These reflections help us look into the Bible to discover what God is saying to us today. We find Bible passages to read and questions to ponder. The themes are in the process of being listed in an index with each theme ultimately divided into seven sections. We hope to be completed soon.
“as for you … aim at righteousness, godliness …” (v.11) RSV
These past weeks we have been working through the Seven Ages of man as listed by Shakespeare, and we have been applying it to the Christian life. Today’s Age is actually expressed by Shakespeare by the word ‘Justice’ (or Judge), but I have changed it to ‘Elder’. The relevant point is that this person has reached full maturity and bears great responsibilities. He has fought at the front but now is in leadership.
Timothy was Paul’s protégé, and was comparatively young to be an Elder of a church. And yet he was a mature young man, and was being encouraged by Paul to become a pastor of others. “But as for you, man of God, shun all this [love of money, etc.- 1 Timothy 6:9-10]; aim at righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.” (v.11)
Elders in the faith are dependable, steady, balanced and helpful. Such people may not always exude superficial enthusiasm and overtly spiritual manifestations. They are not ‘Lovers’ (see last week’s reading), but are mature.
Timothy’s task was to “Fight the good fight of the faith” (v.12). He was, as Paul wrote to “Do your best to present yourself as one approved, a workman who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
How many of us have failed to grow up like this? The writer to the Hebrews was almost in despair at the immaturity of his flock. He wrote of them, “by this time you ought to be teachers, (but) you need someone to teach you again the first principles of God’s word. You need milk, not solid food” (Hebrews 5:12-13).
How many of us are still Indians and not ready or not willing to be Chiefs? God is looking for those to whom he can entrust the leadership of others. “If anyone aspires to the office of Overseer, he desires a noble task.” (1 Timothy 3:1).
Make me fit to be an Elder, O Lord. May I become steady and dependable, and may I study to be approved. Amen.
1 How does Paul define maturity?
2 What did God say to Joshua when it was his turn to lead?
As we grow up in the faith we realise that there is a battle going on between good and evil. This warfare becomes much more acute because we have sided with ’good’. As members of Jesus Christ we have in fact joined his army. In the 1662 Prayer Book of the Church of England we are described as “The church militant here on earth”.
In no way has this got anything to do with taking up bombs and bullets in order to exterminate or convert the opposition! As St Paul says in another of his letters, “we are not carrying on a worldly war, for the weapons of our warfare are not worldly but have divine power …” (2 Corinthians 10:3-4). Our weapons are the word of God, love, prayer and acts of kindness.
The Church’s warfare is to bring in the Kingdom of God, and this cannot be done except by living as members of that Kingdom. When Jesus sent out his disciples he sent them out as “lambs in the midst of wolves” (Luke 10:3).
We must not avoid our responsibility to be engaged in contending for the Faith. We must not shirk standing up for the oppressed. We must not keep quiet when we should speak up. Jesus said, “whoever is ashamed of me and my words, of him will the Son of man be ashamed …” (Luke 9:26). Let us be proud of our Lord and our faith.
Warfare is dangerous and will involve casualties. The contender for Christ can similarly expect to be misunderstood, criticised or even worse. But we fight on in the name of Christ. The Holy Spirit has been given to us to bring us out from behind locked doors where we might hide for fear, and has given us boldness to stand up for good against evil.
Father, forgive me when I want to remain a child, irresponsible and nurtured. Help me to take my place in the battle against evil, whatever the cost. Amen.
1 What helped Joshua in his battle against the Amalekites?
“O that you would kiss me with the kisses of your mouth” (v.2) RSV
The world loves a lover. God loves lovers. But he also wants to keep them from self-destruction. God is not ashamed of physical love nor of the passions that draw young lovers together. However, there are restraints and guidelines.
The Song of Solomon delights in God’s gift of love and sexual union. Certainly it is also an analogy (and a wonderful one at that) of the union between Christ and his Church. But primarily it rejoices in the gift of young love.
These wild passions can however easily run out of control. Greed and lust can take over. Instant gratification ruins self-control. Our times are so often not God’s times. We need to grow in patience, commitment and thoughts for others outside ourselves.
This is also true spiritually. The Christian or believer can reach a point of ecstatic enthusiasm. He is totally in love with Jesus and loves to sing and praise. He wants to witness to others about his intense joy. Such a person has a great gift, but it has to be tempered with thoughtfulness and sensitivity.
Especially, he needs to be patient with others who are not (apparently) enjoying the same degree of infatuation with Christ. They are not necessarily failing in their love, but may well have gone on to a deeper more constant and devoted love. We cannot all be red-blooded all the time in our spiritual journey. Nevertheless some of us need to rediscover our “first love” (Revelation 2:4).
Thank you Lord Jesus for the first flush of love and enthusiasm that your followers have for you. Help me to rediscover something of that passion. Amen.
1 How can a lover keep his way pure?
2 How were the spiritually hot-blooded Corinthians to keep their
As young Christians we need instruction. Feelings are not sufficient. Sound teaching will lead to sound living. Without it, we will be blown around by every wind of doctrine (Ephesians. 4:14).
When Moses led the people of Israel out of Egypt and through the Red (Reed) Sea to freedom, he had only begun the process. Their ‘baptism’ through the Sea was followed by a short journey to Mount Sinai. Once they arrived, Moses went up the mountain and there received the Ten Commandments. He eventually came down carrying two tablets of stone and proceeded to teach God’s people how they were, from then on, to behave.
Similarly, the newly baptised Christian or the person who has recently come to faith must be instructed as to what God now expects of them. Furthermore, and perhaps even more importantly, they need to know more clearly and fully what God has done for them and what are his promises.
The book of Proverbs has much practical teaching and wisdom. Our reading this week from chapter 4 is one of many passages that promote the need to be instructed. “Hear, O sons, a father’s instruction,” (v.1).
Paul described himself as a father to the Corinthians: “I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel”
(1 Corinthians. 4:15). Paul cared for his churches and he spent much time writing letters to them and instructing them.
People who are young in the faith must look out for instruction. They need to find a good church where, through preaching, fellowship and home groups, they find help. Or else, they need to search websites, book shops, and other sources to find similar help. But especially, they need to read the Bible for themselves. The book is rich in godly instruction. “Get wisdom, get insight” (v.5).
Thank you Lord for those who teach. Help me to be willing to learn, and give me a teachable heart. Amen.
In the play ‘As you like it’ Shakespeare wrote: “All the world’s a stage”. And the players are men and women whose acts are “seven ages”. The first is that of an Infant.
Over the next weeks we will consider the seven stages or ages of being a follower of Christ. The first involves our birth into the Faith. As Jesus said to Nicodemus, “unless one is born anew (or, from above) one cannot see the kingdom of God” (v.3).
It has wisely been said that God has no grandchildren. Each one of us has to become a child of God. This decision may have been made for us when we were tiny, but has been subsequently confirmed by ourselves at a later date, or it may have happened later in life. But whenever it happens it needs to have happened.
We don’t have to be able to remember our birth. Who does? But we need to know that we have been born and are alive! We are not born Christians, we become Christians. The word of God (that is, his ‘seed’) enters into us and by the Holy Spirit causes us to be born again.
Not all of us have had a conversion experience. No matter. That is not the same as new birth. Conversion happens when we are brought up short and turn away from our old life. Those brought up in the faith may have no need to do that. But new birth is essential for all. Sadly even religious and knowledgeable Nicodemus didn’t understand it.
As infants in Christ we will then need nurturing. We cannot sustain ourselves; we are weak and vulnerable. Christian fellowship (the Church) and those who will mother/father us are essential to our spiritual survival. We need encouragement and protection.
Thank you Lord that you protect your infant children. Strengthen and feed me, O Lord, that I may grow up to serve you. Amen.
1 What do infants require?
1 Peter 2:2
2 Some who have been Christians a while are still infants.