1 Timothy 4:12, “Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.”
Conduct is our next example for Christian youth. Other translations say “life,” but that’s far too ambiguous. “Conduct” is closer to the Greek. It is easy to say, “Do good conduct,” or, “Do good works,” but how exactly do we do them? James 3:13 says, “Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.” I could go on and on about the types of good works God calls us to do in response to our faith in Him, but I’m not going to do that because if you’re reading this, I’m assuming you’re Christian and already know the types of good works He calls us to do for our neighbour. The problem is that we just don’t do them, because we’re sinners. Remember what I said in the last blog entry about speech: A smart man knows what to say; a wise man knows whether or not he should say it. That is “the meekness of wisdom.” Instead of saying something just for the sake of being right, one who is wise is meek and exercises self-control and doesn’t say the hurtful thing, even if he or she is right.
Of course, conduct goes beyond mere speech. Conduct is especially our actions, which includes self-control in our actions; we could also call it self-discipline. We like to preach about WWJD—what would Jesus do? But as often as we quote the fun acronym, I don’t think we spend as much time thinking about what Jesus would actually do. His Sermon on the Mount is a large place where we can learn about good Christian living (see Matthew 5-7 and Luke 6). Jesus talked about us being the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matthew 5:13-16); about anger (5:21-26), lust (5:27-30), divorce (5:31-32), making oaths (5:33-37), violent retaliation (5:38-42), loving our enemies (5:43-48), giving to the needy (6:1-4), how to pray (6:5-15), fasting (6:16-18); laying our treasures up in Heaven rather than on this earth (6:19-24), not to be anxious about anything but to trust in Him (6:24-34), how to exercise righteous judgement (7:1-6); having faith in God’s provision for us (7:7-11), and finally the famous golden rule, “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you” (7:12-14).
All, or most of these, may be familiar to you. So we know how to live in good conduct. We just prefer not to because we’re sinners. Such is the antinomy of the Christian life—the constant battle between flesh and the Spirit who is in us. “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please” (Galatians 5:17). Struggling to do good conduct is a normal part of the Christian life, but always remember, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:17). We are not able to do good conduct by our strength alone, but by the strength of Christ empowered to us in the Holy Spirit.
Stay tuned for next time when I briefly talk about love.