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6 - Glorifying God by High View of God and His Word

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Glorifying God in the Church

by a High View of God and His Word – 2 Timothy 4:1-5

 

For at least the first half of this message I want to lay the broader biblical foundation and framework of what is meant by a high view of God and His Word (and why it’s important). Almost exactly a year ago, I shared with this congregation a list of pastor’s prayer requests, ways you can pray for me and the ministry. I want to read the first and last requests on the list:

A Pastor’s Prayer Requests 

Humility: I desire that I would be constantly fighting personal pride and cultivating humility, and striving to spread a high view of God and low view of self.
Reverence: I desire to refuse to patronize sinners through entertainment but preach under the judicial gaze of a holy and awe-inspiring God.

Isaiah 66:1 Thus says the Lord, “Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool. Where then is a house you could build for Me? And where is a place that I may rest?
Isaiah 66:2
“For My hand made all these things, Thus all these things came into being,” declares the Lord. “But to this one I will look, To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.

I began my first sermon as Pastor here with these words:

The great and pressing need of the hour is to have a high view of God and a high view of God’s Word. 

-          Verse 1 of Isaiah 66 begins with a high view of God (creator of all, far greater than temple, heaven, earth, etc.)

-          Verse 2 gives us a high view of God’s Word, it tells us we should tremble in reverence at it. 

-          And the fruit of this high view of God is that you have a low view of self, which we also see in verse 2 in the phrases “humble and contrite in spirit”

God is looking for humility, repentance, and trembling, i.e., fear. These are the core values of ministry for those with a high view of God and His Word. I cannot even begin to be used by God unless I am pursuing and cultivating humility and fighting all forms of pride in my life.  If we don’t have humility, we will not be the place or people God looks to bless and use. 

God opposes the proud, but He looks with favor and grace to those who tremble at His Word, who hold it in a high and holy regard.

When God’s Word first came from heaven, it was accompanied with trembling and fear of God.

Exodus 19:16 So it came about on the third day, when it was morning, that there were thunder and lightning flashes and a thick cloud upon the mountain and a very loud trumpet sound, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled.
Exodus 19:17 And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain.
Exodus 19:18 Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the Lord descended upon it in fire; and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked violently.
Exodus 19:19 When the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and God answered him with thunder.
Exodus 20:1 Then God spoke all these words, saying,
Exodus 20:2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

Exodus 20:18 All the people perceived the thunder and the lightning flashes and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood at a distance.
Exodus 20:19 Then they said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die.”
Exodus 20:20 Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin.

Exodus 24:3 Then Moses came and recounted to the people all the words of the Lord and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words which the Lord has spoken we will do!”
Exodus 24:4 Moses wrote down all the words of the Lord. Then he arose early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain with twelve pillars for the twelve tribes of Israel.
Exodus 24:5 He sent young men of the sons of Israel, and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as peace offerings to the Lord.
Exodus 24:6 Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and the other half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar.
Exodus 24:7 Then he took the book of the covenant and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient!”


A high view of God and a high view of God’s Word go hand in hand. Trembling when God speaks, having a healthy fear of God will keep us from sin and will cause us to want to obey and glorify God. This pattern continues from the first book, the Torah, all the way to the last book in the Bible. Turn to Revelation 14 to see another message from heaven that includes the fear of God. Last week we looked at the worship of God in Revelation 4 and 5 (Holy, holy, holy, before the throne of God) and we considered God’s worship to be the major way we glorify God in the church. Revelation 14 parallels the idea of worshipping God with how we view God, whether or not we have a high view of God, a fear of God. That’s the subject of this equally important study today I’m eager to share and am praying expectantly that the Lord might bless His truth again.

Revelation 14:1 Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads.
Revelation 14:2 And I heard a voice from heaven, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder, and the voice which I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps.
Revelation 14:3 And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders; and no one could learn the song except the one hundred and forty-four thousand who had been purchased from the earth.
Revelation 14:4 These are the ones who have not been defiled with women, for they have kept themselves chaste. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb.
Revelation 14:5 And no lie was found in their mouth; they are blameless.
Revelation 14:6 And I saw another angel flying in midheaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people;
Revelation 14:7 and he said with a loud voice, “Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters.”

The main message in v. 7 is “Fear God and give Him glory” – this is a message that doesn’t get preached enough here on earth, but it’s the most important message from heaven, it’s the call to every nation and tribe and tongue and people, it’s the responsibility of every human being, it’s the first line of the eternal gospel. This good news begins with and is centered on God’s glory before us.

The gospel call is not primarily about what can get for ourselves, verse 7 is a call to give God glory and fear God (which does benefit us but God is at the center)

Or you might say, we give God glory by fearing God, by viewing Him with awe and deep reverence and humility. I wanted to start here because unless God is uplifted and upheld in the place of centrality and supremacy and source of all satisfaction and joy forever, the gospel is not fully good news nor is it fully glorious.

When the good news was first announced to shepherds in the field, they were afraid, and then angels from heaven proclaimed good news of great joy, a Savior, and then “glory to God in the highest.” Fear comes first, then good news. God’s highest glory brings men highest joy.

Verse 6 says this eternal gospel will be preached to all before the end, and notice in v. 7 that the ultimate reason the gospel will be preached in these last days is to give God glory, or the end of the verse says so that people will worship Him who are not currently worshipping Him. God’s glory is a massively important thing, and it’s critical and vital that it has the central place in our life as a church. God’s glory is not only the theme of this series we’re studying together, we want it to have the place of preeminence in all things in our lives, the ultimate purpose out of which flows our worship, our preaching of the gospel and all the other mandates of the church which are ways in which we seek to glorify God.

Notice in verse 7 that this gospel message is not “feel good about yourselves” – the message here is “fear God and give Him glory … worship Him” (not only trust Christ, but fear and worship Him). To say it another way, yes the gospel call is to believe, but saving faith is not a merely intellectual knowledge, it is accompanied by a desire to worship Christ and honor and fear Him in awe and wonder. And such love and praise glorifies God, our chief purpose.

There is a connection between glorifying God and worshipping God, as we saw last time, and there is also a connection between glorifying God and viewing God rightly and highly. God’s glory is not only manifested in our worship, but also in our fear of God - having a high view of God’s awe-inspiring holy majesty that causes us to tremble and to reverence Him, which glorifies God.

How do we view God? Do we truly fear God? If God’s glory is the most important thing in the universe, and it is, this is an important question, because there is a link between God’s glory and how we view Him, if we have awe and fear before God (or if we don’t).

This same writer of Revelation, the Apostle John also wrote earlier in his gospel (John 1:14) “the Word [Jesus] became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory

And what happened when people beheld God’s glory in Jesus?

Luke 5:26 They were all struck with astonishment and began glorifying God; and they were filled with fear, saying, “We have seen remarkable things today.”

Luke 7:16 Fear gripped them all, and they began glorifying God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and, “God has visited His people!”

Matthew 9:8 But when the crowds saw this, they were awestruck [lit. afraid – ESV], and glorified God, who had given such authority to men.

The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, and you could argue from these texts that the fear of God is the beginning of glorifying God, or at least a crucial and central aspect of it. The fear of God is the most basic starting point of biblical knowledge or wisdom, but sadly it would seem there isn’t much fear of God today. Instead of fear, there is a flippancy about God, there is a common casual and comfortable and shallow and superficial and low view of God that is all too frequent, even among Christians.

 

This is not a new problem in our generation. In the first half of the twentieth century, there was a voice crying in the urban wilderness of America about his great concern over Christianity’s low view of God in his day, as he preached before and after World War II.

Perhaps no preacher in his time was more passionate about this theme and none more consistently pleaded for churches to return to glorifying God by viewing Him highly and rightly and fearing Him. This pastor (now with the Lord) has been described this way:

Physically speaking he was not regarded as an impressive man. His preaching … not characterized by great eloquence [listening to old recording of his sermons doesn’t do justice to his impact]. He belonged to a [group] of churches known for being non-theological and non-doctrinal. He himself had never received the benefits of a Bible college education, let alone the advanced training of a seminary experience. And yet, obvious to all who knew him, was the fact that he possessed a profound and deep knowledge of God, and even more, that he walked in great intimacy with this God he knew so well. From 1928 until 1959 he pastored what many would regard as a very inconspicuous little church in Chicago; Southside Alliance, it was called. And yet in those 31 years in the providence of God, he became to many, something of a prophetic conscience for the evangelical church. His name was Aiden Wilson Tozer. He preferred simply A. W. Tozer. And it was Warren Wiersbe who said of him, “listening to Tozer preach was about as safe as opening the door of a blast furnace. He was not hesitant to tell us what was wrong, nor was he hesitant to tell us how GOD could make it right. If a sermon could be compared to light, then A. W. Tozer released a laser beam from the pulpit, a beam that penetrated your heart, seared your conscience, exposed your sin and left you crying ‘what must I do to be saved?’ The answer was always the same: Surrender to Christ! Get to know God personally. Grow to become like him. When he preached the wind of the spirit blew and dead bones came to life.[1]

This brother in the Lord, being dead now, still speaks from the grave through his books, some that are classics. I have given you a couple titles of his books on the bottom of your note sheet for recommended reading. My prayer is that dead bones may come to life even this morning, perhaps by some for the first time bowing down before the glorious Christ as Lord.

For others of us in this room, I pray God would breathe new life into our understanding of God, so that we might wake up from our apathetic lethargic routine “church-ianity” to the real thing, the glorious dazzling satisfying mesmerizing God for whose glory we exist and in whom is fullness of joy and at His right hand are pleasures evermore (Psalm 16). 

The first page and first line of one of Tozer’s books begins: “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” He believed that what we truly believe about God is the most determinative factor of our entire worldview and understanding or reality, as Al Mohler wrote of Tozer, whether we realize it or not, we live out our most basic beliefs and reveal what we really believe about God, the world, and ourselves.[2]

In his book, Knowledge of the Holy, Tozer wrote:

‘The gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God. This is true not only of the individual Christian, but of the company of Christians that composes the Church. Always the most revealing thing about the Church is her idea of God, just as her most significant message is what she says about Him or leaves unsaid, for her silence is often more eloquent than her speech. She can never escape the self-disclosure of her witness concerning God …’

[he argues that a right concept of God is as basic to everyday life as it is to theology]: ‘It is to worship what the foundation is to the Temple: where it is inadequate or out of plumb the whole structure must sooner or later collapse.’[3]

In his book on The Attributes of God, he further articulates his concern of the inadequate view of God by many Christians: “This little cheap god we've made up is one you can pal around with—'the Man upstairs,' the fellow who helps you win baseball games"[4]

In another place he explained it this way:

‘The Church has surrendered her once lofty concept of God and has substituted for it one so low, so ignoble, as to be utterly unworthy of thinking, worshiping men. This she [the church] has done not deliberately, but little by little and without her knowledge; and her very unawareness only makes her situation all the more tragic. The low view of God entertained almost universally among Christians is the cause of a hundred lesser evils everywhere among us. A whole new philosophy of the Christian life has resulted from this one basic error in our religious thinking.

With our loss of the sense of majesty has come the further loss of religious awe and consciousness of the divine Presence. We have lost our spirit of worship and our ability to withdraw inwardly to meet God in adoring silence.’[5]

Another one: ‘The world is perishing for lack of the knowledge of God and the Church is famishing for want of His Presence.’[6]

One final word from his book Root of the Righteous: ‘Nothing twists and deforms the soul more than a low or unworthy conception of God … our notion of God must always determine the quality of our religion.

Much Christianity since the days of Christ's flesh has also been grim and severe. And the cause has been the same [as it was for the Pharisees]—an unworthy or an inadequate view of God. Instinctively we try to be like our God, and if He is conceived to be stern and exacting, so will we ourselves be.

From a failure properly to understand God comes a world of unhappiness among good Christians even today … It is most important to our spiritual welfare that we hold in our minds always a right conception of God.’[7]

Tozer preached most of these words and warnings more than 50 years ago, and was probably dismissed by many as overreacting or irrelevant. But I think his words are very relevant in our day, in fact if he saw how far the trends in his day have developed in our today, he’d probably be rolling over in his grave.

All of this takes us to God’s Word in 2 Timothy 4. We could easily spend all our time on the importance of a high view of God, but we also must consider a very important outworking of that - an equally high view of Scripture. As Paul communicates with Timothy the mandate for the church and what he as the pastor-teacher is to be committed to above all else, we see him begin with and presuppose a high view of God and from there he moves to a high view of God’s Word. The two go together - God and what He says cannot be separated.

2 Timothy 4:1 I solemnly 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:
2 Timothy 4:2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.
2 Timothy 4:3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires,
2 Timothy 4:4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.
2 Timothy 4:5 But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

v. 1 – notice the solemnity that begins with God. You can’t miss the serious and sobering nature of this charge to Timothy. There is a high reverence presupposed in this responsibility. A high view of God is what must drive a high view of God’s Word. If there is ever a passage intended to produce a healthy fear and trembling in a preacher at his awesome and weighty task, this is it.

It would be serious enough if Paul said “I charge you to preach the word”

In my translation it has “I solemnly charge you” – this is an intensified form of the root word meaning ‘to testify through and through, bear a solemn witness; hence, “to charge earnestly”’[8]

It would have been enough to say “I solemnly charge you” but Paul adds “in the presence of God”

This is even more serious language – Paul uses this combination of terms once before

2 Timothy 2:14 Remind them of these things, and solemnly charge them in the presence of God not to wrangle about words, which is useless and leads to the ruin of the hearers.

Here in chapter 4, verse 1, he goes even further, though:

“I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus …” (full title, not just Christ or Jesus by itself – in the presence of God the Father and also in the presence of God the Son, the Anointed Christ, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords)

That would be strong enough, but he goes on to highlight the Lord’s role “who is to judge the living and the dead” – the emphasis here is on the Lord’s role as judge and that all must give an account to Him someday for what we have done here (or failed to have done)

This is a similar scene to what we saw last week and heard sung about – “before the throne of God above”

This is a sobering charge, a serious charge already, but Paul’s not done, he keeps going as if to raise it even higher “and by His appearing

Now he brings the 2nd Coming of Christ into the picture. Christ’s return is often a motivation in the NT – here not only does Paul appeal to who God is, and the constant presence of God the Father and also King Jesus, and also the fact that there will be a judgment in the future, but now Timothy is being charged to fulfill his duty also in light of Christ’s return which could be any moment

But that’s not all, Paul also says “and His kingdom

In light of God’s kingdom, the theme of Christ’s preaching, one of the themes of the Bible, Timothy, I solemnly charge you on this level, in light of this reality, the highest court of appeal. This is a weighty matter, there is gravity in these words, this is a heavy and holy task only for those who humbly tremble at their sacred duty.

This was very convicting to me this week, this is a challenge to me as a fallible finite inadequate sinner before a God who is holy, holy, holy, and who deserves more glory than I can express. But he has called me to preach the Word, and so I must, trusting in His Spirit and Power alone; my only adequacy is in Christ.

Don’t sit back and feel relieved because you’re not a teacher of the Word, by the way. You’re not off the hook. Timothy must do this because he is to be an example to the flock of what God requires.

God’s charge demands we all have a high view of God which in turn will produce the high view of God’s Word necessary to fulfill the rest of this passage. This passage goes on to show how one’s view of God and God’s Word is manifested in how we listen to the truth. How do you respond to a sermon and seek to apply what is preached from this pulpit? How are you applying Scripture? God will not have Himself be treated lightly or His truth treated lightly.

David Wells says it this way:

‘The fundamental problem in the evangelical world today is not inadequate technique, insufficient organization, or antiquated music … Bandaging these scratches will do nothing to stanch the flow of blood that is spilling from [the church’s] true wounds. The fundamental problem in the evangelical world today is that God rests too inconsequentially [lightly] upon the church. His truth is too distant, his grace is too ordinary, his judgment is too benign, his gospel is too easy; and his Christ is too common.[9]

What is the antidote, what is the cure?

v. 2 – preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction”

“in season and out of season” – all the time

“reprove” (KJV/NAS) - or “correct” (NIV), “convince” (NKJV)

“rebuke” – true preaching must challenge, confront sin

“exhort” – can include encouragement, both positive and negative

“with great patience and instruction” – this is an important balance to the others. As I preach the Word, I pray God would give me both passion and compassion and that I would have patience as I seek to preach the truth in love.

But there’s a lot who will say they’re into love and don’t really want the truth and strong biblical preaching as v. 3 goes on to say:

v. 3 – “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires

Paul tells Timothy not everyone will like it, some will not endure sound doctrine (some will consider “doctrine” a boring word and unpractical or divisive). They won’t want deep Bible teaching:

-          instead of the truth, people want tickling of the ears

-          they will want a feel-good message, not a “fear God” message

-          instead of hell fire, they want humor

-          instead of the fundamentals, they want fun, flippant, light Christianity

-          instead of preaching, they want performances

-          instead of exposition, they want entertainment

-          instead of doctrine, they want drama

-          instead of theology, they want theatrics

They’re not going to endure preaching of the whole counsel of God. Timothy, they’re going to say you need to be more tolerant to others, but ironically they will be very intolerant of you.

Paul told Timothy the time will come, and I don’t think I need to convince you that this time has come and continues to this day.

You can get a lot more people to come to church if you give them what they want to hear, if you don’t emphasize sin, if you don’t talk about the cost of discipleship, if you don’t preach through passages where Jesus calls on us to die to self and take up our cross to follow Him, if you don’t use big words like repentance – if you instead tell everyone indiscriminately God is for you, God wants you happy, healthy, and wealthy, and wise, if you flatter them, and boost their self-esteem, and stroke their desires, and make sure that you never say anything that might offend someone, if you’re funny and witty and affable and clever and use the right motivational clichés and have the right marketing team behind your image, you can grow a church by tickling ears.

But God’s solemn charge before a man of God is NOT to do that.

The Bible often uses the analogy of food as a metaphor for the Word. To illustrate Paul’s point to Timothy here, as a dad if I give my kids healthy cereal for breakfast and they say “no, we want M&M’s instead” what should I do? If I say, “ok, whatever you want” and I pour them a big bowl of M&M’s for breakfast and I tell them they can have that every meal, am I being a good leader? I certainly would be a popular guy, and if I ran a daycare and did that for a whole bunch of other kids, I would have great approval ratings with the kids. But they would not be healthy, they would be sick, they would become malnourished and eventually have serious health problems. And I would be negligent to only feed my kids candy and what they want rather than what they need to grow and be healthy. And I would have to give an account.

That might be a silly illustration, but it’s very serious when it comes to spiritual things. People need real food, they need substance, they need what’s good for them. We don’t want to give them a message that tastes great but is less filling, we are not to market the church using the same techniques as Super Bowl commercials you may see later today, or corporate strategies, or whatever works, whatever appeals or draws crowds. If we pander to worldly desires and scratch the itch of the ears of the unspiritual, we weaken the church, and dishonor God. And we will have masses of churchgoers who are malnourished if they’re true Christians, they will be underfed, undiscerning, unspiritual, and many unsaved but never confronted with the truth.

The end of verse 3 says they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their desires, there will never be a lack of preachers willing to give people what they want

v. 4 –“will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths

Many would rather have fables and fads and fictional promises that all will be well. They would rather believe myths than the truth

v. 5 – “but you be sober in all things”. Timothy, don’t try to be silly, be sober in all things – your job is not to be a clown or a comedian and to keep things as light and fluffy and fun as possible, God says to his preachers “you are to take me seriously and take my Word seriously.” Eternity hangs in the balance.

Of course there is a time to have fun, and we don’t have to take ourselves too seriously, and we should enjoy life that God has given us and appropriate humor can lighten our countenance and do our heart good like medicine. But we must always take God seriously.

God through the apostle Paul is telling Timothy to keep doing your biblical ministry mandate, in season and out, all the time, when it’s popular and when it’s not popular. Timothy, you’re not a politician who is to take opinion polls and have focus groups to try to figure out how to change your message to beat the competition

Paul also says in this verse “endure hardship.” You are not to be a preacher who implies that this Christian life is without hardship, nor are you to be surprised when you suffer hardship because churchgoers don’t like your preaching. You are not to tell people that everything will be great in their lives, and things will be easy if they add Jesus to their lives, you are to endure hardship as you preach not what they want to hear, but what they need to hear. Fulfill your ministry Timothy, preach the Word!

The reason we are to focus on the Word and nothing else is that nothing else has the power. A few verses earlier Paul said:

2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;
2 Timothy 3:17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.


----

[1]Art Azurdia, A Vision of God's Throne, Part 4 (Revelation 4:6-11), available at www.spiritempoweredpreaching.com

[2]Al Mohler, in preface to Steve Lawson, Made in Our Image: What Shall We Do with a “User-Friendly” God?, p. 11.

[3] A. W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy (New York: Harper and Row, 1961), 9-10

[4]Tozer, Attributes of God, Vol. 1, page 7.

[5] Tozer, Knowledge of the Holy, vii-viii.

[6] “The Knowledge and Pursuit of the Most High,” in Gems from Tozer, ch. 1.

[7] Tozer, Root of the Righteous, ch. 27.

[8]Vine, W. E., Unger, M. F., & White, W. (1996). Vine's complete expository dictionary of Old and New Testament words (2:96). Nashville: T. Nelson.

[9] David F. Wells, God in the Wasteland: The Reality of Truth in the World of Fading Dreams (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994), 30.

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