Daniel 3:1-30 God of All Nations: 3 men and a Furnace

Daniel 3:1-30
God of All Nations
3 men and a Furnace

Good Morning Bangor Community Church and anyone else that may be listening. Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to Daniel chapter 3. In the book of Daniel, especially the first 6 chapters, there are a lot of stories that we are at least partially familiar with, and we may think that we are intimately aware of. These tend to be classic Sunday School Lessons.
Today, the story we will look at in Chapter 3 is a prime example. We are going to look at the story of Shadrack, Meshack and Abed-nego (Babylonian names) getting thrown into the fiery furnace by King Nebuchadnezzar. And I think that we are going to see a lot of things that we assume were part of the story, or that we assumed we understood that we just didn’t see before now. I know that’s at least what happened with me.
Before we get into that, however, let’s look at what’s already happened n Daniel, that led to this point. Ol Nebby had, in chapter 2, had a dream revolving around a huge statue where he was the golden head. When Daniel was able to tell him what his dream was and to interpret Nebuchadnezzar’s dream for him, The King acknowledged Daniel’s God as “God of gods and Lord of Kings.”
What the King did NOT do, however, was turn to and acknowledge Yahweh as exclusively God. He still ruled over, lived in and believed in a pluralistic community. There were many gods, over many things, each nation had their own god, and all were valid and powerful.
In this, Daniel was put as, essentially, the Kings right hand man, he was given authority over all the magi and wisemen. Shadrack, Meshack and Abed-nego were appointed as governors over the province of Babylon.
As we move forward into chapter 3, we see that the theme of this chapter and the theme of the entire book as a whole is that God is not just a god among gods but is God over all. He is the God of all Nations. He is the God of all Kingdoms. He is the God over all other so-called gods. He is the God of all people. That is why I have titled this series, God of all Nations.
So, with all that being said, let’s go ahead and start reading Daniel chapter 3. I will be reading out of the English Standard Version. Please follow along in your Bibles, with your preferred translation. So, Daniel chapter 3, we will start with verses 1-7, though we will cover the entire chapter 3 this morning.
Daniel 3:1-7, Daniel writes:
King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits[a] and its breadth six cubits. He set it up on the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. 2 Then King Nebuchadnezzar sent to gather the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 3 Then the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces gathered for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. And they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 4 And the herald proclaimed aloud, “You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, 5 that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. 6 And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace.” 7 Therefore, as soon as all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, all the peoples, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

May God Bless the Reading of His Word
So, we see from the beginning a couple of questions that pop up to me, but that we won’t find answers for in the text. First, we don’t know how long after chapter 2, that this chapter takes place. It could have been very shortly afterwards, when the dream was still fresh in Nebuchadnezzar’s mind, or it could have been much later on, as the impact of the interpretation has faded just a bit. We also don’t know where Daniel is during this story. He may have been left behind to tend to business while all the other officials were at the statue. He could have been alongside Nebby during this, and just exempt from the command and punishments. The truth is we just don’t know.
But we start this chapter off with very clear connections to Nebbys dream. He builds a statue made of gold, and he builds it 90 feet tall. This is a huge statue for the day, but it’s also not unheard of, meaning it’s incredibly impressive, but not unbelievable. To give an example of the scale, the Sphinx in Egypt is 66 feet tall.
I want us to look at one possible motivation here as well. Nebuchadnezzar built this statue out of Gold. Now it was likely Gold plated, but it was still, the entire thing was Gold. It is likely and it seems obvious to me that Nebby was trying to ignore or to undo the interpretation of his dream. Daniel was clear that, while Nebby was the golden head of the four kingdoms and that the ones who came after him would be progressively inferior. Nebby was a narcissistic sociopath. He would have greatly accepted that he was the golden head. He may have, though probably not have accepted that strong and superior kingdoms would have defeated him. But he most certainly would not have been willing to accept that inferior kingdoms would replace him. And so, in the imagery of his statue, he eliminated them and made it all about him.
So, he builds this monstrous monument to himself. And all the movers and shakers, all the government officials, all the influencers, all of them came to stand before the statue, came for the event of the dedication and the unveiling. They all came to pay homage to Ol’ Nebby.
Nebuchadnezzar tells them how. When the signal hits, in this case the orchestra playing, when you hear this, you will bow down and worship this golden image of me!
Now, for me, when I usually think of this story, I think of it as, every time you hear music you have to bow down. But that’s not what we see here. This is not an ongoing thing, this is a onetime event, a show, or maybe a test of loyalty.
And here is the law. If you do not keep this command, you will be thrown into a fiery furnace and burned alive. This was not an uncommon punishment for those days. And there would have been a giant furnace, or a kiln may be a better way for us to think about it, right there. It would have been used to forge and smelt the metals and the gold used in the construction of the statue.
And yes, it seems odd to us today that people would bow down and worship a statue of their king, or that Nebby would build a 90 foot statue of himself in order for people to worship, but it’s not that odd. It is that days manifestation of Romans 1:25, where Paul writes: they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator,
Today we see it in our practical worship of our jobs, our schooling, our sports teams, our politicians, our favorite celebrities, even our families, husbands, wives, kids and their activities. John Calvin wrote that the “human heart is an idol factory.” It can even be our way of life, our comfort, or our nation that we make an idol in these days.
We are rarely called to literally bow down before our idols, though in some places and to some idols that still happens today. But we sacrifice for them. We put them first. We put them above God himself, even if we believe in God.
Our politician says something, no matter what, no matter what the Bible says, and we agree with it and we manipulate the bible to make it fit. We forget that the Bible is more important and more applicable to a Christians life than the Constitution is. We have kids who have activities Sunday mornings and so we justify ignoring church to worship at the altar of our kids, or our own hobbies and interests. These idols are still out there, and we are still bowing down before them, even today.
In verse 7, the music played. The band struck up a tune and the people all bowed down to the statue. All bowed down. All nations, all languages, all tribes. False gods don’t discriminate.
Music can be very powerful. That’s why we like to have music when we sing our songs of worship and praise at church. That’s one of the things, outside of fellowship, that I miss the most in this time of not meeting together.
But music can be used to manipulate as well. Many of the false teachers today use music to manipulate their congregation into emotional experiences. When you can make worship an experience, you can focus and steer that experience towards the desired object of worship.
You may often hear of these places where during the worship was a spectacle, it is described as an environment, people get caught up in the moment of that worship.
Sinclair Ferguson has some good things to say about this in his commentary on Daniel. He writes about this story: there was an aesthetic effect in abundance on the plain of Dura. A person would have had to be extremely narrow-minded not to share on the sheer magnificence of the occasion and the splendor of the music.
He continues: The sad reality is “all that glitters is not gold.” The important thing about worship is its object. Do we worship God or ourselves? The test of whether worship is God centered or centered on ourselves will be found in the question: Do we worship God according to His revelation or according to our own disposition? In worship, the statement, “How I like to worship is…” is irrelevant. All that matter is how God chooses to be worshipped.
And of course, worshipping and bowing down to a 90-foot statue in the image of Nebuchadnezzar is not how he chooses to be worshipped. Songs more about our feelings and emotions are not how he chooses to be worshiped. But worship these people did.
Let’s continue on with Daniel 3:8-18, as he writes:
Therefore, at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and maliciously accused the Jews. 9 They declared[b] to King Nebuchadnezzar, “O king, live forever! 10 You, O king, have made a decree, that every man who hears the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, shall fall down and worship the golden image. 11 And whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into a burning fiery furnace. 12 There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men, O king, pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
13 Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought. So they brought these men before the king. 14 Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? 15 Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good.[c] But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?”
16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.[d] 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

King Nebby didn’t discriminate. He didn’t care what nation you were from. He didn’t care what language you spoke. He didn’t care which gods you chose to worship. As long as you worshipped him. Again, same thing we saw in Rome. You can worship Jesus, as long as you call Caesar LORD. We see it today. You can believe in Jesus, as long as you worship science, inclusivity, tolerance, self-reliance, America, comfort, social justice, celebrity culture, communism, capitalism, achievements, worth health, Obama or Trump. As long as you bow down and worship at least one of those, go right on ahead and believe in Jesus.
And we see that the Chaldeans came to Ol Nebby and told him of three men who would not bow down to hum and his statue. They were very pointed in their accusations as well. It says they, “maliciously accused the Jews.” Some see some anti-Semitism in this, in how they singled out that they were Jews. That’s definitely possible. Some see this as personal jealousy that these three guys had such privileged positions after so short a time. That’s definitely possible. Some say it was a combination of the two. That seems most likely.
The fact is that all the people in attendance were told to bow or they would be punished by law. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego didn’t. Sinclair Ferguson uses them as an example to point out that we are not to make big shows of ourselves when we take stands like this. The three men didn’t make a big deal. They didn’t protest the statue. They didn’t sit down and so a hunger strike. They didn’t boycott. They just stood quietly and off to the side. They didn’t hide obviously, but they didn’t draw any undue attention to themselves.
We have a tendency, as human beings, to think like this,” Did you see me not doing that thing that everyone else was doing? Yup, I’m pretty holy. Did you see me doing that thing that nobody else was doing? Yup my faith in God is strong and uncompromising.”
We have seen this in the last two months, where churches have decided not to listen to the various state at home orders by the governors and the opened up anyway and various things have come if those situations. But most of them are not quietly meeting, not making a big deal of it, many of them are flaunting their disobedience in the name of religious liberty.
But Shad, Mac and Abe didn’t do that. They just stood to the side and refused to bow down. The Chaldeans kind of come across as annoyed children. I know I see in my house, “Daaaaaaad! They’re not doing what they are supposed to be! They are not listening to you!”
And if course, Ol Nebby was furious, to put it mildly. He brings the 3 guys in to give them a chance to make things right. It may be that he couldn’t believe it because he trusted. It could be he didn’t believe it because he could believe that anyone would dare disobey him.
Either way, it is surprising what happens. He gives them a second chance. He says, “They told me you wouldn’t listen, well here’s your chance. Ill strike up the band again, and if you bow now, we can put thus whole scenario behind us. If you don’t, well… you know the consequences…”
In fact, he says, who is the god that can save you. Essentially, he is saying that he is the one with ultimate power and authority and their god has none and cannot save them. Part of this seems to be that the furnace, or the kiln, is right there. There is no transportation. There is no waiting or delay. So, there is no time for another god to step in and help them.
Of course, the decline the invitation. They make their point; No matter what God can save them. He may choose not to, but even if that’s the case, we will still choose to worship Him, and we will never bow down to you.
Stephan Miller writes: although no doubt existed in the minds if Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-ego about the ability of their God to deliver them, they humbly accepted the fact that God does not always choose to intervene miraculously in human circumstances, even on behalf of his servants.

The early church father and historian Jerome, also says this: Thereby they indicate that it will not be a matter of Gods inability but rather of his sovereign will if they do perish.”

In addition to Gods ability to deliver and save regardless of whether he chooses to, here’s I, I think, the biggest point that I can take away from this. Yes, we are to obey Gods laws over man’s laws. Yes, they were right to take their stand and not bow to the statue. But man’s laws still stand. God puts every leader into authority, and he has granted governments their power and authority. So, if we decide that a situation or a law goes against Gods law, we may be right in choosing to not obey or submit to the situation or the law, but, and here is the kicker, You need to be willing to, and expect to face the consequences of your choices.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego were right to obey God instead of man, and not bow down. But they were also willing to submit to the punishment and consequences of their decision. This is one spot where, here in America, I think, Christians are soft. We want the right to disobey the laws and rules that we think are unbiblical and wrong, but we also want immunity from doing so.
We saw a crystal-clear example a few years ago, after the supreme decided that same sex marriage was legal. There was a county clerk in Kentucky. Her job was to sign the marriage licenses to make them legal. She decided that she was not going to sign the licenses for same sex couples. That was her conviction regarding obey Gods laws instead of mans. But then there was a whole uproar after she was arrested for not complying with the law. She was well within her rights to refuse to do so, but that doesn’t mean she should not have been punished for it. Christians, brothers, sisters, there are times and circumstances when it is right and good to reject man’s laws because they go against Gods laws. As Martin Luther famously said as he came before the synod at Dort, as he was told to recant of his 95 Thesis, he said he would not recant, he would not back down. He said, and I quote, “Here I stand, I can do no other.”
But we have to remember that there are consequences that come with it and we may not like them. We may be harmed, we may be imprisoned and killed for these stances. We need to know that ahead of time and we need to be willing to go through with that if and when we choose to stand for God against man’s laws.
Ok, so let’s read the next chunk of verses, Daniel 3:19-23:
Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with fury, and the expression of his face was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He ordered the furnace heated seven times more than it was usually heated. 20 And he ordered some of the mighty men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. 21 Then these men were bound in their cloaks, their tunics,[e] their hats, and their other garments, and they were thrown into the burning fiery furnace. 22 Because the king’s order was urgent and the furnace overheated, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. 23 And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell bound into the burning fiery furnace.
Now, their response, as you would imagine, did not go over well with Ol Nebby. In fact, his fury raged. He was incensed. He ordered the furnace to be heated up to 7 times hotter than normal. It seems obvious with eh number 7 being used that this is an expression meaning to get it as hot as possible. He ordered that the 3 men would be thrown into the furnace immediately.
The guards tied them up, still in their clothes and took them to throw them in the firs. The furnace had gotten so hot that the guards throwing them in where overwhelmed by the heat and died. Many suspect that this was either because of the urgency of Nebuchadnezzar’s command, that they didn’t have time to prepare themselves, protect themselves from the heat. Or that there was a sudden shift of the wind direction right as they were throwing the guys in. I personally like the second one, because if that’s what happened, it speaks to God acting in the situation regardless of if he decides to save the 3 men in the furnace.
Let us read the last chunk of verses, Daniel 3:24-30:
4 Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” 25 He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.”
26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the burning fiery furnace; he declared, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Highest God, come out, and come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire. 27 And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men. The hair of their heads was not singed, their cloaks were not harmed, and no smell of fire had come upon them. 28 Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside[f] the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. 29 Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.” 30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon.
What a scene that must have been for Ol Nebby. He had the three of them thrown in, tied up, into a fiery furnace that was made as hot as it could possibly be, so hot that it killed the guards who threw them in. And Nebuchadnezzar looks in and is shocked and amazed. He says, not three, but four men! Unbound! Walking around! He couldn’t believe it! He had to show others as well to make sure he wasn’t seeing things!
And the fourth had the appearance as a son of the gods. Now, there has been a lot of speculation about this. Whether this was a physical appearance of the pre-incarnate Jesus, otherwise known as a Christophany. I believe that it is. Some believe, as many of the Jewish scholars did, that this was the archangel Gabriel. It isn’t explicit in the text, but here is what we do know. Nebby didn’t know who it was either, but from his appearance, it was clear that this fourth person was divine. He was more than a man. He would not have had any idea who Jesus was or that this was Jesus, but he knew that this was a divine being in there protecting Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego.
Nebby was so amazed that he called for the three to come out, along with the “Most High God.” Now, to the Jews and to Christians now, this title refers to the one and only, living God. But to the unbelievers, especially of the day, to those in a polytheistic, pluralistic society, this would have meant the highest of many Gods.
So, the boys came out and everyone around saw that they were unburned, unsinged and that they did not even smell like fire.
Nebuchadnezzar is so amazed, and he declares that their God is a god. That he sent an angel to save them. Their god saved them because they wouldn’t bow down to any other gods.
He then, for this particular instance, reverses his course and his decree. He says that anyone who says anything bad against their god will be punished. By not saying anything about it, he says that they no longer need to bow before his statue.
To be clear, there is no evidence that Nebuchadnezzar repented of his idolatry or his blasphemy. There is no evidence that he tore down his statue. There is no evidence that he trusted in the one true God, the God of Israel, the God of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. The god of the Jews was a great god, a god to be feared and respected and a god of which nothing may be said against, but he was not the god of Nebuchadnezzar.
In the end, Nebuchadnezzar restored the boys to their positions over the province of Babylon and even gave them a promotion of sorts.
This is the biblical story of 3 men in the furnace. This is not the typical Sunday School story. This is not the veggie tales’ story. This is what happened. The more I preach on stories in the Bible, that are supposedly well known, the more I see that God is incredible and he puts so much more into these stories than we see on the surface. It inspires me to try to look deeper and I hip it does the same for you.
Again, the main point of all this is that God is over and above all. He is over and above everything else. He is not one of many. He is not the greatest of many. He is the only and the highest. He is the all holy, all knowing God of all tongues, tribes and nations. As the only God, he sends only one means of salvation.
By his grace and his grace alone, he sent his Son, Jesus Christ, truly man, and truly God. ON that note, I will leave you with a passage from the Gospel of John. John 3:16-21:
“For God so loved the world,[i] that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

Let’s Pray

Daniel 2:24-49 God of All Nations Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream

Daniel 2:24-49

God of All Nations

Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream

 

Good Morning Bangor!   Please grab your Bibles with me and turn on them to Daniel chapter 2. As you are turning there, let me say that it does seem like we are moving closer and closer to being able to meet together physically and in person once again. I do not yet have an idea, or a guess as to when exactly that will be, but I do know that the first week we are back together will be a celebration. We will have communion, we will sing together and we will have a potluck following the service. Please plan and pray accordingly.

So, last week, as we  looked at the first half of Daniel Chapter 2, Hope pointed out that we kind of left off on a cliffhanger. So, in that vein, we will start with, Previously…In Daniel…
Last week we saw that King Nebby had a dream that disturbed him greatly. He brought together all his wise men and his sorcerers and magicians and what not, got them all together and told them to both tell him his dream and then to tell him the interpretation of said dream. If they could do that, great rewards were awaiting them. If they could not, well, death is the nicest and the least painful for them, way to put it.

OF course, they couldn’t do this. As they said, no man on earth could do what the King was asking. Only the gods could do that and the gods don’t dwell with man. So, the order was sent out to kill all the wise men in the kingdom and this included Daniel and his three friends, Hananiah, Azariah and Mishael. Daniel asked for some time to receive the interpretation from God. His request was granted and he and his three friends prayed to God. God answered their prayers, Daniel received the information he was seeking and he and his friends gave thanks to God.

That’s where we left off. We spent all that time leading up to it and we never even shared what the dream was! Thus the cliffhanger. So now, this week, we will look at the second half of chapter 2. And this will include an important discussion between Daniel and King Nebby, this will include his dream and what it meant. We will look at the big picture, what God was trying to tell Nebuchadnezzar specifically and the Babylonian kingdom and what that means for today, as opposed to getting bogged down in every minute possible detail or possible interpretation of every single aspect of his dream.

Details are important and every word of the Bible, every word of these dreams and prophecies are important and inspired By God, making them the very Word of God. However, we sometimes get so distracted by the cloudy, the unclear, the unanswered, that we loose view of what God is clearly telling us and wanting us to see.

So, with that in mind, lets goa head and read the first section of our scripture this morning. Over all, we will be reading Daniel chapter 2, verses 24-49. But we are going to break that into a few sections at a time. So, first, We will read verses 24-30. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version and I do encourage you to read along and follow along in your preferred translation at home. Lets go ahead and read, Daniel 2:24-30. Daniel records:

 

Therefore Daniel went in to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to destroy the wise men of Babylon. He went and said thus to him: “Do not destroy the wise men of Babylon; bring me in before the king, and I will show the king the interpretation.”

25 Then Arioch brought in Daniel before the king in haste and said thus to him: “I have found among the exiles from Judah a man who will make known to the king the interpretation.” 26 The king declared to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, “Are you able to make known to me the dream that I have seen and its interpretation?” 27 Daniel answered the king and said, “No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery that the king has asked, 28 but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days. Your dream and the visions of your head as you lay in bed are these: 29 To you, O king, as you lay in bed came thoughts of what would be after this, and he who reveals mysteries made known to you what is to be. 30 But as for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because of any wisdom that I have more than all the living, but in order that the interpretation may be made known to the king, and that you may know the thoughts of your mind.

 

May God bless the Reading of his Word.

 

 

So, after Daniel had his vision or dream from God, which gave him the dream and the interpretation of the Kings dream, he went to Arioch, remember, he is likely the executioner, Daniel went to him and said, “Good News, you don’t have to kill us all! I can interpret his dream!”

Interesting, isn’t it? That Daniels response is not, “Don’t kill me,” but instead, “Don’t kill all these wise men!” Daniels life is one mark with humility. His life is one where he is looking at god first and foremost, but then he is look at others even before himself. We see that humility not only later on in this story, but again in the next two verses.

The next thing we see is Arioch having the exact opposite attitude. “King, I found someone who can tell your dream!” Completely contrasting the humility of Daniel, Arioch was trying to take credit for something that wasn’t his. Daniel was the one who approached him, both beforehand, and after God revealed the truth to him. But, Daniel was not worried about who was getting the credit.

Let me just saw, I have been in Daniels position here. I’m sure many of us have. You did something good, but someone else is trying to get either some or all of the credit. Trust me when I tell you, its almost never worth the time or the energy to fight and make this right. IN the grand scheme of things, does it matter. Yes, the Truth matters. But does it matter if its you that gets the credit? God knows and as Jesus tells us in Matthews Gospel, their reward is here and now and our reward is in heaven, which will never perish or go away.

So King Nebby asks Daniel, “can you really interpret you my dream?” The expected and mostly true response would be Yes. But that’s not what Daniel said. He surprised the King by saying, “NO, I cant. Not only cant I do it, but your wisemen were right, no person on earth can do it.”

That must have stopped the King short. What is this guy doing in front of me? Why am I wasting my time? Also, can you imagine Arioch’s face at this point? “He lied to me! I stuck my neck out and took credit for finding him!” He must have been scared for his life right then.

But out of the dark comes the light. The motto of the reformation in the 1500s was Post Tenebras Lux, meaning, Out of Darkness, Light. We have to know the bad and see the dark in order for the us to be able to know the Good and see the light.

Daniels says, No man on earth can do what you are asking, BUT…

One of the greatest phrases in the Bible is But God. We see it often, things are bad, they are at their worse, we are dead in our sins, But God. Ephesians 2:4-5 are one of my favorite examples. Paul tells us we are dead in our sins, unable to do anything that might save ourselves. And he writes:

But[c] God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—

 

We have no hope, no anything, no salvation, no wisdom, no nothing, But God.

Daniel says that no man on earth can do what the king wants, But there is a God in heaven who can and did. There is a God who dwells with us. Jesus is prophesied to be Immanuel, God with us.  That’s who he was and what he did. He came down from heaven and was born a man here on Earth. God became man to save sinners.

The wise men were right back in verse 11, when they said, The thing that the king asks is difficult, and no one can show it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.” But God did show it to Daniel. He showed the dream and the interpretation both. And he tells the King, he did so and he gave Ol’ Nebby this dream to tell him what coming.

One commentator says, “That there is a God in Heaven, as against man-made gods and defiled men, is the supreme theme of the book, even as it is the cardinal principle of the Bible.”

Daniel here is very politely telling the King that all of those other religions, all the other so called gods are, quite literally, worthless. And he tells the King that God told me your dream, not because of anything about me. Just like he saves each of us, not because of anything about us, but for his glory and his purposes. Here, that purpose is so that Nebuchadnezzar would know what his dream meant and he gave him the dream so that he would know what would be to come.

So, now to satisfy the first part of the cliffhanger, Daniel tells the King what his dream was. Daniel 2:31-35:

“You saw, O king, and behold, a great image. This image, mighty and of exceeding brightness, stood before you, and its appearance was frightening. 32 The head of this image was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its middle and thighs of bronze, 33 its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. 34 As you looked, a stone was cut out by no human hand, and it struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. 35 Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold, all together were broken in pieces, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, so that not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.

This dream is incredible. Stephan Miller calls this dream “one of the most amazing prophecies in the Bible.”

 

 

Imagine in your head, if you can, a statue, great and tall. Many presume that is must have been 60 cubits tall, which I think is 90 feet, based on the statue that Ol Nebby builds of himself in the next chapter.  So, a statue 90 feet tall, that’s 9 stories tall. The head was gold. The arms and the chest was silver. The midsection and the thighs were bronze. The legs were iron. And the feet were a mixture of iron and clay.

This is obviously symbolizing something, but Daniel doesn’t get into that just yet, he simply tells the King what his dream was. He continues, a stone cut out of a mountain, but cut by no man, was hurled and hits the weakest point of the statue, the feet, made by the iron/clay mixture/

It hits that spot and the statue crumbles and disintegrates. The dust blows away and it cannot be found. The stone would grow and grow until it became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.

That’s the dream. Just in and of itself, sounds like a dream. Dreams are known for their interesting symbolism and imagery. And just like most dreams, the actual, full meaning of it is not readily apparent on the surface. Let us not forget that even if Daniel stopped talking here, he would have amazed Nebuchadnezzar and done the impossible. The King didn’t tell any one his dream. That was the test to make sure that ones interpretation was correct, that they could also tell him the dream itself. So Daniel would have already amazed Ol Nebby and we are only getting started.

Daniel will now share the interpretation that God gave him as we read Daniel 2: 36-45:

 

“This was the dream. Now we will tell the king its interpretation. 37 You, O king, the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory, 38 and into whose hand he has given, wherever they dwell, the children of man, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens, making you rule over them all—you are the head of gold. 39 Another kingdom inferior to you shall arise after you, and yet a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth. 40 And there shall be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron, because iron breaks to pieces and shatters all things. And like iron that crushes, it shall break and crush all these. 41 And as you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, it shall be a divided kingdom, but some of the firmness of iron shall be in it, just as you saw iron mixed with the soft clay. 42 And as the toes of the feet were partly iron and partly clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly brittle. 43 As you saw the iron mixed with soft clay, so they will mix with one another in marriage,[c] but they will not hold together, just as iron does not mix with clay. 44 And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever, 45 just as you saw that a stone was cut from a mountain by no human hand, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold. A great God has made known to the king what shall be after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation sure.”

 

 

That’s quite something, isn’t it? All right, brief rundown. The statue stands for 4 kingdoms, the first of which is the golden head, which is Babylon. There is much speculation, much time spent on figuring out who the other three are and we will touch on that in a moment.

Starting with the head made of Gold, down through to the feet made with a mixture of iron and clay, the kingdoms deteriorate, or are progressively inferior. Each Kingdom shall rise to power and each kingdom shall fall. But there is a kingdom which will rise that will never fall. That Kingdom will crush every other kingdom and will the only and the last kingdom left standing, forever and ever.

Daniel tells Nebuchadnezzar that his kingdom is powerful, mighty and full of prestige. Among earthly kingdoms and by earthly standards, It is the pinnacle and it is the Gold Standard, pardon the pun. And yet, When Gods Kingdom is established, not even the strongest of earthly Kingdoms will be able to stand.

The most common view, and the one that I think sounds the closest to right is that these four kingdoms are, in order, The Babylonian Empire, the Medo-Persian empire, the Greek empire and then the Roman empire. But the text does not give us the answer to this line of questioning. Again, like many things we look at, and especially many things we think we know and we take for granted, its all speculation.

Iain DuGuid cautions us:

It doesn’t take long before we find our heads spinning with the variety of interpretations offered, all of which go far beyond the interpretation and application that Daniel himself gives here. It is important to notice however, that the passage itself gives us virtually no data about the specifics of any of these three kingdoms because it intends to give a philosophy of history rather than a precise analysis of history ahead of its time. As John Goldingay puts it, “In the drama of the story the description has to be allowed to remain allusive. People miss the point when they spend time arguing who the empires were. The focus of the dream itself and its interpretation are more concerned with what the future holds than when it will come to pass.

 

          And I think that DuGuid makes a great point there. When Jesus gives his Olivet discourse, where he addresses the disciples with what to look for in the future, he is more concerned that they focus on the fact that He will be coming back rather than when He will be coming back.

In Daniels time, Jesus hadn’t even yet come the first time. And as Miller points out, the Old Testament prophecies that point towards Christ do not distinguish between his first and his second coming.

 

This dream is pointing towards the coming of the Kingdom of God. Its not actually worried about the earthly kingdoms. We are not going to spend time arguing about who they are or what they mean, but instead we are going to look at the coming of the kingdom of God.

See, the one thing that we see with the kingdoms of this earth is that they get progressively inferior to the ones before it. We know that many have been more powerful or more expansive than the ones before it. But one pattern we have seen over and over again in history, specifically in the BC era, and Ill explain why that is in a minute, is that the various kingdoms of the earth have gotten more and more morally inferior.

From Genesis 3 with  the fall in the Garden, to Genesis 6 with Noah and the complete degeneracy of man, then God starting over and almost immediately back to Genesis 11 with the tower of Babel.  We see this pattern over and over in the Old Testament. And we see it with Babylon and then on through Meda-Persia which conquered Babylon, and then the Greeks which conquered Meda-Persia and the Rome which conquered everybody. And we all know about the moral degradation within Rome.

But the Kingdom of God changed all that. And the Kingdom of God will change that. Its interesting. See, a little over 2000 years ago, the Kingdom of God was inaugurated with the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. Came down from heaven, as we said, born not by man, and was thrown at the base of the statue of this world. He came down and utterly destroyed the kingdoms of this world, defeating death and sin utterly and completely. He has and will destroy every kingdom in this world. Gods Kingdom will stand forever and Christ is sitting right now on his throne in heaven, reigning over all of creation.

Jesus first coming demolished the kingdom of the worlds in sort of a behind the scene way. When Jesus walked this earth, he said, The Kingdom of God is at hand. Its not a future Kingdom, its here and now.  Now the battle is over.

But we look around in this world and we don’t see it yet. We see the world continuing to descend more and more into the moral degradation we see in the Old testament pattern. And that can make us misunderstand. That can makes us think only in the future tense when thinking about the coming kingdom of God. And then we get into all sorts of trouble, adding years to prophecies, especially in Daniel where the text doesn’t justify it. We start getting to focused in trying to identify the specific who’s and when’s and the details that God never told us the answers to.

There is a term, especially when referring the kingdom of God, and it’s the already and the not yet. The Kingdom of God is here and now. Its is already. Jesus Christ first coming brought it into this world. The Kingdoms of this earth have no eternal power or authority.

But, right now, they continue to have earthly power and authority. We are to be in submission to those authorities above us. And we are right now, struggling to find out what that really looks like today in a way that we haven’t had to yet, at least here in the United States. They will continue to try to grab more and more power. They will try to exert more and more authority. Moral Fabric of society will continue to deteriorate.

And then, at some undetermined point in the future, that the Bible tells us we cannot know, that not even the angels in heaven now, Jesus will, in language convenient to the analogy if not 100 percent accurate, be hurled out of the sky and will hit the base of the kingdoms of this world, destroying and disintegrating the powers and principalities that we are struggling against. All sin and evil and all kingdoms outside of the kingdom of God will cease to exist and we will move from the not yet, to the already.

 

 

Daniel tells the King, God is trying to get your attention. As powerful and as wonderful as you are, as much power as you wield, your greatness pales in comparison to what God wields in his pinky fingernail.  Babylon cant save you. Your power, greatness and authority cant save you. Only God can save you. Repent and turn to him. Bow to him and worship him as King.

 

The King had said back in verse 6 that whoever could tell him his dream and the interpretation would be showered in gifts and praise and given great honor. And that’s what Ol Nebby now showered on Daniel. Again, those parallels to Joseph in Genesis that you are supposed to be reading about, Daniel was now given a very high ranking government position, essentially the governor f the most important and powerful state within the Babylonian kingdom. Daniel did decline this to serve as the Kings right hand man, but was able to secure that position for his three friends, Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego, now referred to with their Babylonian names.

The last thing I want to point out this morning is the Kings response to the dream, Nebuchadnezzar declared that Daniels God was the God of Gods and the LORD of kings. He affirmed the power and greatness of God. But, what he did not do was to affirm the exclusivity of God. He was not the only God. This is not showing that he converted to Christianity. HE simply sees God as the strongest of all the gods around. He recognizes that God is sovereign over the nations, but it does not go further than that.

Don’t acknowledge God as powerful and important but fail to recognize the exclusivity of God. As we continue to point out, Jesus does not say in Johns Gospel that he is a way, a truth and a life. But he is instead, THE way, The truth and THE life. Don’t settle for almost Christian or partially Christianity, which does not actually exist. There is not shade of salvation. There is eternal life in Christ or eternal torment without. Recognize that God is sovereign and in control of everything, that he raises up and tears down Kings. That he is reigning as king now. His kingdom is already inaugurated, and we are just waiting for the final culmination.

Bow to Him, worship him and only him. Repent and trust in him. Trust and obey. For there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Lets Pray.

Daniel 1:1-8 God of all Nations: Introduction and Background

Daniel 1:1-8

God of all Nations

Introduction and Background

 

Good Morning. Please grab your Bibles and turn with me to the Book of Daniel. We finished up our series through 1 & 2 Timothy, called Life in the Local Church, right before Easter. Today we are starting a new series through the book of Daniel that I am calling God of All Nations.

As you all know, my philosophy in preaching is to go through a book of the Bible, line by line, verse by verse and look at both the immediate context and the bigger picture. I do try to alternate between Old Testament and New Testament books, and I do that, partly so that I don’t just end up going through Paul’s letters and a Gospel every once in a while.

And so, going through some of these other books challenges me and I hope, they will challenge you too. Now, Daniel is unique. It is part Historical, that is where we are going to spend the first long chunk of our series. And It then is part prophecy, that is why, in the Christian Bible, it is placed in the prophets. Because of the prophecies and because of the lens that we view those prophecies in, Daniel can be a very divisive book if we let it be. But we are not going to let it be. Suffice it to say, that we wont all agree on what the prophecies say and what they mean, especially in todays world and with todays current events.

Daniel is also unique in that it is written in two different languages. Daniel 1:1 through chapter 2, verse 3 is written in Hebrew, as is Chapters 8 through 12. The middle section there, chapter 2, verse 4, through chapter 7 is written in Aramaic. Now, Hebrew was the language of the Jews, the language of Israel. Aramaic was the official and the common language if the Babylonian empire.

That leads us to some historical context regarding the book of Daniel. Now, this book was written, despite recent scholarly suggestions to the contrary, in the neighborhood of 530 BC. So that’s 500 years before the birth of Christ. It starts however, back in 605 BC. So, the book of Daniel spans about 70 years.

To understand what happens in 605 BC, we need to go back even further in Israel’s history. Under the Kingship of David and then, his son Solomon, 400 years prior, Israel was more united and more powerful than ever. Then, shortly after the death of Solomon, Israel split into to countries. The kingdom of Israel in the North, comprising of 10 of the 12 tribes. Then there was the Kingdom of Judah in the south, comprising of Benjamin and Judah.

Both kingdoms fell into apostasy, idolatry and general unrepentant sin and divided, they were both weaker militarily and because of the sin, they were subject to the wrath and judgment from God. Israel fell first, to the Assyrian army roughly around 730 BC. Judah lasted another 130 plus years, though they too fell, this time to the Babylonians with various levels of conquership happening between 605 BC and 587 BC.

Daniel was presumed to be around 15 years old in 605 BC when he and his friends, which we will get to in a moment, where captured in Jerusalem and hauled off to Babylon. So, he spoke Hebrew there. And as he lived for 70 plus years in Babylon, serving the courts and the king, he learned Aramaic pretty fluently. Now, there is no consensus, no across the board agreement as to why Daniel was written in both languages.

But the one that makes the most sense to me, that seems to have a lot of traction amongst those who study these sorts of things is that the parts written in Hebrew were specifically being written to the Jews. This would be the introduction, what happened to Daniel and his friends and so forth. This would also include the prophecies in the last half of the book. Obviously, prophecies regarding the coming Jewish Messiah and the coming Kingdom of Heaven, would be much more applicable and interesting to the Jews than to the Babylonians. The middles section, the history of the exiles in Babylon, the dealings of with the various kings and the history during that time would be more interesting to those who spoke Aramaic.

One thing that does not hold merit is the view that because there are two languages in Daniel, that it was written by two or more different people, or at two different times. There has been a lot of skepticism that Daniel was written during the time of the Maccabees and/or by multiple authors, but there is no credibility to these theories. Jesus himself credits Daniel as a specific, historical person who wrote this book in Matthew 24:15. IT just means that there were multiple audiences in view when Daniel wrote it down.

 

 

So, 605 BC rolls around. Babylon has grown big and powerful. Nebuchadnezzar was either co-regent with his father, or all prepped to take over for him when he would soon pass. He defeats Jerusalem and takes many Jews captive and back to Babylon.

That is where the book of Daniel starts, and this is where I want us to start reading. Daniel chapter 1, verses 1-8. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version. Please follow along at home with your preferred translation as well. Daniel 1:1-8, Daniel opens his book, writing:

In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia[a] and put in the treasure house of his god.

Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring into the king’s service some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility— young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians.[b] The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service.

Among those who were chosen were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.

 

May God Bless the Reading of his Holy and Perfect Word.

 

 

 

Now, one of the first things we see in this book is that Daniel, and his friends, will essentially in modern language, go into Government service. They will be working for the King of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar. Christians today tend to have one of two views on situations like this. First, we need to avoid stuff like this and politics and culture are so very toxic that we need to avoid ourselves from it as fully and as completely as possible, so that they can see that we are separated, we are set apart. Second, they say that we need to be a part of they culture and bring ourselves into the culture and politics because its so toxic, and the more we conform to that culture, the more difference we will make.

And yet, Jesus prays to the Father for us that we are to be in the world but not of it. Both of those positions miss a part of what we are called to be and what we are called to do in this world. The truth is that there is a right and a wrong way for Christians to participate in politics. There is a right and a wrong way for Christians to fight for rights, to fight for religious liberties and to participate in civil disobedience. The problem is when we decide on which ways are right and wrong based on our national identities, or our moral beliefs or what we expect to be the practical outcomes of our actions. But the truth is that the only way for us to decided what ways or methods are right and wrong based only on the scriptures, solely on what Jesus, the Word of God says. We are going to see Daniel show us some of the right ways to do this very thing.

But there is a right way and wrong way to read and to approach the scriptures as well. We remember that we are to approach the scriptures just like the Apostles did, and the early church leaders did, and that is to let the New Testament interpret the Old Testament. We don’t insert things into the text. And we rarely can lift the Old Testament up, full block and drop it on to our current context and situations. As Ron Sallee says in our Contenders classes, “The New is in the Old concealed, the Old is in the New revealed.”

We cannot try to affirm our believes by opening the Bibles and reading passages. We do need to let the text speak for itself. We do need to let what we read form our beliefs, not let our beliefs form what we read.

And because of how we read the book, because of what we have been taught, from our parents, from pastors and Bible Study leaders, and from books we have read, from friends around us, and yes, even from the society and the culture around us, whether we recognize it or not, because of how we read the book, we have differences of opinion in what certain parts mean, and we can think that our opinion is not opinion, but fact and is the only biblical thing that it can mean.

Daniel can be divisive. If we let it. But we are not going to let it. Especially when we get to the prophecy section of Daniel. Daniel does speak to the future and to the first and second coming of Jesus Christ. That is unavoidable in the book of Daniel. But that’s not going to be a main focus of this series.

The main focus that we are going to see in Daniel is that, as we see in all the Old Testament books, that all these Old Testament scriptures will be about and point directly to Jesus Christ, the looked for and promised Messiah, the Savior. What does Daniel teach us about Jesus? How does Daniel point to the coming Jesus? What does Daniel teach us about the Kingdom of God and especially how it relates to the kingdoms of men? Those are the main points we will be looking at.

Part of that, but secondary to that, how can we apply Daniel to today and what we are going through in these times. How do we spend our days today living in and serving a kingdom that is not ours? How do we live in and serve a kingdom that is openly and actively hostile to the kingdom that we do belong to? And how do we do so, while continuing to serve the Kingdom of God here and now and continue to do so first and foremost. How do we balance those things, both of which we are called to?

Daniel was taken into exile. He was brought out of his homeland and his home Kingdom and was brought forcibly to serve the Kingdom of Babylon, and he did so faithfully and admirably.

 

If we are in Christ, if we belong to Him, if we can rightly call ourselves Christians, then we are not citizens of this world. Peter calls us sojourners and exiles. We are travelers here, temporarily living in this kingdom, in this world. We are to love, to care for, and to serve this world while we are here, and to do so in the name of Jesus, by the Word of Jesus.

Paul writes in Romans 13:1 & 2,

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.

Daniel shows us that we can do this while still maintaining our loyalty to Christ and his commands. We can do this while fulfilling our purposes of serving, worshipping, and working for the one in whom we are true citizens of. Christ is our King and we are citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven.

That balance is not easy. That loyalty is not easy. Daniels home has been destroyed. His friends and he are conscripted into government service and their names are changed from ones that honor the One true God, to ones that honored the Babylonian Gods. They were taught the language and the literature of the Chaldeans.

Daniel and his friends were even given new names, supposed by many to assert ownership and possession over them, to attempt to change their identity from those of Gods children to those who belong to the gods of Babylon.

And yet, if our identity is in Christ, nothing can change that. Our identity used to be that of rebel, sinner, and damned. But in Christ, our identity is changed by the one who we belong to. Our identity is changed so that we are now Christs beloved. We are now children of God. We are now saints, citizens of Heaven. Babylon tried to change their identity, to make them forget their true identity, but their foundation in God kept them faithful.

This world will try to change our identity. It will try to make you forget your identity. Try to get you to put any other identity above Child of God, above Saint. They will say that all are children of God. Or they will say that you are still a sinner. They will tell you that your other identities are more important than your identity in Christ. They will tell you that you are American first, Christian second. That was a hard one for me to come to grips with. The world will try to tell us that our political identity is first and foremost. Only Republicans can be Christians or Democrats are loving like Jesus. OR worse yet, when we go against our Christian conscience and vote for someone just because they happen to be our party’s nominee. Remember something, voting for the lesser of two evils is still evil.

 

Daniel and his friends were immersed in the foreign culture and they would show us how to stay true and faithful to God in spite of that.

That’s one thing for us to remember. Yes, the culture and society around us may be toxic. It may be actively against what God wants, what He says and what He stands for. It may actively try to corrupt us and bring us over to their side. But there is some redeeming value in some of the culture around us.

We are not called to bunker down, separate from everything except this building and eschew everything around us. We are not called to separate ourselves so far as we don’t have a witness. We are called to be salt and light. We are called to bring the Gospel to the ends of the world, making disciples and teaching them to follows Gods commands. Showing them that We are sinners, that we are not able to be good enough, that there is only one God and that He has perfect wrath and perfect grace. That we are saved by his grace, through our faith in the one and only Jesus Christ, God become man to save us sinners. We have a job and a duty while we are here in this earth and it is to serve and worship our King.

Now, the way that Daniel and his friends were able to be part of this culture and to study their teachings and still stay faithful to God is that they had a strong foundation in their faith.

Studying all of Gods Word is crucial to having that strong foundation. Knowing that Gods Word is inspired and without error is crucial to our studying of it. The more we know of it, the more we can discern. The more we can discern, the more we can discern what is truth and what is not. The more we can discern, the more we can fix our eyes straight upon Jesus, who is our foundation and our stronghold and our sabbath.

 

Let’s go ahead and Pray.

 

 

 

Passover Sermon: Exodus 12 and Luke 22

Passover Sermon
Exodus 12 and Luke 22

 

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me as we open up Gods Word. This is a special week for Christians. Today, the Sunday before Easter is known as Palm Sunday. This is when Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey and many bystanders laid down palm branches as a way of honoring Jesus. This would kick off the week known as Holy Week. Much of the Gospel stories take place during this week. We are going to especially focus on one of the nights of this week.
Jesus and his disciples met in an upper room on a Thursday night for a dinner celebration. The twelve that were with Jesus did not have any idea that this would be there last meal together. They had no idea that one of them was about to betray Jesus, that he would be illegally tried three times that night. They had no idea that he would die the next day and they had no idea the things that he would reveal to them that night. This was not an overly special week to them, with one exception. All they knew was that it was Passover, and they were there to celebrate.
Today we will take a look at the Passover we will look at a number of different texts, but if you want to open up your Bible, we will be starting in Exodus 12, and then moving over to Luke 22. When I read the scriptures, I will be reading out of the English Standard Version, though I encourage you to read along in which ever is your preferred translation.
To know about the Passover, to see why it was a celebration and how important it was to the Jews in that time, we need to start in Exodus 12. The setting of Exodus 12 is that the people of Israel were slaves to the Egyptians. God was done with that and was ready to free his people and bring them to the land that he had promised Abram 400 years ago. So, He told Moses to go tell Pharaoh to let the Israelite go. Pharaoh would not so God sent a number of plagues on Egypt to show his power and might and Pharaoh would still not let them go.
So, God decided to send one final plague. A plague that was so harsh, so brutal, that Pharaoh would not be able to stop the Israelite s from leaving. God was going to kill all the first-born males in Egypt. This included all the first-born Egyptian sons. This included Pharaohs first born son. This even included the first-born male cattle. And this was going to so complete and so total that it would have included the first-born male Israelite s, except that God gave them a way out.
Exodus 12 lays out the way out of this plague. Starting in verse 3, God tells Moses and Aaron,
“Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers house, a lamb for the household….” V.5, “Your lamb shall be without blemish…”, and picking up in v 7 & 8, “Then they shall take some of the blood (from killing the lamb) and put it on the two door posts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it.”
OK, so God told them how to eat a very specific meal and to wipe the blood of the lamb on the doors. But it doesn’t yet tell us that God will spare the Israelite s from this plague. But God then goes on to spell it out for them and us.
Starting at the end of v11, “It is the Lord’s Passover. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night and I will strike all the first born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD. The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.”
God told them to sacrifice a lamb without blemish, and that the blood of that lamb would protect them from the wrath of God that would be poured out on the nation. More on that in just a little bit.
The LORD also went on to describe to the Israelites how they were to continue to celebrate this Passover celebration every year for all the future generations to learn as well.
We pick right back up in v 14, “ This day shall be for you a memorial day and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast.” and later in v 25, when Moses is telling Israel what the LORD told him about Passover, he shared this with them for the future, “And when you come to the land that the LORD will give you, as he promised, you shall keep this service. And when your children say to you, “What do you mean by this service?” you shall say, “It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.” (v25-27)
God told the people that this was a joyous occasion, that he had spared them from this wrath and that they needed to celebrate it and teach their kids what had happened. Sometimes, in the church, we forget that our kids don’t know as much as we do about some of these things. We forget that they have not had the experiences that we have. In this case, the children would not have seen Gods wrath passing over the nation of Israel and sparing them. To this day, in the Jewish Passover celebration, the youngest child asks the question and the father then tells the Passover story.
I heard a quote a couple years ago. I don’t remember who it was that said it and I couldn’t find it this week, but they said, “What the first generation knows, the second generation forgets, and the third generation never knew.” What this is saying is that we need to constantly remember to teach our kids, not just church, but the gospel. This was one of Israel’s big problems throughout the Old Testament. Israel would turn to God and experience a revival, but within one or two generations, they were back to worshiping false idols and, as God puts it in numerous places, committing spiritual adultery on him.
God knows all this ahead of time and told the Israelite s that part of this yearly ritual and celebration was to pass the story on to the younger generation.
I also saw a quote recently that reminds just how smart our kids can be. It said, “As soon as we assumed that children were too stupid to figure out what the pastor was talking about, they were” Our kids are much smarter than we ever give them credit for and if we teach them and talk to them as if they are smart enough to get it, they will.

But this is also a reminder to ourselves. How many times, how often do we receive an answer to prayer, a miracle from God and we forget about it shortly after it happened? I know it happens to me all the time. And with big things even. Right after Hope and I got married, I lost my job and was out of work for 6 months. I happened to get placed in a company through a temp agency, and through circumstances that could only be brought about by God, I got hired on full time. Not only was this a job, but this was a job that paid well, and had great benefits. To be completely honest I would have taken a decent pay cut just to have had those benefits. But I would often forget how God arranged all this and I would take it for granted and I would look for other jobs and I would get frustrated there. Then something would remind me.
This is why the disciples were celebrating the Passover with Jesus on this Thursday night. To Remember. They didn’t know that the Jewish leadership was planning on arresting Jesus. Well, one did.
Luke tells is right at the beginning of Chapter 22 that the Jews were afraid of the people and that was why they were looking to put him to death. They were afraid of the people because Jerusalem was packed full of Jews traveling there to celebrate the Passover. Luke tells us earlier in his book, that the religious leaders had trouble coming up with ways to kill him because the people were hanging on every word to come out of his mouth. There was no way that all those people would stand for the arrest of Jesus. They would be whipped into a frenzy. It would become a mob mentality and there would be no predicting what would happen. So, to protect themselves, they would wait until they could encounter Jesus away from the crowds.
Even with the evil in their hearts, their preference was to not do this during Passover. They did it because the opportunity came up and they did it because they could not see who Jesus was.
Jesus revealed himself to be THE Passover Lamb. The New Testament shows us this in many places. John the Baptist saw Jesus walking towards him in John 1:29 and recognized Jesus for who and what he was. He said to himself, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.” It wasn’t just that John called him that that made it so. There were many reasons the scriptures point out. Exodus calls for the Passover lamb to be one without blemish. In 1 Peter 1:18-19, Peter says “You were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.”
The lambs that were chosen for sacrifice in the Old Testament times were very purposefully to be without blemish. We are blemished, we are sinful and full of defects. We are told that “The wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23) In the Old Testament, we would offer blood sacrifices to atone for our sins. But that was just temporary, we could not stay perfect, no matter how hard we tried. We needed someone who was perfect, who had no sin, no blame. The only person that could accomplish this was a perfect man. The sacrificial lambs were sacrificed in place of us to pay the temporary payment of our sins. Jesus was the Lamb that was sacrificed for our sins permanently.
While the blood on the door for the Israelites signaled for Gods wrath to Passover that household, so does the blood of Jesus on our hearts signals the wrath of God to Passover us when stand before him in judgment.
The Passover ended up being the final plague on Egypt. After the death of all the firstborns, Pharaoh wanted them to get out and they left. They were now freed from slavery. In the same way, we are slaves to sin. The New Testament is very clear on this. In the same way the Passover freed the Israelites from slavery of Egypt, Jesus freed us from the slavery of sin.
Now, as I said, the Israelites were commanded to pass along the tradition and celebration of the Passover. We are no longer under the law. On the night of the last supper, Jesus replaced the Passover celebration, and the Abrahamic Covenant was fulfilled in the New Covenant. But Jesus orchestrated the Passover to be the time when he was going to be crucified. In Luke 22:15-16, Jesus tells his disciples, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”
What he is saying is that while Jesus is THE fulfillment of the Passover lamb and he secured freedom for us from Gods wrath, that freedom will not become totally seen until we are with God in Heaven.
He replaced the Passover meal with communion. Instead of eating of the Passover lamb, sacrificed and drained of blood, we are to partake in eating the bread, symbolizing the body of Christ, who was THE Passover Lamb and drink the wine which was the Blood of Jesus who was THE Passover lamb.
Instead of celebrating the freedom from slavery every year, we are to celebrate the freedom from sin and the freedom from eternal torment whenever we gather together. But that doesn’t mean that we are to forget. Hope and I enjoy celebrating Passover and Hanukah, some of the Jewish holidays. Of course, it is not required as it was previously, but, for me it helps make the Bible more real. It helps us to remember that Jesus is our Passover lamb. It helps us to remember that his blood allows Gods wrath to pass over us.
We forget that sometimes. If not intellectually than definitely practically. We all have things that become our practical Passover lamb, our idols, our practical saviors. For some of us, it’s that we are a good person. We think that is enough to save us. That was what mine was. For most of my life I figured I was a good enough person and that’s all that was needed. That is one that I still find myself struggling with at times.
For some of us, it’s our good works. If we do, do, do, if we help the poor, if we protest against abortion or homosexuality, the we can outweigh whatever bad we may do on the scales at the end. I’ve heard one pastor describe this as trying to wear the same set of white clothes for eighty years and trying to keep them pure and spotless. And I think that’s a good illustration, but it doesn’t go far enough. Because, even if we were to physically keep the outfit pure and spotless from our environment, we could not keep our sweat, tears, that sort of thing, just as our mind, our heart, our sinful nature has already ruined the outfit. We all have these things that come between us and Jesus.
And the Passover, and communion remind us that Jesus closes that gap. Between us and him. It is not through anything that we do, but through his blood, his love and his grace that are out white outfits stay pure and spotless.
Finally, the Passover is an intrinsically important part of our history. It’s not just world history, or Jewish history or American history. But it’s your history and it’s my history. Its believer’s history. If you are a follower of Jesus, who was Jesus?
Jesus was not a Christian, not in the sense that we understand it. He was not American; he was not white. He was not gorgeous. He was not anything like we picture. He was a plain looking, brown skinned, middle eastern Jewish man.
Most of us spend our time in the Bible in the Gospels and Paul’s letters… We might go through the Old Testament for our daily reading plan, but how often do we spend intentional, studious time in Numbers, or Deuteronomy, or Lamentations, or Joel? Joel is one of the Old Testament prophets by the way…
But what Scriptures did Jesus know? The Gospels weren’t written when he was alive. Neither were Paul’s letters. Jesus had the Old Testament. He had the writings of Moses, the first 5 books of the Old Testament. He had the historical books, starting with Joshua and going through Esther. He had the wisdom books, Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Solomon and the like, and he had the Prophets, Isaiah through Malachi.
These are the scriptures that Jesus had, and the Jews had, and they were vital for understanding God, his story and his redemption plan. Now, most of us are not Jewish, ethnically speaking. But Once Jesus came, he followed the Old Testament, and he came as a Jew, to the Jews, and offered them salvation. Then he turned to all the rest of us and we were allowed to receive the gift of salvation as well.
For us to know Jesus better, we need to know who he was, when he grew up, what the culture was. That’s one of the things that The Old Testament does for us. Jesus celebrated the Passover, for us to know Jesus better, to have a better relationship with him, we don’t have to celebrate the Passover, but you have to understand it and why Jesus celebrated it.
My challenge to you, to me, to us, is, are you, are we utilizing all of the resources available to us to understand Jesus better, to grow closer to him.
We have our Bible, are we reading it? All of it? Or just our favorite parts? Are we only skimming it because it’s in our daily reading plan or are we actually reading it? Both Testaments?
Are we praying? This hits a couple of areas. Are we praying for those around us? In our congregation and in our family? Are we praying the list of prayer requests that come in the bulletin each week? What about prayer requests that come in Bible Studies? Or even just your everyday conversation with friends, family, coworkers, and the trials and troubles that come up in their lives. What about personal time in prayer just for you and God. Time to pray, meaning talk to him, listen to him and just be with him.
Are you talking to the people in your life that you can learn from? If you’re not sure who that might be. My phone is always on and my office door is always open. Are you reading or listening to things that bring you closer to God? This could include things on TV, music on the radio, but it includes books about Jesus, in includes sermons online, podcasts, things like that. I’m not saying you have to do all, or even any of these things. If you belong to God, you belong to God, but these are resources that you have, that can help you know Jesus Christ better, help you grow closer to him.

As I referenced at the beginning of the sermon this morning, this week is what is called Passion Week, or Holy Week. Today is Palm Sunday. The day that Jesus rode into Jerusalem for the last week of his life. He was there this week specifically because it was the Passover. Thursday night is when he had the Last Supper with the disciples, the Passover meal, the prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. Thursday was the night the Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus and turned him over to the Romans and Jewish leaders. He was illegally tried through the night, with false witnesses on trumped up charges, the loudest of which was blasphemy.
Friday he was beaten to within an inch of his life. The beating the Romans doled out was called the half death, because half of the prisoners who received it, died from it. He was then forced to carry his own cross and then crucified on it.
The details are horrendous, and I won’t go into them today, but there was a reason that the Passion of the Christ was Rated R. Jesus died on that cross. He died for me, he died for you, he died for all of us.
And on Sunday morning, he accomplished all he came here to do, by being raised back up from the dead by God the Father and proclaiming victory over death and sin.
This is the most important week in Jesus life. We today tend to celebrate Christmas as the most important date in Christianity. And don’t get me wrong, the birth of Jesus Christ was a monumental moment in history. It was world changing, to say the least.
But then, 30 plus years later, Jesus would have yet another, greater world changing moment. This week is designed by God to be one of reflection. Do you understand what Jesus went through this week? Do you see that what he went through allowed you and I to be passed over in our sin? That his life, and his death, were a fulfillment of the Passover, and that his resurrection made that Passover permanent? Take some time this week, think about it. Reflect on that. How serious are we about our relationship with God? And what are we doing to bring ourselves closer to him?

Let’s Pray

2 Timothy 4:1-5 Life in the Local Church: Paul’s Appeal to Timothy

2 Timothy 4:1-5

Life in the Local Church

Paul’s Appeal to Timothy

 

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles and turn with me to 2 Timothy chapter 4. As usual, if you do not own a Bible, please feel free to grab one from the back table as our gift to you.

Well, we are on to the last chapter on 2 Timothy, chapter 4. We have been working our way through 1 & 2 Timothy, Paul’s letters to Timothy as Paul was imprisoned in Rome and Timothy was pastoring the church in Ephesus. Paul knows this letter is coming to an end and he knows his life is coming to an end. He is writing Timothy what Timothy needs to hear and needs to know. And we titled this series, Life in the Local Church, because Paul is writing what we all today, as a part of the local church need to hear and need to know as well.

And one of the main things that Paul has been focused on is the importance and the primacy and the sufficiency and the authority of God’s Word. HE says, the False teachers are here, and they are going to come up through the church, so watch out. Here is what they look like, hers is what they sound like, here is what they act like. Essentially, here’s how to identify them and here is what their bad fruit will be.

But make sure that you are focused on Christ. Jesus Christ who is the Word of God become flesh; Jesus Christ who is God become man. Focus on the Word, which is the Holy Scripture, collected and printed right here in this book that we get to carry around with us, or put into out tablets, our computers, even our phones so that we are never without it. Focus on the Word, scripture which is God Breathed, which is inspired by God, which is inerrant, without error, which is sufficient and complete, useful for all things and everything.

2 Timothy kind of has two bookmark verses and points that Paul makes. The first is back in 2 Timothy 1:6 & 7, where he says,

I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

 

And he has spent the last three chapters pushing Timothy towards the charge that he is going to give him here at the beginning of chapter 4. He has been, in essence, telling him to live by this book, to live by the scriptures, by the Word of God. The last two verse of chapter 3 he reminds or establishes, depending on your background, that the scriptures are, in fact, the very Word of God and that it has all the authority that God himself has, because it is His revealed Words to us.

And that leads to what he says here at the beginning of Chapter 4. So, lets go ahead and read this mornings passage, 2 Timothy chapter 4, verses 1 through 5. I am reading out of the English Standard Version, my preferred translation. Please follow along in your preferred translation.

Paul here is writing the very Word of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit, as he charges and exhorts Timothy, saying:

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

 

May God Bless the reading of his holy, inspired and inerrant Word.

 

First, maybe this is just me and my brain, but since I’m the one up here, I get to ask you the question. Does it feel like something is missing from verse 1 right here? For me, it feels like one of those transitions where Paul would put a “therefore.”

This is what false teachers look and act like. They disobey the scriptures. The scriptures are Gods very Word and revelation and instructions to us. Therefore, I charge you… The good news is that scripture is useful for teaching, Paul just said that. Scripture has taught us that we look for those transitions and the connections between them. Every paragraph is not a standalone paragraph. Context matters and context bridges; from sentence to sentence, from paragraph to paragraph, from chapter to chapter, even from book to book sometimes.

Because of everything that Paul has written since chapter 1 verse 6, therefore, Timothy, I charge you. This is your calling, your responsibility. Its not really your choice. This is what you are to do. And this charge is giving by Paul to Timothy, but the call that Paul is referring to is not giving by him. It is administered by Paul and done so in the presence of He who has given the call, God the Father and Christ Jesus.

And Notice again, Paul contrasts truth against what the False teachers teach. They are teaching incorrectly about who Jesus is and what He has and will do. And so, Paul affirms some truths about Jesus. First, by the title Paul gives him, he affirms that Jesus is the Christ. He is the Messiah. He is the Savior whom God promised to send on our behalf back in Genesis 3. He is God become man to save sinners. He is the Christ.

Christ Jesus is the judge. He will judge right from wrong. He will judge the living and the dead. Sin will be judged and sin, not redeemed, will be punished with eternal damnation. You often hear people justify their sin by saying, “You can’t judge me, only God can judge me.” I want to plead with them, “Yes! And that should scare you!” Gods judgment is nothing to trifle with. Its nothing to dismiss. No matter how symbolic or how literal you think it is, reading the various judgments and bowls and trumpets in Revelation should testify to that.

We don’t all get to go to heaven. We don’t get to plead our case, our worthiness to Him when we stand before him. He will judge is solely on whether we are redeemed by His blood. Our salvation is through nothing but the grace of God alone, though faith alone in Jesus Christ alone.

Christ Jesus will appear again. He is coming back We can disagree on when. We don’t and won’t know the day, but when he comes back, there will be no doubt, the whole Earth will know, and every knee will bow, and every tongue confess that he is LORD. We don’t have to agree on what the millennium is or what the tribulation is or when He will return in relation to either of those. But we do need to agree that he will physically return. That is a core, central, necessary tenet of Christianity.

Lastly, Christ Jesus is King over his Kingdom.  Right now, He is reigning over his Kingdom, all of creation. And after he returns and judges the nations and refines the world so that we will reside in the new heavens and the new Earth, Jesus will hand his Kingdom back over to the Father and will be seated at his right hand, reigning along side him.

 

Paul says that in all of the things he has warned about, all the false teaching. The Apostasy within the church. In the face of cultural and fake Christianity. In the face of current to them and upcoming to us persecution, what are you to do? Paul says, I charge you, in the presence of God and Christ Jesus to do this in the face of all of that. Preach the Word.

Preach the Word. Preach the Gospel. Teach others about Jesus and about what the Bible says bout him. Preach it using words. The Gospel never doesn’t need words. Our lives can and will help to testify to what we say we believe, but preaching the Gospel always requires words. Evangelize. Share the Gospel with others. Let them know what it means that Jesus died for our sins. Let them know who Jesus actually is. Not everyone who says the believe in God or believes in Jesus will be talking about the same God, the same Jesus as the Bible defines. Let them know that the Bible says that we need to repent from our sins and believe that Jesu Christ is LORD.

And this is to be done In Season and Out of Season. We are to Preach the Word and share the Gospel when its easy and the words come easy and people seem receptive. And we are to Preach the Word and share the Gospel when its hard and we can’t think of the words and people don’t want to hear it. We need to remember that this is literally a matter of life or death, eternally speaking.

 

One of the things that the Bible teaches and the letters to Timothy specifically convict me of is that we are to not only teach and preach what is right, but we are also to point out error when we see it.

I’ve shared this with you guys before, and mi shamelessly stealing it from Ligon Duncan, though I don’t know if its shamelessly stealing if I give credit, but anyway, the following is a great illustration of this point. Duncan says:

I’ll never forget–a friend of mine…we were talking about a very famous professor, and we both had a great admiration for him. And he shared a story. He sat down with another minister who knew this professor. He’s a very godly man, a very wise man, a very kind man, though he didn’t like to critique wrong views. He was given simply to stating what was right, and then when people would ask him, “But, what about…” he’d say, “Well, I don’t want to get into criticizing those other views.” And so, he was talking with this pastor, and this pastor said, “You know what his problem is? He’ll draw a picture of a horse and say, ‘That’s a horse’; but he won’t draw a picture of a cow and say, ‘That’s not a horse.’ And that was his colorful way of saying this man will tell you what’s right, but he won’t tell you what’s wrong. And Paul is saying to Timothy, ‘It’s not enough to tell the people of God what’s right; you also need to tell them what’s wrong. They need to know the difference, and they need to learn how to discern the difference, and that means being both positive and negative in your proclamation.’

 

Paul continues in verse 2, saying that we are to reprove, rebuke and exhort. Very similar wording to what he said just a few lines earlier in chapter 3, verse 16. All of those things that the Bible is useful for, for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, all those things, we are to continue to do and to use the Bible to do them.

The Bible is not a self-help book, no matter what many TV preachers try to peddle. The Bible is not simply a set of moral guidelines, though it does include those. The Bible is not a science book, though it is trustworthy and without error where it mentions science.

The Bible is book, a collection of books about the history of His redeemed people, about His glory about his love and about his Holiness. The Bible is a book about Gods plan of redemption. The Bible is a book about Jesus and who He is.

And we are to share this book with others with complete patience and teaching. We teach, showing each other and others “This is what the Bible says…” “The scriptures say…” “Jesus said, and then quote him correctly or give chapter and verse.” The Bible says…

This is how we teach. We use the Bible, which is Truth, Given directly from God, the author of Ultimate Truth. We use that Truth to teach. And we do so with patience. No all who respond will do so immediately. Some will change a little bit at a time. Some will change the moment they here the truth. Some will have to hear the truth a lot, building a foundation and then the change will seem immediate. And some will not respond at all. This is about sharing the Gospel with those who do not believe. Remember that we sow the seed, but God brings the increase, God does the work. He calls us to Him and often drags us, kicking and screaming to Himself.  But don’t dismiss this idea because you see it mainly about evangelism.

This is also for each of us and our learning. This is for our growth and our sanctification. Not a single one of us has everything right. We need to be taught by each other. Some of us, when we are taught the truth, we will change immediately, some if us will gradually change, some if us will resist it and then seem to change all of a sudden, and some of us will never change out views or thoughts, no matter how much truth we are shown. Search your heart and ask God to make sure you are open to hear the Truth as the Bible teaches it.

And Paul goes on to show why he specifies the preaching of the Gospel both In Season and Out of Season. He lays it out in verses 3 & 4. The time is coming. The truth is the time is hear and the time has been here since Paul wrote this to Timothy. People don’t want to hear. They don’t want to listen. Again, this applies to those outside the church, to those who don’t believe, but it applies just as much to those in the pews every Sunday.

Natural human desire is to hear what affirms what we want to hear, to affirm what we already think. Studies have been done that show that we hear what we already agree with. Think about your politics and try to watch with open eyes. I see this all the time. Some one from the left says something and someone from the right says the same basic thing. Those on the right will defend what their side said and dismiss and mock what the other side said. The person on the left will do the same thing. And its when both politicians say the same thing. We want to hear what agrees with what we already think and believe.

People want to listen to people who make them feel good. We want to be told that we are the hero of the story. We want to be told that we are David, standing up against Goliath, our sins and slaying them. The truth is that we are the scared, paralyzed, quaking Israelites who need Jesus to fight our battles for us. And praise God that he does, but that’s not the story we want to hear.

False teachers gain big audiences appealing to, quote, “common sense.” Unquote. They make scripture less accurate. “No one could survive being in the belly of a fish!” “God uses Evolution!” “Jesus only appeared to have risen from the dead but isn’t that still inspirational!” And my favorite, by favorite I mean drives me crazy, “Do we actually lose anything if we lose the virgin birth?” YES! Yes, we lose everything if we lose that!

Teachers and so-called pastors who teach these sorts of things have large followings and lots of influence amongst those who don’t believe. And they draw people away from the Truth. Jesus says that he is the Way, the Truth and the Life. When we substitute anything else in for Jesus, we lose everything. When we focus on anything else besides Jesus, we lose everything.

 

As for you, Paul continues to contrast faithful believers with those who teach falsely and those who follow false teachers. In contrast to them, unlike them, be sober minded. Be safe and smart, not dismissive and not panicking. We touched on that on Wednesday, as we were reading through Psalm 10. Given the hysteria from some and the complete dismissal of others regarding the pandemic going on from the coronavirus, COVID-19, what are we to do? We know that God is in control of all things. We know that he is sovereign. He calls us to pay attention to what’s going on around us. We have a biblically taught human responsibility. A responsibility to take care of ourselves. A responsibility to love our neighbors and care for others. A responsibility to be smart and safe in this world. But our focus is to be straight up, into the heavens, right on Jesus Christ. If we panic, we are trusting in our own ability to save ourselves instead of trusting in the sovereignty of God. If we ignore completely and dismiss reality, we are ignoring the plain teachings of the Bible and especially the command to love and care for our neighbors. In all things we are to be sober minded.

We are to endure suffering. We look to biblical examples such as Paul, and Job and so many more. We can probably think of people in our lives who have endured suffering and in that enduring, they were an incredible witness for Christ. The ran the race and finished well. All things to the Glory of God. That’s easy to say and think when things are going well, but its so much more important when suffering is involved.

Do the work of an evangelist. Share the Gospel, spread the word, share the Good News of Jesus Christ. We show those around us why we have Hope in such trying times. Why we don’t need to panic over the things of this world. Why we can endure the suffering that will come.

But we are not to be salesmen in a consumer culture. We are not selling a cure, or our best life now. WE are not selling healing and financial gain. We are not selling anything at all. We are proclaiming the truth. The truth of the Word of God revealed to us in the book we hold in our hands. We truth that reveals Jesus Christ as the only way to salvation.

Notice Paul’s constant contrasting of those who dismiss and reject the truth and those who are faithful and loyal to the truth. That’s because those are the only two choices we have. There is no middle ground. There is no gray area. You are either in Christ or you without Christ. You are either a sheep, to whom Christ will see in the end, “Well Done, good and faithful servant,” welcoming you into eternal life with Christ, worshiping the King of Kings in eternal paradise, in perfection, the Kingdom of Heaven. Or you are a goat, one who suppressed the truth in unrighteousness, rejecting Christ and his salvation. To whom Christ will say, “Go away, for I never knew you.”

The Word instructs us, repent and believe in the Gospel. Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah, he is the Christ. He is the savior. I want to leave you with Philippians 4:4-9 as Paul writes:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.  Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

 

Let’s Pray.

 

 

2 Timothy 3:1-9 Life in the Local Church: A sign of the Times

2 Timothy 3:1-9
Life in the Local Church
A sign of the Times

Good Morning! Turn with me, if you would, to 2 Timothy chapter 3. As always, if you do not have a Bible, if you do not own a Bible, or if you know someone who would read and does not have one, please grab one from our back table there.
We are continuing our series through 1 & 2 Timothy titles, Life in the Local Church. One of the biggest themes we have seen from Paul in these writings, in these two letters is confronting false teachers and protecting the congregation from false teaching.
That’s going to be the main bulk of what we are looking at this morning as well. Paul has been building to this over what we have looked at the last few weeks. He has been warning and teaching Timothy, and the church at Ephesus and I want to review a little bit of that before we really dive in here this evening.
As we look back at chapter 2 of this letter, we see that Paul has repeatedly given warnings about quarrelling over words and similar ideas. He has done in verses 14, 16, 23 & 24. With that repetition, I think we might want to pay attention.
In verse 15, Paul tells us to present ourselves to God. He is showing us that God is who we will stand before. God is the one whose opinion and judgment matter, not mans opinions and judgment. He also challenges us and commands us in this verse to Rightly handle the Word of truth.
2 timothy 2:19, Paul encourages us and promises us that what God says will come to pass when he tells us that Gods Firm foundation will stand steady. A Mighty Fortress is our God, as Martin Luther sings.
2 Timothy 2:22, Paul tells us to flee our youthful passions. We are to repent from and run quickly away from our sins and our temptations. We are instead to pursue with that same passion and intensity righteousness.
In verse 24, he tells us that we are to be kind to everyone, no matter who and especially our opponents. And one of the reasons being that, as Paul shows us in verse 25, we should desire that God would grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of truth.
That’s where Paul has been, writing to Timothy and where we will pick up today, with Paul continuing and looking at false teachers. These weeks passage we will be looking at is 2 Timothy chapter 3, verses 1-9. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version. I encourage you to follow along in your preferred translation. 2 Timothy 3:1-9, Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit tells Timothy:

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men.

May God Bless the reading of his Holy, inspired and sufficient Word.

So, Paul left off with some encouragement at the end of chapter 2, that God grants repentance leading to the knowledge of Truth and we are working our way, trying spread the good news of the Gospel and living a righteous life instead of a life of son.
But Paul says here, understand this… know this, this is truth. Things are not going to automatically be all hunky dory. It wont all be so easy as it can sometimes seem to be.
A common false teaching that’s out there right now is “If we are nice to them, they will be saved.” It goes right along the lines of “It doesn’t matter what we do to get them through the door, as long as they come to church.” You see churches around that do these massive giveaways in order to get people through the doors. Or they sing secular songs and put on, basically concerts as their worship. They have the smoke machines, and lasers and the like. In those things, there is no Gospel.
With no Gospel, there is no salvation. Things are not going to be as easy as we want them to go. There is a reason that Jesus warns against the easy path and the wide gate (Matthew 7)
And so, understand that in the last days, there will be difficulties. When the Bible says last days, it is referring to the entirety of time from Christs first coming, which finished with his ascension, and goes all the way through until his second coming that we are still waiting on. These times will be difficult.
These things we are going to look at, they were happening in Paul and Timothy’s time, and they are happening today. As the preacher says over and over in Ecclesiastes, there is nothing new under the sun. In verses 2-5, Paul lists a long number of things that mark people of the last days. This is specifically in context of False teachers and those who listen to and follow false teachers, but it’s also a pretty general description of the culture around us, including those within the church, that call themselves and maybe even think themselves Christians but truly are not.
This is as true in Timothy’s day as it is today. Paul is telling Timothy, when you go out and you believe and you share the truth and you live the truth, this is what you can expect to encounter. This is what we can look around and expect to find when we deal with people outside of the forgiveness of Christ.
And I’m just going to touch on a few of these attributes, we are not going to go in depth into each of the 18 characteristics that Paul’s lists here. Again, I want you to see what Paul is talking about here. These are prevalent in the days of the early church and in the Ephesian church.
First, the first one we will touch on and the first one Paul mentions, is that people will be lovers of self. This might be easy to picture for the young generation today. This is the Selfie generation, right? But, again, this not new to today. And you know who these people are that are lovers of self. Those who tend to only talk about themselves. They have a talent of making every conversation about them. No matter what you are going through, no matter how bad or how good you are doing, they’ve been worse than your worst and better than your best. Their worship tends to be focus on them and what they are doing and who they are instead of who God is and what God has done. They insert themselves into every story in the Bible, making it about them instead of about Jesus. We all know these people.
Now, sometimes, we can fall into one or more of those categories. Sometimes we give in to the temptation to be the center of the universe. That’s why we should constantly be testing even our emotions, attitudes and desires against scripture.

Paul next warns against those who are lovers of money. We looked at this some back in 1 Timothy chapter 6, verses 9 & 10. Paul wrote then, but those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.
One of the fastest spreading false teachings spreading throughout the world today is the Prosperity Gospel, or Health and Wealth Gospel. It stems from greed at its core, from the love of money. And its teaching, in essence is that God wants every single one of his children to be wealthy and to be healthy. No debt, no struggles, no sicknesses, no cancers, some even go so far as to say no death. It’s a promise for God to fulfill all our world desires. And its from Satan. They also claim that God won’t give it to you unless you ask for it, or even demand it. And if he doesn’t give it to you, if you don’t get that promotion, if your marriage fails, if he doesn’t heal or whatever, it means that you didn’t pray hard enough, or sincerely enough or have enough faith, or any number of other things that put the fault directly on you. This is evil and its false teaching from the pits of hell. Most ministries and preachers you see on TV fall into this category. If you need to “sow a seed of faith,” Its almost certainly in this category.
One of the main problems is that it takes all power away from God, did you notice that? And it puts it directly on you. Its because of your faith and your actions and your prayers that God will finally be able to do what he wanted to do for you. No. God is sovereign and does what he wants, when he wants, whatever he wants, regardless of anything about us. And this comes from the love of money. All sorts of evil come from the love of money.
Paul warns us about these people who are unappeasable. This is a big one we see in society today. If you and I disagree on something, we can stay in disagreement. We can respect each other, we can *gasp* tolerate each other and we can either agree to disagree and goon with our lives or we can be friends who differ on an issue.
But what have we seen more and more recently around us? No, we can’t disagree with each other! You will be poked, prodded, shamed, yelled out, jailed, publicly ridiculed, threatened with violence and legislated into agreeing. And then, even if you end up agreeing with them, its still not enough. They take another step to the side and say, “Nope, that’s not the line anymore, here is the new line.”
I want to share just one high profile, recent example. Chick-Fil-A had come under fire a number of years ago because their owner at the time, who has since passed away, said that he supports the biblical view of marriage. The company would donate to charities which included some that held to a biblical view of marriage as well. This past November, I think it was, they announced they would no longer be donating to those biblical charities, but to broader charities including those who support or affirm the LGBTQ lifestyle. Problem solved, right? Wrong. As Pastor Gabe Hughes writes: This new strategy Chick-Fil-A is following has never worked. Almost every business that has caved to the rage mob has suffered for it- Target, Dick’s Sporting Goods, the NFL, the Boy Scouts, etc. After Chick-Fil-A announced changes in giving, GLAAD (Gay Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) came out the very next day and said it wasn’t enough. You must bow before their sex gods, beg for mercy and fly their flag, then maybe they’ll forgive you and not until you meet them on their terms.

The very definition of unappeasable.

Paul also points out those who are disobedient to their parents. What I specifically want to point out with this, just as in Romans 1, in the last part of the chapter where Paul lists out a number of sins, that included in these lists of sins is being disobedient to your parents. My point is not to stand up here and tell you all to obey your parents. You are all out from under your parent’s authority as adults. My point is that we all have sins that we dismiss as unimportant, or minor or whatever. We read through these lists and its so easy to dismiss this sin as not important or valid or whatever. But one we start doing that, we cannot be appeased, and we continue to take steps to dismiss more and more sins. Gods Word is perfect and sufficient. What he calls sin is sin, no matter the time, the culture, the society or the feelings of us. We don’t get to pick and choose which sins matter. The wages of each and every sin is death. This does not mean that we are the Old Testament nation of Israel and we are still holding to the civil punishments for these sins. When one disobeys his parents, we are not going to stone him to death, but it means that its still a sin.
Next, similar, but different to being lovers of self, false teachers and those who follow them tend to be swollen with conceit. Not only is it all about them, but they are never wrong. They cannot be corrected. They either will ignore and pretend not to hear, or they will stomp off in a huff or they will attack when corrected.
Again, this is one where we all tend to react wrongly. None of us is comfortable being corrected. None of us wants to be wrong. And so, we search ourselves. If some one offers up correction, we look at it and see if there is anything to it. Sometimes there is, sometimes there isn’t. But the worst thing to do is dismiss it out of hand. Now, the more gentle and loving the correction is offered, the easier it is to hear and the easier it is to acknowledge what needs to be corrected. This means that when we correct someone, we should strive to do so in a gentle and living manner. However, even if someone comes at you in a hostile and angry manner, take time to look at the actual criticism and see if there is anything that you can take from it.
Lastly, for me one of the biggest and most condemning of these characteristics, Paul mentions those who have the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. What a person portrays on the outside, or what they say, does not always indicate who they actually are. Many people, easiest to see in those who are in public spotlight, claim to be Christians, or claim the teachings of Jesus, they have an appearance of godliness. But when you listen to what they actually believe, and when you watch how they actually live, they deny the power of God, of His Word and of living a godly lifestyle. This happens from people from all walks. Right now, its super easy to see in politicians from each side of the aisle. We see it in religious leaders unfortunately all to often. When churches deny that Jesus, during his earthly ministry was not God, they are denying his power no matter what form of Godliness they are putting on.
We see in our families, coworkers and neighbors. In polling in recent years, 90% of Americans say that they believe in God, regardless of what their definition is. 90% of Americans hold to a form of Godliness. In similar polling, somewhere just north of 75% of Americans identify themselves as Christians. Not all of this 75% actually believe in what the Bible says needs to be believed in order to be a Christian.
America, with its history of rebelling against authority and building up the idea if rugged individualism, pick yourself up with your bootstraps, doesn’t lend itself to Biblical Christianity too easily. Let me explain. Typical, historic American ideals are to not depend on anyone else, to do everything for yourself, that no one can tell you what to do, that you are your own authority. Biblical Christianity, on the other hand, says that you CAN’T do it on your own. It says that God is the ultimate authority. It says that you have to depend on Jesus for your salvation.
So many today, in our country are clothing themselves in their own righteousness, trusting in their own form of godliness as opposed to staying biblically true and being clothed in Christs righteousness and trusting in God’s godliness.

At the end of this list of characteristics and attributes, Paul says what should have been going through all of our minds, Avoid these people! It does not bring any good. It does not honor good to break bread and fellowship with such people.
Again, this is not talking about someone who sins once, who gives in to temptation or is in the midst of progressing in their sanctification, growing in spiritual maturity. This is not about having differences of opinions about secondary, non-Gospel issues. This is for those who continually, stubbornly, actively hold to false teaching and spread that false teaching, driving heresy and division through Christs church.
He also knows from scripture, such as we looked at last week, such as what Paul writes about first in 1 Corinthians 5:2, to break fellowship with someone who is in unrepentant sexual sin, to kick them out of the church. Later, in 2 Corinthians 2:5-10, we see Paul saying that once one has repented and been forgiven, they are to be received back into fellowship.
If we break fellowship, if we refuse to worship with someone, if we are to avoid some one for the reasons we look at here today, the idea is that we are continuing to pray that God would grant them the repentance that leads to the knowledge of truth. And if they do, like the father welcomes the prodigal son with open arms, we also welcome them back with open arms. That is the end goal, but until then, we are called to protect the church, to protect the congregation in total and to protect those who are still learning and growing and susceptible to false teaching, we are to protect them from these divisive, untrue, influences.

Paul then shows the effects, very practically and specifically to the church in Ephesus, of these false teachers spreading through the congregation. We see this in verses 6 & 7. In the Ephesian church at that time, the false teachers around were particularly able to deceive and to distract the women in the church. Paul was not just writing about esoteric, theoretical problems that might pop up someday, somewhere. This was having a specific, quantifiable effect. This is not just things that we are learning so that we have head knowledge, but this is real life.
And I want to point out what Paul says, always learning and never able to arrive at the knowledge of truth. These who are deceived by the false teachers, always reading always studying. That’s a good thing isn’t it? But read what he is saying. Always learning, never arriving at the knowledge if the truth. Always looking for something, never satisfied. For these people, the Bible is not enough. They feel that they need to have God speak personally to them, and to reveal truth that they are not able to find is Gods revelation that is the Holy Bible.
I don’t like to name names of this sort of thing because I don’t like to give false teachers this much publicity, but as a part of shepherding and protecting the flock, I am seeing the need to do this. I’m sorry if some of you have this book at home, but one huge, clear example of this is Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. This is a popular devotional book primarily focused towards women. Here’s the thing. In the introduction, Sarah Young says that reading the bible was not enough for her. She was chasing the experiences and the feelings of a personal presence of God. She wrote the book by listening for God to talk to her and them writing down the words of God. She claims divine inspiration that is only attritable to the books of the Bible and she rejects the sufficiency and completeness of the Bible itself. She also writes it from the perspective of Jesus, meaning she is putting her writings, her words, that she thinks are Gods words, putting them in Jesus mouth.
And this is one of the most popular “Christian” books sold in the last number of years and has a whole lot of spin offs as well. But its heresy. It needs to be avoided and its claiming that the Bible isn’t enough and that it is the very Words of God.
We will get more into this in the next few weeks, as Paul writes more about the scriptures, but let’s be really clear here this morning. Quite simply, the Bible is sufficient. It is complete. God did not forget to reveal something to us then. The Bible is his complete revelation and his complete Word. Nothing else is needed.
Now, as we read through these warnings and the negative things that are going in Ephesus and seeing how they are playing out today as well, it can look dark and gloomy. But there is always good news that breaks through the bad. Yes, false teacher will come. They will sway many. They will go against the truth and they will add to Gods word and they will deny Gods word.
Paul shows us the same thing happened with Jannes and Jambres. These were two of the magicians in Pharaoh’s court as they were opposing Moses. Paul is equating these two false magicians to the false teachers that we will encounter today.
But, Gods Word, the truth of God himself will ultimately prevail. On the Gospel, on the Word of God, as Jesus sys in Matthew 16:18, I will build my church, and the gates of hell[c] shall not prevail against it.
I like the way Ligon Duncan sums up this passage as he writes:
‘Timothy, you are going to live and minister in difficult days–dire days. Don’t expect it to be easy going. Don’t expect to see the world stay out of the church. Don’t expect to see the church unhindered by false teaching, even in her pales. No, you expect difficult days, Timothy; but as you expect that difficulty, not only make sure that your congregation has the right attitude of what they are and what they’re about in the kind of circumstance that they’re in, but you make sure that your congregation is spiritually discerning, so that that congregation can tell a false prophet from a true preacher of God’s word. And remember, Timothy: no matter how bad it looks, the gates of hell will not prevail against Christ’s church. The false prophets’ folly will be uncovered and revealed. They will not have the last word.’

The folly of these false teachers and those whom they have deceived and follow them, their folly will end up becoming known to all. They will be exposed publicly eventually. Sometimes that will happen here and now. Sometimes that won’t happen until the end, when we are standing before God and he is separating the sheep from the goats. At that point, as Paul writes multiple times, every knee will bow, and every tongue shall confess Jesus is LORD.
No one will be able to put on a form of godliness, but instead all will see the glory and the righteousness of God and the truth of His Word. By then, it will be too late to change minds. That’s why we pray for their repentance here and now, while there is still a chance for these false teachers and unbelievers to come to the knowledge of truth.
There are not many truths. There is not knowledge of various truths of your own truth. There is just truth. Gods Truth. Trust in that truth. Serve that truth and choose that now.
I can’t say it any better than the Word of God itself does, Joshua 24:14 & 15, he says:
“Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt and serve the LORD. 15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

Now, one of the ways that we honor and serve Jesus Christ is by remembering him and doing what he told us to do. We do this on the first Sunday of each month. We remember Jesus Christ. We remember his works and we remember his live and his sacrifice. We remember Romans 5:8, While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. We remember and we follow the commands of Jesus that he gave his disciples during the Last Supper.
Matthew records this in Matthew 26, verses 26-29, where he writes: Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the[c] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
We do this in remembrance of Him. Paul speaks about communion in 1 Corinthians 11 and before we get into it, I have two things to share that Paul tells us, first, communion is for believers. It is in remembrance for what he has done for us. It is us obey his commands by our faith in him. Communion itself does not save. It does not forgive sins; it does not impart righteousness or cleanse your soul. If you are not a follower of Christ, we just ask that you pass the elements along and then, if you have any questions or want to take that step, you can talk to myself or one of the deacons after the service.
Second, this is a time of reflection. Your hearts and mind should be clear and right before God. We, as followers of Christ, have been forgiven, but 1 John says that we are to confess our sins. If you have sin that you haven’t dealt with before God, take this time to do so. IF you can’t, it is better to pass the elements and make your heart right with God.
There is no judgment in these things, Paul wants us to make sure that our minds are focused on the remembrance of Christ and his works and love for us.
So, what we are going to do is Mike and Jim will come up. One of them will pray for the bread, which symbolize Jesus body. The body that he gave up for us to pay the penalty for our sins. We will then pass those out and when they are all passed out, we will take the bread together as a church family, unite underneath the Gospel. Then, the other one will pray for the juice, which is a symbol for Christs blood. His blood purchased the forgiveness of our sins. We will pass those out and again, take them as a church family once they are all passed out.

Let us go ahead and prepare our hearts and come to the LORDS table.

2 Timothy 2:20-26 Life in the Local Church: A Life Worthy of the Gospel

2 Timothy 2:20-26
Life in the Local Church
A Life Worthy of the Gospel

 

 

Good Morning, please turn with me in your Bibles to 2 Timothy chapter 2. If you do not have a Bible, please help yourself to one off the back table as our gift to you.

As you open your Bible, we want to look at where we are in Paul’s letter to his protégé, Timothy. The passage we looked at last week is completely tied together with the passage we are looking at this week and so I want to refresh for some of us, a few of the things that Paul mentioned in verses 14-19.

First is of course, the main verse and possibly one of the main verse in all of Paul’s letters, verse 15 reads, Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved,[c] a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

          HE continues to make his point that we are to avoid quarrels over words and avoid irreverent babble. That subject, that line of thought is going to come up again here today.

And then lastly, leading directly into the verses we will look at this morning, Paul ends verse 19 by telling us, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.”

          One of the main points of that passage being that we are to repent and turn away from our sins. It is a call to holiness. We are to live a new life, and that our actions will show our faith and our love of Christ.

That being said, lets go ahead and read the passage we will look at this morning, 2 Timothy, chapter 2, verse 20-26. I will be reading out of the English Standard Version. I encourage you to ty a variety of translations and find the one that stays faithful to the original languages and makes the Word of God the most understandable to you. Then bring that Bible and follow along as we read Gods Word.

2 Timothy 2:20-26, Paul under direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit, writes Holy Scripture, telling Timothy:

 Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. 21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable,[d] he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.

22 So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 23 Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. 24 And the Lord’s servant[e] must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

 

Thus, says the Holy, inspired, inerrant and sufficient Word of God.

 

So, we start here with Paul showing us the concept of what Holiness is. To be holy means to be set apart. And Paul uses an analogy of household items to show this point. Some vessels in the house are made of silver and gold and they are designed, they are created for, their purpose is noble and honorable tasks.

Other vessels, instead, are made of wood and clay, and they are designed for and purposed for dishonorable tasks. Some vessels are created to be set aside and set apart and made holy. Some are not created to be set aside and set apart in order to be made holy, though they still serve the purpose of God.

Paul says that we, as vessels can be cleansed from dishonorable and unclean use and design and purpose and change to be a clean and honorable vessel, useful to the master and ready for all good works.

Now, I know some of you are very good cleaners. If you are given something to clean, no matter how dirty, I trust that, if you hand it back to me, it will be clean. I don’t trust me that much, that’s for sure. Often, my preference, if it’s bad enough, would be to throw it out and buy something new.

I don’t want to be crude, put when Paul says dishonorable uses and the like, when talking about the vessels, I want you to think of a bed pan or from the olden days, chamber pots. Thinking of that, I don’t care who you are, I don’t care how good of a cleaner you are, I’m not trusting that item to ever, EVER, being clean enough to eat out of. Sorry, just not that trusting.

But the Good News of Jesus Christ is this. We are born as dishonorable vessels, as unclean spirits before God. Through Jesus life, death and resurrection, through the work of the Holy Spirit and through the grace of God, we are able to be cleansed and made clean, changing from vessels made for dishonorable use, to a vessel made for Gods glory, for honorable use, a vessel made to be holy and set apart.

We can and do often try to cleanse ourselves. We try harder to be good. We use our strength to try to stop sinning. We try to bleach and sanitize our lives. And in fact, we often use that as a reason to put off coming to God. “As soon as I clean up my life, then Ill come to God.” But we can’t clean ourselves. It takes God the Holy Spirit changing us from the inside before we can do that. We need to come to God before we get clean otherwise, we never end up coming to him.

And Paul says, once you belong to Christ, then cleanse yourself from all the unclean things in your life! Get all the unholy away from you!

Turn!

Run!

Flee!

Put the sin in your life, the unholiness around you and the unclean, put it to death. This is so important in the scriptures. Isaiah 52:11 commands us: Depart, depart, go out from there; touch no unclean thing; go out from the midst of her; purify yourselves, you who bear the vessels of the LORD. 

Isaiah chapter 6 tells of Isaiah coming and standing before the LORD. His response, being in the presence of God, he says in verse 5:

I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”

And the response to Isaiah in the following two verses:

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar.

And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

 

We see the twofold point played out here. We are unclean, unholy. We cannot undo this ourselves. But God (remember we talked about that phrase last week?) But God himself is the one who can make us clean.

And this cleanliness is not just a surface level cleaning. Its not just on the outside, producing a moral outer shell on our lives. Jesus addressed this in Matthew 23:27 & 28:

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

 

That’s not clean. That’s not changed. That’s not Holy. That doesn’t touch the heart. That doesn’t touch the deep recess of the mind where sin still sits and crouches and lurks. This was American society up until relatively recently. Yes, individuals were godly, and the outer moral shell of the country was set up by those godly values. But the rest of the country was able to stick their head in the sand and keep sin and wickedness hidden and below the surface, while portraying the appearance of godliness. Now they are not even trying to maintain that appearance of course.

Jeremiah 17:9 tells us: The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately sick;
who can understand it?

What chance do we have when the very thing we need to change and to cleanse is within our very hearts. By the way, “Follow your heart,” worst advice in the history of the world.

The chance that we have is God himself. Ezekiel 36:25-27, God tells his people:

I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.[a]

 

God himself, the Holy Spirit is the only one who can change our deceitful heart and gives us a new spirit. That new spirit allows us to have saving faith in the only one who can cleanse us from our sins, forgive us, atone for us, God the Son, Jesus Christ.

 

In verses 22-24 here, Paul shows us the expectations of how a Child of God should act. These are not the expectations that would then make us children of God. But instead, because of the change we just mentioned that the Holy Spirit does inside of us, this is a part of that change that comes along with being a child of God. As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:17: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.[b] The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

 

          The First thing Paul mentions here in 2 Timothy is that we are to flee our youthful passions. This is not an admonition just for the young, but for all of us as we struggle with temptation. There are some types of sins and temptations that are especially associated with youthful passions. Things like lust, like anger and impulsiveness. Things like rebellion and aggression. Things like lack of self-control and impatience. Vanity and the like. That’s not an exhaustive list, but a sampling of things that we should be on the look out for inside ourselves that we are to flee.

Again, this is not that we should just resist temptation. That’s a given, but its not enough. Charles Spurgeon Writes about these “youthful passions: Run away from them. It is no use contending with them. Fight with the devil. Resist the devil and make him flee but never fight with the flesh. Run away from that. The only way to avoid lust of the flesh is to stay out of its way. If you subject yourself to carnal temptations and fleshly lusts, remember it is almost certain that you will be overcome by them.

         

 

We must ask the question, and Spurgeon partially answers it, why should we flee these temptations? It is because the closer we are to them, the closer we walk near them, the more we will give in to them. The question can never be, “How close to the line can I get?” If that’s our question, we have already crossed it in our heart. That was the game the Pharisees were plating that Jesus addressed in the Sermon on the Mount when he showed us that lusting after a woman in our heart is adultery. Thinking about killing someone in our mind makes us guilty.

Our natural human nature, as a result of the Fall in Genesis 3, our natural nature is a sin nature. In Genesis 4, God tells Cain, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to[c] you, but you must rule over it.”

          And how do we rule over it? We flee from those sins and temptations. And when we flee from temptation, the direction we run is to pursuing righteousness as Paul brings up next.

And there are two initial things I want to point out here. The first is that these two opposing things are on a spectrum. Our youthful passions, our sinful temptations on one end of the spectrum that we are to flee from. Righteousness on the other end, which we are to be pursuing. The closer we get to one, the further we get from the other.

The second thing is, we have seen Paul identifying the passion and the energy with which we are to flee unholiness. And he is encouraging us to use the same energy, the same conviction, the same passion when we pursue righteousness. And righteousness along with faith, love, and peace.

Paul also shows us that this is not a solo endeavor for us as Christians. We are to pursue these things along with all who call on the LORD with a pure heart. Ligon Duncan writes:

if it is true that bad company corrupts good morals (and it is, because the Bible says it), it is also true that it is in the company of fellow believers that right living and right believing is cultivated. That’s where you grow. That’s where you pursue righteousness: in the company of fellow believers.

 

Christianity is a personal religion, that is for sure. But it is never meant to be a private religion. We are meant to come together, to be involved in each other’s lives and to encourage, love and help each other.

Two of the things that Paul mentions us pursuing include love and peace with each other. And those two are tied together inextricably. Love covers a multitude of sins.

Biblically, we can vehemently disagree with each other over secondary and minor issues, musical styles, translation preferences, parenting methods and so much more. But within that disagreement, we can see past that and into the bottom line.

If I know that you love me and my family and that, above all, you want Gods will to be done, I don’t have to agree with you on those secondary issues or about what Gods will is that we both want done. Knowing that baseline, that love is there for God and for each other, allows us to deal with each other and personality differences and methods of communication that would otherwise cause annoyances, quarrels and fights, leading to division and sin. Love covers a multitude of sins.

 

Paul again comes back to something that he has been warning Timothy about for a letter and a half now, including part of what we looked at last week. He says that we are to avoid foolish and ignorant controversies. We are to rise above these foolish quarrels. Paul says back in verse 16, again, from last week, avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness.

          I saw one resource this week sum up why we are to avoid these things in tow points. First, they are false. We talked about truth and untruth. God is truth. Untruth is satanic. Avoid untruth, flee from lies and untruths just like we flee from our youthful passions. Flee from ALL unholiness. And second, avoid these quarrels because they are unproductive. They take your eyes off Jesus and our pursuit of righteousness. And anything that takes our eyes off Jesus is wrong.

In verse 24 & 25, Paul gives us very hard instructions. He writes:  And the Lord’s servant[e] must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness.

 

          We, we as the LORDs servants, as Children of God, as honorable vessels, we must not be quarrelsome. We are to be kind to everyone. Kind to who?

We are to be kind to everyone.

Not just those whom we like.

Not just those who vote like us.

Not just those who look like us.

Not just those who worship like us.

Not just those who are nice to us.

Not just those who share similar interests and hobbies with us.

 

We are to be nice to EVERYONE. Full Stop.

 

I know that’s easy for us to say that we do. But you want to be convicted. Watch every joke you make. Watch every word you say. Watch what you say about people that are not around when you say it. Watch what you say about people in the news or on TV. Watch what you say about those who are not here today. Watch what you say. This is not as easy as it sounds. One of the reasons is what else Paul says, we are to patiently endure evil. Not repay evil for evil. But to patiently endure evil.

If there is a fellow believer that you don’t really like, how do you talk to and about them? Do you still, despite it all, treat them as a Child of God? Do you talk to them and about them, treat them like a fellow brother or sister in Christ?

If there is an unbeliever that you don’t really like, how do you talk about them, talk to them and treat them? Do you treat them as a human being, created in the image of God? Do you treat them as being inherently worthy of honor and dignity and respect?

Notice God does not give qualifications here. Not unless they were mean to you. Not unless they talked about you. Not if they treat you well first. Be kind to everyone.

And we are to correct our opponents with gentleness. Not fighting with them. Not mocking them. Not shoving it in their faces. Or insulting or dismissing or patronizing. But we are to correct with gentleness.

We must confront false teaching or wrong teaching, remember that’s one of the biggest things that Paul is addressing in his letters to Timothy. We are to address these teachings firmly, truly but we do so in a way that others will be able to hear and hopefully listen.

And again, why? Why do we have to confront false teachings and false teachers? Why do we correct with gentleness and treat kindly everyone? Because God may grant them repentance, therefore freeing them from the snare of the devil.

We never know who or when God is going to save. No one is beyond Gods reach. We see that in current day, and we see that in the writer of this letter, with Paul. Paul was the last person the early church would have expected to see saved. As long as one is drawing breath, there is still hope that God will indeed save and free one from his wrath and judgment.

 

The enemy loves to use believers to turn off and become a stumbling block to potential children of God.

 

Our responsibility is to act well, to treat others with respect, treating everyone kindly. We are to forgive quickly and to bear the fruit of the spirit. We are to sow the seeds of the Gospel and to love Jesus Christ.

God is sovereign and in control. He waters and brings the increase. He grants repentance. He changes our heart, giving us the gift of faith. And it is by his grace that we are given that faith and that this faith is in Jesus Christ. That faith is what God uses to clothe us in Christ’s righteousness and it is through that faith that we see the forgiveness of our sins.

By this faith, we are justified, declared innocent in Gods eyes.   It is through this faith that we are Sanctified. That we bear the fruit of the Gospel and we grow in holiness, that we grow in spiritual maturity, that we grow in wisdom and knowledge of the LORD. It is through this faith that we will be glorified. That we will be resurrected into our new, physical, sinless and perfected bodies so that we can dwell with and worship in the glory of the LORD

forever and ever and ever and ever. And when we get through with all the forever’s, the Amen!

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 Timothy 2:14-19 Life in the Local Church: Words Mean Things

2 Timothy 2:14-19

Life in the Local Church

Words Mean Things

 

          Good Morning! Please turn in your Bibles with me to 2 Timothy, chapter 2. Before we get started, thank you all for the prayers, the groceries and the love that you all sent out to us over the last two weeks, and especially to Dave for covering my teaching and preaching duties here. We are praying that none of you get hit with this major bug that we got.

So, we are going to pick up where we left off a few weeks ago, in 2 Timothy 2. I’ll give a brief review and then we will jump into this week’s text. So, Paul is coming to the end of his life, imprisoned in Rome, awaiting trial before Caesar and tradition says he was beheaded after being found guilty from that trial. He is writing this letter to his young protégé, his child in the faith, as his last warnings, his last encouragements and his last directions to the local church.

Back in verse 8, he tells Timothy to Remember Jesus Christ, truly man and truly God. Remember the Gospel, that God became man to save sinners. Verse 9 is powerful where he declares that despite Paul being chained, bound in prison, the Word of God is not bound! Paul finishes up that section by sharing a faithful and true saying, likely quoting an early, well known hymn, verses 11-13:

The saying is trustworthy, for:

If we have died with him, we will also live with him;

if we endure, we will also reign with him;

if we deny him, he also will deny us;

if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.

 

What a wonderful amazing statement! No matter what happens, HE remains faithful and HE cannot deny himself.

 

So, on that note, we will go ahead and read the next passage of scripture in this letter. I was originally planning on going through the rest of the chapter, hence the verses up on the screen, but we are only going to go through a couple of verses this morning. We will be reading through 2 Timothy 2, verses 14-19. I’m going to be reading out of the English Standard Version. I encourage you to follow along with your preferred translation.

2 Timothy 2:14-19, Paul, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, writing the very Words of God, tells Timothy:

 

Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers.

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness,

and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus,

who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some.

But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.”

 

May God Bless the Reading of his Word.

 

 

Paul starts off telling Timothy to remind them of these things. Remind his congregation of the things that Paul is teaching Timothy and remind his congregation about the things that the faithful saying and the hymn teaches. We need that constant reminder. We are forgetful people. We need to remind ourselves each and every week. This is why scripture is constantly saying “Remember what you have been told,” Remember what you have been taught,” We have to be reminded often.

But we also, have you noticed this about yourself, because I’ve noticed it about me, we spend a lot of time trying to remind those around us instead of reminding ourselves. “Hey, Hey, did you hear that?”

We often listen to sermons and instead of thinking of how it applies to our own lives and how we can grow and glorify God, we think things like, “oh good, So and so really needs to hear this.”

We sometimes try to play the part of the Holy Spirit, maybe we nudge our spouses when we think there is something they need to hear. But when we do that, we can too easily undo a lot of what the Holy Spirit might be doing and working on inside the other person. We are very poor imitations of the Holy Spirit.

Or sometimes we are reading our Bible and we come along a passage that we ignore the personal application and growth and we think, “See, if only so and so would read this passage!” We are so often more worried about being right and showing others that we are right, instead of seeing what Gods Word has for us.

But what does Paul say here? Remind them constantly of Jesus. Remind yourself of the Gospel. And don’t quarrel about words. Quarreling does nobody any good, except for the enemy. Because quarreling causes hurt to the hearers. It causes division, it leads to gossip and slander, even when we don’t realize it. These are very common characteristics of false teachers, as one example. That is one of the key things that Paul is warning Timothy about. And those who stir up and cause controversy and division, they are to be dealt with and avoided.

 

 

 

2 Timothy 2:15 is a great verse to memorize if you haven’t yet. There is so much packed into this verse, we are going to barely scratch the surface, I’m afraid. We start with the charge that Paul gives, that we are to do our best to present ourselves as one approved.

We are to stand tall, holy and blameless before God. And not because of anything about us, but because He has made us Holy and blameless in His sight. We see again the last part of the faithful saying Paul just shared, that even in our unfaithfulness, He remains Faithful. That’s his character, that’s who he is, and he cannot deny himself.

No matter what, he remains faithful. And because of who he is and his faithfulness, we can stand firm in his promises and we can stand tall, a worker for God. We have no need to be ashamed. But we will be told that we have reason to be ashamed.

Those of us who stick with the Word of God and believe what it actually says and that it is in fact the word of God, we will often be called names and made to feel that we should be ashamed. We will be told that we think we are better than others. We will be told that out views and thoughts are bigoted, intolerant and on the wrong side of history. We will get called self-righteous and hypocritical.

Those things are designed to make us feel ashamed. But we know the truth. We are not better than anyone else. All sin removes us from Gods grace and places us under Gods wrath. And we are all sinners, worthy of his judgment. But we know Romans 5:8, that God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. We know that have done nothing to make ourselves right in Gods eyes, but instead we have been saved by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ. We are standing tall, saved by God, brought into his family by him, now children of God.

Another way that False teachers especially will try to shame us is by saying that we get the word of God wrong. They will say that we take the Bible too literally. They will say that we use the Bible to back up our own prejudices and exclude groups of people, that we divide or keep out certain groups of people or shame people who are in certain sins and sinful behaviors.

Just this week, one False Teacher was responding to a statement that we need to follow not just the parts of the Bible we like but follow the whole Bible. Her response was, “C’mon, nobody really obeys the whole Bible.” What kind of message is that to send out on social media? Its certainly not a biblical message. Now, do all of us always follow everything the Bible says every single second of every single day? Of course not. But we are called to be Holy. We are called to obey his commands. We are called to pursue righteousness. This false teacher’s point was not that we all are sinners in need of grace. Her point was that those who call people to repentance are not being loving and instead are being sexist, intolerant, racist and bigoted.

False teachers accuse us of twisting the word of God for our own purposes and instead it is they who twist Gods word in order to lessen who He is. They take away from some of his attributes, his holiness, his judgment, his hatred for sin. And they say that God couldn’t possibly mean what it looks like he says, because that would not be very nice. That would not be inclusive and that would not affirm what they have already decided is right and loving.

The truth is, the more faithful we are to the Word of God, the more we will be attacked for it. And we will be attacked by those who take scripture out of context. Those who make scriptures about themselves instead of about the Holy, all powerful God of the universe. Those who don’t believe that the Bible is Gods Holy and Inspired Word, infallible, inerrant and sufficient. Those who, despite their words, by their fruit, do not believe what Paul writes just about 1 chapter from know, that All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God[b] may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16 & 17)

          They have no respect for the holiness of God. They have no respect for the truth of Gods Word. They twist scriptures for their own purposes. The New Testament is ripe with Scriptures about False Teachers within the church, what to look out for and what the consequences of them are. Here are just a few of them.

1 Timothy 4:1: Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons

1 John 4:1-3:  Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.

2 Peter 2:1-3:  But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed, they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

          And the last one, Jude 4: For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

 

 

 

But if we truly trust the Word of God in all things, if we have the utmost respect for His Word and we hold it up as the very Word of God as it proposes to be, that means that every single, solitary word in here is put in here specifically and purposely by God.

It means not just the letters in Red, though it includes that as well. Not dismissing Paul’s letters and his teachings because his words are “not the words of Jesus.” When in very fact, Jesus is the Word of God. Johns Gospel starts out with that fact. John 1:1. He writes:  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And then John 1:14, And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son[d] from the Father, full of grace and truth.

          The Bible is the Word of God. Jesus is the Word become flesh. Every Word in the Bible, no matter who wrote it or who spoke it are in fact the Words of Jesus himself, the Very Word of God.

 

Paul calls us, maybe charges us is a better way to say it, he charges us at the end of verse 15, to rightly handle the Word of truth. And that means believing and following every Word of what the Bible says.

The Word of God is what guides us to holiness. Its what teaches us and leads us to our sanctification. Its how God speaks to us today. Hebrews 4:12, the author tells us for the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

          Straying from the Word of God, on the other hand, leads to irreverent babble. It leads to more and more ungodliness. And rejecting the authority and sufficiency of the Bible is a slippery slope that is incredibly difficult to come back from.

Paul says that this type of thing spreads like gangrene. When we talk, our words spread like wildfire. I use that descriptive word purposely because we all have seen firsthand how quick that is. It’s not an exaggeration to say that words spread that quick. True or false, right or wrong. The problem is that false lies are often more believable than the truth. And often, based on our own, human wisdom and understanding, we want to believe the lies more. Romans 1:18, says that we suppress the truth with our unrighteousness.

And the lies and the gossip and the slander and the divisive talk spreads and it travels quickly. And it takes people down with it. Gossip and lies are sins because they go against the truth. They are anti truth. God is Truth. He cannot lie. He cannot deny himself. So, for us to lie, for us to deny him and his words is to sin against God.

 

Paul gives a specific example of one case of lies and false teaching going on in the church in Ephesus that are spreading through the body if Christ. Hymenaeus and Philetus were teaching that the Second coming had already occurred. They were saying that the resurrection had already occurred. They were teaching people that the only resurrection that takes place is the spiritual resurrection that takes place at the moment of salvation, when we move from death to life. They were teaching that there is no future, physical resurrection. This is of course, refuted in many passages in scriptures, including but not limited to Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians and in 1 Corinthians 15. But this false teaching was spreading, and it was upsetting the faith of many in the congregation.

 

But, BUT… and the Bible has a lot of Big Buts, some of the greatest parts of the Bible hinge on a But. Look at Ephesians chapter 2, I want to read verses 1-10 so that you get the full context of what Paul is saying, but I’m just going to read verses 3-5 and encourage you to read the rest on your own. Ephesians 2:3-5: we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body[a] and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.[b] But[c] God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—

One more real quick, 1 Corinthians 6, verses 9-11: do you not know that the unrighteous[b] will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,[c] 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

 

          But God…Two of the greatest words God put into the Bible.

Despite all the lies running wild in this world, despite the false teachers undercutting the Word of God, Despite all the attacks on the authority of Gods Word and his laws and his commands. Despite all of that, we see in verse 19 here,  But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.”

 

          Gods firm foundation stands. The true church, Gods elect, his people are what he builds upon that firm foundation. The foundation is Jesus Christ. It is, as we read in Matthew, built upon the statement that Peter makes that Jesus Christ is Messiah, the LORD, the Son of God, God himself. Upon that rock, he builds his church.

The LORD knows who are his. Those of us, being saved from our sin and from the wrath of God, by the grace of God alone, through faith alone, not works or anything about us, but faith alone in the foundation of all of it, the cornerstone, Jesus Christ alone. Those of us who are called by the Holy Spirit, bearing His seal. We stand firm on his foundation, unashamed of our past, because it is forgiven, covered in Christs righteousness, because we have none of our own.

 

Part of being his, is that everyone who knows the name of the LORD, everyone who is his, depart from iniquity. Paul well get more into this later in this chapter, we are to mark and avoid false teachers and those who spread division and deception.

We are to walk upright and blameless by strength of God.  Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved,[c] a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. Amen.

 

 

Let’s Pray.

2 Timothy 2:1-7 Life in the Local Church: Singleminded focus on Christ

2 Timothy 2:1-7
Life in the Local Church
This age and the age to come

 

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles and turn with me to 2 Timothy chapter 2. If you do not have a Bible, we invite you to grab one off the back table as our gift to you. We are continuing our series today through 1 & 2 Timothy entitled Life in the Local Church.
This would end up being Paul’s last letter that he would write that we have recorded in the scriptures and he knows his time is coming to an end. He is writing to his friend, his spiritual son and his disciple Timothy, who is pastoring and leading the church at Ephesus.
Paul, in the section of the letter we looked at last week, told Timothy that he was not to be ashamed, either of Paul and his ministry, for being in jail, or of the Gospel itself. He exhorted Timothy to be steadfast, loyal and faithful. And he reminded Timothy that Character both matters and is seen by others, both good and bad.
Here, Paul is going to, among other things, give Timothy three analogies of faith. These analogies are going to be examples and they are going to model wholehearted, single minded devotion such as we are called to have for Christ.
So, lets go ahead and read this mornings text, 2 Timothy, chapter 2, verses 1 through 7. I will be reading out of the English Standard Version. I do encourage you to bring your preferred translation and follow along in our readings with your bible in your hands. Read for yourself what the Word of God says. 2 Timothy 2:1-7. Paul, being inspired and guided by the Holy Spirit, writes to Timothy:
You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus,
and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.
Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.
No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.
An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.
It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops.
Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.

May God bless the reading of his Holy, sufficient and inerrant Word.
All right, so Paul here, because of all that I just wrote, because of all that you just read, You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus. Gods grace alone is where our salvation comes from. But the grace of God not only saves us, it strengthens us. It gives us the strength to do what God has indeed called us to do.
Paul brings these themes together, the themes of Gods grace, the strength it gives us and the works that we are to be doing, he brings them together in other letters as well. In his letter to the Ephesians, chapter 2, verses 8-10, he writes:
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

This theme that Grace leads to salvation leads to the ability to do the good works that God has called us to is woven throughout scriptures and always in that order. Paul talks about the importance of the order just as much. That the good works that we do cannot and will not do anything to save us. They contribute nothing to our righteousness. They are, in the tame translations, like dirty rags in Gods eyes.
And yet, after we are saved, after we are clothed in Christs righteousness, we are commanded, and not only commanded but inwardly, by the Holy Spirit, compelled to do good works, to produce good fruit.
Paul teaches all this clearly throughout his letters. And he tells Timothy to take what he has learn from Paul, what he has heard from Paul, he is to take all of that. And not just what Paul has personally told him, but what Paul has publicly taught, in his letters, in his public teaching, in front of many witnesses, take it all and what do you have? You have the very words of God. You have what is being understood, even in those days as scripture. Peter himself, in his letters likens Paul’s writing on the same authoritative level as the Old Testament scriptures.
So, the Gospel, the teachings, the scriptures, take these things that Timothy has heard from Paul and heard from others and others have heard from Paul, and teach it to others. Not only teach it to others but entrust it to others who are able to teach it to others.
Part of the mission of the local church part of what God has commission us to do teach and make disciples who then go on to teach others and make disciples. Matthew 28: 18-20, Jesus tells his disciples right before he ascends into heaven, Matthew writes:
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Mat 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
Mat 28:20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Now, that’s the general application. We make disciples who make disciples. We share our faith, share the Gospel and share the Good News that Christ died for our sins. The sins that we commit that deserve eternal death. That it is only through Christs death and resurrection that we have any righteousness and that we can gain access to the Father. Not our works, but the works of Christ. We share that so that others may believe and may be reconciled to God.

Paul here gives both that general application and a more specific application. This is applying to elders and those in leadership in the local church. They are to be able to teach. That’s one of the qualifications of an elder laid out back in 1 Timothy. They must be able to teach, and they are to be entrusted with the Gospel. The elders must be faithful to the teaching of the Gospel and of the scriptures. They must be faithful to the sound doctrine of the Word of God.

Paul then give the first of three analogies that point to the importance faithfulness and single minded focus. Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.
Now, Paul has already told Timothy that he is to share in the suffering instead of being ashamed, back in chapter 1 verse 8. While the Old Covenant promised prosperity for faithfulness, Jesus was quite clear that the New Covenant promises that there will be adversity if you are faithful to the teachings of Christ and to the confession that he is God.
This adversity can be the consequences of sin in our life, it could be the repercussions of our choices and life decision. It could also be the spiritual warfare that is being waged by powers and principalities in the spiritual realm. The enemy does not want the Good News of Jesus Christ and what he has done for us and the love that the father has for us to be known and shared. So those who are faithful, will face adversity in some way, shape or form.
And Paul tells Timothy to share in that suffering like a good soldier. Remember, the Bible does not say that God won’t give us more than we can handle. That’s actually the opposite of what it says. But what God does promise is that he will be with us always and he will bring us through what we go through.
We are to be like a good soldier, focused on one thing. We are to follow the orders of our superior and to do so fully and completely. We strive to accomplish the mission given to us. We have a loyalty to the one who gives the orders.
Our loyalty is to Christ, no matter what else there is. No matter our circumstances. When something else grabs our loyalty, that is the definition of idolatry. Within the analogy, that is treason. Our loyalty lies with Christ, with the Word of God, the Word became flesh.
We are given a mission. The Great Commission, as it were. Which we just read. We have been given a mission and we are to do everything we can to accomplish that mission.

Paul then brings out the second analogy. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. Paul often uses athletic language. Run the good race. The benefits of bodily training, even if not as much as spiritual training. But this training, whether physical or spiritual, they both take similar attributes and characteristics. Faithfulness. Discipline. Focus. Determination. Single Minded Focus. Clear Vision. One purpose, one goal.

That Goal is the crown that Paul mentions, Eternal Life with Christ. But to get that crown, we must complete by the rules. Now, we know that it is not the act of following the rules that earns us the crown. The would be the equivalent of us behaving well enough or being good enough to earn salvation. Salvation is received by Grace alone, through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. But we look at what Jesus says after people come to trust in him.
Now, go and do as I have commanded you. Obey my commands. Repent and believe. If you love me, feed my sheep. Just a small collection of what Jesus says for us to go do. I saw a good illustration this week that I shared on Facebook, some of you might have seen.
A cup isn’t a cup because it holds coffee. It holds coffee because it’s a cup. Likewise, we aren’t Christians because of our good works, but we do good works because we are Christians.
Those are the rules that we compete by, and we do so because we have laid hold of the crown, the eternal rewards.

The third analogy that Paul gives is that of a farmer. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. Farming, of course, is hard work. Its not easy. It can be a struggle. Jesus does tell us to take up our cross and follow him. He does not say that this will be easy. He tells us, in fact that it will be hard.
However, he also tells us in Matthew 11, Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Again, Jesus gets us through the adversity that we should be expecting to encounter. Farming is hard work. Sowing seed is hard work. Its not easy. Its not always comfortable. Its not always immediately fruitful.
But the one who puts in the world should get first share of the outcome. Now, I don’t believe that first here equals the number. I don’t think that this is that the farmer will be first in line. From the context, it looks like first is more of a promise, a guarantee that the worker will receive what he earned.
IF you know anyone that farms, this illustration should come easy. What do farmers think of? From plowing and sowing, and weeding and pruning, all the way up through harvest, what is going through that farmers mind? Just one single, solitary thing. The crop that’s is coming in. And as soon as the harvest is done, he is already thinking of the next one.
Jesus says in Luke 10:2, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Our focus should be on planting seeds and looking forward to that harvest. Thankfully we don’t have to have the worry and the stress that real life farmers have. If the harvest doesn’t come in, that is their livelihood. But we know that we go out and sow the seed, but the watering, the growth and the harvest are out of our hands. Those are in Christs hands. He brings the increase. All we must do is share the Word of God. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. Because its in Christs hands, the burden is off us to produce results, we just have to be and stay faithful.
Like a soldier fighting the battle. Like an athlete running the race. Like a farmer growing his crops.

Now, Illustrations, metaphors, parables, and the like, they can sometimes be hard to understand. They can sometimes be unclear. And so, after give three real quick analogies, Paul tells Timothy, think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.

Christianity, following the Bible, believing in Christ. This is not a blind faith. There’s the old saying, “The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it.” There is some truth in there, but not nearly enough. Christianity, Jesus tells us that we need to have a simple, child like faith.
But that doesn’t mean blind, unthinking faith. We believe what the Bible says, and if the Bible says it, we believe it. But we also see that the Bible is believable. God says what he says, and he says it for a reason. He often, though not always, tells us why.
He tells us, if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. In Revelation Jesus says that it takes wisdom and understanding and shows that those are things to seek. So, Paul is saying that these are things that we should think about, study and dive into. We believe it but we are called to know what we believe and why we believe it.

God gives us his Word; He has revealed his word to us so that we could know. He revealed the things that happened so that we could see the evidence of the works and wonders of Jesus Christ. As John writes in his Gospel, chapter 20, verse 30 & 31:
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book;
but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

In his word, we have record of his death, burial and resurrection. We have record of his perfect life. We have record of our sin nature, our inability to do good. We have record of Gods promises and faithfulness. We have the promise of everlasting life in the new heavens and the new earth with Jesus Christ sitting at the right hand of God the Father.
Jesus says Seek and you shall find. The LORD will give you wisdom and understanding if that is what you are truly seeking, but it won’t always be the way that you are looking for it, or in the way that you expect.
Remember that it is not our wisdom, not our intelligence, just like its not our works, goodness or righteousness. Let’s finish with the reminder of Proverbs 3:5 & 6:
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Let’s Pray.

2 Timothy 1:8-18: Pauls call to Faithfullness and Service (with presentation about Caring For Women Pregnancy Resource Center)

In addition to the sermon as normal, we had a guest speaker/presentation as well. This Sunday was Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. We had Penny Derosier, the Executive Director of Caring For Women, our local Pregnancy Resource Center. So First, you will hear her presentation, and then you will hear the sermon. Thanks guys!

 

2 Timothy 1:8-18
Life in the Local Church
Paul’s Call to Faithfulness & Service

Good Morning! Grab your Bibles and turn with me to 2 Timothy, chapter 1. We are continuing our series through 1 & 2 Timothy, that we are calling “Life in the Local Church.”
This letter, 2 Timothy, is to be Paul’s last letter we have record of before his death, historically attributed to the Caesar Nero, somewhere around 64 AD. Paul knows that the end of his life is near, he knows that his time is short. He is imprisoned in Rome, Awaiting trial, alone. And while he is looking forward to going home to be with the LORD, he knows that this work is not quite done yet, not with this letter still to be written. Not with this information still to be passed on to Timothy, to the church at Ephesus and to us.
Paul, of course, misses Timothy. He wants to see Timothy before he is gone. Later in the letter, he will ask Timothy to come to him in Rome. In the meantime, he urges Timothy to be faithful to the calling from God that Timothy has received. He exhorts Timothy to use the gifts that God has given Him, just as each one of us, as Christians have bee given gifts by God to be used for God. And Paul tells Timothy to do so with discernment, power, love and self-control. Timothy is to speak and act the truth in love.
So, let’s go ahead and read this week’s passage, 2 Timothy chapter 1, verses 8 through 18. I will be reading out of the English Standard Version, that is my preferred translation. I do encourage you to find your preferred translation, to have it with you here on Sunday Mornings and to follow along in the text as we go through it. 2 Timothy 1:8-18, Paul writes the very Words of God, inspired, inerrant, infallible, breathed out by the Holy Spirit, saying.

Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me. Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you. You are aware that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes. May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains, but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me earnestly and found me— may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that day!—and you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus.

Thus says the Word of God. Amen.

The section we are looking at this morning starts off with Paul writing the word, Therefore. And so it is connecting what we saw last week with what we are reading this week. This is specifically in reference to Paul telling Timothy that we do not have a spirit of fear, and Timothy not using the gifts that God has entrusted him with, at least not to the extent that he is supposed to be.
Paul says, do not be ashamed. He gives us two specific things that we should not be ashamed of. There are things we should feel shame for. Our sin should shame us. It should shame us into repentance and turning away from trusting in our so-called goodness, our so-called righteousness and turn instead to Christs righteousness.
But these two things should not shame us. First, do not be ashamed of the testimony of the LORD, in other words, of the Gospel. When people find out you believe the Gospel, the true, biblical Gospel, people will say a lot of things. People will say that you are brainwashed, that your parents forced it on to you. People will say that there are many paths, that the Gospel is not exclusive. People will say that it is a crutch, that only weak people need it. People will say that you are just going along with the majority culture. People will say that the Gospel is ignorant, intolerant and archaic. People will say that only uneducated people will believe that. People will say that the morals of the Bible are wrong. People will say a lot of things.

People are wrong.

Paul famously writes in Romans 1:16, For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes,. Do not be ashamed of the testimony of the LORD, for He is the one who saves, who forgives, who justifies and who glorifies.
And second, Paul tells Timothy, do not be ashamed of me. Paul was imprisoned, for the very Gospel that he is not ashamed of and that he tells us not to be ashamed of, but he is in prison. Many would be ashamed to be associated with Paul at that point. Many were in fact, we will see a few examples of this in a few verses, in the section we read this morning.
And think about that. Does that really seem far fetched to us if we think about it honestly? If a friend of ours gets arrested, say he gets arrested, as some have in Britain for example, of preaching the Gospel on the street, in public and being arrested for hate speech. How many of us would try to distance ourselves from the entire situation? Its easy to say, NO, not me!
Peter said the same thing! We see in Luke 22, this dialogue between Jesus and Peter, starting in verse 31:
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.”
Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.”

Its so easy to say, “Not me, Never, I will never be ashamed!” And hopefully that’s true, but it takes more than just saying it. Instead of being ashamed, Paul says, share in the suffering that is for the Gospel. Paul was imprisoned because of the Gospel. He was imprisoned because he was being faithful to the call.
Now, he is telling us, telling Timothy, to be faithful to the call. When faithful to the call, there will be suffering. Through our faithfulness to the call, and more accurately, through Gods faithfulness we can persevere and share in the suffering.
This is not to say that we are to seek out suffering, as if it were penance. But through the power of God, we can submit to and stand tall through the suffering. We see in Acts 5:41, speaking of the Apostles when they were released from being jail for preaching the gospel, scriptures say, then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.

And it is the power of God who saved us and call us to a holy calling. This is our sanctification. That is what he called us to. To be conformed to the image of his son, Romans 8:29. To repent of our sins. To submit in faith to his complete and total authority. To live in faith. To grow in wisdom and knowledge. To grow in the fruits of the spirit and to live a holy and quiet life.
None of this is by our own works, as Paul says here, and as he says often in his letters, our regeneration is initiated by God, by the calling of the Holy Spirits and it precedes our faith. Our faith is in response to his calling.
And He calls us, not because of anything that we have done or will do, but because of his purpose and grace Paul says. We did not do anything to make Him think we were good enough. He did not see anything in us and then decide to save us. He did not see that we would “accept him” and then decide to save us.
He decides to save those whom He saves based on His purposes and His grace. Nothing else. We didn’t earn His love. He chose to love us. He chose us. He chose to love us, to save us, because He chose to do so. We didn’t earn it, we are chosen. And He determined this grace that he gives us and the grace of Christ Jesus before time began, from the beginning.
God’s grace: appointed and determined before time began. Manifested in the incarnation, in the life of Christ Jesus, truly God and yet, truly man. God became man, born a human baby, lived a perfect life, fulfilled the covenant of works that Adam broke on all our behalf. Gods grace manifested through the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.
He abolished death, defeating it by being raised from the dead by God the Father. He brought life, through the forgiveness of sin. By the shedding of his blood, he paid the wages of sin, wages he didn’t owe, because he had no sin. Wages that we couldn’t pay because we are sinful.
And this is the Gospel. That Christ fulfilled the Covenant of Works so that we may be included in the Covenant of Grace. Paul writes in Romans 5:8 & 9: but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.

This is the Gospel of which Paul was called. This is the Gospel of which Paul was appointed a preacher, a teacher, and an Apostle. That Gospel and that call are why Paul is imprisoned. Because Paul; was faithful to the Word of God and because he was faithful and followed through with the call that God gave him.
We see this happening today throughout the world. We see nations, governments telling people that it is illegal to be a Christian. We have many more that are saying it is illegal to proselytize, to evangelize, to share the Bible or the Gospel with any one within that country. We see the worldwide culture moving towards it being illegal to speak or preach against other religions, worldviews or behaviors and therefore illegal to speak or preach what the Bible says is true. That’s not here yet in America, but make no mistake, they are trying, and it is coming.
Paul says, that for all of that, he says, I am not ashamed. He says, I know in whom I have believed. The one who is called Faithful and true (Rev. 19:11). The Alpha and the Omega (Rev. 22:13). He is the King of Kings and the LORD of Lords (Rev 19:16).
And He will guard what he has entrusted to us, namely, our salvation. Our regeneration, our justification and the glorification that is yet to come. All of it is a gift from God from his own purposes and grace and all of it is firmly held in Jesus hands. He will guard it until that day of judgment, and he will not let go of those who are His, as in righteousness he judges and makes war. (Rev 19:11)

Paul tells Timothy, follow the pattern. Do what you have been taught and what you have seen to be true. James 1:22 says to be doers of the word, not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. It is not just about sitting here and hearing what I am telling you, hearing what the Word of God says, but we need to follow and obey it as well.
Paul was a sound and faithful teacher. His words were trustworthy. Paul spoke with and in faith. He spoke with and in truth. He encourages us to listen and learn and obey and live with our faith in and to the truth of Jesus Christ.
And the Holy Spirit will help guard the truth in us. He will guard the sound doctrine, the deposit entrusted to us. God says in Ezekiel that he will turn our hearts of stone to hearts of flesh. The Bible says that the law is no longer written on tablets of stone but written on our hearts. Now, we know of course, that Jeremiah tells us we cannot trust our own heart, not in and of itself. The heart is deceitful above all things, he says. But we can trust the LORD, we can trust the Holy Spirit to seal the truth in our hearts and to, as Paul says here, dwell in us and guard that deposit within us.
Charles Spurgeon writes: This is what we need. If the Holy Spirit is in us, we shall never trifle with the truth. He is the lover and revealer of truth, and we shall press the doctrines of the Word of God and the Word of God itself, nearer and nearer to our hearts in proportion as the Holy Spirit dwells in us.

Seek the truth as you read and learn Gods Word. Seek not to confirm your thoughts, ideas and beliefs, but for the very Word of God to reveal the truth in you and to you. That the very Word of God would change you and mold you. That the Holy Spirit would guide you in truth and would direct your knowledge and build your discernment of what is true and what is lie.
When you know the truth, when it is revealed to you, do not be ashamed of it. Do not be ashamed of the Bible. Do not be ashamed of the Gospel. Do not be ashamed of Jesus, his teachings, his life or his death on the cross. Do not be ashamed of his resurrection or his calling He has placed on you. Do not be ashamed of being faithful.
You belong to Christ. He who is faithful and true. He calls us to be like Him. We are made in his image. We are called to grow more and more like Him. We are called to be faithful as Christ is faithful.

Paul shows and names a few examples of both faithfulness and unfaithfulness. Some decided that they were indeed ashamed of Paul and his imprisonment. Some decided to leave Paul and his company. They cut ties with him, disavowed him, probably said things like, “We always knew there was something about him. Something just seemed off…”
Paul mentions Asia, that all who were there, turned away from him. Asia was then, what we know now of as Turkey and that region. Ephesus was the main city, one of the main powers in that region at the time. Paul was emphasizing to Timothy that many backs in the Ephesian church had turned their back on him as well.
Chief amongst those who left him and were unfaithful to him were Phygelus and Hermogenes. Likely these two are named specifically because their abandonment, their disloyalty was so heartbreaking and so devastating to Paul. It was likely that he depended on them. And then they were gone.
As you go through hard times, as you go through difficult situations, people will fall away. They will leave your side. Friends will leave, turn away, abandon you. Sometimes it will be unintentional, and they won’t even realize they are doing it. Sometimes it will be very intentional, very purposeful. Sometimes we will be those friends.
We are not perfect friends. Our closest friends are not perfect either. I continue to think back to Jesus closest friends. Jesus, the man who was perfect. The man who would have been the best friend a person could have. And his three closest friends continually let him down. Peter, James and John, the three who joined Jesus up on the Mount of Transfiguration, who saw Moses and Elijah, couldn’t stay awake for a short period of time when Jesus was praying in the garden of Gethsemane, sweating blood. His closest friends, his disciples scattered when he was arrested, tried and crucified. Peter denied him three times. Only John, bringing Mary, Jesus mom, only he came back and was at the foot of the cross as he died.
We will not be perfect, faithful and loyal friends. We will let our friends down at various points. There will be friends of ours will let us down, will not be perfect, faithful or loyal at all times. We cannot expect to be treated better than Jesus himself was treated.
But some will people do remain faithful. Onesiphorus was faithful. He often refreshed Paul and was not ashamed of his prison chains. Onesiphorus not only stayed faithful to Paul, but when he got to Rome, he actively and vigorously sought out Paul. He went above and beyond what was expected in order to show Paul he was loved and supported.
Onesiphorus is to be an example to us. He showed his faith in Christ by his works, by his actions. He showed his faith in Christ by his obedience, his loyalty, his faithfulness. Onesiphorus will hear on the last day, “Well Done, Good and Faithfull servant.” The LORD will grant him mercy on that day. Onesiphorus will be saved from judgment and will be with the LORD in eternity future.
Heres the thing. Character shows through. Good, bad or indifferent, character shows through. Paul points out that Timothy knows the character of Onesiphorus and all that he did in service to the LORD in Ephesus.
People will see your character. And it will be a testament to where your faith and where your trust truly lies. Now, its true that people who don’t know Christ can be good, moral, high character people. But what is that a testament of. Nothing else but Gods common grace.
Those of us who do know the LORD, or more accurate to my own experiences, who have come to know the LORD later, whatever our character was, good or bad, it will improve through our sanctification. It wont always happen instantly, at least not on the outside, not visibly.
I was thinking recently about my own growth and sanctification. When I became a Christian, thinks changed and started changing on the inside immediately. And some things probably changed on the outside, in terms of my behavior and what not. But since I was a good, nice, moral guy there wasn’t the immediate, drastic shift that all could see. I was thinking back to the things that really have changed in me and the ones that mark right now the difference in who I was then and who I am now, those didn’t start visibly changing for a couple of years.
So, it wont always show right away on the outside, but God is growing you, that you may be conformed to the image of his son. His chose you. He loves you. He saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace.

To God be the glory, the honor and all praises. Amen.

Let’s Pray.