Virtual Reality | Day 4
The Christian leader’s lifestyle is based upon an inner disposition of the heart, empowered by the Holy Spirit, that causes them to act in certain ways. This temperament is part of a settled habit of mind, an inner trait that drives our outward conduct. This is how the heart, mind, and hands meet to fuel the task of reproducing leaders to fulfil the purpose of Christ in the world.
Yesterday I suggested that there are at least four dispositions, virtues, or habits of mind, that cultivate spiritual well-being. All four trace their origin to essential truths of the Gospel and to the very nature of God himself.
Dr. Greg Harrick builds on Holmes’ definition that we examined yesterday to show that two attributes of God shape the Christian leaders’ life: holiness and love.
Harrick claims that these two central attributes of God – His holiness expressed through his justice and His love – motivate all who are united with Christ. Every Christian virtue, Harrick says, from faith and hope to the fruits of the Spirit (see 1 Cor. 13:13; Gal. 5:22-25), all relate back to these two attributes. He concludes,
Christian virtues are settled dispositions that cause us to act in certain ways—ways that are Christ-like. All godly virtues are integrally related to the overarching Christian virtues of holiness and love and are produced by the Spirit as we strive to see them matured in our lives.
These attributes of God, holiness and love, are key themes in 2nd Timothy. After his greeting, Paul writes this:
I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. (2 Timothy 1:3-5)
Despite appearances to the contrary, Paul stands before God with a clear conscience having served faithfully as his ancestors had. Paul has a clear conscience even though he writes as a criminal in chains.
The word translated ‘serve’ often refers to worship in the sense of a ‘practice’ in a ‘religious ceremony.’ It’s been said that translating this word as ‘serve’ loses the worship connotation just as translating it as ‘worship’ would lose the service connection. The idea here is that Paul’s worship of God has led to a form of service which has resulted in him being bound in chains and accused of wrong. Despite being condemned as a criminal he is declared righteous before God in Christ.
Critically, and here’s the point, his right standing before God is not because of his service but Christ’s sacrifice. So, Paul himself:
I consider them (his works) garbage, that I may gain Christ, and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. (Phil. 3:8b-9)
It is Paul’s faith in Christ that gives him the clear conscience. A clear conscience matters to Paul but his righteousness is not based on his service but Christ’s sacrifice. His service is a response to Christ’s sacrifice and is therefore rooted and established in the love of God that saved him. One settled habit of mind for Paul was the knowledge of that his salvation was by grace and not by means of anything he had done (see Eph. 2:8-9) or could ever do.
In case someone considers the connection to God’s holiness (and Christ’s sacrifice) a little tenuous – we are talking about one verse in 2nd Timothy after all – observe the priority of a ‘clear conscience’ in Paul’s first letter to Timothy.
The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. (1 Tim. 1:5)
Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well, holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith. (1 Tim. 1:1-19)
They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. (1 Tim. 3:9)
See it? It’s as if, right from the outset, Paul reminds Timothy of an important principle he’d established in his first letter. God’s holiness led to Christ’s sacrifice that imputed Christ’s righteousness. Paul’s righteousness was not based on what he did.
Note something else. There’s a definite relationship between ‘faith’ and ‘conscience’ in all of these references. In 2nd Timothy the connection is made through Timothy learning of the faith from his mother and grandmother (v5). From a young age Timothy had the opportunity for the faith to become a ‘settled habit of mind’, an internal disposition.
Let’s wrap this up.
The settled habits of mind are based on the nature of God himself, especially his holiness and love. When leaders fail to cultivate the virtues that enable these truths about God to become ‘settled habits of mind’ their leadership vitality is in danger. Through this blog I will mention four dangers, each danger associated with directives in the text. By developing settled habits of mind we can successfully battle these challenges:
1. When leaders allow the truth about Christ’s sacrifice satisfying God’s holiness to motivate them, they overcome the legalistic tendencies Paul said he resisted in Philippians 3.
2. When leaders allow the teaching of Scripture to guide who they are and are becoming, they overcome the relativism of which Paul accused many of his opponents.
3. When leaders allow the truths of the Gospel to influence what they live for, they overcome the consumerist tendencies which Paul decried in many of those who had deserted him.
4. When a leader allows their ministry to be driven by Christ’s vision for the world rather than their own, they overcome the authoritarianist tendencies typical in cult leaders, dictators and some celebrity pastors in our day.
As we journey through 2nd Timothy I will show how Paul’s words to Timothy can be seen to encourage four virtues or habits, that once settled, enable the Christian leader to have that inner disposition that successfully battles legalism, relativism, consumerism, and authoritarianism.
Food For Thought:
1. How easy is it for you to rest in the knowledge that your salvation is based on Christ’s finished work and imputed righteousness not your own performance and self-righteousness?
2. Which are these four ‘battles’ is the biggest battle for you in your walk with Christ?
Feel free to post your thoughts in the comments box below. I’ll do my best to answer any and all questions.
 G. Harrick, Go and Make Disciples of All Nations, “Virtues Leading to Christlikeness”, The Biblical Studies Foundation (2001), p46.
 So W.L. Liefeld, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, Zondervan: Grand Rapids (1999), p222