AGCC Sun. a.m. 11/14/99



TEXT:      I Tim. 4:1-16; Heb. 10:35-39


The problem today with people's interest in becoming spiritual is that it is usually the result of a crisis situation and they see spirituality as a quick fix to an immediate need. Once the need is over, so is the spirituality! Real satisfying spirituality however has a long haul viewpoint. We cannot afford to promote a Christianity that is devoid of long term commitments. Do you have a faith that can weather time? What is your faith built on? Can it endure no matter the external circumstances of your life? Can it stand against all the critics? ILLUS: Colonel George Washington Goethals, the man responsible for the completion of the Panama Canal, had big problems with the climate and the geography. But his biggest challenge was the growing criticism back home from those who predicted he'd never finish the project. Finally, a colleague asked him, "Aren't you going to answer these critics?" "In time," answered Goethals. "When?" his partner asked. "When the canal is finished." -- Fresh Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching (Baker), from the editors of Leadership. The call of God on our lives is for the long haul, not the short-term kind that come out crisis experiences. The real strength of spirituality is found in the long-term commitment, not the short-term experience. PROP. SENT: The Bible teaches us to develop a lifetime strategy for godly living, not to just have "flash point" spirituality. The results of a lifetime commitment will not only bless our lives, but also strengthen others to make the same kind commitment. I. EXCESSES      I Tim. 4:1-10 A. Travesties     4:1-5 1. As the end of the age approaches the Bible teaches that long term commitments to God will become less frequent. a. The end of the age will be characterized by a falling away from the faith. 2 Thess. 2:3 b. This falling away will not be from LACK of faith as much as INAPPROPRIATE faith - faith in the wrong things! (1. "Some will abandon the faith AND FOLLOW deceiving spirits and things taught by demons" 4:1 (2. Faith is still present, but in the wrong things! (3. THIS IS OUR DAY! - people are not abandoning FAITH, they are only abandoning faith in God for NEW AGE doctrines and other spiritual fads! 2. In the last days the world will become filled with spirituality, but spirituality that focuses on extrabiblical teachings. 3. Ironically there will be those who would scoff at Christianity but will themselves do all kinds of crazy things for a false spirituality in the last days. a. There are people today who will pay literally thousands of dollars to hear a "so called" spirit speak through a person at these huge "New Age" meetings. b. Some of these "New Age" techniques are even being taught in our public school systems, yet we can't mention the Bible in our schools!! c. The recent "Heaven's Gate" cult that promoted "no sex, no drugs, no faith in Christianity" found not only a following, but also a group of people willing to die for their bizarre teachings! Cults today are flourishing! 4. Can the Church afford people with a shallow commitment to Christ, one that has no enduring qualities to it? 5. Even the world recognizes the weakness of many Christian's commitments, you can't hide inconsistencies from the world! a. We can't pretend to be deeply spiritual if we are not disciplined. b. Any attempts to appear to be disciplined without a deep commitment will show! ILLUS: My teenage son was in such a hurry to try out his new surfboard that, oblivious of the warning flags, he dashed straight out into the waves. Immediately, an authoritative voice boomed, "You are an inexperienced surfer. Return to shore." Embarrassed, he came ashore but not without asking the lifeguard how he knew he was a novice. "Easy. You've got your wet suit on backwards." -- H.J. Duffy, Livingston, Texas. Christian Reader, "Lite Fare." 6. The real characteristics of our spirituality will be known to others, you can't fake maturity! B. Training     4:6-10 1. We live in a society that has a training program for everything! a. We train people educationally. b. We train people professionally. c. We train people athletically. d. We train people financially. e. YET, we want spirituality without training!!! 2. Notice Paul emphasizes to Timothy the need to TRAIN others as well as he himself had been trained. 3. The problem with people's desire for spirituality today is that they want to be able to "purchase" it like a package rather than be committed to growing through discipleship. 4. How do we become godly, is it automatic, are we zapped with it by some powerful experience? Note Paul's words here in 4:7 "…train yourself to be godly" a. No athlete becomes good without long-term training. b. No professional works in his field without long-term training. c. WHY do we think we can be deeply spiritual without training? 5. This is precisely why we have things like Sunday School, Small group ministries, Promise keepers, Women's and Men's Ministry, Youth group, Children's Church, Worship team practices, and other assorted ministries that are offered through the Church here … to help provide training! a. This is even part of the reason for the Sunday morning worship service, to worship God and train us. b. Living the Christian life means EFFORT and discipline! ILLUS: A great athlete gave credit for his success to a coach who had shown him the basic lesson of competition. His track coach had said that he must run until it hurt. Anyone who has ever competed in track events knows that it's true. Anyone who has ever thought about life knows that it's true. -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997). 6. Spirituality doesn't just "drop into our laps" from heaven. a. Paul says, "and for this we labor and strive" 4:10 b. Discipline is necessary for good training. II. EXAMPLE      4:11-16 A. Teaching     4:11-14 1. Paul moves from proving the need to promoting the need! a. "Command and teach these things" 4:11 b. Most Christians agree that discipleship is a good idea, how many though practice it? (Look at the typical attendance in Sunday school across the country!) 2. Though young, Timothy can teach in two ways: a. By example - see 4:12 b. By preaching & teaching Scripture publicly - see 4:13 ILLUS:Being a minister is just reminding people over and over, and then reminding them again, of what is most important in life. -- Norman Vincent Peale, Leadership, Vol. 12, no. 2. 3. Paul tells Timothy to "devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching, and to teaching." 4:13 a. These are major responsibilities for the Pastor. b. Teaching is necessary for Christian growth! B. Tangible     4:15-16 1. Paul emphasizes Timothy's role as a teacher includes his own example! 2. The fact is that we are being watched, and if our example is less than a long term commitment to Christ we cannot expect others to be motivated to have that kind of commitment. 3. Paul encourages Timothy to be "diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them so that everyone may SEE YOUR PROGRESS" 4:15 a. Our example counts! ILLUS:According to the Bergen (N.J.) Record, the zoo in Copenhagen, Denmark, recently put a human couple on display. Henrik Lehmann and Malene Botoft live in a see-through cage, in the primate display, next to the baboons and the monkeys. Their 320-square-foot habitat has a living room with furniture, a computer, a television, and stereo. The kitchen and bedroom are part of the display. Only the bathroom is excluded from public view. Unlike their neighbors, who aren't allowed out, the two humans occasionally leave their fishbowl existence to shop and water the flowers on their porch back at home. "We don't notice visitors anymore," said Lehmann. We would do well to remember that people are watching the way we live. "In everything set them an example by doing what is good" (Titus 2:7). -- Parade (12/29/96). Leadership, Vol. 17, no. 3. b. For a commitment to Christ to be taught it needs a tangible example to be grasped. c. In a sense, this is what Christ did coming to Earth as a man, to show us the Heavenly Father in a tangible way! Jesus said to His disciples, "If you have seen me you have seen the Father." John 14:9 III. EXPECTATION      Heb. 10:35-39 A. Tenacious     10:35-37 1. In the midst of all the pressures and demands of society we need to be careful not to throw away the commitment we made to Christ! a. Make your commitment a long haul one b. Be tenacious with your confidence in God; don't let it be short lived. 2. The fruit of a real commitment to Christ takes time, lots of time! ILLUS: It was Bishop Hugh Latimer who said that a drop of rain made a hole in a stone, not by violence but by continually falling. So we need patience and perseverance. -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997). 3. We will need to persevere to maximize God's will in our life, and to maximize the reward later. a. A commitment to Christ will require effort, long term effort. b. We don't need to follow the world by having shallow commitments to Christ. c. Finding Christ as Lord means a lifetime of commitment, not just during a crisis need. 4. The author of Hebrews does indicate that in the scheme of things, such a commitment over a lifetime will really be a small time frame compared to eternity - "For in just a very little while, 'He who is coming will come and will not delay.'" 10:37 5. With a long term commitment to Christ it won't discourage us as much if something goes wrong today, there is always tomorrow too … while some battles don't go the way we might have hoped a long term commitment will still see us win the war! ILLUS: I learned a remarkable fact about the cocklebur: its sticky seedpod contains several seeds, not just one. And these seeds germinate in different years. Thus, if seed A fails to sprout next year because of a drought, seed B will be there waiting for year after next, and seed C the year after that, waiting until the right conditions for germination arrive. -- Graham R. Hodges in Leadership, Vol. 9, no. 4. 6. With a long-term commitment to Christ you will be victorious! B. Testimony     10:38-39 1. There is no other way to live than by faith! The author of Hebrew makes this absolutely clear! a. There is no other way to please God than to live by faith. b. God is not pleased with us when we don't have faith. 2. Those who are committed to Christ however have faith ... or they wouldn't be committed to Christ! 3. Long term faith will prevent us from "shrinking back" 10:39 4. It is not as important as to how we started out in life as much as it is how we finish up! a. None of us chose how we started life … but we will all choose how we end it! b. No one becomes great with a short-term commitment ... it takes a long haul commitment! With a long term commitment you would be amazed how much can be accomplished! ILLUS: The great American poet Carl Sandburg flunked English. The great inventor Thomas Edison did not do well in school either. His teachers thought he was stupid. Einstein could not speak until he was four and did not read until he was seven. Beethoven's music teacher said, "As a composer he's hopeless." F. W. Woolworth couldn't get a job. Merchants said he didn't have enough sense to wait on customers. A newspaper editor who said Disney didn't have any good ideas fired Walt Disney. Caruso was told by a voice coach, "You can't sing. You have no voice at all." An editor told Louisa May Alcott she was not capable of writing anything that would appeal to a popular audience. They were all wrong. -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997). 5. What is the nature of your commitment to Christ? a. Is it only as good as the convenient moments of your life? b. Do you find your commitment to Christ runs second to other commitments? c. Does your job get more commitment or God? d. Does your own needs dictate priorities, or does God's commands? e. What is your testimony? CONCLUSION:    Living in a world where we can get almost everything "immediately" has not prepared us well for the disciplines that are spiritual in nature. The development of healthy spirituality requires a "long haul" approach to life. There are no good short cuts to spiritual maturity. We must choose quality faith over quick fixes!