Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Preach the Word

"I solemnly 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, exhort, with great patience and instruction.  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths," (II Timothy 4:1-4). 

In the last section of the last letter he was to pen on this earth, the apostle Paul prefaces his strongest command to his protégé, Timothy, with supreme solemnity.  He appeals to (a) the Father's presence; (b) the Lord Jesus as Judge; (c) His return; and (d) His reign. 

(a)  The writer of Hebrews states, "And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do," (4:13).  The Lord Jesus said, "And I say to you, that every careless word that men shall speak, they shall render account for it in the day of judgment," (Matthew 12:36). 

The one who stands to declare the truth of God before men must continually recall that he speaks in the presence of the living God.  He will incur a stricter judgment (James 3:1), and is accountable for every word that he utters.  He must preach the word as if he were standing in the very throne room of God, with an audience of One.


(b)  As the apostle John records what the Lord Jesus said, "For not even the Father judges any one, but He has given all judgment to the Son," (5:22).  Paul adds, "For we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad," (II Corinthians 5:10). 

All believers will come before the Lord Jesus after the rapture, appearing before His bema for the distribution of rewards (I Corinthians 3:12-15).  Paul's charge to Timothy (and all who are called to preach) is to preach the whole counsel of God with the judgment-seat of Christ in view.  The man of God is to move beyond the evaluation of a congregation, or leadership, to the awareness that he will stand before the righteous Judge of all the earth to give an account for his life and message. 

(c)  Paul's charge includes the element of urgency: the imminent return of the Lord Jesus to gather His elect (John 14:2, 3; I Corinthians 15:50-53; I Thessalonians 4:13-17).  With the time that has elapsed since the Lord ascended back to heaven, the temptation arises to be lulled into complacency.  "After all," the enemy whispers, "it's been a long time... and He probably won't return in your lifetime, anyway."  This temptation is not new, of course (cf. II Peter 3:3, 4). 

The Holy Spirit continues to speak through Scripture, urging the man of God to proclaim the whole counsel of God, since he knows not the hour when the Son of God will split the skies, gather His elect, and take us to glory. 


(d)  The Lord Jesus continues to maintain His three-fold roles of Prophet, Priest, and King.  It is His kingly role that Paul presses upon Timothy in his charge. 

A vivid illustration of the Lord's regal and sovereign reign is given in Isaiah 6.  In the throes of grief upon the prior death of king Uzziah, the prophet came to the temple to worship.  There he was given a life-changing vision of the thrice-holy King upon His throne, surrounded by flaming angels known as seraphim.  Their continual declarations of His holiness, as well as His ineffable presence, and the temple filling with smoke, compelled Isaiah to fall on his face in conviction and awe. 

Centuries later, quoting from the latter portion of that same 6th chapter, John writes, "These things Isaiah said, because he saw His glory, and he spoke of Him," (12:41).

A needed reminder, this.  When the man of God stands to proclaim the truth, he not only stands before mortal man, but the King of kings and Lord of lords! 
May these truths sink deeply into the hearts of both congregation and preacher.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Nothing Is Too Difficult

"For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially of the circumcision, who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach for the sake of sordid gain," (Titus 1:10, 11).

Paul's pastoral heart comes through here, as he considers the immeasurable damage being done to families of believers by false teachers.  Judaizers had slipped into a number of congregations, teaching a works-righteousness, convincing some that salvation may have begun by grace through faith, but works completed the process.  Hence, they needed to be circumcised if they had not been previously, and they must adhere to the Mosaic ceremonies.

Families who were grounded in the truth, who understood the lie represented by this teaching, were understandably upset.  Any teaching which mixes works with grace nullifies the cross and trivializes the atonement (Galatians 2:21).

These men spoke from hearts of rebellion, deception, and greed.  Cloaked in religiously-acceptable language, their manipulative mandates had the insidious intent of "sordid gain."  False teachers' goal of affluence remains the same to this very day.

Paul instructs that these apostates "must be silenced."  In our day, with the incredible financial resources at their disposal, the extensive array of technological tools their ministries enjoy, how can they be silenced?

Prayer.  The most potent resource in the universe, the most effective weapon for the destruction of fortresses, the greatest channel for tapping the omnipotent power of the living God, is prayer.   As Jeremiah prayed, "Ah, Lord GOD! Behold You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You," (32:17). 

You've established Your throne in the heavens, and Your sovereignty rules over all.  As You've declared so clearly, Your thoughts are not our thoughts, neither are our ways Your ways.  Your purposes and plan in allowing apostasy are inscrutable, yet You are good and You do good. 
The enemy and all his forces operate only as You sovereignly allow, and the damage he is doing through false teachers is within Your providential permission.  Still, I would beseech You to silence the heretical teachers who are distorting the truth of Your Word. 
Grant discernment to Your people, the training of their spiritual senses to detect and shun doctrinal error in all its forms.  You know our laziness, our lack of diligence in persevering prayer.  Impress upon us afresh the urgency of the hour, for the sake of Your Name and men's souls. 
In the matchless Name of Your Son, the Lord Jesus, I pray,