Truth or Myths?

2 Timothy 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.

Last week we looked at verses 1-2 where Paul charges Timothy to preach the Word in season and out of season. The emphasis was for Timothy, and for us as well, to be faithful always to what God has called us to do. Be faithful in the roles He has put us in, be faithful with the tasks He has given us to do, be faithful in all circumstances, be faithful to Him no matter if others are or not.

We are here to serve the living God who has saved us to a new life, a life to be lived for Him and for His glory. This means we must put aside our sometimes petty desires, our selfish pursuits, our pride and live not for ourselves but for Him. This is our duty as God’s children, but it should also be our joy.

To be faithful is us saying that we believe God is great, He is wise, and He knows best. To be faithful is to live in the reality of His love for us, that is believing that He really does love us and we have been accepted in the beloved. To be faithful is to say, “I love God and I trust Him as the gracious God that He is.” It is to say, “This life I now live is His, it belongs to Him.” When we do this we then enter into this joy-filled pursuit of discovering all that He wants us to do, all that He wants us to know. We pursue Him in His Word. And so Paul says, “Be faithful Timothy.” And God wants the same for us.

Now, there is good reason why Paul gives this charge at this time. In verse 3 we see why: “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching”

Here is part of the problem. Timothy is to preach sound doctrine, truth from God, and yet Paul says, “A time is coming when people will not want to hear what you teach.” Well, that may not sound very encouraging. “Go preach, but no one will want to hear. But go preach.”

This is a real dilemma for some preachers, and it is also a real dilemma for many others regarding faithfulness. Some preachers enjoy preaching if there are enough people who love what they have to say. But if the people are no longer too excited about what a preacher has to say, well then, he may go and do something else. And some Christians may live in obedience to God as long as there are people around him or her who think he or she is great for living in obedience to God. We forget that the reason why we obey is because we love God, we love Christ, we are grateful for Him and we want to live for Him. If our aim is to glorify Him, then we will not get so caught up in what others around us think about our obedience, right?

This is why Paul, again, says, “Preach in season and out of season. Preach when the message is popular and when it is not.” So for us, live in obedience to the Lord when it is popular to do so and when it is not popular to do so. In fact, when it is not popular, that is when we stand out more, that may be when we look the most like Christ, that is when we shine the brightest in the darkness around us.

Now, let’s look a little more closely at this passage. Paul knew that a time was coming when things would continue to change. When he says a time will come, the implication is that there would be a change of people’s minds. A change from enduring to not enduring. There would be people who once were accepting of sound teaching who will now no longer endure it or tolerate it. Paul is talking about those in the church who have listened to and even agreed with sound teaching until things got tough, and then they decided to no longer tolerate it. These are not true Christians, but those who may have seemed like true Christians. A time of rebellion was coming. This was a time of persecution, a time of trial and great temptation to turn from truth. Jesus also spoke of such a time in His ministry.

Matthew 10
16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles.
21 Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, 22 and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

And so with all this pressure, many will not endure. The word translated ‘endure’ here means to hold on to in the face of great difficulty. It is like in a sporting event, maybe a marathon runner. The endurance comes into play at the end of the race when the runner is tired. That is when it becomes hard. Endurance requires that the runner maintain his strength, stay mentally alert and in the race, keep going when his body tells him to stop.

In the same way we should endure sound doctrine – but many won’t. Sound doctrine will seem like too much, too taxing, there may be a high price to pay for living out truth, and so the weary will quit. It will be a pragmatic choice. It may sound like this: “I don’t want to face persecution for what I believe, so I will walk away from God’s truth.” Maybe, “I would rather keep my social status, my place of honor in the community. I will keep my popularity among my friends and associates.” And to keep these things may mean to turn from sound doctrine. And so a search begins for an easier way, a less controversial way, a way that will allow living a desired, trouble-free life.

This is a sad place for anyone to be in. What did we learn from 1 Timothy 3:16? “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” To not endure sound doctrine is to turn from what is “God-breathed” to what is created by man. It is to turn from sacred truth given from the perfect and holy God, to turn from that to some philosophy made up by man. And to do all this thinking that this is what will make one happy or make life easy. And yet Jesus said:

Matthew 11
28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

The ironic thing is that to turn from God’s truth to what seems easy brings sorrow and pain. Here is what we read in Romans 2:

Romans 2
9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek.

And so those who turn from truth to do evil will reap tribulation and distress, and to endure truth and do good, we read there will be glory and honor and peace! So the turning from sound doctrine is based on a lie that happiness is found elsewhere, when the truth is that the elsewhere will lead to tribulation and distress. Peace is found with God and in Him alone.

Now here is another sad point: if there are people who want to stray from sound doctrine, sound Bible teaching, then there will be plenty of teachers out there who will accommodate them. “but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,”

If someone wants to believe that Jesus was merely a man and not deity, well, there are teachers out there for them. If someone wants to believe there is no hell, there are plenty of preachers and teachers who will say that. If anyone wants to believe that the miracles in the Bible were not real miracles, there are teachers for that too. If you want to believe that everyone will go to heaven, there are so-called churches that teach that. Whatever sinful passion someone may have, they can probably find a religion that will help them justify their sin. That is what Paul is talking about when he says, “but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,”

There are always people around who are more than happy to help us live out our sinful passions, and unfortunately there are many who will do that in the name of religion. This is why we must be so careful and so committed to understanding and believing God’s Word.

2 Timothy 4
4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

The end for those who turn from truth is to believe myths. Many will go to their graves having lived their whole lives believing myths. Many will base their whole lives on myths. Some even will who had full access to God’s truth.

By way of encouragement Paul continues and says:

2 Timothy 4
5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

“Always be sober-minded.” This means keep your head on straight. That is what my parents would tell me. Be level headed, be free from intoxicants metaphorically. Be of sound mind. Don’t be ruled by your passions, your strong desires, but be principled in your thinking. Be self-controlled in your thinking. This reminds me of James 1:

James 1
6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

We don’t want to be tossed by the winds of doubt, unstable people who can easily be swayed by false teaching that may appeal to some lust. Instead we are to be, by God’s grace, sober-minded.

Paul also says, “endure suffering.” Paul knew what it meant to suffer, and to him it was worth it. Christ suffered, and we are often called to suffer.

John 15-16
18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.
16:1 “I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. 2 They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.

Christ suffered and we will suffer also. We are to, for the sake of Christ, endure suffering.

Lastly Paul says: “do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” Share the gospel to the lost world. Tell people about Jesus, do the work of an evangelist. This is our calling too! We are here to glorify God, and what better way than to tell the story of redemption, the coming of our Lord to those who need to hear it.

2 Timothy 4
5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

In conclusion this morning I want to, by way of example, illustrate for you in a practical way how this process often looks, of people turning from sound teaching to myths. This happens and it happens often. Many sit under sound teaching in good churches across this world and end up deciding they will not endure and will go on a search for something they would rather hear. I see this, I have witnessed this again and again, and so I want to share this with you.

Often times it has to do with what we think we need in life. In our minds we can create these lists of things that we think we need in this life, in this world to be happy and satisfied. We don’t call these things desires or wants, but we elevate them to needs. “I cannot be happy unless I have…and you fill in the blank.” Most of what we think we may need, we don’t need at all, and God does not promise us those things. But we think they are needs.

In Stuart Scott’s book, “The Exemplary Husband,” he talks about this. He says:

Contrary to popular thought we don’t need:
to be well respected
to be honored
to have our sexual appetites satisfied
to be recognized for our accomplishments
to have a good marriage
to have good kids
to have a great job
to have others understand us or where we are coming from
the love of others or security

God does not define these things as needs nor does He promise them to us. But we may think we need them to be happy, and if we think that, and God does not give them to us, then we will naturally think that God is not good. The thinking goes, “If God is good, He would give me what I need.” But the problem is our definitions of needs. And a view of God. We may desire these things, but we do not need them. 2 Peter 1:3-4 tells us we have everything we need for life and godliness!

Here is a list of things we do need.

We need:
to walk with God by His truth (Psalm 107:9)
the Word of God (2 Peter 1:3-4)
to glorify God (1 Corinthians 10:31)
to love God and others (Matthew 22:37-40)
to serve God and others (1 Peter 4:10-11)
God to act (1 John 4:10; John 6:43-44)

But we can get so messed up in our thinking. And when we do, we can be easily tossed by the winds of emotions. We can get confused, we can then be tempted even to depart from truth, believe lies, and find teachers who agree with such lies.

Know this: God is our Rock. He has given us His Word. And we can believe His Word, no matter how we feel, no matter what our circumstances are, and no matter what other people think. He is our Rock, and to live by His Word is what we were designed for.

Psalm 107
9 For he satisfies the longing soul,
and the hungry soul he fills with good things.

2 Timothy 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.