II Timothy 4:1-5
Learning Where to Look: “How to Find Focus”
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Through the Written Word,
And the spoken word,
May we know Your Living Word,
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Last Summer our two daughters took a vacation together to visit our father-land – Ireland. This story may or may not be one that they told me…:
Some lost tourists in Ireland stops to ask a local farmer for directions. The farmer asks what their destination is, and after listening to their hoped-for destination, he takes off his flat-cap, wipes his brow, looks the tourist in the eye and says, “Well, if I were trying to get there, I wouldn’t start from here.”
I stepped into my bank on Friday (Chase®) and they are advertising for retirement plans all over with big posters that say, “It Doesn’t Matter Where You Start”. … I think it kinda does….
We live in a world, our country and most of the nations in the “advanced western world”, where we think we know what’s best for everyone around us, but we really don’t know how to get there from where we are.
Many of us, professional Christians (pastors, Bible School professors, seminary professors, bishops, etc) and most lay-folks, from behind pulpits and from the pews, start in the wrong place when thinking about life’s challenges, beginning first with self, personal opinion, what seems right, what feels good. What we do is start with our own experiential center rather than a theological center.
If our destination, as a Christian community, as Christian people, is a God-pleasing, Christ-honoring, Scripture-shaped mind and world-view we cannot arrive there by starting with ourselves, our own biases, and our own sin! When we start there, what we do is try to make God fit our own self-centered understanding and beliefs. As 5th Century BC Greek philosopher, Xenophanes, once pointed out: “We create God in our own image,” rather than allow God to recreate us into His own image.
I’ve read that in Europe, the idea that Scripture ought to be the lens through which we see and understand the world is mocked out right. And from watching TV shows and movies made right here in the USA, I believe we see the same thing all the time. If a politician says that she uses the Bible as her guide to decision-making, she is derided as silly and out of touch with reality.
We who believe the Bible are told that we are intolerant of others who don’t. And the result is that those who claim more tolerance are intolerant of folks who trust the Bible.
Have any of you ever felt shunned or ridiculed for wanting to read and believe in the Bible?
With that as our introduction to today’s Scripture reading, hear these words from the Apostle Paul to his young pastor friend Timothy, II Timothy 4:1-5 (P. 482). Hear the Word of God …. —-
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: 2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 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. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
What was Paul’s remedy for the problem of people’s not “starting in the right place” when it comes to addressing life’s challenges? How did Paul confront those who had wandered off looking for teachers who suited their own views?
He charged Timothy to “preach the Word!”
This is obviously not a new thing the church faces! Paul wrote about it 2,000 years ago. 500 years ago Martin Luther wrote: “Scripture alone is the lord and master of all writings and doctrines on earth. If that is not granted, what is Scripture good for? The more we reject it, the more we become satisfied with man’s books and human teachers.”
Karl Barth, a theologian from the mid-1900s advised living with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other – not as equal partners in interpreting life, but so that the Bible could be a lens through which we read the news and understand our current-day lives.
We live in the 21st Century, in Spokane, WA, USA, surrounded by competing truth claims. How do we work to bring the Gospel to bear on our quickly changing culture in ways that speak truth in our culture without becoming lost in the culture?
The temptation is to simply agree with philosophies that seem nonjudgy and warm and welcoming, but do that without telling the whole truth of what it means to know God’s love and live under God’s grace. Paul told Timothy, “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. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”
I read an article this week that quoted Carl F. Henry who said, “No fact of contemporary Western life is more evident than its growing mistrust of final truth and its implacable questioning of any sure word.” This “growing mistrust” is expected in society for the Scriptures tell us as much. But we must not allow it to creep into our hearts and our churches unaware, not as a wedge in our faith dividing us from God’s Word and presence.
When we appear to be godly, loving, caring people, but deny the power of God’s transforming grace, we stop “putting up with sound doctrine”. It’s a very slippery slope to simply ignoring God’s Word and “finding teachers that say what our itching ears want to hear.”
This means we approach God’s Word with humility and our communities, our neighborhoods, our families, our friends, our co-workers, our classmates, our children with gentleness, love, and kindness. After all, we are all people who have sinned and who continually fall short of the glory of God. Christ died for us while we were yet sinners. None of us is better than anyone else. None of us has the right to be judgy. But the truth is that our holy God offers us, through His perfect love and mercy, opportunities to be changed, to be transformed, from guilty sinner to child of God!
We find that truth by looking through the proper set of lenses. We find our focus on our destination by seeing it through the written Word of God. If we don’t get there by starting where our society is; Paul reminds us, let’s start where God calls us Home, His Word, and see where that leads us – His presence and power and perfect love and forgiveness.
For the next few weeks we’ll look at a few different Bible issues and questions. Last week I challenged you to start reading in Genesis and tell me when anyone makes it past Leviticus. We’ll get lunch together and talk about what we have each found interesting and/or intriguing.
May we be constantly and consistently blessed by the reading, the receiving, of God’s Word which always transforms and offers us God’s grace and mercy.
Thank You, YHWH God, for the gift of Your Word, written and living and ever applicable to our cultures and our lives, and for the ultimate revealing of Your perfect Word though Jesus Christ; and it is in His name we pray, Amen.
Parks, Lucas J.; “The Lens of Scripture”; TableTalk; November 2018; Pp. 10-11.