Tag: God’s Plan for the Church

Be Thankful

2 Timothy 4:17-22

Have spent the last 14 months studying about “God’s Plan for the Church”, his household. Have worked our way passage by passage through 1 & 2 Timothy along with much of Titus. Have covered roles of men and women, qualifications for leadership, deacons and elders, personal character of man and woman of God. Here we are, at the end of Paul’s last letter that we have a copy of, nearly at the end of Paul’s life. Written to Timothy, but not strictly as a personal letter. Paul knew would be read in the churches. How he closes letter intended as encouragement to Timothy and saints in the church.

In way typical of Paul, turns the conversation to what was most important to him: Lord Jesus. I’m sure letters aren’t much different from what face-to-face conversation would have been. Only go for just so long before Paul had something to say, word of praise or thanksgiving to Lord Jesus. Paul’s exhortations to “give thanks in everything”, to rejoice not empty words; they reflect the way he lived his life, right to the end.

In our text, Paul identifies four things that should cause us to be thankful: the Lord stands with us so we’re never alone; the Lord empowers us to do his work when our own strength fails; the Lord has delivered us and will continue to deliver us; the Lord will bring us safely home to his presence

A. the Lord stood by (with) me

read last time in v.16: “At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me.”

surely what it looked like – Paul, exposed to view as the accused prisoner, standing alone before authorities and gathered crowd

don’t know for certain what the charges were, but obviously serious; whatever specifics were, had something to do with Paul’s faith and public witness to it

as he reviewed that event in mind’s eye while writing to Timothy, could see that no one was standing beside him – no advocate, no legal defense team, no supportive witnesses – just Paul,…. and everyone else

but wait, someone else was there, not visible to naked eye, but certainly obvious to eye of faith

Paul knew theological truth: God is omnipresent, present everywhere and throughout all time; probably knew Jesus’ parting words – “behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” Matt. 28:20

also knew from experience – had sensed in his spirit the presence of his Savior in times of great need

and could see evidence of Christ’s presence in his circumstances: was strengthened, delivered, preserved

Jim Duran – Pastor Aaron, travel documents not ready, traveling alone to Kenya; smile, “guess I won’t really be traveling alone, will I?”

psalmist understood – see Psalm 139:7-12

same true for us – Heb. 13:5-6, 8 “For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we may boldly say: “The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” …Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”

can count on Savior’s presence, standing by us in all circumstances – be thankful the Lord stands with you so you’re never alone

B. strengthened (empowered)

Lord Jesus not simply a bystander – observing but not interfering or intervening, taking no active part in event

was there for good purpose – to strengthen, empower his servant in his circumstances

goes far beyond simple endurance – Lord, give me strength to endure this challenging situation

what Paul experienced was Lord Jesus actively providing power for Paul to actively serve God in his situation

notice how text reads: “the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear.”

what could Paul possibly mean by that? here’s likely scenario:

called before Roman authorities, possibly Nero, charged with crime that carried death penalty

charges probably included sedition – inciting other people to do what was illegal, to resist lawful authority

hearing would have been held in large public area near the arena – space for thousands of spectators, vast majority of them Gentiles

Paul’s response to the charges? – likely did not try to use classic defense as we would think of it, refuting the charges, bringing character witnesses, establishing an alibi for whereabouts, trying to show reasonable doubt of his guilt

why did he say the Lord strengthened him? so the message might be preached

these the charges, here’s what I’ve been preaching – you be the judge

off he went, preaching the Gospel, declaring truth about God for as long as was allowed to speak

so what if he was on trial for his life, he had an audience, those who desperately needed to hear the Gospel

once again, turned the conversation to things of God, eternal matters, topic of real substance

thousands of Gentiles from all over Roman Empire, there voluntarily to see the spectacle, Paul preaches the Gospel

not interested in finding a loophole for himself, a way to avoid conviction as a criminal; more interested in giving hope to the hopeless, pointing those lost in sin to a Savior

not the sort of thing you do in your own strength – requires empowering of Lord Jesus to be strong ambassador for him in tough circumstances

maybe life not a stake – family or neighbor relationship or employment: not only will Lord Jesus be with you in that situation, will empower you to be effective witness for him

be thankful the Lord empowers you to do his work when your own strength fails

C. delivers

in reality, being delivered from lion’s mouth another time added to list of previous deliverances

if you’ve been a Christian for more than ten minutes, can probably point to times when God has delivered you from serious harm

not sure if reference is to Nero but certainly could have been – hated Christians, blamed fire that destroyed large part of Rome on Christians, a perverted tool of Satan who treated Christians cruelly

Paul had at least been delivered from Nero’s designs at his first hearing; certainly was delivered from his arch-enemy Satan on this occasion as well as others

Paul has more significant deliverance in view in v.18 – deliverance from evil deeds, his own and those of others

what are things that are most distressing about this life? things that come about because of sin

remember why Joseph was to call his name Jesus: he shall save his people from their sins (Matt. 1:21)

here’s Paul expressing his confidence in that truth – that Lord Jesus would deliver him from his own sin, ultimately from the corruption of sin and its effects on world around us

none of things that came about because of the Fall, consequences of sin in people and the world, will be present in new heavens and new earth

be thankful the Lord has delivered us and will continue to deliver us

D. and preserve (bring me safely home)

deliverance from sin is great, but what are we delivered to? that’s important, also

Paul declared confidently that Lord Jesus who stood with him and empowered and delivered him will bring him safely into his heavenly kingdom

Paul did not fear death, confidently awaited it knowing what it would bring – passage to real life

remember rock and hard place he found himself between: Phil. 1:21-24For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. Now if I am to go on living in the body, this will mean productive work for me, yet I don’t know which I prefer: I feel torn between the two, because I have a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far, but it is more vital for your sake that I remain in the body.” NET

look at where Paul’s confidence was – the Lord will preserve me, will bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom

we talk about the perseverance of the saints – that those who are truly born again “can neither totally nor finally fall from the state of grace, but they shall certainly persevere in grace to the end and be eternally saved”. LBCF 17.1

is it that saints perservere or that the Lord preserves them? answer is “yes”, both are true

the one that carries the day – that God preserves his own, doing all necessary to bring them safely home

if you are child of God, rest in absolute assurance that “We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.” (2 Cor. 5:8)\

be thankfulthe Lord will bring us safely home to his presence

E. to him be the glory

notice who is focus of attention in these two verses: Lord Jesus – he is one who stood with, who empowered, who delivered, and who preserved apostle Paul

Paul not a special case – Lord Jesus gives same kind of attention to all his brothers and sisters

Paul a wonderful servant, marvelously converted from enemy to friend of Lord Jesus, used in remarkable ways to build and strengthen Christ’s church – but he earned nothing because of his labors

Paul was who he was and did what he did solely by the grace of God; said so himself (1 Cor. 15:10)

same is true for us – do nothing worthwhile in our own strength; only as we depend on Lord Jesus that we can be useful servants, faithful brothers and sisters

Lord Jesus deserves glory not just now, but forever for what he has done on our behalf

when in next life we have clear vision, able to see what Jesus has really accomplished for us his people, eternity will not be long enough to praise and thank him and give him the glory

Meanwhile, we live in the here and now. How is it with your soul? Are you thankful as Paul was? Can you see evidence of God at work in your life? Are you confident he will bring you safely home? If so, whatever the immediate future holds, should be able to say it is well with your soul.

Be Gracious

2 Timothy 4:9-16

Something folks like to do at New Years: see who was first baby born, what were specifics, etc. This year one of first had twin sibling born last year! Just a few minutes apart, different day, month and year on birth certificate. To begin with, baby’s circle of friends pretty small, maybe only one or two – mom and dad – for a while. Life goes on, circle gets larger, have more real friends, some imaginary facebook friends. But list of friends, sphere of life and influence doesn’t grow forever. At some point, starts to shrink. Friends fall off list for one reason or another – move away or pass away. Our world starts to get smaller. Don’t travel as far or spend as long away from home. Near the end, world often gets really small.

Many of you know those whose life consists of same four walls and same few faces day after day with little if any variation. Life came down to that for apostle Paul during his last days, too. World-traveler, renowned author, personally acquainted with hundreds or thousands of people. Now, as he writes final words, confined to a dungeon, perhaps unable to see light of day. Luke is only friendly face, he is separated from some of his most important belongings, facing certain death. For many, that’s more than enough reason to be really grumpy.

Not the apostle Paul. He kept in focus who and what was important. At same time, he remained human – we can see and hear real emotion coming through in our text. As always, Paul didn’t sugar-coat the truth, and he stayed the course with grace. May God grant us understanding to finish well as Paul did, finish with grace.

A. don’t lose sight of the people

2 Tim. 1:4 “I long to see you”; “do your best to come soon” – poignant, moving, touching expressions of affection for his “son in the faith”

to see his face one last time would give Paul great joy – his longing for that nearly unbearable

notice doesn’t ask Timothy for ministry report: what’s attendance, how many professions, baptisms, memberships

asked Timothy to bring certain things, but primary emphasis on seeing him; Timothy far more key to work of the ministry than things we like to measure

bring Mark, he is useful

this the same John Mark who went on first missions trip w/Paul and Barnabas; who was not useful, abandoned the team partway through

things had changed, relationship with Mark had been restored; mentioned in both Colossians and Philemon as co-laboring with Paul

has matured to degree Paul considers him useful to carry on his ministry

Crescens (Turkey), Titus (Bosnia), Tychicus (Ephesus) – along with Timothy and Mark will carry on work

even though Paul knew his end was near, saw work of spreading the Gospel as continuing

Paul involved to some degree in training/mentoring these men, has turned them loose, expecting God will use them to further what he used Paul to begin

church not supposed to be like small business – countless family businesses fail during transfer from founder to successor

Paul had done his part to avoid that; watching now with mixed emotions – missing their company, thankful for work God had given them, how Gospel was advancing through their labors

Luke allowed to remain with him – perhaps because personal physician

had traveled many miles together; Luke closest thing to personal historian Paul had, an essential part of the whole ministry team

then there’s Demas

seems to be strong tone of sadness – Paul identifies the issue, but graciously

Demas not a stranger to hardship – close associate of Paul during first imprisonment, part of the inner circle – one in whom Paul had invested much

Paul one of those guys who couldn’t turn off teacher mode – always striving to bring along whoever was within earshot

Paul probably had high hopes for Demas, how he would continue laboring in Christian work, then he abandoned the cause – cost of continued discipleship too high

B. leaders get lonely, too

think about who Paul was: apostle to the Gentiles – the big guy, responsible for writing more than half books of NT, stood up to Peter about his inconsistent behavior

then there’s the list of all the harsh treatment Paul endured – must have been one tough guy to survive all that – resourceful, resilient, able to take all that was thrown at him

comes across as one who can relate to people but doesn’t need a lot of people around to be content – might even prefer “quiet” down time

does ask for cloak, books and parchments, but emphasis strongly on people, his present loneliness

just because someone is comfortable with leadership, even surrounded by people much of the time, can still experience loneliness

leaders have need for encouragement; in Paul’s case, support during some especially difficult times

what had happened? – no one whatever to take his side at his first hearing before Nero; left all alone to defend himself as best as he could

recognized God’s ability to supply his need but… still needed the comfort and encouragement personal contact would bring

C. speak the truth

Paul didn’t get soft in old age, pull his punches, gloss over difficult topics – still called it like it was

specifically identified nature of his parting with Demas and reason for it – Demas’ change of priorities and commitment

same for Alexander the coppersmith – had done much harm to the cause of the Gospel, perhaps to Paul personally

puts Timothy on guard – you be careful, too; he’s type of individual who can do a lot of damage, will if he can

stated the facts about those who could have testified in his defense – they didn’t

at same time, didn’t go to opposite extreme

frequent response to adversity, especially when it includes loneliness – exaggerate and become self-focused

Paul didn’t make bad things out to be way worse than they really were; Alexander really was dangerous opponent to the Gospel

Paul kept focus on Alexander’s opposition to the truth without getting personal; that helped Timothy know what he should guard against

D. do it with grace

too many people carry grudges – remembering past things against people; might not do anything against them personally, wouldn’t be upset if something did happen, though

Paul left dealing with past issues up to God – God can be trusted to do right thing in all situations

evildoers who remain unrepentant and resistant to the Gospel – God will repay them with justice for their evil

brothers and sisters who fail to make the mark – may God show them mercy for their weakness

gracious to the end, like Stephen and Lord Jesus, Paul was content to leave details up to God

Paul not content to stagnate, no matter how short his remaining time – the Apostle was committed to continuing his learning: “bring the books, especially the parchments”

“William Tyndale, who translated the first NT printed in English, was imprisoned in Vilvorde Castle near Brussels before his execution in 1536. In the year preceding his death he wrote to the governor, begging for warmer clothing, a woolen shirt, and above all his Hebrew Bible, grammar, and dictionary.”

if apostle Paul hadn’t “arrived”, neither will we; after 30 years of pastoral ministry, still wanted to know and learn more of God and his word

Paul one of those fellows who seems “larger than life”. Who he was. The things he experienced. Places he went. Extent of his writing and its influence. How he ended life, as martyr for his faith. Tends to surprise us when we find out someone like that is really human. And Paul was. That is plain from passage before us. Why is that important? We don’t stand much chance of finishing like many heroes did – Stephen, praying for his tormentors while being stoned; Richard Wurmbrand, tortured for his faith but without malice toward his torturers.

Some other mere mortal like us, that’s different; can maybe follow their example. That describes Paul at heart – one whose aged and mistreated bones felt the cold dreadfully. Heavy wool cloak would make huge difference in his ability to endure Roman winter. Discouragement at how some of his investments turned out, especially Demas. Feeling intensely alone and abandoned, forsaken by even local believers. Sounds pretty normal, doesn’t he! So how did he deal with all that and finish well?

Paul clearly understood who he was – a sinner saved by God’s grace. In fact, he owed all he had and was to grace. Only because of God’s undeserved favor could Paul have genuine claim to inheritance in heaven. Was God’s gracious equipping for service that enabled Paul to endure and accomplish what he did. Since he had received such great grace, how could he not be gracious to others?

So, there’s really no formula here beyond this: apart from Christ we are all without hope. Only hope is moment by moment dependence on Christ for strength and guidance and comfort – everything we need to please him. Then our response: loving and thankful obedience, displaying toward others what Christ has shown to us. Here, have tangible reminder of primary display of his grace – when he did for us what we could never do for ourselves, purchasing our redemption. When he put needs of others first. Finishing his life praying for others, dying for sake of others, forgiving others as he did so. May we be ever mindful of his grace, dependent on his grace, those who show his grace to others.

Be A Good Finisher

2 Timothy 4:6-8

David Livingstone was asked to speak to the students at the University of Glasgow. If he knew what awaited him he might have declined the invitation. It was the custom of the undergraduates in those days to heckle speakers that came, and they were well-prepared for this preacher. They had peashooters, toy trumpets, rattles, and noise makers of every description. Livingstone walked out onto the platform with the tread of a man who has walked eleven thousand miles. His left arm hung limply at his side, having been almost ripped from his body by a huge lion. His face was a dark leathery brown from sixteen years in the African sun. It was furrowed with innumerable lines from the bouts of African fever which had racked and emaciated his body; he had been attacked by savages and by the Turks who plied their vicious slave trade. He was half-deaf from rheumatic fever and half-blind from a branch that had slapped him in the eyes in the jungle.

The students stared, and they knew that here was a life that was literally burned out for God. Not a rattle moved, not a foot shuffled. A hush crept over that vast auditorium and they listened in rapt silence as David Livingstone told about his journeys and about the tremendous needs of this vast African population. “Shall I tell you,” he asked, “what sustained me in the midst of these toils, hardships, and incredible loneliness? It was a promise, the promise of a gentleman of the most sacred honor; it was this promise, ‘Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world’.”

Simply finishing is hard; being a good finisher is impossible without depending moment by moment on “the gentleman of the most sacred honor”, the Lord Jesus. David Livingstone was really following in footsteps of apostle Paul, determined to end his life used up for the cause of Christ. Livingstone died 1500 miles into the interior of modern Zambia in southern Africa, as far from civilization as you can get! Paul’s life came to an end at the political center of civilization of his day. Both wore themselves out bringing the Gospel to those who had not previously heard the Good News.

God hasn’t called us to go hack a road into interior Africa for other missionaries to follow. Doesn’t expect us to be apostle to Gentiles like Paul. Hasn’t told us to buy one-way tickets to Siberia! Doesn’t mean we’re off the hook for finishing well. Also doesn’t mean our place in God’s plan has little value. True, Christ loved the church, gave himself for her; but as we heard from 1 Cor. 12 last week, the church is made up of individuals. Christ gave himself for each one of them individually who combined make up his body. In particular place of service God has given to us individually, expects us to serve well and finish well.

Some things we can learn from Paul’s example, what he expressed in these three verses, will help us finish well as he did. Paul considered the present in verse 6, past in verse 7, future in verse 8, all from perspective of “death row”.

A. content in the present v.6

the language of sacrifice – not the first time Paul has spoken that way

Rom. 12:1I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.

Phil. 2:17Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.

considered final page of his life a drink-offering

Num. 15:1, 5The Lord instructed Moses:“Prepare a quart of wine as a drink offering with the burnt offering or sacrifice of each lamb.”

giving of his life the last element of ritual, pouring the quart of wine over sacrificial lamb and then burnt

meant his life previously had been one of sacrifice, offered up to God as he begged his brothers to do

faced death without fear, resentment, regret

more on absence of fear later; Paul wasn’t neutral about dying, was “ready to go” and had been for a while

Phil. 1:23 For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.

welcomed death, not as escape but as entrance to life far more glorious

did not resent Nero’s expected sentence, did not consider his conviction as a criminal an injustice

saw it as way to identify with Christ, to participate in his suffering – another way he could in small degree be like his Master

believed it was a fitting end to life of sacrifice

had no regrets about state of Gospel ministry in the world and his part in it

by that I mean – was content that he had done his part and would leave behind those who would carry on the work

recognized he had his part, others had theirs; he had trained and mentored to best of his ability, the rest was up to God

his was a complete sacrifice, nothing left for him to add to it – pouring out the drink offering final step in ritual

B. satisfied with the past v.7

you’ve heard stories – quarterback ran ball for touchdown on wrong end of the field; horses in race collide, jockeys fall off, one rides wrong horse across finish line for the win. Ever look back on your life and wonder: was I in the right game? on the right side? doing the right thing?

Not Paul! In spite of appearances, how others might assess his performance, Paul was confident he had done well; was satisfied with record of his life as a Christian. Not perfect, but was convinced he had God’s approval of his work

competed well

was in the right game and had played to best of his ability – didn’t matter that it looked like he lost

Paul understood greatest enemies were unseen – Eph. 6:12For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

priority: doing his part to advance cause of Christ, to stand against the devil and his deceptions – the task of every Christian in place of service God assigns you

didn’t drop out

doesn’t say he won the race, says he finished the race; persevered, stayed on course when it was long and hard

Christian life not a 50-yard dash, it’s a marathon; some uphill, downhill, many opportunities to take wrong turns

requires moment-by-moment dependence on grace of God to not drop out, fail to finish

side note: God doesn’t call his children to be successful, to be winners; he calls them to be faithful, finishers; run the race so as to win, but more important than winning – run the whole race

guarded the truth

Paul was clear on the content of the truth – understood what was necessary to believe for salvation and sanctification: to be reconciled to God, declared righteous, adopted into the family, then to grow in Christ-likeness

guarded against those ideas and people who would distort the truth, exhorted others to do the same

warned elders from Ephesus about wolves; instructed Timothy and Titus how to recognize and refute error

to guard the truth, must be saturated with the truth – reading, studying, being taught from God’s Word regularly

C. anticipating the future v.8

Here is what caused Paul to anticipate rather than fear death – James (Jam 1:12) and John (Rev. 2:10) speak of “crown of life”, Peter a “crown of glory” (1 Pet. 5:4), Paul a “crown of righteousness”. No one can earn one of these crowns, no sinner saved by grace can contribute anything toward their purchase. Paul knew that: “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” (1 Cor. 15:10)

“…a man is justified freely through the grace of Christ, and yet God will render to him the reward of works; for as soon as God has received us into favor, he likewise accepts our works, so as even to condescend to give them a reward, though it is not due to them. …God crowns in us his own gifts.” Calvin

looked forward to the crown

describes it as “reserved for him”, has his name on it, waiting until right time to be given

no doubt in his mind but what it will be his, and all his brothers and sisters

looked forward to seeing the Judge

how is that possible? who of us would volunteer to go see the Judge? we all should…

Rom. 8:1-4There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”

crown not reserved only for the heroes! there’s one for all true believers

be easy to think: of course, Paul gets the crown; he was an apostle after all. Think of what he endured, what he accomplished, the legacy he left; it’s a no-brainer, he gets the gold.

what about the rest of us, rank and file Christians? what, if anything, do we have to anticipate?

Paul speaks of those “who have loved his appearing” – do you love his appearing? the first time? and the second time? Heb. 9:28 He came first time to be sacrifice for sin; second time to complete our salvation.

if you love his appearing, it’s because you love the one who will appear, can’t wait to see him; longer you’re separated, harder it is to bear

Paul, Peter, James and John all tell same story – on that Day, that “capital D Day”, when our Savior returns, he will do some thrilling and amazing things:

he will publicly declare before all humanity: these who have trusted in me for their salvation are my brothers and sisters; I gave my life for them, I purchased their redemption; they have been declared perfectly righteous in my Father’s eyes; it is my desire that they be with me where I am, that we spend all eternity together in my Father’s presence and under his loving eye

Lord Jesus will give to all his people their reward, Paul calls it a crown of righteousness – soul and body united forever, without any hint or possibility of sin, in perfect relationship with God and one another

King of kings and Lord of lords will then turn to rest of humanity – see, these are trophies of my grace, those whom I have redeemed from sin because I loved them

Do you want Lord Jesus to come back ASAP? Are you confident one of those crowns of righteousness laid up has your name on it? Stay the course, finish life well confident your future is secure in Christ, the one who loved you and gave himself for you.

Be Ready

2 Timothy 4:1-5

We live in a nation that has a number of unique characteristics. Many of them are good things, others are not good. One thing in second category, an issue of growing proportions, sets our country apart from rest of the world. That thing: obesity. Not confined to adults, affects ever younger children in growing numbers. TV show capitalizes on the problem, cities try to regulate soft drink sizes, diet schemes multiply, exercise programs seek to attract customers. At risk of being overly simplistic, let me identify root problem: for the most part, those who are obese eat what they want instead of what they need.

So what does that have to do with the Bethlehem candle and our text? Whether it’s physical or spiritual nourishment, people tend to act the same – consuming too much of what they want and not enough of what they need. Lord Jesus was born in Bethlehem; beth lechem, the house of bread. Later, during time of his ministry, Jesus had quite a bit to say about bread. He reminded Satan

Matthew 4:4 “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”

Day after performed miracle of feeding 5000 men plus women and children with 5 loaves 2 fishes, told those around

John 6.35“I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.”

John 6:51 “I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.”

People don’t need more Wonder Bread, need bread of life. Need to hear of their lost condition, the One who came to redeem them from sin and reconcile to holy God. Then need to hear how that holy God has a standard he expects his children to follow. Need to hear how God graciously equips and enables people to serve him wisely and well. To that end, Christ has given pastors and teachers to the church, those whose primary task is to declare the truth of God’s Word.

Timothy, pastor of local church in Ephesus is one Paul had foremost in view. However, Paul’s exhortation applies to all pastors and teachers. You’re probably thinking “I’m not one of them, guess I can catch a nap for next 20 minutes. Right?” Not so fast! Lord of the Church expects all his followers to “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” (1 Peter 3:15) Means everyone who claims to be a Christian should be prepared to speak truth from God’s Word as he gives opportunity.

A. seriousness of the charge v.1

adminstering oath of office – solemn charge

two things that let us know what Paul is about to say is big deal: first, significance of verse 6 – “the time of my departure is at hand.”

not talking about leaving town; means “the time of his death is near”, doesn’t have long to live

makes 2 Timothy Paul’s last writing that we have; gives added weight to what he wrote, making sure he covered what was of most importance

second, Paul’s choice of words; speaks solemnly, with great seriousness, as if adminstering oath of office

implies both responsibility and accountability – duty to carry out particular task, obligation to do so in way that meets with witness’s approval

had already written about important church issues in chapter 3 – difficult days and difficult people; this is up few notches in importance

God is witness

reminder that even though all of life is lived in God’s presence, some parts of life more important than others

God is particularly interested when we are communicating his truth to others – must remember goal is God’s approval

sure, we’re interested in results: people come to faith, grow in their faith, are equipped to share their faith

all of that is secondary; of utmost importance is we do what God has called us to do in way that pleases him

in his role as universal judge

1 Cor. 4:1-2Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.

not a call to be successful as man measures success; is call to be considered faithful steward of what has been entrusted

B. content of the charge v.2

preach the word – proclaim the message, loudly, confidently; pastor’s primary task is proclamation, not suggestion or discussion

incumbent on all believers to speak truth of God whenever there is need and opportunity – should do so without arrogance or apology

must be ready to do so whether convenient or not, whether well-received or not

declare what’s right – for people of God to live pleasing to God, must be taught right way to live; God’s Word says much about what God expects, his people need to hear it

correct what’s wrong – declaring right is only half of what is needed, correcting wrong is just as necessary, maybe more so; far more sources of error than of what is right – means lots of opportunities for being misled

rebuke sin and error – this is part people like the least, unless it’s the other guy the preacher is talking to; but,…since all of us still have tendency to sin, we all need to be warned about sin and its consequences

exhort to do right – even though we’re redeemed sinners, we live in fallen world; doing right is hard, takes great effort and much encouragement to live godly life day by day

with patience – we live in fast-paced world, are accustomed to getting results quickly; often don’t see immediate results when God’s Word is proclaimed and applied, true regardless of setting

must be patient, allow time for Word to penetrate, Holy Spirit to convict and work in heart and mind of believer

overcoming sin is process, not an event; more than halfway through Paul’s ministry, said he hadn’t yet arrived but still needed to press on (Phil. 3:12)

with instruction – simply declaring truth is not enough; must be followed by explanation and application

Nehemiah 8:8So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading.

if people of God are to be “doers of the word and not hearers only” (Jas. 1:22) must know how it applies in daily life

C. necessity of the charge v.3-4

people want affirmation, not correction; entertainment, not exhortation

first choice to hear what you’re doing right, not how you got it all wrong; don’t judge me, don’t tell me what to do

too many want to leave worship feeling good about themselves rather than good about God; if that’s result, may have been worshipping something other than God

if we love brothers and sisters, if we love the lost – must tell what they need to hear, whether comfortable or popular or not

they grow resistant to the truth when it requires change – “the time will come”

those who hang about the meetinghouse out of habit, for social reasons, will reach saturation point: I’ve heard this enough, don’t need it anymore, all it does is make me feel uncomfortable

temptation is to back off, be less bold in declaring truth, applying truth; stick to safe topics, things everyone can agree on

follow myths even when they know it’s a lie

had opportunity to visit Baikal Museum; tour guide waxed eloquent on wonders and mysteries of evolution, thoroughly perplexed by how salt-water critters ended up in fresh-water lake! speculations got more and more outlandish, made it hard to keep straight face. Couldn’t hold it any longer, laughed out loud; he got embarassed, didn’t want to discuss; just picked up the pace, hurried through rest of exhibits.

D. response to the charge v.5

how did Paul expect Timothy to respond to his charge? and, how should we respond in 21st century?

don’t be distracted by hype – keep your head

don’t focus on church down the street, ministry in next town, the results they claim to be getting – multiple campuses and services, hundreds of people, live stream on internet, etc., etc.

remember God’s expectation: faithfulness; proclaim God’s truth confidently and humbly, leave results to God

side note: most measures of success people use have little or no connection with measure God uses

don’t be surprised by hardship

truth is often resisted, sometimes violently or cruelly; Jesus spoke the truth, look what happened to him

many who followed for a while abandoned him – church members, friends and even family can do that to us

some aren’t content to “let it go”; have to make issue out of it, ridicule the messenger and the message

more challenging – some try to force acceptance of their beliefs

season your preaching with the Gospel

all people need to hear the Gospel, repeatedly; keeps our attention on Christ, reminds us we can find forgiveness and reconciliation in Him

should also be true of day to day conversations – season all we say with God’s truth, make sure principles we express and promote are biblical ones

do all that God has called you to do

your calling: to be a faithful steward of what has been entrusted to you – both understanding of biblical truth and ministry gift given for benefit of others

called to model godliness before others, to serve one another, to give witness to hope we have of eternal life

It’s time of year when people expect to hear something about the baby in the manger. Ask God to give you opportunities, boldness, right words to clearly communicate his truth to those who need to hear. Regardless of what people have on their shopping list, everyone needs the “bread of life”. We know where to find it in unending supply. Our task is to keep ourselves supplied, regularly going to Christ for our needs; our task also to point others to the Savior, that they may receive what will abundantly satisfy their need.

The Church – The Body of Christ

1 Corinthians 12:4-27

A peculiarity of some American churches is their absence of diversity, often because they are “designed” that way. Cowboy church, skateboard church, churches filled with homeschoolers or single parents and their children or urban professionals in their twenties and thirties. There is nothing wrong with being a cowboy, riding a skateboard, homeschooling, single-parenting, or professional life. But this sort of single interest group church has great weaknesses – everyone has the same needs and experiences and problems and lacks the same resources to meet those needs.

Now, on the other hand, diversity often comes with problems, too. The Lord Jesus being an expert on human nature knew that; he knew there would be challenges in this church he said he would build. That is why Jesus prayed the way he did there in the Garden:

John 17:11 “Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are.”

Once for his immediate followers, the Eleven, then four times for all his people –

John 17:20-23 “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.”

For Jesus to pray that particularly and repeatedly about a single issue must mean it’s really important to him. God in his loving-kindness has given guidance through his Word about this; he hasn’t left us to figure it out on our own. Both diversity and unity are essential to a healthy local church. How should we view and use this great blessing of diversity? It is, after all, the Holy Spirit who has granted a variety of gifts and people to the church!

A. diversity in community v.4-6, 8-12

diversity of

gifts (4)

Paul does not have in mind here what we think of as natural talents or abilities that a Christian possesses before conversion. Those talents may act as the starting place, the foundation from which the Holy Spirit builds and works. The spiritual gifts in view are demonstrations of the Holy Spirit at work through a believer equipping him or her to serve Christ by serving the church.

Since the body of Christ has a wide variety of needs, Christ by his Spirit grants to his people a variety of gifts to meet those needs. When God draws together individuals to form up a local church body, he usually brings all different sorts of people to the group: single people, married couples, families, adults, children, plus a variety of educational and employment backgrounds. Each believer in that group has been given a particular gift needed by the group for its spiritual health.

service (5)

Even a small local church has opportunity and need for different ministries because of the variety in people and their needs we just mentioned. The opportunities for service extend out into the community beyond the church body, but the focus first is on one another. When God grants a gift to a believer, God expects the gift to be used for the good of others. When the Holy Spirit demonstrates his presence in a believer, the individual Christian benefits and his brothers and sisters should benefit also.

activities / effects (6)

Paul makes an important point here in verse 6, don’t miss it! God has given a diverse collection of gifts to the local church to be used in many different kinds of service. The various acts of service will have a wide variety of results. But here is the point of the verse: it is God who produces the results. God grants the gift, God empowers the believer to use the gift, God accompanies the exercise of the gift, God produces the effects of the gift. There is no room for boasting here: it is God working through means of his choosing who accomplishes the results.

same Spirit / Lord / God responsible for directing all

God does not work against himself

Verses 4, 5, and 6 make the same point: it is all the same God who is responsible for giving gifts and producing results.

God has unified purpose throughout all time and place

Isaiah 46:9-10 Remember the former things of old, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,'”

three persons of Godhead work in concert to accomplish God’s one purpose

The Lord Jesus himself said in Mark 3:25 “If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.” God cannot be God and work against himself – Father, Son and Spirit are one and work together as one. That holds true for his distribution of gifts, too!

if God is one in his gifting various gifts, believers should be one in exercise of those gifts

should not be in competition – that’s a primary point of this chapter

The Lord Jesus hours before his death prayed for us: he prayed John 17:21 “that they all may be on, …that they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.” For us to be answers to the Lord Jesus’ prayer, brothers and sisters cannot compete in the area of spiritual gifts. They must act together for the benefit of the body and to reach the lost.

healthy local church has broad diversity of resources among its people

should recognize and value that diversity as a good gift from God

When we look at the created world, we see variety and diversity everywhere; at the end of day six of creation, God looked at what he had done and declared it “very good”. The wide range of gifts God gives to his people is also very good and necessary to a healthy church.

should not try to force everyone into same mold – that’s contrary to God’s purpose

It is true that our destiny as believers is to be conformed to the image of Christ. However, that doesn’t mean we are to all become identical. We will have a family resemblance; others should recognize us as the people of God who are divinely equipped to serve one another.

B. gifts are for the common good v.7

every believer displays outward evidence (manifestation) of the indwelling Holy Spirit

There aren’t some who have outward evidence of the indwelling Spirit and others who don’t. There is no second blessing, no higher level of Christian living evidenced by a particular spiritual gift. Notice verse 7: ” the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one“.

one sort of evidence – the fruit (evidence) identified in Gal. 5:22-23

Just like an apple tree bears apples, a cucumber vine produces cucumbers, and you find tomatoes, not peppers, on a tomato plant. In the same way, Christians display outward evidence of the indwelling Spirit’s presence. “But the fruit [the evidence] of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”

another sort – talents or abilities given by God to the believer

A further evidence of the Holy Spirit’s activity in the life of the believer is the exercise of their spiritual gift – using their God-given ability for the benefit of brothers and sisters in the body of Christ.

gifts are granted with expectation that they will be used – see parable of the talents Matt. 25:14-30

These gifts are described as a “manifestation of the Spirit” – they must be exercised in order to be manifested. It is when believers use their gifts in service to others that the Holy Spirit’s presence and activity is demonstrated.

primary beneficiary of gifts – others, in particular the church

You will receive a blessing and benefit when you use your gift but only when you use it for the good of others. That is why God gave it to you, to be his hands and feet ministering to the needs of the body of Christ.

It is important to recognize God relates to people both individually and collectively – he has both the individual and the body in view. How God equips and works through the individual is for the benefit of the group. And, God works through the activity of the group for the benefit of each individual.

C. each part needs the body v.14-16

just as there is design to human body

no human body part can function independently of the body

We have a fellow in the church at White Rock who had run equipment for years and then one day he got careless. He lost most of his thumb and two fingers to a table saw. Once those parts were severed from his hand they stopped functioning; they couldn’t move on their own, they couldn’t grip anything any longer.

cannot thrive and grow independently of the body

Dale’s fingers not only ceased functioning, they could no longer grow and repair and thrive cut off from their supply of nutrients. To be healthy, they need to be attached to blood vessels and nerves so they can be fed and stimulated.

will die if separated from the body long enough

It took long enough for Dale to get medical treatment that his fingers could not be reattached. Because they were not being nourished, the tissue in them began to die. Dale’s experience was all in the physical realm but there are some pretty close parallels in the spiritual realm.

so there is parallel design to body of Christ

biblical model of church has more than one member!

All of the language the Bible uses to talk about the church makes it clear that a true church is made up of members, plural not singular. It is called an assembly, a house, a nation, living stones. Just as our physical bodies are made up of many parts, so the body of Christ is made of many parts.

God’s design is that functions carried out by other church members are essential to growth of individual

Each body part has its own function, so each part of the body of Christ has a particular function and purpose. Some parts overlap in their function, some are more essential to life and health than others. For the individual members of a local church to grow an mature the way God intends, they need what other parts of the body supply – encouragement, instruction, correction, support and help.

believer risks losing spiritual vitality (not salvation) if “going it alone” for long period of time

If a believer is separated from a local church for an extended time, they are at risk just like a body part that has been cut off. The believer cannot lose his salvation but he can lose his spiritual vitality, his spiritual liveliness. We in the body of Christ need one another.

D. the body needs each part v.18-22

yes, the appendix is useful and necessary part of our design

There are parts of the human body that doctors for a long time thought were unnecessary. They were wrong; we really don’t have spare parts.

same is true of every part of Christ’s body

We may not fully understand the purpose of each part, but that’s our problem: ignorance. If the Lord of the church has brought someone into fellowship with a local body, it is because they are needed in that church. The church needs them, each one for a purpose determined by God. Paul speaks in Eph. 4:16 of “the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies”. When parts are missing, the body is incomplete.

We also know the Holy Spirit doesn’t make mistakes in his granting of gifts to local church bodies. Our job is to trust his guidance and provision, not fully comprehend what God is doing.

some general characteristics common to all churches but with individual variation

Just as all human bodies have basically the same parts, so do local churches. Paul left Titus on the island of Crete for a specific reason: “to set in order the remaining matters and to appoint elders in every town” (Titus 1:5) The model from the beginning was that each church would have shepherds. There would be others as God supplied to take up the work of teaching and serving and administering and evangelizing the lost.

Just as most all humans are distinctive, so local churches are distinctive; each is fitted, specifically equipped for their particular time and place. The challenges facing residents of Ust-Kut, Siberia and Gorham, Maine while similar in some respects are in other ways quite different. Christ’s church in Ust-Kut is supplied by God with the people and resources necessary to fulfill God’s purpose for Ust-Kut. The same is true for White Rock Church in Gorham. Because our communities are different with different challenges, our churches will have some differences, too.

if an essential part is missing, health and growth of church is compromised

An essential part of the body of Christ can be present in church but missing in action. It is the duty of every Christian to be connected to a local church and involved in the work of the church. Simply being present for worship, even being a recognized member of the local church is not enough. The people of God must be involved in the work of God if Christ’s church is to be healthy and grow as it should.

One final important point: each local body of believers is an essentially complete church but it is not the whole church. The local church is dependent on Christ working through its members to supply its needs; the whole church present in the world is dependent on Christ working through local churches to supply its needs. Just as members need one another, so local churches need one another.

We’ve seen that in action in the last several weeks – our church and Christ Fellowship Church working to help meet needs at Rock of Salvation Church in Siberia, all done with the supporting prayer of several other church families. By God’s grace this will continue – God will use us here to be an encouragement and help to other parts of the body around the world. Our task: follow God’s leading, depend on his grace and strength to serve Christ by serving one another.

Be People of the Word

2 Timothy 3:16-17

If people of God are to be disciples and make disciples, must be people of the Word. Especially true given the times in which we live, the people who surround us. Remember how Chapter 3 begins: “in the last days perilous times will come.” What does it mean, perilous times? Means we are surrounded by dangers – ideas and statements and ways of thinking and living contrary to God and his laws. Every one of them has potential to sidetrack us, derail our Christian life and witness (not ultimately, but you know what I mean).

Not just the people, its also the purposefully deceptive ideas that are promoted as truth or stated as fact. Find some fossils, taken for granted they’re millions of years old; people look at you funny if you question it. Of course we all worship the same God; who would doubt that? It isn’t right for me but who am I to tell you what to do? SImply showing respect for other people isn’t enough; must also approve of what they believe, their lifestyle choice, their living arrangement. The list is truly endless – for every right belief or principle, thousands of ways to pervert or distort.

So how do we know what is true and good, what should serve as standard by which to compare, to judge everything else? The Christian must go back to beginning presupposition: there is a God and he has spoken to us in his Word. The standard, then, is the Bible. No higher standard, no greater authority than Word of God. Even miraculous signs do not have power to convince where God’s Word fails – remember rich man and Lazarus: “if they don’t hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.” Luke 16:27-31

We, then, must be people of the Word: because it is God’s word and comes with his authority; because it is useful and accomplishes his purpose; because it is sufficient for God’s people. We can reach God’s goal for us by following his word; and, that is the only way to achieve holiness.

A. because it is God’s word v.16a authority

when God speaks with purpose, things happen – see Psa. 33:6By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host.”

sometimes when we speak, response is “hold the phone, gotta think about it”; not so when God speaks

the form by which we receive God’s word is not important: his word has come in visions, by audible voice, through prophets, by his Son, through his written word – all carry equal weight of authority to intended audience

authors are inspired – see 2 Pet. 1:21For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

when we say biblical writers were inspired as they spoke or wrote, what does it mean? Means they spoke or wrote what God intended to communicate; were empowered and guided by Holy Spirit as they communicated

Bible is not a product of 40 men’s reasoning and writing abilities alone; they were instruments guided unerringly by God himself

God did not overrule personal style; he did ensure that what they wrote precisely communicated what God intended

and word of God is inspired

the claim Paul makes: all scripture is God-breathed – not just that God directed authors to communicate right ideas, valid principles

the writers of the Bible wrote exactly what God would have written had he chosen to do so right down to precise choice of words

e.g. Jesus said Exodus 3:6 proves the resurrection (Matt. 22:31-32) “And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.”

not “I was”, not “I used to be”, not “I will be”, “I am the God… of people who have died”; must mean they are still living since “God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.”

all of Bible the word of God

the Law and the Prophets and the Writings and the Gospels and Epistles were not put on probation: let’s see how they do, how well they last, if people keep checking them out of the library

received as word of God from beginning – see 1 Thess. 2:13when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God”

when there’s reference in Bible about Bible, no exceptions made, no distinctions between validity of one part and another

words in red have no greater weight than ones in black; it’s all God’s word

NT has no greater importance or weight of authority than OT; it’s all God’s word

doesn’t contain the word of God, it is the word of God

Jesus himself said: “Scripture cannot be broken”; cannot pit one part of scripture against another, has no weak points, stands or falls as a comprehensive whole

means we must submit to the authority of all of it as from God

I confess that sometimes I come across a text which does not, at first blush, agree with other teachings of Scripture which I have already received—and this startles me for the moment. But one thing is settled in my heart, namely, that I will follow the Scripture wherever it leads me and that I will renounce the most cherished opinion rather than shape a text or alter a syllable of the Inspired Book. It is not mine to make God’s Word consistent, but to believe that it is so! …Sometimes I say to myself, “I did not think to find this Truth to be just so, but as it is so, I must bow. It is rather awkward for my theory, but I must alter my system, for the Scripture cannot be broken.”” CHS

B. because it is useful v.16b

not simply that Bible serves that purpose, was given precisely to accomplish these things

Isa 55.11 when God spoke and his instruments listened and then wrote, God had purpose in mind; God did not simply speak, hope someone would hear and respond

God spoke, knowing how he would accompany his word, how he would apply it to harden or soften as he purposed

God’s purpose is comprehensive – you and I and great-great-great-great-grandchildren just as much a part of it as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob

means God’s word is relevant to all people in all places at all times

useful for these purposes

teaching – God’s word is where we find all truth we need to live pleasing to God

who am I? why am I here? where am I going? how do I know God? how do I please my employer? how do I love my wife? what about raising kids? what do I do about temptation? how should I relate to others? what’s the best way to handle my money? what is acceptable worship?

to live rightly before God, draw closer to God, point others to God, we must know God and have wisdom from God – God has given his word and his Spirit, both are essential

warning – how we’ve gone wrong

Bible doesn’t mince words – calls sin what it is, sin, an offense against a holy God

Bible is like good friend who says “you wanna ruin your life for sure, keep going in that direction”

Bible also makes plain how something seemingly innocent can lead to serious sin

reproof that, when heeded, leads to repentance – turning away from sin

correction – how to go right

common way parents (and others) exasperate children: tell them all they’ve done wrong, not how to do what’s right

God’s word doesn’t make that mistake; if you’ve done this, if you’re in this kind of situation, here’s hope

confess sin, seek forgiveness, be reconciled, depend on God and move forward

discipling – training in righteousness

Jesus told followers work of discipling involves “teaching [others] to observe all he has commanded”

why are churches filled with wimps – spiritual babies, unequipped to stand and serve? the Word no longer central

It seems that down south, some recent excavations for a new highway had contributed to causing a flash flood. Volunteers risked their lives to rescue victims stranded in the deluge. One old man was up to his knees in the fast-rising waters when a rowboat came. “Hop in, we’ll save you!” “No thanks, the Lord will provide.” A short while later, a motor boat was sent to save him. By this time the swirling waters were over his waist, but again he declined: “No thanks, the Lord will provide.”

Soon the water was up to his chin, so a helicopter was dispatched at the last minute. “Climb aboard, this is your last chance!” “Thanks anyway, but I don’t need you, the Lord will provide.” Before the helicopter returned home, the old man was mad as a hornet, banging on the Pearly Gates. He bitterly complained to St. Peter, “The last thing I remember I was in trouble, praying up a storm, so why did you let me drown?”

St. Peter looked at him, shook his head, and explained: “We sent you two boats and a helicopter. What more do you want?”

Sadly, take similar attitude in other circumstances – looking for magic bullet, whiz-bang program instead of what God has provided – his word. Must be people of the word, must be central in church life and all of life.

C. because it is sufficient v.17

accomplishes God’s purpose – ίνα – so that

profitable, useful for a particular purpose – to change the one who is taught by it, submissive to its authority

brings to maturity – complete

only Bible is sufficient to bring person of God to maturity, competent and capable to serve God by serving his people

equips for holiness – good work

Bible equips people of God to live right and serve well by following Christ – “he went about doing good”

equips people of God to draw others to God, making disciples as Lord of the church expects us to do

According to the story, Karl Barth was fielding questions from the audience after a lecture in Rockefeller Chapel on the campus of the University Chicago in 1962. A student stood and asked him if he could summarize his [50 years’] life’s work in theology in one sentence. According to the story a gasp went up from the audience–responding to the student’s perceived audaciousness. Also, according to the story, Barth didn’t skip a beat. He said (paraphrasing) “Yes. In the words of a song I learned at my mother’s knee: ‘Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so’.”

Song may have been written for children but applies to grown-ups, too. We know of love of God, redemption through Christ, closeness of the Holy Spirit and hope of heaven because the Bible tells us so.

Be Faithful

2 Timothy 3:10-15

Spiritual faithfulness not automatic – “There has been serious sin in my life for which God has graciously brought me to repentance. I have confessed my sin to my wife and family, my local church, and the board of Vision Forum Ministries. I engaged in a lengthy, inappropriate relationship with a woman. While we did not “know” each other in a Biblical sense, it was nevertheless inappropriately romantic and affectionate.” Sadly, stands in lengthy line of others who have failed to stay the course spiritually and morally.

Remember Jesus’ last bit of instruction to his disciples:

Matt. 28:18-20 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Go… and make disciples… teaching them to observe all things. Desperately need disciples, especially ones who are faithful. What is involved in making disciples? And what does it mean to be a disciple, a faithful one? Short answer – look at Paul and Timothy. Paul wasn’t out to take short-cuts, didn’t see it as his job to make converts. Timothy wasn’t interested only in the goodies of the Christian life, he desired God. Showed in Paul’s discipling methods, Timothy’s life choices.

Now put that in the context of “perilous times”. Times when the church, the people of God are under great pressure to conform or compromise. God’s people need strong and faithful leaders, who remain true to God and his word. Need also to be good and faithful followers who by God’s grace and the power of his Spirit make other faithful followers. To carry out Jesus’ directive to make disciples, must be leading people in a lifestyle, not taking them to an event. True conversion is not momentary trip down rabbit trail, it’s radically transformed life.

A. a disciple follows v.10-12

“you have carefully followed” – you remember the childhood game, follow the leader; presupposes there is a leader to follow. Making disciples means making followers; yes, we’re following Jesus, but we can’t see him, we can only get so much from the Bible, need people with skin on to follow. That’s why Jesus gave and gives leaders to his church – pastors and teachers and small-group leaders and others who have opportunities to make disciples.

Don’t forget, we’re all disciples; even though others may be following us we must be following the Lord Jesus. A good disciple who is faithful not only follows the right leader, he stays on course for the duration.

doctrine / teaching

Once again, have a list of pretty important things and order is important. Of these 9 things, what is of first importance? Doctrine! A faithful child of God must first and foremost be concerned with following right doctrine. Since “things lead to things”, what you believe determines how you respond in the other 8 areas. But, you say, doctrine divides. Yes, it does; divides truth from error, divides hope from despair, divides life from death. One who follows true doctrine will have genuine hope/confidence of eternal life.

Paul declared his readiness, his purpose to “preach the gospel” (Rom. 1:15) His doctrine started with Creation and covered all the good news between then and the Second Coming (see Acts 17:22-31). Timothy followed Paul’s doctrine, proclaimed it to his congregation in Ephesus; has continued to be the pattern down to present day. We must continue, faithfully following inspired authoritative teaching of God’s Word and leading others to do the same.

manner of life / conduct

Said it before, it’s in the text again: cannot expect people to listen to witness without credibility. Here’s what we’re saying: God’s Word applied by God’s Spirit results in a transformed life. Do you believe that? Do you want others to believe it? Then live it. Timothy could follow Paul’s way of life, his conduct, without contradicting principles Paul taught. Same should be true of us – when we give testimony of our faith to others, evidence of our faith should be obvious in way we think and live and act. Should be able by God’s grace to say to family member or neighbor or co-worker: “You want to live a Christian life? Follow me.”

purpose

Paul’s purpose: read Phil. 3:8-11 Not simply that nothing else matters, it’s that everything else must get out of the way so that he may know Christ, gain Christ, be found in Christ, have the righteousness of Christ, know the power of Christ’s resurrection, fellowship in Christ’s sufferings, be conformed to Christ’s death.

Timothy followed Paul’s purpose and ended up at the feet of Christ. Those who follow us and our example and purpose should end up at the same place – one with Christ, in fellowship with Christ, like Christ.

faith

Early on in his writing ministry Paul declared “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Gal. 2:20)

Once again, brought to object of faith, Paul’s and Timothy’s: “faith in the Son of God”. See how we keep coming back to Christ! The Lord Jesus must be the only object of our faith; we must faithfully follow Christ and lead others to Christ that they may know him and live by faith in him.

longsuffering / patience

Here’s real test of faithfulness: need for patience, for being longsuffering. But when you’re involved in Gospel ministry public or private, will have many opportunities to develop patience. Paul demonstrated patience in dealing with believers and unbelievers, Timothy followed his example. Both showed in relationships with others that Holy Spirit was at work in their lives. If we are to lead unbelievers to Christ and lead believers to be more Christ-like, must be patient, must demonstrate evidence of Holy Spirit’s power.

love

There’s no either-or here: either a love for the truth or love for people. Paul loved both: truth as embodied in Lord Jesus, people as those in need of faith in Christ and relationship with him. Loving both showed in sacrifices Paul made for sake of truth, willingness to speak truth with firm compassion. He commended Timothy for carefully following that model.

It’s easy to love some folks, not so easy to love others, unwaveringly show love of Christ to all we encounter. Two examples: Paul, Silas beaten and thrown in jail, locked up in the stocks. Earthquake, everyone free, jailer ready for suicide, Paul shares the Gospel with him and baptizes him same night. That’s love of Christ in action. On first missionary journey.

More than a decade later: Phil. 1:12-13I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.”

perseverance / endurance

That Paul persevered is obvious in his writing: think about names we’ve given to his letters. First and Second: Corinthians, Thessalonians, Timothy. Didn’t give up on situations or churches. Didn’t chuck it all when looked like all the world was against him – how many times would you endure court administered beating? Paul did 8 times. How many times at risk of shipwreck? 3 times. List goes on. Many of those things Timothy endured with Paul. Whether easy or hard, faithful follower perseveres, enduring whatever comes, all for sake of Christ and his Gospel.

persecution and suffering (afflictions)

Satan is clever foe, the form persecution takes not always kind Paul describes in 2 Cor. 11:22-29. What Timothy suffered was different in Ephesus from what Paul endured in Roman prison. What you and I experience will be different still. Take a Bible to school or workplace, see what happens. Stand up for Biblical definition of marriage. Refuse to listen to gossip, declare there is only one way to heaven, honor the Lord’s Day (all of it) – just a few ways to become lightning rod.

But that’s what a faithful disciple does. And is prepared to take the heat that will inevitably come. If not today, then tomorrow. But as faithful as disciple is to follow Paul’s example and teaching and truth of God’s Word, God is even more faithful – to deliver us when it suits his purpose, to strengthen us in suffering when that brings glory to him.

B. a disciple continues v.13-15

on course (13-14a)

Faithful disciple stays the course in spite of purposeful deception – evil people, charlatans / impostors whose sole purpose is to sell a lie, end up falling into own lies. Remember who it is who set the course, who walked it first – our sympathetic High Priest, Lord Jesus himself. Charles Sheldon wrote book years ago, source of WWJD question; entitled his book “In His Steps“. Must be walking in his steps, following course of faithfulness to Lord Jesus. Requires constant course corrections, constant dependence on God’s grace, constant attention to God’s Word. More on our dependence on God’s Word next week.

confidently (14b)

Disciple, a follower of Lord Jesus continues faithful because has rock-solid confidence in what he believes. It is two-fold confidence: an assurance that the source of truth is reliable and the teacher is likewise faithful to the truth. For Timothy, source of truth same as ours but “slimmed down” didn’t have complete NT but had all the rest. We like Timothy have “full persuasion and assurance of its infallible truth and divine authority [that] comes from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.” LFBC 1.5 We also have confidence in teachers God supplies to his church as applied and corrected when necessary by the Holy Spirit.

correctly (15a)

We, too, must continue correctly in our following the Lord Jesus; only 100% correct source of guidance is the very Word of God. But… to follow the Scriptures, like Timothy we must know them, must be acquainted with them, know what they say and how the truths contained in them apply. Not just in our heads, in our hearts. Not just in our heads and hearts, in our actions – choices and decisions and priorities reflecting principles found in God’s Word. Someone asks WWJD? Should be able to look at us and say, “Oh, that’s what he would do”.

wisely (15b)

Much passes for wisdom these days. Only one place we’ll find God’s wisdom, wisdom that makes man’s attempts look pretty foolish. That place: Christ, the one “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge”. (Col. 2:3) Christ and his wisdom are revealed to us in the pages of Scripture, Old and New Testament. We must have Christ and his wisdom if we are to be saved.

Important concept here: Christ does not offer salvation apart from himself. You can’t take the gift without the giver. Means we must be following Christ, reflecting Christ in our lives, leading people to Christ, that they may experience his transforming power as the Gospel takes root in their minds and hearts and lives. If we are to be effective in leading others to Christ and to be more like Christ, must be sure first we are following Christ. Faithfully. Like Paul and Timothy did. Must have credible life that comes from full dependence on God and his grace. Then,… must speak up; faith comes by what? Hearing, hearing the Word of God. May God by his Spirit enable us to speak often, faithful to his Word, bringing words of hope and life to people still in darkness.