Life that is truly life

those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their
hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly
provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be
rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they
will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so
that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.
I Timothy 6:17-19

Paul makes an interesting distinction here. He urges Timothy
to instruct people to “take hold of the life that is truly life.” This
exhortation comes right after a warning to those who are rich in this world.
Much can be drawn from this passage about the use of wealth, but I want to
focus on the distinction Paul makes between “life” and “true life.” Recall that
Moses urged the Israelites not to take the word of God as idle words, but as
their very life (Deut. 32:47). I believe Paul is making the same distinction
here in I Timothy.

Paul implies that it is possible to take hold of something
that looks like real life, but is not. [i] It is
possible to have an active, productive life, to be busy doing “important”
things (to the point of exhaustion), but not take hold of true life. I fear this
describes much of modern parenting. Families are constantly on the go, hurrying
from one important event to the next. Moms and dads exhaust themselves keeping
the kids on schedule. At the end of the day, everyone crawls into bed to get
ready to do everything all over again tomorrow. Yes, I know that busyness is legitimate,
but we must be careful to heed Paul’s warning.

What was Moses’ concern about idle words? Isaiah 29:13 gives
a little more insight into what Moses meant by idle wordsthat were not

Then the Lord said,
  "Because this people draw
near with their words
  And honor Me with their lip
  But they remove their hearts
far from Me,
  And their reverence for Me
consists of tradition learned by rote… NASB

This passage describes people who are busy going through the
motions of religious life, but their hearts are not engaged. They are like a
parked car with an idling engine; as long as the transmission is in Neutral or
Park, the car isn’t moving.  No matter
how high the driver revs the engine, he’s not going anywhere.

Here is an insightful comment about life that is not true life,
but mere busyness. It is deadly. Dan, who is one our regular visitors to the
blog made this comment:

point is well taken: I am afraid that often we are demanding God to provide the
fruit of godly children, etc. (ask what you will) while we as parents are not
"living" in Christ and His Word. The obvious initial effect of this
is that His Word does not "live" in us. The longer term effect is
that Christ and His Word do not "live" in our children.

God has called parents to the unspeakable privilege of
bringing God’s truth to their children. But how do parents embrace this
challenge? The danger Moses and Isaiah warn about is reducing our relationship
with a loving God to a schedule of doing things. Even good things become so
familiar that they are done by rote. This is not life!

Please do not misunderstand, scheduling and routine are part
of life, but they must not become life itself. Each moment of each day is an
opportunity to know God, to love Truth, and to truly live. God must not be relegated to being a cosmic bystander. He
orders each day for the good of his people. How do you respond to God’s
interaction with you each day?  How did
God care for you today? He did, you know, whether you were aware of it or not.
How exciting is God to you? How consciously do you rely upon him? How is God’s Word
bringing life to you and to your

Isaiah is prophesying against people for whom the truth of
God had become idle words. Traditions and routines could be followed even by
people whose hearts were turned away. Don’t fall into that trap. God wants your
parenting to be vibrant with the life he provides through his word and Spirit. Each
day, he provides opportunities: weather, interruptions in schedules, safe
travel, struggles and successes—so that he would be acknowledged for who he is.
Focusing merely on accomplishing a routine is the first step to hearts that
will eventually see the Word of life as idle words.

God has a rich life to give to you. That life is apprehended
by the life-giving power of the Spirit who wrote those words. The words of God
are not merely a means to an end, they are life, your life. May you take hold
of that life that is truly life.

This thought is not original with me. I first heard this distinction made in a
sermon preached by Tedd Tripp in 1976, entitled The Nature of Reality.

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