Please let me take a portion of my limited space to say “Thank you.” The complimentary comments on my sermons of late have been more frequent and widespread, and they are very encouraging to me. I’ve also received texts, emails, face-to-face compliments and words of encouragement from many of you regarding the series I am teaching on Sunday nights. You lift me up with your kind words, and I do not or cannot express my thanks to you enough! – DC
Lately, I’ve been thinking about Paul’s words of exhortation and warning to Timothy. In his last letter to Timothy, Paul wrote:
1 I solemnly 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: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. 2 Timothy 4:1-4
I wonder how often we’ve read that passage and mentally applied it to our society and its present culture. It is certainly true that the values of our nation have slipped to the point that respect for God’s word may be at a historic low. I need to remind myself that the same culture existed in the Gentile society of Paul’s day but on a much greater scale. And I have to remember that Paul wasn’t necessarily speaking only of the worldly culture.
Since much of Timothy’s preaching involved reproof, rebuke, and exhortation to the brethren in Ephesus, it must also be true that numbered among those not willing “to endure sound doctrine” were some of Timothy’s brethren. How would we know if that same problem existed today in the local church?
Paul answers that question in part by observing that brethren who don’t endure sound doctrine aren’t looking for it in the first place. They want to hear the preacher speak what they want be told. As a matter of personal choice, they prefer the errors of human philosophy and man-made religions to truth.
Theologians have an expression for what they believe Paul is warning against: incipient Gnosticism. Incipient simply means that something is just developing. It is still in its embryonic stage but will eventually become a fully developed system.
We could apply that same thought to what they do not endure. In other words, some in the local congregation may not realize their own downward slide toward that which isn’t truth because they also don’t recognize that they’ve lost a love for sound doctrine. We were created with minds that never cease to seek information and input. Take the truth out of the equation, and the mind, still hungering for input, accepts something else.
It is not the case that a child of God suddenly rejects truth and suddenly embraces the myth. It is a process that evolves with time. The time to recognize and correct the problem is before that brother loses all endurance for truth. So, how do we know that this is occurring?
Attendance becomes more and more sporadic. Worshipping with the saints becomes the thing to do if there is nothing else scheduled. Almost anything in life becomes a justification to stay away from the assemblies. Cultivating and nourishing friendships outside the church, while ignoring our brethren, is more important. Complaints about the sermon or lesson become more persistent. An obsession with time is a sure indicator. When we time the sermons and set alarms to go off, but willingly spend three or four times as long on something that insults or belittles the truth–it might be a pretty good sign that incipient intolerance is occurring.
May God bless those who love and endure sound doctrine, and may they in turn encourage those whose love for the same is growing cold.