Why We Preach (1 Timothy 4:1-16)

Okay, I have a bit of a test. I'm going to read four statements for you, and I want you to tell me what they have in common. Ready?

  1. Dogs are really the same as cats.
  2. The Toronto Maple Leafs are a great football team.
  3. We are all descended from pirates.
  4. Left socks always have to go on before right socks.

So let's see who knows what these statements all have in common. Anyone?

[get answers]

The biggest thing that these statements have in common is that they are wrong. All of them are flat out wrong. Dogs are not the same as cats; they're much smarter! The Leafs are not a great football team; they're not even a great hockey team. We are not all descended from pirates, although there's a chance that I am. And you are allowed to put on your right sock first if you want to. Nothing wrong with this.

Let me give you four more statements to see if you can find out what they have in common.

  1. It really doesn't matter what you believe.
  2. We all worship the same God.
  3. I get to decide what's right for me.
  4. Nobody knows what happens after we die.

Anyone know what these statements have in common? They actually have a lot of things in common. They're all pretty popular. There are probably people in this room who believe at least some of these things. If I say that they're wrong, then someone will probably tell me that this is just my opinion. Besides being popular, they're also wrong.

The reason that I bring these four things up is because the passage we just read from 1 Timothy tells us three things that are important for us to know. Here's the first:

We're going to be tempted to believe some wrong things.

That's the first thing we need to understand. The passage we just read teaches us that we are going to be tempted to believe some wrong things.

As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain persons not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God's work--which is by faith. (1 Timothy 1:3-5)

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. (1 Timothy 4:1-3)

Here's what Paul is saying in these verses: you are going to be tempted to believe some wrong things. People are going to stand up in church and teach them. They are going to be believed by some people. The people who believe these things are essentially going to walk away from the faith. We are going to be tempted to believe some wrong things.

Nobody is really sure what wrong things were being taught in Ephesus. People have some ideas. It's called the Ephesian heresy. In a way it's not important what the exact heresy was. It is important, though, to realize that we face our own heresies in our own day. And the Bible says you're going to be tempted to believe some wrong things.

The reason I bring this up is because a lot of people don't even think there is such a thing as wrong beliefs. A lot of us are tempted today to think that it's all a matter of perspective, and that all of us see different parts of the truth, and nobody sees the whole picture. We may even think it's arrogant to say that one view is right and other views are wrong.

But there are all kinds of problems with this. For one thing, the minute you say that it's true that there's no such thing as truth, you've contradicted yourself. The minute you claim to have universal insight into the fact that universal insights are wrong and arrogant, you've become wrong and arrogant yourself. Not only that, but nobody lives that way. If the bank accidentally takes $50 out of your bank account, I don't know anyone who would say, "Well, you have your perspective and I have mine." No, you'd say, "Give me my $50 back!"

So the Bible tells us that we're going to be tempted to believe some wrong things. Here's the second thing that it tells us:

Some of these wrong things are going to be dangerous.

You see what this picture is? A shipwreck. A friend of mine found a map of Newfoundland that showed all the shipwrecks. He couldn't believe how many there were. I went on Wikipedia this week and counted 48 shipwrecks in Ontario alone. Each one involved danger, loss of wealth, and loss of life. You can lose everything in a shipwreck.

Paul writes to Timothy that some have believed false teachings and "so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith" (1 Timothy 1:19). Do you know what Paul is saying here? You're going to be tempted to believe the wrong thing, and this is dangerous. It doesn't matter if you believe the Leafs are a great football team or not. It doesn't matter if you think you're descended from pirates. It's weird, but it won't really hurt you. But believing the wrong things about God and what he teaches in the Word is dangerous. It could lead you to shipwreck your life. It could change your eternity.

If you go to a drugstore and pick up a prescription, it comes with all kinds of warnings. My favorite was from a drug I was asked to take twenty years ago. One of the possible side-effects was black hairy tongue. I'm not kidding. You can look it up. It's a fungus. In case you're wondering, I never took the prescription.

There ought to be warnings about what we believe. What you believe can be dangerous. If you believe the wrong thing about God and about the gospel, it can be fatal. Children in the Netherlands dug up this really cool thing in the ground. They actually played with it for months before somebody realized what it was: an unexploded shell filled with explosives from World War II. The authorities came in and blew it up before it could hurt anyone. They didn't know the danger of what they were dealing with.

We're going to be tempted to believe wrong things, and some of these things are going to be dangerous. They can shipwreck your life. They can explode on you. They're far more dangerous than you realize. This is a huge danger for churches.

Paul tells us what to do about it.

So the church must devote itself to Scripture.

Every week, somebody gets up here and opens the Bible and teaches. Why do we do this? Because this is how Paul teaches us to handle the danger of false teaching, of believing the wrong things:

  • If you point these things out to the brothers and sisters, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished on the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed. (4:6)
  • Command and teach these things. (4:11)
  • Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. (4:13)
  • Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. (4:15-16)

Let's try to follow what Paul is saying here. We are going to be tempted to believe some wrong things. Some of the things we're going to be tempted to believe are not only wrong, they're dangerous. They could kill us. And yet people right inside the church are going to try to get us to believe them. And the way to respond to this is to focus on God's Word as a church. Point out what the Bible teaches. Command and teach what the Bible teaches. Publicly read the Scripture as a church. Preach and teach the Bible. Be diligent. Continually grow, and persist in doing this. And if we do this as a church, we can save ourselves and also those who listen to us.

This is Paul's prescription for us. The best way to make sure we are believing the right things, and avoiding the wrong things, is to focus on God's Word as our authority. That's why every Sunday someone stands up here, and open God's Word. It's not because I have anything to say. It's because the Bible has something to say to us. It's not only that we read it; it reads us. It reveals things about us that we need to know. It makes us wise for salvation. It teaches us, reproves us, corrects us, and trains us so that we become competent and equipped for every good work.

It's also why it's our authority. Do you know what a norm is? A norm is the standard by which everything else is measured. A couple of hundred years ago, people knew what a meter was. It was one ten-millionth of the distance between the North Pole and the equator at the longitude of Paris. But if you wanted to decide what a meter was in real life, that definition wasn't too useful to you.

So in 1799, they made a platinum bar. It became the international standard for what a meter is. It became the norm by which everything else was compared. If you wanted to find out what a meter was, you had to compare it to this bar.

In a sense, that's what the Bible is for us. It's the standard by which everything else is measured. It's how we know what is right and wrong and what we should believe. It's why we preach. Because we'll be tempted to believe wrong and dangerous things, focus on God's Word. As someone has said, "Preaching is not sharing or chatting but rather proclaiming with authority and passion the truth of God's Word about Jesus."

So let's close this off this morning. Do you realize that you're going to be tempted to believe all kinds of wrong and crazy things? Do you realize that what you believe actually matters? If you believe the wrong things, it can actually shipwreck you.

If you do, I hope you'll see why we preach every week. And I hope you'll also see the one we're preaching about, the one that all of Scripture is about: Jesus, who is the Word , who offered his life for us. Paul says that if we do these things, and persist in doing them, that the preacher will save both himself and his hearers.

So let's review. You'll be tempted to believe what? Wrong things. These wrong things will be what? Dangerous. And the solution? Focus on the Bible, and on Jesus who is revealed through the Bible.

Father, thank you for your Word. Most of all, thank you that your Word corrects our wrong beliefs and leads us to Jesus. May we be a church that uses Scripture as our norm, that is devoted to God's Word. We pray in Jesus' name, Amen.

Why Sing?

The question I want to ask today is: why sing?

The fact is that we do sing. If you go to any church you can think of, you're going to find some sort of singing.

Not only that, but the Bible is all about singing. The largest book in the Bible is a book of songs. We're commanded to sing some 50 times in the book of psalms. "The Bible is filled with references to music, from the dawn of creation to the final scenes in Revelation (Job 38:7; Revelation 15:3)" (Bob Kauflin).

Let me give you just one example of a command to sing:

Sing praises to God, sing praises;
sing praises to our King, sing praises.
For God is the King of all the earth;
sing to him a psalm of praise.
(Psalm 47:6-7)

Let's take a few minutes and try to come up with some answers to the question: why do we sing? [write answers on flip chart]

Those are excellent.

For a few minutes, I want to suggest two of the biggest reasons from Scripture that we sing. Here's the first one:

1. We sing because it's fitting

When we were kids, we used to watch a show The Price is Right. One of the fun parts was when the host said, "Joe Schmo, you're the next contestant on The Price is Right. Come on down!" Even before they won something, the level of excitement for some of them was over the top.

We always had fun imagining how a proper British woman - I think we imagined someone almost like the Queen - would react. It just seemed that if you were chosen for a game show, or especially if you won a new set of pots for the kitchen or whatever, a bit of emotion was in order.

Psalm 33:1 talks about two things about God: his word and his work. And as it begins it says:

Sing joyfully to the LORD, you righteous;
it is fitting for the upright to praise him.

See that phrase: "it is fitting for the upright to praise him." It's the right thing to do. As we get a sense of God's saving activity - that he is present and active within creation- and as we think about the great theological truths, it should do more than just fill our heads with knowledge. It should also move our hearts to praise. And when our hearts our moved with praise, then it is fitting and upright to praise God. We praise God as a celebration for who he is and what he has done, because it's fitting that it move our hearts and come out in music.

You see this over and over. In Ephesians 5, which we just read, singing is a result of being filled or controlled by the Spirit. It lists four results of being filled with the Spirit; two of them are signing.

Over and over in Scripture you see that when we have a fresh experience of God's grace, and when it moves both our heads and our hearts, it overflows in singing praises to God.

Bob Kauflin writes:

The emotions that singing is meant to evoke are a response to who God is and what he's done. Vibrant singing enables us to combine truth about God seamlessly with passion for God. Doctrine and devotion. Mind and heart.

All of this reflects the reality of heaven, where Jesus Christ is being worshiped because he is worthy, and has triumphed, and has saved us.

And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God's people. And they sang a new song, saying:

"You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
because you were slain,
and with your blood you purchased for God
members of every tribe and language and people and nation.
You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God,
and they will reign on the earth." (Revelation 5:8-10)

Worship is fitting. It's a response of worship from the heart for what God has done.

There's another reason why we sing though:

2. We sing because it's powerful

We don't just sing to express our hearts; we sing as well to change our hearts. Read Ephesians 5 again with me:

Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 5:18-20)

We actually learn a lot through singing. Colossians 3:16 says, "teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts."

N.T. Wright says that hymns and songs "are not just entertainment; they are instruction, consolation, warning and hope." They're powerful. Verse 14 of Ephesians 5 is probably part of a song that Paul used to teach the Ephesians. You see this all over the place. Songs and music teach us about God.

Songs and music shape who we are. Igor Stravinsky, one of the most influential composers of the last century, gave some lectures at Harvard in the 1940s. Stravinsky, a Russian, said in those lectures that the Soviets had to get control of the music in order to get control of the culture and society, because nothing is more powerful than music.

In the music Cabaret, in prewar Germany, people are skeptical that Nazis will ever get power. But then a Nazi begins to sing, and everyone was captivated by it and stood. Music is powerful and changes us, for good or for evil.

When God was about to send Israel into the promised land, he knew they would forget how to live. So God didn't give them just a lecture; God gave them a song. In Deuteronomy 31:19, God says, "Now write down this song and teach it to the Israelites and have them sing it..." He wanted to implant his word in their hearts through music.

A church recorded some songs of Scripture from Galatians. A year later, a man in that church lost his memory due to a stroke. The wife emailed the pastor to say that although he could not remember a single sermon on Galatians that he had heard from his pastor, he could remember every single song. Songs teach us.

A few more stories. A pastor's daughter was murdered in Alberta a couple of months ago. It was a horrible and senseless tragedy. Just the month before, though, they had purchased a CD of Christian music. One of the songs really grabbed them, called It is Not Death to Die. The song begins:

It is not death to die
To leave this weary road
And join the saints who dwell on high
Who've found their home with God

Looking back, they believe that God was preparing them. In the day following Emily's death, that song strengthened them.

Music teaches us and encourages us, but it can even evangelize us. Bono wrote in an introduction he wrote to a book on the Psalms:

Words and music did for me what solid, even rigorous, religious argument could never do, they introduced me to God, not belief in God, more an experiential sense of GOD. Over art, literature, reason, the way into my spirit was a combination of words and music.

A man was on his way to take his own life in the Thames River one night. On the way he heard singing from a church, Westminster Chapel in London. The music was so lovely that it gave him hope. He went in, gave him hope, and he went inside and eventually became a Christian.

One last story. Anne Lamott is someone who used to be very opposed to Christianity. But she was longing for something. One day she went to church hungover. She couldn't stand for the songs. She usually left when the sermon started, but this time she stayed, and thought it was ridiculous. But then:

The last song was so deep and raw and pure that I could not escape. It was as if the people were singing in between the notes, weeping and joyful at the same time, and I felt like their voices or something was rocking me in its bosom, holding me like a scared kid, and I opened up to that feeling - and it washed over me.

And that was the day that she became a Christian.

Why do we sing? Lots of reasons, but today we've said there are two big ones. One: it's fitting and it's right. It's absolutely necessary as a response to all that God has done. Two: because music teaches us and it changes us. That's why we sing week after week after week.

So:

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:16)

Why Worship? (Deuteronomy 5:7)

Once a month, on the third Sunday, we're holding family services. I want to try to explain why we're doing this. It's not so we can give our teachers a break, and it's not a devious plot to bore our children.

We're doing this for a few reasons:

  • to include children in the life of the church
  • to expose our kids to the worship of the entire church
  • because we all need each other - young need the old, old need the young
  • to start a conversation that can continue at home

This year we want to explore why it is that we worship the way that we do. Today I'm going to ask why we worship, and in coming months we're going to look at many of the things we do when we worship together: sing, pray, read God's Word, and so on.

Let me ask you some questions to get us going:

1. Who or what do I love most?

In other words:

  • what do I think and daydream about?
  • what do I value?
  • what couldn't I bear to lose?
  • what is my greatest nightmare?
  • what keeps me going?
  • what do I rely on or comfort myself with when things go bad or get difficult?
  • what makes me feel the most self-worth? What am I the proudest of?
  • what do I really want and expect out of life?
  • what would really make me happy?

Get answers. We can try to find comfort, approval, control, and power in these things.

2. What's the problem with this?

These things - good things - can become idols in our lives. We are worshipers, but God is not always the object of our worship.

The question we're asking today is "Why Worship?" In a way, this is the wrong question. The real question is, "Who or what are you worshiping?" Any of the things we've listed can be objects of worship.

The first word from God: "You shall have no other gods before me..." (Deuteronomy 5:7)

A god is that to which we look for all good and in which we find refuge in every time of need. To have a god is nothing less than to trust and believe him with our whole heart. As I have often said, the trust and faith of the heart alone make both God and an idol...That to which your heart clings and entrusts itself is, I say, really your God. (Martin Luther)

Idolatry is worshiping anything that ought to be used, or using anything that is meant to be worshiped. (Augustine)

Somebody's said that idolatry is making good things into ultimate things. Louie Giglio has said:

I think that all music - not just Christian music but all music - is worship music, because every song is amplifying the value of something. There's a trail of our time, our affections, our devotion, our money. That trail leads to a throne, and whatever is on that throne is what we worship. We're all doing a great job of it because God has created us to be worshipers. The problem is that a lot of us have really bad gods.

Problems with idols:

  • they promise more than they deliver
  • they lead to a loss of freedom (bondage)
  • they are impermanent and threaten us when they're taken away
  • they can never truly make us happy
  • they are all forms of sin and break God's first word

3. What choice do I have?

You don't have a choice about being a worshiper.

It is as impossible for a man to live without having an object of worship as it is for a bird to fly if it is taken out of the air. The very composition of human life, the mystery of man's being, demands a center of worship as a necessity of existence. All of life is worship...The question is whether the life and powers of man are devoted to the worship of the true God or to that of a false one. (G. Campbell Morgan)

You really don't have a choice about being a worshiper. Your only choice is whether you will worship God or be an idolator.

4. How do I get rid of idols?

This leads us to the answer to the question I asked at the beginning, "Why worship?" By that I mean, "Why worship together like we do on Sundays at church?"

The only way to get rid of an idol is to replace it with another object of worship. "The only way to dispossess the heart of an old affection is by the expulsive power of a new one." (Thomas Chalmers)

The only way to stop worshiping idols is to worship God - to seek our happiness in him, to love and desire him above all things.

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. (Deuteronomy 6:4-5)

That's why we worship together. When we come together on Sundays, we are helping to reestablish the reign of God within our lives, and reminding each other that God alone is worthy of our hearts and worship.

Dear children, keep yourselves from idols. (1 John 5:21)

That's why we do this every week. We repent from idols, and turn to Christ and his work on the cross, which is our only hope.

Israel never managed to deal with their idols. Jesus came, and was tempted to worship idols during his temptation in the wilderness. He is the first person to ever live who never worshiped an idol. Through the cross, his perfect record became ours, and our sins were dealt with at the cross.

So why worship together on Sundays? To remind ourselves that God alone is worthy of our worship, and that we can become worshipers in spirit and truth through Christ.

So to review:

  • We all worship
  • The only choice we have is whether we are worshiping God or idols
  • We gather together to remind ourselves that only God is worthy of our worship
  • We can repent of our idols and find freedom in Jesus Christ alone