In the comedy movie 50 First Dates, Drew Barrymore plays a woman who has suffered a
serious head injury in a car accident. As a result, she develops a rare form of anterograde amnesia which causes her memory to reset whenever she goes to sleep. After she wakes up, all her new memories have been erased and she believes that it’s the day of her accident. Believe it or not, this story actually has some basis in reality. In 1985, Michelle Philpots of England suffered a head injury a motorcycle accident. Five years later, she re-injured her head in a serious car accident. These injuries did enough cumulative damage to Philpots’ brain that she eventually started having seizures and was diagnosed with epilepsy. By 1994, she was suffering from anterograde amnesia and had completely lost the ability to create new memories.
For the past 20 years, Philpots has had all her memories wiped clean after she goes to sleep. When she wakes up, she believes that it is still 1994. Even though Philpots was in a relationship with her husband long before she suffered amnesia, they did not actually get married until 1997. As a result, Philpots’ husband has to show her their wedding pictures every morning in order to remind her that they’re married. During an appearance on The Today Show with Matt Lauer, Philpots actually forgot Lauer’s name in the middle of their interview. Even though an operation was performed to remove some of Philpots’ damaged brain cells and put an end to her seizures, it seems unlikely that her condition will go away or that her erased memories will return.
What a tragedy! And how frustrating. To live your life with with no memory. To not be able to build on the past of what you have learned or experienced or seen. Ms. Philpots had a physical reason for her amnesia and that is a tragedy, but I submit to you that many Christians today have a self-inflicted spiritual amnesia that leaves them unable to deal with the regular challenges they face. And even worse, many are stuck in the past either living in the memories of their former victories or, more generally so, they are stuck living in the memories of their past sin and, thus, not living in the freedom of their new life in Christ.
Well, Paul here is continuing his thought to Timothy that began the chapter when he told him to be a good soldier of Christ Jesus particularly in suffering for the gospel. But now he turns that thought to the foundation for how we live by rooting it in the realities of the gospel.
Paul loves Timothy and he charges by being such a passionate witness. This is not someone who doesn’t know what he is talking about. This is his last letter just before he is going to die as a martyr for the faith. It has all led up to this and he is about to go home to be with Jesus. So, he reminds him again of the Person of the Gospel; the Power of the Gospel; and the Promises of the Gospel.
The Person of Gospel v 8
The Person of Gospel v 8
Paul has just told Timothy in verse 7 to think over what he has said. To consider by the illustrations he has given what it takes to follow Christ. He tells him it is like a soldier, like an athlete and like a farmer. In other words, it is hard work that takes fortitude and courage and commitment. But we know what this is like don’t we? It takes motivation. A LOT of motivation. Whether it is not getting killed as a soldier or the gold medal of the Olympics or the prospect of not eating as a farmer; these are all pretty good motivations, but what about as a Christian? What is your motivation?
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Is this what you live for? To give glory to God? Well, the only way you can do that or Paul or Timothy or anybody else is to see Him for who He is and live in the light of that truth in an ongoing, growing relationship. It is about Lordship; not just salvation. Your salvation is the start. It is about sanctification or living for Christ and growing in His likeness for the rest of your life.
What I really like about the book The Resilient Life is that the author insists that the greatest contributions and achievements you will reach will be in the second half of your life, after 40, if you will pursue Christ and finish strong. I want that. Not just because I am now over 40, but because I want to see God glorified in my life and in the world around and I want to grow in faith and holiness. Is this what you want? Do you order your day; your goals; around this?
Paul says to remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David. Remember here is an action word, a verb and in the Greek it literally means “to remember someone or something and respond accordingly.” So, it is not just remembering something wistfully like a happy memory. It is remembering the God who saved you and raised you. Set you free from the shackles of sin and the clutches of the devil. Gave you new life and eternal hope so that you can live for His glory now and with the command to do just that.
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
In all things, glorify Him! Remember Jesus Christ and the fact that you were bought with a price, the precious blood of Jesus and live in response to that. Every day and in all ways. There is nothing in your life that is not under the Lordship of Christ, but many times we act that way. We just won’t give it all to Christ. Maybe it is that hobby or relationship or device or pet sin or attitude or memory or bitterness, but the fact is that Christ died and was raised again as Lord of all! There is nothing hidden from Him and He deserves everything from us. Give Him your life. He gave you His and so much more!
See here in verse 8 that Paul gives the basis for Jesus as Messiah. His preaching certainly involved explaining these tenets, as we see in the book of Acts, showing us that Jesus is the offspring of David. In other words, He is the Promised One. He is the one that all of the OT was pointing to. From creation to forming of Israel, to the calling of His people out of Egypt, to the kings and the promise to David that His throne would endure forever and the Messiah would come through his line to the prophets who pointed the people to the hope of the Messiah in the worst of their suffering and in the depths of their sin. Everything was pointing to Jesus.
And Paul says that He is risen from the dead. Meaning that He fulfilled all the promises and the prophecies and accomplished His goal of glorifying God by being obedient to the point of death on the cross so that His death would pay the penalty for our sins. And we know that it was effective because He rose from the dead. Showing that He had conquered sin and the curse of death. Proving that He is the Messiah. The One. And by placing our trust in Him we receive the forgiveness that He earned for us and thus we receive resurrection power. Power to live for Him; to bring Him glory; to love Him and to love the world that He came to save.
So, remember the gospel of Jesus Christ. The truth and the foundation for your salvation. Remind yourself daily. Go to the Word. Talk to God. Plan your day in front of Him; with Him in mind; take on the trials and temptations of the day with Him leading you through it. Remind yourself of His love for you and His power for you and His eternal plans for you when the going gets tough and you are tempted to forget Him. This is the power He offers you. So,
Remember the Power of the Gospel v 9-10
Remember the Power of the Gospel v 9-10
It is the power of the gospel that fuels your Christian life. In this knowledge that you have become a child of God and you have been given the Holy Spirit and have Him living inside you, then you can face the day with power to glorify Him!
Paul is suffering. Bound in chains. Stuffed in a hole of a cell in a little dark and nasty cave. Waiting to die, but always fully alive. How could he live this way? Or as a Christian might you ask, how could he not? He knew the power of the gospel that fueled him and gave him hope in the darkest of trials. You see the power of the gospel is not like an adrenaline shot or shotgunning rebels that leaves you with a spiritual high and then a deep crash that leaves you disoriented. No, it is more like a sustainable and renewable energy source that burns evenly and clean and keeps going and will keep going for all eternity.
Do you know the story of Richard Wurmbrand? He is the founder of the Voice of Martyrs which is a ministry that raises awareness and support for the persecuted church around the world. And Wurmbrand knows a thing or two about persecution and suffering. He was Romanian, born in 1909 and educated as a communist before he and his wife were saved in 1938 and he was ordained as a minister. When the Soviets took over in 1944 he denounced government control of the churches and began underground ministries to the people. Even to the Red Army soldiers. But soon after he was arrested and would spend most of his life from 1948 to 1964 in soviet prisons.
An account of his life I found online tell us:
Wurmbrand, who passed through the penal facilities of Craiova, Gherla, the Danube–Black Sea Canal, Văcăreşti prison, Malmaison, Cluj, and ultimately Jilava, spent three years in solitary confinement. This confinement was in a cell twelve feet underground, with no lights or windows. There was no sound because even the guards wore felt on the soles of their shoes. He later recounted that he maintained his sanity by sleeping during the day, staying awake at night, and exercising his mind and soul by composing and then delivering a sermon each night. Due to his extraordinary memory, he was able to recall more than 350 of those, a selection of which he included in his book With God in Solitary Confinement, which was first published in 1969. During part of this time, he communicated with other inmates by tapping out Morse code on the wall. In this way he continued to "be sunlight" to fellow inmates rather than dwell on the lack of physical light.
Wurmbrand was released from his first imprisonment in 1956, after eight and a half years. Although he was warned not to preach, he resumed his work in the underground church. He was arrested again in 1959 and sentenced to 25 years. During his imprisonment, he was beaten and tortured. Physical torture included mutilation, burning and being locked in a large frozen icebox.. His body bore the scars of physical torture for the rest of his life. For example, he later recounted having the soles of his feet beaten until the flesh was torn off, then the next day beaten again to the bone. This prolific writer said there were not words to describe that pain.
During his first imprisonment, Wurmbrand’s supporters were unable to get information about him; later they found out that a false name had been used in the prison records so that no one could trace his whereabouts. Secret police visited Sabina and posed as released fellow prisoners. They claimed to have attended Richard's funeral in prison. During his second imprisonment, his wife Sabina was given official news of Richard’s death, which she did not believe. Sabina herself had been arrested in 1950 and spent three years in penal labour on the canal. Sabina's autobiographical account of this time is titled The Pastor's Wife. Their only son, Mihai, by then a young adult, was expelled from college-level studies at three institutions because his father was a political prisoner; an attempt to obtain permission to emigrate to Norway to avoid compulsory service in the Communist army was unsuccessful.
Eventually, Wurmbrand was a recipient of an amnesty in 1964. Concerned with the possibility that Wurmbrand would be forced to undergo further imprisonment, the Norwegian Mission to the Jews and the Hebrew Christian Alliance negotiated with Communist authorities for his release from Romania for $10,000 (though the going rate for political prisoners was $1900.) He was convinced by underground church leaders to leave and become a voice for the persecuted church. He devoted the rest of his life to this effort, despite warnings and death threats.
Wurmbrand travelled to Norway, England, and then the United States. In May, 1966, he testified in Washington, D.C., before the U.S. Senate's Internal Security Subcommittee. That testimony, in which he took off his shirt in front of TV cameras to show the scars of his torture, brought him to public attention. He became known as "The Voice of the Underground Church," doing much to publicise the persecution of Christians in Communist countries. He compiled circumstantial evidence that Marx was a satanist.
In April 1967, the Wurmbrands formed Jesus to the Communist World (later renamed The Voice of the Martyrs), an interdenominational organisation working initially with and for persecuted Christians in Communist countries, but later expanding its activities to help persecuted believers in other places, especially in the Muslim world.
In 1990 Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand returned to Romania for the first time in 25 years. The Voice of the Martyrs opened a printing facility and bookstore in Bucharest. The new mayor of Bucharest had offered a storage space for the books under former dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu's palace - where Richard had spent years in confinement, praying for a ministry to his homeland. Wurmbrand engaged in preaching with local ministers of nearly all denominations.
Wurmbrand wrote 18 books in English and others in Romanian. His best-known book, titled Tortured for Christ, was released in 1967. In several of them he writes very boldly and emphatically against Communism; yet he maintained a hope and compassion even for those who tortured him by "looking at men... not as they are, but as they will be... I could also see in our persecutors... a future Apostle Paul... (and) the jailer in Philippi who became a convert." Wurmbrand last lived in Palos Verdes, California.
He died at the age of 91 on February 17, 2001 in a hospital in Torrance, California. His wife, Sabina, had died six months earlier on August 11, 2000. In 2006, he was voted fifth among the greatest Romanians according to the Mari Români poll.
Wurmbrand lived to the glory of God to see all men come to know the glory of God. He knew like Paul that the Word of God is not bound. It transcends and overcomes borders and governments and circumstances and superstitions and philosophies and the lies of the devil and it gives life and hope and salvation to all who believe. Therefore, like Paul and Wurmbrand and so many others in between and after them the saints endure for the sake of God’s saving mission on this earth that others would come to know and love Jesus and be saved to eternal glory.
Wurmbrand knew the power of the gospel to sustain him in the darkest times and to fuel his ministry for the persecuted and even his live for his enemies. Paul knew it in that prison waiting to die as he encouraged Timothy to carry on. Do you know this power today? This power is yours! This gospel is yours! This Jesus is yours and you are His!
So, when you are in the middle of the battle, the trial, the temptation, the discouragement, the suffering remember Jesus and His power for your life. Call upon Him for help and preach to yourself the truths of the gospel. Fight the good fight of faith to endure for the sake of the elect. Meaning live for Jesus, as a witness, and endure so that others might come to know Jesus. Your life is not being lived in a vacuum. It is indeed a fish bowl. Realizing that others are watching and that you have an impact on others will affect the way you struggle. When you understand that people are watching the way you live to see if this gospel has power then maybe it will take the focus off of you and you can put the focus on Jesus!
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
So, live by faith in the promises of the gospel.
Remember the Promises of the Gospel v 11-13
Remember the Promises of the Gospel v 11-13
Paul gives us some of the promises of the gospel in these verses, this trustworthy saying, that are words to live by.
We all have these maxims or proverbs that we live by right? Like “never wake a sleeping baby”. That one is very popular in my house. Or “don’t spit in the wind”. Seems obvious. Or maybe your dad was like mine and said “don’t hang your arm out the car window, you could break it off”. I am sure it HAS happened to somebody.
How about: Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes. That way you will be a mile away and you will have their shoes.
Or a favorite of many: it is better to have loved and lost than to have to live with a psycho for the rest of your life.
Or, I am not sure about this one: We live in a society where the pizza man gets to your house before the police do.
You see, I am not sure we can trust most of those sayings, except the spitting in the wind one, but I know we can trust what Paul tells Timothy here. And if we do, it will change our lives.
He lays this out by giving us a comfort, a challenge and following it with another comfort. First, verse 11 is a reminder, just as Paul is dealing with the end of his life, that death is not the end, but only the beginning.
C.S. Lewis puts it beautifully in the last book of the Chronicles of Narnia, The Last Battle when he speaks about the savior figure Aslan and, basically, the reference to heaven that the characters have entered into after the final judgment:
“And as He spoke, He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”
This is descriptive of the reality of heaven that awaits us and the real life that we only live after death. So, this life is really just a blink in eternity, which we were made for and must set our hope on. It is the reality of the being made alive in Christ and given the promise of future glory.
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.
This is life changing and forever our hope. We can live now with resurrection power!
So, the second stanza in verse 12 is the challenge that is based in the resurrection power. So, in other words, if we have this resurrection power in life now we must endure. So stand firm, endure, especially under suffering, but generally in keeping the faith. Don’t grow weary of doing good. Don’t stop reminding yourselves of the power and promises of Jesus. For, if you keep going then you will find that there is great reward.
Indeed, we will reign with Him. We won’t have any menial tasks in heaven. We will rule and reign with Jesus. This is something we don’t think about enough and must consider as we consider our circumstances on earth. It helps fuel the fire to hear “well done”.
And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.’
Keep these things in mind because there is a grave warning here in verse 12. And this is backed up in multiple places in the Bible and by Jesus Himself.
So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.
And here we see that this word deny is referring to full blown apostasy, which is the abandonment and renunciation of the faith. It is turning away from Jesus and, unfortunately, we probably all know and have been deeply affected by people we know who have given up on the faith. Maybe they were family members who grew up in the church, but have walked away. Maybe it was those who had a really strong testimony, but somehow they just didn’t have much faith when things got tough or life just got busy or things didn’t go their way.
Don’t be discouraged. Don’t be surprised. But be strong in the faith. Stand firm and don’t let other people affect you more than the gospel affects you. Live in light of the truth and trust God’s promises as you live in resurrection power. And take heart, because in the end, it is not about the strength of our faith, but rather it is about the strength of the object of our faith.
See, here in verse 13 we have this magnificent promise that it does not depend on us, but rather it is dependent on the character of God which is unchanging. And it doesn’t need to change because it is perfect. He is gracious and powerful. Loving and wise. He cannot deny or disown Himself and He has made us His own by the blood of Jesus Christ. It is not part of His nature to act any differently. He will always fulfill His promises because He is powerful enough to keep them and perfect in every way.
So, when we are faithless, as we all are at times, He is faithful. This is not the apostasy or denial of Jesus, it is rather the common experience of the faithful to act faithless. To forget the person and the power of the promises of the gospel. So, take heart and know that just because we can be forgetful it doesn’t mean God is. He knows you and He loves you and He chose you before the world began to be His child. He will not let you go.
And let it be the motivation for you to stand firm, and when you fall, to run to Jesus. Return to the person, the power and the promises of the gospel. They will not change and it is our hope and the fuel for living the gospel shaped life to the glory of God.