Thursday 3 October 2019

Turn with me to Paul’s 2nd Letter to Timothy. 
  You heard the first 14 verses read of this wonderful little Letter.  If this Letter was printed without stating what it was or who wrote it, and read by someone, they might reasonably think it was specifically written for today’s Church.

We read of a situation very similar to that which we face today, which makes this Letter so importantly relevant for us. The Church was under attack from outside by people who wanted to silence it, and from inside by false teachers.

Such is the situation the Church faces now, as politicians enact legislation opposed to Bible teaching, which panders to activists opposing our faith, and the Church capitulates to the LGBT lobby, aided by false teachers in the Church at the highest level.

This is the last letter Paul wrote; 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 task was to///// make more people Christian, anything else was supplementary.  His action was similar to the Apostles described in Acts, where they stated their mission was to minister the Word and leave social work to others.  The Church in a lot of places prefers it the other way around.

He is writing to encourage Timothy to persevere in what he has 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. Most people respond positively to words of encouragement and it gives a spirit of confidence.    

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. However, the balance is tipped one way, when other faiths can display their faith boldly by dress, and make statements which any Christian minister would be prosecuted for.

In addition, there were false teachers infiltrating the Church, wanting to preach a different gospel, one which permitted people to live and act according to how they wished. Such is the case now, and in order to facilitate this, they try to adapt and reinterpret the Bible to suit their purpose and ease a guilty conscience.

You may be getting to see how much we have in common with that which Timothy faced.

The passage opens with Paul establishing he was an Apostle with equal status to the other Apostles, having been divinely appointed by God, and when he spoke, he was doing so on behalf of God.

There is next a thanksgiving for Timothy who he greets in an affectionate way, and he gives thanks as he remembers Timothy’s faith. and how he was brought up in the Scriptures by his grandmother and own mother. He realises Timothy is not just a fair weather Christian.

A plea for loyalty follows in verses 6/10 for himself and the future of the gospel.  Paul was always devoted to preaching of the new life that is given by Jesus Christ,

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, rather than trying to apologise.  Muslims vigorously reveal their faith and to their credit. They would not allow their faith or holy book to be abused in the way Christians succumb.

There are two main points in this Chapter, the first is in verse 8, we must not be ashamed to speak of the gospel.  This is a call to all Christians, for we have nothing to be ashamed of.   Our faith is not something someone has made up; it is factually based on historical grounds. 
I know it can be hard when you are the only person in your work place, or amongst friends, to express a Christian belief.  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.

More importantly there is a tendency by some preachers to be ashamed of preaching a true gospel so they talk vaguely and avoid being positive, others speak a false gospel.  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; which is what we should do. As the hymn states, stand up, stand up for Jesus.  To be called a bigot is like getting a badge of honour, it proves you are speaking the truth.  The attack may come from within the Church.

I took a service a short while ago in a Church on this Circuit, and when I got home there was an email from someone claiming to be a retired Methodist Minister, who had walked out of the service, because  in the sermon I stated the Church was not being faithful to Scripture in its teaching on gender change, sexuality and denying the Resurrection.  He said |I should have allowed for a different interpretation, and in reply I challenged him to state what different interpretation there was. Naturally, I did not receive a reply. He neither had the courage to stay and face me nor reply. |Another liberal showing the usual illiberalism

You either accept the Bible as written, or abuse it, what so many are prepared to do.

God has called us to a holy life, and by his grace has offered us salvation, not by anything we have or could have done, but purely through grace.

Paul refers to himself as a herald, meaning he must announce/proclaim he gospel loudly; as an Apostle to say and do what the Lord has commanded; to a teacher to instruct on salvation and the glory of God, and to condemn false teaching and call for obedience, Because of this he suffered much physical torture and beatings.

He knew in whom he believed and had full trust in his salvation. God revealed himself in Jesus Christ, who by his death on the Cross has enabled us to have life after our earthly is over, and by his preaching of the gospel life was brought to many.   

In the last verse, Paul tells Timothy to guard the gospel, with the help of the Holy Spirit.  The Bible states, contend for the faith that was given to the Church by the Apostles at the command of our Lord; it was given once for all time, and does not need additions, subtractions, amendments.

The message of this passage is that the purpose of the Christian Church is to preach the gospel, to give spiritual moral and ethical guidance based on the Scriptures.  When we fulfil this function, people listen. 
Islam is a fast-growing faith and is attracting people from all walks and classes of life. It is felt that people know clearly what they are required to believe, and such appeals. People tend to respond when they are challenged to make a commitment. No greater proof of this was the fact that tens of thousands flocked to hear Billy Graham. 

The Church needs to wake up and speak up; to be a distinctive body in the world, a beacon of light and hope in a dark world.  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. It is the duty of the Church to teach the gospel and not budge from doing so. 

We are not to be blown away by every new spiritual wind that causes us to drift from our moorings.  We are not to be superficial believers.  Hold fast to the gospel given by the Apostles who were themselves taught by our Lord Himself.

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 resist 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.

Parents need to ensure their children learn the stories contained therein for future generations, especially as state schools fail to properly teach Christianity. When I have asked my grandchildren what they learn at religious studies, I am told various other faiths.

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.  Our brothers and sister in Christ, living in Islamic countries, daily face 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.

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.    

It doesn’t help our cause when 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. 

We have to face the fact that the Churches are giving out mixed messages so that it leaves seekers confused. This is not only ridiculous it is sinful against God and Jesus; we have become a pick/n mix Church. 

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.

How wonderful it would be if all we who are privileged to preach kept to giving sermons based on the teaching of the Apostles, a united message instead of a situation where the gospel message depends on who is preaching.   

The Church is beginning to look more influenced by the world rather than the other way around.  Each local Church has to try and be true to the gospel, as written in Scripture, and when it finds statements being made, which are contrary to the Bible to say so and dissociate itself from them.  

If the Churches and people of this great country with its Christian foundations fail the God who has cared for us, and if our government and judicial system do not stop trying to destroy Christian principles, we will continue to see the foundations being destroyed.

 Our gospel is that according to the scriptures, Jesus died to save us from our sins and was raised on the third day according to the scriptures.  This, which was an early Christian confession, give us the heart of the gospel and show that the resurrection is an integral part of the gospel. 

Only Christianity has a Cross at the centre of its faith. Only Jesus suffered an horrific death on the Cross, and all for the sake of paying the penalty for the sins you and I commit.

My friends, Christianity is in dire peril in this country, and is largely being sustained by the ‘black culture’’, which Is firmly faithful still to God’s teaching, and not afraid to say so.

Liberalism is tearing the Church apart by trying to supplant biblical authority for cultural expression and denying the infallibility of the Bible with trendy social issues replacing the Cross of Christ.    
We need to be like the first Christian Church where the people hunger for the Word of God, a caring church, where our desire is to love others, a committed church, where our commitment is to meet together, and a growing church, where we have a passion for the lost..

Let us pray that here at Kempston there will be reflection on those qualities more and more in our own lives and as a body together.

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