Sunday, May 01, 2005

Timothy 3:14-4:5

14 I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these instructions to you so that, 15if I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth. 16Without any doubt, the mystery of our religion is great:
Hea was revealed in flesh,vindicatedb in spirit,cseen by angels,proclaimed among Gentiles,believed in throughout the world,taken up in glory.

4 Now the Spirit expressly says that in laterd times some will renounce the faith by paying attention to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, 2through the hypocrisy of liars whose consciences are seared with a hot iron. 3They forbid marriage and demand abstinence from foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 4For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, provided it is received with thanksgiving; 5for it is sanctified by God’s word and by prayer.

Unspiritual Spirituality and Spiritual Unspirituality

In these verses, as in the entire section before them (1 Timothy 2:1 – 3:13) Paul is writing to give practical instruction on Christian behavior.

It is interesting that he refers to the church as “the household of God”, because home is usually where people are most themselves. In other words, as Christians our spiritual life is to be marked by authenticity rather than show; by being “real” rather than “religious”.

Paul also refers to the church as “the pillar and bulwark of truth”. He’s primarily speaking of the truth as it was made known in Jesus, but it’s hard to escape the implications of our need to live and interact with that truth with honesty and integrity.

So it is that Paul goes on to say that sometimes things that look very spiritual—that demand great sacrifices of people, seemingly for God’s sake—are not really spiritual at all. In fact, he writes, they are actually hypocritical.

As examples he lists forbidding marriage and requiring abstinence from foods. The problem is that often these things make us look good instead of reflecting the goodness of God.

Real spirituality is receiving God’s good gifts with grateful hearts.

Interestingly, Paul concludes chapter 3 with a section of an ancient hymn. He knew the value of a catchy phrase or a good song to reinforce what he was teaching, and to make it stick. I don’t know about you, but I often find myself singing Sunday’s songs throughout the week (like go be a difference maker; go make a difference in the world!).

So…how is your spiritual life, really? Is your spiritual life built on the deep joy that comes from receiving God’s good gifts, or is it built on something else (like religious ritual or obligation). Does it bring you life, or does it drain energy away? Are you living your life as an expression of gratefulness for all God has done for you?

And finally, one last question, one that I’ve been having fun toying with: What kind of song have you allowed God to place in your heart?

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