Rejecting the Word
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Timothy 4:3-4)
What I always find intriguing about human nature is our complete and utter inability to be neutral on matters of truth and belief. Paul gives us a subtle reminder of this in his final instructions to one of his dearest and most effective co-workers.
He reminds us that people will not simply turn away from listening to words of truth. They always turn from one truth to another: another explanation, idea, philosophy, or worldview that, in their view, better explains human experience. In Paul’s day, some in the Church who had originally accepted biblical truth had grown weary and tired of it. You might even say, they had grown bored with it. They much preferred the intriguing speculations of their day that were loosely (if at all) tied to Scripture.
This is a crucial and sobering reminder to us. False ideas are often embraced as we begin to grow weary of what we’ve heard before, what we’ve been taught most of our lives in Church, and what we say we believe. Paul doesn’t use the word “bored”; he says people will not “endure” it. They will not continue in the sound truth that explains and answers the major questions that people have: where did we come from; where are we going; how should we live our lives? Whether through boredom, dislike, or simple unbelief, people will move on to other ideas.
What I think Americans often fail to realize is how deeply embedded certain beliefs and value are in our souls. It is not only possible, but I would say it’s common for people to say they believe certain truths and actually live their lives completely contrary to what they profess—without even realizing it.
What makes this even more complicated is that these people have often been Church members for many years, perhaps even their whole lives. It helps to be on guard for popular ideas that capture the imaginations of the culture because chances are, they’re capturing the minds of people in Churches too.
One idea our American culture has embraced has been that Church and worship are primarily about us and our experience. They must comfort, thrill, inspire, or motivate us and, if they don’t, they need to find one that does. This bias toward personal, therapeutic experience is often undetected for years.
Another widely held view in Churches suggests that the ministry of the Church is almost exclusively summarized in terms of community service and transformation. People who hold this view have little use for preaching, teaching, and worship. A well-known poem by Edgar Guest is a good example: “I’d Rather See a Sermon Than Hear One Any Day”. This model of ministry is fertile ground for the protest, political culture that is infiltrating not only the country, but it’s Churches.
But Paul always put the emphasis on preaching, teaching, and worship. He knew that people needed not primarily to add to their knowledge (though that’s sometimes the case), but to be regularly transformed as God’s word is expounded and applied. Paul knew that human pride and autonomy needed to be regularly challenged through sound, biblical teaching.
By all means, serve and transform your community. But expose yourself regularly to worship and God’s Word. Hear the Word; be humbled by the Word; be comforted by the Word. And then, and only then, will you be able to transform a culture.