Wednesday 16 November 2011

2 Timothy 1

By general consensus Christians are under attack from political ideologues and some officious people anxious to claim a few moments of fame by being publicly offended on someone else’s behalf. So Christians become fair game.  They are aided in their antics by a biased judiciary as displayed prominently in two recent cases. (But there are other cases)
     A Christian registrar in a London borough objected on religious grounds to officiating at civil unions.  Whilst there were numerous other registrars willing and able to act in her place, this was refused and she was suspended.
     A devoted fostering couple in Derby were taken off the register because they admitted they would not teach young children in their care that homosexuality was acceptable.  Children of a tender age do not need to be taught any sexuality.
When they were later interviewed by the (biased)BBC a reporter asked them if they did not consider it was selfish to deny children a loving home because of their stance. Any person with impartiality and indeed intelligence would have asked the Council that question.  They were the offenders.  
     Alongside nurses, boarding house owners, doctors, and
general workers, these brave and noble people stand largely alone.  Many people claiming to be faithful Church members feel unable to, perhaps understandably fearing the consequences.  It does indeed need much courage, but is it not wrong that in a Christian country Christians need to fear?
     This raises the question, ‘is there a need for us to feel we have to be apologetic for our belief?’  We certainly must not be ashamed to state the fact we are Christians.
     Look with me at Paul’s 2nd Letter to Timothy. This is my favourite Letter of the Bible.  It contains so much teaching on practical Christian living which is still relevant to us today.      
     He is writing to Timothy, who he wanted to take over the mission of leading the Church as he is nearing his life’s end in a Roman prison.  Paul felt Timothy was the right person to lead the Church, having come from a godly family where his mother and grandmother had brought him up teaching the Scriptures. 
     I suspect that many people in the older generation were brought up being told the Bible stories, going to Sunday School,  singing hymns in school assemblies, so being given a solid foundation.  Children for some years now have been deprived of this and have not the slightest knowledge of the Bible.
     Grandmothers still have a big part to play.  Children are growing up in moral confusion, taking up a bizarre lifestyle which they pick up from programmes produced by depraved minds.
     After parents, it is our closest friends who influence us most.  We all owe a debt to those who led us to Christ.  My own mother always encouraged me to go to Church from an early age, and by example attended.  Like most fathers, mine was not interested in religion. But for deeper conviction, I owed much to a most devoted Christian who worked tirelessly for Christ, far away in East Africa.
     Whilst I had attended Church regularly and as Matins and Evensong were celebrated each Sunday, with being a chorister was present at both services. It was not however until I reached that distant country that I became aware of what evangelical Christianity stood for. Anglican worship has always been largely pragmatic. 
     We all may have been influenced by someone who has stirred us and helped to make our faith stronger.  Those are the relationships which God establishes, and you remember things from sermons and written notes which have become precious to you.    
      To some Timothy might have been a surprise choice to lead the Church, but we see God often chooses a man who the Church committee would reject.   Paul tells Timothy he was set apart through ordination, and calls on Timothy to exercise personal discipline. Many in ministry today could learn from Paul’s Letters to Timothy and Titus. 
     There is the call not to be fearful of speaking the truth, of keeping to the teaching of the gospel as it is written.  Cowardliness has no place in Christian ministry.  The Bible states, ‘for God did not give us a spirit of timidity’.      
     Paul begs Timothy not to be ashamed of the gospel.  Every Christian is called upon not to be ashamed of the gospel.  Every Christian must be ready to stand up and be counted.  Never to be ashamed to be a member of God’s people.  When Paul was arrested many of his friends forsook him, and today many are forsaking the Church, often using the flimsiest of excuses.      
     There is always the temptation to feel the need to keep silent about one’s faith.  There is the fear of being isolated. 
      Fear of having to disassociate oneself from activities we know to be wrong.
    Fear of being laughed at and mocked. 
     We all are sensitive to public opinion and tend to give in before its pressure. 
     We need to let other people know that we are Christians, that we have deep religious belief, and believe that God intervenes in our lives.  We are called on to have high moral standards, not to take the Lord’s name in vain nor use the name of Christ improperly.
     We Christians need to let the world know that we are proud of the Bible, because it contains the teachings, life and death of Jesus.
     There is no need for us to be ashamed. If anyone needs to be ashamed and defensive, it is the adulterous and sinful generation in which we live.
      We know there are many people who are not prepared to accept the Bible story as they find it too incredible to believe.  They are more ready to listen to the strident outpourings of nauseating, insulting, self indulgent secularists. 
     For others accepting the gospel would mean a change of hedonistic lifestyle.  It means accepting a standard of morality they are not prepared to accept. 
     The passage refers to ‘sound teaching’ and you cannot have sound living without sound teaching.  Paul is saddened and depressed about the state of the Church, a situation we are familiar with in the West.  He makes it clear that the only sound teaching there can be, is that which is based on the Scriptures.  This is the only way you can discover what the truth is and the gospel is really saying and meaning.
     We can only be saved through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  This was the first Christian message and it has not changed with the passing of the years. No other religion, no other person, can offer what Christianity offers.  Jesus said ‘no one can come to the Father except through me’. 
     Salvation means God accepts us when we accept Jesus Christ death on the Cross as the means of forgiveness of our sins.    This is the salvation offered us in the gospel.   How many preachers would be ready to stand in one of our Cathedrals and state this?  How many would be allowed to? 
     So many preachers are afraid of what people, and especially what the papers would report.  But look at the praise heaped on Pope Benedict by the press for his bold and brave words in telling the politicians to stop interfering with the Christian faith, and calling for a vigorous Christian outpouring to combat the aggressive secularism pervading our society. 
     The last government enacted legislation which was anti-Christian in parts, and the present government seems keen to endorse it, and it needs to be challenged at every opportunity.
We have no political leader on our side at the present time; two leaders are avowed atheists and the other only a lukewarm Christian when it is likely to be politically expedient.
      Preachers can however be intimidated and be frightened of upsetting modern susceptibilities. To preach fundamental truth will inevitably meet hostility. Yet we have the example and encouragement from this little Jewish Apostle who faced all that could be put against him, and because of that Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire    
     Those who are appointed to preach this gospel have a duty to devote themselves to faithful teaching. From the very start of the faith, essential truths have been under attack.  What is now of so much concern is that attacks often come from within the Church as people push their own agenda, getting massive media attention.
     All Christians, and more especially leaders and preachers, have a duty to guard the gospel.  To challenge is to break trust with God who gave it to us.  There is the temptation to take basic truths and turn them to make them more acceptable to the day in which we live.  There is the ever present desire to please the modern man/woman rather than be true to God.  Truth does not change.  Presentation may be adjusted, but to change and replace is not acceptable.
     Let us face up to the challenge and never ever be ashamed ot the gospel or of being Christian.

No comments:

Post a Comment