Sound Doctrine (5)
Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith… 1 Timothy 1.5
Faith without hypocrisy
One of the raps against Christians these days is that we’re all talk, a lot of which we use to condemn those who disagree with us, but not much in the way of a lived reality. We know what we believe, hold to our faith passionately, and are firm in our convictions. We just can’t seem to get the love to flow, and thus we appear to be hypocrites to many.
Which leads many believers to shun doctrine for a more “authentic” experience of following Jesus. Those in the contemporary Church who look askance at sound doctrine – preferring instead some combination of exuberant experience issuing from spiritual pep talks – may be after the very thing sound doctrine is able to produce.
Doctrine gets shunted aside because people perceive it as merely intellectual and even a little snobbish. They sense that following Jesus is more than words, and they want a more practical and loving faith than they often see in those who insist that they have the right doctrine on every matter.
What many believers are seeking is a sincere faith, an approach to following Jesus that is without hypocrisy, and that demonstrates love for God and neighbor with a spontaneity that doesn’t have to be conjured or scripted. According to Paul, sound doctrine – right thinking combined with a pure heart and a good conscience – is the way to achieve such a laudable faith.
Aspects of sincere faith
The word, “sincere,” in our text literally means, “without hypocrisy.” This is the life of faith to which every Christian should aspire. It describes a true and constant walk with Jesus, a relationship of prayer, meditation, worship, and obedience which proves love for Him at every level, and in every situation.
A sincere faith also reaches out to others with a pure and disinterested desire to bless and serve. A sincere faith doesn’t condemn others; doesn’t consign them to irrelevance; and practices the kind of patience and forbearance that Jesus showed with His disciples at every turn.
A sincere faith enjoys talking about the Lord, and always has something new and interesting to contribute to the conversation. A sincere faith gives generously of time, treasure, and talents to the work of making disciples, building the Church, and advancing the Kingdom of Christ. Those who have a sincere faith love the world, as God Himself does (Jn. 3.16), and long earnestly for it to know the saving and restoring touch of the grace and truth of God.
Sound doctrine comes to mature expression when it assumes the form of a sincere faith, faith working by love.
In short supply – alas!
Now this kind of faith – without hypocrisy – seems to be in short supply in many churches today. Do you suppose there might be a correlation between our scorn of doctrine and our inability to demonstrate sincere and unhypocritcal faith? Is it possible that the Church is failing in its lived witness because it has abandoned the very thing that engenders sincere faith?
I think it’s not only possible, but quite likely. The followers of Christ are not going to grow and mature into sincere faith apart from daily and faithful feeding on the sound doctrine of Scripture. The sooner we acknowledge this, the sooner we’ll be able to get back on course with our calling in this world.
The kind of instruction that leads to sincere faith begins with sound doctrine and engages a pure heart and a clean conscience as it works through the practical, lived implications of the teaching of God’s Word. Such instruction – and such reading and study of God’s Word – works through to implications, applications, and ramifications for everyday living, so that instruction leads to transformation as the Spirit forms Christ in us (2 Cor. 3.12-18).
If we swerve from such teaching, Paul warns (vv. 6-11), we will be vulnerable to smooth-talking know-nothings whose vain and vapid proclamations produce more in the way of covenant disobedience than sincere faith. Lives that do not glorify God in praise, worship, thanksgiving, obedience, and service to others are contrary to sound doctrine, and contrary to our callings as the followers of Christ (Jn. 15.1-11; 20.21).
But then, what should we expect when sound doctrine, the food and fuel of sincere faith, is minimized, ignored, or scorned?
If you’re not being feeding on sound doctrine in your daily time with the Lord, as well as in your church, you will not gain the equipping you need for sincere faith that, as it touches the lives of others with the love of Jesus, builds the Church, advances the Kingdom, and glorifies God. Such sincere faith, characterized by loving God and our neighbors, can only come about as we pursue the study of Scripture and sound doctrine.
1. What is hypocrisy? How can you recognize when hypocrisy might be taking root in your life?
2. How do your mind, heart, and conscience work together to help you live sincere and without hypocrisy as a follower of Christ?
3. Can we expect to know joy and rejoicing in the Lord if we live anything other than sincere faith? Explain.
Next steps – Conversation: Talk with some Christian friends about hypocrisy and how it robs us of sincere faith. How can you encourage one another to avoid hypocrisy?
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.