It Still Works!
II Timothy 4: 1-5
2. It reminds me of a man who visited a church for the first time. The pastor of the church had a reputation for being rather longwinded, but that day his sermon was reduced to only 10 minutes. He explained to the church that his dog had eaten his sermon. After the service, the visitor asked the pastor, "Does your dog have any pups? I'd like to give one to my preacher!"
3. I don't believe that any one of your fellow pastors would argue with the fact that we are pastoring in very difficult days. In fact, we are facing issues today that have never been faced before. We are living, and ministering in what many theologians have called, 'the postmodern era." It means that we find it harder, than ever before, to get people converted, and to get people committed.
7. How do we, as pastors/preachers, and men that God has placed into the ministry combat these attitudes and issues? Should we go to a seminar? Should we lessen our stand on Biblical principles and issues? Should we succumb to the popular theology of our day? Should we hold a congregational meeting to gather the opinions of our flock as to their concept of "the ideal pastor?"
8. Can I tell you, this morning, what we should do? We should go to the Word of God, glean from the Word of God, and get back to the Word of God. We should seek to use the only thing that has worked, and the only thing that will continue to work, and that is the knife, sword, scapel and tool of the Word of God. You see, it is not preaching that gives the Word of God power; it is the Word of God that gives preaching power!
9. I think of a young preacher who had just got out of seminary, and was called to pastor a church in a college town. Almost all of the college professors, and staff were members of that church. He was preparing his very first sermon, and he got to thinking about the very cultured congregation that he would PREACH to the next morning, and to be honest, it intimidated him.
10. He called his dad, who was a very wise and godly pastor, and asked him, "Dad, I'm really having a hard time preparing my sermon." His dad asked, "What's the problem?" The boy replied, "Well, if I talked about geology, I'd be looking at a Ph.D. in geology. If I talk about sociology, I'd be looking at a Ph.D. in sociology. If I talk about philosophy, I'd be looking at a Ph.D. in philosophy. What do you think I ought to do?" His dad answered, "Son, why don't you just preach the Bible? They probably know very little about that!"
11. In these very familiar verses of 2 Timothy 4, the apostle Paul, as you know, is preparing his protÃ©gÃ© Timothy for the ministry. In so doing, he is warning him, advising him and instructing him, not only as to what will not work, but as to will work in his ministry. He is admonishing Timothy to get back to the basics of the Bible, and the fundamentals of the faith, and I believe if he were here today, he would simply say to us, as pastors, "it still works." Briefly, let's examine 3 truths that are clearly seen in this well-known passage. First of all, Paul seems to remind us that:
1. We Must Receive the Charge to be Faithful!
1. Paul begins this admonition by giving a charge to Timothy. It is a charge to be faithful to the Word of God, for the work of God and in the will of God. It is a charge that deserves our consideration, and a charge that demands our consecration. Notice with me that it is:
A. A Charge that Invokes a Great Remembrance!
1. Notice verse 1.
"I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;"
2. The charge is to REMIND us of our responsibility to the ministry, and our accountability to the Master. We will stand before God one day and give an account of every sermon we preached, every decision we made, every toil we labored and every matter we endeavored.
3. While we are immediately accountable to our own congregations, we are ultimately accountable to the Lord Jesus Christ. We are accountable to the God who created us, who controls us, and who calls us. The truth of the matter is that it really doesn't matter what editor of the state paper thinks about our ministry. It really doesn't matter what the director of missions thinks about our ministry. It really doesn't matter what our state executive director thinks about our ministry. It really doesn't matter what the president of the Southern Baptist Convention thinks about our ministry.
4. But, it matters greatly what God thinks about our ministry. And, Paul gives a charge that invokes a great remembrance by reminding us that one day we will stand "before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom." Next, notice with me that it is:
B. A Charge that Involves a Great Responsibility!
1. In verse 2 we find the great responsibility that EVERY ONE of us, as men of God SHARES in the work of the ministry. It is clearly defined as Paul charges us to:
"Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine."
2. These are extremely difficult days in which to pastor, preach or serve. But, thank God, the good news is that God isn't depending on us to get it done; but, we're depending on God to get it done. And, the way it gets done is to "preach the Word." I find it interesting that Paul didn't charge Timothy to heal the sick, raise the dead, speak in tongues, or perform miracles. He plainly, poignantly and powerfully charges him to "preach the Word." Why? Because it still works!
3. I think about a young man who felt like God was calling him to preach. He asked his pastor if he could preach one Sunday night and the pastor critique his sermon. His pastor agreed, and the Sunday night came that the boy was to preach. After the service was over, they were walking out together, and he asked his pastor, "Well, do you thin that I've been called?" His pastor answered, "Yes, I do. But, I believe that it was local and not long distance!"
4. We are to preach compellingly. The word "instant" that is used is a word that was used to describe a soldier who was ready, and prepared at a moment's notice, to go into battle. Paul is reminding us that, as men of God, we should constantly be ready to preach, teach and reach. We are to preach continously. We are to "be instant in season, out of season." We are to preach when it's convenient, and when it's not convenient. We are to preach when it's popular, and when it's unpopular. We are to preach if people like, and if people do not like it. It is not our job to make the message acceptable; it's our job to make the truth available. We are to preach it continuously.
5. We are to preach convictingly. The word "reprove" is bettered rendered "convince" in other translations. It speaks of presenting a convincing, and compelling argument in a case. In other words, Paul is saying, that when we preach we are to confront people with the fact of their sin. It reminds me of a time when Peter Cartwright, a circuit riding Methodist preaching from the 19th century was, on one occasion getting ready to preach to a large congregation. Right before the service, someone informed him that President Andrew Jackson would be among those in attendance in the service. They said, "We thought you would want to know so that what you say is not offensive to the President." Peter Cartwright said, "Thank you for telling me!"
6. He got to the pulpit and said, "I have been told that President Andrew Jackson is in this congregation, and I've been asked to carefully guard what I'm going to say. I want to begin by saying that Andrew Jackson will go to hell if he doesn't repent of his sin." You could have heard a pin drop. Immediately after the service, President Andrew Jackson walked up to Peter Cartwright and said, "If I had a regiment of men like you, I could whip the world!" Boys, preach the word compellingly, continously and convinctingly.
7. If your major concern is to be popular in the ministry, may I give you a piece of advice: you need to get out of the ministry. I need not remind you that the greatest man who ever lived made such a great impact on the world that He got Himself crucified. Next, we are to preach courageously. The word "rebuke" speaks of heralding a warning. It literally means, "to sound an alarm." When our preaching 'reproves' it is confronting someone with the fact of their sin; but, when our preaching 'rebukes' it is confronting someone with the thought of their sin. R. G. Lee expressed it well:
"Preaching that does not confront the sinner, convict the sinner, correct the sinner and convert is not preaching at all!"
8. We hear much today about "seeker sensitive services." These services are
designed so that no one will be confronted, and be made to feel uncomfortable. Can I be honest with you? According to the Word of God, there can be no such thing as a "seeker sensitive" service, because Paul said in Romans 3: 11, "There is none that seeketh after God." The Word of God is not designed to address a felt NEED; it is designed to address an unfelt need. It is not designed to make the sinner comfortable, but to make the sinner uncomfortable.
9. I think of a time when Billy Sunday was preaching a hard message on sin. Someone got offended, and said, "Sunday, you have to stop preaching that way; you're rubbing the fur on the cat the wrong way." Billy Sunday said, "Listen, the old cat's headed to hell, and if she'll turn around, I'll rub her the right way. Notice, we are also to preach constructively. The word "exhort" is a beautiful word. It is a construction term that speaks of "building up." Someone has said:
"Our message ought to center not around what people are without Jesus; but, what they can be with Jesus!"
10. Finally, we are to preach compassionately. We are to preach the Word of God, "with all longsuffering and doctrine." Men, we might see God produce more results if we would preach more with a tear in our eye, a break in our heart and compassion in our voice. We can preach with love, yet still do it with the boldness and power of the Spirit of God. I learned a long time that you can still preach hard with a loving heart. It's not enough to preach at people, we must love them, and preach to people.
11. We are to preach compellingly, preach continuously, preach convinctingly, preach courageously, preach constructively, and preach compassionately. I believe you would agree, we have been given a great responsibility. We, like Timothy, should, once again, receive the charge to be faithful in what God has called us to do. Notice, secondly, in verse 3:
1. WE MUST RECEIVE THE CHARGE TO BE FAITHFUL!
2. We Must Realize the Choice to be Doubtful!
1. Regardless of how faithful a man of God tries to be, there will be untold obstacles, and oppostition that will be faced, and must be faced. In verse 3, it is almost as if the apostle Paul makes a prediction of some things we can expect in these days of ministry. First, he reminds us that:
A. Pure Doctrine will be Excluded!
1. Notice verse 3.
"For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine..."
2. The word "sound" is the word that yields our English word "hygiene." It literally means, "healthy." In verse 4, we read:
"And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables."
3. I love Eugene Peterson's translation of this verse:
"You're going to find that people will have no stomach for solid, pure teaching. They will fill up on spiritual junk food. Catchy opinions that tickle their fancy. They'll turn their backs on truth and chase mirages." 4
3. Friend, we are living, pastoring, and serving in that day. We are in a day when people are looking for a church to teach them how to be happy, and not how to be holy. Many want to hear about the love of God, but not the holiness of God. Many want to hear about the mercy of God, but not the judgment of God. Many want to hear about the wonders of heaven, but not about the wrath of hell. That shouldn't come as a surprise to us, Paul makes it clear that pure doctrine will be excluded. Next, notice that:
B. Personal Desires will be Exalted!
1. Verse 3 reminds us that rather than embrace the pure doctrine of the Word of God, many will exalt their personal desires away from the Word of God. They will:
" after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears."
2. Paul has just read the resume of more than half of our church members. Our churches are filled with people who would rather exalt personal desires than embrace pure doctrine. There are those who are far more concerned with the length of our sermons, than they are with the depth of our sermons. Don't fool yourself! The best of our churches are filled with people more concerned with the timing of the benediction than with the truth of the Book. Why? They have the "itchy ear syndrome."
3. Many of our church members remind me of a little girl whose mother was going out of town for the night, and asked her next-door neighbor to keep her daughter. The lady agreed, and the little 6-year old girl packed her things and came over to the neighbor's house for the night. The lady wanted to make a real impression on the little girl. She wanted the little girl to tell her mother just how well she was treated, and taken care of. So, she got up at the crack of dawn, the next morning, and fixed ham and eggs, grits, hash browns, toast, jelly, orange juice and milk. She called the little girl for BREAKFAST and the little girl just sat there and looked at all that food, but didn't eat a thing.
4. The woman asked her is something was wrong, and the girl said, "Yes, ma'am, my mother always fixes biscuits." The lady said, "You've got to be kidding me?" The girl said, "No, ma'am, she fixes biscuits every morning for breakfast." The lady didn't have the ingredients to make the biscuits, so she told the girl to wait there while she ran to the store to pick up the ingredients. It was pouring down rain, but the woman went to the store, and came home sopping wet. She got home and began to put all of the ingredients together, and 15 minutes later, she set those piping hot, golden brown biscuits on the table, but the little girl just sat there, and didn't touch them. The woman asked her, "What's wrong?" The little girl said, "Nothing." The woman asked, "I thought you said that your mother fixes biscuits every single morning for breakfast?" The little girl said, "She does, but I don't eat them!" 5
5. Preachers, I learned a long time ago that all we can do is set the table with the biscuits of the Word of God, and it's their fault if they don't come and eat. Don't be surprised by it! Don't become doubtful, but remain faithful, even in the midst of this day when pure doctrine is being excluded and personal desires are being exalted. Paul offers a final word in verse 5, and we're reminded that:
1. WE MUST RECEIVE THE CHARGE TO BE FAITHFUL!
2. WE MUST REALIZE THE CHOICE TO BE DOUBTFUL!
3.We Must Remember the Challenge to be Watchful!
1. To conclude this passage, the apostle Paul gives us practical, pertinent advice, as men of God, on how we must conduct ourselves in these difficult days of ministry. Paul says, "But watch thou in all things." We must not only remain faithful, and refuse to become doubtful; but, we must remember watchful. We live in days when even people we think we can trust are looking for every opportunity to trip us up, and catch us off-guard. We must remember the challenge to be watchful. First of all, being watchful means that we are to:
A. Be Diligent in Suffering!
1. Notice verse 5.
"But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions..."
2. I wish that I could believe, and that I could tell you that the ministry is going to "all honey, no bees; all flowers, no trees." But, as you know, any pastor who would tell you that has either had a nervous breakdown, or is going to have a nervous breakdown. The truth of the matter is that if we stand for truth, stand for right, and stand for God, we might as well mark it down, we are going to "endure afflictions." Vance Havner once said:
"A preacher out to have the mind of a scholar, the heart of a child, and the hide of a rhinoceros!" 6
3. Someone has said:
"If you ministry is going to count, then it is going to cost!"
4. There will be times when we will be betrayed, belittled and bewildered. There will times when we may be run down, run over and run off. One of the most discouraging facets of ministry is give your life to the congregation that you love, only to have those that you have wept over, served, labored and toiled for turn their back on you, and put you down. But, fellow laborer, be diligent in suffering. Finally, we are to:
B .Be Devoted in Service!
1. In the midst of enduring afflictions, we are to:
"...do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry."
2. We are to be diligent in suffering, and devoted in service. The man of God Paul has in mind here is one who watches, who works and who witnesses. He is one who is to be alert, adaptable, aggressive and accountable. We are to "make full proof of the ministry." We are to make it count. We should be faithful to our calling, our church and our congregation. But, we must be faithful to the one who called us. We must keep our guard up. We must be watchful. We must allow God to grace our ministry, the Lord Jesus to guide our ministry, and the Holy Spirit to guard our ministry.
Men, while our job is complex, it is also clear. We must receive the charge to be faithful, realize the choice to be doubtful, and remember the challenge to be watchful.
7. We need not follow fads, fashion and forms. We need to keep the ship of our ministry anchored to the rock of this Book, believing it, obeying it, defending it, sharing it, and preaching it! I say to you, thanks be to God, it still works!
1. "Grow Your Church from the Outside In," George Barna, pg. 41.
2. IBID, pg. 34.
4. The Message, Eugene Peterson, pg. 1901.
5. "Pastoral Leadership in a Postmodern World," Sermon by James Merritt.
6. "Playing Marbles with Diamonds," Vance Havner, pg. 70.