Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Stay Focused

Timothy learning at the lap of his grandmother - Rembrandt

1 Tim 1:3 As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine, 4 Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do.

Paul is admonishing his son in the ministry concerning his pastoral duties. He had been installed as the pastor of the church in Ephesus, where he would later be dragged through the streets by the locals for preaching the gospel and then stoned to death.

Paul was adamant that Timothy and his parishioners stay true to the gospel message and not be sidetracked by nefarious doctrines, urban legends and genealogical interests. It is so easy, even today, to get knocked off track by these very same types of things. It happens to churches all the time.

As I was getting ready to preach a revival in Mexico recently, I was given this same type of encouragement by one of our modern day Pauls. Warren Wiersbe admonished me, "Just preach the simple gospel, stay close to the Word and don't get sidetracked."

What happens is, to illustrate a point, preachers are tempted to use contrived stories that are probably nothing more than fables.

If a preacher is going to use a story for illustrative purposes, which he should, he must employ one that is credible. For example, I read just yesterday about a 61 year old sheep farmer in Australia who showed up to enter Australia's ultra-marathon, a 500+ mile foot race across the continent. He was wearing a coat and had goulashes over his boots. To make a long story short, he won the race with his shuffling, unorthodox style! In our age of information and our day of instant internet verification, it was easy to find this man's story to be true. Here is a usable story to illustrate how that "the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong..."

On the other hand, do you remember hearing preachers tell about how Jacques Cousteau heard the screams of hell while diving in the Devil's Triangle? Or what about the strange proliferation of buzzards in the Valley of Megiddo preparing for the feast of flesh that would be provided by the battle of Armageddon? I could write a book about the fables I have heard from pulpits across America. Add to that endless genealogies and false doctrine (hyper-Calvinism, glossolalia, works for salvation, etc.) and you will find a pastor and church which has gotten the gospel train derailed.

Paul's warning to Timothy, and to us is, stay on track, stay focused on the message.

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