Wednesday, September 20, 2017
2 Timothy 3:1-5 "But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. 2 For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, 4 treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these."
I remember growing up in South Central Pennsylvania between two farms. In the early mornings one could hear the tractors pulling plows and turning up the hardened soil of fallow ground. I would sometimes watch those tractors and observe how the plowing disks on those plows glistened in the sunlight. Rocks and roots would be tossed to the sides by those plows. The rows were straight and deep, ready for the seeds to be sown for that year's harvest. Farmers had to be sure their plows were ready, since the difficult soil required a ready and sharp set of plowing disks to do the job.
In our age, as well as ages past, the climate has never been favorable to preaching. Nevertheless, no age has ever passed that did not need it. The Apostle Paul is warning a young pastor of difficult times. The urgency of the hour is for young Timothy to preach the Word. Like a plowing disk, Timothy - and really all preachers of the Bible - are called to plow through difficult, fallow soil. The purpose of preaching is to sow the seed of God's Word. Such farming imagery is used throughout God's Word (Matthew 13:38; 1 Corinthians 3:9) to describe the context of the preacher's task. No doubt, Jesus warned of difficult times coming on our world while encouraging believers of His unsurpassed victory and guarantee of the success of God's purposes (John 16:33)
In today's post, I want to make the case that despite whatever difficult times within which we find ourselves, preaching matters. Our text is 2 Timothy 3:1-13. Note the following reasons why preaching matters in these present difficult times...
1. Preaching compels people to deny self. 2 Timothy 3:1-2
The words of the Bible are the preacher's source and tools. The Holy Spirit and God's word function together through the preaching task to change lives. Jesus told his audiences that if anyone wants to be his disciple or follower, they must die to self, take up the cross daily and follow Him (Luke 9:23-24; 14:25-33). Jesus' call to self denial occurred in the context of his preaching. Preaching is God's designated vehicle for compelling the conscience and breaking the unrepentant will.
Teaching is important in convincing minds. However, preaching is needed to compel the conscience. Paul knew that in these last days, there would be a generation full of people full of themselves. 2 Timothy 3:2a notes: "For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money....". But notice also why present difficulties require preaching....
2. Preaching can bring lasting peace to unruly hearts. 2 Timothy 3:2b-3
Notice what Paul states next about the nature of the times in which he lived and our own in 2 Timothy 3:2b-3 -
"boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good."
Good gospel music, praise choruses, hymns and vocalists are appropriately linked to the ministry of the word. Both types of worship function as a team of horses to draw the chariot of God's glory into the central spot of the church's life. Music, when done in the right heart and with the Spirit's anointing - can prepare hearts and bring with it peace for that moment. However, lasting peace beyond the church service has been reserved for the ministry of the word. Isaiah 50:4 states - "The Lord God has given Me the tongue of disciples, That I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word. He awakens Me morning by morning, He awakens My ear to listen as a disciple."
The music of praise and worship might very well set the table of the mind and the emotions. However, worship of God through the preaching of the Word places nourishment for the heart and will to grasp. What is needed in our day and age is lasting peace, God's peace. Paul's description of this present age is that of unruliness. Our culture is a roiling sea of chatter, arguing, division, strife and self-assertiveness.
Just as the voice of Christ ranged over the sea of Galilee to make its waves to stand still, so is needed the voice of Christ through His word explained and applied to calm the unruly hearts of people. We need a fresh word from God today, which is why preaching is required to cut through the clamor.
So we need preaching in these difficult days since it is how God compels people to deny self and bring lasting peace to unruly hearts. Notice a third reason why preaching matters today....
3. Preaching can uproot religious hypocrisy. 2 Timothy 3:5-10
In the next set of verses, Paul describes, especially in 2 Timothy 3:5, of how these present days will include people that have a form of godliness but deny its power. Many pretenders populate so much of Christendom. We have those that espouse prosperity theology and those who promote the sort of Christianity that doesn't require the ministry of the local church. The other day for instance, I saw a book entitled: "how to be a Christian without going to church". I thought the book was a satire until I read and discovered the person was quite serious!
Biblically-sound, Christ-centered, Spirit- empowered proclamation of God's Word is designed to make clear the true and the not-so-true. Paul makes an interesting reference to Moses' day in 2 Timothy 3:8-9 "Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men of depraved mind, rejected in regard to the faith. 9 But they will not make further progress; for their folly will be obvious to all, just as Jannes’s and Jambres’s folly was also." Exodus 7:10-12 records the incident in question - "So Moses and Aaron came to Pharaoh, and thus they did just as the Lord had commanded; and Aaron threw his staff down before Pharaoh and his servants, and it became a serpent. 11 Then Pharaoh also called for the wise men and the sorcerers, and they also, the magicians of Egypt, did the same with their secret arts. 12 For each one threw down his staff and they turned into serpents. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs."
Moses' verbalizing the command of God to Aaron to throw down his staff gives a picture of the verbal ministry of the word in opposition to the charlatanry of the magicians. Their smoke and mirrors were no match for God's power through the spoken word. The end result in this narrative is that Aaron's rod in serpent form swallowed up the tricks of the pretenders. The hypocrisy of the Pharaoh's court - touting their pretended facades of spiritual power - were unmasked.
So we have seen that preaching matters in today's world, since God has assigned it the role of compelling people to deny self, bringing lasting peace to unruly hearts and uprooting religious hypocrisy. But notice the last point as to why preaching matters today....
4. Preaching urges God's people to uphold godly living. 2 Tim. 3:10-14
Paul says plainly in 2 Timothy 3:12 "Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." This desire is to be fueled by exposure to Biblical preaching. 1 Timothy 4:16 states - "Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you." Or again, Hebrews 13:7-9 "Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. 9 Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings; for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, through which those who were so occupied were not benefited." The pastor and the preaching of the Word have been so prescribed by God to form a godly people living in the midst of a godless world. Note Ephesians 4:11-12 "And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ." Note as well Philippians 2:15-16 "so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, 16 holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain."
Today we have considered four reasons why preaching matters in a difficult age such as our own:
1. Preaching compels
people to deny self. 2 Timothy 3:1-2
2. Preaching can bring lasting peace to unruly hearts. 2 Timothy 3:2b-3
3. Preaching can uproot religious hypocrisy. 2 Timothy 3:4-10
4. Preaching urges God's people to uphold godly living. 2 Timothy 3:10-14