2 Timothy 4:1-4
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What do people consider to be myths today? Pretty much everything the Bible says. A number of years ago there was a group of so-called Bible scholars who met to vote on what they thought were things Jesus actually said. The only thing they could all agree that Jesus must have actually said was Love your neighbor as yourself. They called all the other words of Jesus recorded in the Bible myths, things that someone might have attributed to him, but ranked as something he probably didn’t say, or as something he for sure didn’t say.
This is nothing new. It’s the question Satan asked Eve in the garden. Did God really say? For hundreds, if not thousands of years, people have called the Genesis creation account a myth, not to mention Jonah being swallowed by a big fish and coming out alive three days later, and the physical resurrection of Jesus.
Many people consider the Bible to be a collection of myths and fables, but what have they put in its place? They believe what is really a myth, that there is no God, which God calls foolish because he has given evidence of his existence in everything around us. The heavens declare his glory. Every house is built by someone. How foolish to think that the universe came into existence by accident.
Everyone believes in something. If you reject the Bible and call it a collection of myths and fables, you will end up believing all kinds of things that are truly myths and fables. And the most dangerous part of that is that you will consider the fact that Jesus is going to judge the living and the dead a myth. Then, when he appears in glory in the heavens on the last day, and you realize that what the Bible said was true and that you believed a myth, it will be too late.
That’s why the Apostle Paul gave young Pastor Timothy a solemn charge. Preach the word. And it is clear from the verses at the end of chapter 3 exactly what Paul meant when he said preach the word. He meant the Scriptures. He reminded Timothy and us that all Scripture is God breathed, inspired by God. He is the one who said to Jeremiah, you must go to everyone to whom I send you and say whatever I command you… I have placed my words in your mouth. God is the one who agreed to the request of the people at Mt. Sinai to speak to them through Moses and the prophets. Over and over again the prophets claim, the word of the Lord came to me saying, and thus says the Lord. The writer to the Hebrews says, In the past, God spoke to our forefathers by the prophets at many times and in many ways. In these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. (did you catch the reference to creation there as well?) Jesus promised the Apostles that after his ascension he would send them the Holy Spirit who would enable them to remember everything he had said.
The Bible is not a collection of myths and fables. It is the very word of God. It is the truth. It is the ultimate myth buster.
Paul tells Timothy what God told Ezekiel. Preach, proclaim the Scriptures, whether people listen or fail to listen. Say what all the true prophets have said, thus says the Lord.
The message that God gave Jeremiah was extremely unpopular. When people heard it, they called for his execution. They accused him of treason and fomenting insurrection. They arrested him, put him in prison, and at one point threw him in a cistern where he almost starved to death. The message of God’s word is not popular.
You know this yourself. No one, including us, likes to hear that we are sinners who deserve God’s eternal punishment. Our reaction to that message is the same as Adam and Eve. We want to point the finger at others. We want to say, “but what about those people, I’m certainly a lot better than they are.” We want to say, “it’s my parents’ fault, they didn’t raise me right.” Or “it’s society’s fault, who wouldn’t give in to all the temptations we face today?” We do all kinds of mental gymnastics to try to avoid admitting the truth. We aren’t perfect. We have sinned. It doesn’t matter if we are better or worse than someone else. God demands perfection and we don’t have it. We deserve to be punished by him forever in hell.
Admitting that you are a sinner who deserves God’s eternal punishment isn’t fun. But, by God’s grace, we have been enabled to admit it because we have seen from Scripture that it is true. And because the Holy Spirit has also enabled us to see from Scripture that, because Jesus lived without sinning and then went to the cross to pay for our sins, we don’t get the punishment we deserve. What a deeply moving and important thing it is that we begin our worship service confessing our sins and the hearing forgiveness in Jesus proclaimed to us!
Because no one likes to hear that they have sinned and deserve God’s punishment, especially if they don’t believe that Jesus lived and died and rose again for their forgiveness, many will turn away from the turn and will turn aside to myths.
One of our papers at conference this week pointed out how we see this all around us. Even without the Scripture people know something is missing. The law of God is written in everyone’s heart and their conscience bears witness to that law. They know something is not right and so they are always looking for something that will make them feel right. He suggested that the desire to be right is what is behind cancel culture. Or think about the arguments about masks. People argue about being on the right side of that debate. But if you don’t have the righteousness that God gives you in Jesus, being on the right or wrong side of any social or political issue won’t do you any good. That’s the point much of our world today is missing, and that many Christians are tempted to forget.
Paul told Timothy that he, and we, could expect that people, not just the people of the world, but people in the church, would not put up with sound doctrine. They would accumulate for themselves teachers who would line up with their own desires, who would tell them only what they wanted to hear, teachers who would tell them myths rather than proclaim the truth of God’s word.
Jeremiah experienced that. When he proclaimed the message that God gave him, that Jerusalem would be conquered and the temple would be destroyed, other prophets stood up and claimed that they too had a message from God. They claimed that God told them just the opposite, that Jerusalem would be spared. The claims of false prophets and the arguments of the world, claiming science to back them up, are usually pleasing to the ear and sound very convincing.
In this week in which we remember the Supreme Court granting the right to abortion, the myth of ‘’my body, my choice” comes to mind. A baby isn’t your body. It has its own body. More and more we hear the myth of race being used either for or against someone, when the truth is that God created only one race, the human race. We hear the myth that you should be able to love whomever you want, and that you can decide your own gender, when Jesus says he made them male and female. These are all things that spring from Satan’s first question – “did God really say?” They all spring from considering the Bible a myth and man’s word and desire truth, when it’s really the other way around. The Bible, God’s word, is truth, anything that contradicts what God says is a myth.
Paul makes it clear to Timothy, and us, that what God calls us to do is not going to be easy. What God calls us to do is proclaim the word, the Scriptures. God’s word is truth. Use it first on yourself. Let it correct any wrong ideas that you might have. Let it rebuke you, point out where you have sinned and broken God’s laws. Let it encourage you by pointing you to Jesus and his promises of forgiveness and eternal life only because of what he has done for you, and his promise to be with you and to enable you to proclaim his word whether people listen or not.
Proclaim the word, the scriptures, whether it is convenient or not. Our sinful nature always thinks it’s inconvenient. But there is never an inconvenient time to speak the truth in love.
That’s a key, isn’t it. Speak the truth in love, not in order to be right. Speaking the truth doesn’t make you righteous. You are only righteous through faith in Jesus. Speak the truth of God’s word thinking about the souls of those to whom you speak. Speak the truth of God’s word trusting that it is only through the word that the Holy Spirit works to perform in others the miracle he has performed in you. Only through the word will anyone be able to confess their sinfulness and rejoice in what God has done for them in Jesus.
The agenda that God has revealed to us in his word is that we say what needs to be said, not what people what to hear. What needs to be said is simply, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified (declared right) freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.