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"11But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses."
Flee / Pursue There are two instructions here. To flee and to pursue. We are going to be positive in our thinking this year and set out to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love endurance and gentleness. But we will not be blind that to pursue these things we have to flee others. And the Big Ten series will teach us about the things we have to flee.
But I want us to at least begin by setting our sight in the right direction. We will be looking at the whole letter of 1Timothy in the coming months and I have headed it “What’s this godliness?” because the letter has a lot to say about godliness.
Today we look at the 6 things we should pursue. If you are a new year’s resolution type of person, this line would be a good one to choose. But if you are like me, cynical about keeping any resolution, this line calls us to stiffen our resolve, set out on an adventure in the Spirit and make a priority in our lives of righteousness, godliness, faith, love endurance and gentleness.
So what do we mean by righteousness, godliness, faith, love endurance and gentleness? What are we to pursue?
First Righteousness. As we have found in Romans this is about relationship with God. And the key thing for you to pursue is your relationship with God. What will have most lasting value this year is your relationship with God. So have you got a relationship with God? If you have not, let me explain how you get to know the creator. He knows you are a human being and as such you are in rebellion to him. You don’t have a relationship because you have broken that relationship by wrong thoughts and actions. And there is nothing you can do to repair that relationship except receive the forgiveness that he offers through Jesus. Jesus came to this earth to breakthrough the impasse of your sin. He died on the cross to pay the penalty he rose again from death and sent his Holy Spirit to breath life into our spiritually dead beings. He has done everything needed to restore the relationship. You have to accept his way and believe in him. You need to respond to the love of God by saying you are sorry for the sin and the rebellion, to ask his forgiveness, to accept that he died in your place, to receive the Holy Spirit and enter into new life in Jesus. That is how you begin the relationship. That is how you obtain righteousness. But having obtained it, we need to pursue it with passion and enthusiasm. Otherwise it would be like getting an invite to see a friend, and then not dong anything about it. All relationships require working on. Especially your relationship with God.
Secondly we need to pursue godliness. I have already said that we are looking at godliness as we study 1Timothy, but to head you in the correct direction, lets just recognise that Godliness is about being like God. And God has revealed himself in Jesus. That is what we celebrate at Christmas. God became man and lived among us. So godliness is following and behaving like Jesus. We were told to fix our thoughts on Jesus and to fix our eyes on Jesus. Today’s verse tells us that doing that is so that we change the way we think and the way we act. What would Jesus do? That is what I should do. How would Jesus react, that is how I should react. What did Jesus think? That is what I should think.
We will learn more in January and February.
Thirdly we are to pursue faith. Read on in 1Timothy. We are called to fight the good fight of faith, lay hold of eternal life.
It is a fight and fights are messy. The tempter does not abide by any rules neither the Marquis of Queensbury rules or the UN Geneva Convention. His intention is your destruction, so he will do anything to break your trust in God, especially when you are tired or ill or depressed.
The battle is joined but it is a fight of faith, not physical. Not a fight with guns and missiles. This line was used to justify many wars the crusades against Saladin, the reformation wars against Catholics and Protestants. Even in the Second World war to justify fighting the Atheist Hitler.
But that is not what this line is about. It is about the struggle to believe in God against all the evidence thrown up by the devil, all his distractions and all his temptations. Pursue faith; fight the fight of faith. Lay hold of eternal life and don’t let go of what God has given you in Jesus.
Fourthly, we are to pursue love. What does that mean? It sounds like a teenage movie plot. A romantic saga, boy chases girl (or the other way round) across the world, through all sorts of difficulties, wars, etc. finally arriving at a soft afterglow sunset with a orchestra playing in the background.
But the gospel is not about finding a soft afterglow and a sunset. It is about a determination to live by a different set of rules. The rule is love. Who?
First we are called to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your mind and with all your soul.” Secondly we are to “love our neighbour as we love ourselves.” Thirdly we are to “love one another as God has loved you” and fourthly we are to “love our enemies, do good to those who do you harm.” The challenge for us is to pursue these loves.
AS a church we will pursue the love of God in worship, Prayer, discipleship and teaching. We will pursue love for our neighbour and our enemies in community action, telling the good news and in linking with other missions, like Graeme and Jenny, Stewart & Carol, Mildmay, TEAR Fund, TLM, local churches and the like. We will pursue love for one another in fellowship and service. But that is just the formal expression of an organisation. What is called for here is each one of us committed to share the love of God we have received by loving unconditionally and sacrificially. It’s a tough call to pursue love.
This calls for endurance, which we are to pursue. Jesus knew that his way was tough. He knew that life was tough. He said so In John 16:33 he said "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."
And that is the encouragement that faith must hold on to. Jesus wins! We are not on a losing side, When Jesus died on the cross, he conquered sin and death. And in the hearts and minds of those who faithfully follow him there is a peace, which is beyond understanding because it depends on God not on the immediate circumstances of our lives. There will be trouble ahead, pursue endurance, treasure the peace within, fix your eyes on the victor.
8. Finally we are called to pursue gentleness. Gentleness is far removed from weakness. We are clearly called to be tough, but not aggressive, not violent, persuasive but not bullying. It comes back to being Christ-like – godliness. This gentleness is not spoken about much in scripture but all five references. Here we are called to pursue gentleness, in Galatians 5:23 it is a fruit of the Holy Spirit of God in our lives. In Philippians 4:5 it is part of the rejoicing in all circumstances that we are to “let your gentleness be evident to all” In Colossians 3:12 we are called to gentleness because we are God’s chosen people. In 1Peter 3:15 as are asked “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17It is better, if it is God's will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.”
It is to be a characteristic of our way of life. We are to pursue gentleness.
So there we have it. We are to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love endurance and gentleness. In doing so we will flee sin and evil because we love our God and Saviour Jesus Christ, we have entered into a relationship with him based on what he has done. and want to live like him, trust him, come what may. Not just today, but for all of 2010 and the rest of our lives.Return to top