Saturday 19 October 2013

The Epistle for this Sunday is 2Timothy 3 v16 to 4 v5.

I think it rather sad that we do not view and treat our sacred book with the same commitment and devotion that Muslims treat the Koran. I fear that even many Christians seldom read the Bible on their own and the only contact with Scripture is listening to it being read in Church.

I have taken services in 28 Churches in and around Bedford and in the majority Bibles are not displayed in the pews, something which would enable members to follow the readings and sermon. In one Church they did not even have a Bible for the lessons to be read from.

I remember one summer being in Scotland when the city Council of Glasgow held an exhibition of the Bible and invited people to write any comment they wished on a displayed Bible. As expected certain passages relating to sexual behaviour had obscene words written thereon. None of the mainline Churches offered any resistance, but an evangelical group challenged the City Council to display the Koran alongside with the same invitation. A firm refusal was the natural display of cowardice, probably because they did not have sufficient fire insurance cover.

So let us turn to our passage from Paul’s 2nd Letter to Timothy in Chapters ¾. All Scripture is God breathed. This means that all (not some; not just those you think suits you) owes its origin and contents to the Spirit of God. God chose 40 men (all except one a Jew) of varied occupations and personalities, and inspired them to write what God wanted, His thoughts and requirements.

A major reason why the Church in the West is in decline, and the Eastern Churches are in the ascendant is that in the West it has become fashionable to dismantle those parts which do not correspond to modern morality and values, whilst Churches in the East, Africa, and South America faithfully adhere to he Bible. You simply cannot pick and choose the parts that are convenient to a particular standard of living.

Is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.
This means to point out where false teaching is given, and correct errors in doctrine and conduct, warning when wrong paths are being followed; and to train people to live in such a way that pleases God.

Having pointed out the importance of Scripture, Paul then reminds Timothy he and all Christians will one day have to give account to God and Jesus Christ, and Timothy must take every opportunity to deliver the message from God.
This passage although though written 2,000 years ago, is highly relevant to our own day and describes so accurately the day in which we live. Like Timothy we are a tiny minority amidst an overwhelming majority committed to unbelief.

We are to preach “the Word.” not ideas theories or analysis of current events. When people come to Church they have a right to expect that they will hear a sermon based on the Word of God. This should be the norm for all Churches of whatever denomination. It might not make us popular, but we are not here to be popular. A Church that does truly preach such Word will find plenty of opposition, but the Church has to choose whether to please the world or God.

There is much that could be said about the relevance of this for us today. It speaks most directly, I think, to our understanding of what ministry should be about. Quite simply, ministry is about being faithful, not about being successful.. Churches and their ministers are often judged by numbers, and whilst we all would like to see our congregations being larger, we should not try to attain this by presenting a form of entertainment, and/or seeking popularity..

The themes of the full authority of Scripture and salvation through Christ alone were the themes of Charles and John Wesley. Listen to the words of John Wesley. ‘I want to know one thing, the way to heaven, how to land on that happy shore. God has condescended to teach the way, He was written it down I a book. Give me that book at any price give me that book’. I fear both Wesleys would find a lot of preaching these days not to their liking.
When people turn away from what is written they lose their spiritual moorings and just drift ashore into the secular wilderness.

You will never hear a Muslim saying the Koran must be re-interpreted to please society, or that it is in any part in error; nor will they permit anyone else to say so.
In addition, Timothy must deal with those who fail to live righteously, pointing out the error of their ways, perhaps rebuking someone who is acting badly which is destroying him and others, and there will be some depressed people who will need encouragement

There always has and always will be those who refuse to accept sound teaching, and as time has gone on things have got progressively worse. A time has come, it appears, that people are willing to tear Scripture apart claiming openly that the Bible is too old fashioned in its original form and needs to be re-written to suit the time. Sadly many Christians are living unworthily of the Lord and are ready to hear an up dated version of the Bible to appease a guilty conscience.

All Christians should be concerned at the way events are going. If Christianity is pushed out, the spiritual vacuum is likely to be filled with something far worse. The Bible states that Jesus is the only way to God, the only means of salvation because of His death on the Cross. We should not be fearful of saying this, otherwise people will not fully appreciate what we are here for, and to make this proclamation is the only reason for our existence; we must stand and say boldly, and not be afraid to do so even if it upsets some false teachers. Sadly, there are too many within the Church more anxious to promote their own ambitions and desires than to promote the gospel.

The Lord calls on each one of us to be steadfast in the faith, to remain true to His teaching and promises to Him; this applies to every Christian. Nowhere in the Bible do we find a particular standard for some Christians and a different one for others. Some may find the negative influences around us make it hard to live consistently for the Lord, but we are called to be steadfast and contend for the faith. Christianity is not just a philosophy you hear on Sundays, it has to be lived out daily. I fear some members have not just given up; they have given in and are following society’s ways rather than God’s. Society has developed a standard of morality which we cannot share.

Charles Wesley once stated that the manner of living as well as attending Church was important. I held a service in honour of this great man and the research I made caused me to realise how far the Church (in general) has moved from the ideals of Methodism, which once had such a profound effect on the spiritual health of the nation.

If there was ever a day when Christians need to know what they believe it is now. Unless we are sure as to what we believe and why we must live that way, we will not be able to defeat the spreads of secularism and the cultural trends which challenge our faith and the foundations on which this nation was built.

The great Methodist preacher of the last century, W E Sangster once said, ‘ preaching is in the darkness, the world doesn’t believe in it’ and this is more true now than when it was first said. The Church itself does not value preaching, it is not seen as important although it can be a source of learning. How can we get the gospel out if it is not taught?

When a new bishop was introduced recently, he stated his priority would be to tackle poverty, which is an amazing statement but so typical of to-day’s Church thinking, where bishops are acting like unelected politicians. Priority of all clergy should be preaching the gospel and so encourage Church growth. This was stressed by Jesus in Mark’s gospel when he said His mission was to preach the gospel, and by the Apostles in Acts 6.

Christians have often found themselves in those places where there is much hostility but they have not given up. They continue to struggle, to fight, to overcome in the name of Christ, and are still doing so bravely against immense provocation in non Christian lands where they find their Churches burned down, their homes attacked and themselves persecuted, beaten and even murdered.

If those Christians can endure such persecution, we should be always ready to stand up for Jesus in this and other Western lands, for if we become weak there are wolves in the secular world who are ready to make every effort to suppress us, and they have powerful support from the judiciary and politicians. Let us be like Paul ‘and never be ashamed of being a Christian’.

No comments:

Post a Comment