Virtual Reality | Day 14
Christian leaders have entered a new settled state and become more like the Christ they know, love, and serve (2 Tim. 3:2-5).
Today we begin to address the character of a Christian Leader (2:1-10). In chapter 2, Paul uses a series of seven images about Christian Leadership and service:
- a teacher (v2)
- a soldier (vv3-4)
- an athlete (v5)
- a farmer (vv6-7)
- a workman (vv15-19)
- a vessel (vv20-22)
- a slave (vv23-26)
With each example, Paul gives us a picture of the character and work of Christ‐following leaders in life and ministry. Like all good leaders, Paul does not speak in general or abstract terms that can be too idealistic or unattainable in real life. He provides concrete, specific examples of devotion and defection, of positive and negative action, and of faithful versus unfaithful role models.
The second chapter begins with the words, “You therefore.” This relates back to the previous section (1:15-18) where Paul draws a distinction between Timothy, who remains faithful, and those who have abandoned him. Why did they abandon him? The suffering and hardship that being faithful to the Gospel brought with it carried them to the decision to flee. Paul writes as he does to ensure that Timothy’s character and the character of all those that he would disciple, was a reflection of Christ’s character.
Christian Character is that which is hidden deep inside. Much like a bowl of soup, carried high above the waiter’s head and out of sight until the waiter is bumped, so a Christian’s real character remains hidden until they find themselves knocked. But when they are, what spills out of a Christian’s heart, should be the fruit of the Spirit.
Ministry is a character profession. To put it bluntly, you can sleep around and still be a good brain surgeon. You can cheat on your mate and have little trouble continuing to practice law. You can be a successful salesperson and cheat on your income tax. But you cannot do those things as a Christian or as a minister and continue enjoying the Lord’s blessing. You must do right in order to have true integrity. If you can’t come to terms with evil or break habits that continue to bring reproach to the name of Christ, please, do the Lord (and us in ministry) a favor and resign.
Character counts! It’s this character that will helps us develop the quality of steadfastness that helps us stay true to the Scriptures, even when our ears begin itching! So what components help to develop the Christ-like character of a Christian? We’ll answer that question by looking at 2 Timothy 2:1 for the next few days.
You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 2:1)
The first word we’ll look at is strong. To develop in Christ-like character we must grow in strength.
Character Component #1: Strength (2:1-2)
Paul is about to tell Timothy some hard truths about ministry, but before telling him about the suffering and the opposition he will face in his future, Paul again reminds the young protégé that the power to accomplish his task comes not from within himself, but from the Lord.
This can be translated two ways:
(1) a PRESENT PASSIVE IMPERATIVE, “continue to be strengthened” or
(2) a PRESENT MIDDLE IMPERATIVE, “continue to be strong.”
The interpretative issue we have to battle is whether Timothy participates in the strengthening or does God do the strengthening for Him? In the verse we face the challenge of placing the emphasis on either the sovereignty of God or human free will. In the NT both are involved in salvation and the Christian life. Simply put, Timothy would need to partner with the Lord in order to be made strong.
In chapter one, Paul issued a number of commands to Timothy (1:6, 7, 8, 9, 12, 13, 14). He then showed Timothy that he could rely on the Holy Spirit for the enablement to accomplish all that Paul asked of him (1:6, 7, 8, 9, 12, 13, 14).
In 2:1 Paul brings those two thoughts together. Paul continues the series of commands but stresses that God’s grace, given through Christ, is the agent that allows Timothy to successfully accomplish what is commanded. Timothy has a part to play in becoming more like Christ ,but God, through the Holy Spirit, is the one who does the strengthening work.
Putting too little emphasis on our responsibility to be strengthened leads to spiritual apathy. Putting too much emphasis on our responsibility leads to what Paul addresses in Galatians 4:
Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may have zeal for them. It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always, not just when I am with you. My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you! Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says? (Galatians 4:17-21)
Paul labors until Christ is formed in them. Regarding this goal, Dallas Willard wrote, “The aim of spiritual formation is not behavior modification but the transformation of all those aspects of you and me where behavior comes from...circumcision of the heart.”
The question is, what kind of person do you aspire to be? Do you want to be as Christ really is or as you see Him? Christian leaders are not people who perform leadership practices, but those whose union and fellowship with God allow them to witness Christ formed in them with the help of the Holy Spirit. This formation leads to Christian behavior.
To cite Dallas Willard once more (Renovation of the Heart):
“Spiritual formation for the Christian basically refers to the Spirit-driven process of forming the inner world of the human self in such a way that it becomes like the inner being of Christ himself.”
Tomorrow we will continue to explore the formation of the Christian character.
‘Til then. . . Food For Thought:
As you think about your formation to date, what has spiritually formed you?
As you think about your life right now, how is your spiritual life being formed right now?
 Chuck Swindoll, Rise and Shine, p198