Tuesday 21 July 2020

2 Timothy 1. v 1-11
I like this Letter, it is my favourite book of the Bible, and have preached on it more than any other book of the Bible.  It is a very tender and moving letter from the great Apostle Paul, now an old man confined to  Roman prison dungeon, a tired and weary missionary who has served the Lord with great devotion and faithfulness, taking the gospel around the ancient world and planting Churches wherever he went. Suffered a lot, physically and mentally, yet never wavered in his commitment; now he is nearing his life’s end in a Roman prison, where he had been detained after anti-Christian Jews had laid false charges against him, and he was held awaiting trial. 

He knows his days are over and is anxious that the all his labours would have been in vain if he is not succeeded by a true and honest man, and the gospel will not be passed down to future generations.

He has chosen Timothy, a young man who served him on the missionary field and whom he had mentored, but Timothy is young, timid, and a  little in awe of what he is going to be called on to do. Hence Paul writes two Letters of guidance, advice and much encouragement  It contains much teaching which is still so relevant to us today.

Paul begins by asserting his right to be called an Apostle, an office specially created by our Lord to a special group of men whom He wanted to represent Him and teach in His name.  This was a select group which was never to be added to.  There are no Apostles today.    

Paul was specially and uniquely called by God to take the gospel to the Gentiles, whilst also catering for the Jews whom he never forgot. It has been accepted that when Paul spoke, he was speaking for God.  

He is writing to Timothy, who he calls ‘my beloved child,’ a young and timid man who Paul had converted and for whom he has a special affection. 
Paul felt Timothy had the right credentials to lead the Church, having come from a godly family where his mother and grandmother had brought him up teaching the Scriptures. 

It is a sad fact that now the vast majority of children do not attend a Church meeting, and schools do not have assemblies where children can learn the Christian faith, unless of course a private school. A worrying number of State schools, encouraged by the body appointed to examine schools, have a deeper concern to teach the agenda of the homosexual lobby there.  Children for some years now have been deprived of being taught the slightest knowledge of the Bible.

Children are growing up in moral confusion, taking up pieces of bizarre lifestyle which they pick up from programmes produced by depraved minds. When they are faced as teenagers with going away from home to Colleges, they are vulnerable to temptations.

Then Paul turns to shape Timothy’s Christian character.  After parents, it is our closest friends who influence us most.  Paul had converted Timothy and maintained contact with him. 

We all owe a debt to those who led us to Christ.  My own mother always encouraged me to go to Church from an early age, and by example attended as we went together to Liverpool Cathedral ever Sunday until I was called to military service. 

Like most fathers, mine was not interested in religion. But for deeper conviction, I owed much to a most devoted Christian who worked tirelessly for Christ, far away in East Africa. 

We all may have been influenced  by someone who has stirred us and helped to make our faith stronger.  Those are the relationships which God establishes, and you remember things from sermons and written notes which have become precious to you.    

Paul tells Timothy he was set apart through ordination. To some Timothy might have been a surprise choice to lead the Church being young and frail, but we see God often chooses a man who the Church committee would reject.  God delights to say to someone, ‘you are the one for the task I want doing’.  Remember who God chose to bear His Son.      The office of pastor, or minister, or priest, whatever term is used, is meant to be a gift of God’s grace, and those called upon owe a debt to God.  Paul calls on Timothy to personal discipline and many in ministry today could learn from Paul’s Letters to Timothy and Titus. 

There is the call not to be fearful of speaking the truth, of keeping to the teaching of the gospel as it is written.  Cowardliness has no place in Christian ministry.  The Bible states, ‘for God did not give us a spirit of timidity’.  We can be taught the Scriptures and be led to Jesus Christ, but it is up to us to use the gift God gave us, and apply ourselves in active discipline to inspire others, and so fulfil the ministry God has given us.  This has to be taken seriously, no toying with the gospel, or seeing the ministry as a soft option.

Paul begs Timothy not to be ashamed of the gospel, and calls on him to guard it. It hurts when leaders in the Church attack the gospel, breaks trust with God and demoralises the faithful Christian. Altering is done to make the gospel more acceptable to modern man/woman, which means giving up guardianship.

I often hear that bishops are the direct descendants of the Apostles, that is offending the Apostles. Which Apostles of Christ would call for the bible to be abandoned just because it didn’t please one section of the community; or cast an ordained Minister out for trying to teach biblical morality; or order fellow Christians not to attend a meeting of a world famous evangelist because he was a solid bible teacher. Which Apostle would call for sections of our Lord’s teaching to be removed or replaced with a modern version.?  

Those who are appointed to preach this gospel have a duty to devote themselves to faithful teaching. This is a call still to be heeded.  From the very start of the faith, essential truths have been under attack. 

Truth does not change.  Presentation may be adjusted, but to change and replace is not acceptable.

Some of us were greatly encouraged by the visit some years ago by Pope Benedict, who used brave and bold words to tell the politicians to stop interfering with Christian beliefs, and called on all Christians to oppose the aggressive secularism which is trying to dominate our society.  This is a great challenge for we have no political party leader on our side. 

However let us face up to the challenge and never ever be ashamed.  Paul says he was not ashamed, 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.

How many Christians I wonder would be able to answer if asked what the gospel is?

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 Paul is not ashamed is because the gospel is the power of God leading to salvation for all who believe. This means more than just believing there is a God, the devil accepts that. It is not enough to just hear and say you believe, it demands a response. God wants all people to turn to Him.

Jesus sent His Apostle to the lost sheep of Israel, for as God’s people He wanted them to have salvation first. When they refused to listen to Him God directed the Gentiles should be brought into the Kingdom. Let us remember, all but one writer of the Bible was a Jew; our Lord was Himself a Jew; and we worship the God of Israel, and we should pray for the mission to the Jews.

For in it the Righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith. We cannot make ourselves righteous before God, but we can be through Jesus’ atoning death. Jesus acts as a bridge between God and us, putting us in good standing in God’s eyes, making it thus possible for us to be acceptable to God. This is God’s powerful way of bringing all who believe to heaven. We are saved by grace (Great Riches At Christ’s Expense) through faith, and when we believe fully in Christ we are in a right relationship with God.

Faith. You must have faith and believe. We are prepared to place our faith in many people, but reluctant to trust in God. We travel by plane and put our faith that the pilot knows what he is doing although we know nothing about him. If you go to the doctor for some illness and he gives you a prescription, you then get dispensed and take, trusting the doctor and the chemist, but you don’t just leave it in a cupboard if you want to get better. So with the gospel; there is no point in just seeking a spiritual prescription; you have to take that by faith, which means reaching out to God and accepting the gospel.

Paul refers to his suffering, which is because of his imprisonment and impending death. So the plea goes out to Timothy to guard what had been entrusted to Paul. But it also goes out to all Christians, and especially to all Church Ministers.

Remember the final words of our Lord to his Apostles, which they so faithfully carried out. ‘Go into all the world and make disciples; TEACHING THEM ALL I HAVE COMMANDED.

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