As you grow, as you continue to walk with Jesus, the words of Paul to his dear friend whom he mentored, Timothy, will become more and more precious, and invigorating. Have you spent much time pondering how he closes his first letter to Timothy? He urges him to guard something, and avoid other things. Sometimes in our desire to cling to the freedom we have in Christ, we forget that there really are things we ought to avoid, and that there are are quite a few “ought to’s” that we’ve been avoiding.
To put it briefly:
What to guard? The faith once for all handed down, which is the doctrines of our faith. Cling to what God has revealed, guard what He has revealed in His Word; the active Word of God, the very Word at work in us, and that we ought to articulate and proclaim! Hand it down. Treasure it. It is your life (Deuteronomy).
What to avoid? Certain conversations, and philosophies, and fads.
O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called “knowledge”–which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith.1 Timothy 6:20-21
Paul argued, he engaged in what we now call apologetics. Justin Martyr was the first apologist to write extensively about the faith. Many others have had opportunity to do this as well, and reading their writings can be so encouraging to our faith. But there is wisdom in knowing when to share pearls, and when not to cast them towards others. Paul’s address in the temple at Athens has encouraged many of us (myself included) to debate for the faith–and there is a time and place for this.
Not every time
Paul would not always engage–not all times, all places, all conversations began.
Sometimes we encounter people “deconstructing” and we are tempted to engage in conversation, believing all such conversations will be fruitful. But beloved, sometimes we must avoid these conversations.
There is wisdom in knowing when the Spirit is leading you to speak, and when you are not listening but running forward of your own accord, ready protect God’s precious words from the ways these others are tearing them down. He promises to give you this wisdom, He will lead you, do not run ahead.
But fear not. And do not act or speak from fear. God’s word is not imprisoned, it will never fade, it will succeed in His purposes for which He sends it forth. Wait, wait until the Spirit stirs in you, do not speak on your own initiative.
Avoid these, steer clear
Avoid worldly chatter. What is “worldly” chatter? The “world” or “worldly” is often used to speak of a mindset that excludes God. When conversation digresses toward Deism, Naturalism, Pantheism, Mysticism, or simplistic ideas that “all you see is all there is” then you know it is worldly. Sometimes this chatter is in celebration of sin, self, pride, and desires run amok. Sometimes it is all too subtle, and you realize half way through a conversation that this conversation is not for you. Politely make an exit. Pray, but avoid the chatter.
Avoid empty chatter. Empty, meaningless, foundationless, speculations. This includes the category of conversing with people who think we all have our own truth, and they are speaking of their own truth. No created being is the ground or source of truth. God alone is, and we cannot entertain chatter with those who are basking in this emptiness. Pray, but avoid the chatter.
Avoid the opposing arguments of what is falsely called knowledge. We all know someone who is delighting or arguing for something “falsely called knowledge.” They redefine how you can know something; they redefine whether we can know something. These falsely say an unproved theory is truth, while the Word of God is not to be trusted. They replace the truth of what they observe in the world with speculation. They throw around words, redefine words, and will mock you. They will accuse you of gaslighting them when you cling to the Word of Life rather than to their speculations. Avoid these arguments. Pray. Pray in the Spirit.
They have gone astray from the faith; they are unrepentant, believing only parts of the truth while also delighting in the false… Elsewhere Paul instructs us to admonish one another and exhort one another; as do both the authors of Hebrews, and of Jude, and John instruct us likewise. We admonish and exhort “one another”–that is to say, others who are walking with Jesus, others who are in the household of faith. But not these who have gone astray.
These have gone astray from the faith. These ones are not ready to be admonished–it is a conversation to be avoided, knowing it is not time, their ears are not open to what God speaks, but are tuned towards what is falsely called knowledge. They redefine faith. They redefine the parameters of what we consider Scripture. They redefine church, family, gender, personhood. They start teaching that what God has created, sustained, and perfectly defined, are ‘human constructs.’
Guard, and Pray
When the Spirit of truth dwelling in us hears their arguments, we are heartbroken, but must wait, and guard what is entrusted to us. Many, by engaging them in conversation, are “led away from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.”
It is not selfish to focus on guarding what has been entrusted to you, it is obedience to One, True, Living, Triune God–who practices hesed and justice and righteousness in the earth, and draws you into delighting in the same (see Jeremiah 9:23-24). How do we do this? That will be an upcoming post.
photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash