Hi Guys! Hope and I are back for another conversational interview. Today we talk about this whole coronavirus/COVID-19 dealy-o, and the effect it is having on our church. We look at some biblical responses we should consider and some of the great encouragement I have received over the past few months as the Pastor at Bangor Community Church.
Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles and turn with me to 2 Timothy chapter 4. As usual, if you do not own a Bible, please feel free to grab one from the back table as our gift to you.
Well, we are on to the last chapter on 2 Timothy, chapter 4. We have been working our way through 1 & 2 Timothy, Paul’s letters to Timothy as Paul was imprisoned in Rome and Timothy was pastoring the church in Ephesus. Paul knows this letter is coming to an end and he knows his life is coming to an end. He is writing Timothy what Timothy needs to hear and needs to know. And we titled this series, Life in the Local Church, because Paul is writing what we all today, as a part of the local church need to hear and need to know as well.
And one of the main things that Paul has been focused on is the importance and the primacy and the sufficiency and the authority of God’s Word. HE says, the False teachers are here, and they are going to come up through the church, so watch out. Here is what they look like, hers is what they sound like, here is what they act like. Essentially, here’s how to identify them and here is what their bad fruit will be.
But make sure that you are focused on Christ. Jesus Christ who is the Word of God become flesh; Jesus Christ who is God become man. Focus on the Word, which is the Holy Scripture, collected and printed right here in this book that we get to carry around with us, or put into out tablets, our computers, even our phones so that we are never without it. Focus on the Word, scripture which is God Breathed, which is inspired by God, which is inerrant, without error, which is sufficient and complete, useful for all things and everything.
2 Timothy kind of has two bookmark verses and points that Paul makes. The first is back in 2 Timothy 1:6 & 7, where he says,
I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
And he has spent the last three chapters pushing Timothy towards the charge that he is going to give him here at the beginning of chapter 4. He has been, in essence, telling him to live by this book, to live by the scriptures, by the Word of God. The last two verse of chapter 3 he reminds or establishes, depending on your background, that the scriptures are, in fact, the very Word of God and that it has all the authority that God himself has, because it is His revealed Words to us.
And that leads to what he says here at the beginning of Chapter 4. So, lets go ahead and read this mornings passage, 2 Timothy chapter 4, verses 1 through 5. I am reading out of the English Standard Version, my preferred translation. Please follow along in your preferred translation.
Paul here is writing the very Word of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit, as he charges and exhorts Timothy, saying:
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom:preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
May God Bless the reading of his holy, inspired and inerrant Word.
First, maybe this is just me and my brain, but since I’m the one up here, I get to ask you the question. Does it feel like something is missing from verse 1 right here? For me, it feels like one of those transitions where Paul would put a “therefore.”
This is what false teachers look and act like. They disobey the scriptures. The scriptures are Gods very Word and revelation and instructions to us. Therefore, I charge you… The good news is that scripture is useful for teaching, Paul just said that. Scripture has taught us that we look for those transitions and the connections between them. Every paragraph is not a standalone paragraph. Context matters and context bridges; from sentence to sentence, from paragraph to paragraph, from chapter to chapter, even from book to book sometimes.
Because of everything that Paul has written since chapter 1 verse 6, therefore, Timothy, I charge you. This is your calling, your responsibility. Its not really your choice. This is what you are to do. And this charge is giving by Paul to Timothy, but the call that Paul is referring to is not giving by him. It is administered by Paul and done so in the presence of He who has given the call, God the Father and Christ Jesus.
And Notice again, Paul contrasts truth against what the False teachers teach. They are teaching incorrectly about who Jesus is and what He has and will do. And so, Paul affirms some truths about Jesus. First, by the title Paul gives him, he affirms that Jesus is the Christ. He is the Messiah. He is the Savior whom God promised to send on our behalf back in Genesis 3. He is God become man to save sinners. He is the Christ.
Christ Jesus is the judge. He will judge right from wrong. He will judge the living and the dead. Sin will be judged and sin, not redeemed, will be punished with eternal damnation. You often hear people justify their sin by saying, “You can’t judge me, only God can judge me.” I want to plead with them, “Yes! And that should scare you!” Gods judgment is nothing to trifle with. Its nothing to dismiss. No matter how symbolic or how literal you think it is, reading the various judgments and bowls and trumpets in Revelation should testify to that.
We don’t all get to go to heaven. We don’t get to plead our case, our worthiness to Him when we stand before him. He will judge is solely on whether we are redeemed by His blood. Our salvation is through nothing but the grace of God alone, though faith alone in Jesus Christ alone.
Christ Jesus will appear again. He is coming back We can disagree on when. We don’t and won’t know the day, but when he comes back, there will be no doubt, the whole Earth will know, and every knee will bow, and every tongue confess that he is LORD. We don’t have to agree on what the millennium is or what the tribulation is or when He will return in relation to either of those. But we do need to agree that he will physically return. That is a core, central, necessary tenet of Christianity.
Lastly, Christ Jesus is King over his Kingdom. Right now, He is reigning over his Kingdom, all of creation. And after he returns and judges the nations and refines the world so that we will reside in the new heavens and the new Earth, Jesus will hand his Kingdom back over to the Father and will be seated at his right hand, reigning along side him.
Paul says that in all of the things he has warned about, all the false teaching. The Apostasy within the church. In the face of cultural and fake Christianity. In the face of current to them and upcoming to us persecution, what are you to do? Paul says, I charge you, in the presence of God and Christ Jesus to do this in the face of all of that. Preach the Word.
Preach the Word. Preach the Gospel. Teach others about Jesus and about what the Bible says bout him. Preach it using words. The Gospel never doesn’t need words. Our lives can and will help to testify to what we say we believe, but preaching the Gospel always requires words. Evangelize. Share the Gospel with others. Let them know what it means that Jesus died for our sins. Let them know who Jesus actually is. Not everyone who says the believe in God or believes in Jesus will be talking about the same God, the same Jesus as the Bible defines. Let them know that the Bible says that we need to repent from our sins and believe that Jesu Christ is LORD.
And this is to be done In Season and Out of Season. We are to Preach the Word and share the Gospel when its easy and the words come easy and people seem receptive. And we are to Preach the Word and share the Gospel when its hard and we can’t think of the words and people don’t want to hear it. We need to remember that this is literally a matter of life or death, eternally speaking.
One of the things that the Bible teaches and the letters to Timothy specifically convict me of is that we are to not only teach and preach what is right, but we are also to point out error when we see it.
I’ve shared this with you guys before, and mi shamelessly stealing it from Ligon Duncan, though I don’t know if its shamelessly stealing if I give credit, but anyway, the following is a great illustration of this point. Duncan says:
I’ll never forget–a friend of mine…we were talking about a very famous professor, and we both had a great admiration for him. And he shared a story. He sat down with another minister who knew this professor. He’s a very godly man, a very wise man, a very kind man, though he didn’t like to critique wrong views. He was given simply to stating what was right, and then when people would ask him, “But, what about…” he’d say, “Well, I don’t want to get into criticizing those other views.” And so, he was talking with this pastor, and this pastor said, “You know what his problem is? He’ll draw a picture of a horse and say, ‘That’s a horse’; but he won’t draw a picture of a cow and say, ‘That’s not a horse.’ And that was his colorful way of saying this man will tell you what’s right, but he won’t tell you what’s wrong. And Paul is saying to Timothy, ‘It’s not enough to tell the people of God what’s right; you also need to tell them what’s wrong. They need to know the difference, and they need to learn how to discern the difference, and that means being both positive and negative in your proclamation.’
Paul continues in verse 2, saying that we are to reprove, rebuke and exhort. Very similar wording to what he said just a few lines earlier in chapter 3, verse 16. All of those things that the Bible is useful for, for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, all those things, we are to continue to do and to use the Bible to do them.
The Bible is not a self-help book, no matter what many TV preachers try to peddle. The Bible is not simply a set of moral guidelines, though it does include those. The Bible is not a science book, though it is trustworthy and without error where it mentions science.
The Bible is book, a collection of books about the history of His redeemed people, about His glory about his love and about his Holiness. The Bible is a book about Gods plan of redemption. The Bible is a book about Jesus and who He is.
And we are to share this book with others with complete patience and teaching. We teach, showing each other and others “This is what the Bible says…” “The scriptures say…” “Jesus said, and then quote him correctly or give chapter and verse.” The Bible says…
This is how we teach. We use the Bible, which is Truth, Given directly from God, the author of Ultimate Truth. We use that Truth to teach. And we do so with patience. No all who respond will do so immediately. Some will change a little bit at a time. Some will change the moment they here the truth. Some will have to hear the truth a lot, building a foundation and then the change will seem immediate. And some will not respond at all. This is about sharing the Gospel with those who do not believe. Remember that we sow the seed, but God brings the increase, God does the work. He calls us to Him and often drags us, kicking and screaming to Himself. But don’t dismiss this idea because you see it mainly about evangelism.
This is also for each of us and our learning. This is for our growth and our sanctification. Not a single one of us has everything right. We need to be taught by each other. Some of us, when we are taught the truth, we will change immediately, some if us will gradually change, some if us will resist it and then seem to change all of a sudden, and some of us will never change out views or thoughts, no matter how much truth we are shown. Search your heart and ask God to make sure you are open to hear the Truth as the Bible teaches it.
And Paul goes on to show why he specifies the preaching of the Gospel both In Season and Out of Season. He lays it out in verses 3 & 4. The time is coming. The truth is the time is hear and the time has been here since Paul wrote this to Timothy. People don’t want to hear. They don’t want to listen. Again, this applies to those outside the church, to those who don’t believe, but it applies just as much to those in the pews every Sunday.
Natural human desire is to hear what affirms what we want to hear, to affirm what we already think. Studies have been done that show that we hear what we already agree with. Think about your politics and try to watch with open eyes. I see this all the time. Some one from the left says something and someone from the right says the same basic thing. Those on the right will defend what their side said and dismiss and mock what the other side said. The person on the left will do the same thing. And its when both politicians say the same thing. We want to hear what agrees with what we already think and believe.
People want to listen to people who make them feel good. We want to be told that we are the hero of the story. We want to be told that we are David, standing up against Goliath, our sins and slaying them. The truth is that we are the scared, paralyzed, quaking Israelites who need Jesus to fight our battles for us. And praise God that he does, but that’s not the story we want to hear.
False teachers gain big audiences appealing to, quote, “common sense.” Unquote. They make scripture less accurate. “No one could survive being in the belly of a fish!” “God uses Evolution!” “Jesus only appeared to have risen from the dead but isn’t that still inspirational!” And my favorite, by favorite I mean drives me crazy, “Do we actually lose anything if we lose the virgin birth?” YES! Yes, we lose everything if we lose that!
Teachers and so-called pastors who teach these sorts of things have large followings and lots of influence amongst those who don’t believe. And they draw people away from the Truth. Jesus says that he is the Way, the Truth and the Life. When we substitute anything else in for Jesus, we lose everything. When we focus on anything else besides Jesus, we lose everything.
As for you, Paul continues to contrast faithful believers with those who teach falsely and those who follow false teachers. In contrast to them, unlike them, be sober minded. Be safe and smart, not dismissive and not panicking. We touched on that on Wednesday, as we were reading through Psalm 10. Given the hysteria from some and the complete dismissal of others regarding the pandemic going on from the coronavirus, COVID-19, what are we to do? We know that God is in control of all things. We know that he is sovereign. He calls us to pay attention to what’s going on around us. We have a biblically taught human responsibility. A responsibility to take care of ourselves. A responsibility to love our neighbors and care for others. A responsibility to be smart and safe in this world. But our focus is to be straight up, into the heavens, right on Jesus Christ. If we panic, we are trusting in our own ability to save ourselves instead of trusting in the sovereignty of God. If we ignore completely and dismiss reality, we are ignoring the plain teachings of the Bible and especially the command to love and care for our neighbors. In all things we are to be sober minded.
We are to endure suffering. We look to biblical examples such as Paul, and Job and so many more. We can probably think of people in our lives who have endured suffering and in that enduring, they were an incredible witness for Christ. The ran the race and finished well. All things to the Glory of God. That’s easy to say and think when things are going well, but its so much more important when suffering is involved.
Do the work of an evangelist. Share the Gospel, spread the word, share the Good News of Jesus Christ. We show those around us why we have Hope in such trying times. Why we don’t need to panic over the things of this world. Why we can endure the suffering that will come.
But we are not to be salesmen in a consumer culture. We are not selling a cure, or our best life now. WE are not selling healing and financial gain. We are not selling anything at all. We are proclaiming the truth. The truth of the Word of God revealed to us in the book we hold in our hands. We truth that reveals Jesus Christ as the only way to salvation.
Notice Paul’s constant contrasting of those who dismiss and reject the truth and those who are faithful and loyal to the truth. That’s because those are the only two choices we have. There is no middle ground. There is no gray area. You are either in Christ or you without Christ. You are either a sheep, to whom Christ will see in the end, “Well Done, good and faithful servant,” welcoming you into eternal life with Christ, worshiping the King of Kings in eternal paradise, in perfection, the Kingdom of Heaven. Or you are a goat, one who suppressed the truth in unrighteousness, rejecting Christ and his salvation. To whom Christ will say, “Go away, for I never knew you.”
The Word instructs us, repent and believe in the Gospel. Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah, he is the Christ. He is the savior. I want to leave you with Philippians 4:4-9 as Paul writes:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.