Wednesday 8 February 2012

2 Timothy 3/4

I want you to think with me about Paul’s 2nd Letter to Timothy in Chapter 3v 16 to 4.v5

It is not a coincidence, it is fact, that as the Bible has become so irrelevant to so many people, life has become so much more coarse and immoral.  There seems to be no sense of shame on the part of many people, even those in the public eye.  Allied to this is the fact that the Bible has become less relevant even to many people within the Church, including those whose duty is to teach the Scriptures.  Thereby, where as once people might have thought twice before acting in consideration of what the Bible taught, there is less restraint.

Timothy had been taught the Scriptures by his mother and grandmother, and whilst this was from the Old Testament, in addition had been given teaching by Peter and Paul who between them had written most of the New, so Timothy had most of our Bible available to him.

Paul advises Timothy of the importance of all Scripture. We are told God inspired and guided forty men, using their different characters and occupations, to write the Scriptures which would be His message to the world.  We can reasonably presume that if God gave us these words He would not have done so just to fill pages but meant us to take note of all that was given.  The modern idea of pick and mix, as if one is choosing sweets and cast aside that which is not pleasant to one’s taste, is not acceptable.

Timothy is called upon to reprove, rebuke and exhort, which in fact is the task of all preachers. In other words, we have to be concerned with mind, will and emotions by correcting wrong thinking, pointing out what is wrong in behaviour and attitudes, and encouraging those depressed.  This has to be done with caring, but positive words.

When I was first ordained my Vicar asked me to attend various house groups where bible studies were being held.  I was amazed at the lack of knowledge and understanding of the Bible.   Over the years I have come to realise how few people, even within the Church, have only a limited knowledge of the Bible.  Inevitably one must conclude that biblical ministry is failing.  Indeed I have been to services and wonder what the purpose of the service was.  I have heard a summary of the Vicar’s reading material, or some personal experiences. This is not what sermons are for.

But there is a basic question that we should all ask ourselves from time to time: Why do we go to church? Is it just to sing hymns or to meet other people, both of which are commendable?  But when you go to Church what do you hope to hear?  Is the sermon something you find boring and wish there was none? Or do you look forward to hearing an exposition of God’s Word’. 
The first Christian Church met for the purpose of hearing the teaching of the Apostles, for fellowship with other Christians, the partaking of Holy Communion.  This is a good example to follow.  We have that same teaching as they received, it is called the ‘New Testament’

The primary reason we attend Church on Sunday is to learn about God, to grow closer to Him and know how we can have a relationship with Him, all else is secondary. Knowing Christ, becoming like Christ, is what we are here for.    Knowing what God wants us to believe and do. So when you read that the Church is in a complete dilemma over whether (or not) women should be bishops and whether (or not) homosexual people should be ordained, you can turn to the Scriptures to see what God thinks.

The only contact the majority of people who attend our Churches have with the Bible is hearing it read in the lessons at the service.  This means that there is added compulsion placed on preachers to fully explain the Scriptures.

I have heard preachers begin their sermons by stating ‘I was considering what to preach this morning’.  In the first words of Chapter 4 of his letter to Timothy, Paul gives a clue.  He states, ‘preach the Word’.  By this he explains he means sound doctrine, in other words telling people not what they want to hear but what they need to hear.

Sound doctrine means teaching what God has laid down in Scripture, which is often forsaken in order to avoid telling people what they don’t want to hear and substituting it for what they want to hear, something that makes them feel happy and relieving them of guilty consciences and making them feel comfortable with their way of living.       Sound doctrine aims to correct faulty belief and calls for faithfulness to God’s Word.   

There are people who expect the Church to be like a spiritual dispensary giving out soothing words. 

There is a reluctance by clergy to speak out for fear of being labelled as a bigot or being discriminatory.   It is  true to say Christian preachers tend to modify teaching of traditional values to appeal to contemporary thinking, and for fear of offending one of the many discrimination laws promoted equally vigorously by vociferous minorities, so falling foul of the law, which is not enforced against other faiths with the same enthusiasm as against Christian preachers.

All this causes a problem for parish priests, and especially for visiting preachers.  We face a problem and none more so than those of us who want to be true to Scripture, when not everyone is prepared to accept what is written.  I heard one Vicar preach that she didn’t think the Bible should be taken too literally.  Have you ever heard a Muslim cleric deny or challenge any words in the Koran? Is it any wonder people fail to respond?

It is hard to quote the Bible without someone saying ‘Oh you shouldn’t say that.’  The Bible states, ‘salvation is found in no other name under heaven except Jesus Christ’.  The Bible states’ Jesus said no one can come to the Father except through me’, yet many preachers are dodging quoting this.  If we avoid telling these verses how are people ever to come to know the gospel. We should not heed such warnings.

This tells us our faith is not like other faiths which someone has made up, but rather comes from God.  Furthermore, it was given with the understanding that nothing needs to be added, amended or subtracted from.  Anyone who does so is a false teacher.   God will not ignore false teaching, and will pass judgement on such people.

By telling Timothy he is to preach in and out of season, he is meaning Timothy should use every opportunity of getting the gospel message out to people.
Paul realised this would not be easy, for there were those who would not wish to hear anything which did not fit in with their way of thinking and more especially with their way of living. There were preachers willing and desiring to give that teaching, they are called ‘false preachers’. This is so to-day which is why some are tying desperately hard to re-interpret the Bible to make it more acceptable.

The message we have for the world is centred upon the person of Jesus Christ and provides for a stable and well balanced society.  In God’s plan the people who have been touched by the gospel have a role in influencing the world, to be as salt and light.  Salt to be a cleansing influence, and light to shine in dark surroundings in which we live and work.  

My friends, it is the duty of the Church to teach the gospel and not to budge from it.  We are not to be blown by every new spiritual wind so that we drift from our moorings.  We are not to be superficial believers. Hold fast to the gospel once given by the Apostles who were taught by the Master Himself. 

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