Thursday, August 27, 2009

Preach the Word

2 Tim. 4:1-5 (ESV)
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: [2] preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. [3] 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, [4] and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. [5] As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

Preach the word! Paul charges Timothy to preach the word. He follows up with words that indicate law” reprove, rebuke, and exhort, then adding but with complete patience and teaching.
Patience is a virtue. Sometimes my heart ways heavy as I think of things I would like to see happen in my small congregation. It isn’t that I harp on my people with the law, and expect to see them change overnight. It really isn’t in matters of personal behavior of my congregants that fuels impatience. What fuels impatience is seeing other congregations doing so much, and my congregation seemingly doing little in comparison. I sometimes wonder if it is a lack of leadership on my part. We have goals that seem to be dead in the water, going nowhere.
But then I said seemingly for a reason. My congregation does quite a bit. We aren’t a congregation of 1,000. We do a lot though. I won’t go into all of it. And we have come a way since I have been here. I don’t think it is entirely a matter of leadership either. Many of the other churches in the community that I sometimes envy for their full parking lots on random nights of the week, are those churches that have fallen from sound teaching. Those with itching ears have accumulated there, because there they have found teachers to suit their own passions. Funny, that, we hear this, or I hear this, and automatically I impose my own rightly repressed sinful nature on what those passions would be. I imagine a church of hedonism, anything goes. I imagine the ELCA. That congregation is not one that I envy though in this community. But the people have gathered teachers to suit their own passions, and these tend to be on the legalist side. People want to feel they are earning salvation, they flock to churches that feed their self-righteous egos. There itching ears actually love to hear the law, and despise the gospel. It is a sadistic passion, all consuming, and it is easier to fall prey to then perhaps the passions that incite you to do things that are clearly wrong. These passions incite you to do things that are otherwise good, but for reasons that make them sinful.
It is tempting for a pastor to give in this way. To give the people what they want to hear. Incite them with the law, exhort them to be doing more, and offer them salvation for it. But preaching the word can never neglect preaching the gospel. And the gospel cannot be preached where salvation is offered on the basis of works. So preach the word, law and Gospel, exhort, admonish, rebuke, reprove, but also forgive. This is the truth that avoids myths forgiveness is obtained through faith in Christ. Be patient, and watch. Things happen slowly and surely. Being sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
Only if you preach the gospel, the evangel, can you do the work of an evangelist. Evangelists are confused these days with people who preach the law, and get those with itching ears to utter Amen. They get a crowd excited, and pepper them with law. That isn’t an evangelist. An Evangelist preaches forgiveness in Christ, tells people not what they should be doing, so much as he preaches about what Christ has done for them. In preaching the gospel, one’s ministry is fulfilled.

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