By Simon ManchesterSunday 24 Nov 2013Christian Growth with Simon ManchesterFaithReading Time: 0 minutes
St Thomas’ Anglican Church
Not Ashamed – 2 Timothy 1:1-12
Loving Heavenly Father we pray that you would be gracious to us for Jesus’ sake. Please give grace to Preacher this morning to be faithful,loving,and clear and please be gracious to all of us as we listen that we might see you,trust you,serve you and rejoice in you.
We commit our time now in Jesus Name – Amen.
A very warm welcome again everybody. It’s great to have you here and to the many who are visiting,it’s a great pleasure to have you here as well.
What we are going to do on the 5 Sundays of this month is to look at the little book of 2 Timothy – it’s a very wonderful book and it’s a very moving book. It is true that it is written to a pastor so it is one of the three that are called “The Pastoral Epistles” – 1 Timothy,2 Timothy & Titus are written to pastors.
I hope however that you will be confident that these sermons on Sunday mornings will feed you and help you and I want to give you some reasons for being confident that this will not be a waste of your time but it will be a help to you.
The first,of course,what we are doing is that we are opening the Word of God and the Word of God is always good food,light,sword,mirror,beneficial – as soon as we open the Scriptures – we don’t need some clever person to turn up on Sunday and make the Scriptures interesting – the Scriptures are interesting.
The second reason we should be confident about this is that although Paul is talking to young Timothy about ministry,all of us are able to see what ministry and therefore what God’s people are all about – what is important to God about his people.
And the third thing is that although Paul is going to tell pastors how they should conduct themselves,this will help you to pray for your pastors that they will conduct themselves faithfully and properly in serving you. There is going to come a day (I don’t know when it will be) where the people at St Thomas’ who have been chosen to go and look for a new minister,will go and look for a new minister and that will be an exciting time. But those people who are looking for a new pastor need to go and think biblically,to be walking in the path of God’s blessing and not just to think humanly or sentimentally or emotionally and therefore it’s good for us to study what pastors are meant to do.
The fourth thing in the very last phrase of the Letter Paul says “Grace be with you” and the “you” is pleural. Grace be with you – he expects the church to read the Letter. He expects the Letter not just to be read by Timothy but by the church.
So I don’t think we are going to study 2 Timothy on these Sunday mornings without being lifted and strengthened. It maybe that you are feeling quite flat – it maybe that you have had too many late nights – it maybe that you have had too many busy days,too many meals,possibly you are just generally weary from a long year of 2010. You may be finding that your Christianity is hard going at the moment. It’s possible that you are sad,you are suffering and you are even bereaved but these verses in 2 Timothy and especially this morning in verses 1-12,I think are going to strengthen you and help you and me as well.
Well,this is Paul’s last Letter (2 Timothy) and he writes from prison. I always think it’s powerful to get a letter from prison. I received a Christmas card from a prisoner and it was a very profound,joyful,meaningful,sobering and encouraging letter and here is Paul writing from his cell and it’s not the prison of Acts 28 where Paul had lots of freedom and he had many visitors and he had many opportunities – it’s quite probable that he has moved on from that prison and he’s done a little bit of travelling and now he’s been arrested again and he’s in a prison where he’s very much on his own. To visit him is extremely difficult and he expects to depart this life by execution any time.
But he writes this wonderful Letter from his dark and dingy little cell in order to encourage Timothy to keep the gospel going because the gospel is wonderful and it’s a great Letter. The way that Paul does this (you may be interested to know) is not to yell at Timothy and say to him “Come on,I’m moving on,it’s time for you to wake up,get your act together,pull your socks up – he doesn’t do that at all – he says ‘I want to remind you how God has worked in your life,I want to remind you how God has worked in eternity,I want you to see that you are dependent on him,that he is sustaining you and supporting you’ and by the time the Apostle has finished talking to Timothy about what he hopes he will do,Timothy will turn around and say ‘God upholds me,not I must uphold God’.
There’s nothing more unhelpful in the Christian life that to lose your perspective,to get your telescope around the wrong way and to think you must somehow sustain God and Christianity but the Bible tells us that God utterly,easily,wonderfully,majestically,perfectly,continually sustains the universe and the church and his people and calls on us to respond to his faithfulness.
It’s a wonderful thing the Apostle Paul could say this to Timothy from his cell. He saw so clearly you see. The Bible you see will help you to see clearly. So I want to look at these first 12 verses under two headings this morning:
The first is Look Back with Confidence and the second is Look forward with Courage. Obviously the confidence is in God and the courage is in God. Look back with confidence in God and look forward with courage in God.
First of all Look Back with Confidence – look at verse 1. He says “Paul,an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,according to the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus”. I am an apostle of Christ,he says,and my business is life in Christ. If you want a one word summary,says Paul to Timothy,what my ministry is all about,you may think it’s all about trouble,you may think it’s all about complications – it’s about Life – life with a Capital L. It’s about belonging to Jesus.
John Stott says in his little Commentary on 2 Timothy “the whole Bible may be fairly described as a divine promise of life”. So I want you to remember that as you think about Christianity. It’s the gift from God to you of life which has come to you because of the death of Jesus.
And he says (verse 2) “to Timothy,my dear son: Grace,mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord”. Now how do you think that grace,mercy and peace is going to travel to Timothy? Well part of the way it’s going to travel to Timothy is that he is going to read the Letter and as he reads the Letter,the Word of God is going to remind him of the grace of God,the mercy of God and the peace of God and he’s going to be hugely strengthened as I hope you will be as well.
Well from verse 3 Paul looks back on Timothy’s personal life so that Timothy can see how God has worked in his life. And I hope you can do that as well. If I got you up the front and I was interviewing you and I said “What’s sort of family do you have? What sort of people did God bring across your path? Who first talked to you about Jesus? Who helped you to understand Christianity?” I hope you would be able to look back and say “well it’s a wonderful thing that God has brought this network,this grid of people so that I am where I am today”.
And this is so that Timothy won’t say to himself “well,you know I just woke up one day and said ‘I’ll be a Christian’ or I just woke up one day and said ‘I’ll be a pastor’ “. No,(verse 5) Timothy’s grandmother had sincere faith. Timothy’s mother had sincere faith. And Paul says ‘Timothy you’ve got the same sincere faith’. No doubt Timothy had been prayed for and read to from childhood (verse 11).
Then Paul and Timothy were very close (verse 4) he says ‘recalling your tears,I long to see you,so that I may be filled with joy’ – I’ve been reminded of your sincere faith’. It’s quite likely the Apostle Paul came across Timothy and helped him to actually put his faith in Jesus. It is possible Paul was the agent,the instrument of God to help Timothy become a believer and he calls him,therefore,my dear son. We can praise God,can’t we,that he brings across our children’s path people who will help in doing the work of their faith when we have done all that we can do. God blesses them with extra friends,witnesses and disciplers.
And then we see in verse 7 that God’s spirit at work providing for Timothy power,love and self control. So he has a new life with new signs of life. Now in a few verses,this is what Paul is doing. He’s painting a backdrop so that Timothy will see that God has been working in his life naturally,supernaturally and from a natural point of view,he’s arranged the upbringing and he’s brought the key people along and from a supernatural point of view,he’s converted him. He’s told him of the Son of God that died for him. He’s seen the spirit of God take up residence in him and so Timothy has come to have (verse 5) a real sincere faith.
There are many who don’t but Timothy does and if you want to know how long God was working for salvation in Timothy’s life? Look at verses 9 & 10 which I think are underestimated,under-rated verses in our New Testament where Paul says that God saved us and called us to a holy life,not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace and this grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time but it now has 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.
Now friends,imagine you are a believer here this morning,and I know most of you are:
When did your salvation really begin?
Did salvation begin the day you got sad and you decided to go to church?
Did it begin the day that somebody sat down and talked through the gospel with you or you went to a course or went to an evangelistic service or you read a Christian book or somebody gave you a Bible,did it begin then?
The answer according to the Bible is No. Verse 9,salvation God’s plan goes back before the beginning of time.
Why did your salvation happen?
Was it because God looked at you and said ‘there’s a boy with great potential’ ‘there’s a girl with great potential’ ‘there’s a boy or girl who is trying very hard’. Did God look down and say ‘there’s a good person,I’ll give them salvation’? No (verse 9) “not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace”.
How did the salvation happen?
Was it that Jesus taught us things in the Bible and we tried to do them? No
Was it that we decided to work harder at being a good person or a churchgoer?
Was it that God decided to reward us for our involvement at St Thomas,North Sydney? No (verse 10)
Salvation happened because Christ appeared and he destroyed death. Well that doesn’t look right,does it because there is still death as a great reality. What does Paul mean when he says “Christ destroyed death”? The answer is that he took the sting himself of eternal death at the cross so that the person who puts their faith in Jesus will have immediately eternal life and will never really die,that is they will never eternally die,they will never spiritually die. Physically,yes,but they will move through into the resurrection life.
And this is of course verse 10 because Jesus has also brought life and immortality to light. When he lived,died and rose he flicked the switch on and we suddenly realise what we could never have picked up in the Old Testament that life and immortality is a reality today and will always be for the believer.
So here is the Apostle Paul describing the great work of salvation on which young Timothy sits. And this illumination by Jesus means that God gives immortality,eternal life,to the person who puts their faith in Jesus – what a gospel.
Now we are hot this morning,I’m a hot preacher and you are a hot listener! And it’s hard to get excited about anything on a hot day,isn’t it? And you can see that I am trying to get excited about this because I am excited about this. But the Apostle Paul says this is the gospel I proclaim and I could not have a greater message for the world. Because everybody in the world is going to walk around this globe for a certain amount of time (maybe 70 or 80 years) and they are going to drink their drinks and they are going to eat their meals and they are going to watch their movies and they are going to drive their cars and they are going to have their holidays and then suddenly they are going to go off the end of the world and they are going to meet God.
And Paul says I have the huge privilege of telling people through the gospel,that it is possible to know God through Jesus and begin a friendship with him which starts NOW and goes right through this world and into the next. There is no ministry greater,no privilege greater than knowing and telling the gospel.
CS Lewis said once,you know,that Christianity is like waking up from a dream or a nightmare. When you wake up from your dream or nightmare you suddenly realise that the dream or the nightmare wasn’t true – there’s just a little patch of your sleep and you’ve come into reality. When you become a Christian you leave behind a little patch and you enter into eternal life.
I find it very difficult to be a Christian because I live in the midst of a world that wants to talk about the little dream or the little nightmare and so I find people who just want to talk about their house or their movies or their food or their car or their family or their health and all those things are fine but they are a very small part of eternity,aren’t they? And to be able to help a person to have,through the gospel,eternal life is the great privilege of being a believer.
So that’s what Paul says to Timothy – I want to remind you that God has been at work in your family,I want to remind you that he has been at work from eternity,you’ve got a gospel that has come to you,you’ve got a gospel that goes out from you,look back with confidence in God.
Point 2 – Look forward with Courage.
What does Paul want Timothy to do?
Is he just telling him this so he will then work it out for himself? Sometimes you know a section of Scripture has no command,has no imperative and it’s important for the preacher not to introduce a command or an imperative and start telling people what they must do when the Bible is not telling them that they must do it.
So in the face of this great plan of God which Timothy is part of,what does Paul want Timothy to do? Verse 6 – he wants him to remember something. “I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God,which is in you through the laying on of my hands”. I want you to fan into flame the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.
Now friends,this is a very important verse,isn’t it? Because Paul is saying it to a young pastor and a pastor is going to influence a whole congregation and yet I would suggest to you that one of the reasons or proofs of this verse is not particularly well understood by churches,is that I hardly hear anybody talk about ‘fanning into flame’ their gift.
Now I suspect therefore most people have read that and thought ‘I don’t know what to say about this’. And it’s clear,isn’t it,that Paul is not saying ‘I want you to fan the Holy Spirit into flame’ as if we could fan God into flame. It’s unlikely that he’s saying ‘I want you to fan the gift of teaching into flame’ because although he wants Timothy to be a teacher and a preacher,it’s not as though Paul can give the gifts of the spirit by laying hands on people.
So I suspect that what Paul is saying here (and I agree with Calvin) is that this gift of God which he wants Timothy to fan into flame is the gift of his ministry – his pastoral office,his pastoral authority – and he wants Timothy to fan it into flame so that it is not cold or lukewarm but it is hot,keen,glad,zealous,enthusiastic. He wants him to fan it into flame.
And the principle of this is that ministry needs ‘fanning’ whether you are a pastor or whether you are a wonderful layperson. You may think that pastors,(well you wouldn’t think this because you’ve known me for a long time) but you may think that pastors stay enthusiastic but pastors lose enthusiasm like ordinary Christians lose enthusiasm. And pastors have dull,dry,difficult Bible reading/praying/sermon preparing like normal Christians have dull,dry difficult Bible reading/praying times.
And therefore it is extremely important,isn’t it,for a pastor to think carefully about how he will fan his work or his responsibility into flame because a lot hangs on the pastor not going cold. What do you do with a pastor who is lukewarm week after week after week? What do you do with a pastor who,as one person has said,is like a sort of a 12 degree heater? It never gets above 12 degrees,doesn’t matter what room you put it in,the heater never really does anything. What do you do with that person?
Well I think you should pray earnestly that that pastor has his office/responsibility fanned into flame. I suspect what Paul is saying to young Timothy – ‘Timothy,I want you to think carefully about anything and everything which heats up your Christian ministry and I want you to think about anything and everything which cools down your Christian ministry and I want you to do everything that heats it up and I want you to turn away from everything that cools it down. And that’s what it ought to be for the Christian as well as the pastor.
And so my Christian life is cooled down by self pre-occupation
it’s cooled down by neglect,
it’s cooled down by prayerlessness
it’s cooled down by secret sin
it’s cooled down by unbelief
it’s cooled down by difficulties
and I need to especially,personally concentrate on guarding my prayers and reading my Bible and asking God to help me and trying to walk in the light as He is in the light and keeping up my fellowship and all the things which will enable me to be better than lukewarm not only to his glory but also to your good. I hope you will pray that for pastors and I hope you will pray that for yourself that you will be more than lukewarm,that you will be a keen,keen believer. And then of course we need to turn away from the things that cool us down.
So here is Paul’s first reminder to Timothy ‘stir up,fan into flame the things which will help your ministry to be zealous. Ministry and Christian living is not by electricity. You do not just turn on a switch. It’s got to be that careful,begging God,fanning into flame so that we will not go cold. We know that God hates luke warmness and this is a great reminder.
The second thing that Paul wants Timothy to do is not just to remember to fan into flame but (verse 8) he wants him to obey. The one command in verses 1-12 and it goes like this:
Verse 8 “Don’t be ashamed of Jesus or me but literally suffer evil with me” “I am calling on you” says Paul to Timothy “to suffer evil with me”. Will you come over and suffer evil with me?
Now of course,every Christian is tempted to be ashamed. We’re tempted in certain circumstances to be ashamed. Whether it’s being ashamed of Jesus,his Name,whether we are ashamed of the gospel – its power – or whether we are ashamed of other Christians.
I remember being at a Conference many years ago and the speaker was speaking a very bold,courageous message to a very large crowd and it was a very timely rebuke to the believers. It was very,very strong and it was so strong that one man stood up in his pew and attacked the speaker from his pew,a fellow pastor. We don’t get that enough at St Thomas’,do we?
And as I sat listening to that very strong rebuke I was sinking into my chair like everybody else and after the talk was over and I think the guy who had been giving the talk realized that he didn’t have a friend left in the room – and in the morning tea break he came straight over to talk to me!
I remember standing there feeling caught between loyalty and shame. And my body language said ‘I’m talking to you but I wish I was a long way away from you’ !
Now loyalty has got to be not only to Jesus but to the gospel and to fellow believers and we need to make sure that we are loyal to those who stand for Christ and stand for the truth so that we don’t attack them and where possible,we defend them. It’s not enough,is it,to just not attack somebody. Sometimes a person,a brother,a sister needs to be defended and Paul is calling on Timothy – ‘will you be loyal to Jesus,will you be loyal to the gospel and will you literally suffer evil with me?’ There a good thought – there is a good challenge – there is a good command.
How are we possibly going to do that? Well the answer in verse 8 is that we are going to first of all know that we don’t have the strength to do that but Paul says ‘join in suffering by the power of God’. He can enable us and so we want to be able to say on a regular basis ‘Lord would you give me the help and the strength and the courage to,if necessary,suffer for Jesus and suffer for the gospel and suffer for other believers – I want to be a big boy and not a coward!’
The second thing we need to do is to recognise that suffering is a real part of Christianity. I don’t know if you have worked out your Christianity so that it’s suffering-free but you’ve worked out pseudo-Christianity if it’s suffering free.
The Puritans used to talk about “smooth file” – you rub over somebody but you don’t actually do anything. Spurgeon talked about “being a weather vane” – spins whatever wind is blowing,you are with it and Jesus said “be very careful when all people speak well of you”. Suffering is a real part of real Christianity.
And I think it probably comes down to not going out and looking for it but just being a little more honest and a little more faithful rather than hiding away.
And the third thing we know if we are going to suffer,is verse 12 we are going to need to know that we are absolutely secure. “I know” says Paul “whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able to keep what I’ve committed until the day I see him”. “I know” says Paul “the Lord I trust. He is able to protect”.
There is a huge debate of course on this verse as to whether this is Paul entrusting things to God like my soul,my life or whether this is God entrusting things to Paul like the gospel and the ministry. But the important thing to notice is that God is the one who guards. He guards our soul we commit to him and he guards the gospel that he commits to us.
I hope therefore as we begin this little series and as we begin this year,you friends will look back with confidence the way God has put together your Christian beliefs but especially back through eternity to the way he has worked your salvation for the sheer grace of God and I hope you’ll also look forward with courage,you’ll fan into flame your ministry,you won’t be able to do it yourself and I can’t do it myself. We’ll have to ask God to help us and we will also ask him to help us to be obedient to the call where necessary to suffer for Jesus,the gospel and other believers. Will we be losers when that takes place? Not a bit.
We know whom we’ve believed,we are persuaded that he is able to guard us until the very day we meet him.
Well let’s bow our heads and pray –
Our Father we lift up our thanks to you for what we have read this morning. We are conscious that so many of us are wonderfully blessed in people you have brought across our path – family,friends – who have helped us to hear,believe and grow. So many of us here this morning especially want to thank you for your work from eternity that had nothing to do with our worth or our potential but mostly and essentially and everything had to do with your grace and purpose.
We also ask our Father as we look into the year that you would help us to fan into flame the ministry that you have given us and we pray that you would also help us to be obedient in,where necessary,suffering for the Lord Jesus and for the gospel and for other believers,remembering that you are able to give us security forever.
So please help us and hear our pray and we ask it in Jesus Name – Amen