Sunday 28 September 2014

2 Timithy 1v15/2v11

This Letter is one of two Paul wrote to Timothy, known as the Pastoral Epistles, and are as relevant to the Church to day as when they were given to Timothy, if not even more so,

Paul is nearing the end of his life, he is in a Roman prison, and has chosen Timothy to take over the mission he is ending. Paul was most concerned that impostors were entering the Church, just as they are now, people who have no real Christian conviction, who are not Christians in the true sense, and so give false teaching. They take up positions in the Church for personal reasons.

There had been an explosion of false teaching inside the church so Paul expressed concern that there were those within the Church, preachers who deviated from the gospel, threatening the purity and the life of the church. He speaks of teachers who no longer put up with sound doctrine, and that is very much what we find in the church today.

If you have been a Christian for some time you will know that wasn't only a problem in the early church. You will know that's exactly what we find in the church today. They say we live in the 21st century; we live in a modern, scientific age, as if God only intended to give His Word for the early age. They say, we need no longer accept Paul's teaching, and rather than God's word standing in judgement of us as it should, we stand in judgement of the Bible. Our final source of truth is no longer the Word of God.

When you buy a car or electrical instrument, you are given a manual which tells you what you must do (or not do) and if you fail to comply with the instructions the maker is absolved from any responsibility and you must pay the cost for your mistake. When God made the earth He gave us a manual, the Bible, which tells us the maker’s instructions for living. When we fail to comply we are responsible for the cost, but God in His amazing grace provided the payment for us through Jesus’ death on the Cross.

In the preceding Chapter, Paul is preparing Timothy giving him advice and encouragement. He reminds Timothy he has had a wonderful upbringing, having been instructed in the faith by his grandmother and mother, and he now has to rekindle that Spirit which has been laid in him having a sound Christian heritage.

I suspect many of us here this morning were brought up being told Bible stories, going to Sunday School. We have had the privilege and blessing of having a solid foundation. At school we had school assemblies and sang the lovely hymns. We may not have been 100% perfect in Bible knowledge, but we knew the basic requirements and the main stories and passages. Sadly so many have fallen away from the Church over the years, and even sadder is when someone has been a member of a Church and falls away, rarely it seems are they followed up to find out why they have left.

Children for some years have been deprived of this and have not the slightest knowledge of the Bible, this is in direct contrast to Muslim and Jewish children, and if it were not for the contribution of private schools a whole generation would be Christian illiterates. Successive governments have been more concerned with giving sex education rather than Christian.

Paul tells Timothy God gave a spirit of power and not timidity, and must not be so timid as to become ashamed of the gospel. This exhortation applies to us. How timid are we in declaring our faith; the fact we attend Church; the fact we deplore the moral slide of the nation. If we hide our Christianity it can only be because we are ashamed, we do not like friends criticising us. Jesus said he who fails to acknowledge me before men I will not acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven.

There is a message to all Christians that we have to take a stand; to stand up and be counted. We have been saved by grace, and we have to pass it on.

Preachers have to declare the faith boldly. People want to hear those who speak with conviction, which is why so few have any faith in our political leaders. If you look at those leaders who spoke with conviction, they got support I don’t want to get deep into the political arena, but most people if honest would admit such a person was Margaret Thatcher. Even if you disagreed with her policies, you cannot deny she had conviction and was able to win three general elections handsomely. This is why so many people in Scotland supported Alex Salmond in the Scottish referendum, even if he was economical with the truth, and had little if any idea of economics

Even within the Church there is often the desire to move away from people with conviction. Some years ago a new Archbishop of Canterbury had to be appointed and the outstanding man was Graham Leonard, one with a firm faith and not afraid to speak it, but the man chosen was one known to sit on fences.

Paul gave a double exhortation, give sound teaching with the steadfast faith which Timothy had heard from him.. Steadfast faith is that which is not distorted or weakened, Sound teaching is that which is in accordance with what the Apostles gave and which Timothy heard from Paul. . He is saying sound teaching bring spiritual health whilst false teaching brings spiritual disease. We are an Apostolic Church in that our faith is based on the teaching of the Apostles. The Church of England and Roman Catholic Churches often refer to being Apostolic on account of the bishops being in direct line of succession from the Apostles, but I doubt that could be substantiated from the Bible.

Paul warned Timothy there would be suffering in the preaching of the gospel. Paul told how he had suffered much for the sake of the gospel and every Christian must be prepared to suffer in some way, it may be just a little annoyance and mockery from fellow works or friends, or more direct in being suspended from work for mentioning your faith or wearing a Cross. Of course if anyone is of ethnic faith they can be as open as they wish. This is why I recommend anyone who is looking to support a charity to consider Christian Concern, a legal centre which represents and defends Christians who suffer penalties for their faith. This is led by a lady barrister who is a Christian speaker and an inspiration to all who hear her.

Paul says, join me in suffering for the gospel by the power of God who called us. God calls all who are Christians and some respond when the Holy Spirit enters their heart. This is why two people may hear together a message being preached, one will respond whilst the other does not. God takes the initiative, and we decide to answer Him.

Paul demanded that doctrinal convictions must be taught in love with sincere belief. Timothy is to guard the gospel so that it is not damaged or lost, for there were those intent on corrupting the gospel and robbing the Church of that priceless treasure. This will require Timothy to be strong and able to resist pressure by those who wish to adapt the gospel to their own desires. We can surely appreciate what Paul meant as we have witnessed the gospel being adapted to meet the requirements of those in high places. There are bishops in the Church of England who openly challenge Scripture.

The lesson all through this Letter is that the gospel is good news of salvation; our duty is to communicate it using old ways and seeking new ones to make it known. We must not trim or eliminate those parts which jar on modern ears.

The primary reason we gather at church on Sunday is to learn about God and to grow closer to Him. Everything else is secondary. Knowing Christ, becoming like Christ, is what we are here for. This is achieved through the Word Of God

The bible should be the supreme court of the church, the final authority in deciding all controversies. Alas in the modern church that is not so. A church which rejects the teaching of the bible loses its authority.

People have a right to expect men speaking as Ministers of the Church to do so, based on the word of God and not expressing personal opinions or preferences. When Ministers substitute personal views for political rhetoric they are exceeding their remit. If we expect God to bless and build the Church, we must follow His guidelines.

Whilst Paul’s Letters to Timothy are an excellent guide for pastors, he was including advice for all Christians. He realised it takes courage to be a Christian in the world. You may be the only Christian in your family, amongst your friends or where you work, and things can become difficult for you. Some people find it difficult to be faithful to their faith, but Jesus always warned there was a cost in being a Christian.

Paul uses three examples as to how a Christian is to compare him/herself. They are a soldier, an athlete and a farmer. Each of those occupations requires sacrifice in terms of what one gets engaged in. Some actions in life will harm their fitness to carry out their tasks and a firm discipline is needed to devote oneself to the task set before them, with a determination to get things done well.

Similarly a Christian may have to give up some pursuits which compromise his/her faith, and have determination to see things through to the end.

You and I are called to be active in service to advance that work. Do not let anybody tell you that your life as a Christian does not count. It counts tremendously. It is the most significant thing taking place on this earth today, Glory in what God has called you to do, and be faithful to his command.

You know as well as I do that it's very tough to be a Christian. When you are the only Christian in your family, in your office, in your classroom, it's tough. It's tough to go against the flow, it's tough to swim upstream, it's tough to stand for gospel principles when everyone else is looking the other way. People who say that Christianity is a crutch - they have no idea what they are talking about, do they? It's tough to stand for Christ. It takes guts, it takes courage to stand for the gospel and for gospel truths and for principles. That's why we can only do so with God's help, with God's Spirit, with God's grace.

Come to church then, prepared to feast on sound doctrine. This combined with the work of God's Spirit, will not only transform you, but it will transform others as you seek to become one who faithfully accepts and practices the Word of God. Amen

No comments:

Post a Comment