Behavioral therapy

1 Timothy 3

No one likes to be told what to do.

I mean, do you?  Being told what to do deviates us from our personal whims, and assumes we’re okay with being subservient to another’s will. Humans hate both of these.

But in order to get things done, we have to obey some orders, even if the orders are coming from our own conscience, and especially if they’re coming from the Lord.

Supervisors at work expect some productivity out of you during your work hours; it is most wise to listen to that person. How much more so should we listen to and obey the Lord, who knows us more intimately than anyone else?


Paul polishes off his instruction to Timothy regarding some qualifications for church leaders with a sobering admonition: you know how to act, buddy, so do it.

Remember that this is a letter to an individual, and not a church. Paul is addressing Timothy personally and specifically.

But if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God.

How is he supposed to behave? The character-based attributes listed previously are a good start.

But after this “you oughta” moment, Paul throws in this little list of Christ’s traits.

It seems odd that this would be jammed in here, but the text is meant to be read immediately after reading the “behave” statement.  The text’s placement is significant:

We respond to the character of God.

Who is God, according to the Bible? Well, according to this particular text, He came as a human, was purified, lifted up, talked about by everyone (positively and otherwise), believed upon en masse, and glorified. And this is just a summary.

It sounds like He’s an important guy, and someone that demands reverence.

But to the American culture, He’s not important enough.  While 1/3 of the world identifies with Christianity, and something like 75% of the U.S. says the same, it feels like we’re hard-pressed to find hardcore Christians that are willing to actually do what God says out of fear of scrutiny or retribution.

As an aside, I find it fascinating that American Christians are so afraid to take a stand, while Christians elsewhere around the world are willing to risk jail time or execution for their resolve.

I heard a stat on the radio yesterday that only 10% of so-called Christians hold a biblical worldview. In other words, they do not perceive the Bible as a sufficient foundation for their outlook, behavior, and moral principles. Terrifying.

If you’re a Christian, it should seem automatic that you respond to the deity of Christ with some level of reverence. But it’s not automatic to the common Christian. It’s not even a conscious habit.

Well, if you’ve forgotten why you should behave a particular way — both the list in this chapter, which is not exclusive to bishops and deacons, and other instruction — at least know this: Christ, the Son of God, lived and died for it.

The way I see it, if Jesus had not said a single word and merely lived in obedience to the Father, eventually giving up His life to save us all, this would be enough for us to be obedient, for He set the example for us in all He did, and through His character.

But He DID say things, which secular scholars agree are some of the more philosophically profound and significant teachings in history.

Among those teachings, He said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” Seems pretty straightforward.

We need to respond to this, behaviorally. Start simple. Begin with worship, with placing the Lord above your own agenda.  I’m not talking about singing songs or some religious activity.  I just mean considering what you do, your decisions and thoughts, and contemplating whether the activity or thought glorifies God.

Love and serve one another. And do this passionately, without expectation of reimbursement.

If you already know this and your pace is slackening, you need to pick it up. We must be vigilant! This world is not looking for the dogmatic, but the determined and diligent men of God who actually operate in the instruction of the Bible, not just in some idyllic church social infrastructure or groupthink cultural nuances. People want to know if you’re for real. Show them.

If we wish for people to see Christ again, for this country and the world to recognize the significance of our Savior, we must make Him visible with our character, with our habits, and with our overall behavior.

Here’s the quick list:

1) Acknowledge God’s identity and character.
2) Find out what He wants by checking out the Bible.
3) Do it.

Perfect obedience is an impossible expectation — otherwise, Christ’s sacrifice is worthless.  But there must be SOME form of obedience present in order for others to notice that God is actually important to us.

Let’s showcase God. Do what He says, not because we “have to”, but because we love Him and because we should.

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