by Pastor Ron Thomas
RODGERS BAPTIST CHURCH
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Text: II Timothy 4:1-8. "I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom;
2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.
3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.
5 But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.
6 For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.
7 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:
8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing."
Introduction: There's a Russian proverb that says, "When you dance with a bear, you can't quit just because you're tired." That proverb describes what it must have been like working under the leadership of the apostle Paul. This greatest builder of churches of all time, was driven, passionate and tireless. Even as the apostle Paul sits in a prison cell in Rome, facing martyrdom (tradition says he was beheaded), in our text passage, we can still sense the fire in his soul.
Paul's final words to Timothy in this letter are in the form of a solemn charge. Beginning in verse 1, he says to Timothy, "I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ." Paul knew that his death was at hand, and that he might not see Timothy again this side of heaven, which means he was very serious. The word "charge" speaks of a command or instruction. The particular Greek word used here for "charge," is a strengthened form and could be expressed, "I solemnly charge or command you." Sounds like serious business! We use phrases like "solemn charge" in wedding vows, oaths of enlistment, and swearing into public office. Incidently, the phrase "solemn charge" appears often in Paul's letters. In Acts 20:21, as Paul speaks for the last time to the pastors in Ephesus, who were gathered to bid him farewell, he uses the same Greek word, when describing his past ministry in their midst. He says, "Testifying (solemnly charging) both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ."
These opening words should remind a new generation of Christian leaders, that God's work, the work of the church, is serious business! So many times, we get too casual in our service to the Lord. We are faithful and on time to work, but not to church! Is there a greater, more important work on earth? Our work for Jesus Christ on earth has far reaching, eternal consequences!
This "charge," is even more intensified by the words that follow. Paul continues in verse 1, "....before (in the presence of or in front of) God, and the Lord Jesus Christ." Paul reminds Timothy that God and the Lord Jesus Christ are witnesses to his words. There are always witnesses present when we make a solemn vow or pledge. Can you think of any greater witnesses than God and the Lord Jesus Christ? Paul is holding Timothy accountable to God and Jesus Christ!
Paul concludes verse 1, "...who shall judge the quick and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom." Paul speaks of the "appearing," the visible manifestation or return of the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the "quick" or living, those who will be alive on the earth at the time; and the "dead," or those who have passed away. When Jesus returns, it will be as a righteous judge and ruling king! We all will stand before Jesus to give an account of our lives. II Corinthians 5:10 says, "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad." The Judgment Seat of Christ, will be a time of loss and reward.
What a sobering charge! One day we will all face the Lord Jesus Christ as a righteous judge. We will stand before Jesus one on one, and give an account for our lives. Romans 14:12 says, "So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God." What will we have to show for our time spent on earth as believers? What will we say? Will we be able to say anything, or simply bow our heads in shame? Every generation of Christian leaders faces that same prospect!
As Paul speaks these words to Timothy, he is aware of his own appointment with God as his death drew near. We see this in verse 6. Paul writes, "For I am now ready to be offered (poured out as a drink offering), and the time of my departure (a common metaphor for death) is at hand." Paul was ready to die. He had reconciled his present imprisonment in Rome, and was willing to be poured out at the hand of Nero, as an offering to God!
What did Paul feel about his life of service to God? Verse 7 continues, "I have fought a good fight." He says, "My fight is over, and I have fought hard." "I have finished my course," or "My race is run, and I have run well." "I have kept the faith," that is, "I have remained loyal to God, and to the cross of Jesus Christ. I have not compromised the gospel message." Verse 8 concludes, "Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing." In the Roman games, a laurel wreath was given to the winners as a symbol of triumph and honor. Waiting for Paul on the other side was a reward, or "crown of righteousness." Paul would soon receive his reward from the Lord Jesus, the righteous Judge. Presently, he was condemned by Nero, but he would soon be crowned by the Lord Jesus Christ! Hallelujah!
There is more! Paul tells Timothy and new generation of Christian leaders, that it would be the same for them! Verse 8b says, "....and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing."
My Christian brothers and sisters, you have a fight, a struggle to win! You have a race, a course to complete! You have a faith to keep. You have a crown to earn! Get your eyes off of others!
Facing his own death and anticipating his reward in Heaven, the apostle Paul gives Timothy, his "son in the faith," this solemn charge. There are five directives contained in verses 2-5. Paul's Directives For Pastors And Christian Leaders
Directive one: "Preach the Word!" Verse 2 begins, "Preach the word." The word "preach" means to herald, or proclaim publicly. Paul encourages Timothy to boldly and vigorously proclaim the Word of God. Timothy was to be bold and passionate when it came to preaching the Word of God! As the little song goes: "The B-I-B-L-E yes that's the book for me. I stand alone on the Word of God, the B-I-B-L-E."
It is interesting to note that this is the first command given to a pastor. Teaching and preaching the Word of God is the most important responsibility of a pastor! A pastor must feed his flock the Word of God! Of the five directives given, this one directive is given the most time, space, and elaboration by Paul. He goes on to tell Timothy several things related to this first directive.
Timothy must "preach the Word" persistently. Verse 2 continues, "..be instant (ready and prepared) in season, out of season." It didn't matter if the time seemed favorable or not. It didn't matter if Timothy felt well or not. It didn't matter if there was a ready audience or a rebellious audience. It didn't matter if there was a big crowd or just a few. Timothy must always see himself on call, on duty, ready and prepared to serve, ready and prepared to share, the Word of God.
Timothy must preach the Word impartially. Verse 2 concludes, "..reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine." Timothy was to administer the Word of God as it was needed. The Word of God is described in the Bible as a fire, hammer, and a sword! It has many applications!
To some, it meant reproof. The word "reprove" means to correct, which involved pointing out their faults and errors! As pastor, Timothy must tell people where they have gone wrong, and what they need to do to correct it!
To some it meant "rebuke." The word "rebuke" means to confront using sharp words with authority! It involves warning someone in order to prevent an action. As pastor, Timothy must not mince words when it came to turning people from sin and destructive behavior!
This alone is enough to get most pastors of churches in America, fired! If a pastor starts reproving and rebuking today, he will not last long!
To some it means "exhortation" or encouragement. The word "exhort," means to comfort or encourage. Once someone is rebuked, the pastor must come along side of him or her in love, with encouraging words.
Timothy is to do all this with patience and sound teaching. Timothy's words must be rooted and saturated with the truth of God's Word.
Timothy must preach the Word faithfully. Timothy is not preach so to be appreciated or applauded. Why? He will soon be discouraged or manipulated. Notice verses 3-4. "For the time will come when they will not endure (not put up with) sound doctrine; but after their own lusts (their own selfish interests and desires) shall they heap to themselves (gather around themselves) teachers, having itching ears; 4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables (myths, man made lies)." The phrase "itching ears" in verse 3b, speaks of people who are more interested in being titillated, excited with pleasure, than being set straight. Someone said this describes, "Sermonettes for Christianettes!" Paul tells us that Biblical teaching and preaching involves telling people what they do not want to hear, and making demands that they do not want to follow.
Commenting on this verse, John MacArthur said, "Many churches today are filled to overflowing with those who want their ears tickled with the myths of easy believism, and the many variations of selfism, and so called positive thinking. They come to have their egos fed and their sins approved, not to have their hearts cleansed and their souls saved. They want only to feel good, not to be made good. Tragically, such myths serve to religiously insulate people from the true gospel and drive them still further from the Lord."
A new generation of Christian leaders must place great emphases on the teaching and preaching of God's Word. How important is the Word of God to you? Do Bible lessons and Bible sermons bore you? Do you read your Bible on your own? How much Bible do you know? Do you own a Bible? Do you carry a Bible? Are you more interested in being entertained at church, than learning what the Bible has to say? Is church a social place to you, or is it a learning center? Is your commitment to church centered more on some personality or relationship, than being centered on the Word of God? If you were to be looking for another church, what would be your criteria? Would it be Biblical teaching, preaching and sound doctrine?
Directive two: Stay calm, collected, and focused in all situations. Verse 5 begins, "But watch thou in all things." The word "watch" means to remain calm and collected. It has the sense of being in control or temperate. There was once a Dry Idea deodorant commercial that said, "Never let them see you sweat." Unfortunately a pastor is never afforded the luxury of losing it. He must always stay in touch with his call and the expectations of his office! He cannot let people and problems get to him!
There is a book by Richard Carlson entitled, "Don't Sweat The Small Stuff." It is a book designed to help us rid ourselves of needless stress. Richard says, "Without question, many of us have mastered the neurotic art of spending much of our lives worrying about a variety of things all at once." Carlson's challenges us to view stressful stuff more as small stuff!
This is the challenge before every new generation of Christian leaders and believers. It is so easy to get side tracked by the "small stuff." We can let little, petty things rob us of so much energy and joy! Satan can get us discouraged by taking our eyes off of Jesus!
Directive three: Be willing to endure hardships. Verse 5 continues, ".....endure afflictions." There are plenty of what we call, "good times" pastors. They love their work as long as the good times roll! The moment there is trouble, they feel called to pack up and leave. They develop a case of U-Haul fever. A lot of pastors will not accept a church, if it is not exactly to their liking. Paul is telling Timothy, that he must be willing to stick it out and stay, when the going gets tough. A pastor is a shepherd who is to model his life after the Good Shepherd. Notice Jesus' word in John 10:11-13, "I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. 12 But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. 13 The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep."
A new generation of Christian leaders should be willing to "endure hardships." Serving the Lord faithfully means doing the right thing, even when it is difficult!
Directive four: Always be ready to share the good news of Jesus Christ. Verse 5 continues, "....do the work of an evangelist." The word "evangelist" speaks of the bearer of good news! The "good news" of course is the gospel of Jesus Christ! Timothy was to share the message of the gospel at all times with all people. Timothy's preaching must always point people to Jesus Christ!
As believers, we are all called to be witnesses. This means that everyday, we are to be sensitive to the opportunities around us to share our faith. Everyday, the Lord brings people into our lives who need to hear the good news of Jesus Christ!
Directive five: Fulfill your calling and ministry. Verse 5 concludes, ".....make full proof (make the most) of thy ministry." A young preacher once complained to C. H. Spurgeon, the famous Baptist preacher, that he did not have as big a church as he deserved. "How many do you preach to?" Spurgeon asked. "Oh, about a hundred," the man replied. Solemnly, Spurgeon said, "That will be enough to give account for on the day of judgment." The apostle Paul was telling Timothy to fulfill his ministry, to do all that God had called him to do. Timothy was no Paul. There was only one Paul. In verse 7, Paul spoke about his fight, his course or race, his faith. Timothy was gifted differently and given a different assignment. He was to fulfill his own ministry.
The same is true for us. Whether we are teaching a Sunday school class, working in a van ministry, greeting visitors with a warm smile and welcome hand shake, or preaching to thousands, we are to fulfill our ministry.
This solemn charge given by Paul needs to burn within each of us as believers in Jesus Christ. We are living in the "last days." These are "perilous times." We never know just when we will be called home, or Jesus Christ will return to catch us out. Are you committed? If Jesus returned this evening, would He find you faithfully and effectively serving Him? Can you say with Paul, "I am ready to die. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course."
You have also been given a personal charge, right where you are today. You Junior partner prayer card sums up our challenge from Paul. He might have said this to you today if he were here:
1. Pray to be a witness.
2. Pray for your church.
3. Pray for leadership.
4. Pray for your nation.>