Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Examining my ears

Why? Because people prefer to hear anything but the truth (v3-4). See the 'for' at the start of v3. Timothy must carry out this charge because a time will come, and has come in every generation, when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Men and women will call themselves Christians who are really nothing of the sort. They will cast scorn on the healthy teaching of God's gospel. Beautiful and glorious truths revealed by God will be despised by men.

What will such people do? They will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what, v3, their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. They are (Calvin writes): ...wicked persons trying to infect the church of God, to darken good doctrine, or destroy it.
Let me illustrate by telling you more about King Ahab. Let's detour briefly to 2 Chronicles 18. Ahab was king of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. He and Jehoshaphat of Judah formed an alliance and Ahab wanted to go to war. Jehoshaphat said, seek God. Ahab gathered 400 prophets to speak! A great number of teachers. How devoted to God he must be... They agreed with Ahab's desire for war. Jehoshaphat said, anyone else? And Ahab scornfully said: there is one, Miciah, but I hate him because he never says anything good about me, only bad. Ahab gathered as many teachers as he could find who would reinforce his desires, who would give 'divine' authority to his own desires. But the one man who would speak from God he dismissed because he didn't like him. He only wanted to hear good things about himself. Only 'encouragement' and not rebuke or correction. Ahab looked like he cared what God said but really Ahab ruled Ahab. He just did whatever he wanted. And God's verdict on him was 'he hates me'. You can't send by bank statements or medical results because you don't like them - neither can we do it with God's word.
Calvin observes: Many there are that would gladly have pleasant things taught them; they would make pastime of the Word of God, and recreate themselves thereby; thus they seek vain and unprofitable teaching. They would bring error, contention, and debate into the church, and endeavor to bring the religion we hold into doubt, and obscure the Word of God.

So too for Timothy. His ministry would be a lonesome one. Preaching the word whether it would be heard or disregarded. Enduring hardship, v5, for doing so. But Timothy must press on in the power of the Holy Spirit, avoiding the problem of sequel by preaching the word. That is God's intended means for the continuation of his church. How are your ears? We must watch them let we become (Cavin again): traitors to God, and have no zeal for His honour, nor for the salvation of the church.

Wrestling our hearts near to the word of God daily that it may not bear any sway, or get the upper hand of us. Some here may be called to preachers of the word. If that's you I'd love to explore that calling with you. Most wont be preachers because God has something else for you to devote your life to for his glory. You will therefore be a listener, as will every preacher. How will our hearing be? Will we listen well or badly? Will we be ear-itchers? Will we applaude those who massage our egos and avoid those who don't make us feel so good? Will we turn away from the truth in favour of myths, or will be turn from myths in favour of the truth?

If we will wake up to the danger in us it'll change our thinking about church, about reading and about our Bible reading. The centrality of the charge to Timothy for the future of the church means you must be in a church that teaches God's word, values God's word and lives God's word. Spurgeon said: Do not go where it is all fine music and grand talk and beautiful architecture (or free student lunches); those thing swill neither fill anybody's stomach, nor feed his soul. Go where the gospel is preached, the gospel that really feeds your soul, and go often.

Not where the Bible is a jumping off point but where it is the meat of the message. John Stott simply observes: Scripture is the sceptre by which Jesus rules his church. Which ever year you're in it is high time you're settled in a church... make the decision and make it on the basis of one question – is the word of God faithfully preached here? Make the same rule for your cell group and central team training meetings – let the word of God be the meat not the seasoning. And feast on it!

Observe your own hearts aversion to the truth. Make Psalms like 119 part of your vocabulary. Prioritise getting the word into your heart. Live near it. Not because religious people read the Bible but because the words of God are life to your soul . Sit under preaching of the word as often as you can. Even when you least want to. Know that the word is what everyone needs to hear. Get in open in your hall. Get it open over a coffee. Talk about it as you walk about campus.

They say, a true cockney is born within earshot of the bells of St Mary-le-bow. Today that's a small area because of the deafening noise of the city of London.
Likewise, a true Christian is born and lives within earshot of the word of God, and that's also a small area as the world turns up the volume of it's meaningless words.

And we don't just teach Christians who prefer their own ideas. Timothy is to endure in doing the work of an evangelist. Re-evangelising the church. And taking God's word to the world who don't believe. Whatever ideas they want to follow he will give them the word of God. Preach the word was Jesus' charge to the disciples in his great commission, and it's what Paul passes on to Timothy here. Jesus repeats his words thorugh Paul as he speaks from his throne, through his scriptures. As Christian Unions this is all we have. Christians studying God's word to be transformed. Transformed to study God's word with non-Christians, which we call mission.

Will you keep the main thing, the main thing?
Will you live always within the sound of God's word of grace?
Will you believe that God strikes salvation into peoples hearts by his word.
Will you, v7-8 run the race, fight the fight and love the coming of the Lord Jesus?

Let the word of God be the meat, the veg, the desert and the coffee – all your food from beginning to end. Eat the word of grace again and again and again and again.

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