Helping you grow closer to God
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About this series
My father was a great athlete, in fact, such a great athlete when World War II broke out, he joined the Marines: Guam, Iwo Jima, Purple Heart, fifty-caliber machine gunner. He only opened up twice that I can remember and he goes, “I would set up the machine gun, it would be like mowing grass, and killing people.
And he said, “In the midst of that, my buddy,” his name was Ralph but he went by Reb, “my buddy said, ‘Reb, you’re hit!’” And they carried me out.” And uhm, he said, “I’m sure that was the good part, except no one of the guys with me made it out.” So, he lived with the guilt of a survivor and, you know, when you’re seventeen, eighteen years old, in fact, even if you get older, I do quite a bit of work with the military people here and looking back, uh, now that I have been with men without arms or a leg or head trauma from Iraq and Afghanistan, I will apologize to my father. Because the level of father that he was after what he has been through was rarest among men. And we have no idea.
And so he was a good provider, he was a functioning alcoholic, but I grew up in a home where I had a dad that couldn’t communicate love. I never heard him say he loved me. I know he did, and so, because my dad was a great athlete, when you’re a kid, you want to be like your dad. And so, unfortunately, I didn’t have his size or his strength, but I was pretty quick and I was pretty passionate and pretty driven. And coaches filled that gap.
And I’ll never forget, a coach named Neil Lance – every, I mean, all through junior high, three years, at noontime, he would play one-on-one with me. He taught me, I mean, jab step and look at your belly button and get your elbow in off your fingertips. And I was a gym rat junkie. And so, it was the same when I played in college, it was the same when I played overseas. And it was that drive, those coaches that were there for me and my dad wasn’t.
Well, there was a young guy named Timothy who had a big assignment. And his life coach was the apostle Paul. The apostle Paul, in the words of Will Durant, he wrote A History of Civilization, about twenty-six volumes. Expert. He said, “The greatest intellect of the first century was the apostle Paul.” So, what he says, whether you believe in God or not, is extraordinarily insightful.
And what we are going to learn is Timothy’s life and his job and his role in his city is a lot like what is happening in the world today. And so, what we are going to get is Paul coaching him.
And I look back at that time when Coach Lance helped me and then it was my high school coach and then it was my college coach and those coaches became people who I learned to become a man because of that coach. I learned how to treat women because of that coach. I learned what an arrogant jerk I was from that coach. And he made it very clear.
And so, what I want to do with you is to walk through life coaching and the process will be we will hear, “What did the apostle Paul say to this young pastor who was in over his head?” And then we are going to flip it and say, “What is in this for us?”
Here’s tip number one, write it, it’s in your notes. Tip number one is everyone needs a coach. You need a coach in relationships, you need a coach in life, you need coach in your finances, you need a coach for your marriage, you need a coach to be a dad, you need a coach to be a single man. I mean, everybody needs a coach.
Coaches do two or three great things. Number one, they older and have lived longer and they care about you.
Secondly, they kind of know what’s coming and they are an objective lens that, “You’re good at this, you’re not so good at this.”
And good coaches do a couple things. They put their arm around you and encourage you and, “You can do it!” and they inspire you and they do a little bit of this. They kick you right in the - you can figure out what that word would be, to help you get where you need to be.
The hardest things I have ever heard from any human beings on the planet have been through coaches speaking about one inch from my face and they were as loud as they could possibly be, and I got the point. And I needed to hear it.
We all need people that will tell us the truth. We all need people that will love us when we don’t deserve it. And we need people to give us skills and help us to understand where we’re at in our season to take the next steps.
So, here’s the context. The historical perspective. It’s from the apostle Paul, he’s going to tell this young pastor that he has left in Ephesus that there’s some false teaching going on and you need to address this false teaching.
And it’s in about 62 to 64 A.D. The situation, there’s an emperor named Nero. And Nero is a very perverted man, he likes to wrap Christians in wild animal skins, and then turn wild dogs loose on them in the coliseum and laugh and watch them die and get shredded apart.
On other times, he likes to impale them and put tar around them and for his cocktail parties, they would be burning. They’d be burning to death. He’s an evil, evil man. I want you to keep in mind, so, Ephesus is this super metropolitan city, known for sex of every kind. Temple of Diana. Very secular, very powerful. It’s a port where people are coming in from all over the world.
Christianity is just getting birthed. And Paul has left Timothy there and there are some people with some false teaching and here is what he is going to say to, and notice the tender spirit. Good coaches understand: you’ve got to win their heart first.
“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus, according to the commandment of God our Savior, and of Christ Jesus,” and you might underline this in your Bible, “who is our hope.” Timothy was living in a world like some of you are. It doesn’t feel like there is much hope. And so, he reminds them first and foremost, Jesus, what He has done and who He is, is our hope.
“…to Timothy,” and notice the heart, “my true son in the faith, grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
And now he is going to turn his tender tone to a little bit of a strong reminder. Like, “We talked about this before and I’m going to remind you.”
“Just as I urged you upon my departure from Macedonia,” which is Philippi area, “I urged you when I left you in Ephesus, so that you would instruct certain people not to teach strange doctrines, nor pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to useless speculation rather than advance the plan of God which is,” and you might put a box around this little phrase, it’s going to come out all throughout the book, “which is by faith. So, I urge you now.”
So, basically what he says is, “Timothy, you know how much I care about. Remember when I left I said, ‘Remember to do this.’ I am now urging you, you have to address this. In a word, you’ve got to step up.”
And we know from his background he’s a little timid, we know his mother and grandmother were believers and didn’t seem like his father was. So, kind of, grew up in sort of a women-y household.
And Paul inspiring him to say, “Hey, you’re the pastor now. You have been with me. You need to address these issues.” And then notice the contrast. He says they’ve got all this stuff going on, this false teaching, but, “The goal of our instruction is threefold: Love from a pure heart.”
That means you care about people and you extend compassion and you love them for where they are at for the right motive. And then secondly, “…from a good conscience.” In other words, your internal meter that tells you what is right and wrong, how you are living and what is going on inside are telling the same story. You’re not faking it.
And finally, he says, “…from a sincere faith.” And the word sincere means it’s tested by sunlight. And so what he is saying is there’s a bunch of junk going on, but the goal of our teaching about Christ is that men and women’s lives will be changed and they would love even their enemies from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.
And now he addresses, he’s going to do a little teaching. He’s going to say, “Let’s do a little brief teaching about what is going on where you’re at.” Look at verse 6, “Some people have strayed from these things.” I mean, at one point in time they were on track with us.
Notice, “They turned aside to fruitless discussion,” they just got talking about all kind of stuff. Then he begins to develop, well, what were they talking about? “…wanting to be teachers of the Law,” ego, pride, “even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make such confident assertions. But we know that the Law is good, if it is used lawfully, realizing the fact that the Law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious.”
And then he kind of gives this sort of laundry list of various examples of unrighteousness. He says, “For the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy, for the worldly, for those who kill their fathers and mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral, for homosexuals, for slave traders, liars, perjurers, whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, according to the glorious gospel of our blessed God, which I have been entrusted.”
And so, basically as you study the Scriptures and this happens in other books, there was a group of people that would kind of follow the apostle Paul and for the first, gosh, fifteen, twenty years it wasn’t like Judaism and Christianity. It was Jews who believed the Messiah actually came. So, they were just good Jews following the Messiah, Jesus. Well, they get alienated from that. And so, some, they were called Judaizers.
These Jews would come along and say, you know, “Jesus is okay,” right? “I believe that’s true. But you also have to keep the Law.” And they started trying to pull people back away from salvation that is by the grace of God and the work of Christ to, “You need to be circumcised and don’t eat this and don’t eat that.” And they also had some, they mixed it with other stuff like, “You shouldn’t marry and you shouldn’t eat this and you can’t do that and you can’t drink this.” And there were all these kind of roles and rules that gave a lot of control.
The apostle Paul basically saying is, “Timothy, you’ve got to address this. And you’ve got to think about what it’s like.” I mean, imagine you have been an assistant coach maybe at a good program and then you get a job at a pretty significant school and you are young. And you realize, man, you’ve got issues on this team. And you’ve got issues with the boosters. And you’ve got issues over here. And guess what, you’ve got to step up and make some really hard decisions. That’s the environment. That’s what he is dealing with.
So, notice next he is going to give a little personal testimony. Don’t coaches do that a lot?
But the apostle Paul is going to remind Timothy that, “You know, I have been there. I have not always been this confident, driven apostle who gets beaten up and gets back up and God does miracles through me.”
Verse 12 he says, “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has strengthened me because He considered me faithful, putting me into His service, even though previously a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor.” How is that for, “I’ve got some issues of my own, Timothy”? “Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant with the,” put a little box around it again, “the faith and the love which are found in Christ Jesus.”
Basically, he is saying, “Timothy, don’t look at me and think that I have always had it all together. I want to remind you where I came from. And God was gracious to me.” In fact, notice he now is going to sort of squeak in a little theology.
He says, “It is a trustworthy statement,” this happens three different times throughout the book. And basically, by this time, the Church is about thirty years old. Now they have codified some of the doctrine, some of the most clarion things that everyone needs to know. “This is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance,” and you might underline this in your Bible, “that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”
I grew up in a church where everyone pretended to have it together. I grew up where they said one thing and lived another way. I grew up thinking, boy, by the time I was fourteen or fifteen it was like, “This bunch of hypocrites; I don’t need this at all. I don’t need religion, I don’t need God, I don’t need Jesus.”
He didn’t come to make nice people a little bit better. “This is a trustworthy statement: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” People who have blown it, people that have addictions, people that log on to porn, people that lie, people that have stolen, people that have murdered.
Notice he goes, “Among whom I am foremost.” Did you get the tense of the verb? Did you hear what the apostle Paul said? He didn’t say, “Among whom I was.” He said, “Man, you don’t understand, I killed a lot of people.” This was what gave my dad hope! It was actually receiving forgiveness. That’s why He came for me!
And then notice the reason. “Yet for this reason I found mercy,” purpose clause, “so that in me as the foremost sinner, Christ Jesus might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.”
He just said, “You know what? Hey, Timothy, I know it’s hard, I know there’s a lot of pressure, I know I’m asking you to step up, I know you’re a little timid, I know you’re struggling, but here’s what you’ve got to understand; here’s what’s at risk. You can’t let that stuff go on because this is why Jesus came. And these guys are trying to feed this garbage religion: do this, don’t do that.” I actually grew up where the theology that I got out of my very social, non-biblical church was if it was any fun, God was against it.
My image of God was like He had like this gigantic ruler. And if a thought came to your mind that might be halfway fun, He was just ready to blap you. And you were always just guilt, you’re always messed up, you never measured up. It was like, I don’t need that. Because the people that were telling me, they were doing the things they said I wasn’t supposed to do.
And he’s straightening him out. He says there’s a – Jesus was the God of love and a God of grace. He didn’t minimize things, but He came to rescue us. And then Paul does this, I think he just went off. I think there are times where he remembers: This is where I was.
And as he was rehearsing it for Timothy, he just paused and notice what he says. “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”
I think when he realized afresh, “This is what happened to me,” and he understood who God really is. He just broke out into praise. I don’t think this was in Paul’s notes. I think the Spirit just, whoo.
And then notice he ends with a charge. “Okay, Timothy, I reminded you what you need to do. We addressed what the problem is. I’ve told you I love you and I’m for you and I have talked about where I’ve messed up in the past and what God has done for me.”
Now, get this, this is the fourth quarter, time out speech when you’re down two and all the guys are looking at you like, “Coach, I’m really tired.” “This command I entrust to you, Timothy my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you fight the good fight.”
Well, how? “Keeping,” you might put a box around this again, “faith and a good conscience.” And then notice the bookends, “Which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith. Among these are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan, so they will be taught not to blaspheme.”
And so, what Paul is actually coaching Timothy to do is the very thing that God wants to coach us to do.