For the proclamation of the Gospel and the edification of the Body of Christ
Bringing Our Faith Down to Earth
A call to true godliness, and a prophetic word of warning because of lurking danger.
I don't know how many of you have had an experience of flying on an airplane. Some say, it is very pleasing, while others tremble with fear even before boarding. The Lord brought to mind, an airplane flight, its take off, its ascent, its rapid soaring above the clouds, and also its landing, as an allegory of the Christian life.
At times we ascend with the Lord and sore with Him above. With Him we reach the glory of contemplating a cloudless sky and to look at the earth from above, seeing the things of the world in their minuscule nature. We see the same from an airplane, the large buildings as match boxes, the big trucks as toys and the immense sea as a rippling puddle. The Lord takes us very high and shows us His glory.
But just as in an airplane flight, the Christian life also has to descend. The Christian flies in the heights, to contemplate the beauty of God and to have revelations in the "third heaven." Also in the Christian life landing usually presents some challenge or some difficulty.
How do Christians, after flying in the heights with God, land in this hostile earth, in this atmosphere of the enemy of God? There are many forms of landing, and there are cases in which Christians have not known how to land. How do Christians practice in daily life the tremendous truths and spiritual realities that have been revealed in the presence of God? There are many of us who find it difficult to land back upon the earth. We feel so comfortable in the celestial places! However, it is necessary to land.
When we look at Paul's epistles, we found that they all have a high flight, but that they also all landed. Ephesians, for example, has six chapters, three are of high flight, and three as (as an airplane lands) one that settles to earth, and finds a place where it can express the glory of the heights.
Titus and Timothy
The Lord has been speaking recently to us about how we as Christians can land (Bring our faith down to earth). Two of Paul's epistles or rather three: the two epistles to Timothy and the epistle to Titus have come to mind. The letters to Timothy and the one directed to Titus, are personal letters from Paul to his closest coworkers. Strangely enough, these letters contain more elements regarding the characteristic of the landing than that of high flight.
First Timothy and Titus are very similar. They were written at about the same time, and in them we find a concerned apostle. Paul, sees that the doctrine, the holy doctrine, the direct doctrine, he had taught them, has been corrupted in some believers and is concerned. The testimony of the Lord has been stained by some believers. Paul looks ahead and warns of days of decadence. He sees that the apostasy is beginning. He tries to warn the Christians and prepare them to face it.
A Call to Godliness
What does the warning and the apostle's call consist of? The first letter to Timothy is saturated with a call to godliness, to live a godly life, is the exclusive characteristic of this letter. The word "godliness" appears ten times, whereas in the other epistles it appears only once in Titus.
Today, the word "godliness" is discredited in some circles, because it is associated with an external piety, with joined hands to pray, with a charity that is given in full view of all, and, definitively with hypocrisy. However, against all that discredits it, we must reinstall it in its rightful place, given to it in the Holy Scriptures.
The word "godliness" is the translation of the word "eusebeia" which has a rich meaning in the original Greek. The Spanish RV uses "piedad" (as"piety" in English), while most English versions translates it as "godliness" and the Popular Version translates it as "devotion to God". It bears the meaning of reverence, fear, obedience, and also adoration for God. "Eusebeia" is the correct attitude towards God, because it grants God the place He must occupy in the believer's life, thoughts and devotion.
In the face of the approaching danger, Paul makes a call to fear God, to reverence Him, to live righteously before Him, not simply professing to be devout. Titus 1:1 says: "Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, for the faith of God's elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness." In First Timothy 6:3 it says: "If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching..." Let us note the similarity of these two sentences. In Titus it says: "The knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness," and in Timothy: "To godly teaching."
It is not truth or doctrine alone, but rather godliness that is the foundation and the manifestation of true doctrine. A godly man not only believes correctly, but also lives correctly. His faith is accompanied by upright conduct, and of righteous behavior.
Both Timothy and Titus speak of godliness. The Apostle calls believers to not forget to land (come down to earth), so others won't suppose the Christian faith consists of revelations and more revelations. Being a Christian also consists of living on earth according to certain principles and by the life we have received from God.
A Prophetic Word
In Paul's epistles there is not only a call to a godly life. There is also a clearly expressed warning of approaching danger. In order to explain it, we will use another illustration. When comparing first and second Timothy, it gives us the impression that the first epistle is a "Stop" sign. In Chile the "Stop" sign means stop and the law is strictly observed. When there is a "Stop" sign on the highway, it really is necessary to stop and to observe approaching danger.
First Timothy is a "Stop" sign. If an automobile encounters a train track, where there is a "Stop" sign, the driver knows he has to stop. If he doesn't, he risks being run over by a locomotive. Second Timothy, on the other hand, shows us the consequences of some that did not respect the warning given in the first letter. .
Second Timothy contains passages like this: "You know that everybody in the province of Asia has deserted me. Demas, because he loved the world, has deserted me. Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm. At my first defense no one came to my support."
This demonstrates that there were Christians who didn't stop at the "Stop" sign. They didn't hear the apostle's warnings and strayed from the truth. It gives us the impression that in First Timothy, Paul perceives that a catastrophe was about to happen. There were ungodly men who are introducing strange doctrines. There were men with cauterized consciences and unauthentic faith. Paul begins to review the different aspects of the believer's life. He wanted or yearned for the believers to heed the warnings and return to the simplicity of the faith, and walk with a clean heart. He knew terrible days of apostasy were coming.
The message in Timothy is fully valid today. We have the strong impression we are now living in days like those of First Timothy, and that very soon the Christian world will be have sunk into the situation that Second Timothy presents. Therefore, when sharing this first epistle I have the firm conviction that this is a dramatic call to "Stop," to consider our road and decide to live godly lives.
It is so lamentable, more so for the Lord than for us, to see how faith is denied and how holy principles are neglected in our Christian walk. How the testimony is stained! It would therefore seem that the Lord is telling us: "My son, it is important to me that you know my plan and eternal purpose. It is not only important to me that you have knowledge, but also that what you know be translated into holy and godly behavior." It is sad to know of situations in which Christians seem to have had a double standard for years! As if the Lord could be deceived.
The Result of Discarding a Good Conscience
"Timothy, my son, I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight, holding onto faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith. Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have given over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme." (1 Timothy 1:18-20).
What was the problem with these two Christians? They shipwrecked their faith. They succumbed. The sea swallowed them up! The sea, that is the world, with all its vanities swallowed them whole and devoured them. Why? They rejected the faith and, most of all, their good conscience. "Whose consciences have been seared" he tells us in another verse of this same epistle (4:2). It is a problem of the conscience.
In what sense is the conscience a problem? When the Holy Spirit came into our heart, our conscience, which was sleeping, woke up, and began to work, so that every time we sin, or fail the Lord, our conscience reproaches us. In such a case, we should immediately confess the sin and ask forgiveness. Then take hold of the precious blood of the Lord, so sin is forgiven and the conscience is cleansed.
Our conscience is so sensitive that it normally admonishes us every time we do something displeasing to the Lord. But there are times when we get tired of obeying our conscience, then we argue against it, in favor of ourselves. If this is repeated time and time again, the moment arrives when the conscience of the Christian stops speaking.
From that time on, when he does bad, he believes he is doing great. If he had a problem with his wife or with the children, he doesn't see it necessary to ask forgiveness. If he lacked respect for his boss at work, he no longer sees it necessary to apologize. He will slip away, he will give a kind smile... so that he doesn't have to apologize. And so, the conscience becomes drowsy, numb, it no longer reacts, and in time it becomes seared.
One could think that a Christian with a seared conscience is a silent Christian. But that is not so. A Christian can have a cauterized conscience, and because he has gifts, he can continue preaching, testifying and praying, the same as ever. He is functioning by gifts, not by life. His words naturally won't bless, because they aren't backed by his life. He is only a clanging cymbal.
Christians have a permanent battle inside. We have to maintain our faith and good conscience. We have to keep ourselves cooperating with a good conscience and not attack it with arguments. Every time a warning lights up in our heart we must attend to it.
Dear brothers and sisters, one can have lot of gifts. Gifts are wonderful! A man with gifts takes us to the third heaven, he brings us back and takes us again. He opens the Scriptures to us and discovers hidden mysteries. But that doesn't support life. It doesn't please the Lord, even though it dazzles many. The Lord didn't come to teach us to debate and argue, He came to show us a way of life. A Godly man is not he who only believes correctly, but he who lives correctly.
Surely Hymenaeus and Alexander, Demas, Phygellus and Hermogenes and all the other apostates that appear in the letter to Timothy, began to have problems with their conscience before their fall. And when the Word came to admonish them, they perhaps shook their heads and said: "That is not for me."
A Compassionate and Honest Life
The Lord wants us to live quietly and peaceably in all godliness and honesty in this ungodly world. It is impossible for God to be pleased if we spend hours and hours looking at how the world is corrupted, laughing at the corruption of the world, amusing ourselves with daring scenes on the television, in magazines or on the Internet. Impossible! If this is our way and we love it, perhaps tomorrow we will end up on the growing list of apostates along with Hymenaeus, Alexander, Demases, Philetus and Hermogenes...
At some time our great revelations, our faith and our words will be tested. Then it will be seen if Paul's dramatic message in First Timothy, to live a godly life, was taken into account or not.
After the "Stop sign" of First Timothy, comes Second Timothy, with the crash, the catastrophe, the train that runs over the vehicle. Oh! Brother it is important that we take heed to the signs on our road.
Now we still have time to stop and to examine our path. There is still time to amend. If we don't do it, perhaps we'll be shipwrecked along with Hymenaeus and Alexander. It is certain that the church won't fail in its purpose, because it has the future assured in God. It has a coming glory that nobody can remove. But the Lord allows us to also be included in that coming glory.
Therefore none of us should continue to play at being a Christian. None of us should live only a life of doctrines, rather we should live a godly life. Amen.