1 Timothy 4:12-Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.
We typically think of older people as the “ones” who are supposed to set an example because they are supposed to be more learned, more disciplined, more settled, more wise, more mature. Paul said, “It is never too early to live as an example to others.” In other words, “Don’t wait to be an example.”
Speech-Christians are supposed to be an example in speech. When we drop cuss words, when we call people names, when we tell racist jokes, when we use sexually-charged sentences, when we get into petty arguments, when we over-do it in the bragging of our accomplishments, when we use language to try to “put people in their place,” when we get a kick out of negatively talking about what someone is wearing or how their hair looks or who they are dating or talking to, when we enjoy gossiping about all that is wrong with someone, what kind of example are we setting?
What does the Bible say? Ephesians 4:29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. I am afraid we have let the world be our example instead of taking our responsibility to set examples as Christ-followers. Could Jesus say to someone about you, “Watch him. Listen to him speak. He will demonstrate what it is like to talk like a Christian.”
Life-Choosing to not make everything a big deal when someone frustrates or annoys us, going out of our way to do nice things for people, giving our best to our employer, all of these actions become influencers in our relationships with other people. Doing the right thing will speak to others. Doing the courageous thing will inspire others. Doing the sacrificial thing will compel others to make their lives count.
I love what Paul said to another protege’ of his. His name was Titus. Paul admonished him in chapter 2 of Titus by saying, 6 Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. 7 In everything SET AN EXAMPLE BY DOING WHAT IS GOOD. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness 8 and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us. Titus 2:6-8
Love-Do you know that Jesus said everything hinges on how we love God and others. He absolutely did. It is in Matthew 22:40. Romans 13:8-10 says, 8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. Romans 13:8-10.
Faith-How do we set an example in faith? Do people see us growing? Do they see changes in our lives? Do they see us reacting to life’s challenges with faith or are we stressed and afraid about what tomorrow holds? Do they hear us saying that our prayer life has given us peace? Do the words of Scripture ever come out of our mouths in conversation with other people? Are you all-in as a Christian or is Jesus a part-time or casual relationship for you?
Are you the kind of example that if people followed your faith, it would point them to Jesus? Paul said to the Corinthian believers in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” If people followed your example of faith, how close would it take them to Christ?
Purity-Our world needs to see not only what purity looks like, but they need examples of purity so they understand why it is important. God is holy, and He wants us to live holy lives because impurity changes who we are and who we are meant to become. It reroutes our destiny. It causes us to suffer. It has heavy consequences. We will experience enough suffering in the world without also having to endure the suffering that comes into our lives when we engage in unholy behavior. Satan wants it to appear normal because he wants to ruin our lives and derail our relationships with Jesus.
Ephesians 5:1-3 1 Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. 3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.
Did you see what Paul said? “Among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality or any kind of impurity or greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.” Paul said, “Timothy, be a young person who is committed to being an example of purity.”
Be an example. Well, we are all examples, aren’t we? We’re either good examples or we’re bad ones. What is it that keeps us from being the kind of examples in these areas that God wants us to be? Here’s what I think: We value conformity. We like fitting in.
I suppose that is human nature. It feels good to be part of a group. No one wants to feel like an outsider. So, I have an idea—How about we become a group? How about we all strive to be examples in these areas? How about we band together, and commit that we will be a group together? How about we also partner with other like-minded Christians to shine a little brighter, to set the standards a little higher, and to inspire others to follow. It isn’t about perfect, but pursuit. I do know this, we will never be a godly example if we aren’t trying to become one.
Our world is so messed up, they aren’t sure if there is absolute truth or if morality matters, let alone if there is a God. It is time for God’s people to step up and stand out like never before. If 12 disciples could turn the known world upside down for Jesus during the first century, what if just the Christians in this room decided to give up excuses and become an example that would inspire people in the areas of speech, life, love, faith and purity. What kind of example do you want to be in 2019?