Date: January 30, 2012
Bible Text: 2 Timothy 4:1-11 | Roger Voegtlin
Series: Transcribed Sermons
Please turn in your Bibles to II Timothy chapter four. I’ll begin reading in verse one. “And I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry. For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me: For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry.”
II Timothy chapter four speaks about death. You might ask, “Who is going to die? Is it going to be Lois?” That was Timothy’s grandmother who was so influential in Timothy’s Christian growth. But even though she was old, he wasn’t talking about Lois. “Was it Silas, one of Timothy’s fellow preachers?” He was in jail with the apostle Paul when Paul preached and the jailer was saved, but it wasn’t Silas either. The person who is going to die in this chapter was the apostle Paul himself. He was going to lose his head for the cause of Jesus Christ.
Now I believe that Paul was the greatest Christian who ever lived. The Roman Catholic Church says that Peter was the pope. They say he was the greatest; but it’s strange, that if he was the pope, he never was in Rome. Stephen was the first apostolic martyr, and I think Stephen was a great man; but I believe the apostle Paul was greater than he was—or, say Martin Luther, who nailed his 95 Theses on his church door and literally changed the world fighting the Catholic Church. As much as I respect Charles Spurgeon, I think he would be embarrassed were we to compare him to the apostle Paul. In this chapter, this great Christian was writing his own epitaph.
Now think with me, if you knew you were going to die soon, there is no doubt that you would look over your life. But, especially, if you knew you were going to write your own epitaph, what could you write? What value could you put on your life with heaven in view? Now, review your life right now. Whom have you helped this week? Whom have you influenced for God this week? Come on, don’t just listen. Talk to yourself. What have you done? What did you do for God? What did you do? Is there anything you did yesterday to move God’s work ahead?
When the apostle Paul was going to die, look what he could say to young Timothy. He shows us some of the things that motivated him, and four of the things that made him great are mentioned right here in II Timothy 4. The same four motivational factors that motivated Paul should move us. Again, I worry about some of us older people. You just get crusty, critical, you pull back. What are you doing for God? What are you doing for God now? What did you do for God this week? Or have you become the type of Christian that you once scoffed at? You think you do God a favor just by coming to church.
I heard about a high school cross country runner who ran an unbelievable race. He was a junior in high school and never came in first in his life. He was way back in the pack, and if you’ve ever run cross country, you know what I mean. All of the sudden, people who were watching saw him kick in. He started passing one after another until only the star, the big man in the sectionals, only one guy, was in front of him. He just kept on going until he passed him setting a time much faster than he had ever run. After the race, he was asked how he did it. His answer was that he kept on asking himself, “Am I doing my best? Am I doing my best?” I don’t know a better question for you, especially in the Christmas season. This is the very easiest season to talk to people about the Lord. And you ought to be asking yourself, “Am I doing my best? Am I doing better than I‘ve ever done before?” In Philippians 3, you get the idea that Paul asked himself, “Am I doing my best?” And again, if there is ever a time in life when with your abilities you’re not doing your best, you better get right with God.
We can quote verses, we know doctrine, we know how to act, but we’ve lost our excitement. We’ve lost the thrill that we once had—that we’re saved and that we want to see other people saved, and we really want to raise our family for God, and we’re not going to make excuses. I get so tired of some of you. Your kids did not grow up for God, but you want to pretend that they did. I am not going to walk up to your face and embarrass you, but why don’t you face the facts, and get right with God, and start doing something with the years you have left? Paul operated with four motivational factors, and they’re right here for us to see so that we can do our very best.
The number one motivation that the apostle Paul had was that he always remembered judgment day. He could not see himself being judged for what he was, and he couldn’t think about unsaved being judged for their lost state and not do something. See, that’s different from most Christians. Most Christians can quote the doctrine, but they don’t do anything. When was the last time you saw yourself standing at the judgment seat of Christ and asked yourself, “Am I doing my best or am I in semi-retirement for Christ?” Paul talked about the judgment seat of Christ four times in the Bible. In Romans 14, he said, “…every one of us shall give an account of himself to God.” You’re glad that the Riches are going to Africa, you’re sad that the Olsons have to come back from Africa, you’re glad that the Whitecars are going to the mission field, you’re glad for the bus workers, you’re proud of our church. But what about you? What about you? II Corinthians 5:10, “…we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ…” It’s good doctrine, isn’t it? Do you live like you believe it? Do you believe it?
In I Corinthians 3, Paul compared life to two choices. Either we’re living a life of wood, hay, and stubble or a life of gold, silver, and precious stones. Paul could not get the judgment out of his mind. He knew he was going to give an account, and so are you and I. And we’re going to be judged more harshly if we knew everything and didn’t do anything. We’re going to give an account if we once did something, and we stopped doing it. We’re going to answer to God. A lot of us have pushed it out of our minds. It doesn’t move us anymore. I can preach on the most important issues of life, and it’s like water running over Niagara Falls. It doesn’t touch you. But I want to remind you that the judgment seat of Christ is in every one of our futures, and sooner than many of us think.
Again verse one says, “And I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom…” Young Timothy was going to be the apostle Paul’s successor. Can you imagine trying to follow Paul the apostle? But if you look at Christian history, you’ll find that he was a very good successor. Young Timothy was the pastor of the church at Ephesus. I have had the opportunity to stand in that colosseum where they had a huge rally to the goddess Diana. We don’t know exactly what happened, but Timothy was there protesting. Somebody took a sword and ran it through him. But we just want to get along with the “town fathers,” don’t we? I get so tired of people thinking it’s so important how our sewer is run. They ran a sword through him, and he died—just like his teacher died, and just like, there’s a good chance some in this room will die. Paul had a good successor, and he was teaching him those same motivations that challenged him. “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom…”
He speaks of two judgments. First, at his appearing at the rapture of the church, the judgment seat of Christ. He lived knowing he would be judged, but also that the unsaved will be judged. Now we should not be rude, but I think the devil uses that on us more than anything else. “Well, I don’t want to offend them.” They’re going to hell, friend. And we ought to remember that. He says at His kingdom, and then also at the great white throne. There will stand those who rejected Him. If you want motivation this Christmas season to use the Music Night, to use the banquet, to use Christmas Sunday morning, think about answering for your neighbors, and your fellow workers, and your relatives—answering for their souls. Think about their being judged and sent to hell for ever and ever and ever. If you could get somebody to come out and you don’t, you’ll answer to God. But also, they’ll burn in hell—that hell you say you believe in, but don’t live like you do.
When I was a teenager, the biggest thing in our high school was football and the greatest thing was to have a letter, a football letter—it was CVS. You were proud to walk around anywhere in Chicago with one. But can you imagine me walking around with a CVS letter now? It means nothing. It was foolishness. Yet when I get to heaven, if I can have someone say, “He led me to Jesus in 2011, or he invited me out and I got saved at Fairhaven, maybe on Christmas morning,” what a thrill! I say again, the things that are important to us now, that house that is so meticulous, what the community thinks of us, will mean nothing when we get to heaven. What we did for Jesus will mean everything. Do you have anybody who can say, “He got me to church.”? Is there anybody on the face of this earth who can say, “He prayed for my soul.”? “He wrote me a letter, he gave me a tract, he won me to Christ.” Is there anyone? Judgment is a great motivation.
But then, another motive that Paul had was that he remembered he was a steward of the Word of God. Verse 2, “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine…” In season and out of season. When people like it, and when people don’t like it. Look at the two verses right before our text passage. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”
The apostle Paul knew that he was in possession of the only Book that had life in it—the only one that can say it is inspired by God. I was just reminded again this Friday of people who are so steeped in doctrine that they become gossips. You don’t “dot your i’s and cross your t’s” the way they think you should. The Bible is alive! It’s a Book given to us to live by. It’s not a textbook. I think that’s a big problem with kids who go to Christian schools. They grow up with it as a textbook, and then they go to college and it’s a textbook. It’s not a textbook. It’s God’s living Word for us, and we don’t want to forget that. It’s the only Book that you can use to see people saved. Has that ever got a hold of you? And if it did, does it still have a hold of you?
Many only pick up the Bible enough to carry it to church so they don’t look like a heathen. Now they may read a verse or two during the week. We’ve got to know this Book! There are thousands of people outside of these walls who don’t have one person to tell them the old story. They don’t have one person who can explain it. I’ve been to Belize a couple times, and I’ve been to Africa more than that. The average Zambian knows more about the Bible than the average American. Now they’re confused, it might be Seventh Day Adventists, or it might be Jehovah Witness. But the average person in Belize (and that’s the reason I think they’re exciting ministries) knows more Bible than the average person in Chesterton, and they believe it more than the average person in Chesterton. The point I’m making is that the people we deal with don’t even know what Christmas is all about! And you’re the only one who will ever tell them, if you will.
Think about it. It costs a lot of money to send these people overseas. But we say it’s worth it; and it is worth it, and I’m all for it. But it doesn’t cost you a penny to tell the people whom you know, whom you work with. You say, “They laugh.” So what? You may wonder why I preach so hard and so boldly when I get up here. I know when they lay their head on their pillow, they’re scared to death. I lived and worked in the world, rubbed shoulders like you rub shoulders. I don’t care what they say, I don’t care how they pretend, they fear death. They fear the future, but they know nothing about Jesus Christ. They know nothing about Christmas except that there are Christmas trees and gifts. What are you going to do about it? Are you going to take advantage and tell them the old, old story?
The psalmist wrote “…great was the company of those that published it,” and that should be true in our lives. That should be true. I get excited when we all go canvassing. I love it when you have to wait five or ten minutes to get out of the parking lot and as you’re going to Valparaiso, or some town that we’re going to cover, there are people everywhere knocking on doors. We should be publishing it every week in a more functional way, at the steel mill, for example. The psalmist said, “O how love I thy law.” The Word of God is portrayed as bread, as light, as a sword. It is everything we need to live a successful Christian life, and yet there are so many in this room, I’m sure, that just let it collect dust. Isn’t the stewardship of God’s Word a good motivation?
Notice what the apostle Paul says to Timothy in verses three and four. “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” He says the time will come. The time has come. This nation is no longer a Christian nation, and some of your own children have turned away with itching ears, and they are influencing you more than you influence them. Let me say it again. They are influencing you more than you influence them. You are not the Christian you once were. Now just keep on defending them, and you’ll get weaker and weaker and weaker to the place where you’ll do them no good, but only harm. We’re there.
You talk about the Mormons and the Jehovah Witnesses, but also church members have demanded, listen to me, all over America, a breed of preacher who will give them what they want to hear rather than what they need to hear. And if they get old-fashioned preaching, they’ll move down the road and take anybody with them who will listen. That’s what is happening today, and that’s what is happening and has happened in our own church. In the average church today, you’ll not hear preaching that defines sin. Now you may not know the difference I’m trying to make, but maybe you’ll hear messages that preach around sin, or preach about sin, but there are very few churches where you’ll hear preaching directly at sin.
Now the point I would make is that in so-called conservative churches, it is popular to preach against abortion. When I preached about homosexuality last Thursday, people liked it. “Get ‘em preacher.” It’s popular. But when you preach in detail about lewd dress or form-fitting, figure-revealing dress on women, people scatter. When you preach down the throat of some prideful Absalom, he’ll take up stakes and find some preacher he can handle. And you’ll pat him on the back, but the Bible says, “Preach the word…”
I have said that the most important thing we’re looking for in a pastor is strength, and there was some criticism that our church isn’t doctrinally based enough. My answer to that is that there are thousands of pastors who are doctrinally straight enough to pastor this church, but I don’t know of many strong enough to pastor this church. So, don’t be stupid. Don’t be ignorant. We’re theologically strong, and we’re theologically straight. But in this day and age, we need a strong pastor. “Preach the word.” The time has come when you won’t hear full, complete messages on hell in the average, itching-ear church. The time has come when you’ll not hear a message on the authority of the local church. You say, “Really?” Really. In the average independent church.
Old-timers are passing off the scene, and churches are changing. And to appease the thirty-somethings, the authority of the pastor—this is a fact and this is important to us—the authority of the pastor and strong preaching have been put in the closet and replaced by nice-guy, teaching-type sermons. You may not even know what I’m talking about. They don’t want their pastor to offend. We need a strong man! When we get our new strong man, don’t pick him apart! It’s not your business to pick him apart any more than you’ll pick me apart. We need a strong man because we are living in a day of weakness. People get weak and leave the church, and I’m not saying you shouldn’t be decent to them, but you shouldn’t just want to be buddies with them. When you want to be friends, you’re giving them your approval. We must be motivated by the coming judgment and the responsibility to care for this inspired Word of God.
But thirdly Paul was motivated by the need of soulwinning. Verse 5. “But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.” Do the work of an evangelist. When we started this church, I used to have evangelistic meetings every spring and every fall. People have the misconception that I don’t believe in evangelists, but I just can’t find many. You see, when they came every spring and every fall, they would want to knock on doors. Every day I would knock on doors. There are people here who are saved because an evangelist and I were out there knocking on doors. Now when evangelists arrive, they’ve got their golf clubs and they want to play. That’s why we don’t have evangelists. Even growing up in a softer church, the evangelist would come and work over us Christians for about a week. Then he would challenge us to get our unsaved friends out, and we’d see them saved.
Today we talk about evangelism and soulwinning, but there are so very few who ever see any saved. An evangelist according to Acts 20 is one who knocks on doors. We’re all evangelists in the sense of getting people to Christ. If we see people saved over this Christmas season, it will only be because we went after them—whether we knocked on their door, whether we’re bus workers or not bus workers, inviting or witnessing at work, our neighbors, our relatives, everybody we get in contact with. They’re not going to come and look for us. These buildings are not going to draw people here any more than Chesterton High School buildings draw people there to be saved. What impresses sinners is when a Christian shows real concern for their soul. They might not show that at the beginning. But they’re impressed if you show real concern for their soul. That is all of our responsibility.
But then last of all, fourthly, the apostle Paul was motivated by that split second when he would enter Heaven and see Jesus. If you read his books, his entire Christian life was working toward seeing Christ and looking into His eyes with Him saying, “Well done.” Can you think of anything greater than that? Is a house or business or political prestige anything? And yet we push aside our church and ministries for the most stupid things—things that will mean nothing when we get to Heaven. Verse 6, “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.” For I am now ready to be offered and the time of my departure is at hand. Wouldn’t you like to say, “I didn’t stop. I didn’t retire.”
“I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” In a few hours Paul is going to walk out of that prison. I’ve seen that prison. It was not a prison like Michigan City. It was just a small dungeon. He is going to walk out of that prison and go over to the Forum, and stand before the council. His head is going to be cut off and fall into a basket, but he is trusting God. “I have finished my course.” He knew that the moment he saw Christ, there would be no disappointment. Have you ever thought of when you’re going to be there? In the light of the way you’re living, will you sing, “I want to see my Savior first of all”? Luke was probably there when Paul died. He stayed with him all the way until the end. Mark is praised in this passage. He fell away, as you know, for a while, but he came back strong and wrote the book of Mark. He was probably at Paul’s side when he died. But Paul also mentions the name Demas. “For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world,…” Now I believe with all of my heart that Demas was saved, but he turned back. That is my challenge this morning. Is that the way you want to enter Heaven? Head down. “I had a nice house, I had a good job. I had a nice retirement.” Or, do you want to face Jesus and say, “I wasn’t much, but I was running the race up to the end.” “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course.” That’s what I want on my tombstone. “I finished the course.”
In the “old days” when I ran track, it was on cinders. When I finished a race, no matter what place I came in, there were cinders in my legs because I gave my all until I fell on my face. I want to do the same thing when I get to Heaven. Yes, I’m getting older. I’m about the same age many of you are. I’m older than some of you. I think the church needs a younger man in a couple years, but don’t ever use the word “retire” to me. Those are fighting words. I’m not going to retire, never will. And neither should you. Neither should you let the devil get into your head and say, “You better just slow down. You better just slow down.” You have slowed down, and how is it? How is it?