4/2/01 10.45 a.m. 2 Timothy 4:1-5: "To boldly go"

4 1 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

When Lyndon Johnson was elected President he asked Billy Graham, with whom he had been friends for years, what particular position he would like to have in his administration. Without a moment's thought Billy said to him, "Sir, I believe that Jesus Christ has called me to preach his gospel. To me that is the highest calling any man could have on earth."

If we read the letters to Timothy we can find out that he was young, timid, and surrounded by false teachers and living in the immoral town of Ephesus. Again and again Paul encourages him in the ministry that God has given him.

We may feel like Timothy today. Small, inadequate, surrounded by people who have different beliefs, and living in a world that rejects the ways of God. But we should be encourage to carry out what God is calling us to do.

We will now look at this passage under three headings; The Presentation of God's Word, verses 1-2; The Perversion of God's Word; verses 3 -4; Persistence in God's Word, verse 5.

The Presentation of God's Word, verses 1-2;

Timothy was to be faithful preaching the Word of God. The word translated 'preach' in verse 2 might better be translated proclaim or announce. So this passage does not just apply to people like Billy Graham, or clergy and readers who get into a pulpit, it applies to every Christian because we all have the duty and the joy of proclaiming our faith in word and deed anywhere we may find ourselves : our home, workplace, school, local Post Office or supermarket.

This does not mean that we are to shove the gospel insensitively down people's throats, but we should be prepared to do it all the time, 'in season and out of season'. We don't have to wait for someone to show their 'religious side' or wait for them to be in dire personal need before we share our faith with them. If we do they may wonder how important this faith really is if we have kept it hidden for so long ! John R. W. Stott has said about this, "This is not a biblical warrant for rudeness, but a biblical appeal against laziness."

Karl Barth was the most prolific theologian of the last century. His theology was as complex as it was profound. When Barth visited the University of Chicago, students and scholars crowded around him. At a press conference, someone asked, 'Dr. Barth, what is the most profound truth you have learned in your studies?'. Without hesitation he replied, 'Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so'.

This highly intelligent theologian summarised the gospel in a few, simple words that could be repeated by a young child. This shows that we do not need a degree in theology to share our faith. More important is an appreciation of God's love for us in Jesus, and a willingness to reflect that love in thought, word and deed.

Why should we proclaim Jesus' love ?

1 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge:

We should proclaim Jesus' love because he is coming again.

We live in a material world, where for something to be real it must be seen and felt. But does this make a promise unreal if we trust the one who made it ? And does this mean that love is imaginary ? We know that Jesus will return because we can trust in God who always keeps His promises. We know the love of Jesus because this was shown by his life and death.

The return of Jesus will be good news for believers, living and dead, because we will be united with him and taken to heaven to live in glory forever. With perfect resurrection bodies, and no pain, death, mourning, war, or immorality.

Yet the return of Jesus will be bad news for those who have not trusted in Jesus because they will be judged and found wanting. They will be excluded from God's presence for eternity. So the return of Jesus should encourage believers. The return of Jesus should also encourage believers to share their faith urgently with those who do not know him at the moment.

How should we proclaim God's word to believers and unbelievers ?

correct, rebuke and encourage - with great patience and careful instruction.

The word for correct means to bright to light. Here it clearly refers to something that is not in accordance with God's perfect will for us.

Rebuke refers to allocating blame for something, or holding someone accountable for what they have done.

Encourage can mean to urge, inspire and embolden. For those who are going through difficult times it can mean a comforting.

These in the things should be done in the light of Scripture. Only a few verses before Paul had written 3:16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

The goal of these things is that we may be 'thoroughly equipped' to do God's work he has allocated us. All of these should be done by drawing alongside someone in the knowledge that we are all sinners. As Christians, though, we have been set free form the power of sin and are called to live for God in the power of His Spirit who lives within us.

However, this is a slow, gradual process. This is why Paul tells Timothy to do these things... 'with great patience and careful instruction.'

We live in a an instant world. Instant coffee, instant meals in a microwave, and instant fortunes through the National Lottery. Great patience means that we should not expect results overnight and we shouldn't feel that we have to force things but rely upon God's timing.

Careful instruction reminds us of the importance of teaching the right way to live. This teaching should be based on 'sound doctrine', verse 3. Correct teaching is in keeping with that of the apostles and found in the Bible (see 1Ti 1:10; 6:3; 2Ti 1:13; 4:3). The teaching is called "sound" not only because it builds up in the faith, but because it protects against the corrupting influence of false teachers. Soundness of doctrine, faith and speech is a basic concern in all the Pastoral Letters (1,2 Timothy; Titus). In them the word "sound" occurs eight times but is found nowhere else in Paul's writings.

Lloyd George, the prime minister during World War I, said, "When the chariot of humanity gets stuck ... nothing will lift it out except great preaching that goes straight to the mind and heart. There is nothing in this case that will save the world but what was once called, the foolishness of preaching."

The Presentation of God's Word, verses 1-2; and...

The Perversion of God's Word; verses 3 -4;

We live in a world where a lot of importance is placed upon what people think about things. In some circumstances this is very right and proper. For example, the way that parents have not been consulted before organs have been removed from their dead children's bodies. Yet there are other occasions when popular opinion is not right. For example, Hitler was popular in Germany before the Second World War.

As Christians we should realise that God's Word will be unpopular with many people. This is because it challenges pride, selfishness and independence. The gospel requires that we admit that we are not good enough for God, that we accept His free gift of forgiveness through Jesus, and that we submit to Him and those he places in authority, that we put other people's interests before our own. This is difficult to deal with.

This week I was playing 'The Corrs' on the car cassette player as I was taking Joshua home from school. He asked me to turn it off, put his fingers in his ears and claimed he could not hear it !

Paul writes that the people who cannot cope with the challenge of Christianity 4 will turn their ears away from the truth. They will not listen to the truth of the gospel, weigh it up and reject it. No, they will refuse to listen.

What will they listen to ? They will listen to what they want to hear. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.

Itching ears want to hear something that is comfortable, new, entertaining, fashionable, and popular.

Today there are people in the church who pervert the teachings of the Bible to make it more acceptable to people. One area in which this is happening is the acceptance of sexual partnerships that are clearly contrary to God's revealed will.

Co-habitation is seen by some to be equal to marriage. It is not. Marriage is a public, life-long, exclusive, loving commitment of a man and woman to one another. It was invented by God to provide a right environment for sex, mutual dependence and the raising of children. Statistics support this. For example, 50% of cohabiting couples who have children split up by the time their first child is five compared to 8% of married couples.

Homosexuality is seen by some within the church as an acceptable lifestyle. I am not denouncing someone who feels that they have a homosexual orientation, but it is the expression of that in homosexual genital acts that is contrary to God's ways. Just as it is also against God's way for a heterosexual to have sex outside marriage.

We must not pursue itching ears but adhere to sound doctrine.

4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

These 'myths' that Paul is referring to are counterfeit beliefs included the false teachings he has mentioned in both letters to Timothy. In 1 Timothy 4:3 we discover that false teachers were forbidding people to marry and ordering them to abstain from certain foods.

In 2 Timothy 2:18 we have another, more teaching as Paul informs Timothy that Hymenaeus and Philetus say that the resurrection has already taken place.

This denial of a future, bodily resurrection was found elsewhere ( cf. 1 Corinthians 15 ), and one way of avoiding this is to claim that it has already happened spiritually.

This heresy is found today in the Jehovah's Witness movement. They believe that Jesus resurrection was a spiritual and not a material one. They predicted that Jesus returned invisibly in 1874; that the world would end in 1914 and then again in 1975; and that all members of the body of Christ would be changed from heavenly glory in 1925.

We should beware of other false but popular teachings :

"Everyone will go to heaven"; Jesus said ( Matthew 7 ), 13 "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."

"It doesn't matter what you believe as long as you are sincere"; Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

The Presentation of God's Word, verses 1-2;

The Perversion of God's Word; verses 3 -4;and...

Persistence in God's Word, verse 5.

5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

The word translated 'keep your head' literally means 'be sober'. Paul is telling Timothy to be self-controlled, aware of what is going on around him. Aware of the trends in the society in which he lived, aware of the false teachings that were popular, aware of what is contrary to God's will. We should be like this too if we are not to be led astray.

'Endure hardship'. Jesus told his disciples that they should expect persecution. Indeed he said this was a blessing and they should rejoice ! ( Matthew 5:11f. )

This may go against our natural inclination for a quiet, peaceful life, but we can expect opposition to God's Word. Indeed, if we do not have to face opposition then perhaps we are not standing up for our faith enough !

do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. Timothy had been called and equipped to be an evangelist, one who spreads the good news of Jesus. Not everyone has this calling, probably less than 1 in 10 Christians. However, the Bible tells us that every Christian has at least one gift to be used to build up the church.

Vilfredo Pareto was an Italian mathematician, sociologist and economist. He came up with what has come to be known as the 80/20 rule. Simply stated it says that "80 percent of the result will come from 20 percent of the events". The sad thing is that the Pareto principle is true in the church too.

It is a reminder to each one of that we have an obligation to discover, exercise and mature in the ministry that God has given to each one of us. We have a duty, like Timothy, to discharge our duty. To be willing and available, and to put the service of God before our own interests.

Christ has no hands but our hands, to do His work today

Christ has no feet but our feet, to lead men on the way

Christ has no tongue but our tongue, to tell men how He died

Christ has no help but our help, to bring men to God's side

So let us boldly present God's Word with our whole lives, in and out of season. Let us beware the perversion of God's Word, being wary if it seems too comfortable. Let us persist in God's Word, fulfilling our duty and privilege of serving the one who died and rose again for us, and is waiting to gather us up to glory with all the other believers.