The Mystery of Godliness

Sunday, July 17, 2016, 7:00 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Is Your All on The Altar?” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read 1 Timothy 3 (ESV).

Although this passage of scripture is directed specifically to the subject of the spiritual qualifications of elders (overseers) and deacons, we should not write it off as not applicable to us. Just because we may not be in a position of spiritual leadership over other people does not mean we can, thus, live however we want. What is required here of these spiritual leaders is no different from what God requires of all of us who are his followers. Basically, this is a lesson on godliness, and how we should all live who are Christ’s followers, servants and messengers. So, we should pay careful and close attention to these words here, and we should inquire of the Lord as to where we are lacking, and as to where we need to change. I know I am doing that this morning. I hope you will join me.

Above Reproach (vv. 1-7)

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

What does it mean to be “above reproach”? Basically it means to live a life of such moral and godly character that we do not bring dishonor or shame to the body of Christ or to the name of Jesus. It means that we are not living in conscious and willful sin against God in any area of our lives, but as far as we know, we are living righteously before God and man, not because of our own goodness, but because of the righteousness of Christ credited to our accounts, and because, by the Spirit, we are walking in the Spirit and no longer according to the flesh. Therefore, our consciences are clear, because we know we are walking in obedience to our Lord, and that we are not resisting his voice by going our own way.

With regard to having one spouse, I believe this goes back to creation when God created woman from the rib of man. The man declared that woman was now bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh, and that she was to be called “woman,” because she was taken out of man. And, then we read (Gen. 2:24): “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united with his wife, and they will become one flesh.” Thus, it was God’s original intention for man to have but one wife, and this thought is reiterated in the New Testament with regard to the subject of divorce and in comparing the relationship between a husband and a wife to that of Christ and his church (See: Matt. 19:5; Eph. 5:31). I believe we can, thus, apply this principle to the subject of lust and adultery. Having one spouse means we do not unite ourselves, as one, in thought or in deed with another.

If we are sober-minded, we take God and his word seriously. We don’t make light of what is of God or find humor in what is ungodly. A sober-minded person also does not sway with the wind, and is not easily influenced by the world and by what appeals to the flesh of humankind. If we are walking in godliness, we will exercise self-control, and we won’t be out-of-control in thought, word or deed. We will believe and practice trust in our Lord and not in ourselves and other humans, and we will live like we believe Jesus died to set us free from the control of sin over our lives, instead of making excuses for continued willful sin against God. Hospitality, as well, is something we should all practice. We should invite neighbors and family and fellow believers into our homes and share with them our food and shelter and the love of Jesus. And, we shouldn’t fight (quarrel) with people, etc.

Lastly, we must be in our homes what we are in public, i.e. our walk should match our talk, and we should be consistent no matter who we are with. We should not present one thing out in the public eye while we are something completely different in the privacy of our homes. We should not be teaching moral purity to others while we vegetate on TV shows, movies, and specific places on the internet which glorify sin, especially sexual sin, or while we participate in sexual sin via what we look at and lust after when no one else is looking. Laptop computers, electronic tablets (like IPads) and smart phones have made it way too easy for people to view pornographic images without anyone knowing, and this is a serious problem in today’s church and among people who call themselves ministers of the gospel. We also should not, if we are heads of households, be trying to lead others if we are not even leading those in our own homes whom God has given us to lead spiritually.

A Clear Conscience (vv. 8-13)

Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.

Oh, this is a BIG ONE! Not one of us should be double-tongued, i.e. we should not be deceitful or engaging in trickery. When we are double-tongued, we “talk out of two sides of our mouths.” This kind of person might say one thing one time but then turn around and say just the opposite another time, sometimes to different people, and sometimes to the same person. Sometimes it is just because he (she) is a people pleaser and so says what he or she thinks people want to hear. Other times this is done as a way to manipulate or to trick people, to create confusion in people’s minds, and/or to deceive. I had a teacher once who told me I was taking a project too seriously and I should just have fun with it, but I knew how he graded, yet I took his advice. Sure enough, he downgraded me, even though I did what he said to do. Abusers and manipulators will use this tactic to try to get people off balance so that they can take advantage of them. People like this are lacking in integrity.

We need to be people who have a clear conscience and whose consciences are not seared by years of resisting the Spirit of God and of giving in to the temptations of the devil to do what we know is evil. If we know we are living in sin, we shouldn’t act like we aren’t. We should not put on a mask to cover up the sinful lifestyles we are knowingly living in secret. In other words, we should not pretend, in public, that we are living godly and holy lives, if in private we are doing what is truly evil in God’s sight. Especially if we are teachers of the Word, we should not be resisting the Holy Spirit and consciously doing what we know is opposed to God and is opposed to his Word. We should daily confess any known sins, repent of them, and turn to follow our Lord with our lives, seeking Him and His will for our lives.

And, then we must hold to the truths of scripture and the faith we profess and not waver in opinion every time someone says something that sounds good. We don’t want to be like infants, tossed here and there by every wind of teaching. This does not mean we can’t examine the scriptures and test what we believe to make sure what we believe is scriptural and not something man made up. But, when we are sure of what we believe, and why we believe it, we should stand strong in that belief and not be easily persuaded by human opinion. But, standing strong in the faith does not mean winning intellectual arguments. It means we live what we say we believe, and we live and walk with integrity.

How One Ought to Behave (vv. 14-16)

I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth. Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness:

He was manifested in the flesh,
vindicated by the Spirit,
seen by angels,
proclaimed among the nations,
believed on in the world,
taken up in glory.

Jesus Christ is our example for how to live godly and holy lives. Even though he was/is God, and he dwelled in heaven, he humbled himself by coming to earth and taking on human flesh, and he became a servant. He suffered like we suffer, and was tempted in like manner as we are also tempted, yet without sin. He was despised and rejected of humankind so much so that they hung him on a cross to die. Yet, when he died our sins died with him, and when he was resurrected, he rose victorious over sin, hell, Satan and death on our account. When he rose from the dead he appeared to many people, including to his disciples (his messengers), who then proclaimed Christ and his gospel among the nations so that many people believed in Jesus Christ as Lord and as Savior of their lives.

So, we should willingly lay down our lives and become servants of our Lord Jesus in doing whatever it is he has called us to do because we love God and because we care about the salvation of human lives. We should not live selfish lives given over to doing what pleases us, but we should desire to please our Lord in all that we do, say, think and are, and it should be evident by how we live our lives that our desire is sincere and not phony. We, like Christ, should be crucified in death to sin, and we should be resurrected with Christ in newness of life, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). And, we should be proclaiming him and his gospel of salvation to the world around us so that many others can have faith in Jesus Christ and the hope of eternal life with God, too.

Is Your All on the Altar? / Elisha A. Hoffman

You have longed for sweet peace,
and for faith to increase,
and have earnestly, fervently prayed;
but you cannot have rest,
or be perfectly blest,
until all on the altar is laid.

Would you walk with the Lord,
in the light of His Word,
and have peace and contentment alway?
You must do His sweet will,
to be free from all ill,
on the altar your all you must lay.

O we never can know
what the Lord will bestow,
of the blessings for which we have prayed,
'till our body and soul,
He doth fully control,
and our all on the altar is laid.

Is your all on the altar of sacrifice laid?
Your heart does the Spirit control?
You can only be blest,
and have peace and sweet rest,
as you yield Him your body and soul.