FROM THE DESK OF WILL SPOKES, SENIOR PASTOR
Words For Reflection:
“The soul of man is of a vigorous and active nature, and hath in it a raging and unextinguishable thirst, an immaterial kind of fire, always catching at some object or other, in conjunction wherewith it thinks to be happy; and were it once rent from the world, and all the bewitching enjoyments under the sun, it would quickly search after some higher and more excellent object, to satisfy its ardent and importunate cravings; and being no longer dazzled with glittering vanities, would fix on that supreme and All-sufficient Good, where it would discover such beauty and sweetness as would charm and overpower all its affections. The love of the world and the love of God are like the scales of a balance, as the one falleth, the other doth rise: when our natural inclinations prosper, and the creature is exalted in our soul, religion is faint and doth languish; but when earthly objects wither away, and lose their beauty, and the soul begins to cool and flag in its prosecution of them, then the seeds of grace take root, and the Divine life begins to flourish and prevail.” – Henry Scougal
For next Sunday:
Sermon Text: Isaiah 40:1-11
Ten Thousand Times Ten Thousand - Adoration
Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me - Confession
My Jesus Has Done All Things Well - Grace
Before the Throne of God Above - Response
Christ Whose Glory Fills the Skies - Communion
Doxology - Tallis Canon
The Bible Project:
As a way to help you grasp the over-arching story of the Bible, I am going to include each week a link to one of The Bible Project videos that summarizes in a few minutes one book of the Bible.
This week check out the summary of Matthew.
- Part 1 (1-13)
- Part 2 (14-28)
If you are looking for help to read the Bible in a more regular way, you may findthis approach and this app helpful.
Singing To God (Psalm 95:1-5)
Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come
Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.
Bowing Before God (Psalm 95:6-7b)
Prayer of Confession
Heavenly Father, we confess that our glory has been our comfort, rather than your Son's cross. We confess that we crave the fellowship of those already like us, rather than the fellowship of Christ's sufferings. We confess that we work to save our own lives, rather than lose our lives for Christ’s sake and the gospel. Have mercy on us, Father, and grant us the gift of gospel repentance. Cleanse us by the finished work of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and restore to us the joy of your salvation. Amen.
Words of Grace
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
1 John 1:8-2:2
Hearing From God (Psalm 95:7c-11)
Sermon Text - 2 Timothy 3:1 - 4:8
3:1 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. Avoid such people. 6 For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, 7 always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. 8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. 9 But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men.
10 You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, 11 my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. 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. 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.
4:1 I 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, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.
1. Don't Be Surprised
2. Stick to the Story
3. Eyes on the Prize
In Bill Bryson’s book, A Walk in the Woods, Bill is a writer who decided to hike the entire Appalachian Train for a writing project. The Appalachian Trail is a beautiful, yet long and arduous hiking trail that extends all the way from north Georgia to Maine. Bill invited many of his friends to hike with him, but unsurprisingly had no takers – except one, an acquaintance from long ago named Katz. Katz was always in and out of jobs, in and out of trouble, and nowhere near the outdoors type. At this point in his life he found himself in a lonely place, without much purpose, and quite board. Therefore, Katz thought that hiking with Bill would be the perfect remedy for his troubles. In quite comical fashion, Katz showed up to the trail out of shape, overweight, without much equipment, and carrying more Little Debbie snacks than anything else. Once out on the trail he found that the forces outside of him, the terrain, wildlife and weather, were far greater than he had imagined. He also found that the forces inside of him, his breath, muscles, and willpower, were also far weaker than he had imagined. Katz was nowhere near prepared for the road ahead.
In many ways, Katz presents a good metaphor for the Christian life. Those of us who embrace Christ by faith, at one point or another, see something lacking in ourselves that we hope Christ will remedy. We are lonely, purposeless and even bored with life. However, once we embark on the road of Christian discipleship, we quickly discover that the forces outside of us are far stronger than we had ever imagined, and the forces inside of us are also far weaker than we ever imagined. When confronted with such unexpected hardship, the temptation is to become despondent, bitter, lifeless, and even quit altogether. In full awareness of this reality, Paul is looking back over his own time in ministry in 2 Tim.3:1-4:8, and giving instructions to Timothy based on his own experiences. In particular, he is describing for Timothy what difficulties he would likely face, and is encouraging him to persevere in spite of them. If we were to summarize Paul’s instructions, we would see three major commands in these verses. First, Don’t be Surprised, second, Stick to the Story, and third, keep your Eyes on the Prize.
First, in 3:1-13, Paul tells Timothy that his whole ministry would take place among people who would love themselves more than God’s truth. They would make Timothy’s efforts difficult at every turn. However, rather than this being a sign of the ineffectiveness of the gospel, Paul tells Timothy, don’t be surprised by this. It should be expected. Many of us who have given our lives to Christ find ourselves surrounded by people who make our lives incredibly difficult. Sometimes it’s through outright opposition to the gospel message as in Timothy’s case, but sometimes it occurs in our everyday relationships with our spouses, children, roommates and coworkers. We think that we would love to pursue a life of discipleship in Christ, but these people just keep cutting us off at every turn with their self-centeredness! They just push all our buttons and make us wonder whether our situation is somehow an anomaly outside of God’s plan. Throughout this whole letter, however, is the reminder that Christ died and rose again in this world, surrounded by these types of people. He is aware of the difficulty, he experienced the difficulty to the uttermost, and provides a grace that is sufficient for His children even there. Paul tells Timothy to not be surprised by the difficulty that He will face because Jesus is not surprised by it. He calls His children to follow Him in it not because they are strong enough to endure it, but because He is sufficient to provide for them there.
Second, rather than leave Timothy with only this negative command, Paul gives Timothy something positive to focus his attention on instead. He is toStick to the Story that is God’s Word. God’s Word, the true story of the world, gives Timothy a narrative from God Himself to interpret his experiences through. Timothy is to learn this story over his whole life, and teach it as the truth that trumps all other truths. It is often the case when we experience frustration in life that that frustration takes over our outlook on what life is about. It becomes our whole narrative for how the world functions and where it is going. The same thing goes for desires, ideas, trauma, and even our dreams of fulfillment in life. These things that we experience become all that we can see. The natural temptation, therefore, is to interpret all of life, and even God’s Word, according to our own experiences. However, what Paul is telling Timothy is that God’s Word is the true story of the World despite what we experience. God’s Word is for interpreting our experiences in light of what God has revealed, rather than the other way around.
In the end, however, many of us know quite deeply that information is not sufficient on its own to facilitate perseverance in faith. Every day we know what God says, and yet still don’t act on it. The reason is because we love ourselves too much. Our lives are not only difficult because we are surrounded by self-centered people. They are difficult because we are just like them! What do we do then? What about those of us who have a huge gap between how God has called us to live and how we actually live? It is precisely in this gap that Paul aims his last instruction: keep your Eyes on the Prize. Paul was satisfied at the end of his life not because he was righteous and deserved credit for it. He was satisfied because He awaited Jesus Christ, the righteous judge, who had righteousness to give as a gift. Jesus Christ walked the road of life as the obedient Son of God. He persevered, died as a sinner, and rose again to the ultimate pride of His Father. It was because of how Jesus walked that He was granted the privilege of bestowing righteousness on anyone who would look to Him in faith. This righteousness is the joy of dwelling with God as a most beloved child, able to come to Him with every need in confidence, the complete absence of shame, and the complete satisfaction of a life well lived. Paul knew that the whole story of God was about Jesus Christ, the worthy Son, who was given the right to make even unworthy sinners righteous. It was in anticipation of this free gift that Paul was able to persevere in following Jesus. His life was full of hope and joy at what was waiting at the end of the road. This is the same hope and joy that belongs to anyone who looks to Jesus for righteousness. This is a hope that will not disappoint, and that is well worth our perseverance.
Sermon Reflection Questions
- What stood out to you from these verses?
- What questions do they raise for you?
- Was there anything that bothered you?
- What do you expect out of the Christian life?
- How is God's Word useful in shaping our expectations?
- If you were in Paul's shoes looking back over a lifetime of service for Christ, what would you like to be most proud of? What would you look forward to most?
Confession of Faith: The Apostles Creed
I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried:
he descended into hell.
The third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven
and sits at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.