“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.” – 1 Timothy 4:16
Just the other day, I was thinking and thanking God that out of the dozens of houses in our neighborhood that have been gutted because of Chinese drywall, ours was safe.
“Bummer for them!” I thought, grateful that I wouldn’t have to pack my things, clear them out and wait for months while the place where I live is literally ripped apart to extract the toxic substance so many have been afflicted with.
Then I got the report from my roommate, the homeowner. “They found a few panels and we’ll know in three weeks how bad it is and what happens next.”
I never thought it would happen to me.
I have Chinese drywall.
Now begins the waiting in anticipation of the final report. How bad is it? How long until we have to leave so the remediation teams can do their work? How long will it take, and above all else, how could things have looked so good on the outside but be so toxic on the inside? Why didn’t we see it coming?
The truth is that if Chinese drywall had been easy to spot, had given off obvious signs of toxicity in the beginning, nobody would have used it in the first place. The problem was that it looked fine. It looked safe. It looked like it wasn’t dangerous at all, but as we’re finding out the hard way, looks can be awfully deceiving.
I think that’s one reason why the Apostle Paul, in the middle of a letter to his protégé Timothy, ends a long encouragement about being an example on the outside by reminding him to be sure things are right on the inside as well.
“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. 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.” – 1 Timothy 4:12-16
Sometimes for those of us who’ve grown up in church, we can get so used to “setting an example” and “doing the right thing” out of habit, that we forget to make sure our hearts are lining up with our hands. We can go on cruise control, getting used to a pattern of behavior without remembering to constantly examine our motives and desires. It’s not that many of us really want to be hypocrites, it’s just that sometimes we can get so used to switching between “church mode” and “life mode” that it just becomes second nature.
A lifestyle of worship means we aren’t just going through the motions because that’s what we’re supposed to do, but that we’re honestly and diligently watching our hearts to make sure what’s on the inside is matching up with what’s on the outside, and that both are lining up with the truth of God’s Word.
This week, take time each day to be honest with yourself and with God about where your heart and priorities are, really. Ask the Holy Spirit to shine His light on places where you might be acting with “clean hands” but not a “pure heart”, and ask Him to give you the grace to repent of sin, and the strength to live a lifestyle of worship in all you do.