What Baton Are We Passing On?
Background – Paul writes the second of two letters that we know of, to Timothy (perhaps 35-40 years old?), his [true son] (dear son) in the faith. The second letter to Timothy was probably written within a year of the first (62-64 AD).
Written in Rome, where Paul was for a second time a prisoner (Acts 28:16) (2 Tim 1:8, 2:9), and sent to Timothy by the hands of Tychicus (2 Tim 4:12). In the letter he earnestly requests Timothy to come to him before winter, to bring his cloak, his scrolls (2 Tim 4:13), and to bring Mark with him (2 Tim 4:11 comp. Phil. 2:22).
Paul sees the writing on the wall and anticipates that "the time of his departure was at hand" (2 Tim. 4:6) and he exhorts his "son Timothy" to be diligent and to remain steadfast and patient under persecution (1:6-15). Paul encourages Timothy to be faithful in the discharge of his calling (4:1-5). The letter carries the weight of Paul's burden for the gospel and the fact that he would soon appear before the Lord of all the earth.
Written probably not long before Rome caught fire, when Nero ruled Rome. After the fire he needed a scapegoat and he blamed Christians, who were already hated by some Roman people. Christians were considered to be “killjoys” (someone who spoils the pleasure for others), and associated by some with human sacrifice through a misunderstanding of the Lords table and Jesus words, “unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood …”.
In Rome (Emporer Worship) and Ephesus (Diana Worship, Trade), just as in our day, the gospel message is often not well understood or received by those with whom we share it. So in a very real sense nothing has changed.
However it is all too easy to draw back into a comfort zone, and begin to rationalise the current situation. For some say that God has turned His back on Australia. Or that Australians are too hard in their hearts towards God. Others seem to think that it is much too difficult to share the gospel today, but one day when the Spirit moves, things will be different. In this kind of thinking the message is held back until “the promise of revival comes.” At this point it will all of a sudden be the right time to speak. In the meantime, do we keep our faith to ourselves? No, may God forbid!
Illustration, a so-called "secret disciple" at a former workplace - an introvert, who saw nothing wrong with keeping his faith so personal that he would never share it. It’s so easy to sing songs like, “Tell the world that Jesus lives”, without there being any practical response to what it is that we sing about.
Why am I labouring this? Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Paul writes this second letter to Timothy, he knows his time on this earth will soon be up (2 Tim 4:6-9). He uses some of his last recorded words to encourage Timothy to remain steadfast in the faith and in his calling. He reminds Timothy that the gospel message holds the promise of life.
Don’t be ashamed of me, a leader in the church, in prison for the sake of the gospel. Don’t be ashamed of the gospel.
We live in a day of a world of philospohies and religious ideas, no moral absolutes, and legislated religious tolerance.
We run the risk of watering down, or changing the content of the gospel message to be more culturally relevant.
It was Paul’s concern that the message he entrusted to Timothy was to be entrusted to other faithful men. Why? Because there were men who wanted to change the gospel message (over realising their eschatology). Also because Paul wanted to ensure that there were those ready to continue to take the message forward in the event that Paul and Timothy are out to death for their faith under Nero’s tyrannical rule.
The last words of Jesus, stay that you might be filled with the Holy Spirit and be my witnesses.
The last recorded words of Paul …
So what is this important message? What is the gospel?
“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to the promise of life, which is in Christ Jesus.”
It is the gospel of God. It is God’s message. It is the good news from heaven. God sends His messengers to communcicate it. The gospel or good news reveals two things to us - The character of God, and the need in our lives.
The Gospel Reveals The Character Of God
What is the God of the gospel like? He is above all else, a mighty God!
We live in a fast paced world where the efforts and achievements of men/women are readily discussed, what we do, what we can do.
We are easily blinkered and focus on our own problems, challenges, and responsibilities. We can live in such a way that it is easy to get too busy to consider the God who has called us into relationship with Himself.
Familiarity and superficiality introduce the danger of us losing the sense of the majesty of God in our lives and in our collective gatherings.
After all it is popular of recent times, to say these days that God is my friend, my daddy. This may be true (Abraham – God’s friend, Romans – Abba Father). But we need to be careful not to develop an imbalanced view of God. Don’t allow a few words to contain God.
Remember that He is also an awesome God, the sovereign Lord of the universe, and the judge of all men!
Psalm 113:4-6 – The Lord is exalted over the nations, his glory above the heavens. Who is like our God, the One who sits enthroned on high, who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth?
Yet, this same God is not out of the reach of men.
No wonder the Psalmist said, “Oh magnify the Lord with me”.
I like to think of the revelation of God being like a magifying glass. From underneath we look at the object above and we see Him large, but below the glass we also feel the intensity of God’s gaze, the purity of His love.
Muse on this – discipline your mind and think about it. May God be magnified in our thinking.
Our society suggests that we sit down and amuse ourselves, essentially sit down and don’t think, watch TV and be amused, you don’t have to think just be entertained. But dare to be different. The bible says that we are to, “Love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind and strength”.
We are spiritual people, but God has given us a mind to use - not to limit our understanding of God, but to enrich our thinking, to muse on Him.
Is God, your ‘god’, or is He your ‘God’? Is he able to do exceeding abundantly in your life and experience? Not based on a magic formula but a God who responds to faith based on a word that he places in your hearts.
Romans 1:1 Paul, …separated to the gospel of God .The gospel of God is the gospel “good news” concerning His Son. The heart of the gospel message is revealed to us in 1 Cor 15:3 Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures (the fulfillment of what God promised via His messengers) – revealing to us His faithfulness.
His holiness is revealed by the fact that the Father could not bear to look upon sin and turned His face away from His only begotten Son.
His justice is revealed by the fact that He sent His Son to the cross to bear the sins of many.
His love is revealed in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.
His long suffering is revealed in the fact that while we were His enemies, and many of us cursed Him, he was patient in His dealings with us. Rightly, the Psalmist asked the question, “Who is man that thou art mindful of him?”
But God is mindful of man; He has sent His messengers to humanity. His messenger, Paul, sits in a dark, damp, cold Roman prison. He lives in the reign of Nero, and belongs to a group that Nero hated. Paul sits in reflection as he awaits sentencing and inevitable death. Filled with uncertainty of his own physical treatment, and of his immediate future, but Paul is confident in His God – “though I am chained God’s word is not chained”. God graciously sends men amongst us – gifts to the church, evangelists, some say to lead men to Jesus, although the apostles seemed to present Christ before men and command men to repent.
The Gospel Reveals Our Need
Illustration, a work colleague once declared to me that he had never sinned. Only a sinner needs a Saviour.
Christ died for our sins! As sinners, we find ourselves with a guilty conscience before a Holy God because of sin. We are awaiting death and inevitable judgement for that sin (Heb 9:27). But while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us - good news (Rom 5:8). The gospel is good news those whose hearts are stirred by the message, who are moved by the Spirit of God (awakened) to action. The seed comes forth in the message but good soil is needed for the seed to take root. The good soil is that fertile ground prepared in the hearts of men ready to hear the good news, the gospel of God. Good soil is the fruit of the Holy Spirit’s work in our hearts (the fruit of repentance).
The Gospel Of God Holds The Promise Of Life
The Nature Of The Life Promised Is Spiritual
Avoid poor imitations. It is a life that is the outworking of the life and power of Christ within us. It is not talking about having a good quality of physical life – that would make this promise irrelevant, thanks but no thanks! After all, we were born into this world, we breathe, we move, we think, we talk, we run, we dance, we shout, we sing, and in a world of religions we even pray. However the bible tells us that we are not alive to God (Eph 2:1 – dead in our sins, 1 Cor 2 – unable to understand spiritual things).
Some believe that religion will bring us life.
John 3:3 You must be born again. Nicodemus the religious Jew. Religion won’t bring the life you need. Good works won’t fulfill you. The fall of man, original sin, you shall surely die! The only real life there is – is the life that beongs to God. John 6:63 My words are spirit and they are life.
Illustration – my conversion. I knew that life had come into me.
Imagine asking someone struck by lightning, “Did you get struck by lightning”, to which they reply, “I am not sure”. Let me tell you - you will know if were dead but have been made spiritually alive!
Have you received this spiritual life?
A spiritual person asks the question continually – What Would Jesus Do, in this situation. They seek to honour God with their belief that is linked to their actions – believe – by-life.
The Quality Of The Life Promised Is Eternal
The life promised is beyond the life that we currently have in our physical bodies.
That it is eternal life surely ought to make us more sober in our approach to the things of God.
John 3:16 – For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believeth on him should not perish but have everlasting / eternal life.
Eternal life is linked to Jesus Christ. It is found in believing on Him.
Rom 6:23 – The wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
What motovates you to share the gospel? A stick or a carrot? (Punishment or Reward) – Paul said neither – rather that, ”The love of Christ compels me!”.
The Gospel Of God Holds The Promise Of Life In Christ
Today many other ways contain a hollow promise of life but only Christ can provide it. He is risen from the dead and He promised to come again - Col 3:3-5.
A Life Received Through Believing In Our Hearts
Keith Green said that going to church doesn’t make you a Christian, anymore than going to McDonalds would make you a hamburger.
[I]f thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, THOU SHALT BE SAVED. (Romans 10:9)
Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved, you and your house (Acts 16:31). It’s just that easy – or is it?
John and Charles Wesley were devout religious figures of their day. Rising early to meet and pray, regular with their prayer and devotions, even going on missions trips to America to save the Red Indian.
Peter Bohler visited Charles Wesley in February, 1738. “He asked him, ‘Do you hope to be saved?’ ‘Yes’ ‘For what reason do you hope it?’ “Because I have used my best endeavours to serve God.’ “Bohler shook his head and said no more. I thought him very uncharitable, saying in my heart. ‘What are not my endeavours a sufficient ground of hope? Would he rob me of my endeavours? I have nothing else to trust to.’” Salvation for those who were good enough. Wesley’s original idea of Christianity, still exists today, but it is not Christianity rather it is a works based gospel or Pharisaism.
What then is the essence of Christianity? Just this: that in His mercy God gave His Son to come and save those who could not save themselves; that Jesus Christ came to seek and to save that which was lost. Charles Wesley was asked, Why he hoped to be saved, to which he replied, “Because I have used my best endeavours”.
The same man after finding Christ wrote the words of the following hymn,
”And can it be that I should gain An interest in the Saviour’s blood? Died He for me, who caused His pain? For me, who Him to death pursued? Amazing love! How can it be That Thou, my God shouldst die for me?”
John Wesley’s testimony – I went to the save the Red Indian but my God who will save me? The enthusiasm of the Moravian Christians confronted him; they talked as if they knew God! Devoted religious figure, in church weekly, praying daily, religious works abounded but he was not saved. Outer form said yes he must be – he believed in his head - but there was no work of grace in his heart, no life of the spirit in him – until he came to the end of trusting in his own efforts and works and believed in Gods provision.
I recall watching a young man enter a local church. He was wearing dark sunglasses (indoors). He looked like he was the prize, Mr Cool amongst all his peer group. He sat through the message and then responded to the ministers appeal. He walked forward, sunglasses still over his eyes. And there at the front of the church, he repeated the sinners prayer. So some would declare over his life - you are saved - but who did he encounter? Who did he pray to?Why did he move out of his seat in the first place? Perhaps he was chatted to by his well meaning friends, talked into a decision, to get the limelight momentarily on himself?
Looking around as he walked back from the ministry area, it was as if he was saying I am here! Who knows why he responded. But when he came back from the prayer, he still had his dark glasses overr his eyes, he was still looking just so cool, he was still walking with his head in the sky, he was still the king of the heap. But who did he meet in his prayer? Repeat after me – do you believe? I believe! Do you receive? I receive! Pray the prayer, sign the book, state that “You are saved”, and “the angels in heaven rejoice over you tonight because of what you have done” – WELL DO THEY? Doesn't the scripture say, "Let the redeemed of the Lord, say so! (Psalm 107:2)
Friends let us not be found guilty of pretending or playing with God. For God knows whom he has planted. Is the seed of God in you?
How do we receive this new life? Through a prayer - It is that simple but of course it is not that simple - for it is not just about reciting the words, “come into my heart“. You alone need to answer this question, “Did you acknowledge His Lordship when you said the words?”
A Life Received Through Our Confession Of Faith
Who are you proud to associate with? Someone wealthy or famous? A film star, a football player, a successful person…. How about Jesus, oh it is easy here amongst the faithful but how about in the workplace?
[I]f thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, THOU SHALT BE SAVED. (Romans 10:9)
Eph 2:8-10 - What grace provided, faith receives - the promise of life and the result is life changing.
Having received the promise - How do we continue to keep the faith we have received? By fanning into flame (exercising) the spiritual gift of faith that we have received. Put fuel on the fire. Prayer, Scripture, Fellowship, Proclamation.
The Christian faith is not a crystal figure that needs to be wrapped in cotton wool and locked away in a china cabinet. Charles Spurgeon once said, "Truth is like a lion. Whoever heard of defending a lion? Turn it loose and it will defend itself." That is what we need to do with the message of truth.
When someone has a revelation of Jesus Christ just try stopping the flow, try stopping the praise, try stopping the joy… He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today, and he walks with me and talks with me along lifes narrow way.
Today it is as unpopular as ever to proclaim the gospel message but your confession marks a point of commitment and identification. I am a Christian, I identify with the gospel message. Of course the balance to this is that some speak all the time and by their actions bring the gospel into disrepute.
A Life Received Finds Its Purpose In Christ
In Bringing Hope To The World
He gives life to the dead – You are a walking message of hope. The new life you have is a life of power and authority. It is a life of purpose and hope.
Don’t be ashamed of the gospel like a secret disciple. While it is day – labour in the light.
God doesn’t give us a message that we have not been equipped to carry.
The fragrance of the knowledge of Christ – an aroma of death and life
2 Cor 2:14-17 –– who is equal to such a task?
2 Cor 5:11-21 (17-21) - You are ambassadors for Christ
In Demonstrating God’s Power
2 Tim 1:8-9 So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life – not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace.
There is a power available to us as part of our salvation – we do not have a weak or inferior salvation. Power to testify for Christ in spite of our suffering, not just a power to putting people on their backs on the carpet!
Evangelism – gossip the gospel. Paul – Acts, pray that I might speak boldly…. In the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul encourages a timid Timothy, don’t be ashamed of the gospel.
Was our identification with Christ complete? Did David Reid die when he met Christ? Die daily to your selfish desires in order that the power of His resurrection life can flow through us.
What would Jesus do – God, give me the power to respond accordingly.
In Bringing Glory To God’s Name
Does what I doing glorify God? Will what I am doing, glorify God?
Will it bring honour to His name? Will it exalt Him?
In church circles we spend so little time in our fellowships talking about God and His Kingdom? Sometimes it is like it belongs to another world, like a foreign language – workshop talk – profanity –I’ve found a new way of living – If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation, old things are passed away behold all things are become new.
2 Cor 5:14-15 - For Christs love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
I trust that you have received the spirit in which this message was prepared and delivered. I love the church of Jesus Christ and the gospel of grace, not works.
Paul writes to Timothy ---- the gospel message was entrusted to you.
Paul’s time was nearly over, how would the gospel fair under those he had committed it to.
He writes to Timothy -
- You had the privilege of hearing and receiving the message.
- Now you have the responsibility to continue to preach the message of the promise of life,
o Remember where this life comes from – it comes from God,
o Remember the life it offers – a life experienced in Christ,
o So be sincere,
o So be faithful,
o So be purposeful in your approach to ministry.
- Teach and entrust this message to faithful men.
- Keep yourself and the message pure despite the cultural norms in your society.
It is a message of vital importance but the question is, "Do we really believe that?"
After all what are we doing with what we have received? With the good deposit and gifts of God?
What are we doing with the gospel message? For though we may say it is precious to us but are we keeping it a secret like the secret disciple I mentioned earlier?
Who are you entrusting the message to?
What (baton) gospel message are we passing on, entrusting to others?
- Is our message undiluted? Is He Lord?
- Is it unalloyed? Synchretism. Jesus plus something else for salvation.
- Is it compromised so we fit more neatly into society's mould?
Are we asking ourselves the question “What Did Jesus Do?” and therefore "What should we do?"
Are we walking in the power of the Holy Spirit?
Have you truly recognised Jesus Christ as Lord of your life and surrendered to Him? Beyond just the words?
Where your heart was in every word?