Do You REALLY Want to Change?

This is based on my sermon for New Year’s, which comes from [youversion]2 Timothy 2:21[/youversion] and surrounding verses.

Is it even possible to really change? Millions of people must be asking that question, especially as we face another new year. You may already have a list of areas of your life you’re going to change. Whether they are “resolutions” or not, you’re hoping you can make it this year.

ONE GREAT TRUTH: Change is possible. In fact, it’s God’s plan for all of His children to change us into the image of Christ, but we have to be ready first – prepared for His use through repentance and renewal.

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Real Christians Hurt… And Show It

As Paul concluded his second letter to Timothy, he expressed some hurt. Demas had forsaken him. Alexander the coppersmith had caused him much harm. At one point, no one was willing to stand with Paul. Rejection, criticism, and abandonment hurt! The world is watching believers to see how we’re going to handle it all.

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What A Wonderful World

At our wedding, Angie and I chose to have Louie Armstrong’s song played… What a Wonderful World. In light of yesterday’s shootings, and so many other monumental tragedies in recent years, is it really a wonderful world? We were driving to Fort Smith yesterday for the annual meeting of the BMA of America and were reflecting on some of the tragedies that have taken place at this same time of the year such as the Oklahoma City bombing (April, 1995), the Waco compound burning (April, 1993), and Columbine (April, 1999). Each of these tragedies evoked emotions of fear and trepidation about living in this present world.

Our daughter begins kindergarten this fall. She’s nearly five years old and we’re already speculating about the nature of the world in which she will grow up and go through school. The news media tackles subjects like campus security and the psychological reasons behind such an awful rampage. But the secular media can never fully comprehend the nature of human depravity. Evil men will do evil things, no matter our level of security. If not on a campus, then in a restaurant, an airport, or a World Trade Center. Is this really a wonderful world?

There are natural and supernatural factors that can only be seen through a God-centered world view. The depravity of man runs deep in the heart. Evil abounds in humankind and murder, war, and bloodshed will continue as long as lost mankind has some dominion over this present realm. Further, Satan is labeled in Scripture as the “prince of the power of the air… the god of this world.” We who live on earth, live in a time and place where darkness has dominion. Is it really a wonderful world?

My answer, surprisingly, is yes. Why? Because it is in this present realm that God is actively working to extend His saving and healing grace to a lost and depraved people. It is here that God moves. It was into this humanity that Jesus, the light, came into the world. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. God’s glory was put on display through the life of Jesus Christ, through His atoning death, and through His miraculous resurrection. Do we live in a wonderful world? Only insomuch as Jesus makes the difference.

Last night, we were ministered to by a wonderful gospel singer who performed the old song Beulah Land. I love the lines… “Beulah land, I’m longing for thee, and someday on thee I’ll stand…” Our world, inundated with pain and loss and suffering, is merely a waiting room, a practice run, an incubation chamber for eternity. For those who believe in Jesus Christ as Savior, heaven is our real home. Hell awaits those who reject His free offer of grace.

Amazingly, we cannot forget that it is this world which will someday be renovated by fire. This world will be redeemed. It currently groans with birth pains, waiting to be delivered from its depraved lostness. It’s a wonderful world, plagued by the inherent sinfulness of humankind. It’s wracked with pain and evil. Yet everything on God’s time line is moving toward a great and triumphant finality. Jesus will rule and reign.

Our hearts are gripped, in times like this, with uncertainty and fear. Then Scripture speaks on behalf of its divine author… “For God hath not given us a spirit of fear; but of power, and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7) “Casting all your care upon him, for he careth for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) “Be careful (anxious) for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

Is this world your home, or do you seek a city to come, a home not made with human hands preserved in the eternities for you? Jesus Christ came to be the light and hope of a lost and dark world. He came to offer you peace, pardon, and eternal life if you’ll only trust fully in Him, even in the world’s darkest moments. More is to come. Scripture foretells that times will wax worse and worse. Yet Jesus’ hand is always extended toward you. Embrace Him who is ready to embrace you, and enjoy the unspeakable peace and confidence of God.

Can You Handle the Truth?

And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”—2 Timothy 2:2 (NKJV)

In order for Christianity to triumph in the modern age, Christian truth must be passed on from disciple to disciple. There are two key people involved in the process. First, the one holding the truths of Christianity must be willing to share, to invest into the lives of others. Second, there must be “faithful” people willing to hear and assimilate truth into their lives.

Are you “faithful?” In other words, if given the opportunity to hear and understand Christian truth, would you live up to the responsibility of passing that knowledge along to others? Would you keep the chain unbroken? A better question would be, have you kept the chain unbroken?

If you’re a follower of Christ, then you are both people. You’ve received Christian truth, therefore you must pass it on. And generations to come will give praise to God on high because you cared enough to share.

Fear Not

”For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” -2 Timothy 1:7

A certain amount of fear is natural and is built into who we are physically speaking. This fear is quite helpful in the presence of danger, when our intuition kicks in and protects us from harm. But there is another kind of fear that the Bible warns us against. It is a spiritual fear in which we are limited in living bodly for God. The source of this fear is never God.

We don’t have to be timid when it comes to proclaiming Jesus Christ to our neighbors and our world, and we don’t have to be timid when it comes to living the Christian life with boldness either. God is on our side and He is the soverign God and the victorious Savior. He simply never causes or desires us to show fear in our lives, but rather to demonstrate the power of God.

Are there fears in our life based on an incorrect view of God or a lack of trust in Him? Lay them at the foot of the cross and seek His power and boldness to overcome and live with divine courage.

Qualities of a Growing Church: TRUTH

Based on 2 Timothy 3:15-4:5

The 1st Quality of a growing church that I’m going to discuss is truth. A great church believes the Bible completely, proclaims the Bible passionately, and applies the Bible creatively.

We live in a age of pluralism and open theism. Just about anything could be considered “truth” by society so long as it is personalized to the one proclaiming it. The church has a wonderful opportunity to be the one place people can go for an honest word from God. The world desperately needs for us to be solid on this. If we waver, if we falter, then what hope does the world have? So what should be the attitude of a great church toward the Word of God?

FOUR ATTITUDES OF A GREAT CHURCH TOWARD GOD’S WORD:

1. We need to be convinced of the truthfulness of God’s Word. (3:15-16)

I’m not going to dwell long on the apologetic aspect of this subject because I believe that we’ve got that under our belts already. Hopefully you’ve already decided that you’re a Bible-believing church. I simply want to point out a couple of things Paul said in his second letter to Timothy about God’s Word.

First, Paul calls the scriptures “holy.” Do you know what the word “holy” means? It’s a word that is defined by the moral perfection of God. Just the word “holy” alone testifies that the biblical authors felt that God’s Word was morally perfect and above reproach. For Paul, it went without question that the Bible he possessed in his day was God’s Word.

Paul also testifies that the scriptures are “God-breathed.” They are the very breath and words of God.

2. We need to be conscious of the purpose and power of God’s Word. (3:15-17)

The Bible is able to enlighten a darkened heart.

“We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:” -2 Peter 1:19

The Bible is able to perfect a growing believer.

“The Bible was not given for our information but for our transformation.” –D. L. Moody

The Bible gives us a totally new perspective on life.

  • “Doctrine” – The Bible teaches us a new perspective of God.
  • “Reproof” – The Bible changes our perspective on ourselves.
  • “Correction” – The Bible changes our perspective about sin.
  • “Instruction in righteousness” – The Bible equips us for godly living.

“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” –Romans 12:2

We need to be clear and creative in our communication of God’s Word. (4:1-2)

Paul then says, “Timothy, I’m challenging you to remember that God will hold you responsible for what I’m about to say… Preach the Word!” He then gives him some practical advice about how to use the Bible. I believe that there are three purposes to preaching as a Pastor and they are all found in 1 Thessalonians 2:11:

“As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children,” -1 Thessalonians 2:11

  • To “exhort” is to build up or to encourage.
  • To “comfort” is to hold up.
  • To “charge” is to fire up.

The world is giving a million mixed signals about life. It behooves us to be clear. The integrity and life-changing power of God’s Word demand that we give a clear message.

“If you think the gathering of biblical facts and standing up with a Bible in your hand will automatically equip you to communicate well, you are desperately mistaken. It will not. You must work at being interesting. Boredom is a gross violation, being dull is a grave offense, and irrelevance is a disgrace to the gospel. Too often these three crimes go unpunished and we preachers are the criminals.” –Chuck Swindoll

4. We need to be careful never to compromise God’s Word. (4:3-5)

Paul describes a day like ours in which preaching tends to be watered down. It is often nothing more than a political rant or pop-psychology rehashed. In our desire to minister to the “felt needs” of people (and I believe we should), we must be careful that we never forget that the central message of the Bible is one of redemption. It is not simply a message about how to feel better or even how to do better. It is a message of God’s holiness and our sinfulness. It is a message of His willingness to save and our need to repent and trust Jesus Christ.

We must connect the Word of God to life if we’re to honor the intention of God for His Word. We must be relevant, but we must also realize that the Bible given to us by God already is relevant to every subject that God has wished to speak of.

“Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.” –Matthew 7:24-27

Standing in Confidence

“And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”—2 Timothy 4:18

Do you stand in spiritual confidence today? A couple of days ago a young lady stopped by our office to ask for some gas money. After giving her what little cash we had on hand I asked her if she was sure that she had a relationship with Christ or if she was going to heaven. She suddenly plopped down in my office chair with a sigh and stated plainly, “No, I really don’t know at all.”

I often wonder how it is that one could be content to live every day with no real certainty of eternal life. With the possibility of judgment and hell in front of us, how can we ignore the issue of making sure of our eternal fate? Paul faced the end of his life with tremendous confidence, but notice the source of that confidence – “The Lord shall deliver me… and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom…”

This is really the essence of being saved and beginning the Christian life – trusting the Lord alone. And as we Baptists like to say, “once saved, always safe;” but not because of our own goodness, but because the One who saves, also keeps!