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Author:Rev. Jeremy Segstro
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Congregation:Cloverdale Canadian Reformed Church
 Surrey, BC
 cloverdalecanrc.org
 
Title:Trustworthy & True Part 1: A Trustworthy and True Training
Text:1 Timothy 4:1-10 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Unclassified
 
Added:2022-01-19
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading: Luke 15:11-32

Text: 1 Timothy 4:1-10

 

A TRUSTWORTHY AND TRUE TRAINING

  1. True Training Addresses the Times

  2. True Training Addresses the Heart

 

  1. Psalm 90: 1, 7, 8

  2. Psalm 17: 1-3

  3. Psalm 84: 3, 5, 6

  4. Hymn 54: 1, 2, 8

  5. Hymn 80: 1, 2, 5, 6

 

Words to Listen For: buzzwords, trickles, push, clawing

 

Questions for Understanding:

  1. What is godliness?

  2. What is the problem of our time?

  3. What are the two steps before obedience?

  4. What is discipleship?

  5. How is your life like a movie?

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Fellow Disciples of Christ,

Have you ever heard of the Amish tradition of Rumspringa?

For those of you who don’t know, the Amish are a subset of Mennonite Christians who venture to live as non-worldly a life as they can.  They live separate from the world, in their own colonies.  They shun most technologies, dress very simply, and resist worldly pleasures.  Instead, they work off of the land and only venture into society to get the things they can’t make or grow or sew for themselves.

One can’t help but feel a little admiration for the Amish, especially when compared to some of the modern Christians who live lives that are indistinguishable from the world with their fashion, their pastimes, and their morality.  Being Amish, and unplugging from this world, plugging back into God...there is an appeal there.

But there is something else that they do - Rumspringa.  Rumspringa is when the Amish do the exact opposite of what they believe.  Amish teens, usually around 16 years old, are told to go out in the world and experience the world for all it has to offer.

“We will teach you the right way, but we won't force you.  Go out, experience the world, and if you still want to return, then come back.  We trust that God will bring you back, so go and sin.”

The term Rumspringa literally means “running around” and for some, it is as simple as enjoying a movie at the theatre, driving around in a car for the first time, trying junk food, and wearing modern clothing.  But for many others, it goes further.  Having had their worldly desires so suppressed for their entire lives, they go out and give in to every vice that comes their way.

A journalist once spoke of it like this: Rumspringa: Amish Teens Venturing into Modern Vices.  For many of the Amish young people, an overindulgence in alcohol and drugs leads to sexual promiscuity, unwanted pregnancy, and everything under the sun.  They essentially BINGE, trying to “make up for lost time.”

And the Amish community that was such a light in a dark world, preaching the simple life...becomes a laughingstock, both to the watching world, and to the spiritual forces of evil.

Even for those who come back to the Amish way of living...it isn’t as the result of a disciplined life, and finding joy in Christ...it is trying to have the best of both worlds - "I got all the partying and sin out of my system.  I was worldly to excess so that I wouldn’t be worldly anymore."  There was never proper training here, knowing what to avoid and what to cling to.

But this is not the life that Christ wants for His church.  Of course, He takes back the Prodigal Son with open arms.  He celebrates that the Lost Son was found.  But He NEVER celebrated that the Lost Son was LOST!  The Father doesn’t shove the unwilling Son out the door to squander his inheritance with prostitutes!

Despite what the Amish may think, this isn’t the blueprint for the Christian life.

Instead, we see in the Trustworthy and True sayings of the Apostle Paul (inspired by the Holy Spirit), a true blueprint of what the church should be.  A training manual, if you will, for churches - for preachers, young and old, for Christians young and old.  Let’s examine this first piece of the puzzle:

A TRUSTWORTHY AND TRUE TRAINING. We will see that

  1. True Training Addresses the Times

  2. True Training Addresses the Heart

Before we get into the first aspect of this training, let us reflect a bit on this sermon series as a whole that we are getting ourselves into.

This saying is Trustworthy and True.  This is a rather uncommon phrase, appearing only 5 times in the Bible, each time written by Paul, each time found in the so-called Pastoral Epistles - 1 and 2 Timothy, and Titus.  When something is both RARE and REPEATED, it grabs our attention.  What exactly should we make of these sayings?

Each one of these sayings reflect on the person, the work, or the teaching of Jesus Christ, and were FOUNDATIONAL to the early church.  These sayings were the main teachings that the Apostle impressed on the young pastors Timothy and Titus for them to focus on in the early years of their ministry.

We could think of them, perhaps, as pillars of belief.  Pillars built on the foundation of Jesus Christ, and raising up His church.  Pillars of belief, or, to use another metaphor, they are key blueprints for the church - great essentials of belief.  It is a key blueprint for the church, and it is a key blueprint for you and for me.

So let’s take a look at our saying for this week: train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance.

We must be trained...but for what?  What is the ultimate goal of this training?  The simple answer is “Godliness.”  It’s right there is the text.  But Godliness is one of those “buzzwords” that we sometimes use in the church, and don’t really know what it means.

Train yourself for godliness.

What is this “godliness” exactly?  Paul is very practical in this matter, and so we should be as well.  What is godly?  Well, godliness is to be found in embracing what is good

For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.

Now, it is important that we see this in its proper context.  These words are a contrast to what comes before.  Paul is contrasting what is good with what is evil. What is Godly with what is ungodly.  For ungodliness was running rampant and unchecked in Paul’s day.  The Roman empire, an empire where vice was called virtue, and where everyone followed the wicked schemes of their heart...this is the environment into which Paul was sending young Pastor Timothy.

But the biggest threat to the church was not the Romans.  The biggest threat was something much more subtle and hidden.

Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times, some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.

For it is not against flesh and blood that the church fights, but against the rulers, against the authorities in the spiritual realms.  There is no hope for us, as human beings, in our weak and sinful selves, to stand up to master manipulators, to stand up to those spiritual powers who had been steeped in lies for thousands and thousands of years.

Satan was crafty enough at the very beginning, to deceive Adam and Eve who had been created good and walked with God everyday.  Adam and Eve, with no sinful nature.  Over the years, he has only INCREASED in power, and we have only decreased in our natural defense.  

And we fight against the same evil spiritual forces that Timothy was up against, and it is no surprise, therefore, that we have much the same struggles today.  And so Paul’s instructions, from thousands of years ago are still intensely practical for us.  The Apostle’s instructions were not only useful for Timothy and the churches in Asia, but for each one of us, here in North America.  These instructions are important for us here in Cloverdale.

Because...even though demons are practiced and very accomplished at what they do, Satan’s toolbox is only so large.  He only has so many lies.

Universalism and Post-modernism are just Polytheism revisited.  Sexual perversity was not invented by us, but was there in Canaan with the priestesses of Asherah, and in Rome with the temple prostitutes, much less what the Caesars did behind closed doors in their palaces.  There is no new sin under the sun.

And on our own, we are helpless to fight the spiritual forces of evil surrounding us...but GOD can defeat these spiritual forces and defend His people… God DID defeat them through the cross!  He did defend Paul, and Timothy, and Titus from them, and He will continue to defeat them by speaking truth into the fog of lies that have been created around you.  His Word will shine like a light through the fog, showing you what is truly good and what is truly evil.

He is the one to show us, for we cannot conjure up godliness out of our own minds, but rather, we need to be strengthened, we need to be informed as to what it truly is.  We need to be saved from evil.  Saved, not just from evil that surrounds us, but from the evil within.  And this is what the cross was for.  This is what Good Friday accomplished.  Satan was defeated and MY SINS, YOUR SINS, were put on Christ, and nailed to that cross. They were crucified that we might live.

And how should we live?

  • In thankfulness!

  • In godliness!

  • In goodness!

  • In the light!

Listen to what God says - see the light in the darkness.

Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.

Marriage ISN’T EVIL.  Do not listen to those who tell you that, to serve God, you must reject marriage.  As Paul says elsewhere, there are certain benefits to living a single life, but there are also other benefits to living a married life.  Marriage is not evil. It’s a gift from God!

Food ISN’T EVIL.  Do not listen to those who tell you that, to serve God, you must reject certain foods.  Do not take the yoke of the Old Testament law on your shoulders and refrain from eating pork.  Or eating shellfish.  Give thanks to God and enjoy your porkchop.  Give thanks to God and enjoy your shrimp.  That’s not evil.

But what IS evil?

We heard this as we read the Law of God earlier in the service.  What is evil?

  • Idolatry is evil - serving anyone or anything other than the one true God.
  • Worshipping irreverently, worshipping in your own manner is evil.
  • Blaspheming God’s name is evil
  • Disrespecting God’s day is evil
  • Rebellion, Murder, adultery, lies, greed, and covetousness are evil.

And though we struggle with all of these same things today, as we have since evil entered this world, let me speak a little more specifically, a little more plainly to our times.

TRUTH is under attack, and it has been for several years.  Polytheism has come back as Post-Modernism.  We live in a post-truth age, and you know what they say...when it rains out in the world, it trickles into the church.

There are those who take verse 4 and 5 out of context...reading these words: Everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer…

They take these words, these wonderful and true teachings...and make all kinds of false generalization about what godliness is.

If EVERYTHING has been created by God…

If truth comes only from God…

Then everything around me must be good, and all truth must be God’s truth.

All truth must be God’s truth - have you heard that before?  This is a sure fire way to shipwreck your faith, to fall into idolatry, making yourself God, and making your opinions ultimately authoritative.  If I think that Buddhism has some beautiful sentiments, if I find comfort in certain passages in the Koran...if I judge them to be true, then they must be from God!  Do you see the problem here?  Truth and goodness, instead of something you RECEIVE FROM ABOVE, is something that you INVENT IN YOUR HEART.  Suddenly there is no King, and everyone does what is right in their own eyes.

You still have a God...but whatever you end up calling Him...his true name is you.  You have become your own God.  And with all due respect...you are a bad god.

True training, addressing the times...true training is in godliness, and Godliness, as we have seen is avoiding what is evil, and seeking what is good. Not what we think is good. Not what we FEEL is good. But what God reveals to be truly good.  But it’s more than that.  This is, we could say, the end result of our training.  The end result is obedience, but what comes before?

We must, first of all, KNOW what God says.

    We must be godly in our minds.

Those who are being trained for godliness must spend time in God’s Holy Word.  Our minds must be filled with His marvellous light, if we are to combat the darkness of the evil one.

This is what was missing from the younger brother. The Prodigal son.  He fell for the devil’s lies, the lies that told him that his father was stingy, and that there was something better out there.  That freedom from his father was freedom from rules, freedom from chores, and the freedom to pursue pleasure.

That he would be happier without his father.  He looked out at the world, and saw all the pleasures, not really knowing what He had in his Father’s house.  He didn’t know, because he didn’t search it out.  He was distracted by the glitz and glamour of the world, not realizing that not all that glitters is gold.  Not realizing that not all gold glitters.

He traded in true gold for fools gold, and became a fool.

 

We must, second of all, LOVE what God loves.

    We must be godly in our hearts.

Let us not slip into the trap of legalism.  That we read the Bible only to find a list of rules that we obey, even as we grumble against God in our heart.

                This is the tragedy of the older brother.  Did you see it?  We sometimes miss it in the story, focussing on the younger brother and his fall and restoration.

                The younger brother was willing to be a slave, but was welcomed back as a son. The older brother had been treated like a son the whole time, but thought he was a slave.

He didn’t run off like his brother did...but his soul was just as dead.

 

And we must, finally, DO what God commands.

    We must be godly with our hands.

                We must outright reject what is evil - not compromise, not work together...for what fellowship can light have with darkness?  What is

                 the COMPROMISE between God’s truth and Satan’s lies?

There are things that we must outright reject, and there are things

that we must cling onto for dear life.

But we must always remember that these actions are the OUTPOURING of this training.  For a training that is focused on actions leads to legalism, and ultimately, to ruin.  The GOAL is obedience, but the training must speak to the heart.  Our second point.

How are we trained in godliness?  Think of when a new covenant child is born.  (IF ONE HAS BEEN BORN IN YOUR CONGREGATION, FEEL FREE TO ADD IN THEIR NAMES HERE).  When a new covenant child is born, the question for the parents is, "How am I to train this young child in godliness?"

Well the answer might seem so simple.  After all, their child is a covenant child.  This child will, Lord-willing, be baptized before too long, and in the prayer after baptism, we find the words:  “govern this child by your Holy Spirit, that he may be nurtured in the Christian faith and in godliness.”  Clearly godliness is simply part and parcel of our covenant theology.

But it’s not quite that simple.

While our covenant framework is true and Biblical…

While our covenant framework is beautiful, and the promises are so rich…

Covenant theology is not the only thing that Paul speaks of - though He speaks powerfully about God’s covenant promises.

Covenant theology is not the only thing that Jesus speaks of - though He wept over the faithlessness of His covenant people - the Jews.

But it’s not SIMPLY and ONLY about covenant...for what does Jesus say in Matthew 16?  Take up your cross, and follow me.

What does Paul say in our text?  Train yourself to be godly...godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.

There is a strong emphasis from both Jesus and Paul on DISCIPLESHIP.

So that begs the question...what IS discipleship?

Discipleship is being trained to follow Jesus Christ.  Discipleship involves discipline.  Without discipline, there is no disciple.  Discipleship REQUIRES discipline.

And don’t get me wrong, when I say discipline, I mean it in the true sense, not what our modern understanding has changed it to be.  Discipline has become a bad word, synonymous with punishment.  But true discipline is a training for acquiring skill, and strength, and victory.

An athlete disciplines his body.  He becomes a disciple of his athletic heroes - Sidney Crosby or Usain Bolt.

A scholar disciplines her mind.  She becomes a disciple of her intellectual heroes - Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, Jordan Peterson.

And a Christian must discipline his heart.  He is to become a disciple of his spiritual hero - Jesus Christ.

Discipleship involves the heart, and there is no room for laziness, there is not room for waiting to just BECOME a disciple.  That’s not how it works.  Discipleship is not automatic.

And this is one of the dangers of focussing exclusively on covenant theology - for the covenant is something that happens automatically to children of believers - they have done nothing to enter into the covenant.  They are simply born to believing parents, into a believing family.  And what a wonderful blessing this is!  What wonderful promises we get as a result!

But covenant is not all that there is.

With our strong emphasis on covenant, we are sometimes accused of a very dangerous belief known as covenant automatism.  We are accused of teaching that baptism is what saves.  That a covenant child will have his salvation sealed on his forehead as soon as the water touches it.

We DO NOT teach this, but I wonder if some of us still think it at times.

We fought strongly against Kuyper’s view of presumptive regeneration  - that we baptize BECAUSE we assume the child is elect…

But, despite all this fighting, despite our protests, have we actually done away with this belief completely?

It is as one of my former seminary professors challenged us a few years ago: "Have we, in the Canadian Reformed Church taken this presumptive regeneration, and instead of doing away with it altogether, we simply tossed it down the track a few years?  No longer do we presume our INFANTS are saved and this is why we baptize them, but we presume our TEENAGERS are saved, and this is why we don’t worry about their regeneration and don’t focus on discipleship."  Before you get defensive, let me explain what I mean.

It is no secret that the teenage years are difficult.  They are so difficult for so many, as our young people try to find themselves.  As they see what is in the world, as they see what is in other churches, and they wonder at their place in all of this.  They wonder about their political beliefs, their religious beliefs, their sexual beliefs...and it all gets turned around in their heads.

As we heard in the introduction, the Amish do not fight this, but instead, they actively push their teenagers into sin.  They make their children into the Prodigal Son, hoping that they will come back, and have the same ending as in the parable.

We hear this, and we shake our heads.  We do not go this far...but what do we do?

Many of us, unfortunately, do nothing.

As my professor said, many of us presume the salvation of our teenagers.  We see them go off the tracks, embracing alcohol and drugs, going out into the world, in much the same way that the Amish do, having their own Canadian Reformed Rumspringa, and then we say to ourselves, or to our friends and family… “Well, I’m worried about him, I’m worried about her...but they’re covenant children.  She will settle down after a few years.  He’ll be back, and one day he will make a good elder or a good deacon.  God’s promises will stand.”

And we are right in this - God’s promises WILL stand.  God’s promises always stand.  But which promises?  There are covenant blessings and there are covenant curses.  God is faithful to who He is, and our actions, even in our teenage years, store up for ourselves either blessings or curses.

There is something called the law of sowing and reaping that we find in Scripture.  It’s as simple as it sounds - whatever you sow, you will reap.  The Holy Spirit says this in Galatians 6.

If our children and teenagers are not properly discipled, and they begin to reap for themselves a harvest of destruction...do we sit back and watch and see what will happen because they are “covenant children?”  Do we wait for them to get their lives together because “boys will be boys?”

Or do we step in and care for them?  Do we step in and warn them, warn them with tears and with pleading, that they are on a destructive road, and out of love, we will do everything it takes to bring them back?

Will you put in the hard work of discipling?  Will you show your children through what you say and what you do, that your faith is real and living?

If you sigh and complain about going to church, your children will see that and do the same.  If you are reluctant to read the Bible, if you think that following Christ is a chore...your children will too.  Live such a life that you can say with the Apostle Paul: Imitate me, as I imitate Christ.

But instead, be willing to stay up late with your children, talking about the Bible, challenging their wrong beliefs, working with them to give up their vices and strengthen their God-given virtues.

Covenant is this wonderful, biblical, powerful foundation, and we should never forget it.  God works through His covenant.  God works through families.  But we must build on this foundation with the equally wonderful, equally biblical, equally powerful doctrine of discipleship.

If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed.

Covenant has a focus on BEING.  We ARE covenant children.  We ARE those who belong to Christ.

Covenant focuses on BEING, and Discipleship has a focus on DOING.  You must pick up your cross.

Discipleship has a focus on FOLLOWING.  You must follow Jesus.

 

This doesn’t just mean that you show up for church on Sunday.  This doesn’t mean that you just go to a Christian school.  Being a disciple is a high calling.  It is much more than simply towing the line.  It is radical, it is difficult.  But it is of great value.

For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way

Let me put this as plainly as I know how:

  • The person you are now is the consequence of the choices you made yesterday, the day before that, and the day before that.

    • Your strengths and your weaknesses are a result of your training.  Your discipline.  If you have trained yourself to rely on a cup, or two, or five, of coffee in the morning...that is who you become.  If you have trained yourself to rely on a chapter, or two, or five, of Bible study in the morning...that is who you become.

  • The person you are now is the consequence of the choices you made yesterday, the day before that, and the day before that.

But...the person you WILL BECOME...is the consequences of the choices you make today and tomorrow, and the next day.

Imagine that your life is a movie.  You are the main character, and you are also in the audience, watching your life unfold.

But we forget...not only are we the actor, not only are we the audience...but we are also the playwright.  Your lines...are written by you.  If you will, as an audience member, cringe at the things coming out of the main character’s mouth...change them!  If you, as an audience member, cringe at what the main character does in secret...write a different scene.

And it is all too easy, beloved, for us to take this in a simplistic and legalistic way.  To go home and say, “I’m going to try harder tomorrow.  I’m going to give it 110% and make sure that I am a disciple!”

But it is gospel hope that drives spiritual discipline.  Let me say that again.  It is gospel hope that drives spiritual discipline.

For what does verse 10 say?

For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Saviour of all people, especially of those who believe.

It is our God who chose us, just as He chose His disciples here on this earth.  They were not disciples before He chose them, and nor were we.

We were, by nature, children of wrath.  We were, by nature, DEAD.

BUT GOD raised us from the dead.  He changed us, from being children of wrath, into children of grace and mercy.

And how did He do this?

He did this through the cross  of Christ.  Our Saviour suffered the wrath of God for our sins...He suffered this righteous wrath every single day of His life, but especially at the end.  Everything bad, everything evil, everything sinful in us, every word, every thought, every action, was put on Him, and decisively punished.  The cross teaches us that you and I deserve capital punishment.  The cross tells us all what we deserve - crucifixion.  But Christ took our punishment upon Himself.  He became cursed so that we would receive His blessing.  He became a child of wrath, that we might be children of grace.

THIS is the foundation of our discipleship.  It's not YOU clawing your way out of the grave, out of the muck and the mire by sheer force of your own will.  But rather, discipleship is the humble and hardworking response of the one who has already been chosen.  

You have been chosen, and as a result, you have, not only the wonderful promises of the gospel, but also the weighty obligations.  

We are given wonderful promises about being chosen by our God to be His children.  But we are given the challenge of living a godly life.  The challenge, the obligation of pursuing godliness, being trained in godliness.

It is hard work...but it is so rewarding.  Godliness is not only a GOAL, but also a GIFT.  When we work hard, in the Spirit’s strength, we begin to look a little more like Christ.

As sinful people, when we work hard, in the Spirit’s strength, we, ALREADY NOW, get to look a little more GODLY - a little more like our great God!

Growing up as a covenant child, growing up in the church is not a license to do as the Amish do.  When you’re old enough to choose, then make your choice.  You will be thrust out into the world, and then make your choice - join the world, or come back to what is true, what is good, and what is beautiful.

Let us NEVER act in this way.  Instead, let us tell ourselves, let us tell our children, our friends, our family - YOU HAVE BEEN CHOSEN!  Jesus has called you to follow Him.  To take up your cross and follow.

This is not neutral ground.  You are called to obedience.  You are called to fight your old nature, and learn to embrace your new nature.  You are no longer a slave to sin, a slave to fear.  Do not go back to what you have been saved from.

You are not a child of wrath, but a child of God.

So follow the blueprints, follow the training, and grow, by God’s grace, from a child of God, already in the womb, into a man of God.  Into a woman of God, always being discipled, and learning to disciple others.

AMEN.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Jeremy Segstro

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