Friday, June 22, 2018

2 Timothy 2:11-13 "Dying with Jesus – Living with Jesus"

Last time   I had to cut my sermon short, and I am glad I did, because I could not do justice  to the  last few verses  that  I wanted to cover. They are deserving of  so much more  attention  than I originally  had planned for. This is the mystery of preaching.  I  often find that  after I have carefully  prepared my manuscript, that the burden  of the text  grows on my soul while I am preaching, and it  goes beyond that which I have written. 
The old preachers called this phenomenon ‘unction’, (Holy  Spirit directed counsel) and the problem with ‘unction’ sometimes is  that it clashes with time! There is always so much more to say and to unpack and to connect from the sacred text.   So, due to time constraints  I had to leave out my last point, and  in one sense I am glad that I did.

Last time  I  spoke to you from  2 Tim.1:13-14, under the heading “Guard the Good Deposit”. We saw that the good deposit is the gospel  and the leading question we asked was,  how is the gospel to be guarded? I attempted to answer this question from  the immediate context  in 1:13 - 2:13 in terms of  4 observations, and  flowing from the text.  
We saw that:  
1.     The gospel  must  be guarded in Timothy’s (and our)  own hearts and lives.(vv. 13,14)
2.     We must ensure  that we raise up a future generation of faithful gospel messengers (vv.1-2) so that the testimony about Jesus is guarded in every generation.
3.      We  must  remember that the gospel  will not be guarded without  suffering (vv. 3-10).   Paul uses three illustrations (a  single minded soldier ; a  diligent athlete  and a hardworking farmer) to show us  anything worth  guarding will need to be done with  hard work and suffering.
4.     And now the point that I did not  complete  is found in that trustworthy saying  in vv. 11-13.  And here we are helped to see  that in  the guarding of the gospel we must hold on to the gospel by holding on to our faithful Lord  Jesus.

So by way of a summary,
·   hold on to, and  guard   the gospel  in yourself through the help of the Holy Spirit (1:14).
·   make sure that the gospel is guarded by handing it on  to faithful men in subsequent generations  who will be able to teach others (2:2)
·   do not expect to  have an easy  task. Suffering is part of holding on to the gospel. Many unfortunately cannot handle this (see 1:15; 4:10).  But you must persevere. Remember the end is in sight. This is how Paul comes to his insight in 2:10, when he says, “Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they may also obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.” Paul knew how to endure, persevere  and hold on to the gospel for the sake of the future church! 

Brothers and sisters, we have Christ and heaven to gain and eternal separation from God and hell to shun!  Persevere, endure, share in this light momentary suffering for the sake of the gospel. Hold on and guard that good deposit for your own sake and for the sake of your children and those that come after you. Paul makes this point with the help of a trustworthy saying. There are, incidentally five  such ‘trustworthy sayings’  found  in the three pastoral epistles.[1] These trustworthy saying are, as one might expect,  truths  well understood, well known and well accepted  and often repeated  sayings among Christians. Perhaps   these were memorable words from  an ancient hymn of the church. Perhaps it was something  which   a convert recited this  at his or her baptism. We don’t know,  but our text  in 2:11-13 is one of these  faithful sayings  and it  is   written in poetic form  and each line begins with the word ‘if’ (Greek ‘ei’) followed by an implied ‘then’.

·   If we have died with Christ… (then)  we will also live with  Christ.
·   If we endure or persevere in this Christian life (then) we will also reign with  Christ.
·   If we deny Christ (then) He will also deny us.
·  If we are faithless to Christ (then) He still remains faithful, for He cannot be  false to Himself.

Let us consider these 4 lines of this trustworthy saying, as we need to be encouraged to hold on to that Good deposit of the gospel, for which Paul endured everything for the sake of the elect. Let us keep our course through this often challenging, confusing life by looking to Jesus. He is the subject of our text. He is our goal. Let us further learn from this text how to persevere with the gospel:

1.     If we have died with Him, we will also live with Him.
A wonderful promise!  We find these words also in Romans 6:5, and they are implied in Colossians 2:13.  This is a KEY TRUTH for Christians. It speaks about our identification in the death of Christ and in the resurrection of Christ. This is what is reflected in baptism.  
It all begins when you become a Christian.  You are introduced to Jesus, and in looking to Him you are not left untouched by Him.  He leaves you with a sense of deeply feeling your sin and at once He lets you know that He is the solution  to your problem. And you cast your sin burden on to Him. You embrace Him for all that He is. He is God’s solution to your sin. And you embrace Him for the work that He came to do for the world, in the cross and in the resurrection from the dead. You see that He is the Way to God, and then you believe  and  repent. You turn from your sinful, self- centered life to Jesus , and in response you receive His  forgiving grace and mercy.  You know  that the death that Jesus died  was for  you.  You now know that you have a hope and a future in heaven. You know that not only the first part of the sentence is true (If we have died with him). You know that the second part is also true, “We will also live with Him.” When you become a Christian you truly begin to live now, but more so, you will also live in eternity.  

2.     If we endure (then) we will also reign with Him.
The Bible leaves us in no doubt that we need to show our true commitment to Christ by enduring or by persevering. How do we endure? We endure by continually holding on to that good deposit. We endure by not being like Phygelus and Hermogenes (1:15); We endure by being like Onesiphorus who was not ashamed of the gospel (1:16); we endure by being strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus (2:1). We endure by understanding and accepting that suffering for the sake of the gospel (i.e. following Christ) is a part of this present life. We endure by thinking like a focused soldier and like a diligent athlete and like a hard working farmer (2:3-6). We endure by remembering Jesus risen from the dead. We endure everything for the sake of the elect ( God’s chosen people yet to come into the fold)  for whose sake we labour in an evangelistic sense  that they may obtain the salvation  that is in Christ Jesus  with eternal glory (2:10). That is how we endure, and if we endure we may be sure that we will obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory, and we will be welcomed into eternal dwellings: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”  So brothers and sisters, keep the goal in view. The heavenly city is in sight. Stay on the narrow road. We shall live with Him and we shall reign with Him. Remember Stephen (Acts 7:54 ff). As he was being killed he was given a vision of the risen, exalted Lord Jesus Christ. He saw heaven opened and he saw our Lord Jesus standing beside  the  throne,  to welcome him. There from that throne we will judge men and angels. We will reign with Christ. Endure - wait for the promised reward! These are  key concepts in our Christian thinking. 

3.     If we deny Him (then) He will also deny us.
The third  aspect of this trustworthy saying makes reference to  the  words of the Lord Jesus  in Matthew 10:32-33, “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.”  There will be  many  to whom He will say on that day : “Depart from me, I never knew you.” (Matt. 7:21-23). He will deny them.  There  were those at the trial  and the  cross of Jesus said, “We will not have this man rule over us.”  He will deny them at the judgement  and worse still  He will  throw  them into  a place of everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels and all that deny Him. There are those in time and history  who had no time and gave no place to the Lord Jesus in their lives. They  misused His name , His Word , His Day, His people, His Holy Spirit, His worship and these people will be disowned by Jesus before his Father in heaven.  Hell is awaiting  them. Hell is the terrible logic of rejecting and denying Christ. Be warned. This is a trustworthy saying. “If we deny him, he will also deny us.”

4. If we are faithless (then) He remains faithful for He cannot  deny Himself
We can understand this in two senses, and both are  possible:

   a.     It can mean that Jesus remains faithful  to His righteousnessand justice.  In that sense we think of Jesus when He warned the Pharisees (“Woe you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites”-Matt. 23) and when He spoke of two destinations, of sheep and goats, saved and lost, light and darkness. This Jesus is  faithful in His faithful  righteousness and justice  to exercise punishment on  those who deny Him,  because He cannot deny the justice and holiness of His own  being.
   b.  But it can also mean that the Lord  Jesus, despite our faithlessness  can chose to remain faithful.  Let’s  face it. None of us never sins. None  are ever  totally free from sin. All we are and all we do needs forgiveness. And some of our sins are shocking! The Bible has numerous examples  of people  falling into sin, and yet  they  are not cast aside by our Lord. 

  •     Think of  Adam and Eve –our  first parents who sinned  and yet the Lord had mercy on them.
  •    Think of Abraham’s lapses of faith, particularly when it came to lying about his wife; 
  •   Think of Lot’s  drunkenness and incestuous relationship with his daughters. 
  •      Think of David’s adultery. 
  •     Think of the apostle Peter disowning his Lord three times.   

They were all forgiven. They were faithless but the Lord Jesus  remained faithful to them because He cannot  be unfaithful to His  covenant. What a comfort that would have been to Timothy who must have been tempted to give up in Ephesus.  What comfort to me, and to you. Here is the great biblical truth to hang on to: God’s mercy is grounded in His covenant keeping love. The God who sent his Son to save Adam and Eve,  Abraham, and Lot, and David, and Solomon, and Peter,  and countless others is always the same faithful God. We are not like that. We are not always faithful, and like Peter we have had times when we have wept over that. But God and His Son, the Lord  Jesus are always faithful. The Holy Spirit is always faithful to His own Word.  It is not the nature of the Holy Trinity to be  unfaithful.
    So then, hold on to the gospel, guard the good deposit. Remember that  at the heart  and at the foundation  of your faith there is a Living Saviour. Remember His promises - that  if you have died with Him, you will live with Him; if you endure, you will reign with Him. But also remember His warnings. If you deny Him, he will deny you. That is terrifying news for  the enemies of  Christ! But also remember dear  child of the covenant… no sin can keep your Saviour from you. His Grace and covenant faithfulness are greater than all our sin. He will save you from your sin, even if it means that you will carry terrible scars in this earthly life. He will save you,  for He cannot be but faithful.

[1]  1 Tim.1:15; 3:1; 4:9; 2 Tim. 2:11; Tit. 3:8

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