June 9, 2019
Ken Currie (Downtown Campus) | 2 Timothy 1:1-7
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God according to the promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus,
To Timothy, my beloved child:
Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.—2 Timothy 1:1–7
This week is a campus-specific preaching Sunday at Bethlehem. The idea is that our preaching rhythm is “all church” interspersed regularly by preaching live and specifically at each campus. Sometimes, these sermons stand-alone topically, and they’re part of a series. Last year and into the beginning of 2019 we worked through 1 Thessalonians with the aim to observe some characteristics of a healthy church. (What could we learn in this regard from a church that receives some commendation from the apostle Paul?)
Now we are beginning a new investigation. We’ve looked at what a characterizes a healthy church, now let’s investigate some of what the Bible has to say about what a healthy, mature individual Christian looks like. One place where we can gain in our understanding is Paul’s second letter to Timothy.
I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know Timothy's proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel.—Philippians 2:19–22
Consider the Value of a Clear Conscience
Let’s pull off to the side of the road for a moment and consider the value of a clear conscience.
They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience.—1 Timothy 3:9
... having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.— 1 Peter 3:16
Let’s continue on …
The central idea in the introductory section that we are looking at is Paul’s exhortation to Timothy that he fan into flame the gift he received from God through the laying on of Paul’s hands. This is due his personal faith that was also in his mother and grandmother. He was not a child of God because of his family’s faith but because he had the same faith as his family.
Let’s establish some ground work here …
Timothy has a spiritual gift and both he and Paul know what Paul is talking about so the gift is not named specifically. (Some commentators think the Holy Spirit, others the gift of evangelism, others his general gifts for ministry. Evidently, God does not want us to focus on what Timothy’s gift was but rather the call to fan our own gifts in to flame.)
So, Timothy has this gift but simply possessing is not enough. The exhortation is to fan it into flame.
This, of course, calls to mind the sort of flame that might be the beginning of a camp fire. I need to acknowledge that I don’t know a lot about camping. I like to hike and be in the woods but I want to sleep in a bed and go to the bathroom inside before starting the day. I’m more like the man whose new wife wanted to go camping because it was a tradition in her family, to which the man replied, “Camping was a tradition in everyone’s family until they invented the house.” So I’m no expert, but I understand that fires need oxygen and that the right amount of fanning will accelerate the fire.
So how is Timothy to do this? How is he to fan into flame this gift?
Verse 7 establishes three realities that are the basis for fanning his gift into flame. At this point I want to assert that just like Timothy, all believers in Jesus have a gift or gifts from God. And just like Timothy, we are to fan those gifts from embers to flames.
For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.—2 Timothy 1:7
So it makes sense to say that there is a relationship between the intensity, manifestation of our spiritual gifts and the ministry of the Holy Spirit
Let’s look at each aspect and consider how our spiritual gift may be enhanced or diminished
This is want we want—to use our spiritual gift in power. Not meekly but fully. So we reckon with the reality that we have no power in ourselves. Our spiritual gifts must be submitted to God’s power. Aligned with his purposes, employed for his glory. The Spirit does not bless but for the glory of God. The Spirit does not empower but to magnify the majesty of God. The use of a gift for self glory is like pouring water on the fire. Trusting in God to use our gift for his glorify fans the gift into flame.
The point of our gifts is to love others. Remember what Paul said, “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7). If we are using our gifts to love others, we fan them into flame. If we use our gifts to serve ourselves, we are quenching them. The Spirit empowers our gifts to serve others.
Spiritual gifts are never in control themselves as if the point were the gift. They are a means, not an end. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit, not a way to get the fruit of the Spirit. Spiritual gifts are a means to God’s glory, the good of God’s people, and the spread of the gospel. I have watched countless people give themselves over to something other than the Holy Spirit. Some are obvious: addictions to drugs, alcohol, sexual behavior outside of biblical boundaries. Some are less obvious but equally damaging, particularly sins against each other: gossip, slander, partiality, etc. Some are primarily internal: fear of man, bitterness. Spirit empowered self-control means that I do have to be enslaved to a false savior, but I am able to pursue the true Savior.
These are precious realities purchased for us by Jesus—gifts that flow from the gospel.
So, fanning our gift into flame is not a matter of willpower or religious diligence. Ultimately, the key is hope in Jesus, rest in Jesus, worship of Jesus, trust in Jesus.