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Step Down!, Part 2

From the series The Book of 1 Timothy

How do you live for Jesus in a culture that’s hostile toward your faith? I mean, what can you do when your co-workers and neighbors think there’s something wrong with you just because you’re a Christian? In this program, Chip continues his series from 1st Timothy – by explaining why humility is crucial for every relationship, especially with people we disagree with.

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Message Transcript

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.

The Greek background was even doubly difficult. 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 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.” A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. That was true in the Greek and the Roman culture.

But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet, for it was Adam who was first created and then Eve. And it wasn’t Adam who was deceive but the woman who was deceived and became a wrongdoer. But the women will be preserved through childbirth if they continue,” here’s our phrase, “in faith, love, and sanctity with moderation.”

What you need to get here is: Don’t read our current world back into this text. His instruction to women, fundamentally, was you can’t act in these little house churches in ways where the Roman government thinks you’re undermining a culture. You need to understand that fifty percent of the Roman Empire was slaves and about eighty percent were – of the Church – were slaves.

And so, now you have these, you have these transformational cultural things where a slave might be an elder in a church. And his master might be in the church. And then they’ve got to get up on Monday morning and he has to treat his master like the owner. And he is saying, you know, we have these cultural norms about how life and women, and he goes, we want to bring about change, but the big change has to start with the gospel.

And it’s interesting. But there are multiple translations, opinions about this passage. There are only about three legitimate ways you can go.

One, you can say a woman could never talk at any church meeting ever. And, gosh, let’s see, now Philip, he had daughters that prophesied, I guess that one doesn’t play out too well, right? Or there’s no justification whatsoever, but Paul makes some of his arguments about, there is a role between men and women and as Christ is the head and the man is the head, so there’s a servant leadership here.

Here’s the main point of this passage that we often miss. The main point of this passage to men, what, if you wanted to bring about change as a man, how do we tend to do it? We power up. “I’m going to bring about change and this is the way I’m going to do it.” And what does he tell them to do? Pray up. And if you’re a woman and you want to get your way, there are a couple ways, right? I mean, women have been doing it for centuries is your sexual attraction or your adornment to be impressive.

And, see, underneath both of those – the real issue is about power. The real issue is about: How do you exert power to bring about change? And, yes, we have rights; yes, we have opinions. And what Paul is really helping Timothy do is say, “You’ve got to back away and understand there is one mediator between mankind and God, and it’s the man Christ Jesus.”

Make sure we do the number one priority and if we do that, guess what, over time, slavery gets abolished. Over time, women are viewed equally. Jesus was the greatest liberator of women in all of human history.

But what could have taken the entire project down was if women were acting or men were acting in ways – you got against the Roman government, I’ve got news for you, you just die. So, he says, “We want to live these quiet, peaceful lives.”

We don’t want to make waves of some of the cultural issues that are so systematic yet. What we want to do is we want to, from the inside out, be light and salt and light and love. And what happened over time was we changed the Roman Empire. In three hundred years, the emperor becomes a Christian. And it wasn’t because of external power, it was because of an internal transformation.

And I think there’s probably some pretty big application for us, especially in America. Here’s the truth. 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 could I just, I mean, I know I’m pounding on this a bit. All men. Could you just bring to mind some people that maybe emotionally you don’t really want them saved? That you just have anger, that when you talk about them you talk about them like they are the devil incarnate. And they voted for so-and-so. Or they didn’t vote for so-and-so. Or can you believe it? They are…

I mean, I’m watching Christians, and this vitriol coming out of people’s mouths about secondary issues. That’s not exactly the agenda.

“Come to a knowledge of the truth, for there is one God, mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus who gave Himself as a ransom for,” who? All. That includes the people you don’t like and I don’t like. The people that are different colors, different orientations, different political views, different countries.

It’s why the gospel transformed the world. Our response is I want men in every place to pray, lifting holy hands without anger or dispute, arguments or quarrels. And so, what I would ask you, and I kind of know the answer, are you praying for all people? I mean, this would be just a great application to think about whatever the side of the political aisle you are, to start praying for the other side. Whoever in your church who is super ticking you off, start praying for them.

So, what is really going on? You’ll notice in your notes, Paul’s coaching for us, you know, 2 Timothy 3:16 and 17 says, “All Scripture is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness that the man of God, the woman of God might be fully equipped for every good work.” And so, all I want you to know is that all this stuff talking about women and hair and whether they speak or don’t speak in these first century house churches, or men, there is application for us.

The subject here is power and it’s how to fight the good fight in a culture of persecution and suspicion. And this is for the glorious gospel as our number one priority instead of our tribal interests – and we all have them. I mean, I live in the most highly diverse city in America, more than New York City.

And it has been one of the most wonderful places in the world because we all come with our backgrounds and God has allowed me to be there for a lot of years and to recognize that, you know what? Everybody from everywhere is just in desperate need of Christ.

And what they need is someone to listen to them and not judge them and make assumptions about them. Just like I don’t want them to make assumptions about me.

The underlying issue here is love from a pure heart. And it’s revealed in our conduct, in our practices that promote the gospel ahead of our personal agendas. You never budge on truth. But when you move to the middle toward understanding and how could we bring about some unity? How could we care about one another? How could we agree to disagree on seven minor issues but agree on this big issue and treat each other in how we speak and what we do, I will tell you, you’ll get blasted from both sides just like Jesus did. And God will really use your life.

The underlying question here is: Am I willing to follow Jesus’ example of love and return good for evil to those in positions of authority in my life? I mean, that’s what he was asking those women. Position of authority in your life. Are you willing to voluntarily do what Jesus did? Jesus said, “I could have brought down angels, bam! We can solve this in a New York minute.” But His power was in His surrender to the Father. His power is like a grain of wheat falling into the earth and dying and, therefore it brought fruit.”

The action required: You have to step down. You have to kneel down. You have to release anger and resentment. And you have to refuse to verbally attack or disrespect those who oppose you. Post about convictions you have; don’t attack anybody. It doesn’t accomplish anything.

We are not called to be American Christians, hopefully to get our way. We’re called to be followers of Christ. And you do understand, I mean, this isn’t rocket science. You understand the people that were most antagonistic toward Jesus were Israelites, powerful, religious people who even after they saw Lazarus risen from the dead, many believed and the text says, “And some of them went to the religious leaders to plot to how to kill Him.” And then these were their words, “Because He’s going to take our power and our nation.” And a lot of what we see in America is Christians concerned about your power and your nation more than the calling of God for the gospel.

The unspoken need is to develop humility.

How do you develop humility? First of all, you have to know the truth. I would encourage you, Matthew 5:43 to 48, I want you to listen to the words of Jesus. “You have heard it said, ‘You shall love your neighbors and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Well, why would you do that? “So that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to shine on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. Therefore, you are to be perfect,” the word is teleos. You’re to be mature, you’re to grow up. “…even as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,” Philippians chapter 2, “who although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself,” literally, veiled His attributes, “taking the form of a bondservant and being made in the likeness of men, being found in appearance as a man He humbled Himself becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

Second is know the truth and then live the truth. “For even the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto,” Mark 10:45, “but to serve and give His life a ransom for many.”
The Philippians 2:3 through 5 passage is one I memorized and it both haunts me and encourages me. “Do nothing from selfishness or vain glory,” is the old translation, “or empty ambition, but consider others as more important than yourself.”

By the way, rather than doing that way out there, get up and say, “What does my wife need?” “Honey, why are you doing the dishes?” “Uh, being a servant?” “How come you took the trash out? I didn’t even ask you. How come you actually lined up the babysitter and asked if we could go on a date. Are you okay?” You know? “Why did you say, ‘You know, I think we need to sit down and look at our bills together and think through our plans for the future.’” Because most wives take care of all that stuff in most marriages, and they feel the weight of that, instead of a man saying, “I own the provision and the protection and the planning.” Now, she may be much better administratively than most of us, but meeting with her.

Every two weeks I meet with my wife and we have a folder and we pay all of our bills and then we talk about where our money is going and why. And I didn’t do that about the first three or four years and she felt crushed under the weight and the responsibility because she saw the numbers and I didn’t.

Finally, let me encourage you to practice with the head we know the truth, with our heart we live the truth, and with our hands we share the truth.

After Jesus’ lived this out in Luke chapter 10, He sent them out two-by-two to do the very thing, to heal, to cast out demons. And then in Romans 12:14 to 21, perhaps my favorite passage on this, “Bless those who persecute, bless and curse not.”

Later on it’ll talk, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he’s thirsty, give him a drink. Never take your own revenge beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God,” toward the end. “Do not be overcome with evil. Overcome evil with good.”

And what we, you know, when evil confronts evil, it’s like gasoline on the fire. And that’s what we have in American culture today. And it’s happening in the Church. I understand it out there. They are lost. They haven’t met the Mediator yet.

Lord, will You forgive us, please, all of us for being so culturally numbed by our American consumeristic mentality that when we don’t get our way, that we pout and we cast stones and we take our money and leave and we say evil and negative things, even about other brothers and sisters in Christ. And friendships of five and ten and twenty and twenty-five years have been broken over secondary things. Will You have mercy on us?

Would You grant us the grace to seek first to understand rather than be understood? Would You give us the grace to figure out why people do what they do when it doesn’t make any sense to us, but it does make sense to them?

God, would You help us be bridge builders of reconciliation? Your Church is in peril. Help us to step up and then step down, in Christ’s name, amen.