Is it possible to live in eternity now? To taste heaven itself?
In truth, we like this life. We get addicted to things, even become enslaved by things – and it can be hard to give up. Obviously, that includes things like nicotine, drugs, alcohol or porn. But for those of you who actually want to live good upright lives you find that your desires aren’t 100% in a good direction. Which means were more “this life” than “next”.
1 Timothy 6 ends the letter to Timothy from the apostle Paul. It’s about godliness, living this life with the next life in mind. And it’s helpful to take a quick look at the flow of the letter.
The letter overall
- Paul reminded you that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – so you need to know that you are one, and that Jesus left heaven to come to save you.
- He also told you that God wants everyone everywhere to be saved and to come to know the truth.
- Amazingly, the church (us) is the pillar and foundation of the truth – we’re to hold those other truths up for everyone to see.
So Timothy (and all church leaders) is to keep the main thing the main thing: Be clear on sin; be clear that Christ Jesus came to save sinners. Then everyone (all of us) must live lives of godliness in accordance with the truth – to demonstrate that it is truth. The truth leads to godliness; godliness demonstrates the truth.
You can grow in godliness; he gives you the church to come together under preaching so that we can all grow. At the gym! And here in 1 Timothy 6, he gives final instructions for growth:
Be content in this life (2-10)
Again, Paul is firm on the importance that we all hear this: Read 1 Timothy 6:2 b. Obviously, because we’re all involved. In what Paul says, there’s an unbreakable bond between a true understanding of the Good News of Jesus and then living a godly life. So much so, that if you spend time under preaching and teaching that doesn’t focus on life in Christ for the sinner that you’ll end up with an ungodly life. Read 1 Timothy 6:3.
But you’re to grow in godliness – in Christlikeness. So church leaders who don’t lead you to Christ, who don’t help you see your sin and your need of Jesus, won’t lead you to godliness. And that makes them terrible leaders. Read 1 Timothy 6:4-5.
There are plenty of church leaders around the world who aren’t even Christians. It’s always been the same. Some just treat it as a job. In Victorian England, a vicar really could just turn up and read from the Book of Common Prayer once a week then take the rest of the week off. With a handsome salary and a huge vicarage. Today, there are plenty of televangelists fleecing people using pretended godliness. False teachers abound.
His next statement is easy to say, hard to grasp: 1 Timothy 6:6.
What is godliness?
But why is godliness such riches? What really is it?
- A godly life is about a wholeness – a perfect unity of what you believe and how you live.
- A godly life is one that is lived in an eternal timescale – recognising that death is just a corner to turn. What you do here affects what comes there.
- A godly person lives in sync with the Holy Spirit, in life and holiness.
- You’re godly as you live in tune with Christ, alive in him and alive to him. You can’t be godly and be separate from him.
- And all this is worked out every day, not a special Sunday thing. You don’t have “godly time” and “not-godly time”. You’re to be a godly person – in the everyday things of life here and now.
What comes next is obvious: Read 1 Timothy 6:7-8.
So make Christ himself your delight. You can’t lose him! But you can lose almost everything else you have. Read 1 Timothy 6:9-10. These things can happen to anyone. Scratch cards; betting apps; timesheet cheating; lies. Those things mostly are self-harming.
But growth in godliness is gaining riches that can’t be lost – even in death. “True godliness with contentment is great wealth/gain.”
You might hear that and say, “Yes, but I need more money. Petrol is expensive, fuel bills are doubling, National Insurance is up…”. Yet we still pay for things we don’t actually need. Mobile phones, Broadband, holidays, even TV.
Imagine giving all those up and being content with Christ. It’s hard to imagine. Because we’re all deeper into this world than we realise. What can be done?
Take hold of true life (11-16)
Read 1 Timothy 6:11-12.
Timothy isn’t a “man of the world” trying to learn more, or do better, or try harder. He’s a “man of God” – he belongs to God, he’s a child of God. He is to be “of God” in his conduct; he’s to be godly.
That matters because for anyone who isn’t a Christian (isn’t a child of God), everything Paul is writing about is the wrong way round.
- If you’re not a Christian, then this life is the best you will ever know. Enjoy your life, your money, your sin, your choices, your work, your holidays, etc.
- Then, at death, all that will be stripped away and you will face God alone. And because you have rejected him in this life, he will reject you to hell in the next.
- But Christ Jesus came into the world to save you. So turn from your sin, turn to Jesus, and cry out to him for forgiveness. God wants you to be saved. So ask him.
Bliss with Christ awaits his people. How to experience that now:
There’s a string of commands in vv11-16: “Run from… Pursue… Fight… Hold tightly… obey”
Run from false teaching, ungodliness, the temptations of money and the self-harm of sin.
- Not even “turn away from” or “ignore”. Run from it.
Pursue, chase after, work at (or ‘work out’, as in a gym):
- Righteousness – Doing right, putting right, in your own life and in the world around, wherever you can.
- Godliness – A union of belief and action, living life here with heaven in mind.
- Faith – Knowing that you can’t see the future, but trusting that you walk with Jesus who does, and he walks with you.
- Love – Acting with love towards the unlovely and unloved; ready to forgive, quick to be kind, other-person oriented.
- Perseverance – Maybe the surprise word here? But who said the Christian life would be easy? But with Christ as the prize always in sight, pursue perseverance.
- Gentleness – You’re not persevering in the Boxing Day sales; you’re walking through life with other pilgrims who are as imperfect, tired, bruised and hurt as you. Be gentle.
“Fight the good fight for the true faith.”
- Fighting against false teaching.
- Against your own temptations and harmful desires.
- Fight against evil that would steal opportunity to make the good news of Jesus known.
- We might translate “fight” as “wrestle” – a reminder that this isn’t stuff you read in a book, or do from afar.
- You and I are daily to wrestle with our own desires and against those who would discourage or oppose us.
And you can only do all this by having that eternal perspective.
“Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you”
- Not “hold tightly to the hope of eternal life”
- But to the life itself. How? By holding on to Christ.
The joy of heaven
The joy of heaven is to be with Christ. Make no mistake. Accept no substitute idea of heaven. The Lamb is all the Glory.
- There you will be made perfect by him; you will see him perfectly; and you will be like him.
- Could it be possible to taste that before you get there?
- Yes! Grow in godliness; be with Christ, be like Christ.
- Experience him, and reveal his likeness to others.
“Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you” – because that eternal life is coming to take hold of you!
Timothy had made a public confession of his faith (maybe at his baptism). Paul reminds him that Jesus also made a confession of who he was before Pontius Pilate – an encouragement to see things through to the end.
- Timothy is to take hold of eternity.
- He’s to teach his church to do the same.
- Because eternity is on its way to you: Read 1 Timothy 6:13-16.
That’s what’s coming to you. So you be sure to take steps towards it in return. Experience heaven (Christ) before your time!
Give away to store up (17-21)
You might think from what we read earlier that there’s something wrong (even sinful) about being rich. But that’s not the case. There are plenty of good and rich people in the Bible.
It’s the love of money, your attitude towards material things, that is the problem. It’s good to do good. So if you have money, it’s good to do good with your money. Read 1 Timothy 6:17-19.
- You think, “Yes, they should.”
- In the pandemic, food bank usage rose by 35% and the wealth of British billionaires also rose by 35%. That doesn’t sound right, does it?
- Certainly, there’s a tendency for rich people to hoard, rather than be generous and do good.
- They often do good, but not in a way that seriously dents their cash mountain.
But, of course, most of us are actually in the top 10% wealthiest people on the planet. No need to be a billionaire. You have a home to go to and food in the fridge at home. That makes you massively better off than at least a quarter of the world’s population living in poverty.
So, knowing that at a global level you are “rich”, read 1 Timothy 6:18 again.
- It’s at that point that we all feel a bit like that rich young ruler who spoke to Christ, and went away happy when he was told to give everything to the poor and follow Jesus.
- It had exposed just how locked-in to money he was, and just how much it cost to follow Jesus.
- And how does your own heart feel, with the pull of v18?
That man went away unhappy because he didn’t realise the wealth to be found in Christ. Godliness with contentment is great wealth – because it can only be found in Christ.
- Godliness is how you live eternity now.
- It says, “I will leave all this behind at death, so I don’t really need it now. I will do good with it for Jesus’ sake.”
That’s so hard. We’re all so locked-in to this world and our things. The answer is to look ahead, look up. Read 1 Timothy 6:19 again.
- Remember the trustworthy saying of 1 Timothy 4:8? “Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.”
- The benefit of being able to live in eternity now, to taste heaven – the presence of Christ, being in his likeness.
- And even the reward of having pleased Christ in this life.
The letter finishes with yet more commands to Timothy to keep the truth front and centre of everything.
- You are a sinner, as God alone defines sin.
- Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.
- God wants everyone everywhere to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
- The church is the household of God and the pillar and foundation of the truth.
You and I must – absolutely must – live godly lives, demonstrating the truth for others to see. But in doing so, you also experience the truth for yourself.
- You value Christ above all else, and begin to hold on to this world a little less.
- So you give away here to store up treasure in heaven.
- You experience his nearness, his blessing, his face shining on you – benefits for this life and the next.
“May God’s grace be with you all.” His divine assistance to help you do his will.