As we come to the end of the first half of the year, we also come to the last week of our readings either about Paul or written by Paul. What have we learned about Paul? God used him significantly to bring the gospel to the west. From a human standpoint, we have his leadership to thank for our lives being transformed. What do we know about his leadership?
The books we are reading this week are full of leadership tools and insights. In 1 Timothy Paul says, “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers (Chapter 4:16).” Isn’t this the essence of leadership? Managing yourself in such a way that it affects people around you and they follow your example?
We could go point by point throughout the readings this week and find advice on money management and contentment with possessions in Chapter 6. We could look at 2 Timothy and hear the challenge to keep running the race and trust the Scriptures in which God has revealed the manner to live. We can also read Titus and receive an incredible list of how to live a life of integrity…but we could miss the key to all of this. Have I got your attention?
The key to all of this, that Paul knew so well, is in Augustine’s words, “ Well ordered love.” Christ was the center of everything Paul did. It’s all over his life. At the end of 2 Timothy, which is considered Paul’s last writing, he says he has run the race for the one who he longs to see.
An example of this, which alludes to last week’s idea of biblical comparison (in the practical application section), is to look at the Ten Commandments, which we are studying in the main services at FHC. The key to these commandments is hidden in the first one, “You shall have no other gods before me.” If the love of God is at the center of your life, the next nine laws are ways to keep free people living in freedom. The laws are meant to turn us into leaders God can use. If we miss the first commandment, and God is not at the center, then the rest become laws to keep up moral appearances while missing the whole purpose for life.
Paul knew this and even in Philemon, as he is making a godly decision to be honest, he gives the picture of his situation connected directly to his love and commitment to Jesus Christ. If we make Christ the centerpiece of our entire lives, he will use us as leaders to affect others for His honor.
Tips for Reading (Interpretation tip #8) (Note: This section is help for Bible Reading in general. It has been building throughout the year under the topics of Observation (what the Scripture says), Interpretation (what it means) and Application (what it means to your life). Feel free to look back over past weeks to get the whole picture. We’ve been examining the idea of interpreting Scripture to find out what the meaning of the passage is and what the author was really saying. It’s a good time in the midst of the process to let the Holy Spirit interpret our lives for a bit. How am I doing with the example I have been reading of the life of Paul? Do I have a well-ordered heart? Is Christ at the center of everything, not out of obligation but of love? How does it affect my temperament at home? How does it affect what I watch on TV? How I shop? How I live out the Ten Commandments?
Here are some questions author John Ortberg asks himself about organizing a well-ordered heart. Maybe you can amend them into questions you ask yourself each day this week in an attempt to examine if your heart is focused on Christ? All of these are conduits for connecting us back to God.
How and when will I pray today? How will I handle money in a way that draws me closer to God? How can I approach work in a way that will help Christ be formed in me? How will I be involved in Christian community today? How will I show compassion today? How can I fill my daily tasks with a sense of the presence of God?
Notes from David's Journal
I’d like for all of you to spend some time reading 2 Timothy Chapters 3-4. Though I’m not an alarmist, nor do I sit on top of a mountain waiting any moment for Jesus’ return, I do think these characteristics of all societies throughout the world that will happen immediately before Jesus comes back are interesting. Read them closely. Ask yourself if any of them are in my life and family. If so, make a commitment today to begin, by His grace, to eliminate them and live appropriately for Christ.
As you read Titus, remember that Titus, Paul’s companion, is being sent to the island of Crete to preach the Gospel and establish the Church there. As you read it, it could help you gain insights for witnessing to a very godless culture. Crete was known for its godlessness, sensuality and gross immorality. Yet into this culture Paul sends Titus. You’ll receive, as I have, great insights to help know how to witness to those who live in moral relativism and godlessness.
Continue to enjoy our march through the New Testament. To God alone belongs all the glory.