October 8-10, 2016
Pastor Timothy J. Spaude
Text: 2 Timothy 2:8-13
“A CHRISTIAN SURVIVAL GUIDE”
1. Remember Christ.
2. Resist the easy way.
3. Rely on God’s promises.
2 Timothy 2:8-13 (NIV 1984) “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my Gospel, 9for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s Word is not chained. 10Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. 11Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with Him, we will also live with Him; 12if we endure, we will also reign with Him. If we disown Him, He will also disown us; 13if we are faithless, He will remain faithful, for He cannot disown Himself.”
In case you haven’t noticed we are in an election year. Haven’t noticed? Are you kidding? Non stop commercials. Unsolicited phone calls, e-mails, mailings. Debates bumping out your favorite shows. Almost non stop news coverage. Some people have jokingly (I think!) offered Election survival guides. They urge you to get the sleep mask, the sound deadening headphones or to binge watch every episode of Jeopardy or Wheel of Fortune. Anything to get you past the November election. How am I ever going to survive? We may say that tongue in cheek for the Election but maybe we should be asking that in a more important way. How will we Christians survive? We are past the time when Christian themes and morals were dominant in our country, probably in the time when Christian themes and morals are tolerated and probably moving to the time when Christians can expect persecution. Cause for worry? Remember what we talked about last week? There’s nothing new under the sun. The word of God we get to look at today was written by the Apostle Paul nearing the end of his life to encourage a young pastor named Timothy. He provided a Christian survival guide for him that serves us too.
He urges us first to Remember Christ. “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my Gospel, 9for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s Word is not chained.” At the time the Apostle Paul wrote his second letter to Timothy he was sitting in a Roman prison. This was his second imprisonment. Unlike the first time when he was basically under house arrest, this time it seems he was in the real prison, chained like a common criminal. He took the time to pass on to Timothy truths he would need to survive. “Remember Jesus Christ!” he said. Sounds strange. Who would forget Jesus? Paul knew how clever Satan is a distracting believers. He’s still pretty good at it. Think of the many different things in life that demand your attention. Job demands. Health needs of your children or your parents. Crime. Elections. Buzzing cellphones. Children’s activities. The latest gossip on Facebook. I’m not sure what Timothy faced but we sure have a lot of things going on and if we are not careful they distract from what or rather who is most important. I don’t think I’m wrong in saying that if I polled you on the importance of daily Bible reading most if not all of you would say that it is very important. And if I polled you to answer honestly whether it is happening or not I would get less than a majority. I think the same thing is true for weekly worship. Yet it does not always happen. Think of what prevents you. It’s not that you think it is unimportant. You get distracted. I have to this and there and this needs getting done. Remember Christ. If we are going to survive and thrive as Christians we need to deliberately Remember Christ who died but rose again. Who promised that where 2 or 3 come together there He is, who gave us a faith sustaining meal called the Lord’s Supper where we remember Him. Remember Christ.
And resist the easy way. “Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.” When things get hard for Christians because they are Christians a very natural response is to seek the path of least resistance, take the easy way out. Paul could have done that. He was in prison for proclaiming Jesus Christ as the true God and Lord, the Savior of the world. He could have gotten out of prison by keeping his mouth shut and calling Caesar Lord. But he refused to take the easy way. He endured. He stayed in prison. Why? For the sake of the elect. So that others would be saved. Even though Paul was in chains God’s word was not chained. There was work to be done.
Resist the easy way is another tool we need to remember so that we survive and thrive as Christians in a country that isn’t so Christian anymore. When pressures are brought to bear when there are more people belittling the Bible than believing the Bible when Christian truth isn’t popular any more the easy way is to shut up and go away. Or to practice our faith privately. Or to give in and give up what we know is true. Resist the easy way. The easy way is often not the right way. If we stop living our lives with Christ as Lord, if we stop living our lives as lights for Jesus those around us who need Jesus lose out. They need us. They need us to stay faithful to Jesus so they can be pulled to Him too.
But to do that we will need to rely on God’s promises. “Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with Him, we will also live with Him; 12if we endure, we will also reign with Him. If we disown Him, He will also disown us; 13if we are faithless, He will remain faithful, for He cannot disown Himself.” It seems from the way this was originally recorded in the Bible that the early Christian church used this trustworthy saying as maybe a hymn or a creed, something everyone could hold on to because they needed it. If we died with Him, we will also live with Him. Notice it says “died.” Past tense. When did we die with Christ? The same Apostle Paul who is writing here wrote this to the Christians in Rome, “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death. We were therefore buried with him through Baptism into death in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” Romans 6:3-4 NIV 1984) At your Baptism you died with Him. Don’t try to figure it out. Just enjoy that it is true. God’s promise is that we will live with Him. Jesus is with us now and we will continue to live with Him in heaven. That brings us to our second promise. If we endure we will also reign with Him. Endure. Don’t give up. Don’t give up if trusting in Jesus means you have to be chained like a common criminal as Paul was. Don’t give up if you get made fun of at work or college. Don’t give up is some family members turn on you. Endure, hold on to the faith entrusted to you at your Baptism and God promises you will not just live in heaven you will reign with Jesus. Again, don’t try to figure it out, just enjoy that it is true. And to help us when the going gets rough this is also true. If we disown Him, He will also disown us. Paul is just paraphrasing what Jesus said, “Whoever acknowledges me men, him will I acknowledge before my Father in heaven and whoever disown me before men, him will I disown before my Father in heaven. There is no more devastating sin consequence wise than disowning Jesus, giving him up. Young people here today, remember this. You are often the Devil’s prime targets. You go off to college. Your faith gets challenged. You get distracted from remembering Jesus. You forget to regularly worship. You forget to remember Jesus at Lord’s Supper. Somebody special comes into your life and in your love for that person who does not believe and does not want you to believe you disown. Don’t do that. You will force Him to disown you. This too is a promise from God that we can rely on. Now if some of you are worried that this has happened to your children or grandchildren hold on to this promise as well. If we are faithless he will remain faithful. He cannot disown Himself. It’s not too late. God has clearly proclaimed in His word His joy at seeing the straying return. He remains faithful to that and no disowner who returns to own will be turned away.
Remember Christ. Resist the easy way. Rely on God’s promises. As Paul’s life drew to a close he passed on those survival truths to Timothy who would need them. And there’s nothing new under the sun. We need those truths too. Thank God we have them. Amen.