Thursday 11 October 2012

2 Timothy Chapter 1.verses 1-14
Some of us have come close to death due to a frightening experience or we have seen a loved one or friend come to the end of their life, which causes us to reflect on things which are important to us. If we had to write a letter to set out our deepest wishes to those we leave behind, we would most probably mention that which is closest to our heart. This is what this Letter from Paul to Timothy is doing, and has an urgent message for our time.

This Letter to Timothy is my favourite one in the Bible because it is so very relevant to the Church of to-day. Unlike other Letters of Paul, it is written to a person, not to the Church in general.

Paul is nearing the end of his life and wants his mission to pass to Timothy who he feels he can trust. He realises the importance of godly leadership for the future, and the importance of it being in the hands of someone who will be faithful to the gospel, as it is written, and who will pass it on to succeeding generations. What a lesson for those seeking leadership of the Anglican Church.

Like many in positions of leadership now, Timothy was timid and fearful of upsetting people in a world which was hostile to Christianity, and lacked confidence in preaching. Paul didn’t want timidity; he said ‘God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, love and discipline.’ Paul was writing when the Church was under threat, some of which came from within the Church as well as from those outside, and they weren’t making any gains or impact on society.

How history repeats itself. You will see from that introduction some clear parallels to the situation in which the Church is now. There have been some terrible abuses of morality; the gospel and Bible have been abused; we have been ready to accept all that and the pluralism of society with the statement that all religions are equal. Indeed, at one time sharia law was seen as acceptable by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

As the panel meets to select a new Archbishop, you can be sure anyone who has conviction will be avoided, the idea of having someone who will speak and give teaching with an unequivocal voice with emphasis on Scripture. has no place in many circles.

Two men who were Jehovah’s witnesses called at my door to witness and I always play fair and tell from the start who I am. I was asked a number of questions including if I believed the Bible was the whole Word of God, and when I answered, I was asked how I could be a priest in the Church of England and believe as I said. This reveals the image the Church has, and whilst I am sure that there are many with traditional orthodox beliefs, even if not as conservative as myself, it is clear the liberal section have set the image,. We are thus living in a society where many are totally confused as to what the Church really does believe.

This Letter of Paul could have been full of self pity, but instead he chooses to encourage someone he loves to communicate the faith. He reminds Timothy of the blessing of having had a Christian heritage. Many of us were brought up in a Christian home where we told Bible stories, sent to Sunday School, and/or taken to Church by our parents, attended school assemblies with lovely old hymns. Many children do not have that blessing and know little or nothing of the Bible.

Grandmothers had and still do have a big part to play as children are growing up now in a time of spiritual and moral confusion, and unless attending a private or free school are not likely to have much religious teaching.

Paul refers to sound teaching and makes it clear the only sound teaching is that based on Scripture; this is the only teaching for spiritual health.

Paul states ‘I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation’. The response from many people, even within the Church is ‘you can’t say that it’s too narrow it’s discriminating and exclusive’, and would find this objectionable. Why should they be shocked that there is only one way to be saved, Shouldn’t we be utterly and thankfully amazed that there is a way to be saved at all?

The Bible is a book all about salvation, and there has never been any doubt that the only way to be saved is through Jesus Christ. He is the focus and climax of the Bible from start to finish. This has been the message from all the great evangelists.
Today, no less than in any other age, it is this intense biblical integrity that is needed. Fearless courage and conviction to stand for the truth that Jesus Christ is the only name that saves.
We will find that we will meet opposition when we declare our faith, we shouldn’t be surprised, and we should expect it. Public officials are ever anxious to erase Christianity from the public arena.
An article in the Daily Mail once told of business women converting to Islam because it has higher moral standards, respects traditional values and is very spiritual. There is no higher moral standard than Christianity; it is untrue, unfair and naïve to suggest that Islam or any other religion has finer values and qualities than Christianity. It is true to say that Islam is a moral religion and its clerics promote it vigorously. I am surprised that women would find Islam attractive when some sections seem to believe they have no rights at all. Consider the plight of the eleven years old schoolgirl who was shot for speaking out for the right to attend school in Pakistan.

It is also 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.

At the present time in this country we don’t go to prison for spreading the gospel, (not yet that is) although we are getting there, as punitive legislation has led to some preachers being arrested by police for preaching biblically, with a zeal not displayed against criminals.

The last government enacted legislation which was anti-Christian, and against the beliefs and conscience of Christians, and the present government seems keen to endorse it, and go further with the ridiculous proposal for same sex marriage, and it needs to be challenged at every opportunity.
I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes, first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. These are the words of the great Apostle Paul.

The gospel story we are called to proclaim is the good news about what God has done to rescue us from the consequences of our sin. Each of us falls short of the standard that we ought to meet, and so justice demands that we pay a price. The problem, fundamentally, is a moral one. People like to pretend that morality is just some arbitrary set of rules made up by other people who want to control how we behave. It’s not. But God has given us the chance to be absolved from the mess we have got into, and the punishment we deserve. He has done this through the Cross.

Whilst a price has to be paid for our sins, God decided to help us by taking that punishment upon Himself. On the Cross Jesus suffered a most cruel punishment on our behalf so there is no longer any price for us to pay. But that requires us turning from our sin and putting our faith in Him and living according to the standard laid down by God in His Holy Word. Why should anyone be ashamed to tell that story?

We may not be able or indeed desire to preach in the same way as of old, but whilst we may change our style we still have an important message to proclaim and it must not be watered down to suit modern susceptibilities. To be ashamed infers that one is reluctant to admit to something, a desire to disassociate oneself from it.

There is an ever present strong temptation to do so when there is so much theological and moral confusion; when you are dismissed as a fundamentalist for believing the Bible; when there is so much opposition; when there is encouragement to water down the gospel to make it more acceptable; when we don’t want to declare our faith in case we are sneered or laughed at.

We cannot be ashamed of the gospel. How would people hear? How
can they call on the One they have not believed in; and how can they believe in the One they have never heard; and how can they hear if no on preaches it to them?

How many Church members are embarrassed when asked if they believe? Indeed how many are ready to acknowledge they attend Church. How would we answer if asked to give our opinion on moral questions? If you are not ashamed you are ready to speak out about your faith.

The reason Paul was not ashamed and was eager to preach the gospel, was because it was the power of God for salvation, a teaching scorned by so many in the world. . There is no other power known to men which can do that. All other religions have a philosophy, we have a man. No other spiritual leader can forgive, only Christ can forgive.

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 Bible states ‘no one can come to the Father except through Jesus Christ.’ Paul said you may be ashamed of saying these things but I am not.

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