I’m currently reading the pastoral letters of Paul, what we call “1st & 2nd Timothy” and “Titus.” Timothy was a young pastor in Ephesus and Titus on the island of Crete and Paul wrote these letters to encourage these men in their roles. That said, the Bible is not just their story, but ours.
In 1 Timothy 4, Paul writes directly and personally to Timothy, warning and reminding him that in the future, people will abandon the faith, having been led astray from deceivers within the church itself. For Timothy, the way to avoid a) being a deceiver and b) being deceived, is the personal pursuit of godliness. Specifically, this pursuit of personal holiness is comprised of:
- Setting an example in his:
- Devoting himself to :
- public scripture reading
Paul concludes this section by telling Timothy that the above things are a gift, given when the elders laid hands on him, consecrating him to ministry and that he’d best live this gift out in diligence and perseverance. This would lead to his salvation, and the salvation of others.
This, however, is not just Timothy’s story. We are in the midst of these later times. The faith is being abandoned because of the deceitful teachings of leaders. We are in need now, more than ever, of leaders devoted to personal holiness, leaders not just living and preaching a “one day” faith- something merely to be longed for, but a demonstrated faith today. Our individual holiness, our individual pursuit of Christ should be unified with the same pursuits of others so that we are a body living out these same things together as one. If we are not pursuing holiness, unity, forgiveness, reconciliation as individuals, we simply cannot bring those same things as a body. If my life is not marked by personal holiness, my church will not be marked by corporate holiness. Practically speaking, if this is the case, I have become the “deceiving spirit.” I am the “hypocritical liar.” It is my conscience that’s “been seared as with a hot iron.” The individualized, personal holiness of church leaders, and those in the church for that matter, is key to a church marked by holiness.
These things are a gift, delivered in a prophetic message. Growing up in a Presbyterian household, I was sprinkled as an infant. My parents stood before God and man, stating that my life was consecrated, dedicated to God. These were the things said about me. When I was 14, I was confirmed; again, a prophetic message was said about me, a gift given in a prophetic message not just about who I was then, but who I was to become. Follow this forward through my whole faith journey, immersion, maturing and growing in the faith, ordination, serving in ministry- these things were not only confirmation of the words and gifts said and given before, but they were a hopeful promise that I’d use that gift, that I’d not neglect, set aside, ignore all of the things spoken about and to me.
It’s not just me, though. It’s anyone who’s had the faith imprinted on them. Our parents, church leaders, mentors and peers poured hopes, dreams and prophetic messages into our lives about the good works that God was going to do in and through us. Accepting these words as truth means accepting the gifts given and using them. Being diligent in them means we live within those gifts and we find our salvation in the perseverance given us by the Holy Spirit. This is the gift.
Be known for it.