Voices Crying In The Wilderness

Bible Book: 2 Timothy  3 : 1-5
Subject: Faithfulness; Commitment; Christian Judgment

One of the great prophecies of this day is that Jesus Christ is coming soon. Even the Scripture points out that Jesus Christ is about to come! There is no greater time to be alive than in the days just before the appearing of Jesus! In the New Testament, we find John the Baptist, who was here preparing the way of the Lord. He would preach that the Kingdom of God is at hand.

The question I would ask this morning is where are the voices who are to prepare the way of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ? Those who are penetrating their community with the news that Jesus is coming and preparing the way of the King of kings and the Lord of lords? In the end times there will be 2 things we can count on: Satan will increase his attack upon the Church.

With this as the backdrop, the apostle Paul writes this letter to young Timothy, a beloved son. In the letter he is prescribing the path which Timothy should follow in troubled times both inside and outside the church. He is encouraging him to be strong and to be a soldier of the cross of Jesus in light of His soon return. Let's look at Paul's encouragement to young pastor Timothy and note what is expected of God's servants in these last days.

I. We Must Acknowledge the Situation (3:1-5)

A. The Self-Centered Apostasy In The End Time

Paul calls on Timothy to acknowledge the self-centered apostasy in the end time. As you read, you discover that Paul describes our society to a T.(3:2-4) How can anyone not believe we are the end times generation? We are lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. Then Paul describes American Christianity in a powerful way. In one concise verse, Paul paints the precise picture of the church in America. (3:5) "Holding to a form (appearance) of godliness (holiness); although they have denied (refused) its power" (2 Timothy 3:5).

1. The Age of Powerless Preaching

He describes in one verse of Scripture the age of powerlessness. Do you realize we are living in that age? The age of powerless pulpits! Lee Rutland Scarborough, in his book "My Conception of the Gospel Ministry," summons the preachers back to the power of the pulpit. He says, "A preacher is called to preach. It is God's order. He is ordained to preach, it is his church's wishes. He is educated to preach, his teachers expect it. The Gospel pulpit is the preacher's throne . . . Paul says the cross   is central, essential, dynamic, climatic. His deep-laid purpose was to preach and to preach the cross, Christ crucified . . . It should be the living, flaming ambition of every God-called preacher, his deepest prayer, his most impassioned, his daily purpose and his consistently pushed plan to be a preacher of the glorious Gospel; not a lecturer, not a pyrotechnic star scraper, not a flamboyant, eloquent, after-dinner speaker, but a Gospel preacher!"

2. The Age of Powerless Programs
3. The Age of Powerless People

Bailey Smith, in his book "Taking Back the Gospel: The Perils of a User-friendly Faith," focuses on churches without power. He says there is a cause for this problem. "There are a number of reasons that the churches in our nation have lost their power. The two primary reasons are: Church members who are actually born again but who, because of weak commitment or lack of spirituality, appear to be no different from the lost around them. Church members who profess to be believers, yet have never honestly accepted Christ as Lord and Savior."

4. The Age of Powerless Proclamation

There is a tragic result to all this powerlessness!

The result is a society that believes in God but we do not want His power unleashed in our lives.

B. The Stimulus for Self-Centered Apostasy

Timothy must acknowledge the stimulus for this apostasy. The answer is found in 2 Timothy 4:3. Do you know this is the greatest issue facing the church today? It is the issue between sound doctrine and selfish desire. Are we going to have sound doctrine God's way or selfish desire man's way?

It seems this generation of Christians is choosing self-desire over sound doctrine. They are turning away their ears from the truth and turning aside to myths. (2 Timothy 4:4) The battle cry for those who reject sound doctrine is tolerance. They turn away from conviction for convenience. (v. 4) They say "I know what God's Word says, but..." We have a society today of the religious lite. They say,

"Don't preach sound doctrine to us!" "Don't bring up the Word of God!"

"Don't talk about judgment, conviction and repentance." "God is not going to send anyone to hell."

"Go ahead, live to your pleasure. You only go around once!"

The stimulus for self-centered apostasy is self-desire over the sovereignty of God.

C. The Sequence for Self-Centered Apostasy

Then, Paul calls on Timothy to acknowledge the sequence for self-centered apostasy. Too many today want a "touchy, feely religion." We're living in a generation that says, "Don't talk to me about Christianity that calls for commitment. And whatever you do, do not preach sacrifice to me!"

Listen, true worship of God is not to bring God down to our standard, but to raise our lives to His standard! And if the Word of God is proclaimed as it should be, there will be conviction and confession and celebration of a life in concert with God. We need to be careful not to preach the doctrine of feel good rather than the doctrine of God. Remember we're the generation that wants to feel good about everything. We are the generation wanting to have their ears tickled. 4:3) We are the generation that wants the privilege of changing the Word of God and even giving God a makeover!

Liberal theologian, Nels Ferre, in his book "The Sun and the Umbrella," wrote that Jesus may have been the offspring of a blond Roman soldier and a Jewish harlot. When you degrade God, it is a sign that you have turned your back on the holy God and fallen away from the truth. My friend, this is apostasy in its finest form!

Instead of churches today having an impact in the world, we have the world having an impact in the church. We are allowing the world to squeeze us into its mold. In a user-friendly church they have removed the proclamation of the Word, perfected their performance, and people walk out thinking "so what!"

We are living in a day we are giving an unclear sound. The question we must always face is: are we preaching to draw crowds or are we preaching to draw converts?

The need of this hour is for us in this room to understand that hell is expanding and Jesus is coming!

Well, how do we turn this thing around?

II. We Must Apply the Solution (4:1-2)

We need preachers and parishioners who are fearless. (v. 1-2) Paul says, "I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ to preach the Word!"

You and I are to be ready in season and out of season. When you feel like it and when you don't. We are to reprove, rebuke and exhort with great patience and instruction. We need to understand we are not preaching or proclaiming for the applause of men but for the approval of God! We are preaching to draw converts! Those who are willing to turn from their sins. Those who are willing to forsake all to follow Jesus. Those who are willing to go against the flow of the world for Christ's sake. We need to understand there is nothing more relevant than the infallible, inerrant Word of God preached with power and anointing!

Adrian Rogers said it well, "We need God-called men who will take the Book of God and preach the Son of God with anointing of the Spirit of God. We need men with warm hearts, wet eyes, clear heads and tongues set on fire!"

Church, we are to preach the Word if we are to make a difference in this new millennium!

We need preachers and parishioners who have a message that is focused. We don't need to be preaching pop psychology. We need to proclaim the message of the ages.

Last year in our denomination, over 10,000 churches reported zero baptisms. We need to focus that Jesus is the Lamb. John the Baptist described Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. (John 1:29) In 1 Peter 1:18-19 we're told salvation comes from the precious blood of Christ, a Lamb without blemish. According to John the Revelator, the Lamb has two functions:

To conquer

To give Himself up in sacrifice.

Is that not what happened on Calvary? On Calvary's cross the unblemished Lamb sacrificially shed His blood and once and for all conquered. The Lamb of God was slain for the sins of the world. At the cross He took my place, at the cross He took my guilt, at the cross He won the victory over my sin. We are to proclaim the Lamb of Glory! We need to focus that Jesus is the life. Only through Jesus can one know eternal life.

The Scripture says we are dead in our trespasses and sin. The Savior says, I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. Jesus said, I am the Life Giver! He is the One who gives meaning to our existence. Let the truth be proclaimed, Jesus is the Life Giver! We need to focus that Jesus is the Lord.

The title, Lord, became the favorite title of the New Testament church for Jesus. Paul, writing to that carnal church at Corinth proclaimed, “We do not preach ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord (2 Corinthians 4:5).” It means to allow Jesus to rule every area of our lives. When you face a lost, hell- bound world, they must see in you and hear from you that Christ is the Lamb of Glory that gives life and empowers people to live to His Lordship.

Paul says, Preach the Word! Be faithful! (v. 5) Then Paul gives Timothy a high note to end on.

III. We are to Aspire to the Salute (2 Timothy 4:6-8)

There will be two things for the faithful.

A. Prize for Faithfulness

There is going to be a prize for faithfulness. Paul is ready to go home and leaves one thought with Timothy: Endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry, don't sell out, God will be faithful. (v. 5) Timothy, Paul says, God is faithful to notice, evaluate and reward the faithful life with the crown of righteousness. Church member, are you discouraged? Press on! Do you have some lost soul you've been wanting to see saved for a long time? Keep on praying and sharing! The prize is yet to come!

B. Praise for Faithfulness

There will be praise for the faithful. We will take the very crown of righteousness and lay it at the feet of Jesus through praise. We will cry out, "Thank you, Lord, for what you have produced in me." Then we will hear, “Well done, thy good and faithful soldier.”

At a revival in North Carolina this testimony was given:

Commander's praise: "82nd Airborne, a year ago the President of the United States, our Commander in Chief, saw the tyranny of Saddam Hussein as he was taking over Kuwait. Our Commander in Chief drew a line in the sand and said, 'No more!' He called upon the 82nd Airborne to go to Kuwait and take a stand and defend the ground. You heard the call. You responded with all your strength and turned that dictator back! On behalf of the President of the United States of America, our Commander in Chief, I commend to you: Job well done!"

One day I will stand before the Commander of All Chiefs, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. I believe I will hear Him say, Frank, there was a time when Satan was on the prowl and the attack. I drew a line on Calvary's hill and said 'No more!' But Frank, there came a day when there was great apostasy of self-desire and I called upon preachers to take a stand for sound doctrine. Frank, you heard that call and with all your strength, you stood for that which is pure and sound doctrine and today I say, 'Well done! Well done! Well done!"