Today’s reading: II Timothy 3, 4, Titus 1, Proverbs 27
II Timothy 3:10-14 (NKJV)
10 But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, 11 persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra – what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me. 12 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. 13 But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them.
This is a vital principle Paul shares with Timothy. In fact this entire letter to Timothy is filled with passion and powerful instruction. This was Paul’s swan song – his final book of the New Testament that came in the form of a letter from a father (Paul) to his spiritual son (Timothy). The bottom line of this exhortation is to continue in what you have learned, what you are sure of, and those you know are solid in character and doctrine.
The reason Paul wrote this letter is because then, as now, there are always new teachers and prophets with charisma, flair, and a strong following who will tempt you to leave the fundamentals of the faith to embrace the “new thing” God is doing. Paul was preparing his son Timothy to deal with this common strategy of the enemy. In so many words, Paul was saying that no valid new teacher or new teaching from God will require you to compromise sure doctrine or to abandon foundational relationships who helped to ground you in the truth.
Paul encouraged Timothy to use his own life and ministry as the template for the kind of spiritual leader and doctrine to embrace and follow. He compared himself and his ministry to present-day imposters who were deceived and went about deceiving others. The doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, patience, love, and perseverance are each vital aspects of a minister’s life we should examine to determine whether they are someone worth following.
As a young Christian, I was easily impressed by ministries who walked in a strong anointing, ministered in confidence, and had signs following their ministry. The more I grew in the Lord, the less impressed I became by outward signs through gifted ministries. I began to realize that not everything that glittered was all gold. I discovered that character was more important than gifting alone. I learned that gifting without character in ministry cannot be trusted.
I observed the devastation among Christians who followed spiritual leaders who did not take the time to develop the traits that Paul encouraged Timothy to follow. It is imperative we know something more about our leaders than just their gifting. Are they accountable to others? How is their family life? Do they treat others with love and respect? Do they follow through on their commitments? Do they preach and teach sound doctrine or do they emphasize marginal doctrines or focus only on one aspect of truth?
Continue in the things you are sure of. Don’t forsake sound teaching to embrace the newest teaching on the Christian television block. Take time to check out the life and doctrine of the teacher you are most recently impressed with. If he/she is a true servant of God, they will not require you to leave the sure things of God to follow them and embrace their new doctrine.