2 Timothy 3:14-4:5
But you must continue with the things you have learned and found convincing. You know who taught you. 15 Since childhood you have known the holy scriptures that help you to be wise in a way that leads to salvation through faith that is in Christ Jesus. 16 Every scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for showing mistakes, for correcting, and for training character, 17 so that the person who belongs to God can be equipped to do everything that is good.
4 I’m giving you this commission in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is coming to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearance and his kingdom. 2 Preach the word. Be ready to do it whether it is convenient or inconvenient. Correct, confront, and encourage with patience and instruction. 3 There will come a time when people will not tolerate sound teaching. They will collect teachers who say what they want to hear because they are self-centered. 4 They will turn their back on the truth and turn to myths. 5 But you must keep control of yourself in all circumstances. Endure suffering, do the work of a preacher of the good news, and carry out your service fully.
When I hear, “Preach the Word” it speaks directly to my heart. That’s what I am called to do. BUT – it really speaks to each of our hearts! We are each commissioned to “Preach the word”, “do the work of a preacher.” We are each called to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. A disciple is a follower of Christ, and there is a cycle that exists as we grow in our discipleship. We are taught by our parents, elders, the church, etc., and we learn. Then we teach those who are coming after us. Then, as we encounter life and the Holy Scripture we learn more. The process is never ending. Yes, Paul is initially talking to Timothy. But we each “preach” the Gospel through our living. It has been said that we are a “Living Gospel.” In our Musical Meditation, “We Are Called” the text says, “we are called to act with justice. We are called to love tenderly. We are called to serve one another, to walk humbly with God.” All are included in Paul’s words to Timothy.
Convincing living is centered is two thoughts: convincing ourselves, and attracting others – “preaching” – by being convincing. Paul commissions each of us to “Carry out [our] service fully.” (4:5)
First, Paul calls us to “continue with the things [we] have learned and found convincing.” We are convincing ourselves. There is a wonderful movie with Meg Ryan and Hugh Jackman called “Kate and Leopold.” One of the aspects of the story line is that Kate (Meg Ryan) enlists Leopold (Hugh Jackman) to be the spokesperson for Farmers Bounty, a diet “butter” spread, He had a most convincing presence. All went well until he tasted it. His words for it were “Saddle soap, raw suet and pond scum”. He was unconvinced. Have you ever bought something off TV or a magazine ad, and found it falling short of your expectations? It was soon discarded. Before we can preach it we have to believe it! Then we can be believable in our witness.
Thomas Oden states, “When things go from bad to worse, the faithful remain true to what has been most reliably learned from the most trusted sources.” What were the things that Timothy had “learned and found convincing?” It was the Holy Scriptures according to 4:15. At this point in time, Timothy only had the OT. That’s what he grew up with. That’s where he learned to trust God. We are blessed with the canonized scripture we have. All scripture attests God’s own coming in Christ. The Old Testament looks forward to the coming of God. The New Testament recalls and celebrates that coming. Paul says, “Since childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures that help you to be wise in a way that leads to salvation through faith that is in Christ Jesus.” It is God’s own word, enabled and breathed by God! What is beautiful is that it is inspired not just once as inspired by Holy Spirit to be written, but inspired each time we approach those words. Think about the process of canonization- that is the process of deciding which books would be in the Bible. The criteria begin with what was being utilized by the early church. Then it was determined which of those writings were inspired by God. Only those determined to come from God became part of the Canon.
In a beautiful word picture, Thomas Oden says, “As our breath is in our language and is mixed with our words, so does the breath of the Spirit enter into the language of Scripture and enables its very words to be means of grace.” The power of God’s Word to form and sustain lives is amazing. The power of the Holy Spirit to bring those words to life is divine.
“The Supreme function of Scripture is to elicit a wise trust in God that leads to forgiveness and personal transformation.” That is the Word of God at work in our lives.
It is our task to have such an intimate knowledge of the Scripture that it convinces us of its ability to guide and mold all of life. Our intimate knowledge comes from prayerful study which is open to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Only then can we deliver convincing living.
How does Scripture apply to our lives? Paul, in his famous lists, addresses this in two places. First in 3:16-17 and second in 4:2. “Every scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for showing mistakes, for correcting, and for training character, 17 so that the person who belongs to God can be equipped to do everything that is good.” Then, “Preach the word. Be ready to do it whether it is convenient or inconvenient. Correct, confront, and encourage with patience and instruction. It first does those things for us and then, as we utilize scripture, it does it through us as people experience us living the Gospel.
Matthew Henry says it “Instructs us in that which is true, reproves us for that which is amiss, directs us in that which is good.” It makes the Gospel that lives in us convincing for others. Convincing living.
In speaking with Timothy, Paul reminds Timothy where his learning and convincing came from (3:14). Paul was known to be a faithful follower of Jesus. He has a convincing testimony. He was trusted and reliable. If you have Facebook you often receive ads that relate to your interests. Being a carpenter, I value good tools. I keep getting ads for DeWalt power tools. The “worst” ad was for a complete set of DeWalt tools- a drill, a driver, a circular saw, a reciprocating saw, a light, and extra batteries, with charger – all for $99. Trusted source, I think not! When we are talking about the faith, I am reminded of Flip Wilson’s “The Church of What’s Happenin’ Now.” We have to be careful about the “theology of the day” – in what is it grounded? Does it honor the God who inspired it?
Finally, Paul commissions us to preach “in season and out of Season” or as our CEB put it, “whether it is convenient or inconvenient.” It means that every day we need to be representing the God we love and serve. Does the glow of our Christian lives shine only when things are going well? I am reminded of many who have inspired me as they faced difficult situations. Debby Mayfield is one of those shining stars. She was strong in her faith, a shining witness even in the worst of times. We are all called to Convincing living!
Pastor Paul Grossman