When I was training as an infantry officer at Fort Benning, Georgia in 1979, one of the exercises we often practiced was platoon tactics. They were training us to lead a platoon of 120 men into combat. Often they sent us on reconnaissance patrols. Depending on whether it was day or night, what kind of terrain, and situational awareness of enemy intelligence, we were trained on what formation we should use. During daytime, we used a wedge formation, but during the night in dense forest, we’d go single file. I remember one night exercise we were in black conditions. That meant we were single file going through woods and all you could see were two “glow in the dark” tabs on the back of the patrol cap of the guy in front. We were supposed to be six to ten feet apart, but often closer because we had a hard time keeping up with the “eyes.”
Of course we’d play pranks like place a patrol cap on a branch, or hold the cap on a big tree and you’d hear guys walk right into the tree and of course muffle a few choice words. There was a dark night, so dark, we were holding onto the gear of the guy in front of you. At one point, I heard soldiers going over an embankment and hearing the “Ahhhhh…” as the soldiers slid, tumbled, rolled on top of each other in a heap at the bottom and the Tac Officer running back screaming at us to get our stuff together.
Do you know that happens in a church? How do you keep people tracking truth, so they don’t wander into the darkness? How do you keep people tracking truth, so they don’t pull others down spiritual embankments? How do you help parents lead their children in this society so their children will pursue the truth? Begin by following the principles from last Sunday. First, grasp Jesus’ call. Secondly, charge followers to press forward in truth. Thirdly, purpose to live Jesus’ love in truth. Many can “charge” and many can “love,” but few can do both at the same time. How do you keep people tracking truth?
1) Recognize that people stray from truth 1:6-7
The first thing is to recognize is that people stray from the truth. We’re not talking about unbelievers who are not in the truth, but those who were in the truth and they stray away. We live in Disneyland. I’m not talking about Disney World, or Disneyland in California, I’m talking about the United States. Steve Dupuy, a missionary we have supported gave a message here called “Distracted in Disneyland.” We have so many things to distract us away from God’s purposes and calling that we can distract others from God’s truth and will. Let us get this in context,
5 Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith, (1 Tim. 1:5 NKJ)
If God’s love is not involved, God’s calling will not work. That love will be evident, because of a pure, or cleansed, heart set aside for Jesus, a good conscience, that is, one that works for the benefit of others set by God’s Word, and a sincere faith, that is, a non-hypocritical faith, or one that lives transparently set according to God’s Word. From this many will turn aside,
6 from which some, having strayed, have turned aside to idle talk, (1 Tim. 1:6 NKJ)
There are some, who turn to idle talk. Again, this is not referring to unbelievers. They are already in idleness, emptiness, darkness, etc. This refers to men like Hymenaeus & Alexander in 1 Timothy 1:20 and the people in 1 Timothy 4:1-2, who strayed from the truth and the people mentioned in 1 Tim. 6:3-5, who wrangle about doctrines and words. And these people believe they’re doing the right thing!
The text says some strayed and they turned aside. They were in God’s love, but they strayed. They are like sheep that wander from the fold. They see greener pastures, or think there is a stream over that hill, so they turn aside. Something pulls them away. It may be a real smiley face, something that makes them feel good, or even a relationship. The idle words are empty, futile and useless words. It’s talk that has no kingdom purpose. Talk that exists for “talk” sake. Some may call it fellowship. When they turn aside, they teach as their own authority,
7 desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm. (1 Tim. 1:7 NKJ)
The law was the authority, but they wanted to be the authority. What happens when people want to be the authority? They teach the law as legalists. They love the prominence. They love people listening to them. They love the sense of having little followers and they will guilt people to follow them. Does it happen in the church? Sure it happens today, when people become men-centered rather than Jesus-centered. Paul wrote about it to the Corinthians,
12 Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? (1 Cor. 1:12-13 NKJ)
They don’t understand that they pull others from truth after themselves.
- They form their own clique. They think they have the answers.
- They set up themselves as the authority. They get angry if someone questions them or do not listen.
- They go against the established church authority. They sow seeds of discord.
- They spread like cancer 2 Tim. 2:17. They use ministry for self.
- They create division in God’s body – the church.
How do you keep people tracking truth? First, recognize that people stray from the truth. Do not be shocked, do not fret and do not lose your focus on Jesus Christ to live by the Truth.
2) Live by the Truth 1:8-10
That sounds almost trite. Of course, we are supposed to live by the truth. Listen closely to this significant point. What happens when you don’t live by the Truth? You make your own law.
The law was important and has a place in God’s history. What was its place?
8 But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully (1 Tim. 1:8 NKJ)
The law is good as a blessing, if one uses it lawfully, that is, see their need for a Savior and recognizes the law reflects God’s perfect character. The “if” means “maybe they will and maybe they won’t.” Law wasn’t given to establish authority; it was an authority. If used rightly, the law was good. If the law was used for bad, that is for selfish, self-promoting purposes and not lawfully, then it was not used for its intended purpose. What was its intended purpose? Notice how Paul uses it,
O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you2 as crucified? 2 This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? 4 Have you suffered so many things in vain– if indeed it was in vain? (Gal. 3:1-4 NKJ)
They received the Spirit, not by keeping the law in the flesh, but by hearing of faith. So they also do not grow up spiritually by keeping the law, but by trusting by faith in God’s work by His Spirit. What was the purpose of the law then? Paul wrote, “Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” (Gal. 3:24 NKJ) The purpose of the law was to show us we could not keep the law ourselves, so we needed someone else to pay the penalty of sin for us and be our Mediator. That Mediator was Jesus Christ!
But the law is still good, if we understand the law. Paul wrote,
9 knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, (1 Tim. 1:9 NKJ)
The law is not made for the righteous! Why? Because the righteous will love God and love others. Do you realize that we really should not have a need for traffic laws? Let’s just talk about the “stop sign.” Can you imagine how much money we could save if we didn’t have to install stop signs? Listen, the first stop sign was in Detroit, Michigan in 1915. If we all were courteous and careful every time we approached an intersection, there would be no need for stop signs. If I approached an intersection under the Law of Christ and slowed down, looked all ways and then proceeded, poof, no stop sign needed! If I saw a vehicle coming, I would slow down and let them go first if there is a question, because I don’t want to be a stumbling block for them (or a sudden stop)! I wouldn’t try to get through, because I would deny myself for the sake of others! However, we need stop signs, because I am often self-centered and I may not be focused or as courteous and careful as I ought to be! Obviously, there are many people who are not courteous nor careful! Stop signs are for lawbreakers. Paul says it well,
13 For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself1.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another! (Gal 5:13-15 NKJ)
Paul gives a list of lawbreakers in 1 Tim. 1:9. The lawless are those who are anti-law or live under no law. The insubordinate are those who won’t submit to authority, whether a sign or a person. The ungodly and sinners are those who are not on track with the Lord Jesus. The murderers of fathers and mothers are those who are so calloused they murder the ones who brought them into the world in grace. They are on the extreme end of lawless types. You have read in the last few years several cases of sons who have killed their parents or grandparents.
Paul continues in 1 Timothy 1:10,
10 for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine. (1 Tim. 1:10 NKJ)
These are all contrary to “sound” teaching. From the word “sound” in the original Greek, we get the word “hygiene.” Paul uses that word two more times in his second letter to Timothy (2 Tim. 1:13; 4:3). It’s interesting also that he uses the word “doctrine” seven times in this first letter alone (1 Tim. 1:10; 4:1,6,13,16; 5:17; 6:1). Why did Paul use it so many times? Because Paul knew by the end of his life, that doctrine was so important. If people did not have a Biblical foundation, they couldn’t have a good relational environment or understand why discipleship was so important. If they did not know that, then they would not multiply. It all begins with understanding sound doctrine.
Too many times teachers and people become sloppy in their use of Scripture. They misuse Scripture. For example, they will restrict their diet to the Old Testament or restrict their use of fabrics, or avoid milk and meat products together because of Exodus 23:19, which says, “…don’t boil a kid it its mother’s milk…” They fail to understand the context or God’s mandates for that period of history. We have lost a whole generation of young people because parents do not use Scripture and do not live it out in humility. How do you live the truth?
- Listen but always verify to Scripture. Don’t be cynical or ignorant from not studying.
- Study the OT based on the NT. Progressive revelation means you consider all of Scripture according to its context.
- There is one interpretation and many applications.
- Ensure you understand the context or the text becomes a pre-text.
- Harmonize to all of Scripture. There can be no contradictions.
How do you keep people tracking Truth? Recognize people stray, so exhort them to live by the Truth. That is far more difficult that the words convey. It is the difficulty of knowing when to command, charge or exhort people in the environment of love. We are either good at exhortation or good at “love,” but discerning both is a challenge. It’s a challenge, because some need more exhortation and some need more love and patience. The best way to balance the two is to make the gospel primary.
3) Make the gospel primary 1:11
How do you make the gospel primary? Consider Paul’s words,
11 according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust. (1 Tim. 1:10-11 NKJ)
First, it is a glorious gospel. How many times has it happened to you that you are in a dark room and someone turns on the lights? “Whoa, it’s so bright,” you express as you rub your eyes!
That’s what should happen when you respond to the gospel! As an unbeliever, you are in the darkest of darkness and you hear the gospel. What is your response? “Oh, I didn’t know I didn’t have to or couldn’t work my way to heaven!” “Oh, I didn’t know I didn’t have to be a good person, because I could never be good enough to satisfy the holiness of God!” “Oh, this is so cool that God is giving this salvation as a free gift!” “Wow, I make the choice to trust in Jesus and He freely gives me eternal life? Wow!” It is a glorious gospel! It is not just what those outside need to hear, but those inside the church.
Secondly, it belongs to God. It did not come from a man, preacher, or church. It came from and belongs to God, who is blessed because of what He is and did and because we bless His holy name.
Thirdly, that glorious gospel has been committed to your trust. Paul said it well, “4 But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts. (1 Thes. 2:4; cf. Titus 1:3 NKJ)
Here’s the key:
Living the gospel keeps people tracking Truth.
The gospel reminds you to:
- Be humble before Jesus. You realized as an unbeliever in darkness that you needed a Savior. You realized couldn’t save yourself, so you humbled yourself then. You must continue that now to keep people tracking truth.
- Stay on target to disciple others. It starts with knowing the gospel which is explained clearly in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. It is the irreducible minimum of the Christian faith and life. Join a home group to share the joy of learning how to do ministry. Learn how to put into practice the process of discipleship.
- Focus on Jesus. The author of Hebrews said it well, “…looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb. 12:2 NKJ) We run the race looking to Jesus the author of our faith, who keeps us tracking truth.
- Spur others on to love in Jesus. People will stray away. Recognize people will stray, to live by the Truth and make the gospel primary to bring people back to tracking Truth. James said it so well,
19 Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, 20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soulfrom death and cover a multitude of sins. (Jam. 5:19-20 NKJ)
That is from a person who makes the gospel primary, because of the joy he has in Jesus Christ. Do you have His joy?
Message Based Discussion Questions
1) Have you ever been lost? How? What did you do?
2) Read Gal. 3:22-26. What was the purpose of the Law? ______ ___________________ ____________________ What are several reasons the law is necessary today? What would have to be true so that laws were not necessary?
3) David was a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22). Did David always obey the Lord (2 Sam. 12:7-9) _____________ What brought David back to the Lord?
4) What are some examples of people who strayed from the truth in Scripture? ________________ , _________________, __________________ What brought them back?
5) How do you know that you are making the gospel primary? What does that look like?
Making application of the message to life:
6) What safeguards do you have to prevent you from wandering from the truth? How do you pass those safeguards on to others around you?
7) How do you know that the gospel is your primary focus for life?
Bonus question: What were the three parts of the Law mentioned in the message? Which parts are active today? How?