Alistair Begg addresses the need for pastors to continually “press the gospel message home.” From 2 Timothy 4:1-9, he charges them to focus on the ministry of the Word in a climate marked by moral and doctrinal confusion.
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Alistair Begg: I invite you to turn with me to 2 Timothy 4. And as you turn there, it’s a great privilege to be here. And to be in the company of others who do what I do Sunday by Sunday and week by week, and in certain cases, to be in the presence of those our wives who sustain us and support us in ways that only we know and God knows. And I never tire of acknowledging their sense of great gratitude and dependence that I have upon my wife and I know that I share that with each of the men that are present here this morning. Thank you for the privilege of being with you.
Now let me read from 2 Timothy 4, and the first eight verses. “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom, preach the Word. Be ready in season and out of season, reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves, teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure ministry,—endure suffering—do the work of an evangelist.” That is almost Freudian. And let’s take verse 6 again here, 5 as it is, “As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. For I’m already been poured out as a drink offering and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Hence there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.” Amen.
Well, just a brief prayer, an old Anglican prayer, “Father what we know not teach us what we have not give us, what we are not make us, for your son’s sake.” Amen. There’s nothing like the prospect of death to clarify the issues of life. As Samuel Johnson on one occasion said, “When a man knows he’s to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.” And I begin in this way because what I want to do is essentially reverse into this passage, I want to acknowledge Verses 6, 7, and 8, and then deal more directly with Verses 1 to 5. Paul here is identifying the fact that he is on his way out, he refers to his passing as his departure, his analyseōs, a favorite word in Greek at the time for the on yoking of an oxen or for the drawing of an anchor, for the taking down of a tent to return to one’s permanent dwelling. So there’s no sense of undue anxiety about this. He recognizes that the writer to the Ecclesiastes had it perfectly plain, when he wrote, “Death is the destiny of every man, the living must take this to heart.”
And so it is that as he realizes that the baton of faith needs to be passed on to another generation. His gaze is on his young lieutenant, Timothy, and he is able to let him know, surely for his great encouragement that God has sustained his mentor, if you like, the apostle, through all these very many dangerous toils and snares, and he is able to say without any sense of self-assertion or self-aggrandizement, Verse 7. And in the Greek as you will know, the nouns come first. So it actually reads, “The fight I have fought, the race I have finished, the faith I have kept,” and what an amazing decoration of the grace and goodness of God. And it leads to the henceforth, the now leads to the then. And so he has this picture of the welcome and of the great triumph that is represented in all that God has in store for those who love Him. Now the crown is an emblem of victory, if you like. The language that he uses is the language of certainty. There’s no sense in which he’s saying, “And I do hope that somehow or another is going to work out properly.” No, he says there is laid up for me, it’s in will call.
I remember when I came to America for the first time and someone invited me to a game and I said, “Where will I get my ticket?” And they said, “It’s in will call.” I didn’t even know whether that was one word or two words or what it was. But I didn’t want to admit that I was so silly. And so I said, “Well, that’s fine.” But then when I got to the place, I didn’t know what I was looking for. And eventually, I did track it down. Well, the certainty of it is there, there is laid out for me. And then he says, “And of course, not that it is something that is unique to me, but the righteous judge will take care of things on the appointed day. And this will be granted not only to me but also to all who have loved His appearing.” “Now when this passing world is done, and when has sunk yon setting sun,” wrote McCheyne in his late ’20s. Then, in light of that, he says, “Then we’ll really know what’s happening.”
Now, that is all I want to do with those verses, I leave you for homework to fill all the blanks in and there are plenty to be filled in. At the end of Chapter 3, which of course, leads us into Chapter 4, the apostle Paul has been not informing Timothy of something that he didn’t know. But rather he’s been reminding him of that which he must never forget. That’s really the task of the pastor, isn’t it? In the ongoing teaching of the Bible, despite the fact that many people are looking for the intriguing and the new and the novel, faithfulness to the task involves so much of reminding people of what together we must never forget. Taking a leaf, if you like, out of the Apostle Peter’s book, “Although you know these things and they’re firmly grounded in the truth that you have, I intend always to remind you of these things, so that after my departure, my analyseōs, when I have faded from view, that you will be able to bring these things to mind.” And so it is that he has reminded him of the Scriptures, the well-known verses there in 16 and 17 of Chapter 3. They are divinely inspired. They are completely reliable, they are totally sufficient, and they provide the key to the competence and usefulness of the man of God.
And so it is that Timothy having already in this letter being made aware of the fact that people had turned away from Paul, had deserted him, it seemed like it’d been a whole-scale abandonment. Now he wants to make sure that Timothy understands, “They turned away from me,” in Verse 4, “and they will turn away from you as well.” In fact, if you think about it from a human perspective, from a human perspective, there is no guarantee that the church was going to make it into the next generation. For now, this is the transition from the Apostolic to the post-Apostolic Church. Therefore, it is not a matter of marginal concern in the relay race, that little box however large it is, is the place in which that transition must take place. If it is dropped before, during or after you’re pretty well finished. And so Paul is saying, “Now listen here, they gave me the business. And they’ll give you the business as well.” And so let me just remind you, and then he issues this charge. And that would really be my first point. In Verses 1 and 2, the charge that he gives to Timothy, I charge you. Let’s just say a couple of things about it. First of all, it is a solemn charge. It is a solemn charge. There’s nothing casual or inconsequential about it.
One of the great dangers of the world in which we know live is a sort of superficial frivolity about things. And it can creep into every area of our lives. Funeral services where you’re not allowed to be sad because it’s now a celebration. Whoever turned a funeral into a celebration? I’ll tell you why. Because we don’t have a theology for sadness. We don’t really have a theology for suffering. We want immediately, to move to the celebratory and triumphant aspects of things before we have even had the moment to sit and say, “Death is a dreadful enemy, the last enemy to be destroyed.” And we do a great disservice, I think in passing, in a way many of us have been tempted to transform the solemnization of death with a celebration of life. And so the screens are filled with pictures of Mr. Thompson, you know, when he was skiing in Vail, and when he was surfing in Hawaii, and when he was successful in whatever it is, but the tragedy is the guy is dead. You see, he’s in a box right at the front here. And nobody wants to think about this. So well, let’s just put pictures of him up there, but he’s not up there. And depending on where you are, you will receive this dreadful poetry that goes along with it, “He is not here. He has just moved to the other room.” To which you need to say, “No, he hasn’t. I was in the other room and he wasn’t there.” Because he isn’t there.
Now that’s a tangential run that I did not plan and I will bring myself right back on track. We’re not talking about funerals, Alistair we’re not talking about funerals. I acknowledge that. That’s fine. Matthew to the point of solemness or solemnization, Matthew Henry says, “The best of men have need to be awed, A-W-E-D to the discharge of their duty. The best of men have need to be awed to the discharge of their duty.” Now what could be more awesome than these opening phrases from the pen of Paul, “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus.” Timothy, exercises his ministry with the Father and the Son as his witness. “And when Jesus comes, he is going to appear, and he will judge the living and the dead.” Now Paul lived his life in light of Christ’s appearing. His whole spiritual journey is framed by that appearing on the Damascus Road, and the appearing that he now anticipates when he will encounter Christ in all of his glory. The consummation of His kingdom, filled his vision. And what he’s now saying to Timothy is, “It is vital Timothy that this is true of you.” After all, as a pastor, you’re keeping watch over the souls of your flock, they are under your care.
The writer to the Hebrews reminds us that we do so as men who must give an account. Give an account to who? Give an account to the great shepherd of the sheep. And what Paul understood lived in the light of and now is passing on to Timothy is the fact that the way to really live in the now is to allow the shadow of the then to be cast as it were over the framework of our lives. Not that we live morbid lives, but that we realize that we are very frail, that we are glad to be led in praise when we sing, “Frailer summers flower, we flourish and blows the wind and it is gone. The grass withers, the flower falls, the Word of God endures forever.” It is in light of that that he then encourages him. The charge is solemn. Secondly, let me suggest to you that it is simple, in the sense that it is straightforward. It’s not hard to grasp. All that Paul has already written concerning this, his exhortation to preach the Word of God does not if you like come out of the blue. There is much that he has said along the way that is led to this.
He’s written concerning the pattern of sound words in Chapter 1. He refers to it as the good deposit, the word of truth in chapter 2. The sacred writings in chapter 3. All of that terminology and phraseology underpins what he now charges Timothy with. “In other words, Timothy, your ministry is a ministry of the Word. It is a Word ministry. It is to be exercised Timothy in the awareness of the fact that the Word of God does the work of God, by the Spirit of God in the people of God.” It is a Word ministry. And effective teaching and preaching of the Bible is actually not related in any useful sense to the peculiar idiosyncrasies, abilities, or giftedness of any individual. Because the real issue in the opening up of Scripture is this, our primary objective in opening up the Bible is not simply to give men and women a greater understanding of the portion that is under consideration with a few points of application to consider over lunchtime or later in the week. Our primary objective we do that, but our primary objective is that the Word of God may create by the Spirit of God a divine encounter with God Himself, so that we have in a strange and mysterious way, almost been caught up and beyond all of the bits and pieces that are going on around us.
It’s as if you could take the individual out of it, you could put them behind a curtain, it doesn’t matter anymore. For we are concerned that it is the Word that is set forward. I’d like to be up here I recognize what it is. It’s a stage. It’s not my favorite thing to preach from a stage. I don’t even like the idea of a stage as it were, but I wasn’t supposed to mention that, but I’ve done it now. But when you go to a church in Scotland, you will see something very, very different. And one of my lasting memories as a boy growing up is sitting beside my father and watching as the beadle, not the beetle, but the beadle came out carrying a massive Bible, and then went up the stairs into the pulpit. And then he laid the Bible on the pulpit, and then he opened it to the passage that would be read. And then he turned around and went back down the stairs and went away. I said, “I wonder what happens next.” And then the door opened out, he came again. And this time he stood aside, and the minister came up and up the stairs he came, and then the beadle came behind him. And as soon as the minister had sat down, then the beadle close the door locked him in, as it were.
So as a boy, I said, “Well, whatever is about to happen, it’s got something to do with that big book that that fellow carried up there. And presumably, the man who came up just now is shut up to the task that is tied to that book. He surely must know he’s not a performer on a stage he surely must know he’s not an entertainer. He surely must know that he hasn’t been set apart for the ministry of the Word to show video clips for the rest of his life. He must know that it is about the Bible. It is the ministry of the Word of God. Why would he be surprised from the very beginning. It is from the lips of God, from the mouth of God that we have the word of God.” Deuteronomy 4, “He says to Moses, ‘Gather the people to Me, that I may let them hear My words.” Hear my words. The reason that we gather is to hear from God. What God has said to us is far more significant than anything we ever have to say to Him. “Gather the people that they might hear my words so that they may learn to fear me all the days,” I’m quoting from Deuteronomy 4:10b, “All the days that they live in the earth and that they may teach their children. And so the Lord spoke to you out of the midst of the fire, you’ll tell him that, and you’ll tell them that you heard the sound of words, but you saw no form. There was only a voice.” Only a voice. Only a voice.
Gresham Machen, late of Westminster, said to his students, “It is with the open Bible that the real Christian preacher comes before the congregation. He does not come to present his opinions, he does not come to present the results of his researches in the phenomena of religion. But he comes to set forward what is contained in the Word of God.” What God has spoken to the apostles, as then being bequeath to us in the pages of the New Testament, so that we now here with this apostolic material are to preach then the Word and to preach nothing but the Word of God. That’s it.
The great Methodist preacher in the early part of the 20th century said on one occasion, “Preaching is in the shadows, the world does not believe in it.” Surely we’re not prepared to accept the fact that now in the second decade of the 21st century, we need to use the same phraseology and just changed one word, “Preaching is in the shadows, the church does not believe in it.” We’re sorely in need of this charge. We’re sorely in need of being convinced, I am. As the climate around us is so various, that the regular expository preaching and teaching of the Bible is the driving force that shapes authentic church life. Now that’s all in verse 1. In verse 2, Paul is making it clear that there are seasons, preach the word be ready in season, seasons that are more daunting than others. If you stay for any length of time in a pastorate you know that there are cycles. Sometimes it feels like spring, sometimes it feels like autumn sometimes it can feel forever like winter in Cleveland, Ohio. And there, if you’ve never experienced that, you’ll have to come back and I can introduce you to it.
What is he saying here? Well, the NEB that’s the New English Bible if there was a translation called that translates this, “Press the message home on all occasions, convenient or inconvenient.” Press the message home. When people are hostile when they’re receptive, when they’re tuned in, when they’re tuned out. When the prospect of Sunday is delightful, when the prospect of Sunday is dreadful, when the crowds are growing, when the crowds are dwindling. When you come home from the evening service, you tell your wife, “Tomorrow morning, I’m going to get a proper job.” And she says to you what my wife says to me, “You are completely unemployable, stick at what you’re doing. ”
Now when we allow the Bible, when if you like to change metaphors, when we allow the club head to do the work, then the work of reproving and rebuking and exhorting will all take place. It won’t always be comfortable, but it will always be profitable. That’s what he had said back in Chapter 3. The final phrase of Verse 2 is that the real sting in the tail for me I think, with complete patience and teaching. Now what a difference so a word like that can make. Why does it have to say complete? Why cannot have said with a wee bit of patience. Jimmy Fellers, paraphrases it, “Using the utmost patience in your teaching,” the NIV, “With great patience and careful instruction.” And here, a complete patience and teaching. I guess one of the things and I was asked a couple of days ago on Focus on the Family by a young fellow, “Well, what about when you were young?” I said, “I beg your pardon?” But he said, “What about when you were young?” And I said, “Well, I think, he was asking about what can younger men learn? And I said, “You know, looking back on it, I regret how impatient I was with my congregation. How hortatory or hortatory? I think you say, how hortatory that, my exhorting.” You know, come on, come on, you know, did you not hear me I said, “Come on.” And when you’re young, you know, you look at other guys you think “Well, I can do that right now. I mean, I’m gonna do that now.” And you need to read Martyn Lloyd Jones. He says, “A young minister is prone to try to attain by one jump, the height which others have reached by a long series of single steps in the labor of quarter of a century.”
We tend to overestimate what we can accomplish in a year and underestimate what we can accomplish in five years. Or we should move on shouldn’t we just let’s recap the charges solemn and it is the same time straightforward. It is the inerrant Word of God we need to preach when the wind is with us, and when all occasions to inform against us. And we are to do this patiently and carefully. Now he goes on to say the reason that this charge is so vitally important is because there is a real challenge in the climate in which Timothy was operating there in an environment that was full of people who are on the one hand, doctrinally not really very alert and certain and consequently, morally all over the place. We might actually summarize his context or the climate in which he was ministering and fulfilling this charge as a realm of moral and doctrinal confusion. I think that would help us immediately to say, “Well, I think I can identify with that,” because he’s already made aware that there have been those who have swerved from the truth. Remember back in Chapter 2 “Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus who have swerved from the truth.” And so Timothy needs to exercise his ministry with people who are turning away from the truth and who are turning in to myths. The time is coming.
Well, it’s always coming. what he’s referring to here is not unique to a period in history. It’s not something that was in the future for Timothy there was no reason for him to simply point to an eventuality that was not his to consider. No, no. This is a recurring phenomenon. He had said in Chapter 3, “Understand that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.” Now when we quote it from Deuteronomy 4, which is a long time before he writes this letter, Moses had given a real clear word to the people, hadn’t he? “God has spoken to me and he’s told me to get you together here. There’s a lot of stuff going on around you, earthquakes and lightnings, and flashings and many, many things to distract you. But I want to tell you that God has spoken and I come to remind you that it was only a voice.” Or you read on there in Deuteronomy and beyond and what you discover that within a very short period of time, those same people of God who had received a direct word through the servant and the Prophet Moses had forsaken the audible for the visual. It seemed far more appealing to them now to see what other people were doing with their little religious expressions and so on. It was going to be far easier for them to embrace some of that stuff, even to invite some of their friends there than have to sit and listen to quotes, another boring sermon. But we’re not going to have another talk, are we?
I hope you’re not one of those people in your congregation that ask the pastor, if you can have communion without preaching, or prayer without the Word. Do you know how quickly in a generation, the dependence upon the Word of God can shift? What had happened to the people was that they had just begun to do exactly what the Bible says they would do. And that is they began to bow before the Creator, not before the creator I should say. They began to bow before their own little creations. They, in Romans terms, exchanged the truth of God for a lie. And so Timothy has to recognize that this is no walk in the park to preach the word in a context that is not dissimilar to that which has gone before. The time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching. He’s already been exhorted to follow the pattern of sound words. In his first letter, he’s warned Timothy about some who teach a different doctrine that does not accord with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ, of those who instead of availing themselves of the teaching that will make them godly and make them spiritually healthy and spiritually useful. They have gone off in search of the intriguing, the fascinating, the speculative and the spicy.
Now this is their recurring story of the people of God. Through the Old Testament and into the new into the context year of Ephesus. So why would we be surprised in our generation to face the very same things, people who are more interested in novelty than they are in orthodoxy. People who if they don’t really like the way the Word of God is opened up to them, they simply move off down the street. In sort of baseball diamond terms of if they don’t the look of it there, they just take their baseball bat and move off to another place. Sometimes, they should be disciplined in the place where they were.
No. And why? “Well, I would like a teacher who’s a nice teacher, not like you Begg. I would like somebody to tell me what I want to hear.” That’s what they would say. They’re itchy ears would cause them to accumulate for themselves. So that in contemporary terms, this CD, that download, this video, that piece. If you found their car, it’s laden up with all manner of this idea, that concept, this concept, everything. They’ve got it all everywhere. And there are clueless, clueless. The more they amass the material, the less they seem to understand. That wasn’t unique to Timothy’s day. Isaiah confronts the very same thing that people of God rejected the instruction not because it wasn’t clear, but because it was clear. It wasn’t that they didn’t understand, it was they understood it too well. I’ve just been removed from my usual teaching at a university in a part of the country that is not too far from here. The reason why I was removed, it wasn’t because they couldn’t understand me, it was because they could understand me and I happen in the course of my address to the university to say, “According to the Bible, marriage is heterosexual. It is monogamous and it lasts for life.”
Begg: And that resulted in a walkout on the part of the student body. In a Christian college. it wasn’t that they didn’t understand me. They understood me too well. Isaiah 30, “‘They are a rebellious people,’ says God through His prophet.” Lying children, children unwilling to hear the instruction of the Lord who say to the seers to not see and say to the prophets, “Do not prophesy to us what is right. Speak to us smooth things, prophesy illusions.” Cue the song, “Tell me lies, tell me lies. Tell me sweet little lies.” It is no new thing to encounter those who are in search of and in turn proponents of spirituality disconnected from biblical truth. That is why Paul has said to Timothy earlier on, “Timothy, continue in the things you have become convinced off knowing those from whom you learn them, and how from infancy you have known the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation.” How I thank God at this point in my life for parents who ignored all my stupid boyhood rebellion, and said, “I know you think this and that but you’ll be in church with us. And yes, you’ll be in church again with us, and again with us.”
And as I look back on my life, I realize in the providence of God, probably most of my Bible memorization took place before the age of 15.
Well, we should move on. You have the same thing in Jeremiah and appalling and horrible thing has happened in land. “The prophets prophesied falsely and the priests rule at their direction. My people love to have it so.” It’s quite gloomy, isn’t it? You say, “Well, who do you think you are? You think your Jeremiah yourself, a reincarnation? Is it gonna go on like this all the way to the end?” I don’t know. I’m looking at my notes just now to see if there’s anything encouraging before we finish. But the observation the condemnation that is represented in the Word of God through the prophets has application far beyond Jeremiah’s day. It rings with sad and telling judgment on my native land. Once the land of the book. Have you been there lately? You have to search it out, don’t you? I’ll say nothing about my adopted home for the last 35 years, you can make your own judgments on that.
So the charge then in 1 and 2 I hope is a clear, simple, straightforward charge. The climate in Verses 3 and 4 is not exactly attractive. This picture of people roaming to and fro, reminding us of how spiritual they are in their interest and yet how confused they are in relationship to things. We being tempted perhaps to move a little with the flow or do whatever we’re going to do, and being called back and saying to ourselves “Well, what given that this is the climate? What am I supposed to do now? What I do in this environment?” I was thinking about it this morning, I was reading over my notes here early in the morning. And as I was thinking that thought to myself, it reminded me of a golf game that I had played at a club on the east side of Cleveland some years ago, when I was invited by one of the people in my congregation to play in a member guest event. And I was actually quite nervous about it and my nerves combined with a classic lack of inability proved very strong in the opening holes. And the opening hole I know the course well and I was out of the hole very early on the extra stroke that I had because of my exorbitantly high handicap was proved totally useless.
And so the fellow who had taken me because he thought my high handicap combined with a measure of providence, my yield benefits. And the second hole is a big dogleg to the right and I hit it into…it was terrible. And the third hole has a long run of trees on the left hand side from the tee and it stretches way down. I stood up on the tee even more nervous now as a result of the first two holes and I put the ball within about 25 feet directly into the trees on the left. And we made it to the end of that hole. Number four is a part three. And I hit my ball on this part three, it went through the green and into a bunker behind the green. I went in the bunker, I hit it out of the bunker, it went through the green and into the bunker on the front side of the green. I’m not inventing this. It’s etched into indelibly in my…in fact, I need counseling for this. I went in a bunker now we hit one in a bunker, two in a bunker. Now it’s a par three. So I’m hitting three out of the bunker I am determined to get it out and I do get it out. It goes beyond everything in proximity and ricochets off into oblivion somewhere over here. And as I come out, I look at Jimmy and I say, “What do I do now?” And he said, “Get in the cart.”
It was so humiliating. But it’s in my putt right, I sat in the cart, you know, waiting for him to finish the hole and the people they don’t know me. And then now we’re on I mean, oh, it was terrible, but it was beyond comprehension. “What do I do now?” “Get in the cart.”
Well, here’s Timothy and he says, “What do I do now?” And what does he say? Well, he doesn’t say get in the cart, he basically says to him, “Get committed, get committed.” And he gives it to us very straightforwardly in the NIV, I think I remember it. “Keep your head and all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.” Four imperatives, four more imperatives to the five that we’ve already encountered although I didn’t mention them in Verse 2. Here is a tall order Timothy here is a man-size challenge with due respect to all the ladies present.
Here is a realistic statement of what Christian ministry is all about. Confronted by opposition by isolation, it would be relatively easy for him to throw in the towel in Olympian terms to jump out of the relay and throw himself down on the grass. But this is no time for self-pity, this is rather an opportunity to stay steady to face whatever suffering may come to go on steadily preaching the gospel to complete the task. So let’s just notice these and then you can make a sermon out of them on your own. Because if you haven’t prepared for Sunday, you’re going to need something and you might as well have Verse 5. So I’ll give you the points. Actually the points are here and then you just fill it in. I do it myself. We all use Spurgeon. We figure he’s dead. We’ll talk to him about it later.
So what are to do? This preaching the Word business is so jolly difficult. Number one, always be sober minded. Always be sober minded. That’s the NIV, “Keep your head.” There were people all around him who had become intoxicated if you like with a heavy wine of all this different nonsense. They had wandered away, they had drifted off. Therefore it would not be a good time for him to use pastoral cruise control or to put things on automatic pilot. I flew here from Colorado Springs yesterday, courtesy of a friend. We landed first in Camarillo. And then from Camarillo down to Orange County. And the thing that struck me was not the fact that I was able to see how meticulous they were in doing the pre-flight check leaving Colorado Springs, but when it was only me left on the airplane from Camarillo to Orange County, and they had already done all that stuff, they did it all again before they left from Camarillo to make her like 14-minute flight. Some of us I think “Oh, we’ve got this covered.” How are we on your pre-flight check? Remember when you used to actually kneel down at your chair when you read your notes before you finally preach them. Remember the times in the middle of the night when you couldn’t sleep you lay down on the bedroom floor, your wife didn’t know what the world was going on. Oh, surely we haven’t got beyond that. Then fall asleep, essential that we’re alert, that we’re vigilant, that we’re not succumbing to the speculative notions. We’re not allowing ourselves to be unsettled by the numbers that are drawn away by other kinds of teachers.
If you think about it, he’s saying here, make sure that you are always sober-minded. In other words, this sense of keeping the head and being alert and engage is not to be intermittent. If we go back to the flight analogy for just a moment where you get on the flight with Alaska Airlines or whatever else it is and the fellow comes on and he says, “We’re going to head out now to Boston. And I want you to know that it is my firm intention not to crash very often.” You say, “Yeah, I’ve got to get off right now.” Not to crash very often not to crash at all, not intermittent. Keep your head, always, in all situations secondly, endure suffering, suffering. It’s not a new note, he began that way didn’t be in the latter, “Share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God.” He went on to say, “And you should know this is why I suffer as I do.” In Chapter 2, he says, “This is my gospel for which I am suffering.” In Paul’s case, it was certainly physical as it is for many of our brothers and sisters throughout the world today. For Timothy may have proved that way in the end. For us, it may be more mental, more emotional, although physical may be on our horizon. People chasing around in search of all kinds of acceptable Gospels. There’s a cost involved in guarding the good deposit. To be prepared to declare in public and in private, the Bible’s assessment of man, quaint man, as sinful, guilty, responsible, and lost.
May I say especially to the younger men who are here, if you are prepared in your pulpit winsomely, kindly, but unequivocally, to declare man’s condition as a sinner before God. It will come at a cost. You will suffer because you will face accusations, you will face insinuations, the evil one comes to us then to deceive us, to discourage us, to derail us if he could. That’s why Paul when he gives his imperatives, he’s always framing them in the indicative, isn’t he? That’s why at the beginning of Chapter 2, he says, “Be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” Because you get up in the morning, and say, “I don’t know if I’m sufficient for this. I thought this would get easier. It’s getting harder the older I get. I go back to Verse 5, oh, but I remember now, I was forced to keep my head, endure suffering. Thirdly, do the work of an evangelist.” I don’t think Paul is suggesting a change of job for Timothy, that he’s gonna move from being a pastor to an evangelist rather, he’s simply reinforcing the charge to preach the word. Phillips paraphrases it, “Go on steadily preaching the gospel.”
I’ve always been helped by Jim Packer, in a quote from A Quest for Godliness in relationship to this, because as we unfold the Bible, we’re always dealing both in evangelism and in edification, and the things are interwoven with one another. And this quote I found helpful and you can find it in that book for yourself eventually. Packer writes, “If one preaches the Bible biblically, one cannot help preaching the gospel all the time.” And every sermon will be as Bolton said, at least by implication, evangelistic.
In my lifetime, I’ve watched sadly as good and effective, godly gospel ministers have deviated from course for all kinds of reasons, many of them, at least initially good. But Paul says, “Timothy, you don’t neglect the ongoing work of declaring that the Son of God came to die for us and for our sins, that he now offers to close us in his righteousness to present us faultless before his presence in eternity that the only safe haven for a man or woman is in the mercy of God, as manifested in Christ, in whom every part of our salvation is complete.” “The passion for evangelism” wrote John Murray on one occasion, “is quenched when we lose sight of the grandeur of the gospel.”
And finally, in a great summary phrase, he says, “And I want you to make sure you fulfill your ministry, keep going, finish the job, discharge all the duties, carry out to the full the commission God gave you.” Sometimes on a Saturday, I used to help my father try and polish his car. He kept his car very clean. And he would polish it, he put on Simoniz or something, it was called it was, and it made it all very cloudy. And then in a burst of enthusiasm, I would come out and I’d say, “May I help you dad?” And then he would give me a duster and then he would give me an assigned piece. You know, maybe just beside the bonnet and behind the headlights, and I would start off with great enthusiasm. And then in relatively short order, I would say, “I think I’ll go somewhere else now.” Or sometimes I just grew a little less enthusiastic and so instead it’s like at the car wash. Now when I watch boys, I had a guy doing my car the other day, he had one hand in his pocket and the other hand, he was just [gesturing]. And I’m saying to myself, “This guy wants a tip for this? When he’s doing like that.” But then I hear my father’s voice he used to say to me, “Son, rub it, don’t tickle it.”
Timothy’s made a promise in his ordination, so have you, so have I. Timothy was indebted to Paul just as you and I are indebted to those who have led us, who have nurtured us, who continue to encourage and inspire us. Timothy was preaching in between two worlds, between the unerring authority and sufficiency of the Word of God, and the world in which that Word was opposed. He was ministering in a climate where the foundations were crumbling underneath people’s feet, and so are we. And he needed to be absolutely convinced that the foundation upon which he stood, and therefore of the sufficient authority of the word as it was conveyed.
Ligon mentioned my friendship with Sinclair and actually, I adopted him as my big brother, not officially, but unofficially. When my father died, I figured I don’t have a brother so I will adopt Sinclair. If you wanna choose a big brother, choose a good one. And so there we have it. But just so happens that before I left, he had written to me just a very brief text the other night. And the text on my phone said, “Sitting in the dark,” and then he put “externally” so that I wouldn’t think that he’d gone into the dark side. Only Sinclair would think that he had to clarify that. I didn’t think for a minute, you know, that he’d gone, that he’d become a voodoo priest or something. Anyway, it reads, “Sitting in the dark thinking about you. Had Alec Motyer’s book on preaching in hand.” Next sentence. “Now we are those older men. Now we are those older men.”
So let me finish with a quote from J. C. Ryle, “Fear not for the Church of Christ, when ministers die, and saints are taken away. Christ can ever maintain his own cause. He will raise up better servants and brighter stars. The stars are all in his right hand. Leave off all anxious thought about the future, cease to be cast down by the measures of statesman or the plots of wolves in sheep’s clothing. Christ will ever provide for his own church. Christ will take care that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. All is going on well, though our eyes may not see it. The kingdoms of this world shall yet become the kingdoms of our God and of His Christ.”
Well, Father, we believe that and we pray that you will help us to live in the light of it. Save us, Lord from turning our pulpits into a kind of cursing of the darkness or moaning and groaning about things. Lord, just please help us to have our feet firmly planted, grounded in the foundation laid for us in your Word. So that we might reach out from that solid place our hands, our arms, our lives, our love, to those who wrestle with a troubled sin. So that along with Paul and Timothy and the rest, we will join in declaring in your presence for it is from Him and through Him and to Him, that are all things and in Jesus name we pray. Amen.