ADAM RITCHARD – “The Power of God's Word”
14 October, 2018
Scripture reading: 2 Timothy 3:1-5;12-17
If you've come with your Bibles, hopefully you have in some form, you might like to take them out at this point. We're going to be heading to the book of 2 Timothy chapter 3 today. Let me just mention Kathryn, one of our pastors here, here who completed the race last Sunday afternoon (round of applause) - 23.6 km up and down Mount Majura, up and down Mount Ainslie, she pushed on through severe cramping and made it to the finish. I just thought that was an amazing achievement, and I was I was thinking it sounds a bit like life doesn’t it? You just push, push on, those times when you feel like you can't keep going but you keep pressing on. It's good. So, well done for that. I think her legs are starting to feel normal again after after that epic race.
2 Timothy chapter 3 - let me pray for us: Lord, thank you for all that you've been doing in our midst already this morning. Lord, thank you for just your presence here Lord God, just what a joy and a privilege it is to be in your presence, to be in your house today Lord God. How good it and fitting it is for us to worship you, to sing your praise Lord. What a joy it is as well to open up your Word, Lord God. Thank you that you are always a speaking and Lord would you give us ears to hear what you're saying today, I pray. Let this be aware that penetrates our hearts and stirs our hearts afresh God, to hunger after you and your Word. I pray in Jesus name. Amen.
I went along last Wednesday, Wednesday week ago, to a prayer breakfast. It was a some pastors and leaders from around Canberra gathered to pray and share, and a guest speaker from a church at Jervis Bay and he was sharing on prayer, interestingly enough. And their church they have six mornings a week prayer meetings from 5:30 to 7 a.m. 5:30 til 7! Who’d be up for that!? A few of us! OK, that's more than I thought, great! I'll have a chat with Andrew this week when he's back in the office and we'll see what we can organise and get you to put your money where your mouth is if you if you're keen for that! No, Andrew of course is back in the office this week - He and Ali and the girls have been on holidays the last few weeks. It'll be great to have him back this week.
I want to share today on “The Power of God's Word”, the power of God's Word. And last time a couple of weeks back, I shared on the “Power of Prayer” and few weeks prior to that I preached on the “Power of Praise” so I guess it's somewhat of a mini-series: power of praise, power of prayer, power of God's word. And really, I wanted bring it together this morning. Really it's something I feel like the Lord has been stirring in my own heart, and what I felt him put on my heart to to preach in those three messages, is that he is highlighting those things as something important and significant for us as the people of God in this season. And so really, what I feel like has been on the Lord’s heart and my own desire and heart and aim in sharing these messages has been to stir our hearts afresh in some way to be a people of praise, to be a people of prayer, to be a people of the Word of God.
And you know these three things, as we live our our lives of faith, these three things I believe are central to our Christian walk. I believe that they are vital for growth and maturity. They are vital to becoming more like Jesus. They are so important for us in not being thrown off course. And they are so important for us in terms of walking in victory and not allowing the enemy, or thwarting the efforts of the enemy, to come against us.
You know, sometimes these things - praise and prayer and the Word - they can be easy for us, can't they? There can be a can be just a flow and a grace upon it, easy just to praise and seek the Lord in prayer and open up his Word. Other times, it's not so easy can be a bit more of a discipline, a little bit more of tough chewing. But as these three things are so important and vital in our lives, so the absence of them in our lives will leave a void, will leave us vulnerable. So let me encourage us this morning, let us not be a people who do not praise. Let's find a way. Time and time again we read in the Psalms, the psalmists say: “Oh my soul, praise the Lord” - they’re speaking to their souls, “Come on, come on, praise the Lord”. Let us be a people who find a way to pray. Let us not be a people who are prayerless, but who really come before the Lord and seek him in prayer. And let us not be a people who do not know, and read and feed on and live by the Word of God, because there's too much at stake to neglect those things, as we will soon see here in the passage.
2 Timothy 3: we're going to be focusing around verse 14. But let me just give a little bit a background just too kind of paint the picture where we’re heading this morning. We’ll go from Verse 1 of 2 Timothy 3:
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.
Anybody feeling encouraged yet this morning? (laughs) It’s rather a bleak picture isn't it? Let's read on, Verse 12:
Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.
Anybody encouraged yet? It's a bleak picture that the Apostle Paul is painting, here isn't it? I'm sure you will agree. But then he goes on to say, here it is, Verse 14:
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
So what do we have here? We have Paul instructing Timothy who was a young man, charged with overseeing churches, and he’s painting this picture, he’s encouraging him: be steadfast, be strong, stay true to the call of God on your life, as he’s written about throughout 1 and 2 Timothy. But here he’s saying “Look, Timothy, there are dark days ahead. There are time of difficulty ahead. There’s bad stuff happening, there’s deception, there’s all sorts of things”. But in the midst of that, what does he do? He points him towards scripture. He says: “As for you, continue in what you’ve learned, remember the Holy Scriptures, because all scripture is God-breathed.” He points him towards the Word of God.
And there's this key phrase in there, in verse 14, it says “but as for you”. But as for you. You know that in the day that we live, there’s all sorts of evil around us, there is all sorts of darkness, there are things happening, there are circumstances that give us every reason to become discouraged or disappointed or thrown off course. There are lies and deception, there are opinions - how many of you know there are so many opinions out there? - all sorts of things, but you know, we are not called to get caught up in that. “As for you”, you continue in what you have learnt and firmly believe and know to be true. I feel like there's this element of personal responsibility here: don't worry about what others may be doing and saying, don't worry about the noise of what's held up as good and true and right by the world, don't worry about trying to be popular, all those things…”as for you” continue in what you have learnt and have believed and know to be true.
You know, we must not allow society, social media, false teaching, our feelings, the opinions of others to distort or crowd out or diminish in any way God's eternal truth found in his Word. Let me encourage us this morning to continue to build upon the firm foundation of the Word of God. And so to personalise it for us today: “as for you” “as for you” “as for you”, as for all the other sections I didn't point to, “as for all of us”. As for you, are you continuing in what you have learnt and firmly believed? As for you this morning, are you continuing to build on the sure and firm foundation of God's word? Because when we’re talking about the power of God's word this morning, there are few things that we must remember, a few things I want to bring out of this passage today.
First of all, we must remember that His Word is a firm foundation.
I don't know about you but I've always been fascinated by construction and building, you know you walk past the building, apartment block that’s being built or something like that, and you'll see the site being cleared, see the foundations going in and then all of a sudden this building just kind of comes, seemingly from nowhere, if you don't see it each and every day. You know, some of those buildings you see around the world, the modern construction masterpieces - in Dubai there’s these buildings hundred metres tall and you think “How on earth did they do that? How on earth does that happen?” Of course, every building if it is going to last, needs a good foundation doesn't it? A building with a good foundation will stand the test of time and a faith with a good foundation will stand the test of time. Building our lives upon his Word is so vital for us. It's not just reading it to somehow gain knowledge, remember some memory verses. It's not just hearing it and then forgetting about it, but building our lives upon his Word we allow it to actually shape us. We allow to shape our character and how we live. You know we’re called to be doers of the word, not just hearers of it, but to hear and to act and do what the word is saying. So Paul is pointing Timothy to scripture. It's solid, it keeps us grounded. And you know, the foundation must be right - whether it's a building or whether it's our faith - but it also must be built on. I think that's what he’s saying: “as for you”, continue on the firm foundation, continue to build on that firm foundation what you have learnt and firmly believed.
Have we got any builders in our midst this morning? No builders, OK... One here, that's alright that's fine. I've got some builders in my family. But a builder, you watch when they are building a or whatever, they go to the effort of clearing the site, they go to the effort of excavating, of laying the footings, of finishing the foundation. But a builder doesn’t just sit back and admire the foundation: “Wow, what an amazing foundation I built! My job’s done! Fantastic!” No, doesn't just sit back and do that, he is to build on the foundation isn't he? He’s to continue to build on that foundation so that the house, so that the apartment block, so that the building whatever it is, is built and finished for its purpose. Jesus says in Matthew chapter 7 verse 24 to 27, he says that “Everyone who hears these words of mine and does them is like a man who builds his house upon the rock, the firm foundation. The rain fell, the floods came, the wind blew and beat against that house yet it did not fall”. Why? Because it was built upon the rock. “Everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them is like a man who builds his house upon the sand”. The rain falls, the wind blows, the floods come, the wind blows and beats against the house and what happens? It comes crashing down because it's built on a dodgy foundation, upon the sand. The same wind, the same waves, the same storm that beat against both houses but it was the one founded upon the solid rock, upon the firm foundation, that stood the test of time.
You know, there were times in your life, you may be in the midst of a season right now, where the wind and the waves and the storm are blowing and beating against you. In those times we need the firm foundation of God's Word, to be able to grab hold of those promises, to be able to remind ourselves of his faithfulness. In those times when the storms have come, when they're in the midst of those difficulties, the seasons of life where it’s like “Lord, where are you?”, as we build our lives up on the firm foundation of his Word, we open it up, and it's like “Yes, I am reminded that yes, he is the one who is faithful. Yes, you are the one who provides for me Lord. Yes, you were the one who delivers. Yes, you are the one who is with me.” That's when we need that firm foundation. In those times when the storms arise we know how to live through the Word of God.
I remember going when I was a lot younger to Questacon. I’m sure many of you have been there - one of the icons of the city we could say, perhaps. I remember back then, and I know they updated a little bit now, but they had the earthquake floor. Remember that? The earthquake simulation - you stand on this kind of square thing and you punch in what sort of degree of earthquake you want and then it starts shaking. When the ground get shaky, what happens? The first thing that instinctively you want to do is reach out and grab something firm. Reach out and grab something that you know you're not going to fall. And I think there's something in that for us: that in life, when things start to get a little bit shaky, when things start to get a little bit uncertain, when things just start to get a little bit “errr!” we need to something firm to grab onto and hold onto and build upon, and that's the Word of God in our lives. Through the storm, through the trials, he is faithful. His word remains a firm foundation. So his Word is a sure foundation.
The second thing I believe we need to remember this morning when thinking about the power of God's Word is that His Word is alive.
It says that all scripture is breathed out by God, is breathed out by God through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. As we read his Word we need the touch and the leading of the Spirit as we read the Word of God, to bring it to life to illuminate what we are reading so that comes alive in our hearts. The Holy Spirit desires to bring that touch. Many people say that the Bible’s no longer relevant for today’s culture, in today's society it's just archaic, it's just an old book of stories or whatever. Well, let me tell you this morning: it is so relevant today. It is so relevant. It’s perhaps needed now more than ever, especially in light of the first part of Chapter 3 that we read this morning. The difficulties that come, the darkness, all the things all the stuff that's happening. So relevant.
Psalm 119: His Word is a lamp for our feet and a light for our path. In the midst of the darkness we need his Word to lead us and bring light and truth. In Hebrews 4 Verse 12 it says: “The word of God is living and active”. Living and active. God-breathed. Sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. It penetrates, it searches our heart. We can read it and just kind of gloss over it, but if we read it and allow the Holy Spirit to come it'll come alive and it'll penetrate our hearts, it'll penetrate our motivations, our desires, those things that perhaps we've just excused or just kind of glossed over. His word is alive, meant to penetrate our hearts. It's alive and it speaks to our hearts today.
Have you ever had that experience where you’re reading the scriptures, reading God's Word, and all of a sudden it's like the words are jumping off the page. It comes alive in your heart. Anybody else had that? It's like you’re seeking direction about something and all of a sudden the Lord leads you to a verse and “Wow!”. Or you’re just in a place of despair need comfort or whatever it is, and you open up God's Word and it's like that verse was written just for you. Isn't it amazing how God does that? It's who He is. It's the power of the Spirit operating in our lives, bringing his Word to life, and we need the touch of the Spirit in our lives as we've talked about already this morning, but particularly as we read his Word.
I remember a time in my own life when I was 12 years old. It was a time when my grandfather has passed away suddenly and unexpectedly and obviously as a young boy it was something that has impacted me deeply. I was upset, devastated. But there was also other stuff going on. It's just a time of fear and turmoil and unsettledness, really being afraid. I can remember lying there, I can still remember as if it happened yesterday, I was lying on a mattress in our study at home because my grandmother come to live with us for a little while just while things were getting sorted out. I was lying there just this place of fear and turmoil and worry. I just felt like the Lord spoke to me, I know He spoke to me - it was as clear as I've ever heard Him speak - “Read Psalm 121”. I didn't know what it said at that point. But I turned in my Bible. Psalm 121, you don't have to turn there, but it was just an amazing encounter with the Lord, and his living, active Word in my life. It says: “I lift my eyes to the hills. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the one who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip. He who watches over you will not slumber nor sleep. Indeed, he watches over Israel. The Lord is your keeper, is your shade at your right hand, he will watch over you. He will keep you from harm”. All these promises from God's word that resonated in my heart and I can tell you what, it just brought such a sense of peace, such a sense of assurance: that God saw me, that he knew me, that he knew what I was going through and he brought his living and active word to bear in my own heart and life.
I read that Psalm every night for the next years and years, all throughout my teenage years, and I tell you what, it was something that was such an encouragement to me. And in those times of uncertainty, further on from that point, in those times where you feel fearful, or you feel afraid, or you feel unsure about something, when the enemy seeks to bring lies: “Hey, you don’t know know what you're doing” or “How's that going to pan out for you?”, it's like: “No, my help comes from the Lord. He's going to watch over me. He will keep me from harm. It was like the promises of God went deep into my heart and were a weapon I guess against the work of the enemy.
We’re meant to have his word as a vital weapon in our armour. In Ephesians 6, that wonderful passage about the armour of God, talks about the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. The only offensive weapon if you like that we're given. Everything else is protective, is defensive, but the word of God is offensive. We need to know how to use and wield the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. And so, for me as a 12 year old and from then really, where there was fear, where there was worry, where there is uncertainty - I was able to use that Sword of the Spirit to say: “No, my help comes from the Lord. He's going to watch over me. He will care for me, keep me from harm”.
And I believe there may be some of us here this morning, you're in a place of uncertainty perhaps, a place where you need assurance, a place where you need direction even, a place where you need fresh hope. Whatever it might be, I believe that the Lord is wanting to release his Word to you this morning. Whether it's from here, he might be putting a word on your heart now, where it says you go from here to open up his Word, allow him to speak. I believe He's wanting to do that same thing, because his Word is living and active, is God-breathed. He’s breathed it out, He’s inspired it and we need the power of his Word in our life.
Jesus in Matthew 4, when He’s tempted in the wilderness, 40 days, 40 nights, hasn't had anything to eat - a little hungry I'm sure. The tempter comes, three times he tempts him. The strategy is the same every time: questions his identity, get him to doubt God's goodness and all that sort of thing, brings his lies. “If you're the son of God, tell these stones to become bread”. There’s the temptation there. And what does He do the three times that the enemy comes to bring temptation, to bring his lies, to try and get him to question or throw him off course? He refutes those lies with the Word of God. He says, “It is written”, it is written, therefore that's it, that settles it. It is written, get away from me Satan.
We've talked recently about how about how praise is a powerful weapon, declaring who God is, how prayer is a powerful weapon, as we pray and seek God to bring breakthrough, but you know the Word of God is a powerful weapon as well. When the enemy brings lies, when the world perhaps make paint a particular picture, or will tell us who we are or what we're not, as we open up his Word we remember who He is, most importantly, and we remember who He says we are. His word is alive. Lord, let your Word come alive for us today, I pray.
His word is a firm foundation, it's alive, but also His Word is our standard.
A little while ago at our house in our front yard we were remodelling our front yard, putting some turf in and all that kind of thing, ripping out a whole lot of bushes and shrubs. And I needed to build a retaining wall to just raise up the level of soil so we could lay turf. I really enjoyed building this retaining wall, but there's a lot of work that goes into doing it well. I dug all the holes, prepared the foundations, got all the supplies that I needed, but then had the string line, you know. I wanted it to be straight. I wanted it to be sturdy. I wanted it to withstand a storm, or a flood or anything like that. Hopefully nothing like that will happen! But I wanted it to be built right.
I was very careful to make sure the string line was plumb, and was level. When you're building something you need it to be straight and level. If your string line, if your measurement, if your standard it is crooked, what happens? Everything you build from there will be crooked. If our standard is wrong in life, what we build will be crooked. So thankfully, that retaining wall turned out pretty well I think, I do say so myself. Thankfully it's things like spirit levels and things that keep it straight. But you know the Word of God is our standard for testing everything that claims to be true, to safeguard against false teaching and it's a source of guidance for how we’re to live. Often we can hear something, can hear some teaching, we can read a blog, we can read something in a book, we can hear something on the news, whatever it is, we can hear something that sounds good, that that feels good even -Yeah this is tickling my fancy a little bit - we can grab hold of it. Well let me encourage us this morning: we need to be weighing it up against the Bible because all scripture is breathed out by God, is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training and righteousness.
My boys love listening to Colin Buchanan. I’m sure many with kids, or have had little kids grow up, you know, well he’s fantastic. I love him as it is a songwriter, he’s great, he takes biblical truths and theological mysteries and puts them in a song in a way that little kids and big kids can understand. Fantastic! Brings such joy to my heart to see my my little boys singing songs about God's word and who Jesus is and what he's done. In fact our youngest, he's got this thing - for whatever reason you put him in a trolley at the shops, at Woolies or at ALDI or anything like that, and he just starts singing Colin’s songs! His favourite’s “Bar ba do ba ba, we all like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned his own way, the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all”. So he’s singing this in the shops, people look at him and you know they smile…”Yes, do you need salvation?! You know, he's singing about how you've gone astray…” No, just kidding. There's a song on a CD and it's a song that talks about “Hold it up to the Bible. Is it good, is it wise, is it danger in disguise?” the words go. Hold it up to the Bible, line it up to the Bible, let God's Word be your guide.
The Apostle Paul often warns against false doctrine in his writings, against false teaching and he exhorts the readers to hold fast to what is true. So how do we know and recognise false doctrine? By knowing what is true and what is sound. The experts on counterfeit currency, counterfeit money, which is an issue around the world today, they don't study the fake to recognise the fake. They don't study the counterfeit money to know how to recognise the counterfeit money. I've got here some play money from my boys. It’s a $20 note. Of course, “Australian Play Money” gives it away but just run with me with this! If I'm looking at a $20 note, I don't look at this and go, “OK, so [look]” to be able to recognise if it's fake or not. What do I do? I take out a real $20 note and I look it up, I hold up to light, all the watermarks and things, and then straight away “Oh, it isn't real, of course this isn't real”. The experts in counterfeit currency, in counterfeit money, they study the real deal to be able to recognise the fake, to recognise the counterfeit. I think that there's something in that for us in our lives of faith. We need to be a people who know the real deal. Who know the truth. So when those things come that perhaps they might feel good, they might sound good, but they’re “danger in disguise” as the Colin song says, we can hold it up to the Bible. We know what is true and what is right and can recognise the lies of the enemy. The things that aren't true, false doctrine, things like that. His word is our standard - we need to know the truth contained in its pages.
Finally this morning, I'll bring it to a close: His word equips us.
His word equips us, that the man of God maybe complete, equipped for every good work. What a wonderful promise that is. I really believe that if we want to fulfil the Great Commission that Jesus has given us, if we want to walk in the plans in the purposes he has for us, to genuinely follow Jesus, to know what it is to live for Him, to know what it is to live pleasing to Him, then His Word equips us through the power of the Holy Spirit for every good work. And as we as we grab hold of his Word and as it takes root in our lives, knowing His Word is not meant to be a selfish thing. God’s Word is powerful, but it's not meant to just transform us so that we feel good about ourselves, or that we can somehow remember heaps and heaps of scripture verses. Although those things are good, of course. But you know the power of God's Word transforms us so that it will, and should, move us to action. To do the work that God has called us to do, to live out the lives that He’s called us to live, to be do-ers of His Word. He's equipped us for every good work, and that word “equipped” literally means to fit out or to thoroughly furnish - that's the picture of what it is.
If we think again of a building example, say a shop front fit out of a house that gets built, it's not just left empty or bare bones. It’s fitted out, it's fully furnished, so that the shop or the house has everything in it that you need to be able to live or conduct business or whatever it might be. It’s the same for us - we’re not just left, we’re not just given the bare bones, an empty shell, and the rest is up to us. But we have been thoroughly furnished, the Bible says, fitted out with everything we need for everything that God calls us to do. For every good work through the power of God's Word as we grab hold of it and allow it to have its full effect in our lives. There are so many great books out there, there are so many good things: blogs and articles and things online, podcasts, all that kind of thing. All of these are good, don't get me wrong, they have their place. But the Word of God needs to have its rightful place in our lives.
It says in the book of Acts, several times actually, this wonderful phrase, that the Word of God “continued to increase and prevail mightily” in a region, that many would come to know Jesus. The Word of God continued to increase and prevail mightily. I don't know about you, but I want to see the Word of God continue to increase and prevail mightily in my own life, in our church, in this city and beyond. That the Word of God would increase and prevail mightily.
So this morning, as for you, as for you, will you continue in what you’ve learned and believe? Will you continue to build your life upon the firm foundation of his Word? Will you respond to the invitation this morning to be a person of his Word, knowing that his Word is powerful to lead us, to strengthen us, to point us to Jesus and to equip us for every good work. This morning, you know maybe it's a dusting off of the Word - they look great on the bedside, but they're not just meant to stay on the bedside table, or on the shelf. Bibles are meant to be read, to allow God to speak to us and lead us. Perhaps it's that. Perhaps it's inviting the Holy Spirit to breathe fresh life again as you read, as you open up His Word. Perhaps it’s asking God, “Lord show me, show me those areas, show me those things. Lord, remind me of those promises from your Word, so that I can build my life upon them”.
There is power in God's word to change, to transform, to teach us how to live and to equip us for every good work. So let's be a people that don't just hear that, and go from here “Well, that was great”, but actually grab hold of it and put it into practice in our lives. Amen.