Living and Dying for the Gospel
Second Timothy is a wonderful book that was probably written near the end of Paul‘s life. As a result, it has deep and beautiful thoughts what it means to live for Christ. In verse 1 Paul encourages Timothy to be firmly dependent on the kindness of Jesus, be full and resolute in your dependence on Jesus (be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus). This is the opposite of how the world would program us, right? Independence, self-sufficiency, dedication to the pursuit of pleasure, comfort and financial security first. Not so in the Kingdom. Timothy’s call was to be dependent on God as he pursued disciple-making.
Then Paul goes on to illustrate what it means to be strong or resolute or focused on being dependent:
- Just as a soldier thinks only about soldiering and should have no distractions, God is pleased when Timothy is living a life dependent of Jesus and focused on the mission - no distractions.
- Just as athletes are only successful if they follow the rules, Timothy must move in a God-dependent way or there is no victory for him. The most amazing athlete you know is just another idiot if they can’t follow the rules. We’ve seen those, right?. In the end the greatest thinkers in the world, the best humanitarians do not get the crown if they are not God-dependent and working for the glory of Christ.
- Just as the farmer must work very hard and have patience in order to receive the results of his effort, Timothy must, in dependence, continue to work patiently for the cause of Christ - his reward will come.
Now Paul moves to the application of these examples:
2 Timothy 2:8-10 (NIV)
Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, 9 for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained. 10 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.
Verse 8 - Paul primarily points out two things. First, Jesus was the one who defeated sin and death. Death did not and will not win - Jesus wins. Second, Jesus is absolutely the One to receive the Old Testament promises God made to his children through king David - God said David’s throne will last forever (1 Sam 7:13-16) - Jesus was a descendent of king David. This is John’s gospel. The promised One has come and defeated death so we could live.
Verse 9 - Persecution DOES NOT stop the gospel. In fact it’s the opposite, right? As the world looks to press the saints into submission, and the saints refuse to succumb, the gospel can be seen more clearly. The gospel can be seen as giving purpose and life - it’s worth dying for. There’s an example of this in Philippians 1:12-14.
Philippians 1:12-14 (NIV)
12 Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me (imprisonment) has really served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.
Jesus is our ultimate example here. It is in the midst of sacrifice that the gospel shines. At the cross the glory of God exploded - death dies, we live, Jesus is magnified.
2 Corinthians 12:9b-10 (NIV)
…I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Verse 10 - Because God’s word is not stifled by imprisonment, I will endure everything for the sake of the mission.
It’s VERY important that we know this. The saving gospel of Jesus is not compatible with the priorities and thinking of this world. We are called to put Jesus and his mission ahead of what this world has to offer - really. In this God works because we are living by faith. We are living the way God would have us live - for his glory - even though the masses go a different way.
Young people - you will be tempted to put the world’s construct of romance, love, sex, politics, money, career, and retirement in front of God’s vision for romance, love, sex, politics, money, career, and retirement.
Older person - you will be tempted to put the world’s construct of romance, love, sex, politics, money, career, and retirement in front of God’s vision for your life.
I’d like to look at an interesting connection Paul is making here between the beginning of verse 8 and verse 10 - READ IT. I am suffering because of the gospel and I endure it for the sake of the mission.
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We are not connected as we should be with the persecuted church. I think in many ways I would like to not think of them - that would allow me to more easily think of how God should be getting me a nicer house or a better car or a bigger steak. The author of the book of Hebrews, however, says this:
Hebrews 13:3 (NASB95)
Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body.
There is more persecution against Christians today than there has ever been - and it actually seems to be spreading. There are three things that are fairly clear to me:
- First - as humanity “advances” and we unite globally in communications, economics, and purpose, the gospel will increasingly NOT FIT. Persecution is not and will not be going away until Jesus returns.
- Second - at some point this country will be a very hostile environment for any who would follow Jesus. The freedom that we take for granted will have passed and we will be in league with “the beast” depicted in the book of Revelations.
- Third - if we are to stand, if our children are to stand, we must, like Paul said to Timothy in 2 Tim 2:1, live lives that dependent on God’s provision and NOT the resources of this world.
Mark 8:34-38 (NIV)
Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
In other words, “If anyone would come after me, he must be the new person Christ has created, shoulder the difficulties of this, and follow me.”
35 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? 37 Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
The 20th Century saw millions of Christians killed or persecuted and I don‘t think the 21st Century will be any different - we should be more connected with them.