As you will be able to tell, this sermon was inspired by Pat Robertson and the 700 Club, along with a few conversations I get into on the Internet. But it is also in keeping with my own personal theology that we need not be ashamed of Christianity being threatened by people, no matter who they are.

The sermon this morning is taken from the book of Second Timothy, the 2nd Chapter, the 14-16 verses. And it reads:

Keep reminding them 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 workman 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.

Our subject this morning will be:

What Are We Afraid Of?

A couple of days ago I was at home, watching TV and flipping the channels, looking for something of interest. As I searched the channels, I came across the Christian Broadcast Network, or CBN. Now, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the CBN, this is the television station owned by Pat Robertson and his associates. They are the producers of the much watched "700 Club". Now while I usually do not find much value in the theology of Pat Robertson, this day, I watched with interest.

They were doing a story on the upcoming television season, going through the networks and talking about the shows that were coming on. And they went through them they were talking their usual garbage about how Hollywood has some grand conspiracy to corrupt children and erase so-called family values. Which I don't buy, but I will tackle that subject at a later date.

But then they started talking about specific TV shows, and my interest peaked. They spent a great deal of time on this show that will be coming on ABC called "Nothing Sacred" which apparently is a show about these ministers, priests and theologians who cope with the fact that in addition to be servants of God, that they are human, and therefore, fallible.

I thought to myself, "Now this is a show I must watch." Obviously, I can relate to that issue. But Robertson and his CBN crew compared this show to blasphemy. Apparently in one episode, this Catholic priest is tempted to have sex with one of his parishioners. Something that never happens in real life, of course. Another clip showed them debating whether or not God should be referred to as a male or a female. Again, something that I have never heard of.

As they trashed this show for it's views on religion and it's stance on theological issues, and as they brought on two other people who shared their view, I realized that they did not have anyone saying, "Hey, it's not that bad" or "This is what the show is really about." ABC sent in a statement saying that the show was, contrary to what the commentators were saying, people dealing with their issues of faith, and that the show was not an insult to anyone.

Also during this piece, they talked about other shows which show the harsher sides of life shows that show people having adulterous affairs, shows with homosexuals in primary roles, shows with people in non-traditional relationships, and saying how this was tantamount to a plan of the devil wreaking havoc with American television.

Only briefly did they mention the more pro-God, pro-religious themed shows that have popped up on television lately. Not at all did they mention movies and other televised broadcasts that have had a definite Christian slant. All they did was trash the one or two shows that seem to question our views on religion, theology and God.

Now, let me state for the record that I am not always in favor of shows that mock Christian values and traditions. In fact, I was incensed that when the recent MTV Video Awards were shown, that they let this group, if you want to call them that, called Marilyn Mason make a mockery of the Christian faith. I am also insulted when I hear rap groups praise God in one verse, but then glorifying the gangster lifestyle in the next verse. I do not appreciate it when I hear people speak negatively about our Lord and Savior with no rebuttal from a Christian.

But the sad part is that this is what happens when we live in America. We are given the right and the opportunity to express our views and our opinions no matter what they are. So while I may find a lot of things insulting and offensive, I realize that it is one of the few things, and I stress, few things, that makes this country what it is.

So as I watched this so-called news broadcast, which was in actuality nothing more than an editorial, I thought to myself, what are they afraid of? Why are they so afraid to have God questioned, to have Christianity intellectually analyzed, to have the life of Jesus debated?

Which brings up to our scripture. We have here some of the last known and acknowledged letters from Paul as he was imprisoned, to Timothy, a young man that Paul had appointed as his successor. In this final letter, a deathbed confession of sorts, Paul talks about what he has done in the name of our Lord, and what he sees the future of the church to be. He also gives Timothy, and us as well, some pointed advice on our Christian journey.

The scriptures that we read are one of the more popular of Paul's quotations. Paul urges Timothy to continue to remind them of the saving grace of Jesus Christ. Paul cautions Timothy to not get into petty squabbles over words, for they are of no value and it damages the person who seeks knowledge.

Then Timothy is told to study to show himself to be approved before God. Remember that, before God. And that a workman who knows the truth and knows how to handle the truth does not need to be ashamed of that truth. Paul also tells Timothy to avoid godless chatter, because it only gets more ungodly.

One of the points of being a Christian is that we must study the word of God. Which is one of the reasons that Bible Study and Sunday School are so important. How can we rightly divide the word of God if we do not know it? I mean, it's nice to have grown up around parents who taught you scriptures from the time you can walk, but unless you have had the opportunity to study the words that are written in the Bible and digest them and understand them for yourself, all of the teachings of your mother, your father, your pastor, your friends mean nothing.

For when we study the word of God, we come closer not only to God, but to ourselves. We begin to see and understand for ourselves what happened and why. We begin to become familiar with the characters in the Bible, and begin to identify with them. For instance, I can personally relate to the story of Job and Joseph. And I am sure that each of you can identify with a character in the Bible, and you only got to that point because you learned of who was who and what was what, and what so and so did and how they did it.

And in our studies of the Bible and the people in the Bible, we discover that as big as this world is, and as old as it is, nothing much has changed. We can see some of the same problems that happen in 1997 also existed in 1997 B.C. We are able to take specific passages and apply them to our daily lives, for even though the scriptures were written over 2000 years ago, somehow, someway, these words that were written so long ago and so far away, sometime appear to be written precisely for us.

But studying the word of God, we learn to cast off the naysayers who would want to challenge our belief in God and question the validity of Jesus. We are able to debate about issues in the Bible, and even if certain issues are not in the Bible. Because contrary to what we believe, some of the most popular debates that go on this in country are not covered in the Bible, despite what some religious zealots would tell you. And when you study the Bible, you know which issues are covered in the Bible and which issues aren't.

Because if you truly believe that the Bible is the rule and guide of our faith, if you truly believe that the things that we find in the Bible are inspired by God and translated by man, then you will be able, through study, to take the words of some idiot and use the holy scripture to debunk them.

As you all know, I am addicted to the Internet. And in fact, each night after I preach a sermon, I go home and post the same sermon on my web page for others to read. Sometimes I get responses, both positive and negative, and sometimes I get nothing. But I digress.

By now you are all aware of the fact that I hold memberships in several fraternal organizations, Prince Hall Masonry being one of them. There is a big controversy in a lot of circles as to whether or not Masonry is against God. While I personally do not believe it is, I have entered into some rather lengthy and heated debates, some of which I am currently still involved in. In fact, just so you may know, at my former church, one woman was so upset after finding out that I was a Mason, she made it a point to go to the pastor and complain about it, suggesting that I should be removed from the ministry based on that fact.

Now, never mind the fact that the pastor is a mason, that our presiding elder is a mason, that our Bishop at the time is a Mason. Never mind the fact that the A.M.E. Church was founded by a Mason. When this woman was pressed to give Biblical evidence in support of her position, she could not do so. This experience prompted me to ask the same question of many other anti-Masonic persons, and never have I gotten a response.

Now, I am not saying any of this to justify my membership in Masonry. I have run into many people whom I hold in high esteem who believe that Masonry is quote/un-quote "evil." However, while I am not an active Mason right now and am not sure if I will ever become active again, the fact remains that people will always tell you what God does or does not want, or if something is Satanically influenced. My own personal theological stance on the works of the devil notwithstanding, we must be cautious when people are so quick to tell us what God wants when they cannot back it up with scripture.

We must also be equally cautious when people are giving us an interpretation of scripture that comes from them and obviously not from God. Which is why the need to study the scriptures and the need to understand and digest the words of God becomes so important.

And going back to the Pat Robertson's of this world, again, I must ask, what are they afraid of? Why are people afraid when someone questions the words of God or the life of Jesus. I was having a conversation a couple of weeks ago with Rev. Brown, right before he came to preach for us here. And among the myriad of things we began to talk about was those who question the historical Jesus.

I'm sure we have all heard those people who claim Jesus did not exist and is just a figment of a bunch of people's imaginations. Or those who claim that many of us have been brainwashed into believing that he existed. When speaking on this subject, Rev. Brown related to me what he said to some of his students when this subject came up. He said, in a nutshell, that you can take the Bible as historical fact if you choose, but that will not lead you to Jesus. The historical Jesus is much less important that the spiritual Jesus who can reside in each of us.

Now he did not say this to say that Jesus did not exist. But what this means is that if we get hung up on the issue of whether or not Jesus walked the earth, which we all know he did, we are losing sight of the issue of what Jesus can do for us today. To incessantly argue with someone about the historical Jesus is of no importance if you have had a personal experience with him and have come to accept him as Lord and Savior. That is what is important.

My main problem with people like Robertson is two fold. One, while I believe that they are well-meaning, they are trying to advance an ideology that is not supported by scripture or is unscriptural in it's nature. Two, they don't like to be challenged. And it is these two things that make me wonder where their faith is. It makes me wonder what is wrong with listening to people who struggle with their faith, falling here and there.

What is wrong with seeing depictions of people who may question certain scriptures? While I do admit there is an inherent danger for the weak of mind, that is where we come in as strong, scripture reading, God fearing Christians to say, "no, that is not right" or "here is what the Bible REALLY says". Because remember, people can justify anything using scripture. I have seen justifications for slavery, racism, sexism, slander, murder, and any other thing that you can name. But because I have studied the word of God and continue to study, it equips me that much more when dealing with those who are only putting forth their point of view and not God's.

You see, if you truly study the word of God, then you already have the truth on your side. If you truly study the word of God, then you will not be worried about someone challenging or questioning your faith. If you truly study the word of God, then you will be able to defend the Gospel, even when it does not need defending.

There is nothing to be afraid of when dealing with God, when dealing with scriptures, when dealing with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We should not be afraid of those who seek to tear us down, because God will only assist us in building ourselves up. We do not need to be ashamed to tell someone that we are going to Bible Study or Sunday School, or even that we are sitting around the house reading the Bible. We do not need to be like the CBN in their attempts to get people to censor an honest attempt to examine Christianity, because when Christianity is revealed for what it is, a saving and grace filled relationship with Jesus Christ, all of the naysayers will have nothing to say.

So I tell you this morning, do not be afraid. There is nothing to be afraid of. Do not try to censor someone because their view is different from yours. As long as you are studying to show yourself approved before God, that you are a workman that can divide the word of truth, then God will be on your side.

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