A common charge against the church today is that people who go to church “are only hypocrites who tell everyone they are holy yet have lives that are broken.” If you define the term hypocrite as someone who sits in judgment of others without looking to improve themselves, then I must disagree with that statement. Jesus told us that our judgment of others must first be tempered by our realization of our own inadequacies, Matthew 7:1-5. While there may be some people who are living the lie of going to church but not following God, they are a minority who do not define the Lord’s body. But if they mean by the charge of hypocrisy that church members aren’t perfect, then I wholeheartedly agree!
You see, too many have this idea that Christians assume they are perfect as they come to worship services in their finely pressed clothes with their Bibles in hand. This mental picture drives away those who are struggling in life with addictions and issues of sin. Yet a closer look at true Christianity is much grittier. Christians aren’t perfect—they’re forgiven. They are on a pilgrimage away from the world, seeking another world that is better. Paul reminded the Corinthians that they once were adulterers, fornicators, homosexuals, drunkards and covetous but now they were washed, cleansed and sanctified by the blood of Christ 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. While they certainly were not perfect in everything, they did have a responsibility to create a lifestyle of looking toward God. Look at how Jesus put it: “Those who are well have no need of a doctor, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” The church was not created for people who consider themselves righteous through their own works; it was created for those who are seeking an escape from the world of darkness and sin. As Christians we are not called to be perfect, we are called to point to the One who is perfect. As 2 Corinthians 4:7 says, “We have this treasure (the gospel), in earthen jars that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.” As a Christian, I must convey to the world that while I am not perfect I am following the One who is perfect. Let me invite you to join the journey to healing, to joy and to perfection as we grow closer to God.
“What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” 2 Timothy 2:2
How we need to be alert and sensitive to opportunities to impart Jesus and his message to others! And when those opportunities do come, we need to respond naturally and joyfully. Notice four stages in the transmission of Jesus and his truth to others: (1) From Christ to Paul (cf. Galatians 1:11-12); (2) From Paul to Timothy in the presence of many (2:2); (3) Timothy to “faithful men” (2:2) (4) “Faithful men” to “others.” At a time when getting a great return on our investments is incredibly difficult, this type of investment quadruples! It multiplies. when we humbly and lovingly invest ourselves as Christian in the lives of others, God will bless us immeasurably and enrich others too.
The word of God describes what is involved in investing in others by using three metaphors-the soldier (2 Timothy 2:3-4), the athlete (2:5) and the farmer (2:6). The soldier realizes there’s a war going on, that he’s on active duty, that he must suffer hardship, that there has to be avoidance of entanglements, and that he always wants to please his leader. Great athletes show incredible commitment and discipline as they compete according to the rules of their particular sport or event. Good farmers are models of hard work and patience. They tend to be an under appreciated group of people, but they feed the nation! What we learn from these metaphors is that following Christ involves investing ourselves wholly in the cause of Christ in order to reap life’s blessings.
Then there’s 2 Timothy 2:7-“Think over what to say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.” We need to be serious about personalizing Jesus and his message. The Greek expression for “think over” means ” to ponder” or “to understand.” This is a matter of thoughtful reflection: Does my life genuinely demonstrate to others what faithfully following Jesus and his gospel are about?
This spiritual investment in others can and does take a variety of forms-from talking to someone about Jesus and the gospel to a simple act of kindness done in his name. The ways we spiritually invest in others are practically limitless, but ultimately our goal is the glory of God and the saving and strengthening of souls. How’s your investment?