2 Timothy 3:14-4:5
14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God p may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
4:1 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
This is the land of the free and the home of the brave. Our country was built on liberty and opportunity. In a couple days, you can celebrate our Independence Day and our American freedoms. You can remember our storied heritage and think of all the worldly blessings you enjoy here.
But celebrating our American heritage, is kind of like giving a fresh coat of paint to dilapidated ruins. Don’t get me wrong, this country is such a blessing. We have so many freedoms and opportunities that don’t exist in most of the world. But that last time I checked, having a bunch of freedoms and opportunities, having great celebrations, and doing all sorts of fun things here can’t fix what is broken in my life.
I mean, if you want to have tons of worldly luxuries and liberties, America provides. If you want to be safe and secure, this is a great place to live. If you want to do pretty much whatever you heart desires, then it can happen here. America has a long heritage of doing that for so so many people. But America, or any other nation for that matter, has never put the pieces back together where sin wrecks people’s lives. No, there’s a different heritage that God, not America, has provided to perfectly put back together the pieces of a sin-shattered life, but where is it? Why does it seem to be missing so much from American these days?
The Apostle Paul knew the problem that exists today even while he wrote these words almost two thousand years. “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”
It is a myth that all paths lead to heaven. It is a myth that God just wants you to be happy on earth. It is a myth that certain sins are worse than others. It is a myth that we just need to compromise for religious peace and prosperity. It is a myth that the church is just about money. It is a myth that you don’t need regular worship and Bible study. Tons of myths out there today, even in this land of the free. Tons of myths, but you wouldn’t listen to them, would you?
You would never take the light version of God’s Word, you know, just the parts you want to hear. You would never compromise on the truth of God so that you could avoid some difficult discussions. You would never allow someone to spoil God’s perfect plan for marriage. You would never use God’s name for angry purposes. You would never speak against those whom the Lord has placed over you in government, in the church, or in the home. You would never take a second or third glance when you know it’s wrong. You would never spend a good amount of money on a car, or 4-wheeler, or boat, or snowmobile so that you could get around, but when it comes time to give your money or time so that the gospel of Jesus can get around our neighborhoods you just pass the plate. You would never do those things, because that would be scratching the itch. That would also be treating the Bible as if it’s just a bunch of man-made traditions, suggestions, and religious ideals.
If that is what the Bible is, then I’d be the first the throw it in the trash. I’d be the first to start giving in to those itching ears. But it’s not! The bible is God’s Word. It’s the one solution that America could never invent with all its ingenuity combined over the past 200 some years.
Here’s how we know it is: All Scripture is God-breathed … God-breathed means that this Word we have here is his. God used men like Paul and Moses and John to write the Bible, but all the words are his. It’s like playing the trumpet. The music that comes out belongs to the musician not the instrument. Now, the quality of the trumpet, the material it’s made of, the length of the slides all give the music a certain tone, but without the musician’s breath there is no sound. So it is with the Bible. Every single word of Hebrew and Greek is God’s. From Genesis to Revelation it’s all his. And not just the main thought of it. Not just the parts we like or the parts we agree with. ALL OF IT.
And all of Scripture gives us the one thing that puts those pieces of a sin-shattered life back together: Jesus. America can’t do it. All the liberties and opportunities and possibilities this world can off can’t do it. I can’t do it. You can’t do it. But Jesus did. He is the Word made flesh for us to save us from hell and bring us to heaven. Paul had the Word and it changed his life. You and I have the Word, too. The Word, who made a promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to Jesse, David, and Solomon. The Word, who brought heaven down to earth at a barn in Bethlehem. The Word, who lived here, not to make this world a more moral place or easier for us to survive but to overcome the world and give us an eternal home. The Word, that spoke truth when it was wanted and when it wasn’t. The Word, who did not utter one curse or complaint as they beat him and crucified him. The Word, who kept the divine promise to save us from this world. The Word, who lives on, not in memories, but lives eternally because his tomb was powerless to hold him. The Word, who says continuously “I am the way.” The Word, who doesn’t deceive and persecute, but builds and strengthens. The Word, who protects and guides. The Word, who gives light to your darkness and life to your death. The Word, who, when connected to water, changes worldly creatures to eternal children of the Almighty God. The Word, who comes in bread and wine to fill your guilty soul with forgiveness and new life. The Word, who will call you up out of your own tomb someday and say to you, just like Paul, “Here’s my crown of righteousness for you.”
Plain and simple, the Holy Scriptures are God’s inerrant, eternal words and they make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. The Word will always be our great heritage in life and in death. We need this Word of God. For people like Paul, Peter, David, and Abraham it was there only assurance and hope in a world that wasn’t too much different than ours. For people like Luther it was the strength and fortress in battles against those who tried to suppress the truth. It was the restoration his soul needed in times of doubt and despair. It was life for them, because it gave them the life of Christ.
We need the Bible, which is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. We need the Word of God when governments try to make laws against it. We need the Word of God when the land of the free and the home of the brave starts to make us feel a little less free and not very brave. We need the Word of God when our ears start itching for trendy temptations. We need the Word of God when persecutions come our way. We need the Word when we are born, as we grow, when we get a little sassy and sophomoric, when we move out, when we get down on one knee and ask for her hand, when we get a career, when we buy a house, when we have our own kids. We need the Word when it is convenient and inconvenient, when it’s popular and not. We need the Word today, tomorrow, and till the end.
And others do, too. God gives us this charge today: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. In my life, there has never been one time when someone came up to me and said, “I would like you to tell me about Jesus and his Word.” But there have been some hints along the way that suggest it might be a good time to tell someone. Maybe you’re sitting around at a softball game and someone asks a question about communion practices. Maybe they mention that they are going through something difficult. Maybe they ask you about your passions, what makes you tick. Maybe there is something going on in this crazy country that they wonder about. Be prepared with God’s Word in those circumstances. It’s in season.
And then there are times to be ready when it’s not in season: when God and his message is not so popular, when someone is not interested in what your church offers, when a grieving friend doesn’t want to meet up, when a kid at school is being a bully, when your children are being difficult and won’t listen. Those are still times for God’s powerful Word to work in the lives of people. It’s always a good time to be ready.
And this isn’t just an encouragement for the pastor. This is God’s Word for all God’s people. Be prepared by being like Mary and sitting at Jesus feet. You can do that here in worship, in Bible studies, in personal Bible reading, with devotions. If you need help, just ask. But the key is to be ready and then use what the Lord has given you. Be prepared to stand on the solid foundation of truth Christ has laid. Be prepared to offer words of healing and hope. Be prepared.
The power and strength of the Almighty Creator, the forgiveness and life of the Beautiful Savior, and the love and fellowship of the Holy Spirit works through this Word. It does not depend on your capabilities or your intellect. God depends on the truth of his Word. He simply wants to use your lips.
For Timothy, God used his grandmother Lois to tell his mother Eunice. And then God had a missionary named Paul show up one day. But it was always the Word of God doing the work. If you want to help your kids, if you want a life that is worth something, if you want freedoms and opportunities, the Word of God, not America, provides you with everything God has.
Everything we believe and know about sin and grace, faith and works, the sacraments, prayer, community is built on the foundation of God’s Word. It’s the timeless truth that will always be relevant and meaningful because God’s Word will always point us to Jesus, who put the pieces of our sin-shattered life back together again. God’s Word is our great heritage…and shall be ours forever. Amen.