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Pastor Randy’s Top 66 – 2 Timothy

  |   Words of Grace

“In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction.”  2 Timothy 4:1-2

I failed to mention in my ‘insight’ to 1 Timothy that it (and 2 Timothy) were written by the apostle Paul to a young pastor named Timothy. Timothy had been a traveling companion of Paul on his second missionary journey and was with Paul when he established churches in Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea (Acts 14:8-20). In 1 Thessalonians we read that Timothy was sent to Thessalonica to strengthen the faith of believers there (1 Thessalonians 3:1-2).  When Paul spent three years teaching in Ephesus, Timothy was with him.  And when Paul was imprisoned in Rome for two years, Timothy was right alongside him to care for his needs.

First Timothy was probably written around AD 64, when Timothy was pastoring the church at Ephesus.  The second Letter to Timothy was written around AD 67, when Paul was in a Roman dungeon.  Both Letters encourage Timothy as a young pastor to stay the course. The verses I have picked from this Second Letter are especially significant to pastors – since Timothy is a pastor – but these words are relevant to all Christians.

Just as Paul used a powerful opening phrase in 1 Timothy 1:15, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance”, to emphasize what he was about to say, Paul does a similar thing with the opening of these verses.  We read again in 2 Timothy 4:1,

“In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge 
the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing 
and his kingdom, I give you this charge…”.

Now, THAT’S a phrase of introduction!  In essence Paul is saying to Timothy, “What I’m about to tell you Timothy is SO important that I stand in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge all – especially me as an apostle – and not knowing when Jesus will  reappear to consummate His eternal kingdom on earth – so, trust me on this one Timothy!  Listen carefully….”.

And what does Paul feel is so vitally important?  Three words – three words that any of my pastor friends will know that I say to them ALL THE TIME, because I am convinced that this responsibility that Paul shares in a mere three words, so paramount to the advancement of God’s Kingdom here on earth.  And what are those three words?  PREACH. THE. WORD.

That might not surprise you because you think that’s what all Christian pastors do, right?  They teach us the Bible, or what the Bible says, and then how we can apply that teaching to everyday life.  Well, I’m no expert on this, and I don’t claim to be ‘Bible Preacher of the Year’, but the truth is, a lot of pastors are NOT teaching the Bible. They are teaching ‘everyday life stuff’ and finding a Bible verse or two to back it up.  I remember listening online to a sermon preached by a former youth pastor that I knew, who had started his own ‘hip’ church. Oh, I guess I just aged myself by saying ‘hip’, so let’s say that he was trying to get started a ‘relevant emergent church’, which were terms used (especially ‘emergent’) some years ago, but I won’t go there now.  Anyway, I really wanted and hoped to hear the young man – who at the time was probably (and still is) around the same age as me – preach from the Word of God, because as a youth pastor he had a reputation as being a very popular youth pastor with a large youth group in a mainline denominational church.

Well, I listened to his fifty-minute ‘sermon’ and although he talked about ‘spiritual things’ he partially quoted or reference one Bible verse, and everything else was fluff.  Stories from his past; from his youth group days, and although he was ‘engaging’ as a speaker, there was no meat to his message – just Twinkies with a couple of carrots thrown in.

Now, I’m not being critical and ‘judgmental’ of a fellow Preacher of the Word, but he really wasn’t – at least that particular Sunday morning – a Preacher of the Word.

Any of you who know me know that I am an expository preacher.  That means that I preach verse-by-verse through an entire Book of the Bible – from the first verse until the last verse, skipping none of the verses (Job is a different case, that maybe I’ll explain another time).  It’s not just ‘this Greek or Hebrew word means this or that’ and stuff along that vein.

Actually, since I have a difficult time speaking the only language I know (that’s English!), I’m not about to wrestle with two other difficult languages!  Oh, of course, I do when it’s necessary or important, but the key to preaching expositorily is that you are NOT showing off all the Greek and Hebrew that you know (I know a little Greek – I married her!), but rather you are teaching the Word as it was written by the author, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, for a particular group of people (or person, as in the case of Paul’s two Letters to Timothy, one to Titus, and one to Philemon), at a particular time, culture, and for a particular reason.

What my goal is with each sermon is to help the congregation learn and understand the historical and cultural context, and the context of the verse or verses in relation to the verses around them, and the chapter those verses are in.  That way we get the ‘whole story’ and not just a verse here, and a verse there, all possibly taken out of context.

This might be a poor analogy, but imagine if I was trying to get a spiritual (or in my illustration, a secular) point across to the congregation by using the works of Shakespeare.  William Shakespeare wrote 37 plays.  Now, what if I took a line from each play and put them together to make my point, would that be acceptable?  I know that all 37 plays by Shakespeare are on very diverse subjects with different types of characters, but I think you can see that it wouldn’t be right to take lines out of context to try to make a profound point.

Fortunately, the Bible is one continuous story of redemption, but still – you’re talking about inspired material that was written to a very wide array of people and people groups.  You have preaching/prophecy spoken specifically to the rebellious Israelites under captivity in Babylon; Paul talking to a wealthy Christian in Philippi named Philemon about forgiving his runaway slave Onesimus; Jesus telling parables to the people; and the apostle John having visions of the future.  They all ultimately point to our redemption, but still, if the pastor isn’t careful, he may be taking verses way out of their historical, cultural, and spiritual context to make a point that is nowhere near correct.

But, if you are preaching one verse following the other, and still referencing many other Bible verses – as long as the pastor investigates those verses to make sure they really are in the proper context – then it’s a lot more difficult to get off centered with a particular pericope (section of related verses or story).

Oh sure, if you listen to my sermons on Facebook ‘live’ you will know that I share stories of my own life, but hopefully the sermon isn’t about me, but about the Word of God.  My life isn’t going to spiritually and eternally transform you – but God’s Word will.  We read in this Second Letter of Timothy (I decided NOT to write about these verses because I spoke about them way back when I wrote about the Old Testament Book of Ezra, and then again with 2 Thessalonians), the third chapter, and the fifteenth verse,

“….and how from infancy you (Timothy) have known the 
holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for 
salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”

We see here that the Lord uses the Word of God – not funny stories from Chicken Soup For the Soul – to bring sinners to a saving faith in Jesus Christ.

But here’s the rub:  many in the church today don’t want to hear an exposition of the Word because their faith is immature and our culture has unfortunately taught them to look for entertainment instead of transformation.

Think about this for a moment:  the average high school student today sits through a 45 minute geometry class; then sits through a 45 minute history class; then goes to a class and listens to a talk about Shakespeare for another 45 minutes, ad nauseum; but they can’t sit still for a 45 minute exposition of the life transforming Word of God. Granted, if the pastor is boring, then it can be tough, and that’s why pastors need to learn who their audience is; make the exposition relevant, and inspired by the Lord.

And I’m not just talking about high school students!  As adults we can sit through a three-hour baseball game (I’m talking to me!), which I must admit, isn’t always ‘entertaining’; or an hour long soap opera; or whatever, and we can’t sit and stay alert and attentive to the Word of God being preached.

I think that at this point (because I’m ‘preaching’ too long right now!) we need to look at the rest of the verse and verses three and four, because they are very relevant to my point. All of verse two says,

“Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction.”

We see here that Paul is telling Pastor Timothy to ‘preach the Word’ – focus his attention on what the Holy Spirit has left us.  And then that pastor is to be prepared in season and out of season, which not only means that we should – as Peter tells us in 1 Peter 3:15 – “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect”– but be prepared with the material at hand on Sunday morning….in other words, don’t ‘wing it’!

And the preaching of the Word isn’t just to be informative, but rather relevant – it should correct us where we need to be corrected; it should rebuke us if we are in sin; and it should encourage us – build us up on the faith so that we can be prepared for works of service (Ephesians 4:12).  And the pastor should teach/preach carefully – taking his time – and with much patience because not everyone is at the same place in their spiritual maturity.  The toughest part of my sermon preparation is remembering that some people are sitting there who are very strong and mature in the faith – and they need the meat of the Word – some other folks are maturing in their faith – and they need a good dose of veggies – some are very young in the faith – so they need milk – and then there are unbelievers present, so I have to present the Gospel clearly and with biblical and Spirit-led conviction.  It’s a tough crowd!

And finally, why should pastors in the 21st-century ‘preach the Word’?  Look quickly with me at verses three and four:

For the time will come when people will not put up with 
sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will 
gather around them a great number of teachers to say 
what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their 
ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

I don’t want to just throw out there that these verses are talking about today because the world and the Church have always had to deal with this (as Timothy obviously had to deal with it in his own church in Ephesus!), BUT it is amazing how much we see this going on today.  Oh, there’s a mighty large church in Houston that are busy finding ‘there best life now’ and there’s not a whole lot of Bible exposition going on, but that’s between their pastor and the Lord.

But all I know is that for me and my house – Grace Christian Fellowship – we will not only serve the Lord (this is taken from Joshua 24:15), but we will preach, teach, and by God’s grace and Spirit, live the Word of God, because the day is coming – and has come – when people just want to hear nice things that will make them smile and feel good about themselves, instead of hearing the Word, which will indeed encourage and bring personal peace, but it will also challenge us to live lives of holiness.

So, get involved in a church that loves Jesus; cares for the widows and orphans; cares for the poor; is concerned about justice; but most importantly, firmly believes and teaches that God’s Word is His inspired Voice to His people that will bring salvation, life, repentance, strength, peace, encouragement, correction, and will lead us to righteousness, so that we can stand before the Lord one day and hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!  You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.  Come and share your Master’s happiness!”(Matthew 25:23).