To Change or Not to Change

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  • As we enter the Christmas season, we are bombarded with advertisements encouraging, pleading with us to purchase the latest and newest, the revolutionary gift that will wow and delight our loved ones. Our culture exerts a fair amount of pressure on us to continually change - buy the latest model, upgrade, keep up with the latest styles.
  • In our pluralistic world, we are also increasingly bombarded with not only new products, but also new ideas. Immigrants are bringing in new religions, new cultures. A Seik is building a temple near MacGregor, and doesn't want his bull calves to be slaughtered. Post-modern thinking questions whether we can ever say that any particular belief is universally true, and strongly encourages us to be accepting of different belief systems, and not judge or condem them. Beliefs and values that we would never have questioned twenty years ago are now considered old-fashioned and narrow-minded.
  • As a missionary, I am in the business of convincing people to accept new ideas and make radical changes - to reject what their upbringing has taught them, and accept the good news of the Gospel
  • my new role - head of SEND's training department for our missionaries - based on the premise that even missionaries constantly need to grow and change
  • so have been intrigued by Paul's repeated commands to Timothy in his last letter to stay the course, to hang on to what he has received, to continue in what he has learned.
  • also prompted by my reflection on my Mom & Dad's marriage as I prepared for their 50th anniversary program.

Why stay the same?

  • Can we make a case to stay the course, to not change?

Because you have investigated your beliefs carefully and have become convinced of what you believe (2 Tim 3:10)

  • "know all about" (NIV), "followed" (ESV) - same word used in Luke 1:3 - carefully investigated
  • It had been 18 years since Timothy had first met Paul. Timothy had literally followed Paul all over Asia Minor, hearing his sermons, watching his life, participating in his church plants, suffering with him in his persecutions.
  • Timothy was not dealing with something that was foreign to him. He was intimately acquainted with everything that Paul stood for.
  • Until we have carefully looked at what we believe and stand for, we will have a hard time making a strong case for staying the same. We will face the accusation that we are just blindly following tradition and culture, and have never seriously thought about the alternatives.
  • “The unexamined life is not worth living.” The Greek philosopher "Socrates said that at his trial for heresy. He was on trial for encouraging his students to challenge the accepted beliefs of the time and think for themselves." And he was sentenced to death for this. I think Paul would have agreed with Socrates. As an evangelist, he was constantly challenging people to reexamine their prejudices and traditions, and considers the claims of Christ.
  • But once you have done so, and come to a reasoned conclusion about what is truth, then he strongly encourages Timothy to keep heading in the same direction. Paul says Timothy had become convinced of what he believed (2 Tim 2:14). It was more than knowledge now; it was a deep conviction that this was the truth.

Because deception abounds - 2 Tim 3:13

  • People want to hear something new, often with no intention of changing the way they live.
    • Acts 17:19-21 - Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we would like to know what they mean.” (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)
  • If you are not concerned about truth, but just want to feel good, you can always find some teaching that will match the way you live and what you want (your evil desires). Something that will justify your behaviour. 2 Tim 4:3-4
  • But something new is not nearly always better. In fact it can be simply a waste of time and energy - 2 Tim 2:23.
  • learning something new does not nearly always result in lives being changed for the better. In fact, a new teaching can enslave you - 2 Tim 3:6-7
  • something new can destroy your faith - 2 Tim 2:17-18

Because you know the testimony of those who have taught you - 2 Tim 3:14

  • faith is confirmed by the difference it makes in one's life.
  • This underscores importance of missionaries living with the people whom they are teaching. They can hear the Gospel over the radio, but will they ever be convinced unless they see the lives of those who live what they preach?
  • Timothy did not only have a thorough knowledge of Paul's teaching. He personally was well acquainted with the lives of the people who had taught him, and he knew that their lives conformed with the truths that were being taught.
  • He knew Paul, his mentor and spiritual father. There was a very close relationship between the two of them.
  • But his knowledge of his teachers went further back than that. His mother Eunice and grandmother Lois (2 Tim 1:5) had taught him the Hebrew Scriptures from his childhood, and both of these women were people of sincere faith, whose lives matched what they believed and taught.

Because you know what you believe is grounded in the Scriptures - 2 Tim 3:15

  • the Scriptures = the OT
  • The message that Timothy had heard was not in contradiction to the OT; it fulfilled it. The OT Scriptures pointed to the Christ that Paul was preaching. So although the Gospel was news - a new revelation, it was not a different revelation, but rather a deeper and fuller revelation of God's original purpose to save mankind.
  • Timothy could be convinced of the truth of what he had heard, not because his mother and grandmother believed the same thing, but because their belief was built on the foundation of the Word of God.
  • our great desire for our children - that they would not just inherit their parents' faith, but would make it their own.
  • So why should we continue in what we have believed? Because it is grounded in what God has revealed in His Holy Word.

When should we change?

  • In his letter, Paul was challenging Timothy to change - (2 Tim 1:6-8; 2Ti 2:2-6; 2 Tim 2:22-24). There were some things that Paul had noticed that needed to be addressed.
  • The Scriptures are intended to inspire change - 2 Tim 3:16 They are designed to be used in correcting and rebuking and training - all words calling for change.
  • So when should we consider change?
  • Our immediate response might be, "Never". After all, we have the truth, so why should we ever consider changing? But change does not always mean rejecting what we have learned. It may involve understanding it more deeply. It may involve recognizing that we have not fully lived in accordance with what we say we believe. And if we are completely closed to new ideas, then how can we expect our non-Christian neighbours to ever consider our new ideas - the good news of Jesus Christ?

We should consider change if we don't know why we do what we do or believe what we believe.

  • Why was Paul being persecuted? (2Ti 3:10, 12). Largely because his fellow Jews refused to consider the truth claims of the Gospel. Instead of recognizing that God was doing something new in their day, they hung on to the traditions of the elders and rejected what Paul was preaching.
  • When we have never really investigated what we believe.
  • when we have just accepted what we hear from those we consider to be in authority, without ever questioning whether it is true or not.
  • when we just live like all the other Christians we know
  • Paul was not asking Timothy to put his faith blindly in something he didn't understand. No he had made sure that Timothy fully understood not just his theology, but the implications of that theology in his daily life.
  • One of the dangers of the busy life all of us are living is that we so rarely have time to reflect on the overall direction of our lives, on whether we really are living out our calling and doing what God has created us to do.

We should consider change when our beliefs don't conform with Scripture.

  • 2 Tim 3:16-17; 4:2
  • the Word of God has tremendous power to bring about change. Not just for non-Christians. Timothy was encouraged to teach the Word to himself (the man of God) and to the Ephesian congregation
  • The Holy Spirit has inspired it and so it is true. But that is not the point that Paul is making. The Holy Spirit has inspired the Scriptures and so they are useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, training - to thoroughly equip us for every good work (2 Tim 3:16-17). In other words, God's breath on His Word makes it life-changing, transforming. You cannot handle it and stay the same.

We should consider change when our beliefs don't result in some type of opposition - 2 Tim 3:12.

  • Paul clearly considered suffering to be part of the normal Christian life - 2 Tim 1:8, 2:3
  • He didn't chase after persecution. But he didn't change his teaching to avoid it either.
  • When the world and our flesh have absolutely no disagreement with what we believe, then we should take warning.
  • we are in a battle, this is wartime, and if we are living as if it is peace time, then maybe we have mistakenly welcomed too many of the enemies propagandists into the way we think and live. 2 Tim 2:26.


When to change and when not to change - this calls for real discernment. We can't grow unless we are open to change. We can't stay faithful unless some things don't change. May God give us wisdom to know the difference.

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