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  • Focus on What Matters

    Posted on June 8th, 2009 admin No comments

    Last Wednesday I had lunch with a friend named Tom. Tom has been a Christian longer than me. He is older, old enough to be my father. He has gray hair and he certainly has more life experience.

    As Tom and I ate lunch, I told him about all the things that are happening in my life. Let me share a few of these things with you: I’m talking with a few churches about serving as their pastor. I hope to devote more time to One Message. I have a business idea that could be very successful. I’m starting to follow the stock market again. And, I’ve been playing golf better this season than ever.

    After listening to all the thoughts running around in my mind, Tom told me that I’m distracted. He said there are too many things that are keeping me from doing what God wants me to do. Tom told me to focus on what is important, what is eternal, and forget the rest.

    In the Bible, the apostle Paul wrote similar words to a younger man named Timothy. He told Timothy to focus on what is important. Paul also told Timothy to tell others to focus on what is important. Don’t get distracted by unimportant things. Focus on what God is doing through Jesus Christ.

    We need to remember that God is building his church through Jesus Christ. God is bringing people to himself through the proclamation of the Gospel. We need to tell people Christ died, he was buried, and he rose again. We need to invite people to believe in Jesus Christ for eternal life. We need to remind each other what Christ has done for us.

    When we focus on the Gospel, we will want to know more about God. We will want to worship him. We will want to keep coming to church. We will want our friends to come to church so that they will be part of what God is doing.

    If we get distracted and focus on things that are not important, we may miss God’s best for our lives. If that happens, we won’t grow spiritually.

    Our text this morning is 1 Timothy 1:1-11:

    1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus according to the commandment of God our Savior, and of Christ Jesus, who is our hope,
    2 To Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
    3 As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines,
    4 nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith.
    5 But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
    6 For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion,
    7 wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions.
    8 But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully,
    9 realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers
    10 and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching,
    11 according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted. (NASB)

    Today you will be encouraged to: 1) Focus on what matters, 2) Instruct those who are distracted, and 3) Share the Gospel.

    First, Focus on what matters (1-4).

    In verse 1 Paul says he is an apostle. He begins many of his letters the same way. He has authority from God to speak about God. It is important for Timothy, and us, to remember Paul’s apostolic authority. He saw Christ after his resurrection. He was appointed a minister by the Lord. He tells about his experience in Acts chapter 26. Paul was much more than just another man expressing his own opinions. He was an apostle – sent by God. He didn’t sign up for the job at the local unemployment line. God sought him. We must take his words seriously for they are God’s words.

    Notice in verse 1 that Paul refers to God as our Savior. In the Hebrew Bible, the Lord was understood to be the Savior of Israel, a nation. In the New Testament, Paul makes it clear that God is our personal Savior. God did something to save individuals from eternal destruction, not just a nation.

    The truth that God is our Savior should give each of us hope. We have a reason to exist. We have something to get us through difficult times. This hope doesn’t only come from God, like candy comes from a candy machine. This hope is God, specifically Jesus Christ. Look at the last phrase in verse 1. Christ Jesus is our hope. He is the reason we live. He is what matters.

    In verse 2 Paul refers to Timothy as his true child in the faith. He literally calls him a genuine son.  In 1 Corinthians 4:17 Paul referred to Timothy as his “faithful child in the Lord.” Acts 16:1 tells us that Timothy was the son of a Jewish woman and a Greek man. Paul was not his biological father, but saw himself as his spiritual father. He could have led Timothy to the Lord by sharing the Gospel with him, or he could have discipled him in his faith. Either way, there was a close bond between the older, more spiritually mature Paul and the younger Timothy. Paul was to Timothy as Tom is to me.

    In verse 2 Paul extends his usual greeting. He offers, “Grace, mercy and peace” to Timothy. “Mercy and peace” was a typical Jewish greeting. It would have resonated with the half-Jewish Timothy.

    It is interesting that Paul refers to God as Father in the same sentence where he called Timothy his child. If Paul considered Timothy his son, you would think he would consider himself the father; however, he doesn’t. Paul encourages Timothy with the truth that God is both Father and Lord. God loves you Timothy, and he expects you to obey him.

    Timothy’s ears are open wide. He is waiting for instruction from the apostle who considers him his spiritual child. He knows the apostle’s words come from a loving God who has his best interest in mind and who is worthy to be obeyed.

    Verse 3, “I charge you Timothy.” (Your Bible may say, “I urge you,” “I command you,” or “I instruct you.”) This verb is a military term. It means “to give strict orders from a superior officer.”  Now we see why Paul began this letter talking about his apostolic authority and Timothy as his spiritual son. Paul commands Timothy as a commanding officer commands his soldier. Timothy must obey these orders and pass them along to others.

    What was the command? Verse 3, “Timothy, teng-hut!”  Don’t teach strange doctrines. Focus on what matters.

    Earlier in Acts 20, Paul talked about a day in the future when people would come into the church and lead others astray. In Acts 20, verses 29 and 30, Paul wrote, “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.” Rather than focusing on what matters, these men talk about strange things. Timothy faced these men.

    There are lots of people teaching strange things. Some say God turned the fillings in a man’s mouth to gold. Others say if you pray hard enough you will win the lottery. Some spend hours searching the family trees, or genealogies, of biblical characters. They say they can predict the end of time based on a numbering system hidden in the Hebrew language. All of it is hogwash; it is worthless. Don’t get into that strange stuff. Focus on what God is doing. See that God is bringing people into relationship with himself by faith in Jesus Christ.

    Let’s consider the early church. They focused on teaching the Bible. They knew Christian doctrine. They made Christ central to everything they did. Let us do the same thing. Let’s get into the Bible and learn more about God. It’s ok if we don’t remember all the names and details about every story. But, we need to keep learning what the Bible says about God. We need to keep exalting Christ when we gather as a church. I’ve sat through entire sermons and not heard one thing about Jesus. That is bad. Let’s not make that mistake at Topeka Gospel Church. Let’s focus on what matters. Let’s focus on Christ.

    Second, Instruct those who are distracted (5-10). If you know someone is missing Christ because they are focusing on what is not important, encourage them to focus on what matters.

    Now, we need to be very careful here. We should not judge other people with any standard of measurement that we don’t first use on ourselves. I have a friend who always works. The only thing he talks about is making money. I need to confront him and encourage him to focus on what matters. However, I have been very distracted. I needed Tom to tell me, “Focus on what matters.” I am probably not at the place where I can confront my friend without being a major hypocrite because I am still very distracted myself. I still need someone like Tom to help me focus on Christ – not my next job, not my non-profit website, not a single lady whom I may never see again, not my business idea, not the stock market, and certainly not golf.

    When it comes time to instruct my friend, I better know the goal of our conversation. Pointing fingers would be damaging to our relationship, so I need to know the goal of having such a difficult talk. Encouraging someone to get his or her mind back on Jesus Christ can be tough. So, why do it?

    In verse 5, Paul says the goal of our instruction is love. This pure love flows from a pure heart, a good conscience and a sincere faith. This love is selfless. It comes from God and flows through Christians as they do God’s work on earth.

    When our heart is pure we really care about people’s spiritual health, not our religious superiority. When our conscience is good we are sensitive to that inner guide that tells us right from wrong. When our faith is sincere we are not hypocritical. We can say, “Let me encourage you friend, focus on Christ because he is the only one is worthy of your worship.” When our heart is pure, our conscience is good and our faith is sincere, we are able, by God’s grace, to instruct someone to focus on Christ. We can have such a difficult conversation because the goal of our instruction is love.

    If Tom didn’t care about me, he wouldn’t waste his time confronting me. But, because he does love me, he offered instruction and I listened.

    That leads us to a great question: who should we instruct? Paul told Timothy about the “certain” men in verse 3. He calls them “some” men in verse 6. He probably knew who they were, but he didn’t name them here. Keep in mind that Timothy was a leader in the church. He was responsible for protecting his flock from wolves. Timothy had more responsibility as the church leader than each individual member of the church. However, Paul expected Timothy to share this letter with all believers. The question remains: who should we instruct?

    I’ll suggest, first, start with yourself. Make sure you are not distracted. Make sure you are focusing your life on Christ. Second, consider your immediate family. You may be the most spiritually minded member of your family. Since you love your family, pray that God would give you the opportunity to instruct them. Help them discover the importance of focusing on Christ. Third, consider those in your small group – maybe that means someone you are mentoring, the people in your Bible study or someone that is part of your church. Let’s say you have a close relationship with brother Lee and he comes to you for spiritual guidance. He then starts telling you about all his problems at home and work. If he doesn’t say anything about Christ, point him to the cross. “Brother Lee, do you know that Christ died for you? God raised him from the dead. Christ is your hope. He is your Lord. Ask him what he wants you to do. Then, follow him. Obey him. Trust him to do a spiritual work in your life.”

    All of us need to hear that repeatedly throughout life. God may want you to share that truth with your friends. Or, God may want your friends to share that truth with you. Be open to hearing instruction from others. Praise God that someone loves you enough to remind you, “Focus on Christ.”

    In verses 6 and 7, Paul tells Timothy that some men were misusing the Law. These men did not understand the Law, but they wanted to teach it. They did not understand that the Law was never meant to save anyone, but it was meant to lead us to Christ. As verse 8 says, “the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully.” It is good because it shows everyone that we are not perfect. The Law exposes our sin. Without the Law, we may think we are better than we really are and not see our need for Christ.

    In verses 9 and 10 Paul lists several types of sins. He lists the sins in six pairs. 1) Lawless and rebellious refer to the disobedient. 2) Ungodly and sinners refer to the irreverent. 3) Unholy and profane refer to the impure. 4) Those who kill their fathers or mothers refer to extreme evil. 5) Immoral men and homosexuals refer to the sexually immoral. 6) Kidnappers and liars and perjurers refer to the deceitful. Many of these sins are obvious. There is no doubt they are wrong. Of course, stealing and selling a child as a male or female prostitute is wrong. Of course, killing your father or mother is wrong. Even Roman law punished killers of fathers and mothers by execution. The killer was sewn into a bag with animals, including a snake, and drowned.

    Why would Paul list such obvious sins? Well, Paul wanted to be clear that these sins violated five of the Ten Commandments:
    1)    Exodus 20:12, Honor your father and your mother.
    2)    Exodus 20:13, You shall not murder.
    3)    Exodus 20:14, You shall not commit adultery.
    4)    Exodus 20:15, You shall not steal.
    5)    Exodus 20:16, You shall not bear false witness.
    The Law exists to prohibit such obvious sin. It directs our attention to Christ, the one who was without sin, and he should be our focus.

    Third, Share the Gospel (11).

    In verse 11, Paul says that the Gospel is what distinguishes sound teaching from anything else. If what you hear aligns with the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, then it is sound. If what you hear has to do with following a list of rules, studying an ancient philosopher or drinking a magic formula to grow spiritually, then it is not sound teaching.

    Paul reminds Timothy that spiritually understanding the Gospel is a big deal. God has entrusted that truth to Paul. Paul used the same language in 1 Thessalonians 2:4. He wrote with Timothy, “We have been approved by God to be entrusted with the Gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts.”

    “Timothy, remember that God has given us the truth that Christ died and rose again to bring eternal life to sinners like you and me. The world needs to hear this truth Timothy. Some people are forgetting it. They are turning to fruitless discussion. Don’t be among them. Share the Gospel.”

    Paul wanted Timothy to take this letter to the church. He has done that. Now we must hear God tell us, “You have been entrusted with the Good News of Jesus Christ. Share it with the world.”


    Yesterday one of my friends called me. It was his parent’s 50th wedding anniversary. He called several of his friends and asked if they’d call his parents and wish them a happy anniversary. That sounded like fun, so I agreed to make the call. My friend’s father answered the phone. I wished him a happy anniversary. He was appreciative. We then started talking about life. I learned that this man, Bob, is a spiritual man. He boiled life down to a few words: “Remember that Christ came to earth, lived a sinless life, died on the cross, was buried and rose again to bring us eternal life. Ask God what he wants you to do, then follow him.”

    Praise God for using Bob yesterday to remind me to focus on what matters.


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