Sunday, October 20, 2013

Protect At All Cost

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!        2 Timothy 3:1-5  NKJV
It goes without saying that we could not discuss the subject of the last words of the founders of the Church without considering what the Apostle Paul had to say.  His last words were to Timothy, a young man who had come to know the Lord through Paul’s teaching in Lystra.  He later was to accompany Paul on his second missionary journey and became a disciple and friend for the remainder of Paul’s life.  Paul sent him to Ephesus to pastor the church there, and his second letter to Timothy is regarded as the last letter of his life before he was executed in Rome.

As you might have expected by now, the subject of Paul’s letter to Timothy shows the very same concerns of those of Peter and John, namely the health of the Church that they had founded and nurtured in the first century.  All of these men were concerned with the appearing of false teachers and prophets who would cultivate apostasy within the Church and change the message of the Gospel that Jesus had brought to an unbelieving world by His death and resurrection.  Protecting the purity of the Gospel message is the common concern of all of these great men of the faith.
Yet the inescapable conclusion we must come to after acknowledging their concerns is just who does the responsibility to protect the Church fall upon?  The answer to that is obviously anyone who has responded to the message of the Gospel and made the decision to accept the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as remission for their sin.  The result of that decision is membership in the body of Christ, the Church, and the responsibility to protect it and the message of the Gospel at all cost.  Just what is the cost of defending the faith?  Paul goes on to explain to Timothy just what to expect when you make that choice.

Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.                              2 Timothy 3:12-17  NKJV
While warning Timothy to expect persecution Paul also tells him that his best defense against that persecution is the knowledge of the Scriptures, and continual study of the Word.  Doing that, according to Paul, will make us “complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.  Now I have to confess there have been many times in my life that I have doubted my ability to be a good defender of the faith, and have mentioned to God just what I think my shortcomings might be.  His response was to look at Timothy through the eyes of Paul, and specifically notice what Timothy’s shortcomings were by the warnings Paul chose to direct to him.

Timothy apparently was; timid (2 Tim. 1:7), ashamed (2 Tim. 1:8), afraid (2 Tim. 1:14), weak (2 Tim. 2:1), undedicated (2 Tim. 2:5), insecure (2 Tim. 2:12), distracted (2 Tim. 2:15), selfish (2 Tim. 2:22), and impatient (2 Tim. 2:24) just to name a few.  Oh, and let's not forget that Timothy was only in his early twenties.(1 Tim. 4:12)  You see, if Paul took the time to mention these specific things to Timothy, there must have been reason for him to do so.  Unfortunately for me, I can see where many of these admonitions could and can apply to me as well. 
I believe as followers of Christ and members of the Church, we all are responsible not only to defend the Gospel we were given but to also look closely at ourselves and acknowledge that we all have shortcomings that need to be addressed. While it would be easy for us to decide in our own minds that we might not be “suited” to be a defender, I believe this passage, and both of the letters to Timothy tell us different.  Paul does a wonderful job of removing all of our excuses, and making it perfectly clear that the responsibility to defend the faith falls upon us all.

I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.  2 Timothy 4:1-5  NKJV
The message from each of these great men of faith as they approached the end of their lives was essentially the same.  They worried about the health of the Church that was founded on the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to which they had personally labored the past sixty years to nurture and protect.  Their message to us is to continue that fight and to not allow those who would enter the Church with the intent to weaken it by presenting a false gospel not based on the Word of God.  It is these people that we are warned to not only watch out for, but to oppose with the strength of the Gospel of Christ which is found in His Holy Scriptures.

Peter, John, and Paul all warned of what we could expect as the end drew near.  Is it just me, or do you see what I see?
Keep watching.