This is the sermon I preached on Sun., 10/16 at St. Timothy and St. Mark Lutheran churches. The scripture text is 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5.
When you were listening to the second reading today, did you think that it started out in an odd place? It starts out with "but don't let it faze you." What is not supposed to faze us? To find this out, we have to go back one verse which the lectionary oddly left out. "Verses 13 reads this way, "Unscrupulous con men will continue to exploit the faith. [They are] as deceived as the people they lead astray. As long as they are out there, things can only get worse." This is what Paul is warning us about--that there will come a time when there will be con men who will deceive the believers and that times could get worse. Then Paul tells Timothy and us not to let it faze us and to stick to what we have been taught.
Paul is stressing the importance and power of scripture and in spite of those who want the church of the warm fuzzies, he tells Timothy to never quit preaching the truth and to do a thorough job as God's servant.
Paul gives Timothy a command--"stick with what you learned and believed" v. 14. As a child Timothy was acquainted with scripture. Timothy's family did not wait until he was an adult and could make his own choices about faith. He was taught this faith and the scriptures from the time he was a toddler. He was able to grow up and watch his family immerse themselves in scripture and to live it in their daily lives. If they had waited till Timothy was a teenager or an adult to teach him the faith, it would have been too late because Timothy's experiences and foundation would have been influenced by the world and not the example of his parents.
This is the folly of the 21st century. People mistakenly think when my child grows up, I'll let him decide what he wants to believe. That's putting the cart before the horse. You have to teach your children something to believe first so when they reach the age of reason, they can decide whether to accept the value system they have been taught or whether they choose to gravitate to something else. Timothy's was the third generation of faith in his family.
Paul reminds Timothy of the integrity of his teachers, his grandmother, mother and Paul. Timothy's godly past provides precedent and stability. Good teachers of the faith are those whose words blend with who they are. Timothy's foundation was solid. It could be built upon as he matured in the faith and in his calling. Timothy had the living and written Word of God backing him up.
If we spend time with our children teaching them the stories of the Bible, praying with them, discussing scripture and most importantly living the scripture in everything we do, it will have an impact in shaping the foundation of our children. If they see us acting with truthfulness, integrity, and living out the 10 commandments and the golden rule in every aspect of our lives, it will rub off on them.
God called Timothy to challenge, warn, and urge [his] people. His message would be proclaimed "with intensity [Timothy is told] Don't ever quit," [but preach the truth, even when people don't want to hear it] (4:2-5). In this way, Timothy would be well fitted for the performance of gospel-infused works to God's glory. Timothy's message tells us of the death-defeating, world transforming, redemptive work of Jesus so that we might work as ambassadors for Jesus for the reconciliation of all things.
Why is this important for us today? Learning God's word gives us discernment as we hear teaching; to know whether or not it is good and solid or if it's spiritual junk food. Scripture speaks to us uniquely of God. It is completely suited to provide instruction in the life of faith. God's word is not only for confirmands, Sunday School children, pastors or missionaries, but for all of God's people no matter what age they are.
Timothy was being warned because of the blossoming of false and new teachings that didn't align with scripture, and so are we. People turn their backs on the truth and chase spiritual mirages. These are the folks who want to belong to the church of the warm fuzzies that tells everyone what they want to hear--all good news, all the time. No one wants to hear about hard times and suffering. Jesus didn't promise us a rose garden. He told his disciples if the world causes me to suffer and die and I'm your teacher, what do you think they will do to you?
We must be able to discern what is truth and what is junk food, but in order to do this, we have to have a solid foundation of faith, based on knowledge of the scripture, prayer and an intimate relationship with our God. Our knowledge of scripture must become second nature. Do we need to be able to memorize scripture and recite it like parrots? No, but we should be able to tell when something doesn't sound right. We should be able to take our Bible and seek out the passage that may seem out of place. We have to be able to question. We cannot simply accept something because someone says "It is written in the Bible" or scripture says.
Scripture is uniquely suited to provide instruction in the life of faith. It is useful for showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes and training us to live God's way. We aren't the first people to get discouraged when we are experiencing hard times. It was as much of a temptation for Timothy as it is for us.
God has called each one of us by virtue of our baptism. We are to "Let [our] light shine before others that they may see [our] good works and glorify [our] Father in heaven" (ELW p. 231).
God's challenge to us today is to "keep [our] eye on what [we're] doing," God empowers us by the Holy Spirit so that we can keep God's message alive and fully carry out the ministry God has called each and every one of us to do.
Evangelical Lutheran Worship