My young friend,
I am thankful to God for you. He has called both of us to serve Him by proclaiming His truth to the nations. God has been kind to us, brother. We were dead in sin, haters of God and haters of God’s Word. But by the will of God we have been made alive and even more we have been entrusted with the gospel. Do know that it is the gospel that you have been entrusted with. Develop your gift to preach, but do not forget just what you have been gifted to preach. Be as Paul and be resolved to preach nothing but “Christ and Him crucified.” To do this effectively, you must know Christ. “Preaching Christ” is often lauded by rarely done. Who is Jesus Christ? There is an answer. We have not been left to fill in the blank, dear brother. So follow the “pattern of sound words.” This is doctrine. Don’t believe the lie that somehow doctrine is secondary in the Christian life. The fountain of your joy in God and of your joy in the ministry must be deep, biblical theology. “Guard the good deposit.” It isn’t yours to change.
Many seem to have left the cause of the gospel. By God’s grace, let it not be so with you. Rather be strengthened by the grace of God. You well know that your only hope is in the sovereign mercy of God. “Take what I have taught you and entrust them to faithful men.” Paul is commending the process of taking the body of divinity you have been taught and giving it to someone else. Find people who love Christ and His Word and teach them. Discipleship is fundamentally teaching. But teach with an aim at the affections, young man. Show the glories of Christ in the theology you espouse. Be single-minded, with both eyes to Christ who is the “author and perfecter of our faith.” Persevere brother, knowing good and well that if you deny Christ, He will deny you. But God has sworn on His own name to keep you. Take heart, trust and fight the good fight of faith.
Don’t get into nitpicky discussions. I am not saying to be unconcerned for theological precision. Far from it! We serve a precise God! What I mean is simply that it does not good to argue for argumentations sake. It is far too easy to get lost in the details so much that we forget why we care about them in the first place. For example, don’t get so weighed down in the structure of the OT temple that you miss the majestic holiness of God. Rather, do your best to do as Paul said to Timothy and “rightly handle the Word of truth.” Learn how to know what the Bible says. This will require time and prayer. Ask the Spirit of God to illuminate the truth, what is really there in the text. This great deposit is great because it is biblical. Live in the Bible.
Bad theology and vain discussion fail to deliver the goods, my dude. Those who get lost in endless controversies do not love the Bible. They believe they do, but they do not. They would rather be cutting edge, novel. But there is nothing new under the sun. In the midst of temptation know that God’s firm foundation stands. God is not surprised by ignorance and has promised to persevere His church through it. Know what is good so that you will be able to spot what is bad.
Now, brother, I would like to entreat you to do something I learned later rather than sooner. How I long for you to be spared some of my ignorance. There will be people who do not like the theology you espouse. That is to be expected. Only God makes sweet things sweet to people. So don’t back down from the truth, because your love for truth will be what serves others better. But now for the warning. Brother, do not be arrogant. This is an impossible task, to be sure, but let me tell you what I presently have in mind. These truths have been known to make a man hard and mean. This should not be so! You think you are elected before the foundation of the world? Speak like it. You think that only God can reveal Himself to sinful man? Act like it. You are not self-made. We, as Calvinists, should be the first to admit this. Your youthful passions are not flaring because you study too much theology. It is because you don’t understand it quite yet. They have yet to land on you with weight. Great truths should lead to great humility. Humility is not the absence of conviction but rather the acknowledge that you are in just as desperate need for these truths as anyone else. But stern. Also outlast all opponents in joy. Show them why you love these truths. To that end, don’t be quarrelsome. Don’t look for fights. If one comes, respectfully defend the faith once and for all delivered to the saints. Be gentle. This does not mean soft. Watch your tone and let the offense of sound doctrine be the true stumbling stone. We don’t want these to just know they are wrong. We are aiming at their repentance, that they may see God rightly and thereby enjoy Him more. In this very thing, God is most glorified. God will be so kind to crush you.
Know that in these times people will hate the gospel. They always have. The gospel will always be foolishness to those who are perishing. And it does not seem to be getting better. People hate truth because they hate God. Was that not our own case? Even those always learning and not necessarily coming to a saving knowledge of the truth. But stick with the truth because the Word of the Lord remains forever. Truth with triumph over error, brother. Thanks be to God!
Follow me and I follow Christ. I hope to have set a good example for you in life and doctrine. Look to me only insofar as I look to Christ. See Him as the golden standard, and watch my desperate attempts to look unto Him. You will be persecuted in some form or fashion. But continue in what you have learned. Suffering will make no sense if we are not daily beholding the glory of God. It is far too easy for us to look inward, blinding ourselves to the purposes of God.
Trust the Bible. Remember the “pattern of sound words?” Reformed theology is so beautiful because it is so biblical. Brother if you cannot show it from the text, then kindly sit down. But you can and will get better at doing so. The Bible is all we have. Why? Because God wrote it. I know, I know there were human authors too. But Paul had no qualms about saying it was all “God-breathed.” You don’t need any other authority to live a godly life. Your church does not need a sufficient you, but a sufficient Word. Christ is enough. His Word, then, is enough too. Teach the Bible. Give the people a sense of the weightiness, the glory of God in Christ. As they behold the glory of God in the gospel they will be transformed, enabled to do “every good work.” The Bible is practical because it is doctrinal.
Since the Bible is inspired and inerrant, teach it. Proclaim it. Do not stand behind the pulpit and merely suggest things. God has spoken and for some reason has seen fit to let us herald what He has said. You are not impressive. Yeah, neither am I. We are jars of clay. But we have such a great treasure within us! It is so great within us because it comes from outside of us. Be ready to preach, in season and out of season. Be so tied to the Bible, let it so dictate your life, that you are ready to explain and expound it always.
Be patient. Any growth, not matter how faithful you are, will only come by God’s good pleasure. In fact, people will hardly endure sound teaching. Christ’s sheep know His voice. Tell them what His voice says, even if they would rather Him say something else. They need God. Sometimes they might forget that. Stay faithful, though. Discern the good from the bad and major on the good. Fight the good fight of faith. Look to the gospel for your strength, the sufficient Christ as your refuge. Fight to see Him. You must fight. You will not coast into holiness and love for God. Press on so that you might say that you ran well. Press on so others admire your life. All the while knowing that it was not you but the grace of God in you.
Do not love the world. Hate sin, kill sin. To do so will lead to more joy than loving sin. God has set us apart because of Christ. That same grace will continue to transform us, that we might enjoy Heaven more. Think hard. Feel hard. Love hard. Look to Christ and look forward to that day when our faith becomes sight and we no longer see Him through these sinful, dark lenses. Then, we will see Him face to face.
“The Lord be with your Spirit,”
(Based on Paul’s second letter to Timothy)