In One Generation a Church and Denomination Can Lose Its Way

Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. – 2 Timothy 2:14-16 (2 Timothy 2:14-26)

We are always one step away from wandering from the truth. It’s not the pastor’s message that matters. It’s God’s message.

Turning aside, turning away, turning towards a gospel that is no good news at all is the road that leads to destruction. Does your church stand with God, Christ, the prophets and apostles or with men and women who have turned away from the sure foundation of the good news of Jesus?

Imagine opening a letter from the Apostle Paul and finding that you have been identified as one who turned away from the faith. This is the rebuke Paul gives to Phygelus and Hermogenes. Though we know almost nothing about these men or their differences with Paul, we have some insight into the outcome of their desertion.

Paul’s second letter is believed by many to be his last known writings, and one of Paul’s key points to Timothy was be not ashamed.

“Do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord. Do not be ashamed of me, our Lord’s prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.” (2 Timothy 1:8)

“I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed.” (2 Timothy 1:12)

“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

“I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” (Romans 1:16)

“May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains.” (2 Timothy 1:16)

We are called to stand firm in the gospel.

“If anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name.” (1 Peter 4:16)

There is a time to be ashamed and that time comes when we turn aside, turn away, and turn towards a gospel that removes the need for a savior. When sin is no longer sin, we have no urgency to be saved.

“Whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. (Luke 9:26)

There is no shame in standing with Christ, the Father, and those who wrote through the inspired words of the Holy Spirit. Though we may face ridicule, persecution, slander, and be falsely accused, we have no need to be ashamed.

So what became of Phygelus and Hermogenes. Though they are not mentioned by name we know the influence they had. Some thirty years after Paul warned Timothy to stand with him and his teaching, Jesus himself wrote a letter to the church in Ephesus, and the news was not good.

“I know of your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.”

The church Paul founded and Timothy pastored had worked hard. Its members endured. They refused to tolerate the wicked. Apparently their leadership team held to strict hiring practices. They endured a measure of persecution for holding to the name of Christ. And yet Christ was prepared to shut the doors and sell off the property because they had ceased to love him.

“I tell you, whoever has been forgiven little loves little. Whoever has been forgiven much loves much.” (Luke 7:47)

Paul, a man who knew God’s word from beginning to end, never got over the fact that Jesus forgave him.

Paul, a man who counted himself among the most righteous, never counted God’s mercy as trivial.

Paul, a man who thought he did not need a savior, never stopped loving his Lord and Savior.

If Paul kept the law and still needed Christ, how much more do we?

If Paul kept the law and still needed Christ, should we not also affirm God’s words, will, and call to repent?

If Paul kept the law and still needed Christ, how dare we turn away, turn aside, and turn to a strange gospel that denies our need to be saved from sin?

Thirty years after all in Asia turned away from Paul’s teaching the Church of Pergamum became The Church of Balaam with a new religion, new rituals, and new ways of worship.

Thirty years after all in Asia turned away from Paul’s teaching the Church in Thyatira tolerated a prostitute and false prophetess who, claiming to hear the Holy Spirit, taught secret doctrines.

Thirty years after all in Asia turned away from Paul’s teaching the Church in Sardis was doors shut, weeds growing in the parking lot, property listed for sale, dead.

Thirty years after all in Asia turned away from Paul’s teaching the rich, self-sufficient Church in Laodicea tolerated such shameful behavior that Christ threatened to vomit them out of his mouth.

In one generation a church and denomination can lose its way.

Be not ashamed of God.

Be not ashamed of Christ.

Be not ashamed of the inspired writers and writings preserved for our salvation.

Stay on the solid line of the word of God.

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