The Divine Reaction (continued)
Peril of Moral Laxity
Furthermore, we begin to note the change toward a real state of spiritual depreciation, indicated by the content of these two letters. I will not turn you to every fragment and every passage indicative of these things, but it does not take very long to read these letters, and I would suggest that, after having had it pointed out, you take them up anew and read them carefully. Read them again and again. The Apostle refers to some things that are worse than sad or grievous - they are quite evil. There are things creeping in and having a place among Christians, such as moral laxity - carelessness in moral conduct and relationships; truly a sign of a lowering of spiritual temper, temperature standard. The beginnings of it, so far as the Church, so far as Christianity was concerned, are traceable in these letters. The Apostle is saying, in effect: "These two things cannot go together: spirituality - a real, true spiritual life - and moral laxity."
Perhaps you think that that is a terrible subject even to mention. I do not know whether that is so, but the world is a terrible place, a terrible place, morally, and we all have to live here. The atmosphere is full of it, the papers are full of it, and it is not always easy to keep that atmosphere, if not that kind of life, altogether at bay. It insinuates itself, and it is a very, very persistent means employed by the devil to ruin the spiritual life. The enemy will not scruple to catch the people of God on the line of moral laxity, and if he can do that, he has ruined their testimony.
You remember that we began our last chapter by referring to the Tabernacle as the shrine of testimony of God, and to God's recognition of the need to reinforce the corners, the turning-points - that is, to reinforce spirituality against the perils and dangers of a corner, a change-round from one line to another. You see, it is the testimony that is involved. And let me say this: that, far from being the least involved, or the most immune, Christian people are more in danger of this very thing than anyone else. If the enemy can get a Christian on that low level of life, at that point, he has struck a master-blow. If he can get a servant of God overcome there, he has surely consolidated his ground against the testimony of Jesus. Therein is a long and terrible history; it explains much. Hence - "Timothy, Timothy, flee youthful lusts" (2 Timothy 2:22): beware of the encroachment that inroads of this moral laxity that is in the world - flee from it." Is that an unnecessary word? Forgive me, if you think so. But we have got to reinforce against anything like that for the testimony's sake.
Becoming Behaviour and Apparel In the House of God
But that is not the whole of it. I must say here some thing that I would rather not say, and if they do not apply to you personally, your enlightenment and being made aware may be helpful to some others in danger. For another feature of the change and the lowering level of spirituality marked in this letter is unbecoming behaviour in the House of God. The House of God is mentioned, as you notice here, and one of Paul's emphatic words here is "how men ought to behave themselves in the house of God" (1 Timothy 3:15); that is why he wrote this. There is such a thing as unbecoming behaviour. And he touches upon the women - the women with unbecoming dress, or lack of becoming dress. Now that is not something that we like to mention; but should it not be mentioned? It is a mark of poor spiritual life, of a low spiritual level, when that happens; these things are a barometer of spiritual life. For spirituality is preeminently practical. When we speak of "spiritual" things and "spirituality", people sometimes make a joke of it and say, 'Oh, they are so spiritual!' Well, if you can think or talk like that, you have not any idea of what spirituality is. Spirituality is tremendously practical: it touches your dress, it touches your behaviour, it touches your conduct as a Christian! Spirituality says, "You will not overdo it and you will not underdo it; you will have a proper dignified behaviour'. That is what is here.
(continued with # 43)