Sunday, August 21, 2016

Series: Without Ceasing - No.2 PROCLAIM

Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching.  2 Timothy 4:2(NLT)
We are investigating some of Scripture’s urgencies – places in our lives where the Christian believer is to do something without ceasing.  In this text Paul tells his protégé Timothy (and us) to preach the Word of God; he also says to be patient about it – never quitting, always pushing forward, no matter what conditions may try to block or hinder. 

Proclaim the Good News without ceasing!

Timothy was a pastor, so “preaching” carried the idea of public ministry, proclaiming the Gospel to believers and unbelievers.  But this also extends to those who aren’t pastors.  In the Book of Acts (8:1-4) we find the Apostles were all glued to Jerusalem, but many of the church folk were scattered all over the place, and wherever they went they preached the Word.  That was also true of the Methodist frontier movement in John Wesley’s time.  Proclaiming God’s Good News was an urgent command for the church of Paul’s day, and it is no less urgent for the church in this time.

Now, just to be certain we are on the same page here, let me say it rather definitively:  it is Holy Writ, the Word of God, Scripture, Gospel, the Bible which is to be preached

Unfortunately there are preachers (and laity also) who major in minors when it comes to this; they preach, debate and argue all day long about the Bible…you get human ideas, human criticism and human opinion, when they should be holding up Jesus Christ and His cross.

The great Baptist preacher and Bible expositor G. Campbell Morgan once said…, Preaching is not the proclamation of a theory, or the discussion of a doubt.... Preaching is the proclamation of the Word, the truth as the truth has been revealed.[ii]

Well, if it is the Word of God which is to be preached, the question becomes WHY is that so?  Preacher, give me a little understanding of Paul’s urgency; what is there about the Word that is so important?

For that we back-up to the previous chapter and see Paul’s reasoning:

2 Timothy 3:16 - 17
All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.  God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.   2 Timothy 3:16-17(NLT)  

Notice the Apostle says two very important phrases about the Word:

Scripture is inspired by God…and…useful to teach us

“Inspired” literally means God-breathed – this is His Word; it is God’s will communicated to us for our good.  Therefore every part of it – from Genesis to Revelation – we have invaluable treasure, the wisdom of Almighty God revealed to His creatures.

And every bit of it forms a useful, teaching road map for our lives, which, if followed, can prepare us with the tools to build His Kingdom, navigate difficult waters, and locate and live within His perfect will.

This is why we preach the word without ceasing!

So, let’s think about four truths from God’s Word, the roadmap of life:

1. The Word is a map of god’s course

…useful to teach us what is true…
The Bible is like a truth map, travel brochure, and guide all in one.  There is not a moment of life into which anything can flow or happen which the Bible doesn’t address.

It speaks of marriage, raising children, government leaders, how to be a virtuous person (or an evil one); there is so much about living in Scripture, you can study it for a lifetime and barely scrape the surface of the wisdom and strength God can build into your life if you let Him by being obedient to the Word.

The reason for this is that the Holy Spirit speaks these words.  It has been said that Scripture is twice-inspired; it was inspired when God gave it to the 40 or so people who wrote the original 66 books…and it is inspired a second time whenever a human reads it in a genuine attempt to come closer to God.

If you want to know how to live life in a manner that pleases God, blesses those around you, and will never leave you in a condition of being ashamed of what you do…let Scripture put you on God’s course.

If you do, the next truth will also be a reality:

2.   the Word tells us when we’re off-course

…and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives….
A preacher needs to preach the Word and let the chips fall where they may.  If a person is off-course from God’s road map of life, the Holy Spirit will convict; it’s never up to a preacher to judge.  But the Word of God will:

·       reprove (tell a fault)

·       rebuke (strongly convict when a person won’t let go of their sin) 

·       exhort (call near/invite). 

This is all the Holy Spirit’s work through the Word….not a preacher’s judging.  That is why it is so important to find a church and pastor where it is God’s Word that is preached.  Frankly, if you hear a sermon that is laced with nice, frilly, feel-good witty sayings, or deeply-profound human thinking, you’d better make sure it can all be backed up with the Word of God.  Otherwise you’re listening to a fool.

I have a colleague who will not preach on marriage; he says it’s too controversial.  I disagree; we must preach (as Paul said Acts 20:27) the whole counsel of God --- particularly the controversial stuff!  The Word illumines even uncomfortable truth, and preachers that shrink back from that are not obedient to their calling.

An English vicar [preacher] found out after preaching a powerful sermon against betting, that one of his own [church officials] was a heavy gambler.  Immediately, the vicar hurried over to explain to the man that he had not meant for the sermon to come across as a personal attack on him.  The man said, Don’t worry about it.  It’s a pretty poor sermon that doesn’t hit me somewhere.[iii]

So, God’s truth roadmap for life – a true map, and one that will tell you when you’re off course, and also…

3. the word Corrects our course

…It corrects us when we are wrong…
Its one thing to know you’re off-course, but it’s critical to get back on-course again.  Scripture pulls us back to where we ought to be.

A somewhat rough-cut middle aged man joined a very large downtown church full of professional people.   He had come out of a life with the mafia, but had just gotten a huge dose of enthusiasm to serve Jesus.  So he went to the pastor and wanted to know what he could do to help in the church’s ministry and outreach.  The pastor hemmed and hawed a little, but the excited man just craved to be a part of serving. 

So the pastor handed him some of his stationary and told him to contact those church members who had been missing in worship for quite a while.  Several days went by and the pastor received a letter from one of the absentee members on the list he’d given his enthusiastic new helper.  The letter read:

Dear Pastor, I received the letter sent by your church office.  I am so sorry for being absent…let me assure you my family and I will not miss church again.  I am enclosing a check for back tithes and offerings, plus an extra check for $3,000 for being tardy in giving.  We will see you this Sunday, Lord willing….

P.S. If you will, please tell your secretary there is only one “t” in dirty, and no “c” in skunk?

Sometimes the Word is gentle; sometimes not so gentle!

The Word is a truth road map, tells us when we’re off-course, how to get back on course, and…

4. The Word Teaches us how to stay on course

…and teaches us to do what is right….
This may be the most important part for people who have been believers for a while.  Unless we continue in studying God’s Word, fellowshipping with God’s people, giving, serving, witnessing, worshipping and praying, there is a tendency to get off course.

And the Word teaches us that all of those are critically-important to the healthful, vital Christian life.

My friend, it is easy to become a Christian – it’s a simple act of stepping towards god in faith.  That happens instantaneously, because God is faithful to His Word, forgiving our genuine prayer of confession.  But it is not an easy thing to stay a healthy Christian, because the enemy, that old devil is after you every single day.

The Bible teaches that staying on-course with Jesus means growing in our faith, maturity and service.  And it’s all connected. 

I’ve been asked before, Pastor, what are the minimum requirements for being a Christian?  The problem with the question is that no Christian ought to be concerned with giving himself or herself to Christ in a half-hearted, minimum-commitment sort of way. 

Brothers and sisters, discipleship, being a servant of Jesus Christ is to be wholehearted or it is useless.

The Word of God informs and inspires God’s people and lost people to know and love God.  This is why we preach the Word!

Notice these few examples of those who preach the word:

Noah, says the Book of Genesis, was a preacher of righteousness.  He spent 100 years preaching God’s Word without a single convert outside his own family…but he was loved by God and counted as faithful enough to begin the human race all over again after the flood.

Jonah ran from God, then obeyed and preached a simple 3 day revival that saw a whole country repent.

John the Baptist, Jeremiah, Peter, John and Paul gave everything they had, and fruit from their ministry is still drawing the great cloud of witnesses.

Here is a word of challenge and comfort for you:

Whether you are world-wide famous for preaching the word like Noah, Jonah, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, Peter or Paul, or completely unknown…preach the word!



[i] Title image:  By Adamovien (Self-photographed), via Wikimedia Commons
[ii] Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines on the New Testament ©1992 by SP Publications, Inc.
[iii] Illustrations Unlimited (adapted) ©1988 by James S. Hewett. All Rights Reserved.

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