Home » Spiritual Direction » Lectionary Sermon for Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Lectionary Sermon for Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost

2 Timothy 3:14-4:5

What does “acquainted with the sacred writings” mean? I looked at several translations. Then I looked at the word in its likely original form at what I found was a word of power and ability to be wise given through faith, the faith, in Jesus Christ. To become acquainted, according to the dictionary, is to be made aware of or familiar with someone or something. From birth, there was an intent to make Timothy aware and familiar with the power of God’s Word.

Timothy was a blessed individual. Timothy was raised in a home where the Scripture was important. Timothy’s family discussed the Scripture (the Old Testament) and interpreted it through the teaching of Jesus and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Timothy had always been part of a community of faith. A community that studied and prayed the Scripture. Timothy had been always taught, “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matt. 4:4 NRS)

I love hearing children in church. For I know that the children will be at least introduced to the Word of God in a manner that I hope leads them toward being acquainted. The truth is that the church cannot do it alone. It is believed the last time the church had any real standing with youth was in the Sixties of the last century. If we depend on institutions and/or communities alone, that acquaintance will be weak. It takes churches, good friends, relatives, role models, and parents who depend on the Bible in the home and use it as an instrument of love, not legalism, to build up not break down, and most importantly magnifies Jesus as Lord. Be warned, this will not be an easy task, being a parent never is easy, being a parent like Timothy’s is a God-depending task. You will have a great impact on your children.

Then Paul writes these words, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” In these words, we find the definition of Scripture.

God breathed. In the beginning of human existence, there are these words, “then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. (Gen. 2:7 ESV) This is how we came into existence, the breath of God gives life, mortal life. But we were meant for more. We need to have a spiritual life that will take our mortal life beyond death and time. That is why when Jesus was speaking to Nicodemus, he told him there needs to be two births. One physical and one of the Spirit. It is this birth of the Spirit that Jesus offers to us. Through this birth, this spiritual birth, we become indwelt by the Spirit of God, a counselor to guide us in the decision we make as human beings as we live in expectation of what is to come in the reality of what is now.

The Scripture is about life. It is about being profitable. It is about being positive, of being guided, and shown dangers and mistakes. It is about aiding us in discovery and accomplishment. It teaches, trains, and transforms. The Holy Spirit brings the writing to life in our lives. It is bread, holy spiritual bread. The Scripture is self-revealing in declaring, “one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” (Deut. 8:3 NRS)

Now as for the phrase, “man of God.” The original language states, τοῦ θεοῦ ἄνθρωπος, (2 Tim. 3:17 BYZ) of God man(humans). Yes, anthropos means man but in the generic sense. Not trying to be politically correct, just biblically honest. Most important is that the Scripture is good for all regardless of gender. All can be blessed by its gifts.

This is a deeply encouraging correspondence. Paul, in prison, speaks of the gifts of God and where our confidence should lie, even in trying conditions and/or situations. Paul is faithful. Faithful to a trust proven true time and time again.

Then Paul goes on to give his student in ministry a charge, “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom,” very strong words indeed.

The word charge is a word that is both a command and a warning. The command is obvious in the word preach. The warning has to do with what is to be preached. It stresses the seriousness with which the instruction is given. This Word has power. This word is not to be taken likely. Paul invokes God as a witness.  I have no doubt Timothy understood. Timothy knew his assignment, “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.”

Preach the word. Remember, the word is not a what but a who. John calls Jesus the Word. It is Jesus who is to be proclaimed. For only Jesus can lead a heart to God. The Holy Spirit uses the word proclaimed to call, convict, convert, but also counsel, comfort, and care. If preaching does not do the latter three it is not preaching to me. Preaching requires the compassion and care of the prophets for the people as well as a desire to see them grow in grace and mercy beyond that of the preacher. Every mentor should what their students to grow beyond them. After all, John tells us, “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.” (1 Jn. 3:2 NRS) This is the path, the process, the procedure faith takes us on. The Holy Spirit is always there to speak to our hearts and minds guiding us to God. The Scripture opens our hearts and minds to opportunities for faith and trust. This is what Paul desired of Timothy. This was his charge.

Then comes the prophetic warning, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”

Human nature is fickle. Human emotions are fragile. Human understanding of the plan of God is very limited. Human beings (that includes all of us) face the dual dangers of arrogance and ignorance. Each of us lives our lives in the midst of spiritual forces without ever being aware until it is too late. There will always be those who use religion for purpose of their own perverted perspective. There will always be cults and occultists. There will always be religions, sects, denominations, orientations, movements, and mayhem in the realm of religion. The enemy has many, many ways of seducing people to a false faith. God has given us an answer to this dilemma, “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (Jn. 14:6 NRS) This is straightforward. This is our foundation of faith. Jesus incarnate, God will us, crucified, resurrected, and ascended. Jesus who promises he will return as he left and till then will be with us always through the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Our reading today closes with this exhortation from Paul, “As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of can evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” (2 Tim. 4:1-5 ESV)

A young Bible college student read this passage and said, “be sober-minded” is easy, just don’t drink.” He was laughed at, but literally, he was right. The word sober in the language Paul wrote means to abstain from wine. Figuratively it has a more mental disciple aspect. Paul was saying, keep a clear head. This world would view Timothy’s calling as dangerous, and it was. Timothy was told to prepare for suffering, and he did. As for the work of an evangelist and fulfilling his ministry, that is between God and Timothy. The question for us is have we even discovered our work? Do we have a ministry we are carrying out for God? Remember, God works through people. What is God doing through you?

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