What makes you distinctive?

Anthony Davis has a distinctive unibrow that he’s proud of. In fact, he has a unibrow patent.

The dictionary defines distinctive as a “noun. 1. A distinguishing mark or quality; a characteristic.”[1]

In his book The Baptist Identity: Four Fragile Freedoms, Walter B. Shurden identifies four freedoms that have characterized Baptists through the centuries:  Bible freedom soul freedom, church freedom, and religious freedom[2]

These are Baptist “distinctives”. You thought it was mainly ‘baptism by immersion’, but no, these are the distinguishing marks of Baptist churches.

1. Bible freedom is the historic Baptist affirmation that the Bible, under the Lordship of Christ, must be central in the life of the individual and church and that Christians, with the best and most scholarly tools of inquiry, are both free and obligated to study and obey the Scripture.

2. Soul freedom is defined as the inalienable right and responsibility of every person to deal with God without the imposition of creed, the interference of clergy, or the intervention of civil government.

Also known as the priesthood of all believers, soul freedom implies that all believers share as equals in Christ’s Body, the church, and have a priestly role toward God and each other.  Soul freedom affirms our core belief in individual choice.  We believe that each person was created in the image of God, and therefore, is able and responsible, under God, to make moral, spiritual, and religious decisions.[3]

3. Church freedom is the historic Baptist affirmation that local churches are free, under the Lordship of Christ, to determine their membership and leadership, to order their worship and work, to ordain whom they perceive as gifted for ministry, male or female, and to participate in the larger Body of Christ.

4. Religious freedom is the historic Baptist affirmation of freedom OF religion, freedom FOR religion, and freedom FROM religion, insisting that Caesar is not Christ and Christ is not Caesar.

Now, whether these distinctives characterized the New Testament church are a matter of discussion as we determine what kind of church we want to be. From the consensus that I am gathering, we want to be a Christ-centered, Word-centered church, one which follows the teaching and example of the New Testament. I believe that the number one distinctive we should have is that we are a disciple-making church.

What Distinctives make a Disciple Making Church?

Let’s look at our text and see what God’s Word says our “distinctives” should be:

What are the Distinctives of Ministry Paul imparted to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:1-16?

A.  Dependence on the Holy Spirit to protect against the flesh.

  • The Wisdom of Man exalts itself against the Wisdom of God. The wisdom of God is the Cross and the expression of the Cross throughout the Word.

1 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, 2 through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, 3 who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving,

  1. Religious people will depart from true faith.
  2. Devote themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons: i.e. Satan in the garden – it is ok to do this. (Not demon possessed, but influenced because they exalt their own wisdom above God’s Word.)
  3. People whose conscience has become seared (they have resisted the Holy Spirit and failed the grace of God – bitterness, moral impurity, temporal values)
  4. Determine certain “rules” that you must follow to be ‘sanctified’.
  5. Create barriers to God’s creation, for everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if received with thanksgiving – no barriers to people or things.
  6. Results in an inward focused, fleshly ministry, opposed to the Work of the Holy Spirit.
  7. Man’s philosophy and traditions guides ministry. (Why do we do it this way? Because we have always done it this way)

B.  Honesty with the Word

vs 2: through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared

We don’t close our minds to what the Scriptures really says. We don’t twist it to mean something that is more pleasing to our ideas. We submit our lives to the authority of the Word, not having our consciences seared by resistance or wrong values.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

Scripture is exalted and obeyed, taught, used for reproof and correction and training in righteousness, so that we might be competent and equipped for good works.

We do not sear our consciences to permit laziness and apathy in following Christ. You can usually tell that is what is going on in a typical church because the people are not in the Word.

C. Priority of Grace

vs 4: For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving,

Grace is for the weak, the sinful, the unlovely. If we are honest with each other about our needs and sins, we will avoid false piety and false holiness. We will welcome all into our fellowship, and count on God’s Grace to move us towards Him.

2 Corinthians 4:15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

D. Devotion to the Word and Prayer

vs 5: for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer

We will develop a community centered around the Word and prayer together. Each one of us will know he Word. Each one of us will be praying. This is not limited to the Pastor or Elders or Deacons. Every Member is a priest. No saying “I can’t”, and living with a seared conscience. We are made holy by the Word and prayer!

E. Servants trained in the Word and Doctrine

vs 6 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.

Our church will be about training every member to be ‘good servants’ of Jesus, trained in the power of God’s word!

F. Trained for Godliness

vs 7: Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; 8 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.

Amplified Version puts it this way:

1 Timothy 4:7 But refuse and avoid irreverent legends (profane and impure and godless fictions, mere grandmothers’ tales) and silly myths, and express your disapproval of them. Train yourself toward godliness (piety), [keeping yourself spiritually fit].

Avoid anything that sidetracks you from training in Godliness. Avoid doing things just because someone says you should to be a good Christian. Do not follow myths or “old wive’s tales.”

My Granny watched over her granddaughters with great care. She taught us what ladies did and did not do. She had a network of neighbors and cousins watching our every move. Finally, she guarded our future fertility-or at least she thought she did. Granny taught us that if we lifted heavy things, we would “rupture ourselves” and be unable to have children.

Any time we were moving, she insisted that many hands make light work. No girl was to show off how strong she was by picking up a really heavy box. The men were supposed to move the heavy items. (Men were apparently not as prone to rupture?) When a friend’s teenage daughter picked up a television set and loaded it on a moving truck by herself, Granny shook her head while we cheered our friend for being so strong.

How do you train for godliness? Does it mean you wear a suit to church, stop going to movies, stop hanging around certain people, do this or that…No those are just outward cleansings, sometimes motivated by some tradition or old wives tale. Godliness is the presence of God in your life. Training for Godliness is exercising faith to see God daily, working on diligently seeking Him (because God rewards those who diligently seek Him-Hebrews 11:6).

Now, if changes in your habits and lifestyle occur because God brings it about, great! But don’t follow what amounts to “old wives tales” about how you should dress and act.

Godliness has value in every way – for today and for eternity.

  • 1 Timothy 4:9 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance.

G.  Hope set on the Living God

  • 1 Timothy 4:10 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.

Our goal is to be Godly, because our hope is set on the living God. Your hope is usually what drives you. You work hard and save so that one day you hope you can retire. You watch what you eat and exercise because you hope to stay healthy. A wives tale is that you go to church because you hope it gives you a better chance of heaven.

No, if we set our hope on God who lives, who rewards, who loves, who works in our lives, then we will train for godliness. We will be disciples. We will grow in Jesus Christ.

H. We command and teach these things.

  • vs 11: Command and teach these things.

The word for teach implies word of mouth instruction from one person to another. This is relational teaching and commanding. This is discipleship. This is one follower instructing another follower. We are to instruct our people these things.

I. Examples in speech, conduct, love, faith purity

  • vs 12 Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.

This is the heart of disciple-making. You don’t just instruct and command, but you demonstrate with your life. Your speech, your conduct, the way you love others, your faith, and your purity of heart and life. When you are making disciples, you spend time together. Your speech will reveal the state of your heart. What you talk about, what you don’t talk about.

Regardless of your age or knowledge or wisdom. When you train for godliness, you will demonstrate the example that God desires.

J. Disciple making requires devotion

  • vs 13:  Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.

K. Stir up your spiritual gift

  • vs 14:  Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you.

2 Timothy 1:6 6 Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.

L. Immersed in Discipleship

  • vs 15: Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all.

M. Keep a close watch on each other and our teaching

  • vs 16: Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them:

N. We will be overcomers.

  • vs 16b: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.

So Should our Church be committed to being a Disciple-Making Church?

  • DO we owe it to Christ?
  • DO we want to reach Sinners with the Power of Christ for their lives?
  • DO we want Grace to overflow in our lives?
  • DO we want to be Overcomers?
  • Do we want to be spiritually FIT?
  • Do we want to know the power of Christ for our every-day lives?

[1] Oxford English Dictionary

[2] Walter B. Shurden,  The Baptist Identity: Four Fragile Freedoms (Macon, GA: Smyth & Helwys Publishers, 1993)5.  Shurden arrived at these distinctives by studying historic documents such as denominational documents from the Northern, Southern, American and National Baptist Conventions, the Alliance of Baptists, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, and a diversity of European Baptist groups as well as sermons and addresses given at meetings of the Baptist World Alliance from 1905 to 1980.

[3] Ibid, 24.

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