Thoroughly Equipped for Every Good Work

Sermon 1787 2 Timothy 3.14-4.5 January 30, 2022

I must be a disappointment to the on-line nondenom church gurus. All during my ministry I have failed to attend or host this or that seminar, neglected to promote the newest surefire ways to save souls, not even kept up with the books they published. I simply deleted their emails or unsubscribed, scratching my head as to how I got on their lists in the first place. It’s not that I’ve cut myself off from the wider Christian Church. I see to it that we provide you with Forward in Christ and Meditations. And I use our synod’s old hymnal, the bulletins, the old Catechism, the old Adult Information manual, and the biblical instruction they have instilled in me. I have failed to become a theological consumer. I have settled for being a confessor of Christ. What a bitter disappointment to the mega-pastors. They had hoped for greater things from me.

Along with that comes the quaint idea that everything you, me, this congregation, needs to know comes from the Bible. Through instruction in the Bible we can face every challenge and obstacle in life and somehow rise above it, even when it seems like we have been overwhelmed. Through careful and constant instruction in the Bible we can serve our Lord and serve one another. Here’s where I get those subversive ideas.

Thoroughly Equipped for Every Good Work

1. Firm in the Word (3.14-17).

2. Feet on the ground (4.1-5).

You. It occurs twice in the words of Paul before us today. Once at the beginning and once at the end. He puts the finger on us. No escaping it. You. Not your neighbor. Not your brother back east. You.

“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (3.14-17).”

You are thoroughly equipped for every good work when you are firm in the Word.

There’s a reason God’s Word is all we need. Look at where it comes from. Paul was very clear that the Bible, the holy Scriptures, came from God. They all, not just the sayings of Jesus, but all the Bible, from the Creation account to the final Amen of Revelation, is breathed by God. Your grandfather’s Bible would say “inspired by God.” The idea is God breathes his truth into human words. Compare it to balloons. You have a party. You want to decorate. You get a bag of balloons. Nothing fancy, just ordinary balloons. You blow into them. You inflate them. Now they are special. You can hang them on the festive walls. You can use them to play volleyball in the living room without mom yelling at you. If you really want some fun, fill them with water!

God took human words, the words of Moses, Jeremiah, Paul, and filled them with his truth. He filled them with his meaning. He filled them with his power and strength. He even promised to send his Holy Spirit to work in and with these God-breathed words. As the balloons differed, some red, some blue, some bigger than the others, some round, some more oblong, so the writers of the Bible differ. You get an eloquent Isaiah and a John who is clearly a stranger to Greek. You get a Moses faithful for forty years and a Jonah who has to be swallowed by a great fish and spewed back ashore before he carries out the Lord’s commands. But it is the same air inside those balloons. It is the same truth in those words. The writings of man may embarrass us or mislead us. The Word of God thoroughly equips us for every good work. And it has done so from our infancy, from the moment we were baptized.

Look at the work the Word of God does. It “makes us wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” We can safely summarize that by saying it saves us. Through the Word of God the Holy Spirit shows me who Jesus is. Through the Word of God the Holy Spirit creates faith in our hearts so we trust Jesus is our Savior. This is a point Lutherans have been making with stunning effect since the days of Martin Luther.

Talk about a disappointment to his superiors! The best response Luther’s enemies could muster to his argument was that, yes, the Bible tells us everything we need to get to heaven, but it does not tell us everything we need to know to live a godly life here on earth.

There is a lot of that “yes, but” in us, too. You see, if we can limit the power of God’s Word, we can minimize God. The part that doesn’t work becomes the focus of our attention. It’s human nature. Guys, put on your best suit. What does your wife do? She spots the one piece of fuzz on it and picks it off. That’s the hideousness of these modern approaches to the Bible, neoorthoxy they call it. They limit the work of God to a theoretical place, a spiritual arena, where God’s truths are always true and effective. But in the arena of life… Well, it doesn’t build a whole lot of confidence in God when you are facing a job interview or you get a call from the high school dean about your child. It does, however, allow us to think we are calling the shots or that we can get away with murder. We are outside the jurisdiction of God’s Word. Deep stuff. And they are proud they are so intelligent?

Luther and the Reformers laughed. “For every good work.” That’s what the Bible says. It is as clear as the nose on your face. If you want to be a good parent, if you want to be a fair boss, if you want to be a child who is daddy’s pride and joy, be firm in the Word. And when you and I stray, listen to that Word. It rebukes our errors. It corrects us when we are starting to veer off course. It toughens us up for anything that lies ahead, and I do mean anything, from heart attacks to labor and delivery, from being let go because you weren’t vaccinated to being shunned by your neighbors because you don’t belong to The Church. With that Word, there’s not a vulnerable spot in our Christian armor.

With that Word, we can invite somebody to church. With that Word we can encourage someone ready to give it up. With that Word we can share what Jesus means to us. With that Word, with that Word we can do anything. And with that Word the Holy Spirit will move us to do everything.

That’s the screwy idea I’ve had for all these years. We are thoroughly equipped for every good work when we are firm in the Word. We are thoroughly equipped for every good work with our feet on the ground.

“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: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. 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. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry (4.1-5).”

I never got into retreats. I always thought the Gospel was supposed to advance. Onward Christian Soldiers instead of Let’s Rethink This. Fight the Good Fight instead of Prepare for Another Day. I never thought Christianity was academic, something that could be delayed until one more survey came in or one more study was done, right after the holidays. Feet on the ground. That’s how wars are won. Bomb from thirty-thousand feet up, you control nothing. With feet on the ground, this line shows what we hold on this side and what they control on that side.

Paul tells us to get feet on the ground. “In season and out of season,” “with great patience and careful instruction,” “in all situations.” There is not a moment when we are caught unprepared. There is not a time when we aren’t equipped and trained to meet the enemy and win the battle. There are more than a few comedies about people mistaking actors for real life characters. But they are only doctors in front of a TV camera. They can only fall off buildings unscathed from certain camera angles. If your faith is only active under certain circumstances, while you are in church, when your parents are visiting, what good is it? God calls us to be Christians, not to portray Christians.

And yes, talking about the enemy is not exaggeration. A time is coming (and is now here) when people won’t put up with hearing the truth. Instead, they will have all sorts of gurus and best-selling authors to feed their pride, stroke their egos, give them exactly what they want to hear. And they will lick it up, no matter how crazy it sounds. There are counselors who encourage their clients to go back and pick different parents to resolve their inner conflicts. There are people who proclaim reincarnation. Even science can become a myth when you start poking around and see the scant evidence self-evident theories are based on and the mountain of contradicting data which is overlooked. I told my cardiologist his profession resorted to myths as much as they accuse a conservative Lutheran preacher of resorting to myths. In the hospital the doctors were befuddled as to why the medication I was getting was not controlling my post-surgery atrial fibrillation (a-fib). They kept increasing the dosage. Finally one squinted at me through her glasses and said, “You just have an angry heart.” I would rather they would have looked at my swelling arm and discovered the IV had punctured my vein and was suffusing my arm. It looked like the Pillsbury Doughboy. “What kind of medical diagnosis is an angry heart?” I asked him. He shrugged and gave me that beaten down look.

Don’t think the battle is lost because so many do not want to hear the Gospel. The battle is never lost. Jesus won. It wasn’t even close. Jesus staged his victory parade in hell itself. That’s how completely he defeated the devil. Trust in his power. Rely on his victory. We are not the ones who are going to get caught in inconsistencies. We are not the ones who are going to be spouting myths that will come back and shame us. We have the almighty God backing up his words in our mouths. Confess Jesus. Tell of Jesus. I can give no better encouragement than Martin Luther did in explaining the Second Commandment. Pray, praise and give thanks!

That’s what Paul is telling us. Preach, correct, rebuke, encourage. Endure hardship. Do the work. Discharge all the duties. These are action words. These are get out there and do it words. These are commands. The surf is up! Catch the waves! This is what the Word is useful for. Don’t use it as a weapon to beat someone silly. Don’t use it in a switch and bait. Use the Word in the way God has ordered it to be used. It is unstoppable. It is effective. We will see, if not in this world, then in the world to come as we see what the Holy Spirit has brought about through our efforts.

Thoroughly Equipped for Every Good Work

1. Firm in the Word (3.14-17).

2. Feet on the ground (4.1-5).

So don’t be ashamed of Jesus and don’t be ashamed of what Jesus has made each of us. We are his army sent into the world to spread the Good News. There is a Savior for everyone and there is room in heaven for everyone. It is ours not by works, but by faith that Jesus has done everything for us. That is the power for Christian living. That is the power for salvation. Relying on anything less than that, well, what a disappointment we’d be!

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