I have consulted with many churches during my 30-years of ministry and sadly most churches fail to reach their full potential because their memories are bigger than their dreams. They spend more energy recalling and celebrating the past than on contemplating the future. The late John R.W. Stott, an English theologian, wrote, “Vision begins with a holy discontent with the way things are.” Often discouragement may set in, even bitterness. And the lighthouse God called into existence only emits a weak light. But with a vision, the future begins to grow and become clear and larger than the past and present. Discouragement and complacency are replaced with hope.
The Apostle Paul was given a vision from heaven. It happened on the road to Damascus when Jesus appeared to him. Jesus gave Paul that day this vision: “…You are to tell the world what you have seen and what I will show you in the future… Yes, I am sending you to the Gentiles to open their eyes, so they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God”(Acts 26:16-18 NLT).
Paul’s vision was to tell the world the good news of Jesus Christ, which included all those who weren’t Jews – the Gentiles.
The Pharisees and the chief Priests had bigger memories than their dreams. God is a about new things: “Behold, I will do a new thing”(Isaiah 43:19 KJV). Reedy Creek Baptist Church has a pretty good past, but may our vision be bigger than our memories. God is doing a new thing!
In order to fulfill God’s vision good practical strategies are needed. Paul could not fulfill God’s vision alone. Churches had to be planted, leadership appointed, the laity trained, equipped and sent. And throughout the various missionaries journeys we see Paul hard doing this work. Towards the end of his life Paul was passing on the baton to see the vision continued. He had established a mentoring relationship with Timothy who was a young person.
The second letter of Paul to Timothy contains some intimate words. He was moving on and so Paul wanted to share some final thoughts that are needed for this vision to carry on for generations to come.
Paul starts this section with “I solemnly urge you in the presence of God and Christ Jesus…”(2 Timothy 4:1 NLT). Other translations have verse 1 this way: “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus… I give you this charge”(2 Timothy 4:1 NIV).
In those days, as it should be today, an oath sworn by a deity or deities was considered especially binding and dangerous to break. Paul wanted to say some things that are extremely important.
1. Preach The Word
First, Paul say preach the word: “Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching”(2 Timothy 4:2 NLT). He went on to explain why “good teaching” is important: “For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4 NLT)
For generations people have rejected the sound and wholesome teaching from God’s Word. People have become so blatant in declaring their disbelief in the Bible – believing it to be myths and lies – at best just some good stories. In the West we have become so blaze’ in our attitudes to the Bible. We pick and choose. I like this part of the Bible but that other part I choose for it not to be relevant to me. With this attitude our understanding of God and the Gospel message becomes fuzzy.
Paul charges Timothy to keep preaching the word of God! Just a few verses earlier Paul declares why: “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip His people to do every good work”(2 Timothy 3:16-17 NLT).
Robbie, you have been called to be a pastor for this season at this church. One of your roles is to be a preacher. Together with Andrew and myself, we will share this awesome privilege. We are charged to teach the Word of God. But this charge is also for our Life Group leaders – you to are to preach the Word of God; for you Elders in the church, preach the Word of God; for you parents and grandparents, preach the Word of God; for you Principals of school, preach the Word of God. The writer of Hebrews says, “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires”(Hebrews 4:12 NLT).
The Word of God builds disciples of Jesus to understand who God is and what He has done, who we are in Christ, our mandate, and our destiny.
Life can be fuzzy and out of focus, but God’s Word encourages and guides us! For many on the Gold Coast the Bible isn’t seen as God’s Word and so their values and beliefs are fuzzy. Our government leaders are continually lobbied to change laws of what we would consider as sacred. If we the church don’t stand up and remain faithful for the Word of God, then our society will grow in its secular practices and laws.
Currently, we are going through the Book of James. And in chapter 1, James tells the scattered Christians, “don't just listen to God's word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves”(James 1:22 NLT). For we preachers, we must practice what we preach – or we are just fooling ourselves. For we followers of Jesus, we must not only read and listen to what God is saying, but we must do what He tells us to do.
For the mighty Joshua whom God used to conquer lands was told by God: “Be strong and courageous, for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the land I swore to their ancestors I would give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do. Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do” (Joshua 1:6-8 NLT).
The Bible is the Word of God that is alive and powerful, it guides our feet, and it prepares and equips us to do every good work. Paul says “Preach it”.
2. Tell Others The Good News
Second Paul charges us to evangelize the lost. He says in verse 5: “…Work at telling others the Good News…”(2 Timothy 4:5 NLT). The Bible makes it very clear that there are only two roads in life. Jesus says, “You can enter God's Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it”(Matthew 7:13-14 NLT).
Many people on the Coast and across the world are facing hell. Matthew 28 says that we are to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing hem in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit”(Matthew 28:19 NLT); Acts 1:8 says, “you will be My witnesses, telling people about Me everywhere…” (Acts 1:8 NLT). Romans 10:15 says,“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”(Romans 10:15 NIV).
This good news is all about who we can become in Christ. A born-again believer is forgiven; is a child of God; does not have the spirit of fear and timidity but of power, love and self-discipline; has been blessed with every spiritual blessing. No wonder that the Angel of the Lord called this as “good news of great joy”.
Notice in verse 5 of our reading the words “work at…”. Evangelism isn’t easy. You can’t just pray about it! You can’t just put on a good event. Evangelism is hard. Donald McGavran, a former missionary and legion in the field of evangelism has written: “Church growth takes work. Converts are not picked up as we stroll casually down the beach. Faith has to be white hot before it will ignite faith in others. The future will not automatically happen, by merely wishing hard. Growth requires decision - now. Growth imposes risks - now. Growth requires action - now. Growth demands allocation of resources - now. Then God gives the increase” (Churches Grow, p87).
I commend the church for adopting this new role of Missional Pastor. This was not only a required decision now for our church, but we have allocated resources to employ Robbie fulltime. Missional means the adoption of the thinking, behaviours, and practices of a missionary in order to engage others with the gospel message. As Alan Hirsch has written, “a proper understanding of missional begins with recovering a missionary understanding of God”. And so, you as our Missional Pastor will help others to know this missionary understanding of God, His calling for the church to be on mission in our communities and equip the body for this task.
Robbie – you, me, Andrew, the Leadership Team, and together with the members must pray, discuss, dream and strategize and then vote on decisions of how this church will reach the lost. Growth requires action now and then God gives the increase.
3. Carry Out God’s Ministry
Third, Paul charges Timothy to “fully carry out the ministry God has given you”(2 Timothy 4:5 NLT).
God has given the church the ministry of love. Jesus gave us the great commandment: “You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: 'Love your neighbor as yourself”(Matthew 22:37-39 NLT).
And so, we have this ministry of love. Loving the poor, the lost and needy. The vulnerable in our community and around the world need the love of God. They need people to speak up for them; they need people to defend them; they need people to get in the dirt and lift them out from it; they need people to speak hope into their lives. The Christian church is charged to do this. This is our mandate. This is what we are called to do. James 1:27 says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world”(James 1:27 NIV).
As Paul was moving on he gave some final and important words to Timothy to continue God’s vision. He charged him to Preach The Gospel, Evangelise the Lost, and Carry Out God’s Ministry of love.
We are called to be faithful. Paul was able to say near the end of his life: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful”(2 Timothy 4:7 NLT).
Over the past couple of weeks, Israel Folau has been subjected by much mainstream and social media in this country. Israel Folau plays Rugby for the NSW Waratahs. Before that he played League and AFL for the Suns.
Folau was raised a Mormon. But when Folau left the Mormon faith in 2009, he said that it left a huge void in his life. The temptations of being a rising star from the age of 17 left him feeling like he “was losing control of who I was and what I wanted to be. It was all ego and no humility.”
Folau wrote that when he left the NRL for the AFL he went from the top to the bottom. At the bottom, he found Jesus. He said, “I started attending a new church where I experienced God’s love for the first time in my life. God had to break me down in order to build me up again into the person He wanted me to be. It all suddenly made sense.
For Israel though, listening to the word of God isn’t enough. He feels that he has to do what it says. And for him, preaching the Word of God is a requirement. So, two weeks ago, when someone asked him about gay people he felt compelled to answer biblically saying that gay people were headed to “HELL... Unless they repent of their sins and turn to God”. He also said that he has sinned many times in his life and that he takes responsibility for those sins and ask for forgiveness through repentance daily. But the media didn’t report that.
Of course, he was slammed for standing up for his beliefs. It meant high level meetings with Rugby Australia, but he will not back down from his belief.
Folau has said, “I read the Bible every day. It gives me a sense of peace I have not been able to find in any other area of my life. It gives me direction. It answers my questions. I believe the Bible is the truth and sometimes the truth can be difficult to hear”.
According to Folau, he would walk away from his contract immediately if asked. He said this, “God can see from beginning to end. I can’t. This is not about money or bargaining power or contracts. It’s about what I believe in and never compromising that, because my faith is far more important to me than my career and always will be. I would sooner lose everything – friends, family, possessions, my football career, the lot – and still stand with Jesus, than have all of those things and not stand beside Him.”
May we also have the faith and courage to preach the Word of God and remain faithful even if means ridicule.
For Reedy Creek Baptist, a new season has dawned. We have some wonderful God given memories, but may our dreams be bigger.
Jesus won a decisive battle on the cross. The good news is that we have been forgiven and can become a child of the living God. Robbie, you have been called, like the Apostle Paul to “…to tell the [Gold Coast] world what you have seen and what [He] will show you in the future… [God is] sending you to the [Coast] to open their eyes, so they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God”(Acts 26:16-18 NLT). You are charged to fulfill God’s vision. May you and we the church rise up and transform people’s lives by preaching the gospel, evangelizing the lost and carrying out God’s ministry of love.