2 Timothy - Not Unworthy - Hope 103.2

2 Timothy – Not Unworthy

By Simon ManchesterSunday 8 Dec 2013Christian Growth with Simon ManchesterFaithReading Time: 0 minutes

Transcript:

St Thomas’ Anglican Church
North Sydney

Not Unworthy – 2 Timothy 2:14-26

We are following the last Letter of the Apostle Paul that seems to have been written which is 2 Timothy.  We are at Sermon No.3 this morning and we are looking at chapter 2 verses 14-26.  What could be more appropriate for us as we send a youngish minister to his work than to see what the work is all about?  And yet as I have said each Sunday,I hope you wont switch off and think – well this is a letter written to ministers,I have a very different life,you say to yourself,and I hope you will see the principles here will show you – (a) how God’s work is done and (b) how you can be useful yourself.

Please don’t wait for the right circumstances to be useful.  You may say to yourself “well if I can’t be useful this year,I have a big year,I’ll be useful next year”.  Or “when something is removed or when I’m over this particular heel or when something arrives,I’ll suddenly be ready to be useful”.

No,we’ve seen this week people work in the mess.  God works in the mess.  God is seeking useful people this hour and this day.  Pastors and people are useable. 

Now this Letter is from Paul to young Timothy.  There are two threads it seems to me to be running through the Letter.  This is what I am getting as I am working my way through it.

The first is – What to do in a church? and the second – How to do what you do in the church?.  And all this of course is to the glory of God.

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What to do – we are seeing primarily with the sound teaching word of God.  And one scholar thinks that everything is leading up to chapter 4 verse 2 where Paul says “Preach the Word”.  One scholar thinks everything in the Letter is a lead up to chapter 4 verse 2. 

The ‘How’ of what to do in church is very much things like ‘be keen,be brave,be kind,be gentle’ and another man thinks that everything in the Letter is leading up to chapter 4 verse 5 “finish your ministry – don’t give up”.

I mentioned last week there are approximately 20,000 pastors in America who get out of the ministry every year.  Every year in America 20,000 get out of the ministry early.  The Apostle Paul says to Timothy – I want you to finish. 

And of course because there is one scholar who thinks that it’s all about preaching the Word and one scholar thinks it’s all about keeping on going,we realise that the word of God is bigger and better than any of the preachers and any of the commentators and we must keep studying,keep reading,keep receiving this wonderful text.

Now today we are going to see the same twosome in chapter 2:14-26.  What to do and how to do it but this time the Apostle is going to give some new reasons for what to do and some new reasons for how to do it.  And I hope you will be helped by this as I have been helped by this and we are going to look at the section under two headings this morning (if you do take notes on the back of your Bulletin) and the two headings go like this:

No. 1 God’s Word is our Instrument – verses 14-19 – well nothing new about that you say but wait and see.  God’s word is our instrument.

No. 2  Gentle Workers are His Instrument – verses 20-26. 

So first of all God’s Word is our Instrument – chapter 2 verses 14-16 (let me read it again) “Keep reminding them of these things.  Warn them before God against quarrelling about words; it is of no value and only ruins those who listen.  Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved,a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.  Avoid godless chatter,because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly”.

Now friends you see what the Apostle Paul is saying,it’s very interesting.  He is saying to Timothy – you are living in a church that is packed with talk and you are living in a world where there are just millions of words coming at you.  And Paul says to Timothy ‘I want you to preach the Word in the middle of the words because the words have an absolute swamping affect on you but the Word will clear and lead and help you.

You see in verse 14 there are quarrelsome words,literally word fights.  And then in verse 16 there is godless chatter,literally empty noise.  Down in verse 23 there are foolish and stupid arguments,literally uninformed questionings.  So friends you come into the local church like this and I am capable and you are capable and we are capable of on occasions quarrelsome words,godless chatter and foolish and stupid arguments.  We are all capable of this.  The church is a lightening rod for this sort of stuff and the secular world of course specialises.

Well what is a young pastor to do – what is a normal Christian to do in the face of so much talk?

Spurgeon,the great 19th Century Pastor has a chapter in his book called “Lectures to my students” which is called “The Blind Eye and the Deaf Ear”.  Spurgeon argues that every pastor,maybe every believer as well,should have one blind eye and one deaf ear so that when somebody says – “come and look at this”,you don’t see it.  And when someone says “I’ve got something to tell you” you don’t hear it.  Spurgeon is suggesting it would be good for pastors to cultivate a blind eye and a deaf ear because there is so much of what you are asked to see and what you are asked to hear is just not just worth seeing or hearing.

This is his comment on the chapter of gossip.  He says “When you see a woman killing the farmer’s geese to get a feather,you will see the person who goes to speak evil of another.  Their pleasure is not worth the feather and the pain they give is to lose another man’s property”.  Isn’t that clever?  You watch a woman go to kill the farmer’s geese to get a feather and you will see a gossip because the pleasure they are getting is not worth a feather and the pain they are causing may be is to rob a man of his property.

And then Spurgeon says this about the young pastor.  “Many a difference within a church has been fanned into great flame by mischief makers.  My counsel is to never say a word till we’ve heard both sides and that we do our best to avoid hearing either one side or the other side if the matter does not concern us”.  The blind eye and the deaf ear.

Timothy is to live among millions of words,some of them foolish,some of them slanderous but he (verse 14) is to keep reminding people of God’s word and (verse 15) he is to be a workman who cuts a straight path for the congregation to walk on and him to walk on by means of teaching the word.

I can’t,friends,tell you how important this is.  I can’t just really tell you how important this is.  God has given us a Word,a Bible which will give you some freedom and some light in the midst of the mess and in the midst of the darkness.  It will help you to walk a straight line. 

Imagine there is someone here this morning,you don’t know anything about Christianity and you don’t even know to begin to become a Christian and you open your Bible and it says “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved”.  There is the light and there is the foundation for the Christian life – Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.

Or imagine your head is a swirl of thoughts,guilt,fear,obligations,priorities,confusions and you read the Word of God and it helps you to know what to put primarily in place to please God,to love his people and to be a witness to the unbeliever.  And the Word of God helps you to walk a straight line through so many swirling words that are in your head and that are on the radio and the TV and the newspapers and all the paperbacks and the magazines and all the billboards and everything that is coming at us like a torrent. 

And not only has God given us the Word but he has also given us a place where we can go to hear the Word explained.  That’s what the church meeting is for.  Primarily we want to hear from God,we want him to hear our praise and our prayers but primarily we want to hear from Him as the Bible is read and explained.  And I hope that Sunday by Sunday these parts of the Scriptures are helping you to walk a straight path of faith and of godly living.

But you will also find God willing that in your small groups,somebody is going to open the Bible and with careful preparation explain to you how to walk a straight path.  And maybe when you get home,one of your parents,ideally Dad,will open the Bible and read something that is brief and helpful and clear so that the family are able to say “well now we know the way”.

God is not just a giver of word you see,he’s also given us a place,maybe the home,maybe the small group,especially the church where you will get to hear the way to walk.

But look at verse 17,here’s something more sinister.  There is something worse than a quarrel and chatter,and that is there is something which can be a spiritual cancer.  Their teaching will spread like gangrene and among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus (verse 18) who have wandered away from the truth.  They say that the resurrection has already taken place,and they destroy the faith of some.

It is possible in the church to hear something which will be fatal to your faith.  I keep meeting people who are actually undermined by paperbacks.  Richard Dawkins has somehow undermined the faith of people.  There are those who have given up their walk with Jesus because of a book,a paperback and here is God calling on us through this wonderful Letter to be aware of the person who is going to spread a cancer and destroy the faith.

I was reading these verses this week and I was reading about quarrels,chatters and arguments and I was thinking to myself – what is the Apostle Paul going on about?  Why is he so concerned about chatter?

When you go down to coffee this morning there will be lots of people chattering and that’s probably good and there will be lots of people sharing news and that’s probably good – what’s the Apostle Paul so upset about all these quarrel,chatters and arguments?

And I began to realise that his problem is that there are people in church who are not interested in the Word of God but they are just interested in their chatter and their quarrels and their ideas.  They are very,very interested in their own opinions but not so much the Word of God.  And I think there are some here this morning like that.  There are people who have not yet been converted.  They have never had their ears open to the Word of God.  They have never come to the point of hearing the voice of the Shepherd and saying – ‘that’s the voice,that’s the Shepherd’.  They are still just interested in their own thoughts,opinions and ideas and so they talk mostly what they think and some of it is rubbish.

And then one of them becomes quite influential in the church and begins to peddle his ideas or her ideas in the church and they begin to destroy people because (as we see in verse 17 & 18) there is a couple here,Hymenaeus and Philetus,who once knew the truth but they have wandered from the truth and now they peddle a lie and Paul mentions the lie which is in verse 18 – he doesn’t often do this – but here he is,he is actually telling us in one phrase what they are saying.  They are saying the resurrection has taken place,i.e. the great final resurrection is over.  There is no more to come.

Now of course,we don’t fall for that,do we,this morning?  But it’s possible you see that an influential person comes along and says ‘you know the resurrection is spiritual,you know that when you come to put your faith in Christ and you are spiritually made new and you are renewed,that’s it’.  ‘You’ve got to stop thinking’ says this heretic ‘you’ve got to stop thinking there is a resurrection to come – come on – be a real person,stop being a daydreamer’.

The heretic says to you very subtlety ‘the resurrection means that you become acquainted with Christ and you live this world knowing about Christ – that’s the resurrection,there’s nothing more to come,don’t expect any more,there’s no heaven,there’s no resurrection body,there’s no new heavens and earth – come on be a grown up’.

And then you get distressed and you think to yourself ‘is this true’?  And you start to have doubts and fears and you begin to hear others who sort of push the same idea and after a while your faith gets slowly pulled apart and for some,destroyed.

The power of the lie,you see,peddled by powerful men is enough to destroy the faith of some and we know from 1 Corinthians 15 that if you stop believing in the resurrection,you don’t have a faith and you don’t have a foundation.  But you’ll notice the process the Apostle Paul is talking about – a context with lots of chatter which has got to do with lots of sort of hot air and arrogance and people who are not trembling at the Word of God,they don’t care for Christ’s voice in the New Testament and out of the arrogance comes a very strong heresy and out of the heresy comes a killer that wrecks the faith.

Now one of the sad things is that so many of these lies are quick,brief,clever and sharp and they can fit on a car-sticker.
“When you are dead you are dead” – says somebody.  What are you going to do in the face of that? 
“All religions are the same” says the car-sticker – what are you going to say to that? 
“Just trust yourself” says your friend,what are you going to say?
“The resurrection is over” what are you going to say?

What’s Timothy going to do in the face of this?  Well Paul’s answer is “do not be discouraged for one minute (verse 14) keep reminding people about foolish talk so you’ll be on your guard. 

Friends I want to remind you this morning watch out for foolish talk.  You’ve got roughly ½ hour to be with one another after church if you come down to the morning tea – maybe an hour – just be careful,let your speech be as useful and as edifying and as Biblical as possible.  It doesn’t mean you can’t talk about all sorts of things but just be careful that it isn’t chatter which is questioning and which is undermining.

And (verse 15) says the Apostle Paul ‘Timothy don’t be discouraged,set out the Word of God’.  And that’s what I am trying to do this morning from this chapter because,(look at verse 19) God is going to have the last word.  See what he says in verse 19?  “God’s solid foundation stands firm,sealed with this inscription: The Lord knows those who are his,and,everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness”.

Here’s our encouragement this morning.  There is lots of rubbish being spoken.  God’s Word is being taught,God knows who his people are,God has put his people on a firm foundation and God’s people know how to turn away from evil and error.  That will be one of the marks of God’s people – that you’ll turn away from evil and error.

“So” says the Apostle Paul to Timothy “you are in the midst of millions of words,don’t lose heart,keeping preaching the Word,God’s foundation stands firm”.

Those of you who know that the first Rector of St Thomas was a man called William Clarke after whom a High School in the Western Suburbs has been named,may know that he is buried down West Street,1km and if you cross the Freeway and you go to the Cemetery and you see all the graves there of the great ones whose names have been given to suburbs and areas around the lower North Shore. If you see William Clarke’s gravestone,you will find that 2 Timothy 2:19 is the text on the gravestone.  GOD KNOWS HIS PEOPLE – those who know the name of the Lord turn away from evil and error.  It’s a great text to preach from the pulpit – called the Gravestone.

And that’s our first section this morning – God’s Word is our Instrument.  I hope you will pray for me,I hope you will keep praying for Simon,I hope you will pray for the leaders of this church who teach whether it’s Sunday school,Youth or Small Groups that this wonderful Word will be set forth.

Now the second section this morning is Gentle Workers are his Instrument.  Look at verse 24 “The Lord’s servant must not quarrel,instead,he must be kind to everyone,able to teach,not resentful.  Those who oppose him he must gently instruct in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth,and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil,who has taken them captive to do his will”.

Here’s another thing to pray for leaders,pastors,small group leaders because we can make mistakes here very easily.

Now the Word of God as we’ve just heard is telling us what to do and how to do it.  We are in the middle of a million words that will come to us today,some of them are lies,some are stupidities and we need to put our mind again and again back on to the Word of God.

You may feel as though your Bible is a bit unnecessary to your life.  I can only say you have made a mistake if you think like that.  You may feel as though to carry a Bible with a big black leather cover makes you look like a bit of a weirdo (and it possibly may) but inside it is very great stuff and the Bible is the light switch that God uses to illumine all around the world.

Now what do you do if in your Christian living or your Christian ministry you face strong opposition? And Hymenaeus seems to have been a very strong opponent.   We are told in 1 Timothy 1:20 that Paul excommunicated Hymenaeus but here he is in 2 Timothy 2 still around.  What is the Key?  What will we do when we have someone in the church who is a strong heretic?  Is it time to get rid of your gentle,well not so gentle pastors,and bring in the ‘evangelical Clint Eastwood’ to be your new pastor who can point his big guns and get things done?

The Apostle Paul says we need a gentle pastor (verse 24).  Be kind,Be Gentle.  Now we say,that will never work – it will never work – the last thing we need is some kind of weak wimpy womanly pastor who will be a pushover – it will never work!  Well the Apostle Paul says that’s how God works. 

In my last church which was now 25 years ago in the Western suburbs of Sydney,there was a group of older men in the church who were peddling a heresy.  The heresy involved going on a secret weekend.  When you went on a secret weekend you became a kind of a brand new A-Grade Christian and you then joined their particular house church and the house church was superior to everything else that was going on in the church.

I watched this group of older men and they moved around at the coffee time,they would sort of sidle up to people and they would invite them away on their weekend and if people went away on the weekend,they were never the same.  From then on they were strangely suspicious towards me and they were unavailable for anything that was going on in the church.  I didn’t really know what to do.  I watched it with a great deal of trepidation and a great deal of weakness.

I met with them and I warned them – it had no affect on them.  So I kept on with the work of the ministry and prayed that God would do something and one January,the whole group (all 30) just did not appear and never appeared – they just up and left!  It was a blessed subtraction.  And within a couple of months,God brought the same number of new people into the church and I am telling you that,not because I think I did the clever thing or not because I did the brave thing but because God works through the work of the Word without necessarily having a “punch-up” and that group of people were moved in God’s providence quickly.  It doesn’t always happen quickly but it is our priority to keep going with the Word gently.

Now the Apostle Paul says (verse 19) that God has a strong house and (verse 20) turns to the household items in the house and he means by this primarily leaders but also he would mean all Christians.  And he says in the house you have got containers – you’ve got containers for lovely things and you’ve got containers for garbage.

In the very frank words of Mark Driscoll,’you’ve got bowls you eat from and you’ve got bowls you sit on’.

And the point is all of those containers and all of those bowls are useful but some of them are being used for lovely things and some of them are being used for unlovely things.  The Apostle Paul says that if a pastor cleanses himself or perhaps he might say if a believer cleanses himself or herself from things which contaminate,then they will be suitable for the noble work of the word.

I don’t think the Apostle Paul is saying that a pastor or a Christian can cleanse themselves from evil in order to promote themselves to great things.  I think he is says the ministry is great and therefore it’s important for you to cleanse yourself for what is great,i.e. the work of the ministry and the work of the Word.

And so he says you must cleanse yourself from things which are unsuitable to the work.  You cannot do the work with a sinful life.  If a person is going to be faithful to Jesus,they need orthodoxy and they need orthopraxy.  They need to be clear and they need to be clean. 

Now we know of course that God can use anybody he likes and he uses occasionally sinful people and he uses sinful nations in the Old Testament and we know also of course that we are never going to be sinless in this world,but nevertheless there is a role to play in getting the message clear and getting the messenger clean.

Timothy (verse 22) must run from things which are destructive – evil desires and he must run like an athlete after righteousness etc.  The evil desires are probably not things that are just sexual and sensual but they may be what one commentator calls “head strong young desires” – immature things like being arrogant,being unteachable,being self righteous,being ambitious,being superior,pushy,assertive and unco-operative. 

And the reason the Apostle is calling on Timothy to do this is because the servant of the Lord must take a low place (verse 24) “they must take a humble position”.  They must be kind,able to teach,not resentful and gentle.

Now friends again,as we come to the end this morning,do you not think that’s unlikely to be unworkable?  Would it be much better if there were somebody who never backed down and never took a humble position?  The Apostle Paul says ‘it’s necessary,it’s essential,this is how God works’.

Ultimately,you see,Timothy is walking in the way of Christ.  When Jesus came into the world there were millions of words and he brought The Word.  And when he brought The Word,he didn’t write any books and he didn’t get any TV contracts but he brought The Word and he spoke The Word and The Word was recorded and The Word of God is now going around the world and transforming thousands and thousands and thousands of people every minute.  The Word is the instrument and when Jesus came into the world of course we know he took the lowest place of all.  He had all the power and he let everybody apparently have their way with him.  He didn’t ask the question “what do I deserve or what do I want?”  He asked the question “what is the Father’s will?” And the Father’s will was to go to the cross and to carry our sins in order that we might be given righteousness.

And up from the grave he came and offers life and salvation to all who will believe – unbelievable transformation through the weakness of the cross.  And therefore as we think about the local church – what should we be doing?  The answer is – we must keep opening the Word for ourselves and our families,our small groups and our churches because that’s the way God works.

And we must keep doing it gently,lovingly,patiently and kindly,not resentfully because that’s how God does his work.

Let’s pray –

Our Father we give you our thanks this morning for the Lord Jesus,for bringing the Word into this world of words and we thank you so much for the truth which sets us free.

We especially thank you for the Lord Jesus taking the humble lowest place of the cross in order that we who trust might be given new life and new hope.  We ask that you would help us as we walk as your people,forgiven,saved,love and kept to learn from this part of your Word,to trust your Word and to use it and to trust the manner in which you have asked us to live.

And we pray this for your glory and in Jesus’ Name – Amen.