2 Timothy 011 – The War on Certainty2 Timothy 2:6-7 • Dr. Andy Woods • November 22, 2015 • 2 Timothy - The Call to Persevere
The War Against Certainty
11-22-15 2 Timothy 2:6-7 Lesson 11
Good morning everybody. If we could take our Bibles if we could and open them to the book of
2 Timothy, taking a look this morning at 2 Timothy chapter 2 and focusing most or our attention today on verses 6-7. The title of our message today is The War Against Certainty. And if you’ve been tracking with us in our study through 2 Timothy we know that this book is a special book in Paul’s writings. It’s a special book because this is Paul’s very last book. It’s a book that was written just prior to his death; in fact, you don’t have to turn there but just remember over in chapter 4, verse 6, Paul says the time of his departure is at hand, any moment in other words. [2 Timothy 4:6, “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.”]
And Paul’s biggest problem at this point is not his death but it’s Timothy, because Timothy, the man that Paul has selected largely to take the baton of truth to the next generation, a young man that Paul had brought to faith in Christ, through evangelism, a young man that Paul had discipled, a young man that Paul had installed into leadership, a young man that Paul refers to as his very own son in the faith. This young man, Timothy, was becoming timid; I like to call Timothy “Timid Timothy.” And Paul is very concerned about this, Timothy being in Ephesus, Paul in Rome ready to die, and he is concerned that if Timothy becomes timid or intrepid in his calling then Christianity really will not penetrate the next generation. So to encourage Timothy to aggressively become what God has called him to become Paul writes this very short book, spanning four chapters.
We have worked our way through chapter 1 which is a generic or general call to faithfulness in the ministry, trying to encourage Timothy. And you move into chapter 2, Paul moves from point to picture, if you will, and he sets up for Timothy about ten metaphors, or word pictures, that sort of flush out, if you will, what perseverance looks like. He has reminded Timothy, which is, I think, the key of the whole book, in verse 1 of chapter 2 that what will ultimately sustain him through the different trials and rigors of life is his reliance upon God’s grace or unmerited favor moment by moment.
And then from there Paul begins to unfold about ten metaphors, three of which we saw in our last study together, two of which, really one of which and part of two we’re going to begin today. Timothy, you are to be assertive in the ministry, you are to persevere in the ministry and my first word picture is that of a teacher. And Paul explains to Timothy how he is able to, or should take the truth that he has received from Paul and entrust those to faithful men who can teach others. And Paul, there in verse 2, pictures truth being transferred through four generations. We talked about that last time. And then from there, verses 3 and 4, Paul uses the example of a soldier, how a soldier must endure hardship, how a soldier must be untangled from anything that would distract him from his primary duty of being a soldier, and how a soldier when he (or she for that matter) enlists their options become limited. Their whole function is to please their commanding officer. So Timothy, in the same way, you are in the army of God and your function is not to get distracted into all sorts of side pursuits, we might call those trivial pursuits, but you should totally exist to please your commanding officer, who in this case is the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul moves into his third word picture, verse 5, which is an athlete, and he explains how an athlete must compete according to the rules. If an athlete does not compete according the rules he or she becomes disqualified. So Timothy, in the same way you are to press into the divine blueprint of God and you are to compete according to His rulebook as you pursue perseverance.
Now we come to verse 6 where Paul moves into his fourth word picture or metaphor and he begins to describe a farmer. Notice, if you will, 2 Timothy chapter 2 and verse 6, notice what the Apostle Paul writes. He says, “The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops.” Now we live in the 21st century obviously and so we are not an agrarian society the way the New Testament Greco-Roman world was. And so a lot of these agricultural agrarian concepts are lost to us, unless you have some specific background in farming. But in the first century world everybody would understand this image, if you will, this metaphor of a farmer.
In fact, Paul uses a tremendous farming analogy in the book of Galatians, chapter 6, verses 7-9, through a law that Paul articulates, called the law of sewing and reaping, sewing being planting, reaping is the harvest or the crop that comes forward. You might remember Paul said this in his very first letter, the book of Galatians. He says, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.  For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.  Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.”
A basic agricultural farming agrarian principle that all of Paul’s readers would have understood, the law of sowing and reaping. The law of sowing and reaping simply says what is planted comes up in the harvest. If you plant apple seeds you’re going to get what? An apple tree. Orange seeds, orange tree, poison ivy, poison ivy will come out. What if you plant nothing? Then you get nothing in response.
So you’ll notice that the law of sowing and reaping is a neutral principle. You can use it for good or you can use it for bad; plant a bad seed, get a bad crop, plant a good seed, get a good crop, do absolutely nothing and get nothing. And it’s this sort of background that Paul is bringing to Timothy’s attention when he’s describing for Timothy how he is to persevere. Again, verse 6 he describes “the hard-working farmer.” And I love that descriptor there, a “hard-working” because farming, as anybody that has ever done it can likely tell us, it’s hard work. A farmer cannot just work when it’s convenient or when he or she wants to; they have to be diligent in their farming. They have to be diligent in planting; they have to be diligent not only in planting but they have to be diligent in watering, and if those things do not occur then quite simply stated there will be no reaping, there will be no harvest, there will be no crop.
So when you look at farmers that are good at their practice or trade they are also moving, they’re always working, they are always asserting themselves, they are always innovative. They’re constantly productive. And Paul uses this example simply to communicate to Timothy that the ministry is exactly the same. What exactly are we doing in ministry? We’re constantly planting seeds, they may not be physical seeds but they are primarily spiritual seeds. The Scripture is routinely analogized to spiritual seed. We are planting these things in people’s lives. We do this through evangelism, we do this through the ministry of teaching and preaching in the local church.
Quite frankly it’s hard work to do this. I look at my wife and the amount of preparation that she puts in to teaching our children’s Sunday School, or Jr. Church, and how she understands that on a really good day she’s going to be able to hold their attention for about twelve minutes. So she’s got all kinds of other things planned for when, not if, she loses the attention of the children, games and so forth. But she knows that she’s got a brief window, about twelve minutes of un-distraction. And how she works so meticulously and diligently to plan on bringing forth the seed, planting the seed at just the right time in the life of a child, praying that ground, that that seed is going into is fertile ground so that a crop will come up. I look at my wife preparing for Sunday School, I get tired just watching her prepare.
And this is how it is in the ministry; if you’re not interested in hard work, if you’re not interested in sweat (and a lot of people aren’t) then the ministry is not a place for you. Now that is a problem because according to the New Testament model all of us are called into the ministry. In fact, most churches operate according to the 80/20 rule, which basically means 20% of the people do 80% of the work, and people sort of look at the minister as the preacher or the piano player or the choir director, they are the ministers and the rest of us are just sort of a passive audience. And there isn’t an idea that is more foreign to the New Testament than that idea, because all of us are called into the ministry, as Christians, in some way, shape or form.
You have to be asking the Lord at some point where is my ministry? What is my ministry? What do You want me to do, whether it’s in the context of the local church, being an evangelist outside of the church, doing something related to ministry outside of the church, whatever it is there’s a calling on every Christian to be involved.
1 Corinthians 12:7, describing the gifts of the Spirit says this, “But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” The word that jumps out to me in that verse is the word “each.” “Each” means all Christians are given at least one spiritual gift, I would argue that most Christians have more than one spiritual gift, and they are to use those spiritual gifts for the advancement of God’s people upon the earth. And as that happens the church begins to flourish. It moves away from just an 80/20 concept, away from a view that the minister is somebody up there on the stage and the rest of us are just an audience, but we move into this idea that we are all ministers in some way, shape or form.
You run into many Christians and they’ll say you know, I’m thinking about going into the ministry and my answer to that assertion is always the same: are you a Christian? Yes I am. Well, you’re already in the ministry according to the New Testament. So congratulations on your promotion. And so ministry itself is all of our responsibilities and Paul here has told us that ministry is hard work, just like that of a farmer.
One of the mistakes that we begin to make is we think that church is free. And I think the reason we think that is because we preach so strenuously and so aggressively that the gospel is free and the grace of God is free, that we forget the idea that church in the New Testament is never described as being free. Yes, God uses His grace to grow the church, but he uses people in the capacity of the hard working farmer. If church itself was free the analogy of the hard working farmer would not be used here at all.
Now when I say “free” people get nervous and they say oh no, here comes the big plea for money. The fact of the matter is, this church, by God’s grace, is not really in a position where we have to keep pleading for money over and over again, because of the good stewardship of those that founded this church this building is debt free and that field in the back is debt free, the parking lot is debt free, so there’s no great appeal here for money. In fact, one of the things that I’ve always appreciated about this church is, unlike most churches, the plate is never passed in this church. So you are under no emotional compulsion to give. Now we do have boxes in the back, related to offerings when the Lord places it upon your heart; we don’t put neon signs on those offering boxes, it’s something that the Lord works in your heart and you give as you’re able, as the Lord has touched your heart.
So I’m not even talking here about finances or money, although finances and money is part of it. What I’m talking about here is you, not just your wallet, I’m talking about YOU! I’m talking about who you are, I’m talking about your gifts, your talents, your level of energy, your willingness to come alongside of us, partner with us, and sweat with the rest of us, just like a hard working farmer. And how we need this to happen at Sugar Land Bible Church. If we don’t have service and if we don’t have volunteers we simply can’t have certain ministries happen. And so Paul reminds us that Timothy, yes, you’re the hard working farmer, but it’s all of God’s people.
Now something else that’s very interesting in this verse is, I would point this out, farming requires faith. It’s interesting that this example of sowing and reaping to describe ministry is used very frequently in the Scripture. You might want to jot down John 4:34-38, you’ll see the agricultural analogy used. [John 4:34-38, “Jesus said to them, ‘There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest.  Already he who reaps is receiving wages and is gathering fruit for life eternal; so that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together.  For in this case the saying is true, ‘One who sows and another reaps.’  I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored and you have entered into their labor.”]
And Paul, over in 1 Corinthians 3:6-7 puts it this way, he says, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.  So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.” Who causes the growth? God did! But He strategically used the planting of Paul and the watering of Apollos in Corinth. Paul planted the church in Corinth, he evangelized those in Corinth in the book of Acts, and then God brought another man, Apollos, along to water that crop so that it could grow correctly, primarily through the gift, I believe, of Apollos’ gift that God had given Apollos called the gift of teaching.
So that is how it works in ministry, some plant, some water. I did not plant this church, I largely see my role here as more of a watering, helping to bring up a seed that was planted by others; in fact, if you look at the history of the church this church was planted before I was even saved. And yet God used the people that planted this church in a planting capacity and now He has others that come along that water and God’s crop goes forward.
Now one of the things that’s very interesting is when you are a farmer and you plant a seed you do not see an immediate crop come up. You do not see an instantaneous immediate visible return on your investment that you just gave through your hard work. So therefore planting the seed itself is an act of faith, you have to just put it into the ground, trusting that the processes of nature will be at work bringing forth that crop. And that, to a very large extent is what ministry is. You do not in many instances see the immediate return on your investment. A lot of times you’ll teach a truth and you’ll wonder, has it really sunk in? And God has to remind us in those occasions that your job is not to see the return, your job is just to be faithful in planting the seed.
And this is a very important thing to understand because many times, because we want to see an immediate return on our investment, we plant a seed, let’s say in evangelism and we don’t see an immediate conversion and we say well, what did I do wrong, I must have failed, when in reality we have lost sight of this agrarian principle that planting and the crop come up at totally different times. Those are two totally different activities. Planting takes place, sometimes months, many times years, depending on what’s planted, a crop comes up. And a lot of times the person that plants the seed doesn’t even get a chance to see the crop.
And so therefore the very act of planting the seed itself requires faith. And so Timothy, when you are going about your work in the ministry, I want you to understand there are two things involved in it: number 1, you are going to have to work hard, you’re going to have to sweat to fulfill your obligations before God. And number 2, you’re going to have to operate on faith because you may not even see the fruit, the harvest or the crop. So many times we plant the seed and nothing happens and we think I’ve failed, when the reality of the situation is in God’s eyes you’re wildly successful because God has simply called you to be faithful at that specific point in time. What did 1 Corinthians 3:6-7 say? “I planted, Apollos watered, but” who caused the growth? God did. Our job is not to cause the growth, our job is to plant the seed.
There’s a story from my college days, I’ve told here before so if you’ve heard this before please indulge me. But I was standing in front of my dorm and there was a gentleman there, one of my classmates, and a friend of mine, I was very involved in Campus Crusade for Christ at the time, the friend of mine said it’s time for us to go to the Campus Crusade for Christ meeting, and he said this to me in the presence of this other gentleman who at that time was unsaved. And the way the story has been recounted to me, because frankly when I was reminded of this I didn’t even remember the story, but the gentleman said what is Campus Crusade for Christ? And I just made a very off-handed comment, it was not at all a very well-polished gospel presentation, it was just a seed that I just threw out there apparently. And I said something to the effect of you know, you ought to try Campus Crusade for Christ, you ought to try Jesus, because if you experience Jesus you’ll never experience anything quite like Him. That’s all I said.
Now in hind sight I could have said things a lot differently, a lot better. Maybe what I said, perhaps wasn’t even theologically correct, but I just made this very offhanded comment. And this was about 1986, 1987, right in there. I had long since forgotten that conversation even happened and when I was newly married, 1998, we were living in California in an apartment in 1999 so several decades, a little over a decade and a half had passed and I got a phone call from this guy, who was the person that I made that comment to. And I had long forgotten this individual, I had lost track of him, suddenly he got my phone number because he looked me up in the phone book. I had forgotten about the conversation but in the course of the conversation he starts to remind me of this. He says do you remember where you were standing and where I was standing and what you said, and to be honest with you, the details were very fuzzy. He says I want you to know that what you said has been bothering me ever since. The Lord took your statement that you said, that I could frankly hardly remember, that really was probably not the most theologically astute thing I could have said, he said I want you to know that the Lord took that statement and He has been bothering me with that statement, year after year after year. And I want you to know that the Lord strategically used that to bring me to saving faith in Christ.
I was startled at that, how could God take some lame thing that I said and use it so strategically in our lives. I’d never expected the statement to be used that way. In all honesty, I can’t even remember the conversation. But this is the kind of thing that God does when we are just faithful in the exact moment He calls us to put forth a seed. When the seed goes into the ground you really don’t know, is the seed going into good soil or is it going into bad soil? You have no ability to tell; you’re just called to be faithful and then let the Lord do a work. You’ll be shocked at what He does with our efforts that are so lame in many cases.
We take ourselves so seriously sometimes. But the fact of the matter is, God can use lame, off-guided somewhat silly statements that we make, coming from a sincere heart, to water and to bring to fruition and to bring people to saving faith in Jesus Christ. If God has called you to plant a seed and you don’t see an immediate crop don’t look at yourself as a failure; look at yourself as being faithful to what God has called you to do. And there is so much truth to be learned from this principle of a farmer, the principle of the work ethic, the principle of how we must operate on the basis of faith as we are sowing the seeds that God gives to us.
And then you’ll notice the second part there of verse 6, notice what it says, “The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops.” So in other words, the farmer, because of his industry and planting the crop is going to be rewarded because he is the one that shares in some of the crop that comes up. In fact, he is to have the initial crop; he is to share in the first of the crop. And what God or Paul, God through Paul to Timothy, is reminding Timothy of is God is a rewarder. God is in the rewarding business.
And I believe this, that when I received that particular phone call from this particular individual, God in just an instant allowed me to see a seed that I had planted and He allowed me to see that as a reward to me for my faithfulness, because at that moment, when the conversation happened I could have changed the subject, I could have avoided the controversy of mentioning the “J” word (Jesus). I do remember to some extent being ridiculed by this individual when we began to talk about Campus Crusade for Christ and that’s sort of what promoted me to say you ought to try Jesus, once you experience Jesus you have experienced the ultimate, you won’t have another experience quite like it, and so God allowed me to receive this phone call over a decade later, as I believe as a reward. And this is the kind of thing that God does.
The farmer is the first to share in the harvest. And this fits, this concept of rewarding fits so well with the other analogies that we’ve looked at: the athlete, the athlete competes for a prize; that analogy was given in verse 5. The soldier fulfills his obligations to be approved by his commanding officer, verse 3. All of these analogies, if you study them out, communicate this concept of a reward. What is God? God, in His grace, is in the rewarding business. 1 Corinthians 3:8, regarding Apollos and Paul planting and watering, verse 8 says, “Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor.” Payday someday in other words.
Revelation 22:12, Jesus says, “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.” You see, your salvation comes to you as a free gift. A reward is something the Christian receives above and beyond salvation, based on their faithfulness to Christ in this life. In fact, at the great Judgment Seat of Christ, which we are all candidates for, because Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:10, to the church age believer, “For we all must appear before the judgment seat of Christ,” we cannot opt out of the Judgment Seat of Christ. It is a judgment, not to determine salvation, which is already yours at the point of faith in Christ, it is a judgment where God will either give or not give rewards to various Christians based on their faithfulness to God in this life.
You may not see your reward in this life but if you’ve been faithful to what God has called you to do, if you’ve faithfully dispatched your duties under God, then there is a reward in it for you. Perhaps not in this life, maybe in this life, but certainly and definitely at the Bema Seat Judgment of Christ. I have all of the Scriptures there on the left hand column, you can look those up on your own, but the incorruptible crown is given to the believer that gains mastery over the old man or the sin nature. The crown of rejoicing is given to the soul winner. The crown of life is given to the believer that faithfully endures trials in this life. Even the sufferings that we go through have the potential of being rewarded by God in the next life as we keep our eyes focused on Jesus in the midst of suffering.
1 Peter 5 talks about a crown of rejoicing for the believer that faithfully shepherds God’s people. People say well, you’ve got to be a pastor for that one, right? Not necessarily, all of us shepherd in different capacities; one on one, Sunday School classes, small groups, teaching children, guiding someone that needs a word of encouragement when you get a phone call from a discouraged believer. And then the crown of rejoicing for the believer that is simply yearning for and longing for the appearing of Jesus Christ.
And as this world continues to move in the godless direction that it’s moving in, I can’t tell you how I am yearning for the return of Christ. And even that part in and of itself is something that God uses as a reward and people say well, you know, what does it really matter, I’m going to heaven anyway, I don’t really care about rewards. Well, if it’s not something to care about why does the New Testament disclose these things to us? They must be important for some reason.
2 John 8 says, “Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward.” That’s not talking about salvation; their salvation is presumed there. It’s talking about the contingency of a reward. A reward is different than an inheritance. An inheritance is something that’s automatically coming to you legally, although currently you don’t enjoy it. There’s no contingency in an inheritance but with a reward there’s a contingency; maybe you’ll get the reward, maybe you won’t.
Revelation 3:11 Jesus says, “I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown.” People say well, there it is, you can lose your salvation. That’s not talking about a loss of salvation. How can you lose eternal life? If eternal life is eternal doesn’t that by definition mean it can’t be lost? This is talking about a reward. A reward for what? For success? NO, that’s America; America rewards people for success. God rewards people for faithfulness. “Well done, thy good and faithful servant,” it’s not a word of success there at all. Is success wrong? Of course not! If God wants our efforts to succeed that’s His business but the fact of the matter is God rewards people simply for their faithfulness. And there’s so much to learn from this agrarian metaphor of the farmer.
Now he moves into verse 7 and verse 8 where He gives yet another illustration of perseverance and that’s the example of Christ Himself. And I was going to try to get through verse 7 and 8 but I became so enraptured with verse 7, the introductory verse, that that’s as far as we will get today. Notice what it says in verse 7, “Consider what I say for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.” Verse 7 again, verse 7, “Consider what I say for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.”
What we are experiencing today in the United States of America, what we are experiencing today around the world, what we are experiencing today heavily in the church of Jesus Christ is what I call the war on certainty. A fancy name for this is postmodernism. If you’re over the age of 20 you probably have not been heavily impacted by postmodernism. But I guarantee you this much, your kids have, your grandkids have.
What is postmodernism? Postmodernism is the ethos, postmodernism is the sphere of thinking of the age. And the thinking goes something like this: you really can’t be certain of anything because the moment you express a certitude or a certainty, particularly emanating from the Bible, is the moment you are called, number 1, arrogant; number 2, unloving, and then they like to use this one, number 3, you don’t have the proper tone.
The fact of the matter is, you can express a certitude from the Scripture in the most polite, loving way a human being is able to express it, yet the very act of expressing a certitude in the postmodern age that we find ourselves in is deemed as arrogant, unloving and not proper tone. And this whole postmodern war on uncertainty is a self-refuting, self-collapsing, self-contradictory idea.
To the person that says there is no such thing as certainty, my question is are you certain of that? To the person who says there are no absolutes my response is do you know that absolutely? You see, in postmodernism you can be agnostic or doubtful about anything except your own agnosticism. And so postmodernism itself is asserting certainty, but your average Christian when they hear these kinds of things they really don’t know how to respond. So it is a self-refuting, self-contradictory argument. It’s what we call an oxymoron; oxymoron means a self-contradicting statement. It’s like saying jumbo shrimp, postal service, Microsoft works, and my personal favorite, reasonable attorney’s fees; self-contradicting ideas, two ideas that don’t go together.
And you hear this and you say well, wait a minute, this is just liberalism. No, this is not liberalism; liberalism has not had an original thought for the past hundred years. Liberalism, liberals say what they’ve always been saying; liberals come in and they attack the authority of the Word of God. The book of Daniel wasn’t written by Daniel, the book of Isaiah wasn’t written by Isaiah, the first five books of the Bible were not written by Moses, that’s all old stuff, I mean, we know those attacks. Postmodernism is different but it reaches the same result. What is says is this: Well, Daniel may have written the book of Daniel and Isaiah may have written all of the book of Isaiah, Moses may have written the Pentateuch or the Torah, and the Bible is the Word of God BUT we just can’t be certain of what it’s saying. That’s postmodernism.
What’s the end game? An assault on the Word of God, it’s just takes place through a different path or a different route. And you have to understand that this idea, although it may seem archaic to you, is the dominant idea that the youth of today are being indoctrinated in, over and over again. That’s why a lot of times we look at young people and the things they say that we think are so far out, far off. Why is it that the generations can’t communicate with each other? The answer is they think differently than you do. They think differently than you do because they are in a different worldview than you are. You came up through a worldview of modernism; they are inculcated in a worldview of postmodernism, post-modernity.
My background is in law so I have a few legal quotes just to show you that this is something in the legal system. Here’s the late Justice Brennan, a classic postmodern statement, he says: “It is arrogant to pretend that from our vantage point we can gauge accurately the intent of the framers on application of principles to specific, contemporary questions.” Do you know what he just said there? The Constitution doesn’t matter. Why would he say that? Because we don’t know what it says. “All too often sources of potential enlightenment, such as records of the ratification debates provides sparse or ambiguous evidence of the original intention…. And apart from the problematic nature of the sources, our distance of two centuries cannot but work as a prism refracting all we perceive.” [William J. Brennan, Jr; quoted in Eidesmoe, Christianity and the Constitution, 398-99.] Translation: it’s written 200 years ago, you can’t know what it means today.
Now if that’s true, what fools are we as Christians? Because I’m reading from a book, trying to speak authoritatively from it this morning, in a book written 2,000 years ago, not even in the same culture, a totally different culture. Not even in the same language, a different language. Now the Old Testament, it gets worse; I’m going back to the time of Moses, I am going back into Hebrew and yet I think that you can develop certainty from the Scripture. And people are saying you can’t even make belief of 200 years.
You see I have the word “arrogant” underlined that? That’s postmodern thought. The moment you say “thus saith the Lord,” or in the case of the Founding Fathers, “thus saith George Washington,” or Thomas Jefferson, immediately the postmodern culture looks at you as arrogant. Ezra Klein, MSNBC contributor, “The issue with the Constitution is that the text is confusing because it was written more than 100 years ago and what people believe it says differs from person to person depending on what they want to get done.” [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bc4qHHIRcJw&feature=related]
Now you say well, this is just legal stuff, this doesn’t relate to Christianity. Wrong! If you don’t know the name emerging church, emergent church, you need to know it because your kids know about it, and your grandkids know about it. And if you go into many so-called bookstores, Christian bookstores, the book shelves are lined with emergent church, emerging church material. In fact, this movement is so strong that where I came from, Dallas, they had taken over an entire youth group. Everything they were reading was on the emergent church, emerging church list and the older people in the church didn’t have enough discernment to see what was happening.
Brian McLaren, one of the key spokespersons of the emergent church writes this, in his book, Generous Orthodoxy, now I want you to understand this is not liberalism, this is in house, this is evangelical thought. He writes: “…ask me if Christianity (my version of it, yours, the Pope’s, whoever) is orthodox, meaning true, and here’s my honest answer: a little but not yet…. To be a Christian in a generally orthodox way is not to claim to have the truth captured, stuffed and mounted on the wall…. But we keep seeking.” [Brian McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy, 293]
That’s postmodernism. You never arrive at truth because if you arrive at truth you’re arrogant. What you have to acknowledge to be admitted into the club is that you’re seeking the truth but you never quite get there. Emergent church writers say nobody has arrived at orthodoxy. Not even us, at Sugar Land Bible Church in the year 2105 have arrived at orthodoxy, what the Scripture actually says.
Rob Bell, a very prominent emergent church writer and now he’s, I believe a full blown apostate, his wife, Kristen Bell, quoted in Christianity Today, look at this quote: “I grew up thinking we figured out the Bible, that we know what it means. Now I have no idea what most of it means.” That is classic postmodern thinking, drifting into the evangelical church.
Brian McLaren again, he says: “How do you know the records we have of Jesus are really what happened? … I would have to say that I cannot know this with absolute undoubtable, unquestionable certainty.” [Brian McLaren, The Church in the Emerging Culture, 201]
Even the historical record of Jesus itself, that Christianity rises or falls according to,” he in essence is saying that even that historical record is “a matter of uncertainty.” McLaren again: “Most of the emerging leaders I know share this agony over this question on homosexuality… Frankly, many of us don’t know what we should think about homosexuality.” [Brian McLaren, cited in Oakland, 212] Brian, for 2,000 years the Christian church has always had a view of homosexuality. The record is unambiguous, but suddenly in this generation the whole matter of homosexuality is up for debate because we are not quite sure that the Bible says. So we have to get into a conversation to figure it out.
My question is: what’s there to talk about? I’ve done sermons on this, you go through these various verses that I have on the screen, the Bible is crystal clear, there’s nothing to debate, nothing to meet about. There’s nothing to dialogue about that the Scripture affirms heterosexuality and condemns the practice of homosexuality, just like it does any other sin, from cover to cover in the Scripture. God loves the homosexuals, to be sure, but He never endorses the practice of homosexuality.
Well, what’s going on now? We have a generation today that wants to debate this. What’s happening, it’s what you call post-modernity, it is the ethos of the time period that we find ourselves in. What’s the real issue? The real issue is: number 1, the authority of the Word of God. When people look at the Bible as a statement of ambiguity and uncertainty, in essence what they are doing is they are attacking the authority of the Scripture. If the Scripture is ambiguous on this subject, then I as god (so called, little g”) will decide what it means.
Liberals took the path of attacking the Scripture; the modern wave of evangelicalism takes the path of the Scripture is God’s Word but as to its meaning, it’s uncertain. Why do they do this in law? Why do they say over and over again, these liberal jurists, that the Constitution is unknowable? The simple answer is if the Constitution is unknowable then it’s irrelevant. If the Constitution is irrelevant then I, as judge, get to decide what the law of the land is. And I really don’t like the Constitution anyway because it emphasizes limitations on government, and if I don’t like the idea of limitations on government and I promote a worldview that wants maximum government, then I have to have some intellectual tool to get rid of this document.
This was a famous quip during the Warren court era: “With five votes we can do anything.” Why five votes? Because you only need five for a majority opinion. Didn’t we just see this in June? One day Kim Davis is operating within the law by denying homosexuals marriage licenses; the next day she finds herself in jail for doing the exact same thing, a day later, a week later, a month later. What happened? The law changed. Well, who changed it? The court changed it. Well how can they say that there is no right to sodomy, constitutionally, but the next day it’s suddenly a constitutional right elevated to such a degree that someone who runs afoul of it can find themselves in jail. What happened? “With five votes we can do anything.” Why can you do anything? Because the Constitution itself is uncertain and unknowable. We will decide what it means. You see, it’s an authority issue.
The second major issue of this is unbelief is masquerading as uncertainty. When someone says it’s not clear, their hearts of hearts is saying I don’t believe that part of the Bible. I don’t necessarily like that part of the Bible that deals with homosexuality so therefore I will wave a magic wand and pretend that what 2,000 years of church history has treated as clear, suddenly becomes unclear.
Now people say well, I don’t like parts of the Bible. Join the club. There have always been parts of the Bible, even to the present day, that make me uncomfortable, but who am I to rewrite God? I’m a disciple of Jesus Christ, I know at the end of the day that His ways are higher than my ways, and when my puny intellect sits in judgment on the Scriptures I know that the problem is not with the Scripture, the problem is with me. This is basic discipleship. But under the postmodern rubric you have the ability to deem something unclear or uncertain. Who creates uncertainty? The devil does. In fact the first articulation of uncertainty is in Genesis 3;1, “Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the beasts of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, ‘Indeed, has God said….” God’s instructions regarding the tree of life were crystal clear. The devil, in a moment, made those instructions unclear. It’s the devil, ultimately, that creates uncertainty about matters which are very certain.
What occurs in this type of climate? Endless dialogue, dialogue between competing factions and camps which knows no end. Brian McLaren writes, “Most of the emerging leaders I know share my agony over this question (on homosexuality)… Frankly, many of us don’t know what we should think about homosexuality. We’ve heard all sides,” what, why are you getting sides together for? Because if I don’t have the truth and you don’t have the truth we’ve got to get together and talk, and the truth must be somewhere between us. I believe the Bible says one thing; you believe the Bible says something different, so the truth is in the middle somewhere, the murky middle. And so the murky middle, wherever the community finds it and the consensus agrees on it, that consensus becomes the new truth for the next generation. It is truth determined by majority opinion. It is truth determined by consensus, but to get the consensus you have to be involved in endless dialogue. It’s almost as if the Lord had told us to go into all the world and dialogue.
You have people in different camps, this is all they do, they dialogue with each other: chat rooms, Facebook, twitter, conferences, debates, dialogue, dialogue, dialogue, dialogue. Well, dialogue is a natural outgrowth of a denial of the whole subject of certainty. And then what begins to result is what I call “middle ground mania.” The truth becomes somewhere in the middle, because if I don’t see… if I have a view of the Bible and homosexuality and I’m debating someone who has a different view, neither of us can come from a position of certainty so the truth is the fruit or the product of a dialogue; the truth is somewhere in between us.
Brian McLaren, “Isn’t truth often best understood in a conversation,” no it’s not, it’s Eve having a conversation with the serpent that got us into trouble to begin with, Amen. “Isn’t truth often best understood in a conversation, a dialectic,” two people in the dialogue, “(or a trilectic)” three people in a dialogue, “or a dynamic tension? Isn’t it subverted by a tendency to “solarize’?” Solar means alone, by yourself. You can’t stand up and say “thus saith the Lord” because that’s truth gained from sola, yourself, as an interpreter. You are not submitting to the rules of the community where we determine truth by consensus. And if you won’t play by the rules then you are looked at simply as being arrogant.
Leonard Sweet says this: “The key to navigating postmodernity’s choppy, crazy waters is … to ride the waves and bridge the opposites, especially where they converge in reconciliation and illuminations.” [Leonard Sweet Soul Tsunami, 163] Truth is in the middle somewhere.
Brian McLaren, the subtitle of his book, says this: “A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I am a missional, evangelical, post/Protestant, liberal/conservative, mystical/poetic, biblical, charismatic/ contemplative, Fundamentalist/Calvinist, Anabaptist/Anglican, Methodist, Catholic, Green, incarnational, depressed,” I’m depressed just reading this, “yet hopeful, emergent,” watch this, “unfinished Christian.” [Full title of Brian McLaren’s, A General Orthodoxy] Because you never really arrive, you never really arrive at orthodoxy.
In fact, in emergent churches you don’t have preachers anymore, because the whole concept of preaching or somebody who studies during the day and arrives at certainty about what the passage is saying and aggressively proclaims it to an audience, that is considered dinosaur, doing it that way, because how does the guy in the pulpit, regardless of his training, how does he really know what truth is; he has not submitted his conclusions to the community which is all revolving around dialogue. In fact, you don’t even have teachers, you don’t have preachers, what you have are discussion leaders, facilitators, where the teacher really is not a teacher, what the teacher is doing is trying to elicit various viewpoints, make sure nobody’s feelings are hurt, no one’s toes are stepped on, and as this conversation takes place the community, in essence, arrives at what truth is.
And you have things happening, and this is where Shahram was going a couple of Sundays ago, of things like Chrislam, where you have a merging of Christianity and Islam. Now we look at that and we say that is absolutely crazy, how can you merge those two ideas? It’s very logical if you understand postmodernism because in postmodernism there is no such thing as certainty. The Muslims don’t have certainty about spiritual truth, neither do the Christians. So the Muslims and the Christians must get together and find… watch this, common ground. What is common ground? Common ground is the points that we agree on; the common ground, whatever becomes consensus as to what common ground is, that becomes the new truth. See? And I want you to understand something, that your Bible is against this, what I’m describing, post modernity from cover to cover, because the Bible is a book of certainty. Luke 1:4, why did Luke write the Gospel of Luke to Theophilus? Verse 4 of chapter 1, “so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.” Theophilus, when you read Luke’s Gospel you are to develop absolute certainty of what happened.
By the way, in postmodernism you can’t even know if you’re saved. You have no assurance of salvation at all. 1 John 5:13 contradicts that when it says, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know” that’s certainty, isn’t it, “that you have eternal life.” 2 Timothy 2:15 says you can arrive at certainty. “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” Timothy, as you’re studying the Word of God you can be approved unto God by what you’re learning. Certainty!
Even the seventy weeks prophecy, have you ever studied that? That is a real sticky wicket, the seventy weeks prophecy, probably one of the most complicated prophecies in the entire Bible, yet Jesus of that prophecy in Matthew 24:15 says, “…(let the reader understand).” Now pastor, you’re not telling us we can understand the book of Revelation, are you? Revelation 1:1 says “The Revelation of Jesus Christ,” look at that word “Revelation,” what it means in the Greek, it’s the Greek noun apokalupsis, which means a disclosure, an unveiling.
But wait a minute, what about 2 Peter 3:16, which says this, “as also in all his letters,” Peter, “speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand,” Peter wrote Paul and he said some things are “hard to understand.” Now the postmodernist gravitates toward that verse because there it is in the Scripture—you can’t know the truth. You’ve got to look at that verse carefully. Peter never says I can’t understand Paul, he says “some” of the things Paul says are “hard to understand.” Not everything, some things. And then he says some of the things are “hard to understand,” not impossible to understand. In other words, through diligent and perspiration and a little work ethic you can get to truth. Granted, some parts of the Bible are a little bit more obvious than others, but the truth is there.
And what is being denied today is what is called the perspicuity of the Scripture, which basically means the clarity of the Scripture. What does that mean? I’m not the biggest fan of R. C. Sproul but I found his articulation of the perspicuity of the Scripture, what the church historically has meant by this to very accurate. Sproul writes: “The reformers had “total confidence in what is called the perspicuity of Scripture…the clarity of Scripture. They maintained that the Bible is basically clear and lucid. It is simple enough for any literate person to understand its basic message… What kind of God would reveal His love and redemption in terms so technical and concepts so profound that only an elite corps of professional scholars could understand them?…” [R.C. Sproul, Knowing Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1977), 15-17]
“Biblical Christianity is not so esoteric a religion. Its content is not concealed in vague symbols that require some sort of special ‘insight’ to grasp. There is no special prowess or pneumatic gift that is necessary to understand the basic message of Scripture…The Bible speaks of God in meaningful patterns of speech. Some of those patterns may be more difficult than others, but they are not meant to be nonsense statements that only a guru can fathom.” [R.C. Sproul, Knowing Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1977), 15-17]
Verse 7, “Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in” what? “everything.” Where does this understanding come from? It comes from the Lord. You know Jesus is in the business of removing the veils from people’s eyes and helping them understand truth? Luke 24:45, on the Emmaus road says this of Jesus, “Then He opened their minds to understand the Scripture.”
The tool that Jesus today to open the minds of people whereby they can understand the Scriptures is the Holy Spirit. Jesus, of the Holy Spirit, said this in John 16:13, “He will guide you into” what, some of the truth? No, “all the truth.” 1 John 2:27 of the Holy Spirit says this: “…but as His anointing teaches you about all things,” this is a ministry that we call illumination of the man guided by the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 2:15 says, “But he who is spiritual appraises all things,” notice it doesn’t say some things, it says “all things.”
Now what does this not mean? It doesn’t mean this: the Lord told me that, the Lord told me this, I have an insight in the Scripture, the Lord gave it to me, you can’t disagree with me because the Lord gave it to me. That is NOT what the illumination ministry of the Spirit is all about. The Bible was written in language, that is the decision of God to record the revelation of His truth in written form. The moment God made the decision to record His truth in written form is the moment He was subjugating, or subjecting His revelation to the laws of language.
What kind of laws are we talking about? Grammar, syntax, context; you cannot just come to the Bible with any strange interpretation you want to bring out of it if it is not supported by the linguistic, grammatical, contextual, laws of Scripture. The Holy Spirit will illuminate to you His Word, but He will not do it independently of the basic laws of language.
So it is the Lord, through the Holy Spirit, through valid, what we call hermeneutical or Bible study methods, as the Lord through the Holy Spirit, as we honor the principles of language, as that process happens we can gain insight into what? Everything! In fact, if the Bible could not be understood and if the postmodernists are right, then how do we make any sense out of verse 7, where Paul says “consider what I say.” If I could not understand what the Apostle Paul was saying, if Timothy could not understand what the Apostle Paul was saying, if knowledge was subjected to community dialogue, and middle ground mania, and common consensus as post modernity teaches, then this statement makes sense because here Paul tells Timothy to consider what I say. In other words, I am writing to you a letter and you can understand what I am communicating I that letter. In fact, this word “consider” is the Greek word noeō, where we get the word notion, or idea.
Timothy, the right ideas will come into your mind as the Lord, through the Holy Spirit, under proper Bible study methodology, will give you understanding in all things. “Consider” here is imperative, meaning it’s a command to consider these things. It’s not optional; such a statement would make no sense in the postmodern world, would it? That’s because the Bible you’re reading is not postmodern; everybody is trying to convert it into something postmodern, but it is not postmodern, it is a document of certainty.
And in fact, there is so much at stake in this that what you believe the message is saying and how you respond to it will determine your eternity. God has communicated in His Word the revelation of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ, 2000 years ago, as you know, went and died on a cross to pay for the sins of the entire world. He rose bodily from the dead, through the resurrection which authenticates everything Jesus ever said, did, or taught. Therefore the message of Jesus is binding; not only can it be understood but it’s binding. In fact, your eternity itself hinges on rightly understanding it because what He says through it all is the gospel, meaning good news, I did it all! You receive what I have done as a gift. If you will not receive what I have done and given as a gift, you can’t come to God.
That’s a pretty clear message, isn’t it? It doesn’t matter how hard you try, it doesn’t matter how sincere your efforts are, if you will not come to God God’s way you’re not coming. The pathway to God is not self-righteousness, the path way to God is transferred righteousness. His righteousness is transferred to you at the point of faith in Christ, period! Now if you don’t like the message that’s your problem; the problem isn’t me, I’m just telling you what the book says. The problem isn’t God, He is all powerful and omniscient and omnipresent; He has a perfect character. The problem is you. The problem within you is a lack of humility which we all struggle with as fallen human beings. The greatest act of humility you could ever do in your whole life is to embrace God’s message by faith alone.
And that’s something you can do right now, even as I’m talking because the Spirit comes into the world to convict us of our need to receive this truth. And we respond to that convicting ministry of the Spirit by trusting what Jesus did; trusting is another way of saying believing. “Believing” means to rely upon, to depend upon. It’s not something you join a church to do, walk an aisle to do, make good New Year’s resolutions to do, it’s a moment of privacy between you and the Lord, where you respond in the heart or hearts, the best you know how, to His free offer of eternal life. It’s something you can do right now, as I’m talking. It’s not necessary for you to walk an aisle, join a church, raise a hand to do that. It’s a matter of privacy between you and the Lord. If you’re doing that now or if it’s something that you have done, then your whole eternal destiny is changed, based on God’s terms, not on ours. If it’s something you need more explanation on I’m available after the service to talk. Shall we pray.
Father, we are so grateful for words of clarity in our age of confusion and postmodernity. Help us, Father, this week to understand that You reached down to us, not only through Christ but through the written word and that we can have access to You as we respond to the message, and walk out the principles of faith. We will be careful to give you all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus name, and God’s people said….