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Let the Lion Out (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
August 26, 2021 4:00 am

Let the Lion Out (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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August 26, 2021 4:00 am

We live in a confusing time. Even within the church, many aren’t sure who or what to believe or how to behave. When the early church faced similar issues, Paul reminded Timothy of a truth he shouldn’t forget. Hear more on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.



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We live in confusing times. Even within the church there are many people who aren't sure exactly what they're supposed to believe or how to behave. Some of that may be due to pastors who seem to have lost any conviction about their need to teach God's Word. Today on Truth for Life, Alistair Begg helps us understand why teaching the Bible is so critically important. 2 Timothy 4 verse 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. Amen. Having given you my text, I want to let you know that my title for this talk I am borrowing from a well-known quote from one of Spurgeon's sermons, a sermon that he preached entitled Christ and His Coworkers. Here is the quote, and I think you will quickly determine what the title is. A great many learned men are defending the gospel. No doubt it is a very proper and right thing to do.

Yet I always notice that when there are most books of that kind, it is because the gospel itself is not being preached. Suppose a number of persons were to take it into their heads that they had to defend a lion. There he is in his cage, and here come all the soldiers of the army to fight for him. Well, I should suggest to them, if they would not object and feel that it was humbling to them, that they should kindly stand back and open the door and let the lion out. I believe that would be the best way of defending him, for he would take care of himself. And the best apology for the gospel is to let the gospel out.

Never mind about defending Deuteronomy or the whole of the Pentateuch. Preach Jesus Christ and him crucified. Let the lion out and see who will dare approach him. The lion of the tribe of Judah will soon drive away all his adversaries. And so our text is 2 Timothy 4, 1–5, and our title is Let the Lion Out. Paul here, in the opening verses of these chapters, is identifying the necessity that is laid upon Timothy. As the chapter goes on, he's telling Timothy that the time for his departure has come, he's fought the fight, he's finished the race, he's kept the faith, and now it is absolutely crucial that Timothy, his young lieutenant, will do likewise.

And he is urging upon him the absolute priority of the ministry of the Word of God, to preach the Word, to let the lion out. For what Timothy believes about the Scriptures will become apparent in his preaching. And what is true of Timothy will be true for you and me as well.

In the concluding verses of chapter 3, from which we have quoted already this morning, Paul is not informing Timothy there of truth that he hadn't known. Timothy had grown up with an understanding of the Bible. He knew the familiarity of the Old Testament phrase. The Word of the Lord came to Solomon, to Shemaiah, to Samuel, to all of the prophets. But he understood that what Paul was doing was reminding him of a truth that he dare never forget.

And essentially, my brief this morning is to do just that—to remind us of what we know, and hopefully to encourage us in that very task. The Scriptures are divinely inspired. They are completely reliable.

They are totally sufficient. And as Paul has pointed out, they provide the key to the competence and to the usefulness of the man of God. Now, he's made Timothy aware of the fact that he had faced himself as the apostle a wholesale desertion in the context of Asia. From a human perspective, there was actually no guarantee that the fledgling church would be sustained in the next generation.

From a human perspective. And therefore, it was crucial that Timothy continue in what he had learned, had become convinced of, and had firmly believed. Because he was actually ministering in an environment not too dissimilar to our own. He was to preach the Word of God in a time of absolute confusion, and particularly on two fronts—moral and doctrinal—in a context where people did not know how they were supposed to behave, and they did not really know what it was they were supposed to believe. And so, with the departure of the apostle and the transition from the apostolic to the post-apostolic church, it is time now for Timothy to take up this charge, noticing that it is a solemn charge. I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus.

There's nothing casual, nothing inconsequential about it. Matthew Henry says aptly, The best of men have need to be awed into the discharge of their ministry. And so Paul reminds his young friend that he exercises this ministry with the Father and the Son as his witnesses, that when Jesus comes in power, he will judge the living and the dead. And what he's actually doing is urging Timothy to live his life and exercise his charge in the very same way that Paul had done, because he lived in the light of Christ's appearing, and he lived in the concept and expectation of the consummation of Christ's kingdom. So Timothy needs to do the same. The writer to the Hebrews puts it in terms that are quite awesome when he reminds the people that they must pay attention to their leaders, because they keep watch over your souls as those who will have to give an account.

Not giving an account to Mrs. Philpott, who's played the piano for fourteen years and is a nuisance, or giving an account to the board of trustees, who show up intermittently and never very profitably. No, the account is being given to the God before whom he serves. Knox, remember, who had a few stools thrown at him in his day, was said to have feared the face of God so much that he never actually feared the face of any man or woman for that matter. Now, you see, Paul lived his life in the now, in light of the reality of the then. And when we read church history, don't we discover that those who have lived in that way, for whom the prospect of then… I remember one of whom said, Heaven was in him before he was in heaven. So that the prospect of then so impinges upon the now that it makes them different from what they would have been otherwise.

Some of us are so convinced about living in the now that we've almost completely lost any thought of the then. Not so for Murray McShane when this passing world is done, and when hath sunk this glaring sun, when we stand with Christ on high, looking o'er life's history, then, Lord, then, Lord, shall I fully know, not till then, how much I owe. It is a solemn charge.

It's much worse than getting married. If you use the Anglican prayer book, you know that you say to the couple, marriage is ordained by God and so on, and it is not to be entered upon lightly or carelessly, but thoughtfully, with reverence for God, with due consideration for the purposes of which it was established by God. Such is the call and the charge to the ministry of the Word of God. Solemn. Secondly, it is simple.

Simple charge, in the sense that it is straightforward. It's not hard to grasp. Timothy can get hold of this immediately, and so may you and I. Now, all that Paul has already written to Timothy in this letter, and indeed in his previous letter, concerning the pattern of the sound words, the good deposit, the word of truth, the sacred writings—all of that underpins this directive. It is a ministry of the Word. It is to be exercised in the awareness that the Word of God accomplishes the work of God by the Spirit of God. And that powerful preaching of the Bible is not related to the histrionics of the preacher, but it's directly related to a consciousness of God—a consciousness which must be a consciousness first of the preacher, before it will ever be of the congregation. A sense of God's presence, a sense of God's majesty, his otherness, his awesomeness, his transcendence, and yet at the same time his immanence—that he is here, that he is present, that the charge is received in the presence of the Father and of the Son, and in light of the appearing and the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ. That's why preaching is culturally neutral, because people understand what it is to do it.

And it is there from the very beginning. Deuteronomy chapter 4, God says, Gather the people to me, that I may let them hear my words, so that they may learn to fear me all the days that they live on earth, and that they may teach their children so. The Lord spoke to you out of the midst of the fire. You heard the sound of words but saw no form. There was only a voice.

Only a voice. And I'm sure you've been asked—I'm asked routinely by some clueless and yet kind friends who say, How do you manage to come up with something all the time? How long have you been doing that? Goodness gracious, how do you come up with it? Well, sadly, too many of us have been coming up with it, haven't we? I hope it's filled by inventive, well-meaning individuals speaking with a contrived emphasis, suggesting that somehow to expound the Scriptures is simply to provide—that the ultimate objective is achieved by providing increased knowledge about the passage with a few practical pointers that you can take home and talk about with one another in the afternoon.

That's all well and good. But surely that is not the objective. That is not the primary objective of the ministry of the Word of God. It is that as the Word of God is brought home by the Spirit of God, we then may have a life-shaping, grace-changing encounter with God himself, that we are made different as a result of it, that we are different on account of it.

Because God has accomplished his purposes. That's why Machin, when he addressed his students, was very clear on this, pushing them again and again back to the Bible. He says to them, It is with the open Bible that the real Christian preacher comes before the congregation. He does not come to present his opinions, he does not come to present the results of his researches in the phenomena of religion, but he comes to set forward what is contained in the Word of God.

So that what God has spoken to the apostles has been bequeathed to us in the Bible, so that we, like Timothy, are to preach the Word and nothing but the Word. Sangster, the famous Methodist preacher from Methodist Central Halls in London, died, I think, towards the end of the 1950s. Thousands of people apparently would come to listen to him preach, but as he neared the end of his life, albeit not aware of the fact that his life was petering out, he bemoaned the fact, as he put it, that preaching is in the shadows, the world does not believe in it.

And here we are now in the twenty-first century. Is it unkind to suggest that we might replace world with church? Preaching is in the shadows.

The church does not believe in it. Is it fair to say that we're sorely in need of this solemn, simple church? May I ask, my colleagues, are you convinced that the regular expository preaching and teaching of the Bible, owned by, clothed in, sustained by the work of the Spirit of God, that that is the driving force that shapes authentic church life? In verse 2, it's obvious that Paul is preparing him for these various seasons that will come.

Some will be more daunting, potentially discouraging, than others. And so he says, I want you to preach the Word and to be ready when you do in season and out of season—reprove, rebuke, exhort, complete patience and teaching. The New English Bible, which I don't often quote, translates it, press the message home on all occasions, convenient or inconvenient.

I think that's quite good. In other words, there is no excuse here for fearfulness or for laziness. Preach the Word when people are hostile or when they're receptive. When they're tuned in or when they're tuned out. When the prospect of a Sunday is delightful, when the thought of a Sunday is dreadful. When the crowd is growing, when the congregation is dwindling. In the awareness of the fact that by its very nature, Scripture will do what it does. It will reprove, it will rebuke, it will exhort. It won't always be comfortable, but it will always be profitable, as Paul has said in verse 16 of the previous chapter. Who is sufficient for this? You think about the vastness of our congregations.

If there are more than fifty, how can we know everything and know everyone? How will we know just exactly what to do and how to say it, how to apply? Well, he says, you bring home the Word of God and realize that God opens blind eyes and God softens hard hearts, and God will accomplish his purposes. And as you do this, do so with complete patience and teaching. Phillips paraphrases it, using the utmost patience in your teaching, the NIV with great patience and careful instruction, and here in the ESV with complete patience and teaching. What an unfortunate adjective.

Complete. Couldn't it have just said, with a wee bit of patience? Being intermittently patient in your approach.

No, complete patience. You know, I'd confess to you that just yesterday, as I reviewed this and sat at a table somewhere, I had a vivid flashback—actually, a painful flashback—to a park in suburban Glasgow, and to a summer evening as I tried desperately to teach my son to ride a bike without any stabilizers or training wheels, as we refer to them here. I was so committed to him being able to ride a two-wheeler bike. I was passionately concerned that he would be able to be so.

But I haven't checked, because I don't want to, in case he also remembers that early summer evening. Because I lost my patience with him. And what should have been a wonderful occasion of discovery, albeit with a wonderful objective and good motivation, was actually marred by my impatience. But then I thought, How often in these years of pastoral ministry has it been your impatience beg that has marred the benefit of the instruction you have conveyed? And then I went looking for a quote from volume 2 of Martyn Lloyd-Jones by Ian Murray on page 458, and there it was, just as I thought it would be. Quoting someone who said, A young minister is prone to try to attain by one jump the height which others have reached by a long series of single steps in the labor of a quarter of a century.

And I think it was Jim Boyce—it was Jim who said it to me, since we've quoted him already—he said, You know, as you engage in things, Alistair, remember that what you think you can accomplish in a year you won't be able to do, and you'll be surprised how much one is able to accomplish in five years. So to recap, the charge is solemn, it's straightforward. It is the inerrant word that is to be preached, to be preached when the wind is with us, when all occasions do inform against us, and to be preached patiently and carefully. And the reason this is so important, Paul now sets before Timothy in the challenge that is his, verses 3 and 4. He's already been made aware of those who have swerved from the truth, and now he's going to exercise the ministry in the absence of Paul, faced with people who are turning away from the truth and who are wandering into myth. The time is coming. It's always coming.

It's a recurring phenomenon. We quoted earlier from Moses' words in Deuteronomy 4, absolute clarity. As God speaks to his prophet, to his people, and he says, This wasn't a visual thing, this was an audible thing. And he says, I'm distinguishing you amongst all the nations in this one respect, particularly, that you will listen to my voice, that you will pay attention to my word.

You will be distinguishable by this very feature. And what happened? Well, they immediately went out, and they were intrigued by, attracted by, all kinds of visual possibilities. Instead of bowing before their Creator, they became creators themselves, creating their own manageable little gods who would accommodate them—essentially, they exchanged the truth of God for a lie. And as Martin Luther observed, if a man will not have God, he must have his idols. That is Alistair Begg exhorting pastors to patiently preach God's Word and let God do the rest. This is Truth for Life with a message called, Let the Lion Out. We've just learned that God's Word accomplishes God's work by the Spirit of God. And it's listeners like you who make it possible for Truth for Life to let the lion out. The life-changing gospel message you hear on Truth for Life is released worldwide because of your faithful prayers and the generosity of the men and women who come alongside us. Every time you donate to Truth for Life, you make it possible for our mission to become a reality. Today we're saying thanks for your financial support by inviting you to request a book titled, Heaven on Earth, What the Bible Teaches About Life to Come. The author is Derek Thomas, and he provides a glimpse into life after death. He addresses common questions with biblical answers so we can face death with hope rather than with anxiety. Request your copy of the book, Heaven on Earth. When you donate to Truth for Life today, visit truthforlife.org slash donate or call 888-588-7884.

I'm Bob Lapine. Thanks for listening. We've all heard the old adage, do as I say, not as I do. Well, as Christians, it's not that easy. We're called to speak truth, but also to live it out. Join us tomorrow for the conclusion of today's message as we learn how to live out the gospel we proclaim. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-09-13 06:02:25 / 2023-09-13 06:10:17 / 8

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