Life and Lips Leadership
Passage: 1 Timothy 4:11-13
One of the most basic instincts of the Christian faith is that we want our lives to count. The Bible commands us reach people with the gospel and grow disciples. It commands us to make a difference in our families, our churches, and our communities. Therefore a Christian who has no ambition to make his life count for eternity isn’t worth a whole lot.
But it’s not just Christians who have this instinct. Most people want more out of life than just temporary pleasure. They want their lives to mean something. Parents want to pass something to their kids. Some people join a club that helps with community events. Others volunteer at an after school program and mentor children, or they volunteer at a local homeless shelter. Some people advocate for a social cause like good eating and exercise habits, protecting the environment, animal rights, or abortion rights.
People want a purpose; we want our lives to count. Maybe that’s why you are at church today. You want more out of life, and you hope that you can find that in the Bible. If that’s true, you’ve come to the right place because the only way your life can truly count is if you see it from the perspective of your creator.
God made us in his image as beings who will live somewhere for all eternity. We know that right and wrong matter and that there is more to life than pleasure. And so the desire to make my life count is a good desire rooted in the image of God.
This morning, we are going to look at a passage that talks about how a Christian can make a difference, how you can impact the people in your sphere of influence. It is primarily addressed to pastors and some of what it has to say is very specific to life in the church; however, it also has much to say regarding how any Christian should strive to impact the people in your sphere of influence.
The outstanding feature of this paragraph is that there are 10 imperatives in only six verses, so there is a high degree of urgency in what Paul has to say. As well, there are two sections to Paul’s charge. In vv. 11–13 he challenges Timothy regarding his public ministry, and in vv. 14–16, he challenges him regarding his private discipline. Today, we will focus on vv. 11–13 and what they have to say about the keys to successfully impacting others. Notice that vv. 11 and 13 both deal with communicating the truth. Teaching is at the heart of both verses, and v. 12 deals with living the truth. Therefore, my outline today consists of two commands. Speak the truth, and live the truth. Let’s begin by talking about the need to…
Speak the truth (vv. 11, 13).
One of the great challenges to being a pastor is that different people can have very different opinions about what makes a good sermon. Some people want the sermon to be shorter or longer. They want more illustrations or fewer illustrations. Some people really want to be stretched mentally, while others want to be inspired or confronted. This isn’t just true of preaching. Children learn in different ways. Some people prefer really blunt conversation while others prefer more tact.
But while we may all learn in different ways vv. 11 and 13 list 5 essential requirements of biblical preaching and of all communication of God’s truth whether it be with your kids, in a discipleship context at Dennys, or in an evangelistic service with thousands of people. The five words are command, teach, reading, exhortation, and doctrine. Actually teach and doctrine come from the same root, so Paul gives four requirements of good Bible teaching. First, it must be…
Biblical: In v. 13, Paul commands Timothy to “give attention to reading.” We know this is a reference to the public reading of Scripture in the worship services of the church because each of the three terms in v. 13 has an article. Paul is not just saying to read the Bible at home; he is saying, give attention to the reading, the exhortation, and the doctrine when the church gathers. We know that the church embraced this routine of teaching early on based on a quote from Justin Martyr in the 2nd century. He wrote, “On the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permit; then, the when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things.”
It’s probably fair to say that reading long sections of Scripture was more important in a time of high illiteracy and of low access to copies of Scripture than it is today.
However, reading and teaching the Bible should always be a vital aspect of the church’s worship. If you ever move from here, and you are looking for a church, and you visit one where God’s Word is barely mentioned and it is not the driving force behind the sermon, that church is not the church for you, no matter how friendly the people are and no matter how good the service makes you feel. The Bible must be the center of the church’s worship.
And it needs to be central to any efforts we make to impact others. This should be obvious, but so often we miss it. Parents will preach at their kids all day but never show them from the Bible why they must believe this or do that. Or sometimes we get into long arguments at work with an unbeliever about the nature of God and salvation. It can easily turn into a battle of wits, and we forget that God has already answered all of the essential questions and that his Word is powerful. If you really want to impact people’s lives, then constantly point them to this book because it will not return void.
This means that you must know this book and memorize this book so that you can share what this book has to say with others. And this is worth the effort. Wouldn’t it be great if your kids, your spouse, and your coworkers all knew you as a lover of the book, whose conversation was always seasoned with Scripture. Godly impact must be biblical. Second, it must be…
Doctrinal: Again this idea comes up in both verses through the concept of teaching. The term has a decidedly academic flavor. It’s important because being godly is about much more than feeling a certain way or even living a certain way. No, Christianity is rooted in a truth system that we must know and believe; otherwise we may not truly be saved and we certainly won’t grow into maturity.
Therefore, v. 13 is clear that teaching is an essential element of the church’s worship. We must read the Bible, explain what it means, and teach the doctrinal and life implications that flow from what it says. It’s no secret that doctrinal preaching has fallen on hard times. We live in an age of sound-bite news and information. We enjoy life-like video games and movies, and so many people assume the church cannot expect people to listen to a 40 minute monologue of heavy teaching. Or we may think that people have more pressing questions than matters of theology.
But truth matters because Christianity is first and foremost a system of truth. And you must believe that truth to be saved, and that truth must drive the way you live. Just feeling good will not solve the root issues of sin or make us love and worship God. Jesus said in John 8 that the truth is what sets us free and Romans 12 says that renewing the mind is the beginning of spiritual growth. And so you need to develop a hunger for truth and you need to discipline yourself to learn truth even when it’s hard.
And then pass it along to others. Make your home a place where you study the Bible and discuss truth. Look for opportunities to point unbelievers to the rich truths of Scripture that lead to salvation. And do the same with Christians. Let’s be a church where we are constantly pushing each other into the Word and into the powerful truths which alone bring freedom.
Applicable: In other words, Bible preaching and teaching, whether it be in a formal setting with lots of people or with a single person at the dinner table must at some point move beyond the intellect to impacting the heart. It must change how I think, what I value, how I behave, and what I love.
We see this in the third element of the sermon that is mentioned in v. 13, which is “exhortation.” This is a fascinating Greek term because it can mean several things. It can describe a compassionate word of comfort and encouragement, but it can also describe a confrontational exhortation or appeal. The various uses of the term reflect the fact that we don’t always need the same thing. Sometimes we need someone to get in our face and tell us to shape up, and at other times we need a hug and loving encouragement.
The Bible communicates both urgency and grace, and good preaching and teaching should also do both. It must take the truth of Scripture and bring it into real life, which sometimes requires that we are told to shape up and at others that we are given encouragement in the face of despair.
Learning to balance these elements is vital to impacting others, and that can be tricky because most of us naturally lean one way or the other. For example, I am not a very emotional person, and I love discipline. So when someone is struggling emotionally, my natural tendency is to just say, “That’s stupid, get over it.” And sometimes that’s what people need to hear. They need to feel the urgency to fight sin and to just stop doing it. But sometimes a person’s heart is brittle and ready to break, and they need compassion and encouragement.
If you are going to impact people for Christ, you have to be sensitive to this reality otherwise you will hug some people into hell because they never recognize the seriousness of sin, and you will lecture other people into despair or bitterness.
This is especially important in parenting. If you parent like a drill sergeant and punishment is your only method of character development, your kids will probably end up hating you, or they may end up very insecure because all they know is defeat. On the other hand, if you just hug them all day, they will never learn how to resist the sin nature. You have to carefully balance discipline and compassion. This is true in marriage. There is a place to be critical. You ought to push each other spiritually, but if all you do is confront and criticize, that’s not discipleship. That’s bickering and complaining.
And the same goes for all relationships. If you want to impact people, you must appeal to them with a right balance of urgency and compassion to not just know the truth of God but to love it and live it. And so biblical communication must be applicable to the need of the moment.
Authoritative: Paul begins v. 11 by commanding Timothy to “command” these things. Paul is specifically thinking of this epistle, and his assumption is that it is true and that it bears God’s authority. And because of that Timothy wasn’t to offer it up as a suggestion or an option. No, he was to present God’s Word as authoritative, and he was to demand obedience.
Therefore, biblical preaching should have an authoritative tone, not because the pastor knows it all but because he is presenting God’s authoritative truth.
Again, our pluralistic world doesn’t like that. For one, there is a growing sentiment out there that the meaning of Scripture is subjective, and it can mean one thing for you and another thing for me. If that’s the case, then rather than having one person stand up and preach a single meaning, we should sit in circle and talk about how it touches each of us individually.
Folks, that is very dangerous. God’s Word is clear and authoritative, and we need to understand it that way and teach it that way. This is very important for evangelism. We should never present the gospel as just an option that someone might want to try out. If you tell someone to give Jesus a try, you are lying to that person about who Jesus is. Jesus is not an option; he is the Lord. We do have to be gracious and patient with people, but we must also present God’s truth as authoritative and urge people to repent.
Summary: And so in vv. 11 and 13, Paul urges Timothy to devote himself to the proper communication of truth. And if you are going to make your life count by impacting people, you must commit to the same patterns of communication. Be biblical, be doctrinal, be applicable, and be authoritative.
Transition: But if you want to impact lives, you must do more than just speak the truth. You must also…
Live the truth (v. 12).
The Problem: This verse gives us an important window into one of the struggles that Timothy was facing. At this point, Paul was an older man, and many of the elders in the Ephesian church were also older men, but Paul had sent a younger man in Timothy to deal with the problems there. Now, it’s not as if Timothy was a kid. He was probably somewhere between 30 and 40 years old. But he was still younger than many of the elders, and they were apparently using Timothy’s age to dismiss his leadership.
It doesn’t sound like they were doing so gently. The word translated “despise” is pretty strong, and it speaks of “disgust” or “hatred.” Timothy was in a pretty tough spot. He was a representative of the great Apostle Paul and Timothy was no slouch himself. He had suffered alongside Paul, and he was Paul’s must trusted associate. In Philippians 2, Paul says no one else was more like-minded than Timothy and that Timothy had proven character. But despite Timothy’s strong qualifications, these immature punks were trashing him for his age.
And if you were in Timothy’s position, you would be frustrated. And you would certainly be tempted to sulk. Don’t these people realize who I am and all I have done for Christ? And the temptation would also be for Timothy to throw his weight around a bit and put these people in their place by demanding that they submit to him as an apostolic representative.
I’ve seen many people in a similar position do just that. We had a Christian school at my previous church, and sometimes a teacher would have constant classroom control issues. And those teachers would get so mad at the kids and just come down harder with more rules, which never worked because rules weren’t the problem. Husbands will do the same. A man’s wife doesn’t submit like he thinks she should, and he never considers how he could be a better leader. He just gets frustrated with her and constantly reminds her that he is the man of the house. Or parents of teenagers get so frustrated that there teenagers resist their authority and all they know to do is to assert their authority more strongly and to enact more rules.
Now before I go on, I do want to note that in each of these cases, there is a legitimate violation of authority. We are always responsible to do right regardless of the faults of an authority. Disobedience is sin, and a good leader will address it. Paul never says that Timothy should not assert his authority. He just told him to command the people to obey this letter.
But in v. 12, he urges Timothy to also take another approach. He must work to earn the respect of the people through setting an example of a consistent life of godliness. Rather than just focusing on what was wrong with the Ephesian church and fixing their authority problems, he needed to focus on making sure there was nothing in his life that would discredit his leadership and on growing his own character. He begins by urging Timothy to watch his…
Speech: Together these terms sum up our life in public. There are so many ways you can really hurt your credibility as a leader through your speech. If you can’t keep confidential information confidential, then, who is going to share anything important with you? If you tear people down when they aren’t around, then people will wonder if you talk about them the same way when they aren’t around. If you want your kids, your wife, or people at church to follow your leadership, then you need to guard your speech carefully including what you write in texts and what you put on social media.
Conduct: You can also do a lot to discredit your leadership through your general conduct. For example, if you can’t control your temper or you make rash decisions based on impulse, then why should anyone trust you to make wise decisions? If you live an undisciplined life, and your tasks are done poorly and you always look and act undisciplined, then who is going to trust you to lead? Of course, if you have obvious issues of ungodliness in your life, then you have no credibility to be a spiritual leader. If you want to impact people, you need to watch your conduct. Next Paul mentions two items that have to do more with the heart.
Love: I doubt anyone would argue with the fact that love is pretty important to impacting people. It’s often said that “People will not care how much you know unless they know how much you care.” Now, you’ve got to know something worth sharing as well, but love is a big part of earning trust. If you want to impact your family, reach your neighbors with the gospel, or disciple a brother, then make sure they see that you really care for them.
Faith: This is simply a reference to belief in God, the gospel, and the truth of Scripture. You can’t lead someone to the truth, if you aren’t convinced it is the truth. There are scads of examples around us of the fact that conviction will take a leader a long ways. There have been some nutty cult leaders out there who have convinced people to believe and do some crazy things simply because the leader believed in it so strongly. Now thankfully, our faith isn’t nutty; it is true. But if you want to impact people for Christ, you need to really believe what God has said, and this faith needs to show up in how you live. And people can pick up pretty easily how real your faith is. If say that Jesus is a good Savior, but you never talk about him at home and you are unengaged during worship, your friends and family will see that. If you want to pass along your faith, then people need to see that it is real.
Purity: This is a reference to sexual purity. We know this because Paul uses the same term in 5:2 regarding sexual purity with young women. This is a big one for us men because Satan has destroyed the impact of many husbands, fathers, and pastors through inappropriate relationships or pornography. We need to watch ourselves carefully because these things are wicked but also because that little bit of gratification is a very small thing in comparison to a healthy home, a healthy ministry, and a healthy witness.
Application: Folks, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of a godly life to making a spiritual impact. It is so much more important than giftedness or strategy. It was the foundation of Paul’s impact. Paul’s godly life allowed him to say, “The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do” (Phil 4:9).
Could you say that without blushing to your kids? Parents, “do as I say, not as I do” will not produce godly kids, and the perfect strategy of spanking and discipline will be worthless in producing true godliness if your kids don’t see it in you. The same goes for all of our ministries at Life Point. If you work with our children’s ministry, the teens, or you are trying to disciple an adult, the slickest curriculum or program won’t make people godly. Programs do not make godly people; godly people living in the power of the Spirit make godly people.
Do you want to make your life count? Do you want to impact people for eternity? Then walk with God. Live the truth, and then speak the truth. Let God’s Word always be on your lips and press it home with courage and conviction. And it will be exciting to see how God uses us to raise up the next generation of his servants.