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2 Timothy 4:1-8

 

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.

 

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.

(ESV)

All the Difference in the World

Joseph of Arimathea 

31 July 2015

While the Bible is certainly not less than a book about God's self-revelation in His only Son Jesus Christ, who died for the sins of the world and rose again for the justification of those sinners, it is certainly much more. It is not merely an account "about" God's salvation of the world. It is itself a conferral of its own content. The Word of God is not merely letters, syllables, and words, but it is the living, breathing speech of God to the world. That Word of God does not merely tell the story about Jesus; it gives Jesus to us in its telling. The Word of God is an active Word not a dead letter as the writer to the Hebrews says, "The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart" (Heb 4:12). God spoke and worlds came to be (Gn 1:3). He spoke to Mary and the Holy One was conceived in her (Lk 1:35). Jesus Himself, who created all things by His Word (Heb 11:3), promises us: "The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life" (Jn 6:63).

 

This is why the church preaches the Word of God; because in that proclamation God is conferring Himself and all His benefits on those to whom it is proclaimed. I was interested to find out from a friend that churches are insisting that their members read books in preparation to hear sermons, such as the books of Max Lucado. When I asked my friend why the Bible was not sufficient in these cases as a source of Christian preaching, she just shrugged her shoulders. Today, the Word of God is not being accepted as the source of teaching in the church. Why? Ostensibly because it is not understood by the average reader, or it is thought to be chained to an ancient world view that no longer resonates with the contemporary reader. Now, we need to reduce the biblical content to something less challenging, such as the distilled nuggets of "biblical truth" mediated by the authors of religious self-help books. As for the Word of God itself; not only is it doing nothing, it is actually considered an impediment to growth in the faith.

 

This is a path that leads away from being the church, about which Christ said, "The gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Mt 16:18). Only the Word of God has the power to create the church and nothing else. When something else is conceived of as creating the church, then we no longer have the church. All manner of other useful human institutions can and should be created by "something else," but the church is not. We must preach the Word of God (2Ti 4:2), it gives us Christ and all His benefits to us. The church must be careful that she does not merely talk about Christ, instead of proclaiming Christ. In my ministry, I have had uncounted examples of exactly how the Word of God works. When I have studied a specific Word of God, suddenly that day the very Word which I have just studied is exactly the Word of God that is needed by one of God's sheep. It changes things. It gives peace when there are burdens abounding. It forgives those whose hearts ache for God's mercy. Using the Word of God makes all the difference in the world.

 

John Chrysostom

 

"Let us then sing from the Psalms that which comforts a soul in this plight [of self-chosen sin], as well from the other Scriptures, as the blessed David did (1Sa 19:9). Let the mouth sing and the mind be instructed. This is no insignificant thing. For if we once teach the tongue to sing, the soul will be ashamed to be devising the opposite of what the mouth sings. Nor is this the only good that we shall gain, for we shall also come to know many things which are to our benefit. For God tells you about things present, and things to come, about visible things, and of the invisible creation....

 

"You will find the book [of the Bible] filled with countless blessings: the things about Christ, about the resurrection, about the life to come, about rest, about punishment, about moral matters, and all that concerns doctrine. And if you fall into temptations, you will gain much comfort from it. If you fall into sin, you will find countless remedies stored up there. If you fall into poverty or trial, you will see many havens. If you are righteous you will gain much security there, and if a sinner much relief."

John Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans, 28
 
Prayer

Lord God, bless Your Word wherever it is proclaimed. Since it is a powerful word and a word of peace, use it to convert those not yet Your own and to confirm those who have come to saving faith. May Your Word pass from the ear to the heart, from the heart to the lip, and from the lip to the life that, as You have promised, Your Word may achieve the purpose for which You send it; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

 

For teachers, who are going back to school, that they might have the strength to teach the truth to those who learn from them

 

For those who are suffering with losses of any kind, that they might find help in the Lord of heaven and earth

 

For those who work with their hands, that their crafts and the products of their labor would give them joy, be useful to others, and give glory to God
Art: Dürer, Albrecht  The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 

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