This message was presented on March 30, 2014 as part of the series on 1 Timothy.
Alertness. We looked at alertness to Truth last Sunday, because mainline Christianity is falling away from it! I am concerned about Christians being pulled into the Christian Science, Mormon, and Jehovah Witness cults (among others), because those are obviously false doctrines. But for those in Protestantism who are compromising Truth, the drift is often more subtle. Do you know of churches that have moved away from Truth? How about denominations? What about Christians who professed Jesus and pursued following His Lordship, but allowed some intense suffering, mistreatment from leadership at church, or an unfair situation to cause them to depart from Jesus? Why did it happen? Because our minds and flesh like to explore new things and deceiving spirits like to fill up that desire. My friends, purity of Truth is essential, because what percentage of poison is in d-CON? Only 2 %. But unless we love each other, we’ll never be able to lead each other to the Truth.
In 1 Timothy, Chapter 1 warned us of false teaching. Chapter 2 brought out many truths on prayer and worship. Chapter 3 described the quality of leadership needed to maintain Truth in the church. Chapter 4 turns us back to the spiritual warfare and alertness we need to discern Truth. Why disciple others to a closer walk with Jesus where they follow Him, instead of Truth principles (Biblical Commandments)?
1) Demons will deceive believers away from Jesus 1 Tim. 4:1
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)
Last week we looked at these passages and studied about how believers can depart from Truth. Satan will use people who appear to be “good” and “ministers of righteousness” to deceive believers away from Jesus. These are the passages we looked at: 2 Peter 2:20-21; 1 Timothy 1:18-20; 1 Corinthians 5:1-5; 2 Corinthians 2:8-11; 11:12-15.
Why disciple others to follow Jesus, instead of Truth principles? Because demons will deceive believers from Jesus! And, because some believers are deceived from Jesus.
2) Some believers are deceived away from Jesus 1 Tim. 4:2
2 speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron (1 Tim. 4:2 NKJ)
We looked at the seared conscience like a cattle is branded with a red-hot iron. A similar thing happens when a person commits sin. Every sin adds more and more callousness around the soul and it becomes less sensitive to the convicting, guiding ministry of the Holy Spirit. A person is seared, not just from rebellion, but from living independently from God or being indifferent to His plan. Because he is not connected to the Divine power source, he lives out the lies of the enemy.
What causes this? Drugs (illegal drugs, or even prescription ones that are abused), can be involved in this process, as can sin patterns like drunkenness and dabbling in the occult. Any sexual sin, like pornography, will deaden the conscience. In other words, any life-dominating sin can produce calluses on the soul. Some of you may know of high school friends who dabbled with drugs and now they are hooked on them, and numb to life. They fall into a life of hypocrisy. They depend on their physical senses, instead of the Holy Spirit.
We also discussed how Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and said that they were righteous on the outside, but inwardly lived in hypocrisy and lawlessness. The Pharisees were unbelievers, but then we looked at how Paul rebuked two church leaders, who WERE believers – Peter and Barnabas! They had compromised God’s Word, lived hypocrisy and pulled other believers away from grace. Let’s look at 2 Timothy.
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 will be opposition in the church. Why? So that we will learn to depend on the Lord! Paul explained that we need to be gentle, patient (more concerned for the other person than being “right” yourself), and able to teach. Notice the waiting aspect of whether God will grant repentance or not. Notice also verse 26, because it describes how the devil has taken someone captive to do his will. This person doesn’t look any different and may live a moral life, but Satan will influence him to do his work of causing division and discouragement. Notice, the devil took him captive. He’s still a believer and he may not even realize how he is working for the other side. Why would this happen? James explained this,
Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. (Jam. 4:1-2 NKJ)
Another interesting passage is 2 Timothy 3. Some people look at this list of problems and assume it is referring to unbelievers,
But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! (2 Tim. 3:1-5 NKJ)
Do any of you know Christians who are “lovers of themselves?” How about “lovers of money”? What about Christians who are “disobedient to parents”? Yes, we all know “others” who are like that! And then Paul said in verse five, they have “a form of godliness, but deny its power. From such people, turn away!” This is a warning to turn from Christians who have denied the Lord. We already know non-Christians deny the Lord and they need the gospel, so we wouldn’t turn away from them. We need to share the gospel with them. How does this happen?
Turn to Ephesians 4:17. It happens because of the downward spiral. I use the acrostic “NEBISCO” as a memory device to remember the seven steps of the downward spiral. Paul wrote,
17 This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; 19 who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. (Eph. 4:17-19 NKJ)
Note in verse 17 that he wrote to “you.” Who is the “you”? Look back at Ephesians 1:1-4,
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him. (Eph. 1:1-4 NKJ)
Paul wrote to the “saints.” He explained that they shared “our” Father and that God blessed “us” with every spiritual blessing. Then he wrote, “…just as He chose us in Him.” Every statement made here is directed to the believer, not the unbeliever. There were no church buildings where non-believers wandered into as in our modern day churches. The Christians gathered themselves together in each other’s homes, away from the world to learn and worship. What Paul wrote here was directed to Christians. There are seven steps to this “downward spiral”, and the acrostic “NEBISCO” can be used to bring them to mind,
The first step of NEBISCO is Negative sinful choices, “..that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk.” The Christians in Ephesus were Gentiles, but they were not to walk in the sinful choices as the unsaved Gentiles around them.
The second step of NEBISCO is Emptiness of the soul, “…in the futility of their mind.” Paschal said that in the heart of every man is a God-shaped vacuum that can only be filled by God. Yes, the soul is like a vacuum cleaner, and it will suck in whatever you feed it. If you don’t feed it the Word of God, it is amazing all the worldly things it will suck in!
The third step of NEBISCO is Blackout of the soul, “…having their understanding darkened.” What happens when the sweeper does its work? It gets dark inside and that is what happens in your soul if you take in the world.
The fourth and fifth steps of NEBISCO come next as Ignorance induced and Separation from God, “…being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart.” Notice the text reads “alienated from God“, which is step five, but it is followed by the word “because.” This word reveals the cause for the alienation or separation from God, which is “ignorance that is in them.” Where does that ignorance come from? Notice the next phrase, “because of the blindness of their heart.” Where does that come from? Remember steps two and three – the vacuum and the blackout of the soul? The vacuum of the soul sucks in the dirt of the world and that produces a darkened understanding. That produces a blindness of the heart, which causes ignorance to be induced and because the person loses perspective and understanding of God, he is separated from God. That leads to the next two steps.
The sixth step of NEBISCO is a Callused soul, “…who, being past feeling.” When I was a boy, I had great calluses on my feet from running around in shorts, a t-shirt and bare feet. Those calluses were good. But when I am indifferent toward God or independent from God or rebellious against God, I build up calluses on my soul, so that the Holy Spirit is less able to pierce my heart. He is able, but it takes a big emotional event at times to get through. Every time I sin, I add callus cells around the soul and the more I live that way, the more I pursue my fleshly desires, rather than godly desires. In fact, it can lead to the last step.
The seventh step of NEBISCO is Occupation with evil, “…have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.” This is the person who is strung out on drugs and cares little for others, but where her next hit is coming from. It’s the person who thinks if he looks at one more internet picture, he’ll be satisfied, but he never is. He gives himself over to occupation with sin and evil.
Now let me caution us in our thinking. If a person genuinely believes, he has eternal life as Scripture teaches. When he receives Jesus as his Savior, he cannot lose that eternal life. It is called eternal security. But he will miss out on all the blessings and rewards God intended. He also will not have assurance that he is even a Christian! Paul wrote about this,
12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. 14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.(1 Cor. 3:12-15 NKJ)
Your work will be revealed by fire. If it endures, it is “gold, silver and precious stones,” which refers to Christian work done by means of the power of the Holy Spirit. If the works (the “wood, hay, straw”) burn up, it refers to human efforts, talent and abilities used apart from the Holy Spirit. But notice, “…if anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss, but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” You’ll get into heaven, but you’ll just be smoky!
Why disciple others to follow Jesus, instead of Truth principles? Because demons will deceive believers from Jesus and some believers are deceived from Jesus. But also because some believers will deceive others from the Truth of Jesus. One of the ways they do this is by legalisms. Note this is all related to deceiving spirits.
3) Some believers will deceive others away from the Truth of Jesus 1 Tim. 4:3
3 forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. (1 Tim. 4:3 NKJ)
Paul mentions two representative examples of what they do. The first is they “forbid to marry.” Now, Paul DID say that he wished others were single like him, but only because a single person can be less concerned about the “things of the world”, such as providing for his spouse. But Paul acknowledged that no one should leave his marriage, “Let each one remain in the same calling in which he was called (1 Cor. 7:20 NKJ). And marriage is an ordinance of God (Gen. 2:24) that should be celebrated.
I remember how I foolishly made comments about not letting Katy get married until she was 35. Really, parents should raise their children to godliness, and lead them in courtship to a godly spouse (in His will, of course), and let them get married early. Then they may be able to deal with physical temptations more easily. God celebrates marriage, and one major reason He created it is for godly offspring as we saw in Malachi 2:15.
The second legalism mentioned is to abstain from foods, which puts people under the Mosaic Law. Let me ask you a question, “How many of you like catfish?” How many of you like bacon?” “How many of you like cheese on your quarter-pounder?” I love all those! But if we lived in Israel before Christ, we could not eat them.
Now, we’re not talking about food allergies. Some cannot eat peanut or gluten products. Those are individual health restraints, not legalisms. And all good things can be abused. Just as adultery rejects God’s perfect design of marriage, gluttony abuses God’s design of an appetite. God just designed food to be received with thanksgiving!
The truth will set you free. The lie puts you in bondage. Irenaeus, who was a church father from the second century wrote about Saturninus, Marcion, and the Encratites, who were preaching abstinence from marriage and animal meats. This is exactly why Paul wrote this passage! He also wrote about this legalism, which is a form of asceticism in Col. 2:20-23,
20 Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations– 21 “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” 22 which all concern things which perish with the using– according to the commandments and doctrines of men? 23 These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh. (Col. 2:20-23 NKJ)
The regulations are legalisms and while they give an appearance of wisdom, they do not impress God. He is concerned about the heart and Paul emphasized that legalisms have no control over fleshly desires. Legalism is like playing “Whac-A-Mole.” If you control the fleshly desire in one area, it will jump out in another area.” Paul said it has no value in the desires of the flesh.
Now, every time we discuss legalisms people will ask, “What are legalisms today?” How many of you grew up with legalisms? A mention was made about the men playing cards on Friday night and someone asked, “Is Bryan okay with playing cards in church?” Let me give you two different examples – legalism in the church and legalism regarding personal spirituality.
In church, some people believe you must only use the King James Version. Personally, I love the King James Version, because as I read it, the old English of the King James is different, AND it reminds me that so is God. I am not God. I worship Him. But Paul never used the King James Version, so I can’t impose that today! Also some people would say you can’t play guitars or drums in church, but there is nothing in Scripture about that.
There is also legalism regarding spirituality. Several examples include requiring home-schooling, no birth control, women cannot cut their hair, women must wear a head covering, men and women cannot wear jewelry, women must abstain from make-up, lipstick and hair dyes; mothers must breast feed; mothers must birth children naturally; women cannot wear pants or shorts, no mixed swimming, never buy on credit; no dancing and don’t listen to secular music. Have you ever had to live under any of those?
Paul then records for us the fourth reason why we need to disciple others to follow Jesus, instead of Truth principles.
4) Jesus reveals Truth for all to enjoy 4:4-5
4 For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; 5 for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer. (1 Tim. 4:4-5 NKJ)
My friends, food is good. Don’t refuse it if it is put before you. Give thanks and live the truth. Food is set apart, that is, made holy, by two things. It is made holy by God’s Word and by prayer. We need to live in the holiness of God and celebrate what He has provided! Why disciple others to a closer walk with Jesus where they follow Him, instead of Truth principles (Biblical Commandments)?
Jesus is holy: Disciple others welded to Him and you’ll also discern Truth in Him!
- Live in the liberty Jesus provided at the cross Gal. 5:1
- If it’s not specifically written in Scripture, let others live in the liberty of Jesus Rom. 14:1-13
- Show your dependency on God by giving thanks for your food and all things 1 Sam. 9:13; Matt. 14:19; 15:36; Acts 27:35
- Care more for people than being “right” (1 Cor. 8:1b-2). Most of us want to please the Lord. We do everything we can to honor the Lord. Sometimes because of pride, even self-righteousness, we lose the joy of Jesus’ presence. We want to do things exactly right, even a certain way that, and we work so hard that we split hairs. This makes us feel good. What happens when you feel good because you think you’ve rightly divided God’s Word and therefore don’t play cards? You want to share it with others, and end up drawing them into a rule, rather than to Jesus Christ. If you don’t see Christian fruit in your life, you may not be a Christian. Accept His work and become a child of God today!
Jesus did not set His Word in place so we would wrangle about it, but to be the standard to which we are all seeking! Do you want to make sure people around you do things just right? Or, are you instead content in a role of leading and encouraging others to a closer walk with Jesus, to guide them to Truth? Mercy triumphs over judgment, so that His grace is lived out in His love. Jesus does this! It’s for His holiness! Rejoice in Jesus!
1. Communion Table 1 Cor. 10:20-21
2. Gospel 2 Cor. 11:3-4
3. Ministers 2 Cor. 11:12-15
4. Spirituality Gal. 3:2-3
5. Righteousness Matthew 19:16-28
6. God’s 2 Thes. 2:3-4
7. Power 2 Thes. 2:8-10
8. Religion Matthew 23
Message Based Discussion Questions
1) Did you grow up under strict rules? What were some of the things you might have considered strict?
2) Are there some believers who have life-dominating sin patterns?_____________ What are some patterns that most Christians struggle with (cf. Eph. 4:31-32; 5:18; 2 Cor. 7:11; 1 Pet. 5:7)
3) Are there some foods that you cannot eat? ____________ What does Scripture teach about what you can eat (cf. Gen. 1:29-31; 9:3; Mark 7:14-23; 1 Cor. 10:23-26; Acts 10)?
4) Does anyone involved in legalism enjoy himself? ________________ In what way? Read 1 Cor. 6:12-19. Who enjoys legalism? What do they try to do?
Making application from the message:
5) What do you see as necessary in order to ensure you do not slip down the downward spiral? What safeguards could you put into place?
6) What attitude should you have and how should you approach a brother who is deceiving others with legalism?
7) If God made all things for us to enjoy, what Biblical principles do you keep in mind in order to not cause others to stumble?