Wednesday, 16 November 2011

2 Timothy 3:10-17 Gospel Ministry Convictions

My Notes from last weeks LightHouse with opening discussion questions.

1. What convinced you of the truth of the gospel?

2. A friend asks you why you read the Bible what would you say?

In the second half of this letter Paul has been exhorting Timothy to continue in ministry, specifically to do so in a way that is in sharp contrast to the living and teaching of the false teachers. From 2v14 onwards Paul compares and contrasts the false teachers and their behaviour with that of the gospel teacher that Timothy is to be.

Now he does so again having just described the false teachers he contrasts the way what Timothy is to teach and how he is to live with two “But, you” in v10, and 14. Timothy must have these two convictions as he faces up to false teachers and as he continues ministering the truth in this circumstance.

1. The Gospel is Caught (10-13).
**What is your reaction to(10-11)? Is Paul being arrogant, is he boasting? No, he is not; he is reminding Timothy of his character and the cost to him of preaching the truth of the gospel. Not because he wants a pat on the back but because Timothy needs the conviction that the gospel is worth contending for even as it brings suffering, opposition and persecution.

Paul reminds Timothy of what he knows what he has seen in Paul as he has followed him in his ministry learning from him and being discipled by him. Timothy has been Paul’s disciple; he has followed him around, seen him engage in ministry, and seen the highs and the lows. There are 9 things Timothy knows about Paul:

1. My teaching
2. My living
3. My purpose
4. My faith
5. My patience
6. My love,
7. My endurance,
8. My persecutions
9. My sufferings

In contrast to the false teachers Timothy knows the effect that Pauls’ teaching has on his living and his suffering. Paul was so convinced of the gospel that he lived it, it was his purpose, and he suffered and endured counting it worth the chance to teach the gospel. Whilst the false teachers love themselves Paul loves his Saviour, something blatantly obvious to Timothy. Whilst the false teachers adapt their message to what people want to hear Paul keeps preaching the gospel even when rejected, persecuted, stoned, left for dead and so on.

Timothy has observed the true nature of gospel ministry as he has spent time with Paul and he must remember that as he engages in gospel ministry.

(12)Paul is keen to point out that he is not extraordinary, but has just experienced the norm of godly living. The godly are persecuted whilst false teachers are not because they are doing the work of their Father the deceiver. In contrast Paul is a follower of Jesus, as Timothy is, and he follows where Jesus led (John 15:18f), persecution is the norm for those in Christ.

But I guess that poses a question what if I am not being persecuted? What does that say about me?

We live in a country whose laws are heavily influenced by biblical principles and that means the persecution we face will not normally be state sponsored as Paul experiences, though I think looking ahead that is coming. But not all persecution is physical or imprisonment. Jesus persecution was not just his death, but his betrayal, the desertion of the crowds, the opposition of religious leaders, and the mocking of his teaching.

Teaching the truth and the Bible applied to our lives will produce persecution and opposition. Be it the angry reaction when we contend for lifelong monogamous marriage, or God’s plan for man and woman as exclusively true, or when we stand firmly behind the truth that Jesus is the only way to God. Or when our commitment to godliness simply shows up someone-else’s immoral behaviour

However I also want to suggest two ways that we may subtly avoid persecution.
1. We live out our identity in Christ but we aren’t living in the world. We live our life in a little Christian bubble, like rabbits dashing from hole to hole all the world sees are the whites of our tails.

2. We are in the world but not living out our identity in Christ. **What is the amazing characteristic of a chameleon? It can blend into any background. There is a danger that we can be Christian chameleons, where we simply blend in; we look no different, either by being the same or by not standing up for what we believe. Staying silent instead of speaking out.

Instead we and Timothy are to live out our calling and identity to be godly in Christ, equipped to do so through our experience of grace and the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit.

The gospel is not just caught it is taught. Paul can say to Timothy you know, you saw, you observed in me what true discipleship looks like. You don’t teach a disciple you train a disciple. And as Timothy entrusts the gospel to others who he is discipline they will catch the gospel and his convictions by watching. As we teach others, as we minister will they see these convictions and the gospel both taught and increasingly applied to our lives?

2. The Bible must be Taught
The second contrast Paul makes is in what is taught. Timothy you need to be utterly convinced about the power, ability and applicability of God’s word. (14)Don’t abandon it but maintain your conviction, remember what you have learned and the character of those who taught it to you.

Timothy will only teach the bible if he’s convinced it is both true and powerful. As he is surrounded by false teaching and the church begins to listen to it he will face calls to change what he teaches, to adapt it, to soften it, to make it more culturally relevant and so on. Only is he is utterly convinced that it is God’s word and powerful and effective will he do so and withstand the pressure.

And Paul is utterly convinced that what the church Timothy is in needs is the bible taught, taught and taught again. Look at 1:13 **Paul exhorts Timothy to do what? "Follow the pattern of sound words that you have heard from me...” In 2:2 as he turns to growing gospel leaders he tells Timothy "what you have heard from me... entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also." As he exhorts Timothy to remember Jesus (2:8f) he reminds him that God's word is not bound, in 3:15 he exhorts Timothy to "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth." In other words work hard at understanding and teaching the bible. In (2:24) he says that one of the marks of a gospel servant is the ability to teach, and now he reminds Timothy of the inspiration and effectiveness of teaching the word of God.

Paul doesn’t want Timothy to be distracted or put off teaching the word of God; he wants him to be utterly convinced of its power and its authority so that he continues to teach it even in the face of false teaching, opposition and suffering. So he reminds him of the power of God’s word.

It reveals salvation. (15)The bible, every scripture points us to Jesus as the only way to be saved.

It is God’s word – The bible is the inspired word of God. When we read the Bible we read what God the almighty creator of the universe reveals about himself, the world, us and where we stand before him. We read the very words God has breathed out, that he has spoken, and we read his diagnosis of us, our need and his plan to meet that need.

It is God’s means of changing us – in it God not only saves but changes us making us holy as he straightens out our muddled thinking, confronts us in our wrong living, and shows us what righteous living looks like. It shows us Jesus so that we can live like him, fighting sin and putting it to death.

It equips us to love and serve others – it is productive(17) and purposeful. It changes us so that we love as those who have been loved and serve as those who have been served.

This is what you need to teach Timothy, look at the wonder of God’s word. Be convinced of its power and teach it.  Don’t be deflected or distracted from teaching it or dilute it, preach God’s word convinced of its power.

We need to ask ourselves do I share these convictions? Does this mark out our church? Does this mark out my ministry? Does it mark out our teaching of Gospel Groups and Sunday School?

There are all sorts of ministry, Sunday school, and pastoral care handbooks around, all sorts of programmes to try. But what we need to do as God's servants is use God's chosen method as we play our part in God's mission of building his kingdom for his glory - we are to preach his word.

When we face difficult pastoral situations people need to hear the word of God - contrary to many people’s thoughts they do not need wise words of advice from someone who has been through what they have been through, they need someone who can and will teach and apply the word of God to them.

When a couple start out on married life they need someone to show them what the bible teaches about marriage and how to study the bible together and apply grace to one another daily. When a marriage gets in trouble they need to learn again what God’s word says about them, marriage, his grace and his provision and purpose for them.

When someone faces terrible news they do not need sympathy and comfort alone but they need to know of the loving arms of their Father around them and their security as one of his blood bought children which they will find through hearing the bible taught and lovingly applied.

The convictions of gospel ministry: The Gospel is Caught and the Bible must be Taught. Because in the gospel alone is the power to change the world one life at a time and that powerful message has been entrusted to the church.

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