What are we aiming for? As believers in Jesus, what is the cause that keeps us marching forward into the dark of this world?
Recently, I began reading through the book of 1 Timothy. It seemed to me that, being a short book, I would be able to complete my reading of it in about a week or two. After around a month of coming back to it over and over again, I find myself nowhere near completion. In fact, every time I read I can’t seem to get further than five verses in! Even if I force myself to continue reading, the fifth verse keeps pulling me back with the gravitational force of a massive planetary body. Have you ever had that experience reading through Scripture? It’s only happened to me a few times to this extreme, but I find that when it does it’s a sure sign that God is showing me something I really need to hear. Clearly there is more to learn than I have yet grasped.
Paul is speaking to Timothy, his younger protege (in fact, likely around 30 years old, just like me). He is instructing Timothy on the purpose of his ministry and the teaching they must share with the church. In this verse we find the core of our role as believers, the purpose for the teaching we receive. Here’s what the verse says: “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Tim. 1:5).
Sounds simple, right? Perhaps, but it is also incredibly foundational, and contains a formula for ministry that I need to drink deeply of and apply throughout my life and ministry. Let’s take the verse and break it down for a moment.
“The aim of our charge is love….” That’s the goal. Is it my goal? Is it my purpose? Am I seeking to love, truly love, in all the messy, difficult, sacrificial ways true love demands? How do we do this? The rest of the verse shows us three core realities from which this love “issues.”
The first is this: “a pure heart.” That is, a heart whose motivations remain unmixed. A heart whose desire is fully consumed with Christ. A heart that is not distracted by the sinful self-centered cravings of the “flesh.”
But how do we purify our hearts? Clearly we aren’t very good at this. I think part two helps us here: “a good conscience.” That is, living in the reality that we are no longer guilty. We have been declared innocent through the blood of Christ. Our clean conscience allows us to live no longer out of fear or human effort, but out of gratitude empowered by the work of the Spirit within us.
But this only happens if we have truly believed the gospel. This is why finally, and most foundational, the basis for love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience is a “sincere faith.” When we taste the good news of Christ and trust His provision for us, we are moved toward the ultimate aim of love. His gospel transforms our conscience, our hearts, and our lives. Only then will we be able to love as we ought.
What is your aim? How is the gospel working transformation in your life? Do you need to trust Him more fully? I know I do. That’s why I can’t get past this verse. Maybe in another month I’ll be able to read the rest of the book….
Soli Deo Gloria!