Today is Word of God Sunday. Each year, we take a Sunday to focus on the importance of Scripture in the life of a Christian. My hope is that this time challenges you to commit to being in the Word regularly in 2024. And while I have a few suggested tools for you this morning, there is always an excuse for why a particular tool doesn’t work for you. I’ve noticed that in my own life, as well as in others. My hope this morning is that you will be compelled to commit to reading God’s Word this year, no matter what plan or tool you use.
Turn with me to 2 Timothy chapter 3. This is a few years after Paul wrote his first letter to Timothy, and Paul is apparently back in a Roman prison again. But this 2nd imprisonment is a little different. The first time it was more like he was in house arrest; people could come in and out to see him. This time, however, chapter 2 says Paul is “bound in chains like a criminal.” So clearly things are far more serious this time. In fact, Paul seems to think that he’s about to die if you read on in chapter 4.
So, Paul is treating this letter like a last testament to Timothy. This is his most cherished disciple; someone he loves so dearly and someone who has been so faithful in following Christ. This is THE climax of the whole letter, the ONE most important thing he wants to leave Timothy with. We’re going to focus on 2nd Timothy 4:1-5, but to help us get into these first 5 verses, let’s step back and start in 2nd Timothy 3:10. If you are able, please join me in standing in honor of the reading of God’s Word. 2nd timothy 3:10-4:5.
10 You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 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.
1 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: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 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. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
This is the Word of the living God. You may be seated. Why we need God’s Word in 2024. We’ll see 4 reasons this morning.
1. Christ is Our Ultimate Judge (vs. 1).
Notice verse 1 again: “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: preach the word.” So, he starts off this solemn charge by telling Timothy why he should take this charge seriously. The BIGGEST reason Timothy has to proclaim the truth, and the biggest reason you and I so desperately need the truth of God’s Word— is because Jesus Christ is the ultimate judge.
Christ is THE ultimate Judge for everyone. Paul makes this charge not only in Christ’s presence, which is a big deal, but also “by his appearing and his kingdom.” In other words, the urgency to preach the Word is grounded in Christ as Judge, and in his imminent return. He’s coming back, right?! The reality of Christ’s return, the reality of Christ’s kingdom which he will fully establish when he does return, and the reality of Christ as the ultimate Judge: These are, by far, the biggest reasons we so desperately need to hear from God.
The reality of Christ means that we, as pastors, MUST faithfully proclaim what God has said in his Word. We are not here to hear from any man. No. Instead, as much as humanly possible, we are here to hear from God himself! Why does this matter so much to see what God has said, as opposed to something we may come up with? Because Christ is the Judge, not me! Not anyone else! He determines truth, not me.
This command to preach the Word is not just for pastors. It’s for all Christians. Think about it: What of more lasting value do we really have to give people, other than God’s own words? What do we have that could possibly be better for people, even non-Christians? Nothing! We don’t need to be ashamed of the Word of God, or you-know, try and give people advice that’s biblical but disguise it as secular. No, just give people the Word, unashamedly. We say, “You know, I do relationships this way, because that’s how God has laid it out in his Word, and I believe that He knows what’s best.” We have the greatest truth in the world, that Christ himself, the ultimate Judge, has given us. Proclaim it! Share it! Preach it! Most certainly, read it and live it. The 2nd reason we need the Word:
2. The Word is how God changes lives (vs. 2).
Now, the Holy Spirit is the ultimate life-changing agent, right? He’s the one who molds us into the likeness of Christ. But the greatest TOOL He uses, is the Word of God. Vs. 2- “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” In this one verse there are FIVE imperatives— five commands.
“Preach the Word” is the first. Very straightforward: it means proclaim the truth of Scripture. The second command: “Be ready in season and out of season.” That means we’re always on duty, ready to proclaim the truth both when it’s convenient and when it’s inconvenient. We should be ready to share what God has said in His Word at all times, particularly when it comes to salvation in Christ.
Then we have the third and fourth commands, which are very related to each other: “Reprove” means to correct or convince somewhat of their fault. And “rebuke,” means to admonish maybe in a more formal way. And then, the last command here, “exhort” means “to encourage.” Now these last three commands, I think are particularly noteworthy, because we see both the positive effect of the Word, and the negative effect! Or maybe it’s better to say the encouraging effect and the constructive effect. Notice, we need BOTH! In fact, this is, specifically, HOW God’s Word molds us and changes us! If you commit to reading God’s Word in 2024, let me be the first to tell you: there will be some days when you are uncomfortable with what you read. Maybe even offended.
But we are missing out if we’re not letting the Word show us our sin. If we’re not letting the Word expose some of our misconceptions about who God is, or who we are. This goes for all of us. Perhaps one of the biggest reasons spiritual immaturity is rampant in God’s church is because no one is willing to say anything to anyone that could possibly be construed as negative. We even picture Jesus like this, as the ultimate positive guy. Or sometimes think that the Godliest people are the ones who never say anything difficult to anyone.
The problem with this is that we’ve changed who Jesus really was. He didn’t have in mind to tiptoe around and make sure everyone liked him and thought he was nice. The problem with this absolute aversion we have to confrontation is that we fear offending people more than we fear people being stunted in their spiritual growth. This goes also for how we think about non-Christians: we fear offending people or being rejected by people more than we fear them never hearing the Gospel.
We must be absolutely committed to reading, studying, and sharing God’s Word. And we must be absolutely committed to helping each other grow in Christ— and that means yes, encouraging with the Word in a positive way, but also correcting and challenging each other with God’s Word. Not with our own word, or our own opinions, but with the Word of God.
If you think about it, the biblical church is the only place on the planet where we have unadulterated, life-changing truth in the Word of God. The 3rd reason we need God’s Word in 2024:
3. People are increasingly Deceived and Deceivers (vs. 3-4).
Verses 3-4: “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.” When Paul said this, he was looking ahead, even though it certainly was happening even in his own day. But for the entirety of Christian history, for the last 2,000 years, this has been happening. And there is no doubt that today, this is still going on.
Truth is not a popular thing in most circles. The most popular speakers and even the most popular pastors—many of them are known not for their authority, or their faithfulness to the Bible, but instead for their relatability and personality.
Because when we’re only hearing what we want to hear, we’ll not be able to tell the difference between biblical truth and falsehood. We may even slowly become hostile to the truth! And this path is such an easy one to fall into without even realizing it: I mean, “Wandering into myths”, the language Paul uses here, seems like something you would do without even knowing it. You don’t intentionally wander; that doesn’t make sense. You do it unintentionally.
In chapter 3 verse 13 that we read earlier, Paul writes that in the future, “evil people and imposters will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” The urgency of the last days is here. The urgency with which Paul spoke must affect us enough that we want truth and Godliness, and we want to actively avoid being deceived. How do we do this? Yet again, we desperately need the Word of God. We desperately need to hear the Word proclaimed in the church every week. We need to be reading the Word of God throughout each week. The 4th reason we need God’s Word:
4. God Desires Faithfulness.
I can’t help but feel this is so relevant for the new year. Because it’s so easy to think that we want to do huge, big things. We live in a culture when big things are what is celebrated and recognized. Big moments. Big changes. Changing the world! Can I tell you something?
God doesn’t desire for us to do some big, huge thing for Him that will just turn the world upside down! Did you know that? Instead, he simply desires for us to be faithful. Verse 5: “But as for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”
I love this. “Sober-minded” means “keeping your head.” Being alert to spiritual things, being present. Then he says, “Endure suffering.” He said back in verse 12 of chapter 3 that “All who desire to live a Godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” It will happen; endure it. Set your eyes on the prize, which is Christ Jesus.
Then he says, “Do the work of an ‘evangelist.’” This word is not just what we think of when we think evangelist, as in someone who shares the Gospel to see people get saved, but it also involves discipleship, and really growing other believers.
And then lastly, “fulfill your ministry.” Fulfill what you’ve been called to do. These were some of his very last words for Timothy, and notice he didn’t say, “reach a million people!” “Become a famous Christian blogger or speaker!” “Have a massive impact.” Did you notice that? Those things are wonderful when they happen, truly. And I’m not saying we shouldn’t necessarily desire those things. What I’m saying, is we are called to faithfulness. And when we’re focused on faithfulness, God will take care of what he wants as far as fruitfulness.
We immerse ourselves in God’s Word because that’s where we find what it means to be faithful. Our job is to be faithful, doing what he has called us to do. He will take care of the results. Maybe God will use us to make a big impact, maybe He’ll use us to make smaller impacts. Maybe preaching the Word faithfully will bring people here to Lamar, maybe it won’t. Maybe it will push some people away. Our job, no matter the results, is faithfulness. This is why we need God’s Word. Because we need God’s definition of success in this life, not the world’s definition of success.
I must plead with you to get into the Word on your own in 2024. We can’t share God’s Word if we’re not in God’s Word. We can’t help others become more like Christ if we’re not becoming more like Christ. We cannot help others avoid being deceived if we ourselves are being deceived. And we can’t be faithful without knowing what God wants from us. All of this is found in the Word. Do not miss the LIFE and FREEDOM to be found in hearing directly from God Himself. Open your Bible this year. Let Him speak.
If you think about it, there’s a reason we don’t eat one meal a week. There’s a reason for that, right? It’s the same reason we need God’s Word regularly and consistently: it’s nourishment. It’s life. God’s Word is alive and active, Heb. 4:12. It’s a light for our path, Psalm 119:105. It endures forever, Isaiah 40:8. It tells us the entire story of God’s redemptive plan for mankind, from beginning to end, and even where we fit within that redemptive plan. It shows us how to live like Christ in the midst of a crooked and depraved generation, Phil. 2:15. It is our source for wisdom and truth and sanctification, it’s how we know God, Prov. 2:6. And, Jesus Himself revealed that we live not on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. In many ways, this is where we find our very life and sustenance, namely, Christ.