In 2014, in a desperate attempt to fix its budget deficit, Flint, Mich., switched its water supply from the Detroit River to an alternative source. Soon after the switch, it was discovered that the new water source was contaminated with toxins—toxins that had been pumped into the water systems of every household in Flint.
“As a result, everyone who drank from this water source received the poison from the water,” said Adron Robinson, senior pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Country Club Hills, to an auditorium filled with students and faculty at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville.
“As you matriculate through these hallowed halls, leave this place and join to the kingdom of God and the local ministry of the church, you need to know that you will be a conduit for many…It’s imperative that you make yourself a pure conduit,” Robinson preached at an Oct. 23 chapel service. “It’s imperative that you pass on the pure gospel to them and not allow your life to be contaminated by the toxins of this world.”
Preaching from 2 Timothy 2:20-3:9, Robinson echoed to students the apostle Paul’s plea that in order to fulfill his ministry, Timothy needed to pursue purity both in his proclamation and in his practice.
“Paul begins with a powerful metaphor,” Robinson said. “The metaphor of a large house filled with vessels of honor and vessels of dishonor.”
It’s not what these vessels are made of or their different purposes that separate them, Robinson said. It’s that some vessels are pure—cleansed, washed, or sanctified—and some vessels are defiled.
“So, Paul warns Timothy to pursue purity at all costs because he knows if Timothy wants to have a useful ministry, if he wants to be effective in the kingdom of God, he must pursue purity by cleansing himself thoroughly and constantly,” Robinson said. “Timothy is to separate himself from the contamination of the culture and from the vessels of dishonor. To watch out for false teaching, watch out for false living, watch out for false conduct and false theories, and to keep himself sanctified by clinging to the purity of the gospel.”
But neither Timothy nor modern-day pastors are left to pursue purity alone, Robinson preached. God is the one who sets his vessels apart as holy.
“Sanctification is both a divine act and a human work,” Robinson said. “God always takes the initiative, but mankind must respond to the initiative of God.”
In case Timothy wasn’t sure what purity looked like in practice, Robinson said, Paul laid out some guidelines. First and foremost, Timothy, and all other pastors in the kingdom of God, should flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness.
“He doesn’t say wrestle with evil desires,” Robinson said. “He doesn’t say contemplate the evil desires. He doesn’t say struggle with all your might against evil desires. He says flee the evil desires of youth. That’s a continuous action.”
The culture, Robinson said, wants pastors to lower their standards, to water down the gospel to make congregations comfortable.
“The culture wants you to mix their will with God’s will, but pursue purity at all costs,” he told Southern students. “It’s not enough to run away from wrong—we must also run after what is good.The heart of the matter is simply the matter of your heart. If your heart is pure, your actions will follow. If your heart is confused, your actions will be confused also.”
Paul’s message also includes pursuing purity in conversations and confrontations, Robinson said.
“We have to avoid ignorant controversy—and our world is full of ignorant controversies,” he said. “All you have to do is open up your Twitter feed and see all the ignorant controversies of the morning.”
Robinson said it’s important to realize the world likes to argue about everything just for the sake of arguing. But in their pursuit of purity, God’s people should correct “opponents with gentleness, so that God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 2:25).
“There goes your excuse for writing off everyone that disagrees with you,” Robinson said. “Don’t throw people away. Don’t look for reasons not to engage with them. Pursue patience. Teach them the word of God. It may be that God is using you to set them free and bring them out of darkness into the marvelous light.”
Kayla Rinker is a freelance journalist living in Missouri.