This leads me to our main verse for today that we covered in our recent DTs. 2 Tim 1:7.
For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. ~2 Tim 1:7
We are utterly powerless left to ourselves. But God gives powerless people like us a spirit of power, and not only power, but also a spirit of love and self-discipline.
Those are some big ideas — power, love, and self-discipline.
I want to explore the relationship between those 3 words because I think there is great practical wisdom for us in this verse for how individually and as a church we can live with a gospel focus.
To appreciate the weightiness of those 3 words, I want to give a quick overview of 1 and 2 Timothy.
Paul was imprisoned in Rome during the writing of this letter and as one might expect from a kind of farewell speech, there are some very important spiritual truths that Paul wanted to convey. It was not a theological treatise like the book of Romans. Rather, it was an intimate letter written to Timothy, his dear spiritual son and disciple. Like any father would, he was offering final words of advice to someone he loved dearly on how to live effectively for the gospel.
In addition to the key verse I mentioned earlier, I was drawn to this study by a few verses in 2 Timothy 3.
2 Tim 3:1-5.
1But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.
2 Tim 3:6-7
6They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, 7always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth.
Having a form of godliness but denying its power and always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth.
When I think of the word “form,” a Korean word comes to mind — “pom.” Pom is hard to describe in words but when you see it, you know exactly what this word means. If you’ve ever played pickup bball, then you’ve probably seen guys who step onto a bball court and act like they are the next Jeremy Lin. They are all decked out in an Iverson jersey, bandana, matching shorts, wristbands, the old school MJ black high tops with the red Come fly with me logo. And maybe even a tattoo.
And you look at him and he looks like he’s going to tear you up. And the game starts and this guy gets the ball and he dribbles the ball off his foot and his first shot is an airball and instead of being ashamed, he can’t believe that a legend in the making like himself would miss a shot. To make it worse, guys like this are self-appointed coaches on the court. They are often the loudest one on the court, always barking out orders and telling everyone on his team to play defense while he cherry picks. And you look at this guy and say, he’s a poser. He’s pretending to be what he’s not. That’s pom. It’s all form with no substance.
Paul is telling Timothy, it’s not about pom. In other words, don’t just be a religious person who has a form of godliness, you look like a Christian on the outside, you are always learning about God, you have a lot of knowledge, but there is no power, meaning there is no presence of God, there is no real acknowledging of the truth by your speech, by your lifestyle, by your passions and affections.
This is one big advice from Paul to Timothy. Don’t practice empty religion because religion is completely powerless. Religion can’t save. Religion doesn’t transform. It is just form with no substance.
This theme of powerless religion can be seen throughout 1 and 2 Timothy.
1 Tim 1
3As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer 4nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God’s work—which is by faith. 5The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6Some have wandered away from these and turned to meaningless talk. 7They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.
False doctrines, myths, endless genealogies, false teachers of the law who did not know what they were talking about, who were groundlessly confident about what they were teaching. This is the environment that Timothy was in.
Religious people love to talk, they love to debate and discuss, esp. regarding fringe matters that are trivial or controversial matters that have little bearing on actual life.
Paul’s advice was simple — 1 Tim 4: 7 —
7Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly.
Have nothing to do with religious people with their godless myths and old wives’ tales.
When I read that verse, I think about Korean moms. No offense to Korean moms – I have one and I love her. When Korean moms are telling you something, esp. if it is health related, they are not simply giving you optional information. Unbeknownst to you, you are being evangelized. And they present their new findings to you as gospel truth.
You know what I am talking about. One Korean mom reads an article about something like a new diet or some food that is a great antioxidant based on one guy’s research who lives in the mountains and she tells another Korean mom at church and by the next week, everyone in that church is eating nothing but blueberries mixed with beets for the rest of the year.
Spreading of spiritual ideas is no different. You hear some new trend in churches, a new evangelistic program, a new fad in spirituality and the next thing you know, you are swept up in a current of myths and old wives’ tales.
Be careful of religious people because they are all talk, all form, they like to debate and sit on the judgment seat of others, they live in their heads and they love to criticize others, but at the end of all of that, they have no power, God’s presence is not with them.