Clean Living

Your credibility as a Christian depends upon your track record as a Christian.

Scripture: 1 Timothy 3:6-8, Judges 16 :20


Alright, thank you very much. And hello again, radio friends. How in the world are you? You doin’ alright today? I trust everything’s okay at your house, bless your heart. Glad to be back with you. This is your friend, Bob Cook. I’m glad to share with you from the Word of God.

We’re looking right now at 1 Timothy, chapter 3, and we just walked into verse 6. “Not a novice.” We’re talking about the qualifications of leadership. “Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.”

I told you how to, how to find out whether a person has grown enough to take additional responsibility. We won’t go over that again, but he says, “lest being lifted up with pride.” The one danger for the young believer is self-confidence. You feel so good, you’re so happy, everything seems to be going so well, and you think, “Boy, now I’ve got it made! I can make it now!” And then, all of a sudden, you fall on your face. You fail in some way, you collapse under some temptation or test. Or, you get deeply hurt by someone’s thoughtlessness or malice and you think, “Oh, I give up.” No, no. Don’t give up. You’re just in the process of growing. But, that’s the one danger and so if you, if you thrust a, a new believer into undue responsibility, you are running that risk, so he says, “Don’t do that.”

Then it says, in verse 7, “Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.”

Now, the “condemnation of the devil” has to do with pride. The “snare of the devil” has to do with doing things that cut the effectiveness of your testimony. You see, if it’s, if it’s known that, that you tend to, to fudge a little on your obligations, you, you can’t very well go to the same people that you’ve been dealing with on that basis and try to win them for Christ. If it’s known that you’re a little careless with the truth now and again, then you have a, you have a, a real difficulty in winning other people to Christ, if they know that you don’t tell the truth under pressure when it’s to your own advantage to trim the truth.

Reproach. The world is very quick to point out these things. We’ve been through some things in the past months – haven’t we – where, even in the case of, of non-Christians – at least not, not professed Christians, so far as we know – the record has shown that they got into some things that they had no business being into and, as a result, their failure was, was emblazoned upon the pages of the newspapers and on the television screens. And then Christians who have failed have just been, have just been dragged through the mire by those who point out the reproach of saying one thing and doing another.

He said, “If you want to serve God you have to keep your reputation clean.” And the way to do that, of course, is to keep on obeying God every step along the way. If, if it’s doubtful it’s dirty, you know, and you ask… Well, here’s a phrase that I, I got from Bob Pierce years ago. He was preaching one day at Winona Lake and he stopped, and he said, “You have begun to grow up a little in Christian things when you have learned to ask, before you take a step of any kind, ‘What will this do to my ministry for Christ?'”

Very good point, wouldn’t you agree? You’ve learned to ask, “What will this word, or this decision, or this action do to my ministry for Christ?”

Dick Hillis was preaching to a group of people up at Jack Wyrtzen’s camp many years ago and I was there in the crowd, and he looked at those young people and he said, “Young fellas, you’ll never be able to win a girl to Christ after you’ve made a pass at her.” Well, you know that shook some of them up; they hadn’t thought about that. But it’s true! Your credibility as a Christian depends upon your track record as a Christian. Yes, God forgives. Thank God He does. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Yes, God forgives. Yes, God gives Jonah a second chance. Yes, it’s all true. I believe it, and I’ve needed it just as you have. The mercy and the grace of God.

But I wanna tell you, friends: credibility – believability on the part of the world so far as your ministry is concerned – does depend upon your track record. “He must have,” it says – he “must” have, not “may” have or “should” have – “must have a good report by people outside of the group of believers.” Alright? Reproach.

Then it says, “the snare of the devil.” Because, when you get under pressure from outside, the temptation is to try to do something that will cope with the situation. Minister friend of mine finally, together with his congregation, went bankrupt. This was some years ago now. And the way it happened was, that by fudging a little here and there he found himself in financial hot water, so he issued more bonds and went further in debt, hoping somehow to recoup his fortunes and, and, and everything would be alright, but instead, it went the wrong way and finally the whole business came tumbling down. Sad, sad!

But, “the snare of the devil” is to try to do something to cope with the loss of credibility. Well, look at Sampson. He’s in Delilah’s house. Sampson, a man who – over 20 years – never mastered his besetting sin. He was too fond of the ladies, wasn’t he? And there he is in Delilah’s house, and she’s crying and she says, “You don’t really love me because you never told me your, your life’s secret. Where’s your power? Where’s the secret of your strength?” And he plays with her, doesn’t he? He tells her one thing, and then another, and just playing games with her, and finally, it said, “He told her all his heart.” He said, “Well, if you, if I lose my hair I lose my strength.” And she knew then that he had told her the truth. She put him to sleep, called for the barber, shaved his head, and then she shook him and she said, “Hey! The Philistines are coming! You better get up and defend yourself!”

The hussy! Oh, I tell you – don’t you get angry?

Well, Sampson! Now what’s he gonna do? He says, “I’ll do what I’ve always done. I’ll arise, I’ll go out, I’ll shake myself, I’ll take care of them!” See? Well, he didn’t know, he said “he wist not that the Lord was departed from him.”

And so, “the snare of the devil,” it turns out, is the temptation to do something to counteract your lack of spiritual power. Sampson tried to do something, but he was just weak, like any other human being, and they caught him, and they bored out his eyes, and they made him grind in the jailhouse like a beast of burden, grinding at the mill. They brought him out to make fun of him. Poor, tragic figure who tried to do something after he lost his power.

“The snare of the devil.” Oh, my heart aches when I think about this truth, because each of us – I’m sure – has been in a place where we knew that we needed not “strategy,” but a new touch. I may be talking to someone like that today.

Listen, if you want God’s leadership; if you want God to use you, seek your Lord. Seek your Lord until He gives you that new touch from Him, and then start to walk straight. It may take awhile for you to reestablish yourself in the eyes of those who have been your critics, but all you have to do is start walking with God, and He will defend you. “When a man’s ways please the Lord,” the Bible says, “he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.” God can give you favor with people who otherwise would be your critics and mockers and scoffers, when they sense the presence of Almighty God in your life. Believe me, brother, sister; that is true.

So where do you start if you’re discouraged today, and you feel as though you’ve just been like some shorn Sampson thrashing about, helplessly trying to cope with the loss of credibility, the loss of effectiveness, the loss of power? Get back to God. On your knees, seek the Lord. Call out to God, confess your need and your failures and your shortcomings and your sins, and let the Holy Spirit of God fill every room in your heart-house, and let God give you that new touch, then go on for Him.

Well, that’s 1 Timothy, chapter 3, verse 7.

Now he says, “Likewise the deacons must be grave.” Here’s your same word. It’s a word that has all the seriousness of eternity, and all of the concern for the lost, and all of the responsibility of a person whose life is committed to God. “Grave, not double-tongued.” Isn’t that interesting? What does that mean? Well, it means just what it says! Don’t say one thing one time, and another thing another time.

Gossip, gossip and subtle dishonesty has been the downfall of many a church leader. You know that? Well, it has. And you and I’d better watch it. We’d better watch out for that. The deacons must be “grave,” not dialoguers. Two, two-tongued, two words. You could put any of those things in that, in that little Greek word. Ah, tell the truth. Then you don’t have to remember what you said last. Avoid gossip like the plague, because you only do damage. Avoid gossip like the, like the plague. Don’t say one thing to one person, and another to another.

An executive friend of mine had to fire somebody. And instead of facing that person straight out, he said to him, “I really want you to stay, but so-and-so and so-and-so insists that you, that you be dismissed.” That’s double-tongued.

Be straight out with people. Whatever you are, be straight out so they don’t have to wonder what you mean when you say, “Good Morning.” “Not double-tongued.” You can depend upon a person who is real with God, that what he says, he means. And he’ll always be consistent by saying what he means under God.

Well, we’ll go on with this the next time we get together.

Dear Father today, may we live the kind of lives that make our testimony believable. I ask in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Till I meet you once again by way of radio, walk with the King today and be a blessing!

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