PULPIT TODAY SERMONS
Robert D. Pace
1 Timothy 4:11-16
At some point everyone decides what shapes their values. We either let the world define our values, we define our values, or we let Scripture define our values. I understand that, to a degree, our culture, friends, and environment shape our convictions, but God wants our deeply held beliefs drawn from the Bible. It’s the only way we can conduct our lives with godly influence. And we have to realize that our behavior does influence others. Paul told Timothy in verse twelve to “show yourself an example” (NASB); the NIV renders it, “set an example”; and the KJV says, “be thou an example.” The verbs used in each version are the same tense—they are action verbs. That means the manner in which we live influences others!
We give people permission for others to replicate our behavior as they observe our behavior and lifestyle. We influence others by our style of dress and how we express the English language. We influence others with our social habits. That’s why 1 Timothy 4:16 says: “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.”
(Example) When you were young, how many heard mamma scold your misbehavior with this familiar injunction: “If Tommy jumps in the fire are you going to jump in the fire?” I heard it and I despised it! The reason I disliked that cliché is because “the Tommy” I got in trouble with never jumped in the fire; he jumped into things that were cool and fun! That’s what got me in trouble! The reason we have to constantly guard our behavior and “set an example” is because others are not only watching, they may be imitating. The possibility is always there that whatever we are seen doing will influence others to mimic our behavior.
How many have heard the statement: “Christians aren’t perfect, they’re forgiven”? That statement is accurate, but don’t misinterpret it as permission to sin. We can’t excuse ourselves by saying, “Well, I’m only human, so it’s alright if I act less than perfect.” No! The Bible commands us to discipline ourselves to live right. And the answer to disciplining ourselves to righteous living involves training. 1 Timothy 4:7 says: “train yourself to be godly.” When you discipline and train yourself in a specific area you get results!
If you discipline yourself with proper dietary and fitness habits you will see positive results.
If you apply yourself to hours of persistent practice with a musical instrument, you will eventually enjoy the rewards of mastering that instrument.
And when you and I train ourselves with the principles of God’s Word, it will affect our behavior and, in turn, bless others.
I am convinced many people in the world are looking for that. They want to witness an exemplary role model. That’s why we have to intentionally “set an example.” It’s why Romans 14:13 says to: “make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brothers way.” Have you known somebody whose character was so exemplary that it brought out the best from others? Their very presence seemed to foster goodness and grace from those that surrounded them. But then there are people whose conduct is such that it brings out the worst in others. They are dishonest, foul-mouthed, bitter, or they constantly use their tongue to find fault and slander others. It’s amazing, but our actions will either lift or lower the behavior of others.
(Transition) So, how do we train ourselves to set a godly example? There are several ways, but one manner is to set our sights on Jesus and imitate Him. We can exert godly influence upon others when we pattern our life after Christ.
Living With Godly Influence Requires Imitating Christ!
The ancient Greeks said that imitation was the highest form of flattery. I suppose that’s true because Jesus is our Example and imitating Him is a preeminent form of glorifying God.
(Illustration) Years ago a young artist painted his perspective of the Last Supper. He unveiled his work before the renowned Russian writer Tolstoy. Tolstoy carefully studied the strokes with his eyes flashing back and forth across the canvass. Finally, Tolstoy pointed to the central figure and said: “You don’t love Him.” The artist replied, “Why that’s Jesus Christ.” “I know,” said Tolstoy, “but you don’t love Him. If you loved Him more, you would paint Him better” (Paul Tan, 7,700 Illustrations, # 5644, Assurance Publishers, 1979).
Most of us are not artists, but the way we convey our love for Christ is by obeying His Word. Jesus said: “If you love me, you will obey my commandments.” And the New Testament records Christ’s Words, deeds, and even His personality so we could pattern our lives after Him. The Bible tells us to “fix our eyes on Jesus,” so He can shape our behavior.
(Illustration) On April 24, 1995 America suffered its second worst act of terrorism—the Oklahoma City bombing. The FBI has provided interesting insight to Timothy McVeigh’s background. Prior to the bombing McVeigh intensely studied, The Turner Diaries. The Turner Diaries is a paperback book that advocates violence against groups of people. He studied it so passionately until he eventually perpetrated one the most heinous acts of violence on American soil. Thhs is what happens when we make anything a significant part of our lives. It becomes an altar. Perhaps that sounds strange, but that’s exactly what happens when we withdraw from the busyness of life to attend the places where we spend time—whether it’s TV, music, or entertainment.
(Definition) I want to give you an interesting definition of an altar. The Bible describes an altar is a place of sacrifice. It’s described as a place where godly people fellowshipped with God. But consider this: An altar is a place where people make a connection with something outside their self. It’s where humans bond with something transcendent. And the very fact that man seeks a connection with something outside himself invites another entity to affect them. An altar, whether it is of God or the world, will either improve us or corrupt us. Like a magnet, our altars attract something toward our soul and eventually shapes our character. We are always affected by whatever we allow our time and attention to be attracted. I want you to hear an eerie illustration of this.
(Illustration) In the book of Revelation Jesus addressed the church at Pergamum with these words: “I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is: and you hold fast My name” (2:13). At first glance that might appear to be a figurative characterization of the idolatry and evil that permeated Pergamum. But many scholars believe this throne was literally the altar of Zeus—a forty-foot statue that overlooked the city. So Jesus used much more than figurative language here. Consequently, as the citizens of Pergamum connected with the altar of Zeus it horribly affected their behavior.
There is an incredible footnote to Christ’s statement in Revelation 2:13. In the late 1800’s a German archaeologist unearthed this altar in Pergamum and moved it to Europe. More specifically, he situated “Satan’s throne” (as Jesus called it) in East Berlin, the city of Adolph Hitler, who slaughtered more than six million Jews. Maybe outside connections that we are drawn to do affect our behavior!
(Application) Saints of God, we need to carefully determine the altars we connect to because these outside influences will always affect us! Young people, you need to carefully determine whose poster you hang on your bedroom wall and who becomes your role model, because while you may not realize it, there are sinister forces trying to corrupt your life. Please hear: there is nothing wrong with admiring a genuine hero. It’s okay to imitate heroes that champion moral values. But there’s One hero that stands preeminent to all others, and His name is Jesus Christ.
I’ve never known a psychologist to cure a deranged person with one visit. But Jesus did, and repeatedly! On one occasion He delivered a man filled with 6000 demons with one Word—“Go”!
I’ve never known an ophthalmologist to correct congenital blindness, but Jesus did it instantly!
I’ve never known of a delivery truck supplying enough food to feed 5000 people. But Jesus fed 5000 people from a little boy’s lunch basket!
The only way I’ve crossed lakes is with a boat or skis or by bridge. But Jesus walked across them in sandals!
And I’ve never known anyone to die and three days later decide to live again. But that’s the testimony of Christ! He’s a real hero!
If we believe what the Bible says about Jesus we should follow Him as closely as possible! And Jesus repeatedly urged us to follow Him.
In Matthew 9:9 Jesus said to Matthew, “follow me.”
In Matthew 19:21 Jesus commanded the rich young ruler, “Come, follow me.”
In Mark 1:17 Jesus told Peter and Andrew, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
In Luke 5:11 four of Christ’s disciples “left everything and followed him.”
In John 1:43 Jesus looked at Philip and said, “follow me.”
In John 21:19 after the resurrection, Jesus again urged Peter, “follow me.”
This is what God wants. And the Gospel writers use the word follow 77 times as it relates to Christ. But there’s more to this Greek word follow than meets the eye.
This is what God wants. And the Gospel writers use the word “follow” 77 times as it relates to Christ. But there’s more to this word than meets the eye.
(Definition) In the New Testament the Greek word that is translated “follow” is akoloutheo. It describes “a committed attachment with someone to travel their direction.” For example, a football coach has about 60 players on his team. These players are committed to following the coach’s practice schedule, training program, and game-day leadership. The players follow the coach because they believe in his expertise and knowledge of the game. Occasionally, just before the kickoff, a team will gather behind their coach and run onto the field. When the players “follow” a coach like this it’s called, akoloutheo. But there is another important Greek word for “follow” that the New Testament employs. It’s the word, parakoloutheo. The prefix para doesn’t mean we walk behind someone, like a football team follows a coach; it means we “walk side by side and heart to heart with someone.” Parakoloutheo indicates a bonded relationship where the follower is intimately in sync with the leader. This follower has total commitment to their leader. It’s more than a superficial “knowing,” it’s an unbounded, intimate, wholehearted commitment toward another.
I want to illustrate the difference between akoloutheo and parakoloutheo.
(Illustration) (Choose an individual from the audience to stand beside you.) “I want to know something. Are you following me as your pastor?” (Wait for answer.) “Are you glad I’m your pastor?” . . . “Did you vote for me to be your pastor?” . . . Alright, let’s get serious. “I want to determine whether you akoloutheo me or you parakoloutheo me, so I need to ask more questions. When we redesigned and launched our church discipleship program did you work with me? (Answers, “Yes) . . . What is my hobby? (Answers correctly) . . . Where do I workout? (Answers). . . What is my nickname for my daughter and son? . . . (Doesn’t know) Where was I born? (Doesn’t know) “Well sir, I think you akoloutheo me, but because you didn’t know personal things about me, you don’t parakoloutheo me—at least not yet. Thank you for assisting me.” Then I call my wife, Annette to answer the same questions and she answers them correctly.)
Now, do you see the difference between akaloutheo and parakoloutheo? It’s the difference between following from a distance and being completely bound to someone.
(Transition) I want you to turn to Revelation 14, and see what John says about this. Do you know what makes the 144,000 sealed saints in Revelation 14 so influential and powerful as they walk the earth during the Last Days? Let’s read why.
The reason the 144,000 influence multitudes for Christ during the Tribulation is because they are wholly devoted to following the Lamb. They parakoloutheo the Lord and are attached to Him with an inseparable bond. They are completely yielded to His guidance. They go wherever He leads and they do whatever He commands. Thus, they make an incredible impact upon the earth in the Last Days. Listen closely to what Christ says about the 144,000: Learn a lesson from the 144,000. Christians that are vitally connected to God will make eternal impact upon men! If you want to influence men on earth in a powerful way then you must parakoloutheo with your God in heaven.
(Illustration) Several years ago a young mother in Utah was converted to Christ. She didn’t grow up in Church, so she had developed some habits that weren’t Christ-like. But she wanted to obey God’s Word. The doctor diagnosed her with heart trouble and told her to stop smoking. She knew it set a bad example for her daughter but it was difficult to stop. During a church prayer meeting she shared why it was so difficult to kick the habit. These are her words: “I know smoking is wrong, but every time I come close to quitting I remember three members of our church that smoke and I justify my habit.”
(Insight) Behavior Analysts completely understand the principle of shaping public opinion and creating conduct. They know that environment, ideas, images, sounds, colors, music, and use of language affect our behavior. That is why the Cultural Engineers—those with an agenda to upend social values and create new values—take advantage of this principle. But Christians can engage in the same practice for an altogether different purpose. We can model the behavior that brings glory to Christ and urges others to follow us. There’s a reason we must commit ourselves to wholly following the Lamb. It is through our godly living that we positively influence others for Christ and help them to live victoriously. Let us strive to live with godly influence.
“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, (25) to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen” (Jude 24).