The Church Today: Still Against the Tide? – Part 2

Winrich Scheffbuch

Let us go to Ephesus at the time of Paul and Timothy. What a metropolis it was, with the terrible cult of immorality of Astarte or Diana. Paul preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the kingdom of God. This is still today the greatest power, the greatest attraction that a Christian church has. More than all music bands, skits and films. “So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed” (Acts 19:20). Suddenly, everything changed. The amulets and idols were no longer bought. The economy was affected. The city was excited. Jesus was the talk of the city. Later, Paul reminds the Ephesians in a letter, “Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world…But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ…” (Ephesians 2:2, 4-5). Jesus wants to make us free from the spirit of the times, to break the chains of sinful habits. New, free people are created, born again through the Word of truth.

Live in the power of Jesus. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature” (2 Corinthians 5:17). In this way you can overcome the spirit of the times. Paul also warned of a type of counseling which binds us to men (2 Timothy 3:6-7). The Word makes us free, and we must not become addicted through endless counseling sessions and support. In this, people can be lured and ensnared. We may say, “I want to improve and to be good.” Yet the Word speaks to people, who are then changed by Jesus and become new.

“Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof” (2 Timothy 3:5). We can remain a churchgoer, faithful and a believer, but sin is not broken, nor is self-love. If you have not experienced the power of forgiveness, nothing can change in your dead religiosity.

In view of the de-Christianization of the West, many evangelicals make a case for Christian values: honesty, truthfulness, modesty, thankfulness, helpfulness, which with the increasing godlessness of our society becomes more and more rare. Even more, our time needs the preaching of the Gospel and obedience in following Jesus: a change of nature, a new type of man, fulfilled people who are influenced by Christ.

Therefore, be a courageous and clear witness for Jesus, whether it is convenient or not.

Paul portrays himself as an example (2 Timothy 1:13). He wants to be a model, also in his witness. For this reason, he wants to speak of nothing other than the cross (1 Corinthians 2:2; Galatians 6:14). He describes himself as the chief of all sinners because he persecuted Jesus (1 Timothy 1:12-15). We must speak of this because we all live from forgiveness. “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting” (1 Timothy 1:15-16).

This is why we need a clear testimony today, that without Jesus Christ we are lost. I tend by nature to hate God and my neighbor. Only His blood cleanses me from all sin. Swim with all your might against the current. “Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:1). Do not be ashamed to witness of Jesus. Without Jesus, you can do nothing (John 15:5). Only those who abide in Jesus bring forth fruit. Under the cross of Jesus Christ, we become conscious that we are lost and condemned people, who are saved through the blood of Jesus alone.

This has consequences. Christians of a necessity have to suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12). They have to follow in Jesus’ footsteps and go the way of the cross. This was also true at the time of the “Acts of the Apostles,” and has been so throughout the centuries, in the revival movement of Pietism until today. The malicious attack against Christians is for us a point of orientation. We know that in an evil time such as this, examples are extremely important.

Paul shows in what he wants to be an example for Timothy: in doctrine. Also in his lifestyle and his goal, and persevering in persecution. This was Paul’s goal: to glorify God and to serve Him. “Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2). It is no longer I but He, Jesus Christ. Here a continual change of attitude is necessary.

Not “busyness,” but divine power is what we need. Not what we work, but whether God can work through us. Whether, despite all our activity, we have lost the Lord and Christ Jesus, God and His Word? Are we in Jesus, rooted in the vine, and can He produce much fruit? Are we faithful to Jesus, and do we overcome the world? Are we following Him and confessing His name without shame before people, even before those who hate Him?

For this reason, Paul lists the persecutions (2 Timothy 3:11-12). In suffering, our own will dies. Timothy came to believe when Paul was stoned in Lystra, and the Lord saved the apostle. For this reason, we must make no compromises regarding the trends of this evil time.

Timothy stood by when Paul was stoned, and he came to faith. He noticed right from the start what it means to follow Jesus. You are an individual and have to look to Jesus Christ all alone. Timothy learned this. He saw how God saved Paul from fear, from distress and from the fear of death.

“But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:13). They are proud people who falsify and interpret wrongly. And Paul says to Timothy, “You have learned; now live a courageous Christian life. Do not let yourself be irritated by all the gossip that opposes you” (cf. 2 Timothy 3:14).

I always rejoice in the young people who go their way like this. Unmoved. Be a Christian who goes his way undeterred, even if all others act differently. We want to abide in the doctrine of the apostles, in suffering, in persecution if need be. Never be conformed to our time.

Christians are always individuals. What was the model for which Paul lived; what did he want to make important to Timothy? Striving. What was he striving for then? He wanted to let himself be drawn into the victory of Jesus. “Lord, I only want to please you. Whatever people say, whether they flatter me or criticize me is not important. It should not move me. I want to please You, Lord Jesus. Before Your eternal, incorruptible judgment, I want to be found as a faithful servant.” And this is wonderful, to live to the glory of God. Only this should be the goal of our lives, nothing else. Only two ways are open to us: either the evil in us has the upper hand, and will become stronger and stronger in our lives. Or we trust in the Lord with all our heart. He can and will deliver us.

How wonderful that the Word of God is strong and mighty! The Word of God is our greatest treasure. Jesus spoke of the Scriptures in 2 Timothy 3:15-17. This was the Old Testament at that time. It was inspired by the Holy Spirit. There are three effects of the Holy Spirit of which Jesus spoke. First, the Word convicts us of sin, righteousness and judgment, through the Holy Spirit (John 16:8). When we read the Bible, we see ourselves before the holy God and are shocked. Second, the Scriptures glorify Jesus, the Savior and Deliverer, and assure us. They refresh us again. We do not have to go through life with our head down, but we can stand tall and go forward joyfully. Bengel says, “The Scriptures breathe the resurrection.” And the third effect: the Word of God changes your nature through the Holy Spirit. It works “correction…instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Jesus Christ wants to be victorious in sinful people and overcome all evil. He desires to convert us, and so He knocks on the door of our hearts and wants to come in (Revelation 3:20). The Lord Jesus sacrificed His life for my pride, my arrogance and my conceit. And then I realize that I am no better than anyone else. I only become righteous through Jesus’ merit.

“For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing” (Romans 7:18). In my bookcase, there is a book of sermons by Brastberger, the Württemberg (Germany) revival preacher. To the verse, “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof,” he says, “This is a lifelong problem: God wants to show you that you live only by the grace of Jesus in everything.”

Jesus wants to make something new out of your life. You can trust His power. He wants to work in sinful people: now receive Him as your Lord. It is quite simple: I only have to grasp Christ in faith, and I am righteous. But I need to do this continually. I cannot live for a minute without Jesus, or I would fall to fathomless depths. Whoever wants to live and die without Jesus—I don’t know how he will be able to do it. Jesus is our only hope. I need this power, and cannot afford to lose it.

Paul warns Timothy and says simultaneously: Be careful! Things will get very bad, because many in the church never recognize the victorious power of Jesus in His death on the cross: Jesus Christ, who died for my sins. Jesus Christ, who rose again and wants to work through me today.

Christ will make you into a mature Christian, “That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:17). This is what the Scriptures do, because the Holy Spirit teaches us, corrects us, and brings us up in righteousness.

Seek a Biblical church and you will grow, but do not bind yourself to people. Being bound to people is dangerous. Be bound to Christ in body and soul, and take hold of the new life today. It is the power of faith, in which we can overcome the trends and opinion of the time. This is the intersection where faith and life meet, where I stand before Jesus and He sees through me. He is the power in my life. He brings fruit out of a dry branch. It is Christ who wants to make something out of my life. I want to live to the glory of His name.

It is the victorious power of Jesus that converts people and makes them new.

Midnight Call - 02/2018

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