July 3, 2011 a.m. Dan Williams
Sermon: "Preach the Word," Part 3 "The Opposition to the Word"
Text: 2 Timothy 3:12-13, 4:3-4
Aim: to explain the need for preaching (and hearing) the Word.
Thesis: the preacher must preach the Word because truth has enemies.
This weekend as we celebrate Independence Day we are reminded of the freedom we enjoy, AND of the men and women in the military who are sacrificing to keep our nation secure. I am thankful for all these willing warriors on the front lines of freedom, and I pray for their safety, success, and soon return home. In this world there can be no freedom without those who are willing to fight the enemies of freedom, and liberty cannot be maintained without constant vigilance.
This morning we will learn that in the
Jesus said in John 8:31-32 "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free" Jesus (John 8)
The only power in the world that can free us from the slavery of sin and self and shame is the truth of the gospel. But three times in our passage we are reminded that truth has enemies:
- 3:7 "always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth"
- 3:8 "Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these men oppose the truth"
- 4:4 "They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths"
Truth cannot be maintained without constant vigilance, because truth has enemies. Paul gives Timothy a solemn charge to courageously "Preach the Word" because he realizes Timothy will have to battle opposition. We must never forget there are people in this world who not only promote alternatives to the gospel but are actively antagonistic to the truth.
That is why a preacher of the Word must be a combatant, just as surely as the men and women in service in
Who are we fighting? Where does opposition to the Word come from? There are three enemies of truth:
1. SATAN! TURN to 2 Corinthians 11. Paul had already warned Timothy in his previous letter, in 1 Timothy 4:1 "The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and following deceiving spirits and things taught by demons." The apostle John also speaks of Satanic opposition in 1 John 4:1 "Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.'
The devil knows that he cannot shake some people from their faith, that he cannot pry them from religion, so he provides them with an untrue religion. Are you in 2 Corinthians 11?
READ Verses 13-15 "Such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve."
Truth will always be under Satanic attack! Right after Jesus said in John 8:32 than "the truth will set you free" he went on to say in Verse 44 that the devil "is a liar and the father of lies." Right from the beginning, all the way back in the Garden of Eden, Satan was spinning his lies in an attempt to lead people away from God's truth. Truth has enemies, and it has no greater enemy than Satan!
What is the solution to the opposition of the devil? 4:4 "Preach the Word: be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke, and encourage with great patience and careful instruction"
By the way, this passage in 2 Corinthians 11 also identifies the second enemy of the truth, because as verse 14 points out, Satan has his "servants" in this world. Who would want to work for Satan? The second enemy of truth:
2. SELF-SERVING RELIGIOUS LEADERS! 2 Timothy 3:8 "Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these men oppose the truth"
Here Paul reaches back to the Old Testament, to one of the most dramatic confrontations in sacred history: Moses before the throne of mighty Pharaoh.
It must have been intimidating enough for a shepherd from Midian to confront the ruler of the most powerful nation on earth, but don't forget: Moses also had to withstand the opposition of what Exodus 7:11 calls the "wise men, sorcerers, and Egyptian magicians." They were the religious leaders of
Every age has had its religious charlatans and hucksters who take advantage of the credulous crowd in order to make a buck.
In 1 Timothy 6:6 Paul explains they are "men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain." In 2 Timothy 3:13 they are called "evil men and imposters."
It is a sad commentary on religion when the greatest enemies of the truth are religious leaders! Did you see the column by
This week the 2 million-member Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) voted to abandon its constitutional requirement that its clergy adhere to a Biblical sexual standard of "fidelity in the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness."
Why? It wanted to allow sexually active homosexuals to be ordained as clergy.
It is not the first mainline Protestant denomination to take this step. The United Church of Christ did so way back in 1972. The Episcopal Church voted to ordain gays in 2003, and the Evangelical Lutherans, in 2009.
What is the likely result for PCUSA?
A more rapid exodus of church members. As the church has debated gay ordination over and over in recent decades, about 60,000 people a year have left the denomination. A church which once boasted 4 million members is half of its former size.
Truth has enemies, and sometimes those enemies are standing in a pulpit! What is the solution to the opposition of corrupt religious leaders? 4:4 "Preach the Word: be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke, and encourage with great patience and careful instruction."
3. The third enemy of truth is HUMAN NATURE! Immediately after Paul tells Timothy to "Preach the Word," he says in Verses 3-4 "The time will come when men 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. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths."
The Bible testifies that this is an abiding aspect of human nature it is difficult for people to endure the convicting power of truth, and without a deep commitment to God and His Word, they will slowly but surely turn away. That's why Hebrews 2:1 says "We must pay more careful attention ..to what we have seen and heard, so that we do not drift away"
One of the marvels of the Internet age is a thing called Pandora radio. When you listen to a radio station on terrestrial or satellite radio, you have to listen to every song played. You can change the channel, but you can't change the song. You're stuck with whatever you're given. But not so on Pandora.
On Pandora, you put in different singers, bands, or songs that you like; and the program uses an algorithm to parse the music that you list. The algorithm asks, is this rock, or is it soft rock, or is it hard rock? Is it antiphonal? Does it have guitar leads? Does it have a front man? It analyzes what you like, and then it can incorporate other similar songs and artists into the mix.
Not only that: by each song that's played Pandora puts a little thumbs-up sign and a little thumbs-down sign. When you click the thumbs-up sign, the algorithm is strengthened even more to your tastes, and it will play more music like that. If you click the thumbs-down sign, Pandora will just skip that particular song and bring up a different one for you to judge.
In an age where customization of lifestyle and belief has become the norm, this is often the way we approach the Bible. I like 1 Corinthians 13 about love; I don't like 1 Corinthians 11 about women. I like the Book of Joshua about God bringing the Israelites into the Promised Land; I don't like the parts of Joshua about killing people. I like Jesus, the baby in the manger; I don't like Jesus who calls a woman a dog. I like Jesus in the beatitudes; I don't like him when he talks about plucking out your eye and cutting off your hand.
We tailor and customize our view of Scripture and, ultimately, our view of God. It's like we have our own internal algorithm all the time, sorting through and processing the biblical data to say, "Oh, I accept this part, I'll preach this part, this part is useful to modern society; but this other part I'm embarrassedeven ashamedof." Hershael York, sermon "Judgment at Ai," PreachingToday.com (4-4-11)
For tunes, that's fine for truth, its not! I knew of a woman who has serious health problems that are aggravated because she is severely obese, but she fired her doctor because he told her she needed to lose weight. She went shopping for a fat doctor who would be more "accepting" and she found one.
Her new, carefully-selected doctor told her what she wanted to hear and she was happy .until she ended up in the hospital.
Do you remember when we were children, and our parents took us to the doctor's office to get an immunization shot? Oh, how we protested we cried we fought we were angry because we didn't want to experience that momentary prick of the needle!
Back then, we hated those "mean" nurses who were sticking us! Today I feel sorry for them: not just because they have to struggle with kids who are resisting them, but because they are so unpopular, they are being hated unjustly. The nurses understand what the child cannot: that the minor pain of a vaccination enables the child to avoid the major suffering of a terrible disease.
In the same way, we need the healing hurt of Holy Scripture. I know, sometimes the truth stings sometimes it tells us what we don't want to hear but if we want to remain spiritually healthy, we need to listen, even if it steps on our toes maybe especially when it steps on our toes! Because that just might be the Holy Spirit doing his healing, sanctifying work on our heart.
It is not the job of a preacher to be popular AND it isn't his job to be offensive, either. It is his responsibility to preach the truth, and let the Holy Spirit do his work. Some people will open their heart to the Word and be convicted and converted others will close their heart to the Word and become angry and upset.
- The greedy man is angered at the preacher when he speaks for generosity and against stinginess;
- the lazy man ridicules the sermon on diligence;
- the couple who is shacking up doesn't want to hear that God requires holiness and honors marriage;
- the racist stops his ears at the message that God loves all people equally and that prejudice is a sin;
- the crooked businessman finds fault with the sermon on integrity;
- and the gossip responds to the lesson on slander by talking about the preacher.
So, what should the preacher do when he realizes his message may not be universally popular? You already know the answer: 4:4 "Preach the Word: be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke, and encourage with great patience and careful instruction."