Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg

with Tom Fuller

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The Secret to Lasting Contentment

1Timothy 6

When is enough enough? Each day we Americans are bombarded with thousands of messages - many telling us that we aren't complete until we buy the latest and greatest product. Whether its cars or houses or boats or computers - what you have is no good anymore. It has bred a society founded on the principal of discontent. \r
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We may have perfected the art - but it is nothing new. Greed has been around ever since man has been around. And in Ephesus, Timothy was having to deal with leaders who had let greed grab them. So Paul the Apostle has spent the first five chapters of the book giving Timothy instructions on how to recognize false teachers, how to correct behavior that supported it in the church - but also to keep himself from getting caught up.\r
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The first two verses of chapter 6 could easily go with chapter 5 - as Paul is dealing with the subject of leaders - how to spot good ones and bad ones and things to make sure of when choosing leaders. But I find it interesting that it's included in chapter 6 for this reason: that the "don't have as much" are often envious of the "have it all" crowd. \r
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This envy can be just as powerful a hook towards false doctrine as intellectual snobbery. So Paul begins this chapter speaking to the lower class that have risen to prominence in the church, warning them not to use it as a way to get back to the big shots - and the key verse is verse 6: "Godliness with contentment is great gain". \r
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6:1 All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God's name and our teaching may not be slandered. 2 Those who have believing masters are not to show less respect for them because they are brothers. Instead, they are to serve them even better, because those who benefit from their service are believers, and dear to them. These are the things you are to teach and urge on them. \r
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In Chapter 2 we talked about how societal change occurred very slowly in the first century A.D. This was true for women - this was also true for slaves. Now we have to understand the culture to understand what Paul is saying (just as with women in chapter 2). \r
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Slaves comprised half the population of the Roman world - some 60 million people were slaves. Slavery then was very different from what we remember in the Americas. Slaves were property - and often treated no better than cattle, but it wasn't racially motivated, rather economically. In a way the Roman society treated slaves like we do tools and technology today.\r
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But it may be more analogous to talk about slaves then as today's working class. That included tutors for children, and even doctors. Luke, the writer of Luke's gospel and Acts was likely a slave.\r
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What was happening was that slaves were getting saved, maturing in faith, and becoming elders. Then some of their masters found the Lord and suddenly the slave was "over" the master. This created uncomfortable situations - to say the least.\r
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So Paul tells slaves to treat their masters with respect and be an example of a servant - even better than ones who did not have believing masters. It would be like you, as a church leader, led the CEO of your company to Christ. Would you be tempted to perhaps give them a taste of their own medicine in the church venue? Don't.\r
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So now Paul gets back to the character of the false teachers and how to avoid them by concentrating on living your life for Christ.\r
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3 If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, 4 he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions 5 and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.\r
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(3) First Paul focuses on what was being taught - it was "false" in that it was "different" from the gospel Paul had preached. Second it did not "agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ" in that their teaching discounted or disagreed with what Jesus said or did, and third it was against "godly teaching" which could be thought of as the practical application of the gospel - application that led to righteous living, not the kind of behavior evidenced by the false teachers and their converts.\r
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(4) We saw some of this in chapters 1 and 4. The idea of conceited is to be puffed up - they think they are so huge in understanding (although it takes a lot of arrogance to oppose Jesus) but in reality they don't understand anything (even though they appear the opposite). Paul has even stronger words in 2 Timothy.\r
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How can you spot it? "an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words" - as mentioned earlier. It's okay to reason together and even have theological debates - but what is the result - understanding, faith, righteousness, closeness to God? Or is it envy, strife, slander and always seeing the worst in other people.\r
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(5) "Corrupt" means "to destroy" - "robbed" means "to defraud." If the ultimate goal is for yourself - you will corrupt your mind and God's truth will be as if was stolen away from you. These were the characteristics of the false teachers - they were even always fighting amongst themselves (constant friction). \r
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Listen to what Jesus said in Mark 4:18:\r
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Mark 4:17-19 Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19 but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.\r
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It should be our aim to know Him, and His riches:\r
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Ephesians 2:6-7 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.\r
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Philippians 4:19 And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. \r
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So if godliness isn't a means towards financial gain, what is it?\r
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6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. \r
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(6) The addition of contentment is the key. Whereas those who want to get rich off God might appear to be godly - here we are talking about mirroring the character of Christ. "Contentment" means having enough in yourself so that you don't need anything else. That's our aim in Jesus - we don't need power or wealth or position or beauty or possessions or anything to make us content - except to have Him.\r
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(7-8) As far as material goods - even Bill Gates leaves planet Earth with none of his billions. Paul says: As long as my daily needs are met then I'm okay. My bank account is doing very nicely - in Heaven Savings Bank - I can't make withdrawls here, but soon! Have you really contemplated what you have in Jesus Christ?\r
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(9-10) If you try to find contentment through financial gain it will do three things: (1) tempt then (2) trap you into wanting and doing things you never thought you'd do which will lead you on a path of (3) destruction. In the end, instead of being satisfied and content you will be "pierced with many griefs."\r
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Interestingly - it's not just "money" that's the root of all kinds of evil but "the love of money." You can love money and have none. Often it is those who don't have it but lust after it that end up hurting themselves as they try to get it by any means possible - and it will mean wandering away from the faith and the only source of true contentment.\r
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So what are we supposed to do then?\r
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11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12 Fight 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. 13 In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you 14 to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which God will bring about in his own time - God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen. \r
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(11) Run away from being possessed by anything but God - run towards life in Him.\r
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Righteousness: the qualities God builds into our lives\r
Godliness: the actions that go along with those qualities\r
Faith & Love : Our ability to trust God more and more, and give in selfless acts to others.\r
Endurance: The ability to stay put with God under extraordinary pressure\r
Gentleness: In the end you don't end up as an arrogant jerk, but a gentle leader\r
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(12-13) It's not a dirty fight for supremacy, but a good fight of faith. You have to fight against the tendency towards false doctrine and being tainted by the flesh - and you've got to run towards (or "take hold") of the life God is birthing and maturing in you - fighting through the trials and obstacles in your way.\r
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An alternate translation:\r
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1 Timothy 6:12 You trust in Christ, so you will experience struggles and must try your hardest to win over them. If you do this you will gain life that has no end as your reward. God called you to have such a life when you firmly stated, as many people were listening, that you believed in Christ. (from the UBS Handbook Series. Copyright (c) 1961-1997, by United Bible Societies) \r
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(14 - 19) Paul is reminding Timothy of what's coming - look to the future, the coming of Jesus, the revealing of the kingdom of God - focus on the rewards that come then - which make it worth the struggle now - and worth avoiding the trap of riches here:\r
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17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. \r
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In chapter 1 Timothy is told to command the teachers of false doctrine to stop it - now he's told to command the rich (may be some of the same people) not to be arrogant or put their hope in what they can get here - but rather focus on giving - not getting.\r
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It is really easy to trust in riches - I think that's why Jesus said: (Luke 18:24) "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!" It's because riches effectively hide our need for a Savior. But as for the guy in Luke 12 who was intent on building bigger barns and taking it easy found out the truth of verse 7 - he died that night and left all the riches behind with nothing where he was going.\r
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Life from wealth is false life - it is temporary and illusory. Riches only buy temporary material security - they don't buy joy or long term security or love or satisfaction or contentment. \r
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Now don't go out and sell all your possessions and be a pauper (unless God calls you to do that) - but don't put so much importance on it - instead put importance on being rich in good deeds, and generosity. \r
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20 Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, 21 which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith. \r
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Grace be with you. \r
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Paul's final instructions to Timothy: "guard" which means to preserve and protect from harm." I think this involves both the doctrine of the gospel and the people of the flock.\r
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Timothy is to "ignore" or "turn away" from two things: godless chatter (empty talk that is opposed to God) and "what is falsely called knowledge." This could be a reference to Gnosticism - where adherents supposedly had special knowledge from God - or another way to translate this verse:\r
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1 Timothy 6:20 Timothy, you must keep safe what God has given you to look after. Don't listen to people who incessantly say stupid (or, empty) words that show no reverence for God, and argue stupidly. They call this "knowledge," but it really isn't. (from the UBS Handbook Series. Copyright (c) 1961-1997, by United Bible Societies)\r
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Conclusions\r
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1. There is ultimate truth - stick to it\r
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2. There is appropriate behavior - pay attention to who you are and how you act\r
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3. There are ways to lead people that leads to life - and ways to spot bad leaders\r
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4. There are always going to be struggles - and temptations to go off the mark or rely on something that is not going to result in spiritual health - avoid them!\r

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