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Be Faithful - Don't Shrink Back (2 Timothy 4), Part 1

From the series Becoming an Effective Disciple Maker

Have you ever thought about what it’ll be like to stand before God, and have every part of your life evaluated? Well in this program, Chip will help us get a new perspective, as he continues his series Becoming an Effective Disciple Maker. Join us as we learn how each one of us can give a good account of our lives.

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Message Transcript

Well, if you have your notes open, the command of Jesus hasn’t changed. “Go into all the world and make disciples.” Now we have this sacred document of the apostle Paul and his final writings at least that we have record of.

And he says to a young pastor, “You need to be bold; don’t be ashamed. You need to be strong in the grace of God; don’t get distracted. You need to be prepared; don’t be surprised.” And then finally he is going to say, “You need to be faithful; don’t shrink back.”

And in the introduction, I said the insidious power of wanting to be accepted by the crowd. One of the most powerful things that keep you and keep me from doing and fulfilling all God wants us to do is the insidious power of wanting to be accepted by the crowd.

So much so, as I was praying this morning, I thought of a number of personal illustrations, and they would have been okay. But I thought of this one. I’m in Galatians 2. You can just listen. “But when Peter,” or, “Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face,” Paul is writing, “because he stood condemned. For prior to coming some of the men of James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and separate himself, fearing those in the circumcision. The rest of the Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, ‘If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like the Jews? We are Jews by nature and not sinners from the Gentiles; nevertheless, knowing that a person is not justified by works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the Law; since by works of the Law no flesh will be justified.’”

And he gets a little theological toward the end, but here’s what happened. The apostle Paul comes to know Christ; He does some preaching, they lower him in a basket, he goes back to see the apostles, they wisely think he’s probably not for real.

Barnabas kind of says, “Hey, you know, for real.” This guy that was killing Christians. He was preaching, God is using him. And then he kind of disappears. We don’t know all, there are three years in Arabia, best we can tell he goes back to his hometown for about ten years. Who knows exactly what is going on.

And then the Church grows. And these Gentiles are coming to Christ and so, in Antioch, they are living so much in their sacrificial love for one another, that they just start making fun of them and call them little Christ-ones. Or Christians. And the name stuck.

And Barnabas, being the Son of Encouragement realized, You know, that young Pharisee who was a persecutor of the Church, God’s calling on his life was the Gentiles. I’ll tell you what, I’ve got to get some help around here. So, he gets Paul to come to Antioch.

And then the Church flourishes and, you know, the missionary journeys flowed out of Antioch. And so, Peter comes to visit and Peter is kind of overcoming his commitment to the Law and realizing that he is biased and he is prejudiced just like all the rest of us. And he finds himself with this new freedom and he’s eating with Gentiles - something forbidden all of his life as a young man.

And then some of the boys come down from headquarters. And they are converted Pharisees who, they love Jesus, they love Him, but you know what? Their context is a little different and they are ministering to Jews. And it’s kind of like, Peter goes, “Uh-oh.” And so, he starts, little by little, shrinking away.

And then he doesn’t, you know, like, I still remember this. I remember going to Bible studies on Thursday night and having these wonderful relationships. And then going into the cafeteria or the student union and, like, my basketball buddies and the guys who were really cool. And then one of my Christian friends, especially maybe one that was a little bit socially awkward. And I can remember, to my shame, sort of hoping they don’t see me, because I don’t want him to go, “Hey, Chip! How are you doing?” Because these are the cool guys.

Hypocrisy. Just hypocrisy. We all do that. Some of the biggest things that keep us from doing what God wants us to do, because if you take some of the steps we have talked about, some of your more conservative friends are saying, “You selling out? Selling out? Becoming friends with that person? That person prays for Biden, what are you thinking?” Well, the Bible says to pray for the president. Oh. Or it’s the other hand. “You hanging out with those radical Trumpites? You sharing Christ with them?”

See, when you start doing what God wants you to do, you’re going to find that you’re going to end up in the middle and the people won’t like you on the left and the people won’t like you on the right. You might want to take that as a compliment.

Isn’t it interesting that the apostle Paul wants Timothy to understand in the challenges, the suffering, the calling to be bold, to be prepared, to be strong in the grace of God, to make disciples, “Timothy, here’s the deal, from the time of Solomon to now it has been true. ‘The fear of man is a snare, but blessed is he who trusts in the Lord,’” Proverbs 29:25.

So, what is the antidote to peer pressure? The apostle Paul knows the greatest antidote to peer pressure is God pressure.

And so, as you open your Bibles to 2 Timothy chapter 4, notice how he opens, “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus who is the judge of the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom.”

When I study the Bible, one of the things I like to do is some people call it a mechanical layout. I like to rewrite the text. So, if you were rewriting the text, “I solemnly charge you.” So, all of a sudden, those words, you know, you can do your little word study on them. What you realize is this is like coming before - a legal term - a court of appeals. This is a heavy, heavy moment.

And then there are three levels. He says, “I charge you in the presence of God Almighty and Jesus Christ,” who is what? Who is the Judge of the living and the dead. “So, Timothy, as I end this and I’m ready to check out and I’m ready to head to heaven, I want you to know that this final thing, I’m bringing you before Almighty God. And, second, I’m going to bring you before the Son of God. And then I want to remind you that you’re going to stand before Him and He is going to judge you. And you’re going to give an account of your life.

But I want you to know, on account of His appearing - He’s coming back! So, you better stay on you’re a-game every single moment of every single day, because you don’t know when He’s coming back. And, by the way, there’s a great reward. And I charge you because of His kingdom - because what you do now when there’s a reward and your whole life in the future - this is, like, heavy and then heavy and then heavy and then heavier.” And then, so what does he tell him to do? He is going to command him to be ready to communicate and to apply God’s Word in unpopular ways with great patience in a hostile environment. If I wanted to summarize verses 2 through 6, he’s going to command him to be ready to communicate and then to obey God’s Word in unpopular ways with great patience in a hostile environment.

There are actually five specific commands, but the first one is more overarching. He says, “Preach the Word.” Second command, “Be ready in season and out of season,” to do what? “To correct, to rebuke, the exhort.” That’s what you’re to do. Well, how do you do it? “Do it with great patience and instruction.”

Let’s do a little work together on this passage. So, he says, “I want you to,” the word for preach is to be a herald. “I want you to proclaim.” This is, “Timothy, I want you to tell people what the truth is.” In fact, as he’ll go on, he’ll talk a little bit later because people will wander from the truth. He’ll say, “I want you to give them sound doctrine.”

And then he’s going to tell him, “In your declaration of the truth of God,” it’s more than just Bible stories, it’s more than interesting illustrations, it’s more than keeping people’s attention, it’s more than helping them live better moral lives and being kinder neighbors.

“I want you to take the great doctrines of the Church and I want you to explain them and declare them and apply them. And here’s how it works. I want you to preach the Word of God, not your opinions. And then I want you to do it in such a way where it convicts, where it cuts to the heart, where it helps people to see who they are before God, where they see where this is the truth and this is where they don’t measure up.

And then I want you to go beyond that, because after you do that, you’re going to see that some people respond very positively, and some people don’t. And then I want you to rebuke.” It literally means to censure.

It’s like this is the truth and it’s a graceful, wonderful truth. But there are things that come with it in terms of obedience. And then I want you to help people see: this is the truth, but this is where they are living. And that delta is the grace of God and the gospel and the Spirit of God and the work in their life. And so, I want them to get to see that difference, because if they don’t, they can’t respond.

And then some will respond in obedience and some won’t. And the ones that won’t, I want you to go from correct or convict to rebuke. This is like to admonish. This is like shooting it straight. This is like saying: We are teaching, this is what your priorities are. This is what God says about our money and our possessions and our stewardship. This is what He says about our mental life and our sexuality.

And you teach that truth, because every command, listen carefully, every command of God in Scripture is for your good. There is no picture of, like, here’s a command and you’re on this side of the command and God is on that side of the command. The commands are like this and He’s on this side with His arm around you saying, “The wisdom of God, the Hebrew concept of wisdom, is God has created a way for life to work.”

And so, wisdom is, it’s not intellectual. Wisdom is the skill to understand: This is how God tells me to do relationships. They are very counterintuitive. Humility, others-centeredness, concern for others, caring, sacrificial. This is how you do your finances. It doesn’t belong to me. Generosity, stewardship, kindness, helping. This is how you deal with your enemies. Don’t respond with evil to evil, but good for evil. Pray for those who persecute you. I mean, this is like wacky stuff!

He is saying, “That’s the truth.” The point behind it is when you follow the pattern, as you read through the Proverbs, look at the path, the pattern, the way. There’s a path and that’s how you experience the very best from God. He came that you might have life, you might have it abundantly. But you don’t have abundant life unless you’re on the path with Jesus. Remember what He said? “Follow Me.” He didn’t say, “Preach what I did.” He says, “I want you to actually do what I did as well as preach and tell people about My life.”

I have this word picture that really helped me. I was a very, very slow learner as a new believer. I was thoroughly – God radically changed my life, but I, within three months, I went away to school and it was Bible study on Thursday night and hanging out in the bars and stuff with the basketball team on Friday and Saturday.

And desperately trying to get up to go to church and making it about once a month; feeling very, very guilty telling God, “I’ll never do that again,” only to do the same things over and over and over and over and over and being just totally frustrated, and living a double life.

I didn’t know much, so I just kept reading through the New Testament. I couldn’t understand the other part. But I got to the part at the end where it says, “His commandments are not grievous unto us,” in 1 John. And I thought, I don’t know about you, but they are really grievous to me. I just thought, I think this guy is on drugs. Or he knows a different Jesus than me.

Actually, you know, there are four girls to every guy and I’m to be sexually pure and I’m committed to doing that and that’s grievous. Everyone else is sleeping around. It says I’m supposed to – it was so hard to be a Christian. And I had this picture of, I’m on this side, there’s all these commands and I can’t keep them. And I’m in this tug-of-war with God.

And I’ll never forget, I can’t remember how it all – I think there was a – I memorized a passage somewhere about His obedience, obey in order that you might receive God’s best, out of the Old Testament. And I had this picture of this chalet up in the mountains, this beautiful overlooking and there was great food and great joy and great relationships.

And I was at the bottom of, you know, one of those mountains where, you know, you go the, you know, the hairpin turns and you get to the edge and you fall over a thousand feet. And I remember God gave me this picture of, you know what? This chalet, this is the life. This is where you have an accurate view of yourself where there’s deep and rich relationships, where your deepest desires are fulfilled with people and life and purpose and career. And this is, you’re on this journey, and it’s this winding road. And, Chip, if you go off the road, you can drop a thousand feet and it really hurts. So, what I did is I put guardrails all the way around that curvy road. And those guardrails are My commandments.

And the whole point of the guardrails are when you bump into them, you are aware and I convict you, not because I’m mad at you, but to stay on the road because I love you so much I want you to get My best. “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not freely give us all things?” Romans 8:32.

And I remember the transition that happened when it wasn’t like, it was always about rules and stop doing this, or start doing that, or you’re supposed to read your Bible more, or stop lusting, or stop doing this. And all of a sudden it was like, “Oh! So, there’s this way better life and these commandments…” That’s why they are not grievous.

And so, the teaching of God’s Word that you need to put yourself under is the teaching that is, not just making you feel good or not just nice stories. You know what? There’s nothing wrong with a sermon that makes you feel good. And I would hope there are some nice stories. And I have said this, I have studied how churches grow all over the world. It has been a hobby. But for the last, at least, twenty-five years, my passion has been to help Christians live like Christians and pastors measure the quality and the health of the ministry by: Are you preaching the Word in a way that convicts, rebukes, and then don’t miss this, and exhorts.

The word means to encourage. It’s an interesting word that can be applied two ways. Sometimes it means to exhort like get with the program. And sometimes it means to comfort someone in their struggle. It’s parakaleo. Para – alongside. Kaleo – to call. So, he says, “Timothy, here’s what you need to do, man. It’s a crazy world, you’ve got to suffer, it’s evil now, you know? It’s not going to get any better. But here’s what you do. You, in the midst of this, you teach God’s Word, “This is true.” All have fallen short of the grace of God. Christ came and died in our place as our substitute. He has risen from the grave. There is a heaven, there is a hell, Jesus is coming back, He has paid the price for all mankind and whosoever would put their trust in Him can have eternal life and it begins right now.

That’s the message, Timothy, and then this is how you walk and are sanctified by the Spirit and the Word of God in the context of community so that we are lights. We hold forth the light of God’s Word in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation. Preach it, son!