FOCUS: Protecting the Church


Connor BaxterNov 22, 2020Frisco


How are we to ensure the church is healthy? In week 7 of our series, FOCUS: A Study in 1 Timothy, Connor Baxter teaches through 1 Timothy 4, showing us that we are to protect the church from both the outside and from within.

Catching Up

So far in 1 Timothy, we’ve learned that false teachers have always been in the church and that doctrine and discernment keep us from being deluded by them. We learned that God’s mercy and grace should change our vision and response to what’s happening in the world around us and that God calls his church to be a people who prioritize prayer. Next, we heard about God’s heart to unleash women in the church and learned about the character church leadership should possess. Lastly, we learned about the importance of being a family that rallies around the gospel.

Key Takeaways

  • The enemy is at war and he plays for keeps.
  • False teachers will often look the same, but they will not sound the same. Their message will be different. Pay attention to content, not the style of communication. The substance, not the speaker.
  • To make a statement about a created thing is, in reality, to make a statement about its creator. God is good, and He creates good things.
  • You take God out of the equation when you take his teaching out of the equation.
  • Don’t use Paul’s correction of legalism to be your tool for licentiousness. Not all good things are good at all times. Just because God made something doesn’t mean it’s made for whatever purpose we assign to it (Titus 1:14-16)..
  • We protect the church from ourselves when we prioritize Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).
  • Leaders in the church are examples, not exceptions. There are no characteristics of behavior that are unique and reserved for leaders only.
  • Training is the means not the end. Christ Himself is the end. If training is not existent in your life, you don’t have a training issue, you have a value issue.
  • God fully intends for you to walk with Him intimately. Godliness is not unreachable and not unattainable.
  • We protect the church from ourselves when we train for godliness.
  • Paul eliminates every excuse we have when it comes to lacking a relationship with Him or being able to be used by Him. If you are young, not only are you not too young to lead or be used, but you are expected to be an example.
  • How do you lead and shepherd people older than yourself? The same way you lead people younger than yourself.
  • Sin can quickly destroy your life. But you should see how quickly God works in redemption and righteousness.
  • You aren’t disqualified because you are young, and you shouldn’t be distinguished because you are old.
  • It’s never too early, nor too late, to be used by God.
  • We protect the church from ourself when we put aside excuses.
  • We protect the church from destruction when we refuse to be apathetic with our spiritual gifts.
  • If Christ gave His life for the church, we should give our life to protect it.

Discussing and Applying the Sermon

  • What does it look like for you to train for godliness? What is your plan for growing in godliness moving forward?
  • How might God be calling you to lead those older than yourself? Younger than yourself?

Good morning, Watermark! It's great to be with this campus. As you heard, I typically get to hang out a little bit north of here at Watermark Frisco, and it's a privilege to come back to the place that I started on staff. God did a lot of work through me here around these folks and really here in a minute I'd just thank you for all that you, Watermark the body, have done to be an encouragement and resource for Watermark Frisco.

Before I dive into all of that, I know I don't know everybody in the room, so I'd love to just let you know a little bit more about myself. Here's a picture of my family. That is my wife, Ally, right there next to me. She is, as the Proverbs say, an excellent wife who is the crown of her husband. It is a blast doing life with her. We're best friends who get to journey through this whole thing together.

We have two kiddos there, as you see. Ramsey is in my arms with the funny face. She is always the life of the party. She is fun. She will make you laugh. Then, Gunner is in my wife's arms, and he is growing up underneath his sister's wing. He's not talking yet, but he is developing physically because he watches everything she does, so he will then play Monkey See Monkey Do, and she does all of the talking for him.

We have a blast. That's our family. You can be praying for us. We actually have baby number three on the way, due in April, so we are having a good time up in Frisco. That's my favorite role outside of being a follower of Christ (getting to be a husband and getting to be a dad), but I do get to play the role of what I call a servant or a campus pastor in Frisco.

On behalf of the Frisco Campus, really, I would love to say, "Thank you," to Watermark for the 20 years of faithfulness and for a lot of you in this room who have given a lot of time, a lot of resources, a lot of prayer, and a lot of discipleship. God in his kindness has allowed Watermark to kind of spill outside of this location and multiplied a few times, and we have greatly benefited from years of faithfulness.

This past October we celebrated two years in Frisco. Here are a few pictures of what's going on and just a fly-by overview. We get to meet and set up and tear down every week at Frisco High School, so that's a lot of fun. We get to enjoy being together early in the morning pushing around cases and starting things.

We got to start a couple of ministries in the middle of the COVID season. We're looking forward in January to starting a few more. God is doing some amazing things. We're watching people come to Christ. We're doing baptisms. We're seeing marriages saved. We're seeing everything you see here happen there, because I know we're all serving the same God. Just a disclaimer… Some of those pictures were pre-COVID, so you can save some of the emails. Don't worry. Not all of those were taken in the last few weeks.

That's who I am. That's what I get to do, and that's what I get to watch, a living God do the same thing he has done for thousands of years with the church for 20 years here specifically and the last two years at Watermark Frisco, and it has been a privilege. One of my favorite Proverbs to share with people is Proverbs 19:4, which just talks about house and wealth are inherited from your father, but a prudent wife is from the Lord.

Riding with the brand of Watermark, we have inherited a lot of stuff and a lot of resources (a team and facilities to meet in), but we all ultimately know it's because God is at work. The text we're going to be in today and part of why I highlight that is 1 Timothy 4, as we continue in this series. It's kind of a sweet text for me.

The last time I was teaching 1 Timothy 4 at Watermark was about three years ago when a group of us were thinking about starting a campus at Watermark Frisco. I was just on staff in Dallas at the time. In my heart, I had this idea of potentially leading one day, and Kyle Kaigler over there at the Plano Campus was meeting with the Frisco folks saying, "Here's what it takes to be the church."

They were studying 1 Timothy, and as I was just around and along for the ride to learn and be equipped myself, they said, "Why don't you get up there and teach one week?" The text they gave me was 1 Timothy 4, so this text keeps popping up in my journey around Watermark, which is fun, but I will tell you I have had the privilege of having a front-row seat for the past two years to a group of people, more narrowly the Frisco Campus, take 1 Timothy seriously and specifically 1 Timothy 4, and I have watched God go to work.

It is fun for me to teach you what I am experiencing God doing up at Watermark Frisco. Before we dive all the way into the text in teaching and exhortation, it would be crazy for us not to just read the text together, especially because within the text we're going to learn from it says to be sure to publicly read the Word of God. Let's just listen to the Scripture we're going to be in together. I would love to read 1 Timothy 4 with you. It will be on the screen. If you have your Bible, you can pop it open. Then, we'll get busy with some applications from the text. Here we go.

"Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.

For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer. If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed.

Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance.

For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe. Command and teach these things. Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.

Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Pra ctice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers."

Lord, would you just help us to pay attention to your Word? Would you use our next time together to show us what you want us to learn? I thank you that your Word is living and active. It is truth. It is sanctifying. It doesn't return void. We don't know you because of the wisdom of man, but we know you because of the power of the gospel, so would you enlighten this to our hearts and encourage us today? It's in your name we pray, amen.

Part of why I love this text is because folks are constantly watching in the world and going, "What is wrong with Christians? What is wrong with God?" We just studied last week how we, as the church, are the pillar and the foundation of truth. We are the attracting force for the gospel. The way you live your life will be a means to bring people to God, and you are also the foundation on which the truth stands, meaning you kind of stand to give a reason for the hope you have.

That's what the church is, and the church stands up for the truth, and truth is not a set of facts. It's not something that happened 2,000 years ago. It's not something. It's someone. It's Jesus. If God himself says, "I'm going to use broken, fallen people and a perfect message and my Holy Spirit to go to work in the world today," don't you think an Enemy would be attacking the church?

An Enemy doesn't play games; he plays for keeps. Paul just made the church a really big deal. It's like he's moving on to chapter 4, and he says, "I want you to know, Timothy…" This is how I would title chapter 4. To break up all that we just read here, I'll break it up into two chunks for you to help you. I would title chapter 4 Instructions on How to Protect the Church.

I think, because we haven't always gotten this right, you see pastors falling like flies. You see people who take the name of Christ but live the same way as anybody who doesn't even know who Christ is. I think when we apply this text and study this text and learn this text and believe this text it will bring vitality and immunity back into the church. It will be a source of health for you and for our body and will keep us being the light in the world that we want to be and the salt of the earth that we want to continue to preserve this world.

I think all of that is wrapped up in 1 Timothy 4, and I'll do my best to tell you why I believe that. If I could break this whole chapter into two big chunks just to help us as we move through it, I'd say the first five verses are how you protect the church from others outside the church. Verses 6 through 16 are how you protect the church from yourself. There are enemies abroad and domestically and within. Not only are people going to attack from outside, but you'd better be careful, because those on the inside can become a problem. Namely you, Timothy.

We're going to dive into all of that. Now, the first two verses… "Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through…" Through people. Through humans. "…through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared…"

When I hear words like teachings of demons and deceitful spirits, my mind goes to cult-like practices and people hiding out in dark corners of the world doing bizarre-looking things. I think the first thing Paul is going to say is, "Just so you know, when the teaching of the Enemy comes through and when lies come through, they're not going to just be noticeable by what you can see. Don't be surprised when false teachers and deceitful people look just like you and have some of the same methods you do."

They may use a microphone and a podium and certain words you use, so just don't be surprised when they look the same. You have to go deeper than that. You have to actually listen to the message. You have to listen to the substance of what is being communicated, not just the speaker himself being drawn away or being pulled offsides by slick words or wittiness or familiarity. You have to pay attention.

The warning I would just give us as we move through is false teachers will often look the same, but they will not sound the same. Pay attention to the content and don't look just at the communicator. What was the specific content of these folks who were leading and teaching the opposite of what God would have for his people?

In verse 3, it tells us these folks were teaching… It reads like this. "…who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth." They were teaching an unbiblical abstinence from things God created, namely in this instance marriage and meals.

Now, I actually ironically was at a wedding last night where I was watching a marriage happen before my eyes. We rolled in there, and I had shrimp, bacon…both of those at once…chicken, and steak. I'm taking bites of this food, and I'm watching these people give their vows and express their love and that they were going to lay down their lives for each other, and I'm going, "Okay. I've been studying this for a little while. These things were created by God."

Why does this become such a big deal to Paul in this text? The reason this becomes a big deal to Paul is not because these are just simply words he's teaching. This is really a paradigm and an understanding of who God is. When we take the things created by God and call them evil in and of themselves, we're not making a statement about the creation; we are making a statement about its Creator.

To call marriage that God created evil is to say some evil person or thing or deity created that. To take food and declare it as evil is to say, "Whoever created that food or the source of that food is evil." That's why it says in verse 4, "For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving…"

We're not making statements about food. We're not making statements about marriage. We are making statements about the character of God and who he is. It's why in places like 2 Corinthians 10:5, you'll hear, "We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…" You are to refute people when they talk about God in a false way.

That was showing up here through these false teachers by abstaining from marriage and abstaining from certain kinds of foods. What's at stake is who God really is and what he's like. No matter what your view of God is I hope this starts to inform you that when you are sitting around the Thanksgiving table and you're hopefully eating some good food, you take a bite of that and go, "Man! Where did this food come from? Who created this food? Because this food is good!"

Now, if you get the wrong chef in the kitchen, that will mess it up, but food in and of itself is good. It's a source of nutrients and it provides for you what you need. When we eat food, we ought to go, "That's who God is! He's good. He gives us things that are enjoyable." They're satisfying, and they give us the fuel we need to live life, so it's a picture of who God is.

I didn't get a degree in apologetics, but when I think about marriage and everything that happens within the context of marriage according to God, I think there is a pretty good argument to the goodness of God when you think about physical intimacy. I know some people are watching at home with their families around the TV with younger ones who can hear.

When you think about physical intimacy within marriage, that is a good thing. We have given that over to the world to define. We act in the church sometimes like it is taboo to talk about that subject, but you need to talk about that subject for the good thing that it is, because it came from a good Creator.

I don't know about you, but that seems to make a pretty strong argument that God is good because he created physical intimacy. He created relationships. If we've learned anything in the last shutdown season it is the value and the warmth and the beauty of relationships. Who created that? A good God created that.

You start to see why this was a big deal to Paul, because we're not making statements about marriage or meals but we're making statements about God. This is why I think he inserts verse 5, because he doesn't want us to overcorrect. He says, "…for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer."

He's correcting a certain kind of teaching, but he knows we're going to be tempted to take that teaching and overcorrect from his correction. The way I wrote this down is, "Don't use Paul's correction of legalism to be your tool of licentiousness." Just because it is a good thing in and of itself doesn't mean it's good all of the time.

Just because God made it doesn't mean when we assign different purposes to it that we can't twist it and use it for evil. That's why he says, "These things will remain as holy or set aside as holy and glorifying to God if you take God's Word and you understand what he would have you do with his good creation." If he created it, he gets to determine its use, and when we use it in ways he hasn't created it for it is not good. This is what Titus 1:14-16 is all about. He's trying to teach this very subject. It says,

"…not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth. To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work."

The problem is not the creation. It's whose hands the creation is in. That's why for the pure, everything is pure, because they use it in the way God would want them to. They understand God's Word. They have sanctified it or made it holy through Scripture. That's why it says, "…but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure…"

Even though they use things like marriage or physical intimacy or relationships or food or alcohol… They use those things however they want, and it is not pure for them because it has not been sanctified by the Word of God. When it says it is to be sanctified by the Word of God and prayer, this is the way you can think about prayer. If we had a longer time, those first five verses keep saying this word: thankfulness.

Any time you study prayer throughout Scripture, often the theme of thankfulness shows up hand in hand with prayer, which is to say every time you are talking to God you have something to thank God for, no matter what's going on, but when I think about that in this context, I think about whatever decision I'm making and whatever part of God's creation I am interacting with, if I can't look God in the eyes and say, "Thank you," I know I'm probably not using it the right way.

Those things we sometimes hide from other people, that we don't tell our Community Group about, that we do when no one is looking or that we hope doesn't show up on our social media posts and all of those kinds of things… The things we hide and the things you can't look God in the eyes through prayer and say, "Thank you," are probably a good indication for you that you're not using it in the way God would have you.

The conclusion of all of that is we protect the church when we use God's things God's way and refute those who teach otherwise. We use God's things in God's ways and refute those who teach otherwise. We're going to shift now to the last 10 verses. We're going to think about and move into protecting the church from yourself.

It's interesting. Right here, Paul is going to shift from these folks who were outside of the church to Timothy. He's going to start to warn Timothy about things he can do to be a hazard or a hindrance or even a destruction to the church. It's interesting. In those first five verses about those false teachers, there is a pretty good case to be made that they were actually elders in the church before they departed.

Because of the content of chapter 3 and with some of what happens in chapter 5 with the rebuking of the elders, some people make the case these folks who drifted and departed were elders. If anything, they were certainly leaders because they were partaking in teaching, which was part of the role of a leader, which is to say it doesn't matter what position you have, what your title is, or how long you've been around the game. Anybody is susceptible to their flesh.

He's going, "Timothy, you've trained with me. You've been a part of this ministry. You've been sent as the pastor. Guess what. Even you can be a destruction to the church, so here's how you can be a protection from yourself." Now, if that is true for Timothy, the leader and the pastor and the guy who trained underneath Paul, how much more true could it be for me and for us?

This teaching that is about to come is not just for Timothy. It's for the church, and it's for the church today. Here's how you can protect the church from yourself. In verse 6, he says, "If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed."

Before he gets into all of the application and commands you heard a second ago, he's going to talk about the desire and the willingness to be a good servant of Christ. You have to catch this, because nothing else matters after here if it's not flowing from a desire to be a servant of Christ. If you're visiting or maybe you don't know Christ as your personal Lord and Savior and you're here checking things out, the rest of this text and the rest of what I'm going to say is not going to have a ton of application for you.

Verse 6 is where you need to hang out and just figure out if you want to be a servant of Christ. As a reminder for the church and for us, this is not about how you become a son of Christ or a daughter of Christ. This is not about your salvation. This is what you do if your desire is to serve Christ. The next teaching we're about to go through is a response to what God has done for you.

We are not working to God. We are working out of a relationship with God. We can't miss that as we dive into some pretty thick application and teaching. The conclusion there is that we will protect the church from ourselves when we prioritize Christ. As he goes on and he's about to teach, some folks will say, "This is great teaching for a leader like Timothy, but I'm still not fully convinced this really applies to me."

I just want to unpack or address that thought really quickly and remind you that leaders are examples to follow. They are not exceptions used to rationalize disobedience. God instills elders and he instills leaders in the church so you can know what your life ought to look like. There is not a single characteristic in 1 Timothy 3, which is the qualifications for an elder, that is not asked and commanded of any believer.

You're an elder or a leader so you can be lifted up so people can go, "What am I supposed to be like as I follow Jesus? Oh, yeah! This is my living reminder. They're living out the text," but it is what God desires for every Christian. This is not just for Timothy so we can kind of rationalize living how we want to live because we're not leaders or we don't have certain titles.

The other way I say it is obedience is not determined by your office. It's determined by a relationship with Christ and the desire to be a good servant. That's why in 1 Corinthians 11:1 Paul says, "Follow me as I follow Christ." Leaders are examples. Whatever you see true of a leader is true for you when it comes to character and pursuit of Christ.

What does he command this leader and this Christian and this disciple of Christ to do? In verses 7 through 9, he says, "Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come."

He's going to put the exclamation point on that in verse 9 and say, "The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance." The emphasis of that text is godliness. What is godliness? Defining that is really helpful. I'll share with you a term I've just found personally to be the easiest to remember and the most clear.

It comes from a guy named Donald Whitney who wrote a book about spiritual disciplines that I would highly encourage anybody to read. The way he summarizes the idea of godliness is he uses two Cs. That's why it's easy to remember. He defines godliness as a closeness to Christ and a conformity to Christ.

Closeness to Christ. That is relational. The things you do to train ought to produce in you a deeper relationship with God. If the result of whatever he means by training is not intimacy with the God of the universe then you aren't training for the right reasons. It's not leading you to what it's meant to lead you to, which is Christ. He is the reward. He is the end of the means of training. That is what closeness to Christ in the idea of godliness is.

Then, with conformity to Christ, he's just saying that when you train these ways you ought to look more like Jesus. That's our goal as Christians or as little Christs. We are to be representatives of Christ to the world. We're his ambassadors. We're his image bearers in that sense. We are what he has left here to proclaim. That's what a lot of last week was all about.

He's saying, "This is the end, and you can't miss that." Then, he's going to use this word train. I don't know about you, but that's not always a word I think of when I think about my relationship with God, but it is good imagery, because it means you're not always going to feel like it or it's not always going to be what you think it's going to be.

There are days you're going to wake up and go to practice when you don't want to go to practice. There are days you're going to go through a practice and you're not going to feel much changed. In fact, you may do practice, practice, practice every day and you don't have a sense of getting any better.

Sometimes the spiritual life and your walk with God are going to feel a little bit like training like an athlete. Later in 2 Timothy, when Paul writes another letter to this same guy, he's going to use some similar metaphors. He's going to say, "To remind you, Timothy, your life is like a soldier. You are responding to a commanding officer. Your life is like a farmer, a hard-working farmer. Your life is like an athlete who competes according to the rules."

This is the language used and the descriptions used and the imagery used to talk about a relationship with God. It takes time and energy, but God intends for you to know the path to have intimacy with him. He has not left us here to figure it out. You don't have to guess. This is not looking under rocks to see what works.

There are predetermined paths for you to have a deep relationship with God and become more like Christ. That's what you're training for. We call them spiritual disciplines. When we talk about devoting daily, which is the first core value of community here for every member…it's something you do…this is the idea we have in mind. Devote. Practice these things. Immerse yourselves in them. That's the language he's going to use. Train.

As just an outline of what that may look like, when you go to train or when you go to deepen your walk with God the first has to do with your Bible. That means you study this. That means you memorize this, you meditate on this, and you apply this. That's how you train. It has to do with prayer, which is communicating with God, which is responding to him, and which is talking to him.

It has to do with fasting. That's something we did corporately a few weeks ago. That's a means for you that God has predetermined when you walk down that road of faith. You will grow more like Christ and deepen a relationship with him. I will go to bat that this church has more resources than any other church I know of as a means for you to train.

I am walking proof of that. I've tried to avail myself to everything Watermark has to offer. There is plenty for you. Anything you need help with training, do not leave today without figuring out all of the resources in abundance that are here to help you do that, because we exist to make disciples and to come alongside you as you walk with Christ.

We have to train. God wants you to have a deep relationship with him. He has shown you the way. The question is…Will we walk down the way? Will we train? How we answer this and how we live our lives will be how we protect the church. The conclusion there is we protect the church from ourselves when we train for godliness.

The next little piece of Scripture here talks about in verses 11 and 12 to Timothy that we should, "Command and teach these things. Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity." He says, "Don't let anybody despise you, Timothy, for your youth."

I have a particularly unique relationship with this text. One of the questions I know most people have that they never ask me is, "How old are you?" The reason I know that is because in Frisco when I get done doing something more up front, there is usually a conversation afterward or a relationship built with folks, and they'll come down and ask me after our conversation, "How old are you?" Every time I'm in these conversations I can usually sense when the question is coming, so I kind of play this game with myself. "How long until they ask me how old I am?"

Eventually, they ask me the question, and I tell them I'm 27-1/2. If the half helps you… My daughter throws that in, so I figure it's good for me too to throw in the half. Then, I'll just go from there and say, "I was wondering how old you are." That usually turns to a pretty good conversation from there. No. I don't ask the last part…always.

There is something about this. There is an encouragement here that I do want us to walk away with. Paul, when he was talking to Timothy, was saying, "Not only is your youth not an appropriate excuse for not having a deep relationship with Christ and looking for him, but I'm actually expecting you to look like Christ and have a deep relationship with him."

Our problem when we view youth certain ways and when we talk about Millennials or Gen-Z is not our view with the youth, but it really is the God of the youth that we have a bad view of. What we're inevitably saying is that God can't use young people. I know we don't always mean to say that, but sometimes that's the way it comes across.

I will tell you Paul is eliminating that excuse here, and if he's eliminating the excuse of youth, I tend to think it really eliminates all other excuses, because the most legitimate excuse there is is time. Those who are most handicapped by time are the youth. What I think God has done throughout all of Scripture…I'm going to show you some more examples…is he has used the youth in ways because I think he wants people to know what determines being used by God is not your age.

If age is not what determines being used by God, then a lot of the other things we usually talk about aren't very good excuses either. There are a few spots in Scripture. If we just fly by our Old Testament into the New, you can go into Genesis and you see a guy named Joseph who was 17 years old who was sold into slavery who had a pretty rough go at life, thrown into a prison cell, and he sets an example in conduct and in faith in the way he walks with God through that scenario.

You can look at Queen Esther who was young and her example. You can look at Jeremiah, the weeping prophet. I want to read this one to you. Perhaps the craziest one I've found in Scripture personally is a guy named Josiah. He was 8 years old when he became king. Read this with me. It's 2 Chronicles 34:1-3.

"Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem. And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord , and walked in the ways of David his father; and he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet a boy, he began to seek the God of David his father, and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem…"

Here's what you need to know. Folks who don't look to the left and to the right and who seek God are the kind of individuals God uses. When Josiah showed up, Israel for 70 years had been living in disobedience, and God plucks an 8-year-old out and uses him to change a nation's trajectory. An 8-year-old!

I don't have to look any further than my own personal Community Group. In our Community Group we have a 13-year-old named Hudson Ramsey. Hudson, to me, is perhaps the greatest and most faithful evangelist we have at Watermark. Every time we go out to eat as a Community Group, this 13-year-old is sitting with pastors and the campus shepherds of our campus and he's the guy engaging and sharing the gospel with the waiter or waitress.

I was actually mentioning his name to the staff this week, and two others of the staff went, "We were with Hudson a couple of weeks ago, and he was sharing the gospel." I go, "Amen!" He's 13. Because the living God of Josiah as an 8-year-old is the living God of Hudson, he's doing the same thing.

You can look at stories of David who was anointed king at 15. One of my favorite verses about David is Psalm 119:99-100. This is the kind of person God uses (people who have more understanding than all their teachers) because God's testimonies are their meditations. He understands more than the age because he keeps his precepts. That's why David had a pretty good run off the bat, because he believed that.

Again, I look down at our campus and I see a young gal, a gal named Steph who is 20 years old who became a Christ follower less than two years ago, but every day she wakes up she pursues the Lord. She goes, "What do you want me to do today?" She gets on her knees, and she is attentive, and she is one of the healthiest individuals on our campus. She leads her Community Group. She doesn't let the fact that she's 20 or came to know Christ two years ago dictate her faithfulness today.

She was actually sharing a story this week with our staff how she was sharing the gospel with a gal in Frisco whose life had just been kind of beaten up and was bruised, and there was Steph, a gal who sought God and who understood who God was and believed him, and God was using her right there in our city. Those are the folks God uses, not old or young.

When I say old, I mean old, too. Part of why I think God uses this is because most of us probably have folks we've been praying about for a while who don't know Jesus and who are maybe a little bit down the road in life. Maybe you're going to be with them for Thanksgiving. There's that temptation to just think, "Will they ever really be used by God, or will they ever even walk with Christ?"

I'll just tell you there's a guy I've been encouraged by this week. Ivan is a guy who for 40 years, from 15 to 59, did whatever he wanted and chased everything the world had to offer. He found himself in multiple relationships and multiple bad situations, addicted to alcohol. Then, at 59, he really started walking with Jesus.

For the last decade, Ivan has been plugged in here at Watermark serving and training for godliness, and there are multiple guys in leadership positions who will say, "Ivan is a big reason I'm where I am." That's a guy who at 59 after a hard life finally gave his life to Christ, and it didn't take long for God to start to use him.

I hope you're encouraged. We talk a ton about how painful sin can be and how destructive it can be, which it can be, but it's not near as powerful as righteousness, because the Enemy is not as strong as God. Our wickedness and our rebellion will have a consequence, but you will be amazed at what God can do in a short amount of time.

He'll do it with 8-year-olds, 13-year-olds, 20-year-olds, 27-1/2-year-olds, 59-year-olds, 69-year-olds, and everything in between, because that's who God is. It's never too early or too late to be used by God. It's never too early. It's never too late. I pray this changes the conversations you have with family around the Thanksgiving table. We will protect the church from ourselves when we put aside excuses. I want to make one last note on these last four verses of a way we can protect the church from ourselves. Verses 13 through 16 say,

"Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers."

What I love about this is Timothy does have a unique gift. He had a teaching and leadership gift that not everybody has. We know everybody who comes to a real saving faith in Christ is indwelt by the Spirit and is sealed by the Spirit and is also gifted by the Spirit the moment you become a believer. Every Christian has spiritual gifts. Timothy's may be different than yours.

Mine and yours may be different, but when God puts a leader in place to use their gifts he does so so that the body of the church and Christians are set up to use their gifts. When a leader uses their gifts, you're set up to use yours. When people ask me what my job is, I just turn to Ephesians 4:12 and read it to them.

My job is to equip the saints for the work of ministry and for the building up of Christ. That's my role. I get to serve you, the body, and equip you to unleash you to use your gifts. I think about those words. "Do not neglect the gift you have… Practice these things, immerse yourself in them…" That is true for you in the way God has gifted you. He gifted you to build up the church, I Peter 4, says.

If I could highlight the principle at play, I think when we neglect our gifts and the use of them it would come out of Proverbs 18:9, which says, "Whoever is slack in his work is a brother to him who destroys." It's a lot easier to see somebody who is tearing something down that already exists and is going out and destroying that, but the principle is the thing that could be built is not being built because you're not engaging or you're being slack with the gifts God has given you.

My encouragement to us would be to engage with our gifts. We will protect the church from destruction when we aren't apathetic with our spiritual gifts. Just to remind you, Paul wrote this because he sees what Christ is doing and who he's doing it through, the church. He knows the Enemy plays for keeps and is going to attack the church, so he goes, "Church, be protected."

Protect the church from others using God's things God's ways. Don't be legalistic or licentious. Use God's Word and prayer. That's how you protect from others and how you protect the church from yourself. Prioritize Christ and seek to be good servants of him. Train. Train for godliness, seeing Christ as our end game and as the reward. Let's put aside excuses. Let's engage with our gifts and not be apathetic with them. I'll just close with this idea. If Jesus gave his life for the church, we should give ours to protect her. Pray with me.

Lord, I can read this and dive through it and it feels like a lot. There are so many different ways to apply it, but I thank you, Lord, that we are not working toward sonship. We are working to be good servants of you. Thank you that our salvation has nothing to do with our efforts. Christ, you and your effort and your work and your completeness are where we find our salvation.

Lord, would you help us understand more your grace and your love and your steadfastness toward us? Would it build up and boil up in us a desire to respond with a life of worship and of gratitude and of service? Would we toil and would we strive and would we practice and would we immerse ourselves in these things?

God, may we humbly walk with you, that our eyes wouldn't be taken off the prize, which is you! Whatever you want to do with our obedience, do it. We thank you, God, that we have a relationship with you. It's in your name we pray, amen.

Let's stand. Make sure you have your mask on. Let's stand and respond in worship in song and in lyric. Don't just sing these songs. Pray them. Let's sing.