Friday 30 January 2015

2 Timothy 1 v 1/14
Nothing clarifies the issues of life and death so much as the prospect of death does. Some of us have come close to it when we have had a near death experience, and people in such situations reflect on things most important to them. This is exactly what is in Paul’s mind as he writes what is in effect his last will and testament.

This is the last letter Paul will write as he realises his life is coming to an end, and he wants to ensure the gospel as he had preached was faithfully maintained. He trusted Timothy to take over the ministry he is leaving, but Timothy is a young and timid man, likely to be overawed by the opposition he will face.

The Church had spread rapidly across the Roman Empire after Pentecost, but suddenly being a Christian became a dangerous thing, and it wasn’t popular to mention you were a Christian in public, it was safer not to get involved with Jesus and His followers. Many people have personal experience of that today, as the careers collapsed when it became known they were declared Christians; and I can speak from personal experience myself.

In addition false teachers had crept into positions of influence within the Church, and their teachings were acceptable to those who wished to follow a loose sort of Christianity, just such a thing, again, we find when people are made to feel there are no moral restrictions.

This Letter was, and is, for those who are discouraged by the situation within and without the Church, and is a bold call for perseverance in the face of suffering and persecution.

In verses ½ Paul greets Timothy and reveals his fondness for him, he also reminds him that he (Paul) is an Apostle. Timothy would know that, but Paul knew this Letter would be passed on for many people through the ages to read.

He then in verse 3 assures Timothy that he prays for him and constantly thinks of him. We may all have someone who has inspired us, and who have care enough to pray for us.

In verse 5 Paul refers to the upbringing of Timothy by his mother and grandmother. Most of us older people will have been led to Sunday School by our mothers, something precious left out of most children lives today, which could lay a good foundation for their rest of their lives. I can vividly remember going with my mother, even into the teenage years to Liverpool Cathedral each Sunday afternoon for Evensong.

But Timothy has not only had a wonderful home background, he has also been befriended by Paul a mighty Apostle.

Paul then calls on Timothy not to let that gift be wasted, God has given us a spirit of power not timidity, This is why we must never ever be ashamed of being Christians, or of speaking of the gospel; God has called us to stand up for Him and the Lord Jesus.

Paul says he was not ashamed of the gospel, in fact he glorified in the gospel, and that is what all Christians should do. But sadly I fear we all do not. How many Church members are embarrassed when asked if they believe? Indeed how many are ready to acknowledge they attend Church? How reluctant to answer if asked to give our opinion on moral questions? If you are not ashamed, you are ready to speak out about your faith.

Some people are fearful of their friends finding out they attend Church in case they get mocked, or because it might restrict the way they want to behave. Remember the words of Jesus, ‘for whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this sinful and adulterous generation, of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed when He comes in the glory of the Father’.

Jesus in His preaching had two effects; He either saved people or upset them. If we study the preaching of Jesus the people did not always go away smiling, even His own disciples walked away from Him at one time. We like to read and hear the stories of Jesus as long as they do not place too much of an obligation on us. But many did believe in Him and went away with a different reaction.

Preachers now should be prepared to tell the Bible as it is written, telling people what need to hear rather than what they might like to hear. Preachers can however be intimidated and be frightened of upsetting modern susceptibilities. To preach fundamental truth will inevitably cause some upset. But let us take heart from Paul who faced all that could be put against him, and so caused Christianity to spread throughout the ancient world.

I have been to three services in recent times when there has been a child being baptised, with people who have not been to Church for a long time, if ever. What an opportunity of preaching the gospel, yet there has been a nebulous sermon meaning absolutely nothing.

Paul is emphasising there is nothing to be ashamed of. Whilst preaching has now become out of favour, it is nevertheless the primary way of bringing people to know Jesus Christ.

We may offer what is hard for sceptics to believe, but that should not stop us telling it. The gospel does annoy people, so the Church has tried to dilute the message to please and conciliate people to such an extent that it has nothing special to offer. If it is just another social organisation with a religious flavour there is no cause for people to support it.

The gospel is the story of Jesus Christ, who gave Himself to be crucified for our sins in order to reconcile us to God. Why should anyone be ashamed to tell that story? We all no doubt are ashamed of things we have done in our lives, and the things we have said but wished we hadn’t, and that is understandable. But we allow ourselves to become ashamed of something for which there is no need to be ashamed of.

The reason he is not ashamed is because the gospel is the power of God leading to salvation for all who believe.

We have to remember we all have to look to the future for the Church is only one generation from extinction. It is easy for those in the older generation to have a spirit of apathy and think I won’t be here so there is no need for me to worry. We must pass on what we have inherited.

This letter is essentially a message for those who may be tempted to give up in times like now when it often seems that those in positions of leadership do not really know what they believe in. Paul reminds us the gospel is worth standing up for; is worth fighting for; and in this Letter Paul goes on to encourage people.

There have been ominous predictions as to the future of the Church in this country as politicians and the judiciary seem to be trying to eradicate Christianity from the public domain. But we can resist and defeat these attacks. If every Church member could bring one family member or friend to attend Church, we can double our membership at one stroke.

There will however as Paul intimates be suffering, for boldness and suffering go together. There is a growing list of people in this country who are suffering for merely allowing their faith to be known; for offering help in Christ’s name; for preaching the gospel in a public place. But we can be assured of God’s grace and protection. As the hymn reads, ‘be bold, be strong, for the Lord your God is with you.’

If we are going to stand up for God we must also be sure and confident in the purity and truth of what we stand for. This is not a popular stance to make in this generation. We have to concede the Church is ever ready to supplant God’s law for the law of the State.

In the stated aim of the government to deal with the prevention of terrorism, a consultation is taking place. Under the proposals universities and colleges will be required to have policies which would require notice to be given by anyone speaking there, so that the authorities could make checks and cancellations if they saw fit, and contents of what would be said with outlines submitted of words to be use have to be made. This means Christian Unions would have to submit in advance what speakers planned to present. Bearing in mind much of the educational establishment is anti-Christian, in the present cultural climate there will be those who will object to any reference to same sex marriage; sexual ethics, abortion, the uniqueness of Jesus Christ, and other biblical teaching. Already some Universities’ Christian Unions have been banned, or had restrictions placed upon them, even to the extent of requiring non Christians to have places of leadership.

In the mainline denominations there are those who are willing to water down the truth of God’s Word and we end up casting doubt on major doctrine and people begin to wonder if Jesus is the only way to heaven, which is in effect to cast doubt on the words of the Lord Himself.

We are at a crossroads in the history of the Church. The Bible states there are two roads, one broad, one narrow; one leads to destruction the other to eternal life in heaven. Be sure you are on the right road.

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