gentile, a slave, or a woman.”

A good rabbi would not say a word in public to his wife, his daughter, his sister. They were viewed as a piece of property and it was much worse in the Greek and Roman world.

Cults were flourishing. I mean, there were just religions, mystic religions on every corner. And the great mystic religions of Corinth with Aphrodite and the Temple of Diana in Ephesus was they had, they were called priestesses and they were part of your worship, they were called temple prostitutes. And so, it’s in that environment that Paul has now said, okay, do you remember what he said? “Fight the good fight! Keep the faith!”

And now in chapter 2, he is going to tell him how. Follow along as I read as he is going to give him an urgent call for prayer.

So, fight the good fight and then, so what is the first thing you’re supposed to do? “First of all, then,” okay, here’s the game plan, this is how we are going to fight, “I urge that requests, prayers, and intercession, and thanksgiving be made on behalf of all people,” circle the word all in your Bible.

He uses four different words for prayer. Requests, prayers, general word. Intercession – stand between them and God, that God would have His way in their life. Give thanks – give thanks for what you do have, give thanks that God will work the difficult out for good.

And then, now, imagine. This is you’re a young pastor. In fact, don’t imagine. Imagine you live in America, or the Ukraine, or in Russia, or maybe in China. And you read this and it says, “I urge you to pray for all people, for kings,” that would mean Nero, everyone in charge, pray for them. What kind of prayers? Intercession, thanksgiving, ask God to work, ask God to move in their heart, ask God to actually bless their life.

“For all in authority,” that would be like the governors of the provinces. And then notice the purpose clause, “So that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.”

In other words, I want you to pray for the cultural chaos and the pressure and the persecution so that God would allow peace, because more than your protection is we want to have the kind of lives that would be attractive to the gospel. And then notice he goes on. He says, “This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who wants,” circle the word again, “all people to be saved.”

And I’m thinking Timmy, even Tim is going, “Nero?” “Yeah. Christ died for him.”

And so, all I want you to get is sometimes you get advice and I don’t know about you, I did not want to aim for the back of the rim, because in my driveway, it was the front of the rim. The problem is I hadn’t played forty minutes in my driveway before I made most of those shots.

And there’s a way to look at life right now that I have a lens and you have a lens by your culture, and Chinese have their culture, and Russians have their culture, and the people in the Ukraine have their culture. And we all have our own vested interest. And way above all of that, just like then and just like now, the apostle Paul is saying to this young pastor, “I want you to intercede and pray and give thanks and I want you to stand between the living God of all time and eternity and I want you to pray for kings and those in authority and people that you disagree with. In fact, people that you might find even hate in your heart toward. Because this is good and pleasing in the sight of our God and our Savior.”

And what He longs for us to do is be the kind of people that live such winsome lives, who are so kind and so loving and so Christlike. Do you remember how Jesus prayed? “Father,” can you help me? “Forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing.”

Jesus understood that the enemy wasn’t the fallen people. The enemy was the evil behind it. Stephen prayed as they were stoning him, “Father, forgive them.” It doesn’t mean you agree with people. And I think we can pray very strong prayers.

I have very purposefully prayed for - boy, I’m praying God would break down strongholds in world leaders and things that are happening, and I’m praying for our president, I pray for our president when he’s a blue-stater and I pray for our president when he’s a red-stater. Are you starting to get it? Because there’s something bigger than all those secondary things. There is one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.

Now, look at what Paul says, “For this purpose I was appointed as a preacher,” proclaimant, “an apostle,” one who is sent, “I am telling the truth and I’m not lying – as a teacher,” to help people grow, “of the Gentiles,” and then here’s our word again, “in faith and truth.”

The Christian life always boils down to: Am I willing to trust in what God has said?” And so, that’s the context. And now he’s going to apply it to two groups. And before I read the next set of passages, here’s what I want you to get. We tend to read the Bible out of our own world. So, when you read the word “church” or “worship”, what do you think of? You think of what you do on Sunday morning.

You understand the first three hundred years of the Church, there wasn’t a cathedral? Church was six or eight people meeting who invited some of their friends, usually they shared a meal together, someone would take a scroll that one of the apostles had written. The early Church, for the first years were all eyewitnesses of the risen Christ. And these little house churches are popping up all over the place.

And their lives were, they were just, they were doing silly, crazy things. I could show you ancient Greek documents of one person who is investigating Christianity during one of the persecutions. And he goes, “They hide in caves, they give their money to one another, they greet one another with a holy kiss, and they are taking all the babies that we throw out on the dump heaps. We have no idea. They are crazy!

In fact, we think they might be cannibals because they keep talking about drinking someone’s blood.” Completely misunderstood. By the year 313, experts tell us the Roman Empire had about sixty million people, of which thirty-three million were followers of Jesus.

Rodney Stark, I don’t know where he’s coming from theologically. He’s a sociologist. He tried to answer the question: How do you, account for this expansive growth of the early Church, I mean, apart from the Holy Spirit or anything supernatural?

And what he would say is in that first hundred and fifty to two hundred years, there were three major pandemics that wiped out, I mean, whole, huge cities of hundreds of thousands of people.

The rich people and the people with power could go to the mountains where it was safe and wait until it all died down and come back. And the only people that stayed in the cities were Christians. So, you would come back to huge metropolitan areas and the only people were Christians who happened to survive and people who were ministered to by the Christians.

And so he said as people came back they were, literally, when someone died serving those who were dying of pandemics, they were actually called martyrs. It was that kind of radical Christianity. That’s a little bit different than, “I go to church and I’m trying to be a nice person; I don’t cuss as much as I used to,” Christianity that we have been sort of peddling for the last few decades.

So, now he’s going to give an application. I don’t know about you, but if I was Timothy I would think, you know, Paul, you’ve given me a lot of counsel. This is not one I really want to take.

Notice verse 8 it says, “therefore”. “Therefore, I want the men in every place to pray, lifting holy hands.” It’s a picture of purity and earnestness. In other words, you’re praying like you mean it. And then notice, “…without anger and without dispute,” or literally, arguments and contention.

I would maybe just shift this for our day just a bit, like, what would happen if godly men prayed with holy hands lifted up with pure hearts, and not just prayed, but that’s what they posted?

They would never attack the people they disagree with. They would never be tribal, they would be strong in what they believed, agree to disagree with those in the body of Christ, but people who prayed knowing that people are vulnerable during difficult times, and God is looking for men, regular, ordinary men who would pray about His agenda that is bigger than your agenda or my agenda or a Republican agenda or a Democrat agenda, or are you ready? Or even an American agenda. But a gospel agenda. And that’s what he prays.

I think Timothy, when he gave that message, I’m not sure that really went down very well in Ephesus, but I think they obeyed. He says, “This is what I want you to do.” And then he says, “Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves.” In other words, so, adornment is the clothes you wear, how you come off, what people see. He basically says, “What I want Christian men to look like is those people that lift holy hands, that have great convictions, that see the big picture.”

And then he’s going to reach into a couple areas that were common in the day. One in Greek high society and one where women were just pieces of property. And this new experience they have had with Christ as He liberated women was causing them to act in these little house churches in ways whereas new people were coming into it, they’re going, “Ooh, wow! They’re trying to take down the kingdom. They are subversive. They are doing wild stuff.”

See, when you and I read the gospels, we forget how powerful the life of Jesus was. When we read, oh, the woman at the well in John 4, a man would never talk to a woman, let alone a Jew to a Samaritan.

When the woman who washed his feet with her tears and wiped it, no, no Jew, no rabbi would ever let a woman touch him in public. Remember the woman with the issue of blood, she touches Him. Do you remember His words to her? No, “You thing.” “Daughter, your faith has made you well.” He elevates women, and so now they are realizing that we are co-heirs with the grace of God.

Let me read before I read the text. A fellow named William Barclay, I think, spent most of his life doing background. He says, “The second part of this passage speaking to women cannot be read out of its historical context. The Jewish background was a Jewish woman would eat in separate quarters and not with their husband. A Jewish woman would not be able to go to the synagogue. A Jewish woman was not even allowed to teach her own children.

A Jewish woman who was respectable would never attempt to speak to her husband or any man outside. She was to be the keeper of the home and she heard her husband pray every morning, ‘I thank God I’m not a slave, a Gentile, or a woman.’” How would that make you feel?

The Greek background was even doubly difficult. The average Greek man, especially in high society if he had any wealth, had three women in your life. One was your wife and she was to give you children. Second was a slave girl so you could have sex when you wanted it. And the third was a temple prostitute.

In high Greek society, they actually had prohibitions in what is called the mystery religions, because they would adorn themselves with braided hair and gold. Pliny is a historian and Pliny writes that one woman in her wedding dress was worth, it was written a while ago, four hundred, in today’s money, four hundred and thirty-two thousand pounds, which is over, way over a half million dollars in U.S. currency. That was her wedding dress.

And so, there’s this Greek society of, “I’m going to impress people with my power of how I dress.” There are others who are going to manipulate through their sexual favors, because that’s the only role they had.

And now these little house churches are starting and the apostle Paul is speaking into them and saying, “I want the men to adorn themselves with prayer without anger and disputing,” and then notice what he says in that context. “Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or expensive apparel,” speaking of the high society, “but rather by means of good works as is proper for women making a claim to godliness.”

He says, “I don’t want you, don’t come off like those high society ladies.”