Category Archives: 2 Timothy

2 Timothy 2:1-13: Guarding the Gospel

The government is discussing new legislation. Attempting to convert someone to your religion is illegal.

Ministers of the church are on notice. Church publicity is banned. Scripture in schools is outlawed. In fact, I’ve been reported, and served a notice to appear in court.

It’s three weeks to our evangelistic events, four weeks to our guest services. You’ve planned to ask your neighbour, or workmate, or friend, or relative.

But now you’re not so sure.

Do you trust that person? Would they report you? Do you like them enough to risk it?

And what about the gospel message? Do you believe it strongly enough to be fined, or go to prison? Is it WORTH that MUCH to you?

It’s only IMAGINARY. But it’s reality in many countries around the world today. And it might not be too far away in AUSTRALIA.

And it was EXACTLY the situation TIMOTHY was in. Paul was in prison. Chained like a common criminal, awaiting DEATH. All because he was proclaiming the gospel of King Jesus. That he’d defeated sin and death. And promised forgiveness and eternal life to those who followed him.

And many of Paul’s followers had given up. It was all too hard. They’d STARTED off believing, but now they weren’t so sure. They’d counted the cost, and decided to do something easier.

People like Phygelus and Hermogenes. They’d been co-workers with Paul, but when the going got tough, they’d got going – running in the other direction that is!

And then … there’s Timothy. Timid Tim. Another of Paul’s followers. And still hanging in. At least for the moment. Perhaps uncertain about whether it’s all worth it. Can he keep going? Standing up for the gospel? Does he REALLY believe Paul’s message?

After all, look where it’s got PAUL. Prison and a death sentence. If that’s what’s in store for the LEADER, what hope for the FOLLOWER?

1. Be strong in the grace which is in Christ Jesus (1-3)

And so with all that background, Paul writes to Timothy. His son in the faith. And his message is clear. “Be STRONG, and ENDURE HARDSHIP, like a good soldier. And you’ll receive the reward”.

Look at how he starts Ch 2. He’s just described Onesiphorus. How VALUABLE he’s been to him. Searched him out in jail. Not been ashamed of Paul’s situation. A helper, comforter and refresher. And Paul is SO GRATEFUL to God for him. And then he turns to Timothy. Ch 2 v1.

(2 Tim 2:1 NIV)  You then, my son, BE STRONG in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

In spite of all the difficulties, and the pressure to conform. In spite of what LOTS OF OTHERS are doing. Here’s someone I want you to be like. Be strong. Stand up. Like Onesiphorus.

And as YOU look around OUR church. Are there people YOU want to highlight. People YOU want to copy. Who are standing up STRONGLY. Who are SERVING, and HELPING. And going above and beyond?

People you can look to, and say, “Be strong. Stand up. Like THEM”.

And Paul goes on. Don’t just do it in your own strength. It’s literally “be strengthened”. For those of you who know anything about grammar, it’s a PASSIVE IMPERATIVE. Which is a strange sort of thing – it’s really saying something like “ALLOW yourself to BE strengthened.”

And we see how that’s possible in the next part of the verse. Be strengthened IN THE GRACE WHICH IS IN Christ Jesus. In other words, The gifts that God gives you through Jesus are the MEANS by which you can be strong. Your forgiveness and new standing in Christ, your hope in heaven. The Holy Spirit living in you and strengthening you. Be STRONG by THE MEANS of THOSE things.

And then Paul puts a DIRECTION on that strength. Gives it A PURPOSE. And he mentions TWO things. Things which REQUIRE the strength to stand firm. And the FIRST one is there in v2. Strength is needed TO ENTRUST THE GOSPEL TO RELIABLE MEN. Look at v2.

(2 Tim 2:2 NIV)  And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.

Tough times make you decide what’s REALLY important, and focus on those things. Other things suddenly don’t seem so crucial. And for Paul, the gospel is SO IMPORTANT that passing it on is Tim’s TOP PRIORITY.

Look at the way he expresses it. He’s not to PREACH, or TRAIN, or TEACH people. But to ENTRUST it. Like a precious treasure.

I just bought a new guitar on Ebay. Lovely Yamaha 12-string. And the guy I bought it from said he would POST it. From Canberra.

And I had visions of some Australia Post worker slapping an address label onto it, throwing the guitar into the back of the truck, and then tossing it in the direction of my letter box as he drove past.

To posties, one package is as PRECIOUS as any other.

I was SO glad it arrived yesterday by COURIER. And because it came from one guitarist to another. It was well-wrapped. He knew it was precious cargo. It came in a cardboard box used to hold a guitar. And it was wrapped up with enough masking tape to wrap an Egyptian mummy. And inside the box was a nice solid guitar case. And inside the case/ WAS MY NEW GUITAR!

I had to sign for the package. Because the courier had been ENTRUSTED with the cargo, and was held accountable to deliver it safely.

And on the receipt it had these comforting words. “Not a COMMON carrier”. Now, I’m not sure exactly what those words mean – they might have some LEGAL meaning. But to ME they meant “We’ll take care of your precious package. Someone’s entrusted it to US, and we’ll make sure we deliver it safely”

And that’s the assurance Paul wants. Timothy is to ENTRUST the precious message of eternal life. Make sure they’ve GOT it. Hammer it home to them. Make them repeat it, live it, memorise it. SIGN for it.

And don’t just give it to ANYONE. Make sure you do it to RELIABLE men. Men who’ll be committed to keep the message GOING.

Select men who are RELIABLE. Who’ve DEMONSTRATED an ability to STICK AT IT. An ability to teach, and witness, and pastor, and lead. Entrust the precious package to them, so they can teach OTHERS.

Four generations there. Paul, Timothy, reliable men, others.

Can we see THAT sort of pedigree around THIS church? Two or three generations?

Are we THINKING with that sort of strategy? Who are WE identifying as being the reliable men who can teach others? How are we training and nurturing them/ so that, in turn, they can teach OTHERS.

It’s SO IMPORTANT, because the church is ONLY EVER ONE GENERATION AWAY FROM EXTINCTION. In general, the church is AGING. Christians are getting older, and the next generation isn’t coming through. Congregations are shrinking, and if we don’t take this strategy of Paul SERIOUSLY, in 20 years we’ll be closing the doors, and selling the buildings.

Paul could see it. He was on death row. He could see how CRUCIAL it was that Timothy stood firm, and entrusted the gospel of life to reliable men. Or else the chain would stop with Paul and Timothy.

And we need to do the same. We need to be training and discipling reliable men AND women who can teach others.

Moving on. Then Paul gives Timothy ANOTHER reason to be strong. He’s to be strong to ENDURE HARDSHIP.

He’s to SHARE in hardship. Paul’s suffering, OTHERS are suffering. And Tim needs to accept HIS share of the load too.

Paul doesn’t have a choice. He’s CHAINED. He HAS to endure hardship. But Tim doesn’t. He has a choice. To share, or NOT to share.

And so do WE. Every day we CHOOSE to stand up for King Jesus. And accept the consequences. Or we choose to hide, and blend in. And accept the EASY LIFE.

All sorts of choices. To join in that conversation. To invite that friend to the outreach event. To risk the friendship. To turn down the invitation to wrong sort of activity. To make an issue about the wrong sort of joke, or poster in the lunchroom. To commit to supporting that missionary. Or to serve in a time-consuming, ministry that’s hard work, with no pay, and little recognition.

Every choice/ is the choice to SHARE in enduring hardship. To follow King Jesus. Or to MISS OUT. To follow the crowd. To take the SOFT OPTION.

And to MISS OUT is what you’re risking, as Paul goes on to say. Because it’s not just HARDSHIP which flows from standing firm, but REWARD.

2. Because those who remain strong receive the reward (4-12a)

That’s Paul’s second point. 1. Be strong in the grace which is in Christ Jesus. 2. Because those who remain strong RECEIVE THE REWARD.

And to prove his point, he paints four pictures. Three are imaginary. And the fourth is Paul himself. And each one shows us someone STANDING FIRM. COMMITTED TO THE TASK. Who receives A REWARD at the end.

A) The soldier. (v4)

And they’re worth spending some time thinking about them. That’s what Paul himself says. Down in v7.

(2 Tim 2:7 NIV)  Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this.

So let’s DO that. Look at the first picture. A soldier who keeps his focus, and who receives his commander’s commendation. V4.

(2 Tim 2:4 NIV)  No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs–he wants to please his commanding officer.

You see, Christians AREN’T just accountants, or housewives, or fathers, or team-mates, or neighbours, or cyclists. We’re SOLDIERS. The Christian life is A BATTLEGROUND. We have rules of engagement. And there’s no room for distractions. God has saved us, and called us to a holy life.

And when we SHOULD be having our eye on the target, the commander’s instructions scorched into our brains, a single motivation to fight the fight, and win the battle.

Every fibre of our being straining to that end. Every moment of the day. Every conversation, every book, every dollar, every decision.

Instead, we get DISTRACTED. By paying off the mortgage, keeping up with the Jones. Conversations about the footy. Reading newspapers. Watching TV. Building garden beds.

So often, we get excited by things which won’t last, rather than things which are eternal. That’s a soldier who gets involved in civilian affairs,

If someone was to eavesdrop in on YOUR life for a week – every conversation. Every hour spent at home. Every thought. Every action. Would they see a SOLDIER? Or a CIVILIAN?

The risk is missing out on pleasing his commanding officer.  Because that’s the reward for the FOCUSSED soldier. The commendation of the commanding officer. The well-done good and faithful servant. From Major General Jesus Christ.

b. The athlete who keeps the rules will receive the victor’s crown (5)

The second picture is in v5. The athlete who keeps the rules will receive the victor’s crown.

This is about sticking it out to the end. No short-cuts. That’s the only way to receive the victor’s crown. The laurel wreath. The gold medal.

I remember one year when I ran in the Sydney Half Marathon. And at one point I was running up near Hyde Park. And I cut the corner – ran onto the grass instead of running around the road. I saved myself about 5 m. And a volunteer told me that I should be sticking to the marked track.

If I’d been coming first it might have been significant. But I was coming about 500th. If I’d had the breath, I might have told the guy to get some perspective!

But if I’d done that when I’d been WINNING I might have been disqualified. To wear the winner’s crown, the runner has to compete according to the rules.

And for Timothy that means sticking it out to the end. Even when things are TOUGH. There’s no short-cuts. No wimping-out. No disowning Jesus. No moral lapses. No little holidays from being a Christian.

Because persevering, and preaching, and teaching and discipling. Is the race that has to be run. Right to the end.

c. The hard-working farmer will receive the first share of the crops (6)

And Paul’s THIRD picture is in v6. The hard-working farmer will receive the first share of the crops. What’s the picture here? It’s about hard work. Even when there’s NO EVIDENCE OF ANY HARVEST.

A farmer only HARVESTS for about 2 weeks a year. But does he laze around for the rest of the year? No – he’s always doing SOMETHING. He’s hoeing, or fertilising, or sowing, or weeding, or fencing. EVEN WHEN HE CAN’T SEE ANY ACTION, HE KEEPS WORKING HARD.

And that’s what WE’RE to do, too. Keep working for Jesus, keep working at your own godliness, keep reading the Bible and praying. Even when you can’t see any difference in your own life or attitudes. Keep obeying him, even when it seems like the foolish thing to do.

Keep serving his people, even when no-one notices.

Keep witnessing and sharing the gospel, and praying for people’s salvation. Even when it seems like there’s nothing happening.

Because that’s what the FARMER does. And when he DOES, for the whole year, he gets his share of the harvest. And that’s the reward that God promises to his children. Who keep working hard, even when they can’t see a harvest.

d. Like Paul who endures everything  for the sake of the elect (8-10)

And finally Paul uses HIMSELF as an example. He endures everything for the sake of the elect.

He starts off in v8. Reminding Timothy of who he’s serving. Two PARTICULARLY RELEVANT bits of Paul’s message.

(2 Tim 2:8 NIV)  Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel,

This Jesus I’m following, for who’s sake I’m about to be executed. Remember, he ROSE FROM THE DEAD. So why would I worry about MY DEATH?

And this Jesus I’m following. He’s descended from King David. He’s KING Jesus. MY king. I HAVE to follow him.

And with those facts in mind, Paul goes on (v9)

(2 Tim 2:8-10 NIV)  This is my gospel, {9} for which I am SUFFERING even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But GOD’S WORD IS NOT CHAINED. {10} THEREFORE / I endure EVERYTHING for THE SAKE OF THE ELECT, that THEY TOO may obtain the SALVATION THAT IS IN CHRIST JESUS, WITH ETERNAL GLORY.

Paul follows King Jesus, even to chains, enduring EVERYTHING. And the result – his reward – is that the elect will obtain salvation – eternal glory.

And it’s even happening with Paul IN CHAINS. BEcause you can’t hold God’s word back. He’ll use it to achieve exactly what he intends.

What a wonderful motivation that is to US! God’s word is not chained. However limited we think we are. Whatever our chains are.

Chained up by pride, or sin, or lack of knowledge, or ambition, or fear, or disorganisation. However ineffective we think we are. God’s word is not chained. It will still achieve his purpose.

And think about the GOAL. The reward. That the elect will receive the eternal glory of salvation.

Do you know that YOU have someone in YOUR past like that? Someone who’s reward was that YOU would receive the eternal glory of salvation? And so they went out of their comfort zone to share Jesus with YOU? Was it a parent, or a friend, or a workmate? Your salvation is someone’s reward.

Who do YOU long to see come to salvation? Who will be YOUR reward?

Be strong, because those who remain strong receive their reward. And he sums that up with first part of the poem. In v11-12.

(2 Tim 2:11-12 NIV)  Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; {12} if we endure, we will also reign with him.

To die with Jesus is something we do EACH DAY. We CHOOSE to do HIS WILL, rather than ours. We die to SELF, and LIVE to Christ. We choose to share in hardship, rather than ease. And so our reward is to LIVE with him.

And for those who ENDURE. We will reign. Like the athlete.

But the poem finishes with a warning. A sting in the tail. Second half of v12. “If we disown him, he will disown US”

And v13 says the same thing. If we are faithless, he will be faithful – trustworthy, true to himself, JUST. Faithless people wil be judged. Disowned by God.

And so Paul ENCOURAGES Tim. Be strong, and endure hardship. Because there are great rewards. The commendation of the commanding officer. The victor’s crown. The share of the crops.

But he also WARNS him. If you don’t ENDURE. If you give up, take a short-cut, deny or disown Jesus. Then Jesus will disown YOU. And you’ll miss out.

Don’t let that be YOU.

The future of the church DEPENDS on each of US hearing Paul’s plea. His precious cargo must be entrusted to faithful men. We must endure hardship. And live as soldiers who’s focus is on the main game. As athletes who compete by the rules to the end. And as farmers who work hard, even when we can’t see any harvest.

2 Timothy 3: Standing Out for the Gospel

Are you ever tempted by PROGRESSIVE Christianity? The promise of something EXTRA? Books and speakers and conferences that promise some new SECRET to the victorious Christian life.

It might be health and wealth. Or powerful spiritual gifts. Or victory over sin. Or successful evangelism. Or church growth. Or an exciting youth program. Or guaranteed converts.

They promise a new INSIGHT. Or a new EMPHASIS. Or a new TECHNIQUE.

It’s the seductive lure of the INNOVATIVE, the FRESH, the EXCITING. Because the OLD doesn’t seem to promise as much. “We’ve tried it. It’s too difficult. It’s boring. It’s out-dated.”

“There’s got to be something else! Why is it that the answer is always the same. “Just read your Bible and pray!” Surely there’s got to be more to it than THAT! Doesn’t there?

Have you every thought like that? I know I have!

It might be ATTRACTIVE, but that temptation to be PROGRESSIVE can also be DANGEROUS and DECEPTIVE.

Do you remember Jimmy Bakker? In the ‘80’s he was a high-flying tele-evangelist. The leader of a multi-million dollar empire. He enjoyed prestige, power, and the adulation of millions.

He preached a message of prosperity and health and wealth. God didn’t want you to live in defeat. He was a God of power, of victory, of riches.

He thumped his Bible, and pointed to all kinds of verses he said he LIVED OUT. Which backed up his opinions, and way of life. He thought he had THE INSIDE RUNNING on understanding God’s ways. “Buy the books, or tapes, or videos, and YOU can achieve what I’ve got”. That was his spin.

But it was all a fraud. He had a FORM of godliness, but his secret life showed that he denied THE VERY POWER HE WAS DECLARING.

In 1987, his world collapsed. News of his affair with a church secretary named Jessica Hahn became public. His board of directors were found to have paid hush money to keep the affair secret. His ministry was destroyed.

But that wasn’t all. In 1989 he was convicted of mail and wire fraud, and sentenced to 45 years in prison. His wife divorced him, and his empire was finished.

He promised PROGRESSION. Moving on from the old. A new level of Christian victory, and success and power. And his life seemed to back it up.

But it was all smoke and mirrors. There was no SUBSTANCE behind it. The only PROGRESSION he made was from riches to bankruptcy, from marriage to divorce, from freedom to prison.

He promised RELIABILITY, and CONFIDENCE. But he wasn’t to be trusted. He was INCONSISTENT. He talked the talk. But didn’t walk the walk.

One way of describing it/ is that HE HAD A FORM OF GODLINESS, BUT DENIED THE POWER OF THE VERY MESSAGE HE PROCLAIMED.

The APPEARANCE of truth, but no REALITY. EXTERNALS, but not INTERNALS.

PROGRESSIVE and INCONSISTENT. They’re two common characteristics of false teachers.

And there are plenty of OTHER examples. And we don’t have to go too far from home. A new minister arrived at a Presbyterian church close to Sydney around ten years ago. The organist/ choir-master was a practising, unrepentant homosexual.

The minister sacked him. Told him he was welcome at church, but was no longer to exert any leadership in the church.

The guy complained loud and long. The story was all over the media. About how the church wasn’t compassionate or loving. It was judgmental, and discriminatory.

The choir master had A FORM OF GODLINESS – he was helping people, serving God, doing his duty, making beautiful music. But he denied the power of God to change lives. He had nothing to repent of.

He talked the talk. But didn’t walk the walk. He was INCONSISTENT.

And he thought he was PROGRESSIVE. In line with modern attitudes. INCLUSIVE attitudes. NON-JUDGMENTAL attitudes. Attitudes which said, “God’s not against LOVE. He doesn’t JUDGE. It’s only OLD FASHIONED people who believe in THAT stuff anymore.”

INCONSISTENT AND PROGRESSIVE.

Or take the case of Dr Peter Carnley, the Primate of the Anglican Church in Australia. Years of theological study, Decades of leading the church. And yet he doesn’t believe in the resurrection. According to him the resurrection is nothing more than unhistorical “embroidery” or embellishment to the message of Jesus which EDUCATED people have long since outgrown.

He thinks he’s PROGRESSIVE. Grown beyond historical Christianity.

And he’s also INCONSISTENT. How can you call yourself a Christian, but not believe that Jesus’ body was raised from the dead? What HOPE does that leave US when it comes to death?

It seems to me that he has nothing more than A FORM OF GODLINESS, but he denies its power.

One more example. Bernie’s at the Australian Catholic University, training to be a teacher, and she’s doing RELIGION subjects. But do you think her religion lecturers actually BELIEVE any of the stuff in the Bible? Any of the stuff they’re TEACHING? Hardly ANY of it!

They dismiss it all as myths, and good stories. Fine literature, but not something that 21st century Christians should believe.

You wonder what they hope to GAIN by teaching religion to Catholic schoolchildren.

They’re PROGRESSIVE and INCONSISTENT.

The reality is/ it’s nothing more than a FORM of godliness, but one which denies that God has the power to actually CHANGE anything.

1. Progressive and Inconsistent (1-9)

a. Inconsistent

And the same sort of people were around in Paul’s day. False teachers. We don’t know EXACTLY what they were like. But they certainly seem to be PROGRESSIVE and INCONSISTENT.

And look at what Paul says about THEM. There in v5. They have a FORM of godliness, but deny its power.

That’s the INCONSISTENCY. They look like ONE THING from the OUTSIDE. But on the INSIDE, they’re something different.

The incredible thing, when you read the rest of Paul’s description is that they could fool ANYONE. It’s hard to imagine how anyone could have THE APPEARANCE OF GODLINESS when they’re described with words like this.

(2 Tim 3:2-4 NIV)  …lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, {3} without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, {4} treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God–

Terrible attitudes, and behaviours, and motivations, and desires. How could they DECEIVE ANYONE?

And yet the truth is/ when we look at a guy like Jim Bakker, he probably had a fair few of those characteristics. At least on the INSIDE. That no-one else knew about. While all the time, on the OUTSIDE he gave the APPEARANCE of godliness.

b. Persuasive

But the problem with LOOKING good/ is that people like that give a good impression. They’re PERSUASIVE. And that makes them DANGEROUS. And the ones Paul’s thinking of are no different. Look at how Paul describes it. The persuasive influence they have. There in v6.

(2 Tim 3:6-7 NIV)  They are the kind who WORM their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women, who are loaded down with sins and are SWAYED by all kinds of evil desires, {7} always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth.

Snake oil salesmen who went door-to-door. Catching people when they were vulnerable. Selling them the latest deal.

And you can see the same sort of situation among Christians today. Following every new book or program or tape or conference that comes out. GULLIBLE people. HURTING people. UNSATISFIED people. Who are always searching for the secret to success. Who are always LEARNING, but never actually making PROGRESS. Progress in GODLINESS, or SERVICE, or WITNESS.

Does that describe YOU? Who’s leading YOU? Where are they leading you?

Teaching like this might attract a following for a while, but it all blows over pretty quickly. The problem with INCONSISTENCY is that eventually you GET FOUND OUT. Exposed.

Just like Jimmy Bakker. Eventually, secrets are discovered. Smokescreens are seen through.

It mightn’t be a MORAL exposure. It might just be the EMPTINESS that gets exposed. Teaching that’s based on FLUFF and FOLLY, rather than God’s word. And it fades as quickly as it COMES.

And Paul makes the same point with the people in HIS experience. Look down to v9

(2 Tim 3:9 NIV)  But they will NOT GET VERY FAR because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone.

They think they’re PROGRESSIVE, but what progress do they REALLY make? They won’t get very FAR. They’ll grind to a halt. Their teaching ultimately gets the attention it deserves.

Paul’s shone the searchlight of God’s truth into the dark, grubby corners of their lives. And they’ve been found out.

They’re like those Hollywood fake buildings. They look solid from the front, but if you try to open a door, or lean on a wall, the whole thing falls apart. It’s nothing more than appearance. Cardboard and canvas, rather than bricks and wood. They won’t get far because their folly will be clear to everyone.

And so what’s Paul’s message for Timothy? When it comes to dealing with these kinds of people? Look at it there, at the end of v5. HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH THEM! DON’T LET THEM INFLUENCE YOU!

You almost don’t need to say it. After the picture Paul’s painted. Of what they’re like. And how they behave. And how they influence people. But he says it anyway. Because they’re so inconsistent, and persuasive. HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH THEM. Because they promise GODLINESS, but can’t DELIVER.

2. Steadfast and Consistent (10-17)

INSTEAD, Paul has another example to follow. Another path to godliness. It may not be as attractive, or promise as much. But it’s SURE, and STEADFAST, and CERTAIN, and CONSISTENT.

It’s the path GOD’S designed. The path of the gospel. Of suffering. Of using the Scriptures.

In a nutshell, it’s following PAUL. Look there in v10.

(2 Tim 3:10-11 NIV)  You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, {11} persecutions, sufferings–what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them.

If the false teachers are PROGRESSIVE AND INCONSISTENT, then Paul HIMSELF is STEADFAST AND CONSISTENT.

Look at what he’s saying there. I might have had to fill you in on a few secrets about these FALSE teachers. But I don’t have to do it for ME. You KNOW me.

You know my teaching. The things I’ve taught. The truths of the gospel. What you see is what you get.

But more than that/ you know MY WAY OF LIFE. And my way of life backs up my teaching. I’m CONSISTENT. There’s no hypocrisy with me. I WALK what I TALK.

You can see that when I SAY that making friends with God is my number one priority/ that I MEAN it. My life BACKS IT UP. You can see it in my purpose, my faith, my patience, love and endurance.

I’m consistent and steadfast.

In fact, I’m SO consistent and steadfast. That my message doesn’t change even when PERSECUTIONS COME. Nothing changes when times get tough. I’m STILL THE SAME.

Someone who only HALF believes their message will give up as soon as things get tough.

My brother used to sell DYSON vacuum-cleaners. Actually, he got a JOB selling them, but I think he only sold one. They only sell them DOOR TO DOOR.

They’re pretty incredible vacuum cleaners. But they cost about $2500. My brother came and demonstrated one to us. We agreed because he got paid something for each demo. But at the end of the demo, he said. Don’t buy one, because they cost too much. They’re not worth it!

He didn’t really BELIEVE his message. He only lasted about a month, before he gave it away. Someone who only HALF believes their message will give up as soon as things get tough

But Paul’s WALK and TALK were SO consistent that he even endured PERSECUTIONS. Something Timothy knows very well.

Steadfast and consistent. The exact OPPOSITE of the OTHER guys.

And it’s exactly the same thing Paul wants to see in TIMOTHY. Look there in v13.

(2 Tim 3:13-14 NIV)  while evil men and impostors WILL GO FROM BAD TO WORSE, deceiving and being deceived. {14} But as for you, CONTINUE/ in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it,

Evil men PROGRESS. They progress from bad to worse. That’s the only development they make. But Tim is to REMAIN. To CONTINUE. That’s the contrast. To keep doing the same things he’s always done.

Keep believing the same things. Keep trusting the same path. Keep following the same examples. Listening to the same leaders. Copying the same models.

The false lure of PROGRESS is a trap. There ARE no short-cuts, or hidden programs, or special secrets.

Another CHURCH won’t make life any easier, or more satisfying. A new group of people, or programs to be involved in won’t give more joy.

PROGRESS in the Christian walk only comes through PERSEVERANCE. Sticking it out. STEADFASTNESS. Not chopping and changing. I read this verse out last week before the congregational meeting. It’s from James 1.

(James 1:2-4 NIV)  Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, {3} because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. {4} Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

REAL progress – maturity and completeness – comes from STEADFASTLY sticking it out. That’s God’s “secret” method.

Imagine an Olympic athlete who changed his training program every week. As soon as an exercise got HARD, he STOPPED. You’d never make progress THAT WAY. It’s only by PERSEVERING through a training program, working muscles HARD, pushing THROUGH the pain barrier, that REAL progress is made.

How ridiculous for an athlete to say, “I’m really making PROGRESS. I’ve been through five different programs in five weeks. I’m no faster or stronger, but I’ve changed programs more quickly than anyone else!”

Godly maturity and completeness- real progress- comes from PERSEVERANCE.

And notice where I’ve got this so-called “secret” training programme from? FROM GOD’S WORD. Real progress comes from God’s Word.

It may not seem too exciting, or new-fangled. But it’s TRUE. And POWERFUL. And USEFUL. Look at how Paul puts it. V15.

(2 Tim 3:15-17 NIV)  and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. {16} All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, {17} so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

When you start getting itchy feet, start to believe the lie, start to listen to the progressives, just remember the power of the Word of God. It’s his word which can TRULY change lives. Teach. Train. Rebuke. Correct.

It’s a lesson that Jimmie Bakker only learned IN JAIL. Listen to what he said in an interview I read

I use to preach that God wanted everybody to be rich and prosperous, with no pain and no problems – a Pollyanna gospel. But the Prosperity Gospel doesn’t make much sense when you’re in prison. AS I STUDIED THE BIBLE there, I was appalled that I could have been so wrong, and I was deeply grateful that God had not struck me dead as a false prophet! I had taught people to fall in love with money. The deceitfulness of riches and the lust for other things HAD CHOKED OUT THE WORD OF GOD IN MY LIFE.

(The interviewer asked) More than anything else, what changed your mind?
The WORDS OF CHRIST. For two solid years in prison, I read and reread everything He said. I read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. Matthew 4:4 was a turning point: Man shall not live by bread alone, but by EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDETH FROM THE MOUTH OF GOD. Every word. The reason I preached false doctrine is that I didn’t study the whole counsel of God.

Jimmie Bakker learned a lesson about THE POWER OF GOD’S WORD. It’s his compelling TOOL for teaching, training, rebuking, correcting. And it seems to have changed HIS life.

And look at what Paul says is the end result of that influence. What’s the result of all that input? “That the man or woman of God will be THOROUGHLY EQUIPPED for every good work. Mature. Toughened. Steadfast. Consistent.

Like the finely-tuned athlete standing on the medal dais. Bulging muscles. Rippling six-pack. The result of the perfect training program, and years of commitment and perseverance.

And that’s what God wants YOU to be. Finely tuned SPIRITUAL athletes. Because you’ve STUCK TO what YOU KNOW. God’s WORD. Following godly examples. PERSEVERING where God’s put you. Not looking anywhere else, but finding your joy and rest and satisfaction and fulfilment in HIM. And him alone.

That’s TRUE progress.

2 Timothy 4: A Message to Die For

Famous last words.  A dying person’s last words often reflect his PRIORITIES in life. The things that are important in DEATH/ are normally the things that were important IN LIFE.

For example, P.T. Barnum, the famous circus entrepreneur died in 1891 with these words on his lips “How were the circus receipts in Madison Square Garden?”

Dylan Thomas the poet, destroyed himself with alcohol, and died in 1953 with these last words “I’ve had eighteen straight whiskies, I think that’s the record.”

Dominique Bouhours, French grammarian, died in 1702 with these words, “I am about to — or I am going to — die: either expression is correct.”

And we see the same thing with Christians. Christ was everything in LIFE, and nothing changes in DEATH.

Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland died in 1329 with these words “Now, God be with you, my dear children.  I have breakfasted with you/ and shall sup with my Lord Jesus Christ.”

And then there are those Christians for whom the gospel is SO IMPORTANT/ that it’s A MESSAGE WORTH DYING FOR.

Saint Lawrence the Martyr was killed in 258 in Rome. He was a church deacon during the time Emperor Valerian was vigorously persecuting Christians. He was the keeper of the church’s treasures. He was arrested and told that to save himself he must give the church treasures to the government.

Lawrence agreed and told the official that it would take at least eight days to assemble them. On the eighth day, Lawrence returned to the prefect and presented him with hundreds of poor and disabled men, women, and children. “These,” he said, “are the riches of the church.”

The official was so enraged he ordered Lawrence to be stripped, tied face down on a gridiron suspended over a bed of coals, and slowly burned to death.

Lawrence maintained a cheerful appearance through out the ordeal and, when asked if he had any last request, responded with his last words. “Turn me.  I am roasted on one side.”

His behavior was said to have been so impressive that several Roman senators converted to Christianity on the spot, and hundreds of citizens did the same the following day.

“Turn me.  I am roasted on one side.” What wonderful final words! Full of humour, but also full of THE CERTAINTY OF ETERNITY. His trust was in A MESSAGE WORTH DYING FOR

And I believe these last words of Paul’s in today’s passage/ are just as wonderful. They’re certainly just as ENCOURAGING. Because they show Paul’s confidence in the message of the gospel. For Paul too, it was a message worth dying for.

It’s the last CHAPTER of Paul’s last-known LETTER. He’s perhaps within weeks of the end of his life – not far from martyrdom at the hands of Roman persecutors. Tradition tells us he was beheaded on the orders of Emperor Nero in 62 AD at a spot about 5 km out of Rome on the Ostian Way.

And as Paul writes the letter, he knows what’s coming. He’s chained hand and foot in a Roman jail. He’s cold, alone, and weary. He can almost feel the hard iron of the executioners blade on his neck.

But it’s the fate of THE GOSPEL MESSAGE which consume his thoughts. His dying words reflect the same clarity of vision, and intensity of purpose he had his whole life – from the moment he was converted.

HIS life means nothing, the life of the GOSPEL is EVERYTHING.

1. Preach the word (2)

And so he gives Timothy ONE FINAL PLEA. A solemn and weighty charge. Look at it there from v1.

(2 Tim 4:1-2 NIV)  In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I GIVE YOU THIS CHARGE: {2} PREACH THE WORD

The picture is of an official handing-over of authority. Like the handing-over from the Olympic organising committee of Athens to Beijing. With the whole world watching on.

“Here’s the baton. WE’VE finished OUR responsibility. Now it’s up to YOU. Keep the flame burning. Make the NEXT Olympics bigger and better.”

But in Paul’s case/ The audience is more significant than a human audience – it’s GOD HIMSELF. And the flame is much more important than the task of organising 2 weeks of games. It’s the crucial task of proclaiming the message of Jesus Christ. As he put it in Ch 1 v10.

(2 Tim 1:10-11 NIV)  It has now been revealed through the appearing of our Saviour, Christ Jesus, who has DESTROYED DEATH and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. {11} And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher.

The message Paul and Timothy have/ is the means of DESTROYING DEATH. That’s an awesome responsibility. No wonder Paul wants to make sure Tim’s got it!

PREACH THE WORD!

And in the next couple of verses, he tells Timothy HOW he’s to do that, as well as WHY he should. So let’s look at the “HOW”.

2. How?

a) with urgency

Verse 2, he says, “Preach the word, BE PREPARED in season and out of season.”

The task is so important that Tim is to preach WITH URGENCY. He’s to be prepared at any opportunity. Like the sprinter on his blocks. Just waiting for the chance to spring out.

Every base covered so that when the moment occurs, when someone asks the question, or provides the opening, you’re ready to take it. You may not get another chance.

That’s the sort of URGENCY you’re to have.

And be urgent in season and out of season. Not only when you FEEL like it, but when you DON’T. Not only when it’s CONVENIENT, but when it’s INCONVENIENT. Not only when it SUITS, but when it DOESN’T.

We had the Scripture seminar at Evans High during the week. And Alan McSeveny, and Steve Gould, and Jo Steele gave up a day to help out.

Now, I’m convinced that it wasn’t CONVENIENT for them to spare that time. All of them had other things they could have been doing. Even that they WANTED to do more. It was an OUT OF SEASON time.

Steve had assignments to write, Alan had work to do, and family to care for. Jo had things to organise, music to practice and lessons to prepare for.

But it was SUCH A PRIORITY to them that kids heard about the message that destroys death, that they were prepared to preach the word even OUT OF SEASON.

That’s the sort of urgency Paul wants Timothy to have.

b. with relevance

Second, Paul wants Timothy to preach with RELEVANCE. V2 again. “Preach the word – CORRECT, REBUKE AND ENCOURAGE.”

Each of the people Timothy will come across has a need. And Tim is to address that need. Some people have a MISUNDERSTANDING of some element of the faith. Or a mis-emphasis. And so they need CORRECTING. There’s an INTELLECTUAL aspect to preaching the word.

Others are involved in BEHAVIOUR which is against God’s Law. Actions or attitudes which shouldn’t be seen among God’s people. And so they need REBUKING. There’s a MORAL aspect to preaching the word.

Or still others might be discouraged. Downtrodden. Disappointed. Overcome by guilt or weakness or doubt or fear. Life is just a struggle. And so they need ENCOURAGING. Building-up. There’s an EMOTIONAL aspect to preaching the word.

Each person needs the word preached in a different way. And so Tim is to preach the word with RELEVANCE.

Kel Willis says that preaching should pass the “So what?” test. Just communicating information is pointless. Preaching must touch people where they are. It must declare what the appropriate RESPONSE should be to what God has said or done. It’s got to be RELEVANT.

And notice here the close connection between the purpose of PREACHING. And the purpose of GOD’S WORD ITSELF

Back in Ch 3 v16. What’s the purpose of Scripture?

(2 Tim 3:16-17 NIV)  All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for TEACHING, REBUKING, CORRECTING AND TRAINING IN RIGHTEOUSNESS, {17} so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

The same sorts of things Tim’s to do with his PREACHING.

Because the Bible is the TOOL for the preacher. When he USES God’s Word, he is thoroughly equipped to teach, rebuke, correct and encourage. Because they’re the purposes of God’s Word.

c) With patience

The third way Timothy is to preach/ is WITH PATIENCE. It’s there in v2. “Preach the word with GREAT PATIENCE”

On the one hand he’s to preach the word with URGENCY, always being prepared. But at the same time he’s to preach it with great PATIENCE.

He’s not to TRICK people, or FORCE a response. Or coerce a conversion.

Patience is required because it’s not up to US to change people. Only God can do that through his word. Hebrews 4:12 tells us

(Heb 4:12 NIV)  the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit,

Our job is just to scatter the seed. Only God can make the seed germinate and grow. His word is powerful enough to do that.

And normally – that’s a pretty slow process. So patience is required.

d) With intelligence

Fourthly, Tim is to preach the word WITH INTELLIGENCE. It’s there in v2 – CAREFUL INSTRUCTION.

If the message is so important/ then it’s crucial that it’s communicated as clearly and systematically and completely as possible.

Alan McSeveny writes maths textbooks. And when he introduces a new concept I’m sure he spends a lot of time thinking very carefully about the clearest way of teaching it. The most logical way. The way which doesn’t leave anything out.

And it’s the same with preaching. Careful instruction should describe it. It’s one of the strengths of the preaching in our tradition. Systematically working through the whole Bible. The WHOLE COUNSEL of God. Attempting to explain it clearly.

If we believe that ALL scripture is useful for TEACHING, REBUKING, CORRECTING AND TRAINING IN RIGHTEOUSNESS, then we’ll make sure it’s a high priority to carefully explain it. Because it’s too precious to misunderstand.

Well, that’s v2. Timothy is to preach the word with urgency, relevance, patience, and intelligence.

3. Why?

a. It’s God-breathed

But that’s not all. Paul also gives him the WHY? Why preach the word? Why is it a message worth dying for?

And the first reason is back in Ch 3. V16. Because it’s God-breathed. The Scriptures are God’s personal communication to us. Preaching those words is the most important thing we can ever do.

If it were just any other book. Any other collection of man’s words, then there wouldn’t be the importance. But God’s words are LIFE ITSELF. Jesus recognised it himself. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes form the mouth of God”.

Why preach the word? Because it’s God’s words, and God’s words give life.

And preaching doesn’t have to be MEMORABLE to BRING LIFE. A number of years ago a Christian magazine printed the following letter. Dear Sir: It seems ministers feel their sermons are very important and spend a great deal of time preparing them.  I have been attending church quite regularly for 30 years and I have probably heard 3,000 of them.  To my consternation, I discovered I cannot remember a single sermon.  I wonder if a minister’s time might be more profitably spent on something else?

For weeks a storm of responses ensued… finally ended by this letter: Dear Sir: I have been married for 30 years.  During that time I have eaten 32,850 meals- mostly my wife’s cooking.  Suddenly I have discovered I cannot remember the menu of a single meal.  And yet… I have the distinct impression that without them, I would have starved to death long ago.

Why preach the word? Because it’s GOD’S word. And it gives us life. It feeds us to give us strength to keep trusting God for another week. To keep loving our enemies. To keep serving our family. Whether we REMEMBER what we ate or not!

b. because God is commissioning him

Secondly, Timothy is to preach the word because God HIMSELF is commissioning him. Look at Paul’s charge to him in v1.

(2 Tim 4:1 NIV)  IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD…, I give you this charge:

Yes, Paul is giving the charge, but it’s with the authority of GOD. God is sending him. Declaring him as useful and thoroughly equipped. And an instrument for administering God’s grace to people.

When the king says JUMP, you don’t say NO, you say How high?

c. because Christ’s judgment and appearing and kingdom are coming

Thirdly, Tim is to preach because Christ’s judgment and appearing and kingdom are coming. It’s there in v1 too.

(2 Tim 4:1 NIV)  In the presence of God AND OF CHRIST JESUS, WHO WILL JUDGE THE LIVING AND THE DEAD, AND IN VIEW OF HIS APPEARING AND HIS KINGDOM, I give you this charge:

The expectation of a future event energises you NOW. Lachlan’s playing in the first round of the Champion of Champions Cup right now/(this morning). His team won their local competition two weeks ago, and now he’s at Orange.

And it’s something he’s been aiming for the whole season. One of his goals at the start of the year. To win the competition, and to win the Champions Cup. It’s been the thought of those big games that keeps him training hard, and practicing.

And it’s the same with Tim preaching the word. It’s the thought of Christ’s’ return – his appearing and kingdom, as well as his judgment – that spurs Timothy on when he feels like giving up.

You can see how it worked for Paul. Look down to v7. He’s in prison on an unjust charge – the victim of a wicked ruler. But he longs for the verdict of the JUST ruler. It’s been that hope which has kept him going.

(2 Tim 4:7-8 NIV)  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. {8} Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day–and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

Why preach the word? Because Christ is coming back!

d. because people won’t always listen

Fourthly, Tim is to preach the word because people won’t always listen. It seems like a bit of a funny reason, but it’s there in v3.

(2 Tim 4:2-4 NIV)  Preach the Word; …–with great patience and careful instruction. {3} For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. {4} They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

I think the point Paul is making is that Timothy isn’t involved in some gentle exchange of ideas. A tea party of swapping knitting patterns. This is WARFARE. A tough audience. So stick at it!

Things are tough already – we’ve seen that all the way through 2 Timothy. But Paul is saying, it’s only going to GET WORSE.

If you think it’s tough NOW, it ain’t getting any easier.

People have got itchy ears NOW. People gather around them fine-sounding public speakers NOW. People turn away from truth, and follow myths NOW. Well, it’ll only get worse.

So preach the word with great patience and instruction.

And you can see the tendency today. People don’t like to squirm. They don’t want to be challenged, or made to feel the need to change. So they encourage AMUSING speakers, and INTERESTING speakers, and SMOOTH speakers. Anything as long as it’s NOT SOUND DOCTRINE. As it’s not the God’s clear words of life.

What about us? How can we encourage SOUND DOCTRINE?

The best way you can encourage ME to preach like that is to tell me how God’s word is changing YOU. How you’ve been made to feel uncomfortable. And what you’re doing about it.

It’s something Gordon and Shelley both do. And they tell me about it – which is GREAT.

But when people AREN’T doing that – when they don’t want to listen to sound doctrine, look at how Tim is to behave. There in v5.

(2 Tim 4:4-5 NIV)  THEY will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. {5} But YOU, KEEP YOUR HEAD IN ALL SITUATIONS, ENDURE HARDSHIP, DO THE WORK OF AN EVANGELIST, DISCHARGE ALL THE DUTIES OF YOUR MINISTRY.

When they preach about what they IMAGINE, Tim is to keep his head – to be sober, and clear-minded. To be strategic, and controlled, and purposeful.

When they make life difficult for him as he preaches the truth, Tim is ENDURE HARDSHIP.

When they don’t want to know the true gospel, Tim is to DO THE WORK OF THE EVANGELIST. Proclaim it loudly and clearly, to get through the ear-plugs. Grab their attention, and drag it back from the myths.

And when they make it obvious that they’re not INTERESTED in what Tim has to say, he’s not to take the easy way out. To take short-cuts, find more fertile ground.

He’s to FULFIL his ministry. See it through to completion. Do it thoroughly, leaving no stone unturned.

e) because Paul’s nearly gone

And the final reason Tim is to preach the word is because Paul’s nearly gone. It’s there in v6.

(2 Tim 4:5-7 NIV)  But YOU, … discharge all the duties of your ministry. {6} For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. {7} I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

But he’s kept the faith – he’s held onto the message as he received it. And now he’s passing it on. Like a footballer caught in a tackle. He put it like this in 1:14

(2 Tim 1:13-14 NIV)  What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. {14} Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you–guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

Paul’s DEPARTING, the image is of a boat freed from its moorings. He’s about to start on a whole new adventure. He’s about to die for the message that’s worth dying for. And so Tim must continue to preach the word.

And although Paul was writing to Timothy, he writes to us also. Because the message is STILL worth dying for. We may not be full-time ministers like Tim. But the decisions we take show what WE think about the message of the gospel.

Decisions like;

The time you give up OUTSIDE your job for ministry.

Even the type of job you TAKE to make sure you can do ministry.

The amount of time you PRAY about ministry.

The money you give to support ministry.

The things you do WITHOUT to be ABLE to give to ministry.

The way you use your LEISURE TIME to train for ministry, or read about ministry, or listen to tapes which ENCOURAGE you in ministry.

Or how serious you are about encouraging those DOING ministry.

You may not be a Paul who will DIE for the gospel message. You may not be a Timothy, whose a full-time pastor and evangelist. But does your life proclaim that the gospel message is one worth dying for?