We are in great need today of Christians with sober minds.

As the swirling winds of religious pluralism and progressive “tolerance” meet with the gales of globalization, a parade of new gadgets, and the constant drip of round-the-clock news-creation, we’re more prone than ever to diversion and distraction — and with it, muddle-headedness and outright confusion. We’re not sure whether to worry about the incessant drumbeats of secularism, or true-to-the-Koran Islam, or whether to just to drown our clouded and anxious minds in Pinterest, Candy Crush, or football on the tube five nights a week.

Sober judgment has always been in high demand, but now the supply is at record lows. In the Information Age, we have access like never before to the stuff that makes for high IQ, but raw intellect alone is prone to extremes and debilitating imbalances when wielded without the great stabilizer of emotional intelligence (EQ). Call it wisdom, level-headedness, or just sanctified common sense — the biblical attribute of “sober-mindedness” is at a premium. Which should get our attention when such a thing is central to both a healthy Christian church and the healthy Christian walk.

Fortunately, sober-mindedness is something for which God holds out great promise for development and growth.

The Importance of a Sober Mind

“Sober-minded” is one of the first traits given for the church’s leaders (1 Timothy 3:2), as well as their wives (1 Timothy [3:11]). It’s the first encouragement to the congregation’s aging men (Titus 2:2), and one of Paul’s most pronounced charges to his protégé Timothy: “As for you, always be sober-minded” (2 Timothy 4:5).

As much as ever, as we grope our way forward in an increasingly post-Christian society, we need our pastors and elders — and as many in the congregation as possible — to be balanced and clear-headed. In such a muddleheaded milieu, we need models who will not be suckers for extremes or “wander off into myths” (2 Timothy 4:4) or “devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith” (1 Timothy 1:4). At the helm, give us stewards of the faith who sacrificially love, not speculators who are easily diverted into vain peripheral discussions.

And in a day where clarity and level-headedness are so sorely lacking, it is deeply encouraging that balanced thinking and sober-mindedness can be taught. They can be developed and learned in time, as Paul instructs Timothy, and us, toward sober judgment when he writes,

“Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths” (1 Timothy 4:7)

“Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called ‘knowledge,’ for by professing it some have swerved from the faith” (1 Timothy [6:20]–21)

“Charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene” (2 Timothy [2:14]–17)

“Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels” (2 Timothy [2:23])

Silly myths. Irreverent babble. Quarreling about words. Foolish, ignorant controversies. Sober-mindedness means not being detoured from the central things, from the gospel “of first importance” (1 Corinthians 15:3), by diversions at the margins. And in our environment of extremisms, it means fresh focus on, and excitement about, the essence of the faith. With our proliferation of idiosyncrasies and endless hobbyhorses, we need preoccupation with “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3) — not speculative theories and newfangled hypotheses, but “what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses” (2 Timothy 2:2).

Written by David Mathis
Read more at Desiring God

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