Tips from Timothy: Believe & Love

 As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith. The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Some have departed from these and have turned to meaningless talk. They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm. (1 Timothy 1:3-7) (NIV).

After acknowledging Timothy as his “true son in the faith” (v.2), Paul instructed him as a father would a son. Apparently, certain individuals who fancied themselves armchair theologians, and claimed to have special knowledge and insights, were introducing false doctrines to the Ephesian Church. These self-identified “teachers” had become distracted by meaningless arguments and pointless speculations that were creating controversies, corrupting the Ephesian Church, and compromising the message of the Gospel. So, Paul encouraged Timothy to stand against these false teachers by reminding the Ephesians that God’s work is “by faith” and that the “goal” of their message was love, a love that flowed from three specific attributes:

  • a “pure heart” – a heart that was free of corrupt desires and selfish motivations;
  • a “good conscience” – a conscience that was able to distinguish between what was moral and immoral, and that would choose the former over the latter; and
  • a “sincere faith” – a faith that was true and genuine.

I love how beautifully Paul simplified and synthesized what it means to be a “true” son or daughter of God. It means that we work for God by faith alone, and that the “goal” of the Gospel is simply to love others with a love that is selfless, that chooses good over evil, and that is rooted in our genuine faith in Jesus.

Without faith, we labor in vain, our love is vain, and it is impossible to please God. (Cf. Hebrews 11:6).

Believe and love, and you will be a “true” son or daughter of God.

 

Tips from Timothy: A True Son, A True Daughter

To Timothy my true son in the faith . . . (1 Timothy 1:2) (NIV)

Today’s is the first in a series of short, weekly devotionals that will be based on the Apostle Paul’s two letters to a young man named Timothy. Paul led Timothy to Jesus, when he brought the Gospel to the town of Lystra in Asia Minor (present-day Turkey). Timothy, the son of a Gentile father and Jewish mother, later accompanied Paul on some of his missionary journeys. (Cf. Acts 14:8-20; Acts 16:1-5) (NIV).

Paul opened his first letter to Timothy by calling him a “true son in the faith.” (1 Timothy 1:2) (NIV). What an incredible affirmation and encouragement! When I read those words, they arrested my attention because I heard in them not only Paul’s voice but also the voice of the Father. Timothy was not only a “true son” to Paul, he also was a “true son” to God.

As I reflected on that description of Timothy, my own heart longed for God to see me as He saw Timothy, and to speak to me those very same words: “Niki, you are My true son in the faith.” Then, in the midst of that longing and deep yearning of my soul, the Lord spoke to me. He affirmed to me that I am “a true son in the faith,” a son with whom He is “well pleased.” (Cf. Matthew 3:17) (NIV). I do not need to hope for a future day in which I will be ‘good enough’ for God to finally see me as a “true son” in whom He delights. That day has already come; it is already here!  And it is not because of anything I have done or accomplished; it is simply because I have put my faith in what His firstborn Son – my Savior, Lord, and older brother – accomplished on my behalf two thousand years ago.

Through my faith in Jesus, I have received the Spirit of adoption that has made me a son of the Living God – a son who, like Jesus, can call Him “Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15; Mark 14:36) (NIV). It is a life-changing, hope-giving, mind-blowing truth with eternal implications: I am a “true son” of the King of Kings, the Creator of all things, the Ancient of Days.

And the same is true of you: If you have placed your faith in Jesus Christ, you are a “true” son or daughter of God Most High. You have been clothed in His righteousness; you have been imbued with His power; you have been enthroned beside Him in heavenly places; and you have been made a co-heir with Jesus to an eternal inheritance of incalculable value and indescribable glory. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21; Acts 1:8; Ephesians 2:6; Romans 8:17-18) (NIV). No matter how many times you stumble, no matter how many times you fail, no matter how many times you fall short, no matter how poor or negative your image of (or thoughts about) yourself, your Heavenly Father sees you as and speaks of you as His “true son,” His “true daughter.”

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (1 John 3:1) (NIV).