Friday 30 September 2016

Turn with me now to the 2nd Letter of Paul to Timothy.
This is the last letter Paul wrote in 64AD, and is his last will and testament. He is now an old man in chains in a Roman prison, and wants to pass on the ministry he has pursued and considers Timothy the man best to do so. But Timothy is likely to be overawed by the opposition.

Paul had lived for the gospel and does not want to see it banished. His primary desire was to make more people Christian, and strove bravely to do this, anything else was supplementary.

Paul is writing to encourage Timothy to persevere in what he has learned and believed, and to pass on the gospel of Christ and the teaching of the Apostles, and the letter calls on us to do the same.

Nothing clarifies the issues of life and death so much as the prospect of death does.  Some of us have come close to it when we have had a near death experience, and people in such situations  reflect on things most important to them. This is what is in Paul's mind as he writes what is in effect his last will.

But Timothy is facing a difficult task for the Church was facing much opposition. The Church had spread after Peter’s sermon at Pentecost, but as that generation was being followed by a younger one, which Paul refers to later in the Letter, they were unholy and self concerned.

To-day we see Churches which have been largely supported by middle and older age people faithfully, now being turned around to allay with modern culture, therby turning away from sound doctrine causing the longtime members unable to adopt to contemporary worship(?) 

In addition false teachers had crept into positions of influence within the Church, and their teachings were acceptable to those who wished to follow a loose sort of Christianity, and of course such is happening today as we find the Bible is being cast aside, so people are not caused to feel guilty and made to feel there are no moral restrictions.

Further, the Romans did not like Christianity as it claimed to worship the one true God, and they preferred there to be pluralism with many gods, which is very much the preferred option of authorities today. You may be getting to see how much we have in common with that which Timothy faced.

This Letter was, and is, for those who are discouraged by the situation within and without the Church, and is a bold call for perseverance in the face of suffering and persecution.

For anyone who is a committed Christian, and anyone who holds the Church dear, this can only be depressing. Attendances at Churches are falling dramatically as the older members die or become unable to attend. The younger generations have no interest in the Church. We are fast becoming a secular state.

When you go to Church, what do you hope to hear?  is the sermom something you find boring and wish there was none? or do you look forward to hearing the exposition of God's Word?

The primary reason for attending Church is to learn about God and how we can have a relationship with him, all else is secondary.  This is why he Bible is so important, it brings us into contact with God.  

The Letter begins with Paul asserting his Apostleship, which he stressed was by the will of God; in other words he was specially chosen to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, and was always keen to assert this specially given authority so that what he stated could be accepted as approved by the Lord.

In verses ½ Paul greets Timothy and reveals his fondness for him, he also reminds him that he (Paul) is an Apostle. Timothy would know that, but Paul knew this Letter would be passed on for many people through the ages to read.

He then in verse 3 assures Timothy that he prays for him and constantly thinks of him. Most of us can remember someone who has inspired us, and those who have cared enough to pray for us.

In verse 5 he shows his affection for Timothy and remembers how Timothy was brought up in the faith by his mother and grandmother, leading to his ordination by Paul, and calls on him to keep that faith in mind and practice. Something children miss out nowadays, and are deprived of a good foundation.

We are reminded that God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but one of power and there is no greater strength than the power of God. This should encourage us to be as vocal in proclaiming our faith as other faiths do. Muslims vigorously reveal their faith, and to their credit.

Paul then calls on Timothy not to let that gift be wasted. This is why we must never ever be ashamed of being Christians, or of speaking of the gospel; God has called us to stand up for Him and the Lord Jesus. Our faith is not something someone has made up, it is factually based on historical grounds.

Paul says he was not ashamed of the gospel, in fact he glorified in the gospel, and that is what all Christians should do. But sadly I fear we all do not. How many Church members are embarrassed when asked if they believe? Indeed how many are ready to acknowledge they attend Church? How reluctant to answer if asked to give our opinion on moral questions? If you are not ashamed, you are ready to speak out about your faith.

I know it can be hard when you are the only person in your work place, or amongst friends and you are Christian. Criticism can be harsh, even vitriolic so that there is reluctance to take a stand. Be encouraged by remembering our Lord went through so much more for us, so we must stand up for Him. Remember the words of Jesus, ‘for whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this sinful and adulterous generation, of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed when He comes in the glory of the Father’.

More importantly, there is a tendency by those within the church who are ashamed because the bible speaks against what they want to believe.

Preachers now should be prepared to tell the Bible as it is written, telling people what need to hear rather than what they might like to hear. Preachers can however be intimidated,and be frightened of upsetting modern susceptibilities. To preach fundamental truth will inevitably cause some upset. But let us take heart from Paul,who faced all that could be put against him, and so caused Christianity to spread throughout the ancient world.

Some preachers are terrified of being criticised as being bigoted, or of having some sort of phobia. A bible based ministry is likely to make you unpopular or mocked, (believe me). When therefore you are in a minority, you have to decide whether to keep quiet and say nothing; go with the flow, or stand up and fight.

Paul has been telling Timothyhow to manage the Church by inspiring confidence in him and emphasising the imortance of Scripture, he wants Timothy to preach the gospel, and warns him there will be those will not want to hear.  Paul tells Timothy to keep sound teaching, which he learned from the teaching of the Apostles. Paul will repeat this call in Chapter 4 when he commands Timothy to ‘preach the word’, and to be urgent in doing so.

There are peole who expect the Church to be like a spiitual dispensary, giving out soothing words which will relieve them. Others will hope to hear things which make them feel happy, telling God is a God of mercy, forgiveness, love and tolerance, without hearing he is also a God of justice, judgement and wrath. In too many Churches the Bible's authority is openly challenged, and made to fit in with society's
standard of miorality (or immorality)

We even witness Churches giving up on Bible teaching, to re-interpret to avoid any sense of judgement. I have great sympathy with all those people seeking spiritual guidance, both in Church members and outsiders. It must be very difficult and frustrating to find out what the gospel answer is.

;It is so easy to be blown away by every new spiritual wind that causes us to drift from our moorings. We are not to be superficial believers, but to hold fast to the gospel given by the Apostles, who were themselves taught by our Lord Himself.

Jesus in His preaching had two effects; He either saved people or upset them. If we study the preaching of Jesus, the people did not always go away smiling, even His own disciples walked away from Him at one time.

We may offer what is hard for sceptics to believe, but that should not stop us telling it. The gospel does annoy people, so the Church has tried to dilute the message to please and conciliate people to such an extent that it has nothing special to offer. If it is just another social organisation with a religious flavour, there is no cause for people to support it.

The gospel is the story of Jesus Christ, who gave Himself to be crucified for our sins, in order to reconcile us to God. Why should anyone be ashamed to tell that story?

Unless we know what we believe and why, we will not defeat the creeping spread of secularism and the cultural trends which challenge our faith, and we must resists the tendency to allow society to impose itself upon our teaching, or we are in danger of sentencing the Church to a very small part of our national life. When we reject Apostolic teaching we fall into error.

We hear it said that all religions are the same and all lead to the same God, but his is both wrong and irresponsible. Islam for instance teaches that God has no son and their God is Allah, they hate the Jews. We worship a God who has a Son, and who is the God of Israel, and we claim no one comes to the Father (GOD that is) except through Jesus Christ, we teach from a book written by Jews and worship a Saviour who was a Jew.

Most religions believe good living and deeds lead to God. Christianity alone makes the claim that only atonement  for sin is through the death of Jesus Christ on the Cross.  To teach that all can go to heaven regardless of belief, is like telling a blind person they can cross a major road, and walk safely when they wish. Jesus made it unequivocally clear in the Bible, that the only way to God is through him, and to suggest otherwise is to challenge the authority of Jesus.  it may be popular to say you can believe anything which your conscience feels right, but is sinfully misguiding, and important to remeber consciences can become dulled and confused.  
The second significant words come when Paul writes; ‘join with me in suffering for the gospel.’ There are many ways we may suffer, but be sure you will experience one when you state what you believe. Some people will try to avoid you, you may miss out on promotion in your work, as many of us have experienced, and you will surely be subject to innuendo, but what man denies us God recompenses. Christianity was never meant to be a bed of roses. It is not easy to stand for Christ; people have received death threats even for doing so. We have to decide if we stand for Jesus or Caesar.

Looking at v.9, Paul is pointing out the gospel that there is nothing we can do to earn our salvation; God saves us by His grace, not because of anything we have done. We are put into a right relationship with God when we repent of past sins and accept Jesus Christ as Saviour. The Bible states Jesus is the only way to salvation. I know it is hard to say this without someone saying, ‘oh you must not say that’, but we need to ignore such comment because that is an essential element of our message

Paul describes himself as having suffered many beatings, deprivation, hardship, now prison and soon death. In spite of all this he knows WHOM he has believed; not what or in whom, but whom, Jesus Christ Himself. But he is not ashamed of being where he is.

In the last verse, Paul tells Timothy to guard the gospel. We live at a time of theological and moral confusion. The Church itself is confused and divided as to what it stands for, and for what is its purpose. One part believes the Bible is the infallible Word of God, which should be respected and obeyed, whilst the other sees it as a sort of guide to be adopted to suit the occasion. Jesus warned any kingdom or house divided among itself will fall.

This letter is essentially a message for those who may be tempted to give up in times like now, when it often seems that those in positions of leadership do not really know what they believe in or stand for. Paul reminds us the gospel is worth standing up for; is worth fighting for; and in this Letter Paul goes on to encourage people. Never give in; if you feel frustrated, fight.

If the Churches and people of this great nation do not return to Biblical foundations, Christianity which has been the faith of this country for over 1500 years, and has given stability and kept this nation as one, will be phased out of public life by ideologues in public service, who want to take Christianity right out of public life.

The first Church grew rapidly because the people listened to the teaching of the Apostles and God added to their numbers. He is not going to add to any Church which accepts the morality of a decadent society. Church members should never choose to adopt State law above God’s law. 

Now more than ever, this is a requirement for all Christians to remember the sacrifices made by martyrs, who gave their very lives that we may have Bibles to freely read.

For our brothers and sister in Christ, living in Islamic countries, being a Christian is a life threatening existence, daily facing horrific persecution, even death, with Churches and houses being burned down. We have seen horrendous scenes on television of them being beheaded, just because they declared themselves followers of Christ. In some countries even having a bible in your possession is enough to incur the wrath of the authorities.

When Christians lose the beliefs that have kept the Church together, they begin to fall and disintegrate. It is fatuous and irrational to suggest that biblical injunctions, which do not conform to modern requirenents can be rewritten.  If people do not know the truth, theywill not be saved.

God has made us custodians of His Word; never may the Church and its members fail Him. But if we are negligent and indifferent we will find another faith will take our place

I pray that you will only hear the gospel boldly and faithfully preached in your Church.

No comments:

Post a Comment