In some of his last words to Timothy, Paul wrote that “No soldier in active service ENTANGLES himself in the affairs of everyday life (“civilian pursuits”), so that he may please the One Who enlisted him as a soldier.“ (2Timothy 2:4)
What is the meaning of ENTANGLED? Webster says that to be ENTANGLED is to be interwoven, wrapped or twisted together in such a manner as not to be easily extricated (freed from what binds or hinders). The Greek word for ENTANGLE is EMPLEKO (en = in + pleko = to weave) which literally means to “weave in” and thus to intertwine or interconnect closely as by wrapping or twisting together. Empleko means “to be involuntarily interlaced to the point of immobility.” (BDAG) It was used in secular writings meaning “to ENTWINE one’s hand in another’s clothes, so as to hold him.” Empleko was used to describe a runner entangled in his long robe, which would hinder his ability to run in such a way so as to win (cp Heb 12:1, 1Cor 9:24-27). Figuratively empleko means to become so entwined in an activity that it interferes with other activities or objectives. The related noun (emploke) was used by Peter to describe the BRAIDING of hair (1 Peter 3:3). The root verb (pleko) described “WEAVING a crown of thorns” for Jesus’ mock coronation (Mt 27:29). Can you begin to get a sense of why Paul warned soldiers of Christ to avoid becoming ENTANGLED “with the affairs of everyday life?” In the context of Paul’s exhortation, empleko depicts one who becomes so entangled that they are hindered, even controlled, and no longer free to function effectively as a Christian soldier. Clearly, “a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2Timothy 2:3), enabled by the Spirit, must continually choose to focus on eternal priorities, not temporal peripherals, holding the temporal loosely and prizing the eternal passionately. As F B Meyer explains “The less encumbered we are, the more easily shall we be able to execute the least command of our Great Captain.” “Let worldly minds the world pursue, It has no charms for me; Once I admired its trifles too, But grace has set me free.” (John Newton)
ILLUSTRATION – In Brazil there grows a common plant which forest-dwellers call the matador or “murderer.” Its slender stem creeps along the ground, but no sooner does it meet a vigorous tree, than it sends out an entangling tentacle, which cleaves and climbs up the tree, at intervals sending out arm-like tendrils that further entangle the tree. As the “murderer” ascends, these ligatures grow larger and their clasp becomes tighter. Up and up the rogue vine climbs until the last loftiest spire is gained and fettered. Then, as if in triumph, the parasite shoots a huge, flowery head above the strangled summit, and there from the dead tree’s crown, scatters its seed to begin its entangling work again. In a similar way everyday affairs can subtly entangle soldiers of Christ, in effect neutralizing their effectiveness in the ongoing spiritual war with the world, the flesh and the devil. John Piper says when a Christian soldier’s “evenings and days off (begin to be) filled up with harmless, enjoyable diversions…the whole feel changes. The radical urgency fades. The wartime mentality shifts to a peacetime mentality. The lifestyle starts to get cushy. The all-consuming singleness of vision evaporates.” Spurgeon adds that “Many of God’s children are in this condition — entangled, surrounded, captive, held fast!” Are their any “matador vines” in your life that need to be eradicated?
INVOLVED VERSUS ENTANGLED – The word for entangle (empleko) was also used to describe sheep whose wool was caught in thorns. This word picture helps illustrate the main difference between getting INVOLVED and becoming ENTANGLED. Simply stated, one is entangled when he is not free to get loose! When the everyday affairs of this life hem us in so tightly that we cannot free ourselves to fulfill the call of Christ our Commander, then we have become ENTANGLED in the “thorns” of non-eternal pursuits! Indeed, you can be sure that you have become entangled when your possessions (or projects or passions) possess you! How easily this can happen in our increasingly materialistic, hedonistic, self-absorbed society! Before we realize it, our soul can be subtly seduced away from the path of discipleship until we find ourselves inextricably snagged by the “thorns” of popular philosophy, godless values of society or the “passing pleasures of sin.” (Heb 11:25) Solomon gives us a good antidote instructing us to “Guard (keep watch over [as you would a precious treasure]) your heart (your moral “control center”) with all vigilance and diligence, knowing that out of it flows the springs of life (as that which “determines the course of your life” -NLT).” (Pr 4:23) We need to continually “be alert and sober” (1Thes 5:6) and to meditate on those things which will still be standing long after the breath of God has swept all other non-eternal entities into oblivion, ever choosing to “set our mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth, for we have died and our life is hidden with Christ in God, and when Christ our life is revealed, then we also will be revealed with Him in glory.” (Col 3:2-4) Indeed, attachment to Christ is the secret of detachment from the world. “The nearer to heaven in hopes, the farther from earth in desires.” (Gurnall) As Calvin said “The mind of a Christian ought not to be filled with thoughts of earthly things or find satisfaction in them, for we ought to be living as if we might have to leave this world at any moment. If meditation on the heavenly life were the prevailing sentiment in our hearts, the world would have no influence in detaining us.” John Piper asks several probing questions we would all do well to ponder – “Do we live like our citizenship is in heaven and wait eagerly for the Savior to return (Php 3:20)? Do we feel like death would be more gain than loss (Php 1:21)? Are we so entangled with this world that leaving it is the worst thing we can think of?”
INVOLVED IN EVERYDAY AFFAIRS – In the Garden, Jesus prayed for us to be IN the world but not OF the world. (Jn 17:11, 14, 16) As Blanchard observed “Jesus did not ask that His Father take Christians out of the world, but that He take the world out of Christians.” (cp Jn 17:17, 19) Indeed, we are to live IN the world, but must not let the world live IN us. A boat in water is by design, but water in the boat is disaster! As Wiersbe explains “Identification with the world and its needs is one thing. Imitation of the world and its foolishness is quite another.” Clearly Paul is not advocating isolation FROM the world, for then we could no longer function as salt and light IN the world (Mt 5:13-16)! An excellent example of a good soldier of Christ who lived in but not of the world is seen in the life and legacy of Christian businessman R. G. LeTourneau, a philanthropist (founder of LeTourneau University, a Christian school) who was such salty salt and appealing light in the marketplace that his secular contemporaries referred to him as “God’s businessman!” May his tribe increase! “In this world but never of it, Help me, Lord, to live this day, Free from all that would entangle, Of the dazzle and array.” Amen (Graves)
PLEASING HIM – Our motivation for pursuing the unentangled life should be to “please Him.” indeed, always making it “our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him” (2Cor 5:9-note), to Christ—not others, not ourselves. What passing pleasure in this present world can even begin to compare with the indescribable satisfaction of hearing those words, “Well done, My good and faithful servant” (Mt 25:21, Lk 19:17) from the lips of the One Who breathed eternity into existence (Jn 1:3)? Thomas Brooks reminds us “The stars which have least circuit are nearest the pole, and men whose earths are LEAST ENTANGLED with the world are always nearest to God and to the assurance of His favor.” “Now may the God of peace, Who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, equip you with every good thing (God’s provision) to do His will (Our responsibility), working in us (by His indwelling Spirit) that which is PLEASING IN HIS SIGHT, through Jesus Christ, to Whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Heb 13:20-21-note) “Living for Jesus—O what rest!, Pleasing my Savior, I am blest. Only to live for Him alone, Doing His will till life is done!” (Weigele)
A GOOD SOLDIER – 2Timothy 2:4 was Jim Elliot’s life verse and it was this eternally focused mindset that prompted him to write those memorable words, “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose,” an excellent summary of the “UNENTANGLED LIFE!” As Thomas Guthrie said “If you find yourself loving any pleasure better than your prayers, any book better than the Bible, any house better than the house of God, any table better than the Lord’s table, any person better than Christ, any indulgence better than the hope of heaven—take alarm!” (cp 1Jn 2:15-17) Jonathan Edwards, like Jim Elliot, understood Paul’s call to an UNENTANGLED LIFE and even as a young man sought to live his spiritual life with a radical single-mindedness – “Resolved, Never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body…but what tends to the glory of God. Resolved, Never, henceforward, till I die, to act as if I were any way my own, but entirely and altogether God’s. Resolved, That I will not give way to that listlessness which I find unbends and relaxes my mind from being fully and fixedly set on religion (Christ), whatever excuse I may have for it. Resolved, Never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life.” Indeed, every soldier of Christ should ask of every earthly activity (even ostensibly good things) the simple question – “Will it entangle me?”
SUMMARY – Paul’s description of the Christian soldier who seeks to please his Lord could be summed up as ” Whole-Hearted, Single-Hearted, Undivided Heart, Single-Minded, Pure Heart,” in short a heart NOT ENTANGLED by the everyday affairs of life! Dawson Trotman, a man who was greatly used by God wrote to his thousands of disciples “We are not out to raise monuments to man’s creeds and accomplishments, but we are looking to GOD to raise up living stones – monuments to His grace – yielded young men and women whose eyes are SINGLED to His glory.” As Wiersbe says us, “David did not have a sinless heart, but he did have a SINGLE HEART; and this made him a man after God’s own heart.” (Acts 13:22) May our cry be that of David who asked the Lord “Give me an UNDIVIDED HEART to fear Your Name.” (Ps 86:11) Below is a song from Craig Smith which captures Paul’s call to every soldier of the Cross to be whole heartedly devoted to the Captain of our salvation (Heb 2:10), so that we might stand before Him in that great day, pleasing in His sight.
Over and over I hear it again That the Father desires pure hearts.
Not to seek earthly treasure or the favor of men,
But to be found with pureness of heart.
Pure heart is what the Father desires,
Holy heart, purified by God’s holy fire,
Broken hearts, proven to be faithful and true,
Fashion in me a heart that’s thirsting for You.
Search every chamber, expose them to me
Create motives of honor and simplicity
May You find faithfulness, integrity,
In a heart that is worthy for Your eyes to see.
My only ambition is to stand before You
And find I was pleasing in Your sight
An obedient child of God, faithful and true,
Found with pureness of heart.
Courtesy of http://preceptaustin.wordpress.com/