Sunday, October 26, 2008

A Proper Christian Witness -- Titus 1:5-16

A Proper Christian Witness -- Titus 1:5-16
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 26, 2008 AM

Leadership in America suffers because there is no longer any standard by which people hold their leaders to. It may be said that the church today also is sadly lacking in leadership. Few church leaders can honestly stand in front of their congregations and ask them to look closely at their personal lives. How do I know this to be true? Look at congregations as a whole. As leadership goes, so go the people. Jesus asked, “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit?” (Luke 6:39) And that is true. Leadership in the church begins with a proper Christian witness.

Paul wanted Titus to pick leaders that would display a proper Christian witness in every area of their lives. He knew that as the leaders goes, so goes the church. People follow their leaders. Jesus once asked his followers a very interesting question: “Who do people say I am?” (Mark 8:27) This is a great question for those in church leadership to ask as well. It might shock some leaders to rethink their leadership style. Christians are to live in such a way that they impact the world around them for Jesus. Paul knew this and wrote Titus to be very careful in picking church leaders. He wrote that they needed to display a proper Christian witness. Let’s find out what he meant…

READ: Titus 1:5-16

There was a popular and excellent Christian book called, “The Measure of A Man,” by Gene A. Getz. It discusses twenty relevant issues in the life of a Christian man using biblical principles and Scripture. Getz talks about a man’s private and public life and how they are to live them with the same godly integrity as found in Scripture. The quality of Jesus’ leadership was found in his willingness to serve. He displayed this characteristic whether he was with his followers or out of their eyesight. Jesus was the same whether he was alone or with someone. Paul came to learn this as well. He wanted Titus to understand that…

I. A proper Christian witness entails both a believer’s public and private life! (vv. 5-9)

1. “The quality of a person's life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.” (Vince Lombard, Football Coach) Paul would agree. He had left Titus in Crete for a purpose: Titus was to “straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders… and overseers… (literally: presbuteros and episkopos) in every town.” First of all, these “elders” were to be mature Christians that met certain exacting standards. They were to be “blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient.” The “overseers,” since they were “entrusted with God’s work,” were to “be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain…. hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined…. Hold(ing) firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.” (Titus 1:7-9) The wording here meant that the leader’s life at the moment of being chosen, had to conform to these spiritual qualities in both private and public life. Paul knew that a proper Christian witness entails both a believer’s public and private life!

EXAMPLE: Some churches teach that these were to be two separate offices within the Christian church that Paul established. Others, teach they were to be seen as the same thing: probably deacons, mature men who displayed administrative qualities that could lead, discipline, and guide these fledgling churches. Whatever the reason, we also discover that these spiritual qualities also aptly apply to all church leadership, and perhaps to any believer in Christ. Why? The church is to be held to a higher standard than the world. This includes not only its leadership, but the congregation as well. How can I say this? Jesus intoned to those who followed him all over Palestine, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:13-16) Our lives in Christ, both public and private, are to be the spiritual seasoning and illumination that the world sees and is “seasoned” by! This is why Paul wrote Titus to chose leaders who exemplified these qualities. Paul knew that a proper Christian witness entails both a believer’s public and private life!

Paul was no fool. He understood human nature, as did Jesus. There is a reason Jesus called his followers “sheep.” He knew they were and, like sheep, people follow whoever claims leadership over them. And, like sheep, who wander off easily and get lost, die of thirst, or get killed by ravenous wolves, so do God’s “flock!” Long ago, when Paul stood on a dock saying his “good-byes” to his friends in Ephesus, he warned them, “I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock.” (Acts 20:29) Wolves eat sheep. Therefore Paul also wrote Titus that…

II. A proper Christian witness must be willing to stand out for the gospel! (vv. 10-16)

1. If you want to stand out in the crowd, then be willing to stand up in the world for Christ! Paul warned Titus that “there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group.” They had their own spiritual agenda and it was not good for the church. Paul was blunt and said, “They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach—and that for the sake of dishonest gain!” Titus was not to be lulled into thinking these ungodly men had his or the church’s best interest at heart. They did not! So, to emphasize his point Paul quoted from Epimenides, a Cretan poet and philosopher from the 6th century BC, who was widely believed to be a religious prophet. By Paul’s day the saying had become a worldly proverb: “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons,” which merely emphasized the low reputations of Cretans generally. So little did others think of the Cretans that the verb kre?tizo? was used to mean “to lie.” Now, Paul knew there were exceptional godly Cretan Christians, but he was showing how these ungodly men were like the basest among them! “This testimony is true!” he exclaims, “Therefore, rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the commands of those who reject the truth.” (Titus 1:13-14) Paul is telling Titus to stand up for the gospel because “To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted!” In fact there will always be false teachers like this who “claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.” (Titus 1:15-16) Paul knew that a proper Christian witness must be willing to stand out for the gospel!

EXAMPLE: In the “Goofy Movie,” Goofy’s son, Max puts together a goofy scheme in order to win the affection of a girl on the last day of school. He does this knowing it is his “last chance to impress.” Sadly, there are Christians who actually think they can wait just a while longer to stand out in the crowd with their faith. Max ends up getting into trouble with his school’s principal, lying to his girl friend, and tricking his father into driving across country with another wild scheme. As funny as the movie is, it is not funny when it comes to our lives in Christ. A proper Christian witness must be willing to stand out for the gospel.

A proper Christian witness entails both a believer’s public and private life, and a proper Christian witness must be willing to stand out for the gospel!
This article is copyrighted © 2008 by Lee Hemen and if you reprint it, reproduce it, or want to use it in any way, you must do so in its entirety or get the written permission of its author.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Proper Christian “Hello!” -- Titus 1:1-4

A Proper Christian “Hello!” -- Titus 1:1-4
October 19, 2008 AM
By Pastor Lee Hemen

Titus was a Gentile convert who had served and traveled with the Apostle Paul “to Jerusalem… with Barnabas.” Paul “went in response to a revelation” that he preach “the gospel… among the Gentiles.” The church leadership there felt that Paul “was running or had run [his] race in vain.” But he had not, because “not even Titus, who was with [Paul], was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek.” (Galatians 2:1-3). Titus knew, like Paul, that his salvation was in Christ alone and not in following the law. Titus was therefore a “gentile” witness! (2Corinthians 7:6-7; 8:6). In approximately 63-64 AD, after leaving Timothy in Ephesus, Paul and Titus traveled on to Crete. Paul then left Titus behind to help provide leadership for the Cretan churches (Titus1:5). Afterward the apostle wrote this letter and had it delivered to Titus.

Christians share a commonality of faith, knowledge, and eternal hope. Because of this wherever Christians go, they have common ground. They are “brothers” and “sisters” in Christ. It is a deep inner spirituality that cannot be faked, though many try. In fact, this is why Christians intrinsically know immediately if another is a believer or not. God has given us spiritual insight. This is why Paul introduces his letter to Titus with a proper Christian “Hello!” Let’s discover what that means for us…

READ: Titus 1:1-4

The word “hello” has often been credited to Thomas Edison, specifically as a way to greet someone when answering the telephone, but we find evidences of it in print as far back as 1823. In fact, Mark Twain used it before Edison in his book “Roughing It,” in 1872, 4 to 6 years before Edison or Bell. Alexander Graham Bell initially used “Ahoy-hoy” (as used on ships) as a telephone greeting. Some languages actually have no word that resembles “hello.” Early Greeks or Hebrews would “greet” one another. Hebrews used shaw-lome' which meant “peace.” Greeks used aspazomai, which meant to salute as in “I salute you!” Paul gives a proper Christian “Hello” to Titus because he knew that…

I. Christians share a common faith!

1. Common faith finds a common ground in Christ! Paul would write the Roman church, “I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong—that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith.” (Romans 1:11-12) Christians long to be with one another in order to encourage and strengthen one another’s faith in Christ. Paul writes Titus that he was “an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God's elect.” God was using Paul to call out a people for Himself. Those who had trusted Jesus. We find Paul addressing Titus as “my true son in our common faith.” What is this faith based on? Paul related that it was founded on “Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.” Paul knew and taught that “Through him [Jesus] and for his name's sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people… to the obedience that comes from faith.” (Romans 1:5) The Christian’s “righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” (Romans 3:22) How? Paul would answer that “God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood!” (Romans 3:25) “Therefore,” Paul would write, “since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ!” (Romans 5:1) Paul knew that all Christians share a common faith in Jesus Christ!

EXAMPLE: Faith is more than feelings of peace and contentment. It is more than having a godly moment or an angel on your shoulder. Faith is not a happening, it is a commitment of one’s complete self to trust in Christ. Recently, I read a story about a man while out for Chinese food with his friends, noticed another man walking his dog past the restaurant. Normally he wouldn’t have looked twice. But the dog’s owner had taken the leash, put it in a figure-eight configuration, and placed it firmly in the dog’s mouth. His friends explained that it’s against the law in their town to walk a dog without a leash. This clever dog owner had found a loophole—the law didn’t stipulate that you actually have to hold the leash! The amazing part is not the loophole, but that the dog was walking in obedient step with his master, even though he could have bolted away to chase a nearby squirrel. Our walk with God has to be like that. Complete faith! A total trust in our Master Jesus. While God in His mercy gives us a long leash and rarely gives us spiritual whiplash by yanking on it, He doesn’t delight in the struggle to keep us in line. He delights when we walk in a surrendered way with Him. Paul, in saying a proper Christian “Hello” to Titus reminded him that Christians share a common faith.

There are those who try to work their faith out by being good or by doing good things. However, we are reminded as Christians that “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) Faith in Jesus intrinsically changes the individual from the inside out. Here we find Paul giving a proper Christian “Hello” to Titus because he knew that…

II. Christians have a knowledge of the truth!

1. Knowledge does little good if it is not put into practice! This knowledge, Paul related, “leads to godliness.” This was the truth Paul was trying to impart to all the churches he established. This common faith that Christians share in Jesus will make them righteous before the Lord! Since telling others about this truth had been entrusted to Paul by God, he felt he had to let Titus know right away the importance of its message. It had the power to change people’s lives! Again, this was why Paul introduced himself as “a servant of God and an apostle (one sent, a messenger) of Jesus Christ.” He brought this message of the truth to Christians: “God’s elect.” Those who trusted in Jesus were to have working knowledge of the truth. The good news. The gospel. However, truth, just knowing about Jesus, is just a concept if it is not lived in the lives of those who believe. You can have the knowledge of God, but not fully understand its implications for your life. Knowing there is a God is not the same as acknowledging His Son as Savior and Lord. This truth of Jesus so struck Paul that he related: “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!” (Romans 11:33) He went on to say, “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen!” (Romans 11:36) Paul knew that it was “God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ [He] made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6) In saying a proper Christian “Hello” to Titus, Paul told him that Christians have a knowledge of the truth, Jesus Christ.

EXAMPLE: As I related before, knowing there is a God is not the same as acknowledging His Son as Savior and Lord. It is the same with anything in life. You can read all the cookbooks in the world, but not know how to cook until you try it for yourself. A third-grade science teacher asked one of her students to describe salt. “Well, um, it’s . . . ,” he started, then stopped. He tried again. “Salt is, you know, it’s . . . .” Finally he said, “Salt is what makes French fries taste bad when you don't sprinkle it on.” Many foods are like that--incomplete without a key ingredient. Imagine pizza without cheese, strudel without apples, a banana split without bananas, a pie without salt, or a cake without sugar! The Christian life also has an essential ingredient: Jesus Christ! In saying his proper Christian “Hello” to Titus, Paul related that Christians have a knowledge of the truth! Jesus Christ.

There are a lot of folks who claim to know the truth of Jesus Christ and to have faith in him as well, but sadly, there are few who can express why it is important. Some will say, “So we do not go to hell.” Others might intone, “So we can have life more abundantly,” all the while not truly understanding what that means. Then there are those who are dimly aware that its importance might lie in the fact of who God is and what we are. God is not only infinite, loving, holy, and all powerful and aware, there is one other attribute we claim to understand but few of us truly do: God is eternal. Paul knew this to be true, so here we find Paul giving a proper Christian “Hello” to Titus because he knew that…

III. Christians rest on the hope of eternal life!

1. As one little boy put it, “Eternity is a really long time!” It certainly is. And, being certain of something makes it true only if it really is! Paul related that the faith and knowledge of Jesus rested “on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time!” There it is. That one niggling little snippet that puts everything into perspective for the reader. Paul is not just talking about a spiritual relationship in life but also the reality of a position in life. Life is eternal. It's been part of God's plan “before the beginning of time!” In fact, the hope that believers share is based on the fact that “God does not lie!” When he says something is true it is true, with a capital “T”! Even Habakkuk in his spiritual dilemma about God using the Babylonians to judge Israel lamented, “O LORD, are you not from everlasting? My God, my Holy One, we will not die. O LORD, you have appointed them to execute judgment; O Rock, you have ordained them to punish.” (Habakkuk 1:12) Habakkuk knew God was eternal and could do what he said he would do, even if it was to use gentiles to discipline his people Israel. Why? Because God was “from everlasting” and he said that his people would “not die,” ever! Jesus related, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:14-16) John the Baptist related one last all important truth to his followers before he was martyred: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him.” (John 3:36) Paul, in giving a proper Christian “Hello” to Titus, understood that Christians rest on the hope of eternal life.

EXAMPLE: On a crisp October morning, a local newspaper featured a stunning photo of sun-drenched autumn trees whose leaves had turned gold. The caption read: FOR A LIMITED TIME ONLY. The irresistible invitation to take a drive through the countryside to savor the brilliant colors conveyed the urgency of doing it quickly. Autumn leaves that are golden today are often gone tomorrow. Our opportunities to obey God’s promptings are also fleeting. James warned against an arrogance that assumes endless days will be available to carry out our good intentions. “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” (James 4:13-14) Our life here is but for a limited time only and to think otherwise is foolish indeed. However, the Bible does teach that human beings exist for eternity and either we will enter into eternity with God through Christ or be separated from Him in a horrible eternal existence called hell. Paul, in giving a proper Christian “Hello” to Titus, understood that Christians rest on the hope of eternal life. Do You?

From Paul’s proper Christian “Hello,” we discover that 1) Christians share a common faith, 2) Christians have a knowledge of the truth, and 3) Christians rest on the hope of eternal life!
This article is copyrighted © 2008 by Lee Hemen and if you reprint it, reproduce it, or want to use it in any way, you must do so in its entirety or get the written permission of its author.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Fighting the Good Fight! -- 2 Timothy 4:6-22

Fighting the Good Fight! -- 2 Timothy 4:6-22
October 12, 2008 AM
By Pastor Lee Hemen

In the preceding music video by the band Amberlin called “The Unwinding Cable Car,” it asks a series of questions about a person’s life, “What makes us who we are?” “What hardships will you face?” “What hardships will you overcome?” “What makes you happy?” “If you could do it all over again, what would you change?” “Relationships?” “Choices?” “Direction?” “What experience would you relive?” But the most important one I believe is: “What will you be remembered for?” What we are remembered for in life speaks to the heart of who we are and what we lived for.

Paul knew this to be true. He was facing perhaps the end of his life. He was imprisoned and did not know the final outcome. We find him writing his friend Timothy who needed encouragement in his own life. In these last few verses Paul teaches what it truly means for Christians to live lives to the fullest for Jesus Christ. He relates to us how we can fight the good fight. Let’s discover how, shall we?

READ: 2 Timothy 4:6-22

We live in a world that does everything in its power to either ignore death or to make it seem like it should never happen. The truth is: Death is part of life. The moment you are born, you are headed for the moment of your death. Now, least you think I am trying to be morbid or something, I am not. What many Christians need once in a while is a good dose of sober reality and to be reminded that where death once reigned in victory, it has no sting for the believer anymore! When Paul asked “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” he also confidently replies, “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:55, 57) This is why Paul wrote Timothy that in fighting the good fight we must remember that…

I. Every day brings us closer to our death! (vv. 6-8)

1. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. (Romans 14:8) Unlike a lot of folks, Paul had no illusions or unrealistic opinions about his life. He knew that he was “already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time [had] come for [his] departure.” Paul had “fought the good fight,” but more than that he also had “finished the race” well. How could he say that? Because he knew he had “kept the faith” of Christ that had been entrusted to him as God’s messenger for the gospel. Using the graphic examples of the Greek games, Paul reminds his readers and himself that he had “fought the good fight.” He could see the finish line to the race he was running in life and the prize that was “in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day!” Wow! Paul knew that all Christians should be reminded to take the same view: “And not only to me,” he wrote, “but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” It is not a fatalist view of life, but rather one that embodies the work of the Lord that has been entrusted to us as Christians and also reminds us that every day brings us closer to our death.

EXAMPLE: What would you write if you only had hours to live? This was the concern for miners caught in a mine collapse in rural West Virginia. Tragically, all but one of the miners were found dead. Grief was compounded with anger and a desire to blame someone. At one of the funerals, however, Reverend Wease Day asked the hurting to look in a different direction—within. Bill Crowder writes that “During their last hours, some of the miners had written notes to their families, in some cases offering comfort and hope. In light of that, Pastor Day urged his congregation not to seek to fix blame. He instead challenged them to imagine what they would write in a farewell note if they had only hours to live. In some ways we are like those miners. We are trapped in a dark world and are facing physical death. How we live our lives as followers of Christ becomes our ‘note’ to the world.” Never forget that in fighting the good fight that every day brings us closer to our death!

We love to sing that the battle belongs to the Lord, but few of us live that way. We have forgotten that we are in the midst of a great war. As Martin Luther wrote, “And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us, we will not fear, for God hath willed his truth to triumph through us. The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him; his rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure; one little word shall fell him.” That “word” is Jesus. The Apostle John writes, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” (John 1:14) This is important for Christians to never forget. In fact, Paul wrote that in fighting the good fight we must remember…

II. The One who goes into the battle with us! (vv. 17-18)

1. Jesus related, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Paul knew that “the Lord stood at [his] side” and had given him “strength,” so that through Paul “the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it.” Jesus had gone into battle with Paul. Paul knew that it was Jesus who had, like God with Daniel, “delivered [him] from the lion's mouth.” Just as Moses promised Joshua, “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged,” (Deuteronomy 31:8) Christ promised that those who went out in His name would have Him right there by their side as well. When Paul had faced severe persecution for sharing his faith to the Corinthians, Jesus came to him and reminded Paul, “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” (Acts 18:9-10) Paul knew Jesus was always with Him. Jesus told His followers, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” (John 14:16-18) Like Paul, in fighting the good fight we must remember the One who goes into battle with us!

EXAMPLE: Few today adhere to the pagan belief that the world is under the control of warring gods like Aries, Athena, or Apollo. Yet even sophisticated skeptics readily acknowledge the reality of unseen “forces” over which we have no control. They attribute our inability to prevent violence in various places around the world to what they call “international factions,” or recently the financial downturn to “economic forces.” We discover that the Bible clearly acknowledges the reality of invisible spiritual beings that wage war against God’s people. In Ephesians 6:11-12, Paul wrote that our primary warfare is against the “powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12) The bad news is that they are more powerful than we are. The good news is that Jesus defeated them by His death on the cross: “Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them!” (Colossians 2:15). Paul reminds us that in fighting the good fight we must remember the One who goes into battle with us!

The final goal for Paul was the fact that he knew without a doubt what the battle was all about. It was not about God giving him a spiritually fleeting feeling for the moment, but rather eternal life through the almighty grace of a loving God. This is why Paul could confidently state, “The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom.” (v. 18) But Paul was not deluded in the midst of the battle. He knew some would be for him and others would not. In fact, like Paul, in fighting the good fight we must remember…

III. Those who fight with us or against us! (vv. 9-16)

1. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12) Too many Christians have forgotten the war they are to be a part of. In fact, every individual who has placed their faith and trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord is immediately in the battle! Paul asked Timothy to “Do your best to come to me quickly!” He needed help in the spiritual struggle he faced. “Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia.” People had deserted Paul. They sought safety in a spiritual struggle where there is none for those who believe. “Only Luke” was with Paul. How sad that “no one came to” Paul’s “support, but everyone” had “deserted” him! Notice Paul knew those he could depend upon and he knew those he could not. What a sad commentary to have your name remembered throughout history as one who actually fought against everything Paul believed! Now all Paul wants is a few good men like Mark, Timothy, Luke, and few personal things: his “cloak,” personal scrolls and parchments. His life has been simplified to small things that mattered and to friends who kept the faith. Like the writer of Proverbs, Paul had come to learn, “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24) Paul knew, in fighting the good fight we must remember those who fight with us or against us!

EXAMPLE: I was amazed during the past few weeks at the audacity of how blatantly people are willing to lie and lay blame. During the financial crisis many politicians tried to blame one another for the problem. However, the truth is that this crisis was created by the Federal Government during the Clinton Administration when people were allowed to be eligible for home loans who could not pay them back. When gas prices went up along with food and energy costs, and balloon payments came due many simply walked away from their mortgages. Amazingly, President Clinton admitted that Democrats in Congress had pushed for deregulating Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and that Congress had been warned over and over by him, President Bush, and Senator McCain, but were voted down. In political struggles like this it becomes confusing to discover who is really to blame. The same can be true in the spiritual realm as well. This is why Paul would say, “If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work.” (1 Corinthians 3:12-13) What does your work reveal? What about those who claim Christ around you? Paul knew that in fighting the good fight we must remember those who fight with us.

In fighting the good fight we must remember that 1) every day brings us closer to our death, 2) the One who goes into battle with us, and 3) those who fight with us or against us! What we are remembered for in life speaks to the heart of who we are and what we lived for.
This article is copyrighted © 2008 by Lee Hemen and if you want to use, copy, print, or reuse it, you must do so in its entirety.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Being Able to Correctly Handle the Gospel! – 2 Timothy 4:1-5

Being Able to Correctly Handle the Gospel! – 2 Timothy 4:1-5
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 5, 2008 AM

One time talk show host and atheist Bill Maher has made a film called “Religulous” that strenuously aims to mock all religions. His ads on the Internet show three monkeys: one Jewish, one Muslim, and a third monkey Pope. On ABC, Maher related that American historical figures from Lincoln to FDR were a “cavalcade of morons” for having the audacity to speak of God. He claims he isn’t engaged in mockery, that in his film, “we don’t judge. We don’t point fingers. We’re not making anybody feel bad.” Maher’s film however is full of vindictiveness and ends with pictures of exploding nuclear bombs and a chorus of “Road to Nowhere” by the Talking Heads. And, Maher is not trying to make anyone feel bad religion? How should Christians respond to these kinds of attacks on their faith?

Christianity is being ridiculed all across our nation. I believe it is because believers are failing to correctly handle the Gospel message. Christians have acquiesced their faith, thinking that they should not “offend” others by telling them Jesus is the only means of salvation. This is simply absurd. Christians are to stand for the Gospel anywhere and anytime. Timothy was doing the very same thing in that he was becoming fearful of sharing the Gospel. Paul bluntly writes, “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.” What charge was it that Paul urgently thought was so important? Namely, that Timothy would be able to correctly handle the Gospel! Let’s discover out how…

READ: 2 Timothy 4:1-5

The false notion that all religions should all just get along in every way has hog-tied Christianity. Certainly, believers should never belittle another’s faith practice, like a Bill Maher does, but we should stand for our faith when questioned. All religious experience is not the same. The Gospel truth is inclusive for its affect but exclusive in its effect. And, now, there are those who are seriously trying to restrict a church’s right to speak out against any sin. Such as sexuality, immorality, or abortion. Paul tells Timothy that in being able to correctly handle the gospel we have to…

I. Preach the Word! (v. 2)

1. Preaching is not just for pastors! It never has been. In fact, the word for “preaching” is “ke?russo?” and it literally means to publish or to proclaim it like a old time town crier! Timothy was to publically proclaim the gospel and to “be prepared in season and out of season” to do just that! All Christians should be prepared with the gospel message yet few are. Out of selfish fear or a convoluted view of trying not to offend, far too many believers remain silent. Christians should “correct, rebuke and encourage” others with the gospel. The message of Christ has become one of begging and pleading rather than a life-changing eternal truth! Have we forgotten that Paul told Timothy, “Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning!” (1 Timothy 5:20) and that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness”? (2 Timothy 3:16) Christians are despised in our day and age because we are so feeble in presenting the gospel. This is why Paul would tell Titus “Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you.” (Titus 2:15) As one old preacher said, “When a Christian can’t stand for anything, then people can’t stand them for anything!” Are we to be abrasive? No! Paul told Timothy to share the gospel “with great patience and careful instruction.” Literally with persistent teaching of correct doctrine! Being able to correctly handle the gospel means Christians have to preach the Word!

EXAMPLE: Can you imagine Paul when he had to appear before King Agrippa sharing, “Oh great Agrippa, after Jesus spoke to me on the way to Damascus, I decided to share that however you want to feel about God is good enough for everyone! And so I began to preach this message in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and to anyone who wanted to feel good about God! This is why the Jews hate me. I love Jesus and He loves you too just the way you are!” I rather doubt we would have ever heard of the Apostle Paul. Instead, he boldly declared that Jesus told him, “‘I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’ So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven. First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds. That is why the Jews seized me in the temple courts and tried to kill me. But I have had God's help to this very day, and so I stand here and testify to small and great alike…. I pray God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.” (Acts 26:17-22, 29) Paul knew that being able to correctly handle the gospel means Christians have to preach the Word!

People have always wanted to discover spiritual truth on their own terms. Eve, in the Garden of Eden, sought to find it through taste, touch, and experience. Having to walk with a holy God daily became a personal drag for her. This truism has not changed. Today we discover folks calling themselves “Christian,” when in fact they are trying to desperately discover God on their own terms. We have entered into a time when people think that every spirituality is valid or no spirituality is just as valid. Paul tells Timothy that in being able to correctly handle the gospel means we have to…

II. Understand the ungodly times we live in! (vv. 3-4)

1. It is later than most people think! Why would I say that? Not all spiritual truth is spiritually true! We forget that every day we live brings us closer to the Lord’s return. Paul understood this. He knew that a “time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine.” The “sound doctrine” that faith in Christ is the only means of salvation. I believe that the closer we come to Christ’s return the farther away from the truth people desire to go. In fact, they not only head away from God’s truth they will deliberately look for others who are willing to justify their ungodliness! “Instead,” Paul writes, “to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” (2 Timothy 4:3) Sadly, we find this to be true even within the church itself! We find churches today touting a spirituality that has nothing to do with the gospel and is more in line with a neo-Gnosticism. It has a “form of godliness but [denies] its power.” (2 Timothy 3:5) The church today, in a mad rush to attract the world inside its doors, has become more like the world and less like the holy body of Christ it should be. And because of this many within its walls have turned “their ears away from the truth” and have turned “aside to myths” in order “to suit their own desires.” Christians should never fall for an easy believe-ism or a sugarcoated spirituality. A lot of “doctrine” today is neither spiritually sound nor true and has more to do with how one feels about their faith than what holiness is. In order to be able to handle the gospel correctly, Christians need to understand the ungodly times we live in!

EXAMPLE: There is a popular fictional neo-spiritual book out called “The Shack.” It has become Christian best seller, but what does it truly contain? The book is about a spiritually miserable man named Mack who after his daughter is brutally murdered has to confront three unorthodox characterizations of the Trinity in a shack in the woods where she was killed. USA Today states, that “It slams ‘legalistic’ religions, denominations and doctrines. It barely even mentions the Bible. Instead, Mack’s secrets, lies, pain and fears are swept away in a 48-hour encounter in the woods with a sassy black woman who embodies God the creator. Jesus is portrayed as a big-nosed carpenter in a plaid shirt; the Holy Spirit is an Asian sylph called Sarayu.” In fact, the book contains little Scriptural truth and is more in line with self-cleansing techniques of the neo-paganism. Sadly, too many people forget that it is fiction and equate it with containing spirituality because of its self-cleansing focus. Spiritually motivated truth is not the same as Scriptural truth. The Shack promotes a universalism in that the ungodly can just discover Jesus’ love intrinsically by turning their life over emotionally and they’re on their way to heaven. No need for trusting in Jesus alone for salvation, or that embarrassing thing of admitting to your own ungodliness, or following Him in obedience. Paul would remind us that if we want to be able to handle to the gospel correctly we have to understand the times we live in.
This book “The Shack” represents how people can “turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” It is easy to submit oneself to a personally emotional spiritual experience but harder to face the reality of our own sin-condition, repent of it, and trust in Christ to cleanse us. It is easy for today’s Christian to fall into the trap of feelings over faith because we live in a world that teaches us daily to think that what feels good is correct for our lives. In fact, in our world we are often asked, “How does that make you feel?” rather than, “What is the truth of your situation?” How do we confront something as powerful as this? Paul tells Timothy that in being able to correctly handle the gospel we have to…

III. Keep our Christian wits about us! (v. 5)

1. Drinking from the wrong fountain can muddle your mind! Here’s what I mean: Jesus claimed that He was the only “living water” that a person should drink from. In fact, if one drank from His fountain, you would never need thirst again spiritually. (John 4:10-14) “Keep your head,” literally means to remain sober. Paul was telling Timothy to remain sober about the gospel. Christians are not to drink from other spiritual truths and thereby muddle their minds as to the only spiritual truth, Jesus Christ! (John 14:6) Paul said that Timothy was to keep his head “in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.” The same is true for all believers. Whether at work, home, school, or anywhere the believer finds themselves, they are to remain sober about the gospel. In life we all face “hardship” because the world is full of sin, but Christians are to endure knowing that what we believe in is far more important than what this life can toss our way. So much so that all believers should “do the work of an evangelist” and “discharge all the duties of [our] ministry” by telling the gospel to all we meet! Paul told Titus, “In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.” (Titus 2:7-8) How many Christians regularly can say they have carried out all the duties of being a witness and ministering to others in Christ? In a world that runs after any perceived truth, believers are to correctly handle the gospel by keeping their wits about them!

EXAMPLE: Whether it is confronting ungodliness like Bill Maher’s “Religulous” or realizing false doctrine contained in fictional novels like “The Shack,” Christians are called to handle the gospel correctly. It can be tough not to lose one’s way in a world that psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually pounds at us day after day. Yet, times have not changed much from Paul and Timothy’s day. They lived in a flagrantly paganistic society that did not care at all about Jesus Christ. Truthfully, no one cared because no one had ever heard of Jesus! We forget that there were probably fewer than a few thousand Christians in the known world at the time of Paul writing Timothy. Think about that for a moment and let it sink in. Today we have churches on almost every corner, hundreds of Christian TV programs, movies, and even theme parks! We have churches that vie for everyone’s attention, more for getting folks through the door rather than for reaching people for eternity. You would think in a world where society has been drastically affected by the gospel and that there would be a greater outpouring of the gospel message by its adherents, but there is not. In fact, with all the Christian influence there is, there are fewer folks witnessing and reaching the lost for Christ. Society is growing spiritually darker. In times like these, Paul would say, “But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:5) Being able to correctly handle the gospel means keeping your Christian wits about you.

We have leaned three important lessons in being able to correctly handle the gospel: 1) Preach the Word, 2) Understand the ungodly times we live in, and 3) keep you Christian wits about you!

There is a commercial that asks, “What’s in your wallet?” Well, today, I am asking, “Who’s in your wallet?” Today I am issuing a challenge for each of us. List three names on a card that you will pray for regularly to receive Christ. Pray that God will present an opportunity for you to present the gospel to them and that they would be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading. Who will you list and who will you pray for regularly? But more than that, will you witness to them about Jesus? Share the gospel with those you are praying for.
This article is copyrighted © 2008 by Lee Hemen and if you desire to use it, print it, or copy it you must do so in its entirety.