Let's open our Bibles to 2 Timothy chapter four this morning. Let's pray together.
Our Father, the worship that has begun is now continued. We continue through giving our full attention-- without any distraction possible-- to what the spirit of God would say through the word of God.
Thank you for your people who have gathered together and are going to be reading the same text and hearing the same truths. Lord bless us in the hearing of the word. Instruct us, Lord in this series on Homeland Security and in this issue of the church and security with teaching and doctrine.
Give us discernment and a love for people as well as a love for the truth. In Jesus' name, Amen.
OK picture this. Picture a man standing on the edge of a cliff, only he's blind. But he's on the edge of a cliff and he's asking for direction-- he's asking which way he should go. He's up on a cliff. One step could mean his death. And he doesn't exactly know where he is. So he cries out, which direction should I go in?
Now you're down below. You're watching and hearing this. And somebody next to you in the crowd says this, it doesn't matter which way you go as long as you're sincere. What are you going to tell the guy who's yelling? Are you going to say, you be quiet? Because at this point information is vital. And the right information is vital. It's not about sincerity, it's about truth at that point.
I'm going to read you a memo. This is from a school superintendent to the assistant superintendent. And here is the memo. Next Thursday morning at 10:30 Halley's Comet will appear over this area. This is an event which occurs only once every 75 years. Call the school principals and have them assemble their teachers and classes on their athletic fields and explain this phenomenon to them. If it rains then cancel the classes observation and have the classes meet in the auditorium to see a film about the Comet.
That's the original memo-- the original information from the director-- the superintendent-- to the assistant superintendent. But this is now a memo from the assistant superintendent to the principals. It get skewed a little bit.
By the order of the superintendent of schools, next Thursday at 10:30 Halley's Comet will appear over your athletic field. If it rains then cancel the day's classes and report to the auditorium with your teachers and students where you will be shown films. A phenomenal event which occurs only once every 75 years.
OK now it passes from the principals to the teachers and it comes out this way. By the order of the phenomenal superintendent of schools at 10:30 Thursday Halley's Comet will appear in the auditorium. In the case of rain over the athletic field the superintendent will give another order. Something which occurs only once every 75 years.
OK now it passes from the teachers to the students and it comes out this way. Next Thursday at 10:30 the superintendent of schools will appear in our school auditorium with Halley's Comet. Something which occurs only once every 75 years. If it rains, the superintendent will cancel the Comet and will order us out to our phenomenal athletic field.
OK and there's one more pass. And this time it's from the students to the parents. And it sounds a little bit different. When it rains next Thursday at 10:30 over the school athletic field, the phenomenal 75-year-old superintendent of the schools will cancel all classes and appear before the school in the auditorium accompanied by Bill Haley and The Comets.
Once information leaves its original source it can deteriorate quite rapidly. It can be skewed each time it's told. And anybody who teaches the Bible, preaches the truth, opens up the book to convey truth, wants to make sure that what is spoken is as close to the original sense as is possible.
Years ago, under the Ministry of Charles Patton Spurgeon-- a name that you have heard many times. He was in the Victorian era of London, England. The last four years of his life he was embroiled in a controversy known as the Down Grade Controversy. If you've read about Spurgeon that's a familiar term, the Down Grade Controversy.
And the Down Grade Controversy was Charles Spurgeon warning England, his church, and a union that he was a part of, about the danger of moving away from the truth. About the slippery slope of moving away from the truth. The Down Grade Controversy. Spurgeon pictured the historic Christianity as the pinnacle of a mountain. And one false step in the wrong direction and you're on the slippery slope.
Last week we touched on some of the issues regarding the truth. We began in this passage of 2 Timothy Chapter four and we spoke about this emergent church that is on the rise. And we even mentioned the World Council of Churches that have been around for a long time, and liberalism, and relativism, et cetera.
But the real problem is not the emergent church. The real problem isn't the World Council of Churches, or liberalism, or all of that. Those are just symptoms. The real problem is the demand that creates the supply. It's what we want, what we value, what's most important to us that creates the supply. Do we want pure truth, or do we just want to feel good about ourselves in the condition we're in?
Understand that when Paul wrote to Timothy-- we mentioned last week-- that church was already on the downgrade. They were already on the slippery slope. There's enough language in both 1 and 2 Timothy to indicate that there was a departure, a falling away, from the truth.
And there was something else going on that I want to throw in to color the background. There was a persecution unlike the church had ever known before at that time. See 2 Timothy was probably written about A.D. 67. A few years before this letter was written A.D. 64 there was a huge fire that destroyed large portions of the city of Rome.
Some people said that it was Caesar Nero who lit the fire. Caesar Nero wanted a scapegoat. He wanted to blame it on somebody who was already ill seen in the eyes of people. So he blamed the Christian church. And that spawned a series of several persecutions and mass killing of believers in Rome that they had never known before. Now that is starting to spill out into other parts of the empire.
So Christians are wanting to be less overt. They want to soften the message. They don't want to step up to the plate and amp up the message. No, what they want to do is take a lower profile.
So one of the things Paul is doing for young Timothy, he is saying, Timothy listen. God placed you in Ephesus. This is not the time to tone it down. This is the time if anything to amp it up and preach the word.
So we begin this week in verse 2 because we didn't really finish it last week. We looked at verse 1 and 2. But we didn't really make it through all of it. Let's look at it this way. We have a call to know the truth. We are called as Christians to know the truth. And so in verse 2 Paul says, preach the word. We already saw what that is last week. Chapter 2 verse 15, it means the word of truth. Chapter 3 verse 16, it's the scriptures that God has given. Preach the word.
Well if Timothy is called to speak the truth it's because Timothy's hearers are called to know the truth. Even though today church leaders-- i.e. emergent church leaders-- say, look we're in post-modern America. You can't really know for certain what is the truth. And if you say you know the truth it's a very arrogant position to take.
I'll tell you what I've learned. I've learned that the only acceptable religion today is to say, it doesn't matter what you believe. You believe anything you want as long as you're sincere. That's the mantra, just be sincere. Believe anything you want. Oh really? Ask that blind man on the precipice if sincerity is all he needs.
Or what if you went to a doctor and the doctor diagnosed you as having a malignant tumor. And you're shocked. And you say, doctor what do I do? And the doctor said, well you just go home and kick your feet up and watch Oprah all day. Or I could operate on it. Either way it doesn't matter as long as you're sincere. You'd say, excuse me, you're a quack.
And Paul is noticing that there are spiritual quacks giving wrong direction to people who need a right direction. Timothy, preach the word.
There was a Christian school and the teacher asked the students to take a test. It wasn't a written test it was a verbal test. She would ask the question they would write the answers. And the teacher said, first question, what is false doctrine? What is false doctrine? Well to one little boy's ears-- the word doctrine-- he thought of a doctor. Doctoring. So he thought false doctrine, false-- So he wrote down, false doctrine is when a doctor gives the wrong stuff to people who are sick. That's a really good definition. Even of false doctrine in the biblical sense.
Preach the word.
We saw last week preach, [NON-ENGLISH], means to give an authoritative proclamation. Even though leaders, as I said, in the emergent church say there is no way to know that, to do that. And they call it a conversation. Let's have a dialogue, a conversation. Well never really maybe come to the knowledge of the truth, but we'll talk about it. We'll have a conversation. It's all about the conversation.
Well, in your minds go back to the Ten Commandments. Was that a conversation? No. It wasn't a dialogue, it was a monologue. God gave his word. He revealed his word.
The Sermon on the Mount, that wasn't a conversation. That was a monologue. Jesus spoke about the kingdom. How to enter the kingdom. How to live in the kingdom. When the prophets came on the scene and said, thus saith the Lord, it wasn't a conversation. This is what God says.
When Paul wrote his letters like Timothy, or Galatians, or Ephesians. It wasn't a conversation. It was the revealed word of the Lord, the truths for those churches.
In fact, I remember back in the scripture to a conversation that took place in the garden with Satan and Eve. And it didn't turn out very well. It wasn't a good conversation. So preach the word. Denotes absolute truth
Well it goes on. Be ready in season and out of season. You could translate that, Timothy when it's convenient or when it's inconvenient. When it's in season and it's tolerated or when it's out of season and it's not tolerated. Let's face it, preaching the word of God is out of season these days. That's what the experts are saying. It's too isolating, it's too rigid, it's too authoritative.
I remember my dad he was a hunter. He'd talked about seasons. He'd say, it's elk season. It's not gospel preaching season. So Timothy, be ready whether it's fashionable or not. Don't go with the climate of opinion.
Then notice also in verse two, Paul gives the tone. The tone of the preaching of the word. He says, convince, rebuke, and exhort with all long suffering and teaching.
Three words. Convince, rebuke, exhort. The first two are negative, the second one-- the third one excuse me-- is positive. The word convinced means to correct misbehavior or false doctrine. The word rebuke means to bring one to repentance. I put those on the negative side of the column, as opposed to exhort which means encourage, help along, instruct with gentleness.
So here's the tone of preaching the word, young Timothy. You need to be tough and you need to be tender. You need the balance of both of those things together. Convince, rebuke, as well as exhort.
I was in a store several months back in North Carolina-- I think it was a Border's Books and Tapes. I knew it was a bookstore. I was wandering through the books and there was a large display of one of the latest Christian best selling books. And I won't tell you the guy who wrote it or the title cause just saves a lot of hassle. But one guy was talking to a gal in front of this huge display-- this latest book-- and he said, you've got to buy this book. This really helped frame this whole issue for me. You got to buy this book because the man said, this guy won't tell you that you need to change, that you need to turn from sin. What he'll do is he'll just tell you all of the things that are already good about you.
I thought, boy that helps really understand the whole importance of this text. Preach the word.
After last week's message, the last several weeks I've gotten so many positive reports-- positive feedback. That was great, keep it up, great message. But I did get one note that was interesting. It said, Skip, I like your teaching. I've liked your teaching for a while but it sounds now like you're preaching.
And I found it humorous, simply because the text we're reading from says preach the word. It's just an interesting day to get that. And he said, I think that you should be focusing more on the positive teachings of Jesus. I understand that. But when I read it I smiled and I thought of what Stuart Briscoe used to say to young ministers. He said, here's the qualifications for being a pastor. You need the mind of a scholar, you need the heart of a child, and you need the hide of a rhinoceros.
Because I really frankly, honestly, not arrogantly-- but honestly, I don't care what anybody thinks about what I preach. Except one. And that's God. Right? Isn't that the way we ought to live?
And so I'm thinking of that conversation in the bookstore that this guy will just tell you all the good things that are right about you. You don't have to change. And now let me boil it down to the bottom line. God loves you the way you are, but God loves you too much to leave you the way you are. And any time we read truth it's going to confront us with a need in some area to bring change. So the mandate, preach the word and here's the tone.
Now look at verse 3 and 4. If the first one is the call to know the truth-- and verse 3 and 4 tell us the consequences of neglecting the truth.
For the time will come-- and now he's predicting, he's being futuristic-- it's a prophetic utterance. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine. But according to their own desires because they have itching ears they will heap up for themselves teachers. And they will turn their ears away from the truth and be turned aside to fables.
Now you may have noticed that Paul does this very thing a few different places in the New Testament. That is, he's speaking about the present but then he'll move into the future. And he'll say, because I see what's coming down the line. There is a time coming you need to be ready for.
For instance, in Acts chapter 20 he does this. He gathers around him the Ephesian leadership. The elders of Ephesus. The very church that Timothy was pastoring. And Paul says before them acts 20, I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you not sparing this flock. And also from among your own selves men will rise up speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after themselves.
In 1 Timothy, the fourth chapter, the first verse. Now the spirit expressly says in the latter times some will depart from the faith and give heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons. Or demonically inspired teaching. And then 2 Timothy, Chapter 3, know this in the last days perilous times will come. And there's a whole list in that description. Among which says, they'll have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof.
So here's Paul writing verse three and four and he sees this happening in the church. They will not endure sound doctrine. Think about enduring sound doctrine. Enduring it. Putting up with it.
I was reading a book the other night by Charles Spurgeon called, Lectures To My Students. Now this is a book that he wrote to young ministers. And there is a chapter on praying publicly. And so he's giving instructions. This is what he says-- this will be a shocker. He tells young pastors, when you're praying in front of your congregation publicly before your sermon you want to make sure that your prayer is no longer than 10 minutes. That's just the prayer. Maybe 15 minutes, and on rare occasions should it ever go up to 20 minutes. That's the prayer before the sermon.
Today 20 minute sermons in many places aren't tolerated, let alone 10 minute prayers.
Charles Spurgeon speaking of the downgrade controversy said this, everywhere there is apathy. Nobody cares whether that which is preached is true or false. A sermon is a sermon whatever the subject. Only the shorter it is, the better.
You know, in many congregations if you were to announce, hey, we're going to cut the preaching in half and we're going to have more music. You'd be applauded. Or we're going to have words of prophecy and testimony and we're going to take out expositional Bible study. You'd be applauded.
So in verse 3 and 4 Paul is foreseeing a time when truth will be eclipsed by novelty and cleverness. So you can see why this aged apostle-- we believe this is his last letter before his death-- says to the the young Timothy, preach the word. Be ready when it's favorable or not. And here's the tone. You've got to be tough but you've got to be tender. Because the time is coming, Timothy, when they won't put up with us any longer. Interesting prediction.
I was reading one of the statements from an emergent church conference back in 2004 when the leaders got together and made this statement, preaching, they said, is broken. It's broken. It's out. Too authoritative, too rigid, it's broken.
Look at the words in verse 3 sound doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine. The word sound is [NON-ENGLISH]. We get the word hygiene or hygienic means clean, pure, healthy. Sound safe doctrine. And so what we're reading is a description of somebody who turns away from feeding on the truth to snacking on substitutes. They won't endure sound doctrine, they want something different.
When Paul wrote to the Ephesians in chapter 4 he said, that you no longer be children tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine by the trickery of men in their cunning craftiness by which they lie in wait to deceive. Hey, feed on the pure healthy food. Don't be turned to substitutes.
I read about a farmer who in his day and age was complaining about the rising cost of oats. We complain about the gas prices going up. In those days their gas the oats for the mules. He was complaining that the price of oats is going up. So he decided that he would take the oats and substitute sawdust. He would put oats in there but a little bit of sawdust. And then wean the mule with a little more sawdust, and less oats, and a little more, and a little more.
So you can figure out what would happen. By the time the mules became satisfied, they were dead. And that's the point here is that when you snack on substitutes rather than feed on the word it is spiritually detrimental. So the need to preach the word because the time is coming when people won't put up with the truth.
A.W. Tozer another guy who wrote years ago-- he's now in heaven. I'll tell you what, some of these guys-- who read their stuff you think, they're alive now. He writes this, it is scarcely possible in most places to get anyone to attend a meeting where the only attraction is God. One can only conclude that God's professed children are bored with him. For they must be wooed to meetings with a stick of striped candy in the form of religious movies, games, and refreshments.
Now here's a question, why would anyone turn from sound healthy, safe teaching? Verse 3 gives us the answer. Look at the little phrase own desires. The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine but according to their own desires. In other words, they're going to look for someone to tell them not what God has declared with any authority or clarity-- they're going to look for people who tell them what they want to hear. It's according to their own desires.
Listen to this passage. It's an Isaiah 30. Here's Isaiah the spokesperson to the nation of Israel. And Isaiah the prophet said concerning the people of Israel at that time-- Isaiah 30 verse 10-- they say to the seers do not see. And to the prophets do not prophesy unto us right things, speak to us smooth things. Prophesy to us deceits.
Give us smooth stuff. You know what? The truth isn't always smooth. Right? The truth doesn't always tickle the ear. Sometimes it first boxes my ears and then it brings comfort.
When Peter preached in the book of Acts it says they were cut to the heart. When Jesus preached in John chapter 6 it says the people were offended, and many turned away and followed him no more.
Now understand this turning away from the truth, this not enduring sound doctrine, this turning to fables-- this doesn't happen overnight. This is a process. It's not like, well one week we preach the truth and exalt the Lord and the next week it's over. It takes time. This is 30 years plus from the time Jesus was on the earth to what's going on with Timothy in Ephesus. Which really isn't all that long.
I'll give you a modern example. When the pilgrim fathers landed on this country they built churches, homes, and schools. And after they built churches and homes they thought now we need to educate our kids. And they built a school named after a pastor-- a preacher-- by the name of John Harvard. Guess what the school was called? Harvard University, named after a preacher. The sole purpose of Harvard University to train up ministers to preach the gospel. Look at Harvard today. See if you can find a preacher of the gospel. I know they have a theological school, but look at their literature.
And this is what John Harvard said, we are dreading to leave an illiterate ministry to the churches when our present ministers shall lie in the dust. Now they developed a crest for Harvard University. And the crest had this saying on it, there were three books-- one was facing down, I'll explain what that is-- above it was written in Latin, veritas christo et ecclesia. Truth for Christ and the church. That's the motto of Harvard University. Truth for Christ and the church.
Three books-- one facing down. It was facing down to display the limitation of human knowledge. Have you seen Harvard's crest recently? The book's facing up to show the unlimited capacity of the human mind. There's only one word the remains of that sentence, veritas. That's it. Just truth, veritas. We're in the pursuit of truth. But Christ and the church is long gone.
How Harvard started and where it is ending up are miles apart.
Let's finish up. Let's look at verses 5 through 8. We have now the command to nurture the truth. Paul says to Timothy, but you be watchful in all things. Endure afflictions. Do the work of an evangelist. Fulfill or completely accomplish your ministry. For I am already being poured out as a drink offering and the time of my departure is at hand. Very picturesque verse of he knows he's close to death.
I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith. Finally there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness which the Lord-- the righteous judge-- will give to me on that day. And not to me only, but also to all who have loved his appearing.
Did you notice how verse 5 begins? It's a contrast. But, you, Timothy. In contrast to those who neglect the truth-- but you hold to the truth. Stand firm in the truth. Nurture the truth. And Paul uses himself as an example. He's toward the end of his life he's writing from a Roman prison. And he can say with satisfaction in the grace of Christ, I have finished the race. I have kept the faith. That's our calling. Our calling us to believe the truth. Our calling is to love the truth. And our calling is to speak the truth.
You know what? There's sometimes I read the Bible and I go, I love that verse. I love that. It's so comforting to me. That doesn't always happen. Sometimes I read a verse I go, uh oh, I remember that verse. It kind of hurts. So what I want to say is this-- let that happen. Let the truth confront you as well as comfort you. Let the truth hurt you as well as heal you.
Somebody once said the scripture was written to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable. Now I do love to preach on the love of God. I love it. I love to preach on the grace of God and the mercy of Christ. And our riches as believers. I love to preach on that and I do preach on that. But because we love all of those truths we must safeguard them. And stand up for them. And not abandon discernment and roll over and just say, oh well think good thoughts, positive thoughts, it'll all go away. It won't.
Remember that little book of Jude, verse 3. Contend earnestly for the faith. Once for all delivered to the saints. Doesn't mean be contentious for the faith, but contend for the faith. And this is why he says to do that. Says for certain men have crept in unnoticed.
So I guess the point of all this is so that you will notice them when they creep in.
I do want to end by saying I do see light at the end of this tunnel. I do see light. I see gold at the end of this rainbow. With the surge of postmodernism, with the rise of the emergent church, with the wholesale denial of any absolute truth-- you know what happens? That leaves people disillusioned, and confused, and groping for answers.
So that is a great opportunity to step into those situations where people are disillusioned, confused, and they don't know the truth. And with love, humility, and certainty tell them the truth. Hebrews 1, 1, God in the past spoke in different ways to our fathers. But has in these last days spoken to us once and for all by his son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now I'll give you a warning. A warning. And I think you already know this. If you love the truth, and you stand up for it, and you preach the gospel of Jesus Christ-- in this age of tolerance you won't be tolerated. You know that. They'll tolerate everything else and anything else except your message. That won't be tolerated. So just be ready for that. That's the warning.
But the question is, will I live to please men? Or will I live to please the father? Because you're not going to face them in eternity but him.
Years ago there was a letter written to a British newspaper called the British Weekly. It was kind of a snide letter that was written. Dear sir-- it was published on the newspaper-- I noticed that ministers seem to set a great deal of importance on their sermons, and spent a great deal of time in preparing them. I've been attending services quite regularly for the past 30 years and during that time if I estimate correctly I've listened to no less than 3,000 sermons. But to my consternation I've discovered I cannot remember a single one of them. I wonder if a minister's time might be more profitably spent on something else. And he signed it.
That's generally the feeling that most people have. Why do you spend so much time on that? Well that created a furor of letter activity, pros and cons, things were written back and forth. Finally a letter came in that they thought this is the great rebuttal. Let's publish this in response.
And here's that letter. My dear sir, I've been married for 30 years. During that time I have eaten 32,850 meals. Mostly my wife's cooking. Suddenly I've discovered that I cannot remember the menu of a single meal. And yet I've received nourishment from every one of them. I have the distinct impression that without them I would have starved to death long ago. And he signed it.
So along with securing the soul-- your soul-- along with that kind of security, along with securing your family, along with securing relationships, along with securing your moral life-- lets make sure that the church-- at least from our vantage point, from our part-- is secure. Don't be afraid to raise that flag of discernment. Don't be afraid to compare it with the scripture to find if these things be so. Acts 17:11. That makes for a vital, vibrant, healthy, strong church.
I just want to say in closing you are the blessed exception to all of this. I mean this is a church that loves the truth, loves Bible study, grows, reproduces. There's real health. And that's why it's so easy and such an honor to preach the truth because there's such a willing reception of those who love it. May God continue to strengthen you in that.
Father, thank you for the word. And for those who love it, and nurture it, and nourish it in their own lives. Thank you, Lord for men and women who are unafraid in this community to with love speak the truth. At work when the opportunity arises to share the truth. To not be ambiguous but to be clear. Help us, Lord just as Timothy was facing people falling away and facing persecution we too Lord needs to hear that same message to us. Speak, preach the word. Know the truth. Thank you, Lord. Thank you for the clear instruction of these verses. In Jesus' name.