MSG: Train Your Replacements: How to Discern Truth: 1 Timothy 4:1-5

This message was presented on March 23, 2014 as part of the 1 Timothy series.

Alertness. Alertness is one of the most important concepts of your life.  When I was going through my flight training, my reflexes and coordination were not alert to what winds could do to that TH55 (training helicopter). We called it the “eggbeater,” because it beat us up.  After I soloed, I was often by myself, which meant I no longer had an IP (instructor pilot) there to take hold of the controls. I had to be alert.

One day I was soloing at one of the practice fields and received a message from the tower to return to Hanchey helicopter stage field to secure the helicopter.  I departed the traffic pattern and saw a huge cloud of dirt coming at me.  A huge wind had come up and a wall of dust was moving toward the field.

There is another “Pilate” who did not make a good decision. Pontius Pilate tried to be alert, but missed his opportunity to make the right decision. John 18:33-38,

33 Then Pilate entered the Praetorium again, called Jesus, and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered him, “Are you speaking for yourself about this, or did others tell you this concerning Me?” 35 Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered You to me. What have You done?” 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.” 37 Pilate therefore said to Him, “Are You a king then?” Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” 38 Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” (John 18:33-38 NKJ)

What is truth? Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth.” (John 14:6 NKJ) Are you alert to His Truth?

Chapter one of 1 Timothy warned us of false teaching.  Chapter two brought out many truths on prayer and worship.  Chapter three described the quality of leadership needed to maintain Truth in the church.  Chapter four turns us back to the spiritual warfare and alertness we need to discern Truth. Why disciple to His Truth?

1)    Demons will deceive believers from Jesus 4:1

What is this passage about?  It’s about Jesus. Let me show you.

Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons. (1 Tim. 4:1 NKJ)

This is a Divine warning, Paul stated – expect this to happen! He said that the Spirit “expressly says,” and this is not the only place there will be a departure. Look over to 2 Peter,

20 For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. 21 For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. (2 Pet. 2:20-21 NKJ)

How many of you have gone swimming in the White River? Anyone drink out of it? No, of course not!  It’s too polluted. You want to stay away from it. But on a hot summer day with no wind, the air pollution index can rise, especially in larger cities and you can’t escape it. Peter described those who had escaped the pollution of the world, and became Christians through the full knowledge of Jesus, yet were again entangled. They lived in carnality or what we would call the “downward spiral.” If they don’t get out of that downward spiral, the end would be worse than if they had never fully known the way of righteousness, which is the way of salvation. There is something horrible about denying the power and provision of the Lord for eternity. As Paul said, all their works would be burned and they’d smell smoky into eternity. Don’t fall into complacency or carnality.  It’s blasphemous.

When the control tower told us to return to the stage field, we went. Those who were slow to return had to put their helicopter down in a farmer’s field, because the wind was so bad. Fortunately, we did not lose anyone.

How many young people have been warned about the internet and chat rooms? And how many have connected up with a predator on line without knowing it? “Law enforcement officials estimate that as many as 50,000 sexual predators are online at any given moment.” (Dateline, January 2006) Another site said, “65% of online sex offenders used the victim’s social networking site to gain home and school information about the victim.” (Journal of Adolescent Health 47, 2010)

Paul said this would happen in “latter times.”  Latter times started in the first century. Paul said in 2 Timothy 3:1, that perilous times will come.

Additionally, Paul said they would “depart from the faith.” The faith is used passively for what is believed, or the body of truth. We’ve seen this already in 1 Timothy 1:18-20,

18 This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, 19 having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck, 20 of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme. (1 Tim. 1:18-20 NKJ)

Timothy was in a warfare, and so are we! But it’s a good warfare, because Jesus is the victor and it brings Him glory. There are some who had “faith and a good conscience.”  They were saved and enjoying good fellowship with the Lord, but then rejected Him and “suffered shipwreck.” Why did they suffer shipwreck? The same reason Peter denied the Lord, the same reason Paul blew up with Barnabas, and the same reason the disciples scattered. We all have a sin nature and we let it control us rather than God’s Spirit.

Then Paul mentioned Hymenaeus and Alexander. We tend to demonize them, but they had mothers. They were loved by someone! They were in the church, probably serving and teaching, but something happened. Maybe someone mistreated them. Maybe they became jealous of Paul. They were no longer floating in fellowship with the Lord. Paul put them out of the church, so they would not learn to blaspheme.

This is the same thing Paul did to the young man, mentioned in 1 Corinthians 5:1-5, who was committing incest with his stepmother. Paul admonished the Church at Corinth to not practice a false grace, but hold him to the holiness of God. In fact, the admonition was to put him out of the church, out from under the umbrella of protection and let the devil work him over. Why? He has departed from the faith.

The word for departed means “to stand away from.” This term is used in 2 Thessalonians to describe the church in the latter days that will fall away from Christ Jesus. Are people in America falling away?  There are denominations that started out strong. They were Bible believing, Bible teaching organisms who were evangelizing and discipling thousands of people. But in these latter days they are compromising with all sorts of heresies. Why?  What is really behind it?

Paul explains that they were “giving heed.” Instead of clinging to Truth, they were paying attention to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons.  How many predators have been successful on line? In 82% of online sex crimes against minors, the offender used the victim’s social networking site to gain information about the victim’s likes and dislikes. (Journal of Adolescent Heatlh 47, 2010) One in five children who use computer chat rooms have been approached over the Internet by a pedophile. (i-Safe Inc) One in seven kids who use the Internet has been solicited for sex online. (Crime Against Children Research Center)

These deceiving spirits are organized by the great deceiver himself. Jesus said, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.” (John 10:10a) They promote demonic doctrines that are not just bad, but dark, and can cause churches to become callused as Paul wrote,

8 Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him. 9 For to this end I also wrote, that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things. 10 Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive. For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ, 11 lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices. (2 Cor. 2:8-11 NKJ)

These verses referred to the incestuous young man mentioned earlier in 1 Corinthians 5:1-5. After he was put out of the church, he repented and wanted to rejoin the church, which had become prideful and did not want to let him. Paul rebuked them to let him return, because there was a “big picture issue.” Satan had influenced the church with pride and self-righteousness. Paul explained how this happened later in his letter,

12 But what I do, I will also continue to do, that I may cut off the opportunity from those who desire an opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the things of which they boast. 13 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. 15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works. (2 Cor. 11:12-15 NKJ)

The false teachers appeared right, sounded good, and taught many Biblical things. The enemy has been doing this for 1000s of years. They wanted to be considered apostles of Christ, just like Paul.  They had the looks, the poise, the confidence and much knowledge, because they boasted about what they knew, their experiences and their spirituality. Many Christians fall for that today. When it says they are “his ministers” we think of men wearing red capes, green eyes, horns and pitch forks.  No, they look like ministers of righteousness. And just like the Pharisees, they will be rewarded according to their works.

Who would like this money?  Let me give this to you.  Does this sound okay? What? You don’t like it? What’s the matter with it? Oh, it’s counterfeit. How do you know? That is right.  How does this happen? Paul explained in 1 Timothy 1,

5 Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith, 6 from which some, having strayed, have turned aside to idle talk, 7 desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm. (1 Tim. 1:5-7 NKJ)

Those who strayed were Christians. Unbelievers are already away from Truth. They may read it, but they’ve never taken it as their own. These Christians turned aside to false teachings that pleased the flesh, but not God. There may be a great deal of Truth taught, but add some error and it’s no longer good. How many of you would eat a box of d-Con? Why not? The contents are 98% inert ingredients, which are probably fine. The problem is with the 2% part.  That is why Truth is so important, because even a little demonic influence can pull people from Jesus.

Why disciple to Truth? Disciple because demons will deceive believers from Jesus, but also believers will become involved in the deception process.

2)    Believers will be deceived  away from Jesus 4:2

2 speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron (1 Tim. 4:2 NKJ)

This is a grave passage. The unbeliever is already under the control of the devil (Eph. 2:2), but something can happen to the Christian. His conscience can be seared, which means he has slipped down the downward spiral and the callousness has hardened his heart. The seared conscience (pfpp kausterizo) means a red-hot branding iron has killed the nerve endings. The nerve endings are dead and the Holy Spirit’s conviction does not penetrate into the soul. There is too much scar tissue. It’s like branding of cattle, which causes scar tissue so fur doesn’t grow back.  When the person is so seared, he lives out lies and he believes them.

Speaking lies is living in hypocrisy. Scripture has several examples of this. The Pharisees were known for memorizing the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament. They dressed well, prayed on street corners and were known to be highly religious men. But what did Jesus say? “Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Matt. 23:28 NKJ)  But this does not just apply to the Pharisees. Believers can be misled and be involved in the hypocrisy of deception. Peter was eating hambones and pigs in a blanket with the Gentiles in Galatia, but when the Judaizers came into town, he withdrew from them in hypocrisy. Barnabas was also carried away with their hypocrisy as Paul wrote, “And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy.” (Gal. 2:13 NKJ) There were many Jewish believers who were caught up in this false gospel.

Another reference from Paul is in 2 Timothy 2, where Paul is helping Timothy think through how to deal with believers who are in opposition. He wrote,

24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, 26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will. (2 Tim. 2:24-26 NKJ)

There are plenty of believers who are in opposition to each other in the church. They are brothers, washed by the blood and going to heaven, but in opposition. Paul explained that God may grant them repentance, but He may also let them stay in their hardness of heart.  They were ensnared by the devil because he had taken them captive to do his will. They were under his control like the unbelievers (Eph. 2:2). They were free in Christ, but  had come back under his influence and now did his bidding of division and hypocrisy.

Later in the same letter 2 Timothy 3), Paul identified what will happen to many Christians. Many people think this refers to unbelievers, because believers would never be “lovers of self,” etc. Or would they? Are believers sometime disobedient to parents? Yes! Notice what Paul said, “…having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!” (2 Tim. 3:5 NKJ) These are not just religious people like the Pharisees who put on a façade of religiosity, these are believers who follow the flesh, rather than Jesus.

What kinds of things will cause people to become indifferent, even hardened toward God? Those who consume illegal drugs. I was talking with a police officer who has on a number of occasions come across people who are more concerned with getting their next hit of heroin than taking care of their children. A mother gives away her children, so she can pursue getting her high. The same can happen with drunkenness, or dabbling in the occult or sexual sins, like pornography.  It sears your soul and you care little about others. Paul describes this in the downward spiral from Eph. 4:17-19. Some of you know of high school friends who dabbled with drugs in school and now they are hooked and numb to life.  They then fall into speaking lies in hypocrisy.  They depend on their physical senses, and live a false spirituality, rather than fall at the foot of the cross and depend on Jesus.

3)    Some believers will deceive the body away from the Truth of Jesus 4:3 

4)    Jesus revealed His Truth in His Word for you 4:4-5

 Jesus is Truth: Follow Him and you’ll learn with believers to discern Truth!

  • Do not deceive yourself that you can discern all things.  Even with the Word, you will need God’s Spirit and disciplers of God’s Word.
  • Commit to follow Jesus and He’ll transform your discernment to know the Truth.
  • Radically follow Him rather than vegging in the world.

This passage has addressed the danger of falling away from Jesus to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons. It can and does happen to believers. Any movement away from God’s saving gospel and the Truth of His Word is dangerous. But there is something more dangerous.  And that is how we relate to those who are in the family at Grace.

I’ll always seek purity of doctrine, but I want to make sure I can reach the heart of people. That is, I want people to know the Truth, but I must have a good relationship with them to lead them to it.  People are the priority. Unless people know they are important, we may miss an opportunity to share with them the Truth of Jesus we saw last Sunday. Will some need to be put out of the church, like the young man who was committing incest from 1 Corinthians 5?  Yes. But we need to establish a process and live by it, so that people  know the same love of Jesus as He expressed on the cross.

We are still human and there is never an excuse for doing it wrong. However, there is never an excuse for any sin anyone commits. So for the sake of the unity of the Spirit, there is forgiveness and we can restore the bond of peace in humility and tender-heartedness. Unless we are alert to the Spirit’s leading, we may crash.

The day I soloed the wind changed.  The tower cleared all the helicopters out to get me down. Why? The TH55 has a tail fin that when the wind is coming from the rear, it can pick up the helicopter and flip it over. As I was landing, the wind shifted so I was landing with the wind. It was like riding a bucking bronco. I was drenched by the time I landed. It was a hard lesson on alertness.

Are you more concerned about the people around you being doctrinally correct, or in reaching their heart so you can lead them to Jesus? Jesus is the Truth, but He also came in grace and Truth. (John  1:17). Is there a wife, or husband, or child, or parent, or friend with whom you are at odds in this family? Some will depart from the Truth, but without your relationship, you won’t be able to bring them to the Truth. The Spirit expressly says, seek restoration of the relationship and experience the joy of Jesus’ Truth. Let the Spirit guide you in the Truth!

 Message Based Discussion Questions

1)    What kind of television shows or movies question Truth in some way?

Digging Deeper:

2)    Does God speak to us today? ________________  What different ways has God spoken according to Scripture? What and whom does He use to communicate the truth?

3)    Today, are there any sources that promote what is not true? _____________ How does the enemy try to deceive believers today? (cf. Job 1:6-11; Eph. 4:17-18; 1 Cor. 10:19-21; 1 Thes. 2:18;  1 Pet. 5:6-8;  Heb. 2:14-15)

4)    Does alertness really matter that much after a person becomes a Christian? ______________ Why is alertness so important to Paul (cf. 1 Tim. 4:1; 2 Tim. 4:4; Titus 1:14)?

Making application from the message:

5)    What five steps could you incorporate into your life to be more alert to deceitfulness?

6)    How would you help a youth or disciple become more alert to deceitfulness?

7)    What does it look like that Jesus is your only source of Truth?


  • Communion Table   1 Cor. 10:20-21
  • Gospel                       2 Cor. 11:3-4
  • Ministers                    2 Cor. 11:12-15
  • Spirituality                 Gal. 3:2-3
  • Righteousness          Matthew 19:16-28
  • gods                          2 Thes. 2:3-4
  • Power                        2 Thes. 2:8-10
  • Religions                   Matthew 23

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