“You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you… odd.” (Flannery O’Connor)
We finished Paul’s second letter to Timothy on Sunday. I hope you have had great discussions this week in your small groups about being a herald who is ready, who is flexible, who is patient. This charge in 2 Tim 4:2 is one to which we can return for encouragement and re-alignment, over and over.
Before we turn our gaze to the next sermon series and the advent of Advent, I want to dwell for a moment on this idea of being ready- in season and out of season. (2Tim4:2b)
Paul knows that his life and his ministry are coming to a close. He is pleading with Timothy and saying, I want you to tell people what has happened- that their deepest problem is not disappointment or discontentment. For those who don’t yet believe in Jesus, their deepest problem is being separated and unreconciled with the God who loves them and welcomes them as a child. Jesus Christ has made a way for anyone to be rescued and delivered from their sins- if they choose him and trust him to do it.
You cannot save yourself, but there is more than enough grace, in Christ, to be rescued and delivered and healed from the problems in this life and to be with Him in the age to come.
Be prepared to say it.
Be practical, flexible, contextual, and creative when you say it.
Be patient and instructive as you say it, over and over.
We must be ready to do this in season and out of season.
I want to emphasize what this means, because it is counter-intuitive to what comes naturally.
The common wisdom of message and product marketing says to find people who are favorably disposed to what you have to say… and talk to them. Likewise, if someone seems to have little interest in what you have to say, move on, don’t waste your time. That makes sense. (And honestly that’s what feels comfortable. It’s hard to convince others.) That’s how marketing works.
For example, if I do a search on YouTube for Greg Lemond’s victory in the 1989 Tour de France, I will get that video and a whole lot more. I will get slammed with advertisements for bike kits, bike parts, bike clubs on almost every web page I visit. I showed my interest by searching for the bike race. I am favorably disposed to bike stuff. So the sellers are coming after me with bike gear marketing. The bike people don’t care about someone who looked up a Taylor Swift concert. They want me! They know I’m a sucker for impulse bike stuff purchases. That’s how marketing works and we have come to expect it as we use the internet.
However… that’s not at ALL what Paul is saying in 2Tim4:2. If you are going to herald what’s been done, in season and out of season, you need to announce it whether people are disposed to hear it or not. And, (this is really important), in a way that is not obnoxious.
Herald. Be ready, flexible, and patient. In season and out of season.
Here’s the bad news: the Gospel is out of season.
I’m sure it’s been challenging at other times in history, but it is really challenging right now. The polemics and divisions around sexuality, gender, abortion, race, immigration, marriage, parental involvement in schools, I could go on… It seems like the whole world is looking for a fight.
And we are charged to be heralds in the midst of it.
Heralds of good news that God so loved the world.
And heralds that it is good news because the news about our sin is so devastatingly bad.
We have to figure out how to talk about sin– in season and out of season. We have to talk about what is broken no matter what our neighbors, friends, family, and co-workers believe. And I submit that it is one of the hardest things for Christians to do right now. No one is doing a google search for ‘how do I deal with my sin?’
In the past, when considering what is wrong, almost every culture has said, “We need to connect to the truth.” There was little agreement on what that truth was, but we knew we needed it: Muslims find the revelation of Allah in the Qu’ran, Buddhists hold to the Four Noble Truths, Jews and Christians share a monotheistic world view whose narrative was told in Holy Scripture… There was an understanding that humans need to connect to something outside of themselves which would make them virtuous.
Tim Keller has said in myriad places, “We are the first culture in history that says, “No.” We don’t seek truth outside of ourselves. We need to go into ourselves. We [each individual] will decide what is right and wrong. We will find who we need to be inside ourselves. There is no moral order ‘out there.’ Moral order is inside… How do you talk about sin when the only arbiter of right and wrong is my preference and personal space.” (from a sermon Dr. Keller gave at Harvest Bible Chapel, earlier in 2022)
We are out of season. It is why Paul can say and we can agree that so many have “turned away from listening to the truth and wandered off into myths.” (2Tim4:4) They have turned away from truth and turned inward to personal preference.
We are out of season. But we are not out of purpose. We are charged to herald; to be ready, flexible, and patient; to not give up. It is not easy. If we try, we will see our limits and weakness. And yet we must.
Even if people find us: ‘odd’.
Restoration, we have something special in the community of our church. Our warmth and sincerity are welcomed by those whose normal life is harsh and merciless. I invite you to invite others to experience it.
Even more. Restoration, we have something utterly unique in the Gospel of Grace. For those who come to the end of themselves, there is a Redeemer who offers forgiveness and new life. Explaining why one needs it is a challenge, but we can do it together- not perfectly, but consistently, with love, and with all the smarts we can muster.
I am with you on this kerusso project.