Motivated by Love
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How does a church keep from going off course? What kind of shepherd/pastor is needed, and how should this individual lead and teach?
Thank you, Andy. We do trust in God's timing, but we do believe we're in the final season of the pastoral search. So we felt it is appropriate in this final season to prepare for the calling and the coming of the next lead pastor; prepare, even as we look at the word through the next couple months in our sermon time. Specifically, we are going to be working through some select texts that Paul writes to Timothy in first and second Timothy, that speak to what is it that we should be looking for and expecting in an elder, a pastor. It applies to really all levels of leadership. In one way it's a definition of spiritual maturity. So it applies to all of us who follow Christ, but it has very definite, specific application to what we're looking for in the lead pastor. And so today, if you have your Bibles, I will take the first of those sections, which is in First Timothy, chapter one. I want to begin with just something that caught my my eye over the last year. Maybe you remember back in March, you remember in the news this cargo ship that got caught in the Suez Canal. This cargo ship is called the Evergreen. It's one of the largest container ships on the on the oceans. Literally its length is skyscraper-like, that's how long it is. And somehow as it's making its way through the Suez Canal it got turned. So it was almost perpendicular to the canal, the direction of the canal. It got stuck in the side of the canal. And for five days they puzzled on how are they going to get this unstuck? It was a problem, of course, not only for the container ship, but for all the ships that were coming through the Suez Canal behind it. Over those five days three hundred and sixty ships backed up behind the the evergreen, waiting for it to get unstuck. It literally costs billions of dollars and lost time of the shipment of goods, all because somehow - it's still under investigation. Somehow this ship got off course. Well, we have an example of this closer to home. The last year, I believe it was last July up in Duluth. Maybe you recognize the Duluth lift bridge there. There was a ship that similarly going through the Duluth Lift Bridge on its way out of the harbor in Duluth, out into Lake Superior, got stuck. It's the Presque Isle. I've seen that ship. It's one of the largest ships on the Great Lakes. This is a ship that has gone through this passage many, many times. But again, for some reason, this ship got turned slightly and got stuck against the breakwall for a period of time. Again, not only stalling its progress, but backing up ships behind it. And again, not all the details have not been disclosed, but I think it would be very easy to say that, like the Evergreen, the Presque Isle got off course.
So I've been thinking about that image, that metaphor of getting off course. It really is a picture of what what Paul is warning Timothy about. Now, he is writing specifically about the situation in the church of Ephesus, but he could be writing to Calvary. So what is true of what is happening in Ephesus very well could be true of what's happening in Calvary or if you're visiting from another church, your church. This is really a threat both then and now. It is the threat like you see on the screen of churches going off course. And while there's many ways churches could go off course, probably the most fundamental, the most dangerous is churches going off course in their teaching. Why is this so important at this season? Because as we evaluate candidates for our next lead pastor, while that's not the only teaching role here at Calvary - there's others who teach from the pulpit, there's others who teach from from our adult Bible communities and in small groups and in other settings - this is a significant role. And the selection of a man who is at least going to be up here a majority of the time and the way that he will direct the ship of Calvary, so to speak, through its teaching, through its doctrine, if that gets off course, it presents a real danger to Calvary and, you know, if you wonder if that's just an idle warning;
No, I mean, we look at churches all around us today, even in our Rochester community, that years ago were perhaps on course that have become for various reasons off course and a ship getting off course has ramifications that affect many a church getting off course. And it's teaching has ramifications that that affect many. So let's look a little bit about how Paul addresses this with Timothy. We open verse three. I urge you, Paul writes, I urge you, Timothy, when I went to Macedonia, remain in Ephesus. Let me just give you a little bit of a background context. Again, this could be written to Calvary. Ephesus was a church in a city, much like Calvary is here in Rochester. It was it was an area where because of its location on the eastern shores of the Aegean Sea, the western boundary of Asia Minor, it was an important place. It drew lots of people. It drew lots of intelligentsia. You know, Rochester certainly with the Mayo Clinic and and IBM and all the rest that goes along with that draws that same kind of people. Paul planted a church there, probably in the early 50s of the first century. We're not exactly sure there. It was on his second missionary journey. You can read about that in Acts 16, 17 and 18. And planning that church he spent almost three years there preaching and teaching, and then he moves on, moves on because there's other errands, specifically he is going to gather a collection for the poor, the people who are suffering in Jerusalem.
He goes over to Macedonia on the other side of the Aegean Sea to collect that. And he leaves Timothy, his young protégé, a young new pastor, somewhat green, inexperienced pastor in charge there, in Ephesus. But what he hears in the years that pass concern him. What he hears as we'll see is a ship, a church, getting off course. So we see that as we go on here in verse three, he wants Timothy to stand fast there in Ephesus, stay in the church, stay in that helm. Why? So that you may command certain people not to teach other doctrine. We don't have a lot of explanation - there's actually very little explanation in scripture of what's going on here - but I think we can make some reasonable assumptions. Who are these certain other people? Acts 20 records what he speaks to elders in Ephesus. So the leaders of the church sometime later, based on what's happening, we read in Acts 20 what he is concerned about going on in the church. And I think it helps us identify who these certain people are who are teaching different doctrine. He writes Acts twenty. I know that after my departure, fierce wolves will come in among you. There would be people he was concerned about who would come in to the church from the outside and maybe they presented themselves as believers and yet they had a motive.
They had a motive actually not to serve the sheep, to feed the sheep, but to prey upon the sheep, to take advantage of the sheep. And he says to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20, it's not only those coming in from the outside that he was concerned about. He goes on to say, even from among you, from within the church in other words, some will arise teaching perversions of the truth to draw away the disciples after them. He knew that there would be people who who grew up in the church who were saved through the church, who for some, you know, based upon different complexities of motivations, would become wolves who who rose up from within and would teach perversion of the truth, would teach different doctrine. Why? To draw off a following after them. So I think that's what we see here in First Timothy 1:3 - other doctrine. Some of your versions, if you have a different version, may translate that as different doctrine as strange doctrine, as false doctrine. It's teaching. It's truth that is other than what Jesus and the apostles taught, that we have in the New Testament. What kind of false teaching was he learning about that they were teaching in Ephesus. We read that in verse four: myths and endless genealogies.
Now there are some particularities to that setting that may not apply specifically, but there are principles here that I think we need to be on guard against here at Calvary. What is a myth? A myth is basically the invention of the human mind. You might think of Greek mythology. Human minds made made up those stories of of Greek mythology. The myth here would describe the nature of any false teaching, anything that draws from human ideas rather than divine revelation, anything that draws from human perspectives rather than God's perspective represented in his word would qualify as a myth. He speaks about genealogies here. Again, we don't have a lot of detail, but there are genealogies of the patriarchs in the Old Testament. They had the Old Testament at that point. And what we believe was probably happening is that these teachers were starting with these genealogies. They were picking names of people identified in those genealogies and developing legends around them, developing allegorical interpretations from which they claim there was truth, that is authoritative. But again, it was mythical. It was the invention of their minds. It may have started with a real name in the scripture, but what they did with that name was certainly mythic. And Paul says that these are endless. In other words, it's their speculations without limits, without any biblical boundaries. And that would really, I think, be the principle here.
How do we know when when this teaching when teaching is false? Here's what's common to all false teaching. It goes beyond what the Bible teaches. It goes out into human inventions brought in to scripture in some way. Well, how do we see that today? In lots of ways that we see it today. Let me just mention three that I see all around us. I see under the broad tent of evangelicalism, this is by no means an exclusive list. There's a teaching that goes on in many churches today where we're some who are teaching would claim that they have an authoritative word. And what I mean by that is they claim to hear some direct revelation from God that goes beyond what is said in the scripture. And they claim to be able to give that and teach that as authority, that you should be bound by what they believe God has personally, directly revealed to them. And that happens. That happens certainly in certain areas of evangelicalism. But I hear it popping up more and more. Even even somebody saying something as simple as God told me that can drift into that idea of somebody claiming to have an authoritative word that is beyond what scripture says. Well we see this kind of thing, I think in those who Samuel Davies says it like this, who lose the fundamentals in the nonessentials. The fundamentals, as we'll get to in a minute, is the gospel, is the saving truth.
The nonessentials are things that are out on the periphery that may come from scripture, but to elevate a non essential to become the fundamental, the the highest priority can get a church off course. We see this as well as those who mix the word with current philosophies and with political affiliations. You get current philosophies, as I do, from the world around you. Every day we are inundated with the worldly philosophies about how we should think about human sexuality. And there are many teachers today who are mixing in those current philosophies of human sexuality with scripture, mixing it in and teaching it as authoritative and it is a different doctrine. It goes apart from what God has designed. You and I are inundated every day with with with human philosophies about race. And there are many who are teaching, taking secular, worldly philosophies about how we should think about race and mixing that in with what they claim to be biblical teaching. And that, too, is leading many churches astray. And then political affiliations, any time that a teacher takes and claims to teach from the word of God and steers that in one direction or another, attaches it with one political party or another, regardless of where it is on the spectrum. They're doing this. They're teaching a different doctrine because they are mixing it with something that goes beyond what scripture has to say. Well, how does this kind of teaching and there be many more forms that we could we could talk about if we were in discussion about this, how does this kind of false teaching pull a church off course just like those ships got off course? Well, we we see this in the second part of verse four.
These promote empty speculation. What is a speculation? A speculation is basically a theory. It's opinion. It's something that we reach by our own conjecture. Let me give you one example of of of a speculation that that made it to prime time in the evangelical world. It's been a few years, but you may remember a number of years ago, not so long ago, there was a book that became a bestseller. It was called the Bible Code. The Bible code was a book written by an Israeli mathematician. And what he claimed to be able to do is to decode the Bible and with the use of computers and mathematical formulas he claimed to run all of the Bible through this computer using these mathematical formulas. And he claimed that, as you did, that the mathematics revealed three thousand year old prophetic events that were that that nobody's ever seen in scripture before. He claimed that these mathematical formulas running the Old Testament prophecies through them clearly predicted the Kennedy assassination, the moon landing, the election of Bill Clinton and many others. That's pure speculation. You know, no man, no matter how good you are at mathematics, when when you create some kind of system like that that goes beyond scripture, that claims to read into scripture, something that has never been seen before, that's empty speculation.
And Paul warns about anything, whether it's the use of mathematics, nothing wrong with mathematics, but the use of anything that would be speculation that goes beyond what God has given us in his his word. There genealogical myths were nothing more than human speculation, taking a name and a genealogy and making some legend around it or spinning some allegory around it. Instead these lead us away from rather than going straight through the channel. What they lead us away from is God's plan. God's plan here or as some of your versions may say God's administration that refers to God's method of saving us from our sin. This is the gospel, the gospel that we are sinful, rebellious creatures and we are lost and we are perishing. And God does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. God reaches into the darkness, out of his mercy and by his grace. And he brings us the light of Christ, the son of God, the perfectly righteous one, the one who, because he is the only perfectly righteous one, is able to die in our place, died in our place, taking upon himself all human sinfulness and bringing us forgiveness and bringing us new life and filling us with the Holy Spirit as we put our faith in him.
Any teaching that that takes us off course from the Gospel is exactly what's warned about here. Why is this so relevant? It's certainly relevant as we think about selecting those who teach. But I think why is it that we're even here? I had a striking event happen on Friday. I was in my apartment. I was coming home to my apartment and the elevator was blocked off. But the elevator doors open and there's policemen in there and they had one of those carts and there's a body on the cart. And as it turns out, as I learned later, that a neighbor, someone I didn't know well, but enough to wave on had a drug overdose and died. And I know this kind of thing happens all around us, but when you see it so close, it just reminds you of the reality of the world that we live in, that people are perishing, people are perishing all around us. People are perishing in our families. People who are neighbors are perishing. Those are people - I don't know for sure this individual. But but those are people who are in all likelihood, are perishing eternally, are perishing because they have not heard God's plan. They're perishing because they have not received the gospel. So any church that gets off course, whether it's the Bible code or whatever way they get off course and racial issues or in gender issues or whatever it may be, is like that ship, those ships crashing into the side rather than going straight through.
People need the church to be going straight through the channel, to be changed by the gospel ourselves and to be taking the gospel out into the world, to our neighbors and to our family members who are lost. Saving faith is based upon the historical truth of the gospel. It's not based on speculation. Saving faith is revealed by divine revelation, not by some code, not by some invention, some fable, some allegory. So teaching that does not point us to God's redemptive plan, it takes us off course as a church. You see why it is so essential that in our selection of anyone who fills this role in the pulpit, but as well as any other teaching role at Calvary, why it is so essential that it is someone who teaches the word and teaches the apostolic doctrine of the Christian faith. And actually to not do that, to go astray in one of these ways. Again, that not only keeps the church from making forward progress in its mission, but it holds everyone back as well. So what kind of teaching what kind of preaching keeps a church on course? Paul speaks to that in verse five when when he writes the goal of our instruction. What instruction is he talking about? He's certainly talking about his teaching.
He's certainly talking about Timothy's teaching, but he's talking about all our teaching. He's talking about what should come from this pulpit here at Calvary. He's talking about the kind of instruction that should come from our adult Bible communities. He's talking about the kind of instruction that should come from your home small group, the goal of our instruction. Why is it that you sit and you listen to to somebody preach or teach? Why is it that you participate in a small group Bible study? What is the goal? The goal is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Here's the standard that we should be applying not just to our pastoral search, but to how we look at anyone who's going to have a teaching role here at Calvary. And this has become, for me, one of my life verses as God has called me into pastoral ministry. Why? Because it goes beyond even the content of what we teach to my motives, to what is in my heart. So what is the motive? What's central to the motive that should be in all of our teaching? Well, you see it, there - it is love. It is love. And I know that term is overused and I know the definition of that word is is stretched beyond all limits by our culture today. But we know what that says.
We know what Jesus taught us in Matthew 22. He teaches us it's about loving God and it's about loving your neighbor. We encompass that in our mission here at Calvary. Why is it that we make Disciples of Jesus, we make disciples of Jesus who are going to live out their faith in Passion for Christ. That's the love for God. And compassion for people. That's love for people. You know, when I came and I began my interviewing as part of my transitional role here and I interviewed many of you, one of the phrases that I heard over and over again is well Calvary loves a deep teaching. And I believe what was meant by that is Calvary loves preaching and teaching that gets deep into scripture. And that is a good thing as long as it's not an end in itself. If deep biblical teaching is an end in itself, we just want to fill our minds with more and more knowledge of scripture. That can get us off course. Filling our minds deep teaching is a means to an end. But here's the end. The end is is love and is the character of Jesus Christ being reproduced in our lives. The end of deep teaching, of filling our minds with biblical knowledge is a growing love for God, Passion for Christ, and a growing love for people, compassion for people. How does this love grow?
It grows first of all, from a pure heart and again, you can hear this and you can just apply this to what we should look for in our next lead Pastor. I take it beyond that, this is what should be the standard for anyone in any leadership role at Calvary. This really, because it's a definition of Christian maturity, should be what we all aspire to. So it speaks to us on each of these levels. A pure heart. Our heart is where our attitudes are formed. It's it's where our motives are developed. It's where our priorities are shaped. So think about that. What does it mean to have a pure heart? None of us has a pure heart. Our hearts are washed by salvation when we come to Christ. But our hearts live in the world and our hearts are polluted by our own flesh. So we need the continual cleansing. We need to continually cleanse our selfish attitudes and our selfish motives and our selfish priorities by the word. We're looking for a lead pastor who models that. What is it to be real about who we are as people in this fallen world, as people still with the flesh at war with the spirit in us? We need our leaders to model this, but we each need to be growing in this to, that continual cleansing of the world, not just from a pure heart, but love from a good conscience.
I think you have a sense of what conscience is. It is that inner sense that lives in your head that says this is right and this is wrong and our conscience is really polluted by the world until we come to Christ. But as we come to Christ, Paul tells us in Romans chapter two that God's law written on our hearts becomes the voice that either accuses us - you've gone astray, or it teaches us that we're doing right. So what does it mean for our lead pastor and our leaders and all of us as we grow in Christ to have a good conscience? Well, again, I think as we think about how this applies to all of us, it means that when my conscience is marred by sin. First of all, I'm to deal with that immediately before God through confession. But it also means that when I have sinned against someone else or offended someone else, I'm to address that through the immediate confession of sin. This is certainly true of who we're looking for in our next lead pastor. But this is true of every one of us who claims to follow Christ. From a sincere faith. Sincere means, genuine, sincere means without hypocrisy. It means without any pretense. But I think there's something more here. You know, when I began preaching, at least when you begin to preach as a young man, there's an initial excitement, wow, I got people's attention and and they're listening to me.
It doesn't take very long of doing it before you realize I have nothing to say. I have nothing of value worth listening to. In fact, if I don't believe what it is that I am representing from this word, I would better serve this congregation by closing my mouth and sitting down. And so what does it mean to have to have a sincere faith? It means that it is more than a competency to present the word. It is a conviction that this word actually changes and transforms as the Holy Spirit uses it. And that's true of all of us. We need to not only be men and women who know the word as we follow Jesus, we need to be men and women who actively believe the promises and the principles of the Bible. And we believe them so much that we are willing to act on them. That's what we need in the man who fills this pulpit. And so we need in anyone who teaches in any setting, that's what we each need to grow in our own lives. You know, when the Evergreen and the Presque Isle, when they went off course, two things happened. They stopped going forward. No more forward progress. And they blocked everything behind it. They blocked the progress of any other ships. And to have a teacher who is teaching different doctrine, have a teacher who is really a wolf, who is really in it for themselves and what they can get out of it, that causes the church to go off course to stop making progress in its mission to impede anybody else from making progress. We see a little bit of that in verse six. When they deviate from these, when they deviate from love, from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith, they turn aside to fruitless discussion. I like how some versions translate useless or fruitless discussion, useless talk, empty arguments. How often do we in the church get caught up in arguments that really are useless, that are vain? They they don't advance the course. They get us off course. Steven Cole says we in the church often get caught up with the trivial and we neglect the crucial, the gospel. We argue finer points of theology, but then we shred relationships. We focus on knowing the Bible, but we forget that the goal of knowing the Bible is to change our lives and not just to fill our heads. Fruitless. Maybe the thing that we should ask for before we get caught on that into that next deep theological argument is, is this discussion, is it actually producing fruit? Is it edifying? Is it helping people grow more and more into the character of Christ or instead of producing fruit, does it have the tendency to produce thorns and make us more thorny, argumentative people? The goal of our instruction and what we're looking for in our next lead pastor and what we seek for all of our teaching forms at Calvary and what each of us seek as we grow in following Christ, the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
What does this mean as we look for our next lead pastor? What does this mean to apply this as we think about what you and I, what we expect in our next lead Pastor? What's most important as we evaluate what our next pastor - who he is and what he is like? What does this mean as we identify and raise up future leaders here at Calvary and bringing it home individually, how does it shape us in how we believe that Christ is calling us to grow?
I want to close. I want to pray two scriptures that just really have impressed upon me as I think about not just our pastoral search, but the growth and the maturity of our body together and individually. Let me pray, Lord, you brought Hebrews 4:12 to mind that your word Calvary claims to love your word, Lord. Your word you say is living and it is active and in the hands of your Holy Spirit. It is sharper than any two edged sword, that it pierces to the very heart of us. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. That's what we need, Lord.
We each need that that ongoing heart surgery. Those who are here yet, who don't know you as savior and Lord Jesus, they need the word piercing you piercing into the darkness of their lives and bringing the light of the gospel. Those of us who that has happened, Lord, we need that ongoing conviction and that ongoing transforming work, your sanctifying work in our lives. That happens as we listen to your word, as we hear your word taught, as your Holy Spirit presses it in. And then, Lord, you brought to my mind Romans 1:16. The Gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. What it means to be going straight through the channel Lord is to focus on the gospel, to have our teaching not get caught up in abstract arguments, certainly not in human speculations, but our teaching to continue to lead us back to the Gospel, to lead people to the foot of the cross. My neighbor needed that Lord. Every one of us here can think of people in our lives who need that. We need that. So we pray, Lord, as we search for the next lead pastor, we pray as we think about the future of Calvary. We pray as each of us, Lord, contemplate what does it mean to follow you faithfully and allow your spirit to continue your transforming work in our lives? Let your word driven and empowered by your spirit, change us and transform us and make us more like Christ. We pray in your name. Jesus. Amen.