When I decided to become a preacher while in Bible college, a verse was pointed out to me that I found to foundational to my ministry.
2 Timothy 4:2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction. (NIV 2011)
Paul underlines that the primary job of a preacher is to “Preach the Word.” It was a powerful charge to a young man going out into the world with a Bible and a hope of making a difference for the kingdom of God. He follows this statement with a series of phrases that drive home the importance of this preaching. Sometimes you preach when people are ready for it and other times they will not. Not only are we to explain the Bible but use its words to correct people’s thoughts and actions along with challenging them to grow. This type of work calls for great patience and careful instruction – what a great word to any young preacher or Church leader.
Somewhere along the way, I lost the next verse. Recently I rediscovered it and the context of Paul’s instruction.
2 Timothy 4:3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. (NIV 2011)
Paul tells Timothy to preach the word but then gives him a warning. There will come a time when people will not put up with sound Bible teaching and instruction. Instead, people who claim to follow Jesus will come up with their own ideas; then they will gather people around them to affirm what they want to believe.
These words came back to me recently after several conversations about faith. Repeatedly I have encountered people who have created their own theology and belief system and are just looking for someone to agree with them. To make matters worse, we live at a time where the internet allows us to find a person or a group who does agree.
Since Paul warned us about this type of action, let me ask you a few questions:
1. Do you only read material that you already agree with? Do you expose yourself to a different point of view regularly? What is challenging your thinking from the Bible and theology?
2. What have you changed your mind about lately? What new truth have you learned that has challenged you to change your behavior? How have you been corrected, rebuked or encouraged?
The remedy to bad theology is a better understanding the word of God. So, my final question is the most important, “How much time do you spend on the internet compared to the word of God?”
Every time I go to social media I cringe. People are sharing posts from all kinds of places that they think are wonderful. Many times, they are just affirmations of what they already believe. Many appear to have gathered around them what their itching ears want to hear.