Jesus was arrested late in the night.
By the time he was taken before the Roman governor it was early morning.
Pilate came out to meet the Jewish leaders who had brought Jesus under arrest and asked “what charges are you bringing against this guy?”
They replied, using circular reasoning… “His crime is that he is a criminal”
Pilate, replied…bored and disgusted… “Take him and judge him by your own law then”
They showed their hand, “We can’t execute him…only you can make that happen.”
So they didn’t want justice, they wanted him dead.
Pilate, now interested, had Jesus brought to him…he knew who Jesus was.
“Are you the king of the Jews” He asked the Lord.
Jesus answered as he often did…the question with a question.
“Is that your own idea or did you hear that from others.”
In other words…”Do you really want to know the truth?”
Pilate replied, “I’m not a Jew, it was your people who brought you to me…what have you done to deserve this?”
Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews…you would have soldiers deployed rather than just me standing here…But now my kingdom is from another place.”
37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate… after all, only kings have kingdoms.
Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
38 “What is truth?” Pilate asked.
This conversation summarizes the condition of the world in 2022.
Jesus still says to the world, “Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
And the world replies, “What is truth”
How do you know if something is true?
What methodology, logic, emotion, strategies do people employ?
Clearly people come to different conclusions about what is true.
If we frame it like, “You believe one thing is true and I believe another” this works for flavors of ice cream (chocolate is better than vanilla) but not for other important issues of life…like gravity or the gospel.
What is true is what is real…and life is no sci-fi movie, there are not many realities…just one.
Many most trust their own “gut”…which, though books have been written about the validity of intuition in decision making…it’s pretty foolish to trust your own instincts too much.
We can tell stories all day of people who trusted their “guts” and ended up in a world of hurt.
Many trust their own minds, their powers of reason and deduction…perhaps not giving enough reasoned thought to the presuppositions that we all start with.
Where you begin in your thinking determines to a large degree where you will end…your conclusions.
And we all start somewhere.
For instance if I begin with, “There is no personal God”…that is my presupposition.
-Then when I go DO science, I will see only impersonal forces at play…I see what my presuppostions allow me to see.
-When I deal with suffering, I see only empty, purposeless pain…I only see what my presuppositions allow me to see.
*I heard an Australian Lady interviewed this week: She had been a pregnant teen who was loved and cared for by her church. Later she had a very sick child and she herself had cancer.
In all of it…she was loved and cared for by the church…and by God.
-She now spends her life carrying for people in disruptive situations.
*The lens she sees life through, her presupposition is…Life involves suffering, God is good, and the Church is God’s body.
I’m not saying presuppositions don’t have “reasons” behind them…I’m just saying we all begin somewhere in coming to conclusions.
Some, conclude you can’t know truth…
There was a philosophical movement called “Logical Posit-ivism” that was popular in the early 20th century.
Essentially it held that only scientific knowledge (verified by the senses/experience/Experiment) is factual knowledge.
It fell out of favor because its presuppositions are not verifiable by scientific knowledge…it failed its own test of validity.
*Eventually, people begin to distrust the ability to know truth at all.
But people can’t live this way, so they have to act as if some things are true…or they take their own lives in despair…or just live in despair or denial.
I don’t think Pilate was being philosophical, just like I don’t most people are…I think he was just confused…like I think many people are.
He was a Roman politician in a land where people hated him…and they brought all their confusing and complicated differences to him.
Judaism, emperor worship, new Jesus cult…political intrigue…throw in his own personal fears and lusts and questions…he was in charge, and he was confused… probably very cynical.
“What is truth” could mean… “There isn’t any truth or who know it?”
“What is truth” could mean… “I don’t really care, too many opinions and fights over truth…I just don’t care anymore.”
But ideas have consequences and so it matters what we believe.
If you guess, and guess wrong…its bad, it can really bad.
To conclude that we cannot know truth, becomes a truth in itself.
To check out and say “I don’t care” is to take a position on truth.
To decide not to decide…is a decision…dealing with truth is inescapable.
Thanks be to God…that he took on flesh and came to rescue us from our confusion…to tell us what is true.
Jesus said, the reason I came into the world is to testify to the truth.
“I am the way, the truth and the life.”
WE cannot know truth exhaustively…but we can know true truth…what is real.
What is Real for everyone, everywhere, all the time.
We can know truth that is accurate and adequate…because God is there, and he has spoken to us.
He has made the way for truth to get to us.
The fact that we disagree over some of what the Bible says is not as important as the fact that God has spoken to us.
Truth is available, we can debate and discuss and work and disagree…with purpose, because there is real truth to be found.
All this would be meaningless if God was not there and he had not spoken to us in the Bible.
So, we have access to truth…we don’t have to guess, or use our guts, or try to reason out what is beyond human ability to reason out.
God is there and he has spoken
This matters in your marriage as you try to figure out how to live with this person who is so different than you are…and trouble and trials come to you.
This matters as you deal with the heartache of children gone onto destructive paths.
This matters as you hear reports from doctors and sit in hospital beds…or at gravesides
This matters as you grow old and contemplate what you have given your life for…or as you are young and wonder what you should give your life for.
This matters…everywhere, for everyone, all the time.
It mattered to me at a bitter cold and desolate graveyard as a 13 year wailed in grief for her father who had taken his life…truth mattered there.
I am not remotely perfect in the pursuit of truth or in living out the truth…but this is never a game to me.
“What is truth”…is the largest question of all time…there are consequences for missing the truth.
“I am the truth”…is the most important answer every given to the most important question.
Today, we finish Paul’s letters to Timothy.
As Paul is about to be killed for the truth…he is pouring out truth to Timothy so that he would put his full weight on the truth.
Let’s go to 2 Tim. chapter 4…I see this as a sort of “oath of office” for Timothy.
When officers join the military, or are promoted in rank…they swear an oath.
I, solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely…
“solemnly swear” means: with utter seriousness I fully commit to this.
This is the tone of what Paul says here as he draws his letter to a close.
In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge:
Jewish tradition called for a pair of witnesses in judicial procedures
You cannot get more eternally serious than this…he is calling God the Father and the Lord Jesus as witnesses.
Now to the content of his “oath”
2 Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.
Preach means to proclaim and in the NT proclamation is tied to the gospel message: Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will return…live in light of this reality.
Be prepared, stay ready “in season and out of season”
Since 911 some pilots have been an alert mission in key parts of the country…for over 20 years.
They are never more than a few minutes from their planes, ready to respond to a threat.
Timothy is to live in a gospel alert mission status.
He is to preach the truth of the gospel when it is easy and productive and when it is not.
When people are thrilled to hear and when they are bitterly angry and oppose him.
He is to be faithful in speaking the truth regardless of circumstances and outcomes.
We need constant course correction to stay on the good path.
Correct, rebuke, encourage…can all happen at the same time.
I have told the story before of how my dad, on a memorable Saturday morning when I was 15 years old…corrected, rebuked, and encouraged me at the same time…with his words and his tears after I had snuck out the night before and had been up to no good.
It was a turning point in my life.
This is the goal of preaching…that corrects, rebukes, encourages…to turn people continually onto the good path, the path of life…towards truth…away from unreality and the bad things that happen when we try to live in unreality.
Truth is always good and beautiful…even when its hard to hear..
He diverts, briefly from the “what” of this oath to why it is so important.
For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine(truth). Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths
“The time will come ” is really a figure of speech…the time had, in fact come…and it will grow increasingly so…that people will not want the truth.
“sound doctrine” is simply teaching or instruction…in truth.
Some words cause “knee jerk” reactions…”doctrine” is one of them.
“Doctrine”…boring, force-fed irrelevant lists of stuff about religion.
But it is simple a word that means “truth”…the most important kind of truth…truth about God…and what does he say is good and valuable for us as humans to be and do?
Frances Shaeffer was a brilliant and kind man who used his great mind to love others by making the truth of the gospel known in ways that they could understand.
With his wife, Edith, they took in seekers from all over the world…and demonstrated and spoke the truth to a generation who had been told truth was unknowable.
One night in a group discussion, where any and all questions were welcome…a young man begin to go on and on, playing word games…but never arriving at a question.
Shaeffer finally said, “If you have real question, I will take all night listening to you. But I will not play with the truth.”
This response, kind, but firm…deeply impacted those who heard it.
They understood that truth is no game, no play toy…it matters and it is to be honored.
Above all else, Paul wants Timothy to be a man of truth.
Jesus said, “Whoever speaks on their own does so to gain personal glory, but he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him.” John 7:18
Lest you think “truth” allows you to be unkind, unfriendly, mean-spirited…that is not the truth is it?
Shaeffer was renowned for his love of God, truth, people, beauty…his deep kindness towards people.
But there is no shortage of teaching designed for itching ears…rather than truth that fills empty hearts.
To “turn your ears” away from truth…is a spiritually disastrous move since salvation comes through hearing.
“Jesus insists that whoever has ears had better hear and not shop for a more favorable message elsewhere.”
Yarbrough, Robert W.. The Letters to Timothy and Titus (The Pillar New Testament Commentary (PNTC)) (p. 698). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Kindle Edition.
Now, back to Timothy’s “oath of office”
Even as others turn their itching ears away from truth towards what they want to hear…YOU go an entirely different direction.
5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
“Keep your head” can be translated… “Be sober minded”
The idiom means “be balanced” “stay calm, focused”…don’t “freak out”
Think of a leader in the fog and friction of a battle…who is able to rise above the chaos and see what is happening and what needs to happen…this is really important, living saving leadership.
Don’t be rattled…keep your head, your wits about you.
Then this general attitude or leadership posture is followed by three commands in quick succession…
Endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
These are summaries of Paul’s life and ministry given as a part of Timothy’s charge to carry on in the same way.
- Endure hardship: This is an established theme of Paul’s letters to Timothy.
I will say it again…we tend to see trouble, hardship, opposition as a sign of something being wrong…or a reason for us to stop.
Paul presents it as the exact opposite…endure hardship…this is the way to go and the way it will be.
- Do the work of an evangelist: Don’t let your mind go to modern TV preachers, traveling in Jets…they used to be called “tele-evangelists”.
This simple means a “proclaimer of the gospel’s good news”.
“be a blue collar truth worker”…the good news of Jesus and it’s implication for all of life is to be the core of your teaching.
- Fulfill your ministry: Leave nothing undone that needs to be done. Be found faithful.
*We are not to just do the bare minimum…we are to live like partners in this mission not hourly employees.
It doesn’t matter if you are not called to Pastor like Timothy was…you are a son or a daughter…this is your family business.
The work of the ministry for all of us is about a core passion not box checking.
The oath of office is complete…now Paul adds his own weighty testimony.
For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure.
“For” refers to all he has just said to Timothy…
Endure hardship, be an evangelist, be faithful…for I am being poured out like a drink offering…my end has come…so pay close attention to what I’ve said to you.
A drink offering brings to mind the image of David, terrible thirsty in the middle of a war, pouring out water that was obtained by his faithful soldiers at mortal risk to their lives.
There are other places in the OT where a drink is poured out on the ground as an offering to God.
Paul sees his life as something poured out for God…now, the cup is down to the last drops.
This is not “do as I say not as I do” leadership…far from it.
It is… “All that I have said to you, I have in fact done…to the finish line…you can do this.”
I once read that biographies should be written after people are dead…if they are alive they still have time to mess things up.
But in the case of men like Ravi Zacharias…some of their terrible choices don’t come to light until after death.
Paul, here on death row…with no hope of release and with great confidence in God’s power and in his own life of consistent training can write…
7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
He is full of confidence:
This is not gloomy, woe as me…my life is over and it is terrible.
It is upbeat… “Good” fight.
“Finished” the race.
“Kept” the faith.
All this means Paul that has been faithful…he knows that he is finishing well…and he trusts in God’s faithfulness.
**Let’s focus again on the biblical reality of balance: God is sovereign in all things and we are responsible at all times.
Paul, that great champion of God’s ultimate control over all things says here: I have fought, finished, and kept.
Underneath all of HIS faithfulness…is the foundation of God’s faithfulness.
He has kept that balance…so must we.
Now…the reason he is not gloomy but upbeat…the fruit of his faithfulness and the gift of God’s faithfulness…
8 Now there is in store 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 longed for his appearing.
The crown of righteousness…is symbolic of right relationship with God… “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
He wrote elsewhere, “Our light and momentary troubles are achieving an eternal weight of glory that far outweighs them all.”
Look at the vision he casts here… “not only for me…but for all who have longed for his appearing.”
All who have lived the “What matters most at the end, matters most now”…kind of life.
I get questions from Next classes, one last week was two part:
- Were Adam and Eve Cavemen?
- Is it bad to want to stay on earth and not go to heaven?
-What an honest and good question.
My answer to question 2, has two parts:
- I am really glad you like it here, it means that you are blessed to have a good family and God has given you good things so that you like your life.
- Your future destiny is not “less than earth” but a new created heaven and earth…a life in a resurrected body…the best of this life minus the bad.
-As this blessed little girl grows, she will experience more the downside of planet earth…and as she nurtures her faith she will long for the life to come.
But it’s hard to have eternal hope…when eternity feels like a demotion.
-We can’t imagine all that this will be…but remember Paul was given a sort of special preview…and so he had a better idea than we do of our eternal destiny.
*Many would love to have Paul’s special experiences…but they absolutely don’t want all the corresponding suffering that went along with them.
As we contemplate what is clearly, in Paul…a sense of growing excitement not foreboding and dread…we need to understand why this is.
He knew what lay ahead of him….and was confident in that.
He knew what lay behind him…he had been evil but he had been saved, and forgiven…and he was finishing faithfully.
*Since you are still breathing…no matter what is behind you…you can, starting from right here…finish faithfully.
- 9-22 are Paul’s personal remarks to finish his letter.
We are not going to spend much time there; you can read them this week.
I’ll make one main observation from this section.
To the very end of his life there are people he had invested in who were remaining faithful, and there were those who were checking out.
People who were supporting him and others deserting him in his hour of need.
-This is how it is going to be for all of us…life on planet earth is always going to be a mixed bag.
A combination of really hard and really good.
People bringing us joy, and others disappointing us.
Bottom line: We must measure our lives by faithfulness not fruitfulness.
*Faithfulness is our business
*Fruitfulness is God’s business
Of course, Paul was disappointed at times…as we will be and are.
But we must live a right column life.
Be faithful in the right column with the choices we have to make.
Leave the left column to God…we cannot control what we cannot control…worry is an attempt at control…a fruitless attempt.
God wants you to be a man or woman of truth.
Of the good and beautiful truth.
Have you become skeptical of being able to know truth?
Maybe you are just worn out by all the noise from people making diverse and conflicting truth claims.
Perhaps all the differences of opinions, all the conflicting voices…have you confused and worried.
Maybe people claiming the truth have been mean and opinionated and unhappy…and you don’t want that…I don’t blame you, me either.
Maybe it’s because the Bible is a hard book to understand in places…lots of opinions about it…maybe you have decided to not try anymore to understand it.
-Let me use an illustration I’ve used before, but I find it be very helpful.
No one understands light. It acts like particles and it acts like waves…the smartest of the smart, people who can measure light from distant stars, make lasers, and those round lights up there…and that projector over there…they don’t fully understand light.
But here we are…enjoying light.
It didn’t take complete knowledge to make and install these lights…it took more than I what I have but not complete knowledge.
It took very little knowledge to throw that switch back there and enjoy the light.
You only need accurate and adequate truth to do well.
Since God is there and God is good…he has made himself known to us in ways that are accurate and adequate…we can know what is real…what is good to do and be.
We don’t have exhaustive truth…but what we know of him is true truth…and enough truth to have life in him.
Do you know that…
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning….to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God
“I know that is true, but I don’t fully understand it all.”
Do you know…
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 john 1:9
“I do , but I still sin, and I have a lot of other questions.”
Do you know that…
“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see”
Its okay…have you transferred trust from self to Christ?
Have you received his gift of eternal life into your life.
I am not making light of questions…yours or anyone else’s…and there are answers to those questions…I am just trying to make a point.
A brilliant person can make that light fixture.
A skilled person can install it.
A child can flip the switch and enjoy the light.
But no one fully understands light.
Be a man or woman of truth…have confidence in the truth of the gospel.
Grow in that confidence over time.
How do you do that?
When you know truth…live in the truth…and you will grow in the truth.