Tuesday, 22 November 2011

2 Timothy 4:1-8 A Charge to Gospel Leaders

Notes from Sunday Night

1. What does successful gospel ministry look like?

2. What makes ongoing gospel ministry hard?

This letter is Paul’s final charge to Timothy, in it as he faces death for his faith we see the passion and purpose of his life clearly displayed in how he calls Timothy to live.

I found it striking this week to think what would I write if I knew I did not have long left to my children? What convictions would I look to pass on? What advice? As we look at Paul’s final convictions its worth asking ourselves to what extent they are ours.

1. Live life in your Kingdom Context
**Where is Paul as he writes this letter to Timothy? in a Roman prison, our problem in thinking about prison is that we have a very 21st Century view of prison – comfortable, sanitary, TV channels, exercise, health care, etc... That is not prison as Paul knows it, Roman prisons were dirty, dark, damp, there were no rights, there was often torture and mistreatment, little food or water, and there was little hope.

**But how does Paul describe where he is in(1)? “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus...” Paul is not just a prisoner in a Roman jail awaiting his trial and inevitable death. That is not who he is or his defining reality. Paul is in the presence of God and of Jesus. Isn’t that a different take on his reality. Paul lives out his life in the presence of God, and he exhorts Timothy to remember that he too lives out his life and ministry in the presence of God. Does that change how you think of your reality? We live out our lives in the presence of God and of Jesus.

The kingdom of God is now, but it is also coming. This section is bookend by a focus on the coming of the kingdom when Jesus returns as judge, it’s here in v1 as he gives Timothy this solemn charge but also in(8) as Paul anticipates Christ’s coming and his reward.

The most important thing Timothy, is to realise that this world is not the most important thing, it’s not the enduring reality, it’s not even what determines how you live. Don’t live life for now live life in the light of Christ’s coming kingdom.

Don’t let your visible circumstances determine how you serve Christ but serve in light of his kingdom which is now – you live life in the presence of God and Jesus – and not yet – you have a glorious future when Christ will judge the living and the dead. That is the reality which determines how you live.

Timothy needs to know this because he is labouring in a church which false teaching is infecting, where people are not wanting the bible taught, where preaching the truth is becoming unacceptable and unwelcome, where its results may be slow growing, or look insignificant, where he will experience persecution.

But that isn’t the only reality, if you focus on that reality you will give up. Serve your saviour, live out your kingdom context.

We need to share that context as we engage in gospel ministry. Often church looks unimpressive, our evangelism looks insignificant, we feel weak, and are tempted to despair as we look at what we see. But remember your kingdom context, we are in the presence of God and Jesus and his kingdom and victory are certain, Jesus will judge.

2. Fulfil your Kingdom Commission
**What is the thing Paul tells Timothy to do? “preach the word”. Timothy, my dying charge to you is keep on preaching the bible, don’t give up on it, it is the most important thing you can do, give your life to it, die for it.

And Paul doesn’t just tell Timothy what to do but tells him how he is to do it;
a. Urgently – Timothy is to preach the bible when and wherever opportunity arises, when you feel like it and when you don’t, when you are on duty and when you are off duty, when people want to listen and when they don’t. There is an urgency to preaching the bible because (3:16-17)it is God’s word, it alone teaches us how we are saved, and it changes people.

b. Relevantly – **Paul uses three words what are they? “Correct, rebuke, encourage...” **Which of those do you naturally not want to hear? In our society we don’t like correcting or rebuking but we like encouragement. But preaching the bible exposes our sin both before we trust in Jesus and afterwards, it warns us of its consequences, and it comforts us not by saying ‘there, there’ but by pointing us to Jesus. Timothy preach the bible in a way that is relevant to your hearers as you point to Jesus, that corrects, rebukes and encourages in Christ as and when necessary.

c. Faithfully – Timothy also needs two characteristics as he preaches, “great patience and careful instruction”. There is a danger in preaching the bible – it is that you get frustrated when people don’t get it, or don’t change, or their hearts are not lit up by it. But Timothy preach the bible with great patience, in other words keep on preaching. Don’t give up and go somewhere else, don’t adapt what you teach, keep on preaching the bible. But he is also to preach carefully in terms of content, this is about what he teaches - teach sound doctrine, preach the bible.

Don’t we need this. Preach the bible, it is God’s word, it reveals salvation, it points to Jesus, it convicts, it changes us. Preach it and keep preaching it. In Sunday school, in youth groups, to our children as parents and as grandparents, in our churches, in our marriages, to one another, to ourselves, we need this conviction keep on preaching the bible.

3. Understand the threat to Preaching the Word(3-5)
**Why does Timothy need this exhortation? Because there is a time coming when people won’t want to hear the truth, they won’t want to hear sound teaching, but instead will find teachers willing to teach what they want to hear. There is no correction, no rebuking, no real comfort just teaching that suits their desires. The truth of the bible is substituted for myths.  How is this seen today?

a. A desire to be entertained –One church in America tried to stop dwindling numbers by having church staff wrestling as part of their service! But it doesn’t have to be that extreme, it can simply be that jokes dominate instead of the bible.

b. A desire not be challenged – It can simply be not wanting to hear the bibles correction or rebuke or wanting false comfort not biblical comfort. Biblical comfort shows us our sin, warns us of its danger and comforts us by pointing to our salvation in Christ as the answer and calling us to live out our new identity in Christ. False comfort is as powerless as the ‘there, there’.

c. A desire not to be stretched – The bible taught properly will stretch us, it will require us to engage, to think about it, to weigh our hearts, thinking and motives. It is not like watching TV; it requires us to participate.

d. A pressure to be short – How long will you commit to listening to the bible for in a week? The pressure is on to be short, 20mins is thought to be a long time – our attention spans to some extent are moulded by TV. But teaching the bible takes time, to explain the text, to work it into our lives and to apply it.

How is Timothy, and how are we, to respond to this? (5)”But you...” Be countercultural, fight against the prevailing trends and desires. People will not want to listen to the truth so what is Timothy to do keep on preaching. He is to think clearly about these trends and keep teaching the bible, as he experiences opposition he is to keep teaching the bible, as people reject and confront him he is to do the work of an evangelist – that isn’t going door to door, or doing open are but it means to proclaim the truth of Jesus – in other words teach the bible, he is to complete the task – preach the bible.

4. Pass on the baton
Paul gives one final reason for Timothy to preach the word, to fulfil this commission. Paul has done it(6-7), he has laboured and sweated and endured in gospel ministry preaching and teaching, committed to his saviour and now he is excited about going home.

Notice how he speaks of his death(6), it is his departure, it is not the end, simply time to leave this sphere of service and hear his masters well done! Paul has lived for the kingdom, preaching the truth, he has fought the fight, finished the race, kept the faith and he considers it worth it. All of those words contain the idea of contenting, striving, battling towards a goal.

Timothy preach the word, pick up the baton I am passing to you because it is worth it. And remember Timothy is to pass this on to others (2:2), pass on what, to absolute necessity of preaching the bible.

We must share those convictions because we live in the day Paul says in coming, when people will no longer put up with sound teaching. How do we respond to living in such a day, we teach the truth and we encourage others to teach the truth.

1. Pray for your bible teachers. In 2 Tim 2v15 Paul tells 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." We ought to pray this for our bible teachers.

2. Come ready. Nothing encourages a bible teacher like teaching people who are keen to learn, read the passage before you come, engage during the talk, and ask questions of others afterwards.

3. Resource your bible teacher. Churches must be resourcing their bibles teachers by providing them with the means to study well, to buy commentaries, to be taught and trained themselves. But we must also resource them time wise, not crowding out their preparation time with expectations to be at or doing other things (Acts 6 - provides a good model).

4. Question your bible teacher. On a personal note I love it when someone genuinely asks questions about the passage, or challenges something that was said, not because it builds my ego but because it is thrilling to be part of someone grappling with and seeking to understand more of the character, plan and power of God through his word.

5. Treat your bible teacher as a person. Don’t put your bible teacher on a pedestal, they are not infallible and it will not help them to be treated as such. Instead treat them as a person whom you trust and love in Christ and do the same for their family.

6. Remember ministry is not about the minister. Ministers prepare people to engage in ministry. The fruit of teaching the bible is changed lives among the congregation, it is the congregation increasingly teaching one another and becoming ministers themselves.

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