Monday, November 3, 2014

1 Tim 4 Teaching and Training

1 Tim 4:6-16 By pointing out such things to the brothers and sisters, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, having nourished yourself on the words of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed. But reject those myths fit only for the godless and gullible, and train yourself for godliness. For "physical exercise has some value, but godliness is valuable in every way. It holds promise for the present life and for the life to come." This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance. In fact this is why we work hard and struggle, because we have set our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of believers. Command and teach these things. Let no one look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in your speech, conduct, love, faithfulness, and purity. Until I come, give attention to the public reading of scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the spiritual gift you have, given to you and confirmed by prophetic words when the elders laid hands on you.  Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that everyone will see your progress.  Be conscientious about how you live and what you teach. Persevere in this, because by doing so you will save both yourself and those who listen to you. (NET Bible)

In giving instructions to Timothy regarding the ministry, Paul stresses the importance of being nourished by right teaching (Greek: didaskalia, literally "doctrines", a set of beliefs). In fact Paul uses the noun didaskalia and the verb didaske 3 times to stress the importance of communicating right doctrines to the hearers.

When Paul speaks of teaching, he is defining the set of beliefs that all believers must subscribe too. We may expand this concept to the idea of Christian worldview. Too often, Christian doctrines are received as a set of teaching to believe in rather than a pair of spectables to look at the world. We sometime even compartmentalize "teaching" as spiritual principles to be used only in ministry context. But in the workplace, we adopt an essentially secular worldview about our job, family and recreation.

I believe that many Christians hold on to Christian doctrines but not the Christian worldview. Without putting on the Christian worldview spectacles, we will not be able to function effectively as we interact with other worldviews--some of which are contrary to the biblical worldview. Take Halloween for example. I'm amazed that many Christian parents think it's harmltress to dress up their children in Halloween masks and make-ups. What this shows is that the Christian doctrines they have been taught never become a Christian worldview in which they view everything through it.

However, just having teaching is not enough. If we only have doctrines, we just have a set of academic beliefs about Christianity that we subscribe to. It is just up in the head, but never comes down to the heart nor the hands. While teaching imparts an understanding of the faith, it is training that translates information into transformation. Teaching provides the theoretical mindmap to live by, whereas training focuses on develop the right attitudes of the heart and right skills of the hand to turn facts into truths.

Just the past week, my wife and I were at Hanoi to train pastors and their wives how to improve their marriages through the Alpha Marriage Course. We did the Marriage Course over 3 days. The Marriage Course did not just teach godly marriage principles to the pastors and their wives but it also provided many opportunities through game and communication exercises that couples do together to turn these principles into hands-on practices. The pastors later testified that unlike marriage courses they attended before (which focuses mainly on imparting godly principles), the Alpha Marriage Course converts these principles into hands-on practices to show them how to rebuild their marriages.

In this fourth chapter of 1 Timothy, Paul stresses the need to "train yourself for godliness" (v.7). He compares that with bodily training which requires discipline and hard work to produce the result of a well-trained athlete or body-builder. There are no short-cuts to godliness, just as there are no short cuts to physical fitness. We cannot be resting all days and develop strong muscles automatically. The potential is in every human person to develop strong physique, but to turn theory into reality, we have to train and discipline ourselves for it.

Godliness training involves the regular and daily practice of certain mental and spiritual disciplines: e.g. keep our thinking positive and biblical, loving our spouses and children, daily bible study and prayer, weekly assembly with other believers for fellowship and participation in the Lord's Supper and engaging in evangelism, 

To grow in godliness, we have to practice these disciplines.

Father, thank You that You have given us a practical, not passive faith. As we learn from Your Word and practise Your Word, we begin to appropriate more and more of Your grace. Amen.

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