People generally desire to have a balanced and stable life. The truth of this is made evident whenever we go to a bookstore or library and see the huge number of, so called, “self-help” books. In nearly all of these books the author gives his advice to the reader for how to acquire a balanced and stable life. People truly desire balance.
The Christian also desires a balanced life. The difference between those in the world and the Christian, though, is where they seek the answer to that balance. Where the world turns to these, so called, “self-help” books the Christian knows the one true source of self-help, the word of God. If a person is going to have the balanced and stable life that everyone desires but so few truly find, they are going to have to turn to the word of God. This is one of the ways that the Christian life shines as a light to glorify God and bring others to serve Him (Matt. 5:16).
Lets look at one passage in particular, of the many, that help us to understand how we can have that balanced and stable life. In 1 Timothy 4:16, the apostle Paul gave instructions to Timothy for just that purpose, to help him to be balanced and stable in his service to Christ. He said, “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.”
First, he said, “take heed to yourself.” The term “take heed” means “to pay attention to” or to “give attention to.” And so Paul was telling Timothy to pay attention to himself. The Bible is full of verses that show several areas in which we must pay close attention to ourselves to make sure we are being balanced.
In Romans 12:3, Paul says that we must pay attention to ourselves so that we don’t think more of ourselves then we ought to. Sometimes if we are not careful, if we are inattentive to ourselves, we can become haughty and proud. The person who gives himself a higher estimation then he should is not balanced. To see how dangerous getting out of balance in this regard can be just read the Minor Prophets, or for that matter almost anywhere in the Old Testament prophets. It won’t take long to see what a great disaster pride brought upon God’s people. We must have balance in how we think of ourselves.
The Holy Spirit also instructs, in 1 Corinthians 9:27, that we must take heed to ourselves in the area of self-control. We must pay attention to ourselves so that we do not become undisciplined. The discipline that Paul is talking about is the control of the mind over the flesh. If we become unbalanced in this area we will allow our flesh to control our minds, giving in to the fleshly desires and therefore becoming unqualified as a servant of Christ. To become unbalanced here means to become unqualified for Christ, and that means unqualified for eternal life in Him. There is no missing the grave danger in becoming unstable in self-control.
One area in which we must pay extra careful attention to ourselves is that of self-deception. This is something that the Holy Spirit warns us of often (1 Cor. 6:9; 15:33; Gal. 6:7; Jas. 1:16). This can be extremely dangerous because this is usually when we are paying the least attention to ourselves. We have convinced ourselves that a particular action is acceptable or “not that big of a deal” when in fact it is sinful and puts our souls in jeopardy. Look at what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:9 for example. It appears that some of the Corinthians had actually deceived themselves into thinking that a sin like fornication would not keep one out of heaven! While this kind of self-deception might seem shocking, sadly, it is not at all uncommon. Some seem to think that recreational gambling will not keep them out of heaven, self-deception! Some seem to think that the occasional drink will not keep them out of heaven, self-deception! Some seem to think that tolerating and even facilitating the sins of others will not keep them out of heaven, self-deception! Are we not enjoying the balanced and stable life promised to those who give themselves to Christ? Check for self-deception.
All of this really boils down to one thing, we need to pay attention to ourselves to make sure we are saved. Some say that we can’t know if we’re really saved or not until the judgment. Such a notion would make Paul’s exhortation to Timothy somewhat pointless, would it not? He says that if Timothy would “take heed” to himself and “the doctrine” he would save himself (1 Tim. 4:16). We can know whether we are saved or not if we are paying attention to our condition. What is your condition as you read this? Have you studied God’s word to learn of Christ (Rom. 10:17)? Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God (Jn. 8:24)? If so, have you repented of your sins (Acts 17:30)? Have you confessed that Jesus is the Son of God (Rom. 10:10)? Have you been baptized for the remission of your sins (Acts 2:38). If not then you are not enjoying the truly balanced and stable life that comes from serving Christ (Jn. 14:6). Take heed to yourself! Don’t be deceived into thinking that it doesn’t matter. Don’t let your flesh control your mind and be disqualified. Don’t think more highly of yourself then you ought. Don’t be unbalanced and unstable and miss out on the greatest life a person can live, the life in Christ.
Now we want to look at the second part of Paul’s “take heed” statement to Timothy (1 Tim. 4:16), “take heed…to the doctrine.” When we talk about the balanced life we need not only look at how a person is to live but also at what a person is to believe. The Bible places a great deal of emphasis on the importance of what we believe. We must not only take heed to ourselves to make sure we are living in the right way but we must also take heed to what we believe. Paul tells Timothy to, “rightly divide the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). Paul is instructing Timothy to handle the word of God in the correct manner, to be diligent to understand it correctly. This is another way of saying “take heed…to the doctrine.” When we fail to “take heed…to the doctrine” we fail in achieving a balanced and fruitful life. Let us examine several ways in which we are to “take heed…to the doctrine.”
In Romans 6:17, 18, Paul shows that the first and primary way in which we take heed to the doctrine, or teaching, of Christ is by giving ourselves in obedience to it. The Holy Spirit says, by the apostle, that we are delivered, set free from sin, by obedience to the doctrine of Christ. The “form of doctrine” specifically mentioned is the New Testament teaching on baptism (Romans 6:3-4). By obeying the teaching of Christ on baptism those Romans to whom Paul wrote had been set free from sin. Here we find the first step in achieving the balanced life that every Christian, and by their example every person, should desire, that is by giving obedience to the gospel of Christ and being born again, a new creature in Christ.
By our resolve to give ourselves in obedience to the doctrine we also “adorn” the doctrine by pure lives lived in accordance with it (Titus 2:10). To “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior” means to make it look good. When people see us living out, taking heed to, the doctrine of Christ they will see how it works to produce a truly balanced and peaceful life. It will look good to them, appealing and desirable. In this way others will desire to allow the doctrine of Christ to govern their lives and God will be glorified. We take heed to the doctrine when we pay attention to how we make it look to others. If we are being hypocritical in our profession of Christianity not only will we fail to achieve balance in our lives but we will make the doctrine of Christ look worthless and unappealing to others rather than portraying it as it is in truth, beautiful and powerful. The statement has been made that the greatest cause of atheism is Christians who profess Christ with their mouths but deny Him with their lives. Are we causing people to desire the doctrine of Christ or to reject it? It all depends on how we “adorn” it.
If we are truly going to have a balanced and peaceful life we must take heed to the doctrine by teaching it to others. Again, Paul exhorts Timothy to teach the doctrine of Christ, which he had been taught, to others (2 Timothy 2:2). If we have found the true, and only, source of balance in our lives how could we not desire to teach it to others. As the doctrine is adorned by living it out properly in our lives, others will want it also. We are to be able to teach it to them and they in turn will desire to teach it to others. In this way the doctrine of Christ will spread and increase more and more. One reason we do not see the church growing and the doctrine of Christ spreading as it should is because we have not prepared ourselves to teach others and this in turn has caused a failure to live it properly in our lives which has caused less and less to truly desire it. We must start living it and teaching it! We must start taking heed to the doctrine!
Not only must we adorn and teach it but we must be resolved to abide in it (2 John 9-11). The word “abide” speaks of a permanent dwelling place. The place where we “abide” is not a “vacation home” or some other temporary dwelling place. It is where we live all the time. In abiding in the doctrine we “live in it” all the time. There is no part of our lives, no activity in which we engage, that is not according to the doctrine of Christ. One does not take a vacation from being a Christian! We may go on vacation from our jobs but not from Christ. Too many have the idea that Christianity is something we do but Christianity is what we are. We practice Christianity because we are Christians—those who belong to Christ. Do we belong to Christ in one place and not in another? Do we belong to Christ in our home-town but not out-of-town? It is sad indeed that people will do things in places where they are not known by the local community that they would never do in front of those who know them. Paul told Titus to keep the doctrine with “integrity” (Tit. 2:7, 8). That means keeping it out of pure motives. Someone who is keeping the doctrine out of pure motives will keep it the same way when people are watching him and when they are not because he’s not keeping it for others but for his own salvation and for the glory of God. He’s not looking for a place to get away from those that might recognize him so that he can “cut loose a little.” A person that is taking heed to the doctrine does so everywhere and all the time, to the glory of God.
If you would have a balanced and peaceful life “take heed to yourself, and to the doctrine.” In doing so you will save yourself and those who hear you.