June 9, 2019

Fanning Our Gifts Into Flame

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.

Introduction to 2 Timothy


  • Paul’s last letter. Not the last in order in the Bible but is the last letter written by Paul. Written from prison in Rome (2 Timothy 1:8, 2:9). He was under a death sentence (4:6).
  • Written to a cherished child in the faith (Timothy).
  • Timothy has partnered side by side for the sake of the gospel in the highs & lows of ministry. He shared in Paul’s sufferings as a companion and co-worker.
  • Timothy is mentioned as a co-author in six of Paul’s letters.
  • Paul says this of 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


  • Paul wants Timothy to know of his love for him and how meaningful it is to him that Timothy has remained faithful in contrast to others who have abandoned—and now slander—Paul.
  • Paul wants to draw attention to the centrality of the gospel. Friendship is not ultimately about friendship but about God. Friendship does not terminate in itself but flourishes when what is central is greater than the friendship itself.
  • Paul wants to show that the cost of gospel faithfulness is real in this life, and yet so worth it.

    Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God.—2 Timothy 1:8
  • He wants to draw attention to certain aspects of the Christian life that are strengthened when we grow and walk in the gifts God has given us.
  • Note: Some believe that Timothy was particularly fearful or timid. I don’t take it this way. It makes more sense to me that Timothy was “normal” with respect to the challenges of living for Christ in a world that does not love the gospel. This should be of encouragement to us. We might have a more difficult time relating to Paul, who left status and means to preach the gospel amid all sorts of trials. Timothy is a bit more like most of us—wanting very much to live a radical life of love and obedience but conscious of weaknesses

Our Text (2 Timothy 1:1–7)

  • Paul serves God with a clear conscience
    • This is Paul’s testimony in the face of constant persecution, criticism, and reviling of the worst kind. Although many around him seek to discredit him, torture him, and even kill him, he stands in the long line of the faithful remnant to God. He can say that his life and message are true, God-honoring and empowering. And, though man may seek to ruin his reputation and ministry, and take his life, he lives in the all-encompassing confidence that he is faithful to the true and living God.

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.

  • Paul
    • The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.1 Timothy 1:5
    • They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience.1 Timothy 3:9

  • Peter
    •  ... 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

  • Andy Naselli’s definition of conscience: “A capacity for moral judgment” and also as “your consciousness of what you believe is right and wrong.”
  • So you are violating your conscience when you know something is wrong but you do it anyway. You live with a clear conscience when there is alignment between your choices and what you believe.
  • The gift of a clear conscience. This is not Paul’s main point here, but I must pause and take the opportunity to celebrate and plead for clear consciences in our flock.
    • I can only preach before you today because I have a clear conscience. I am sexually, relationally faithful to my wife. This is a gift. I am not intrinsically holy. Only by God’s grace. I do not indulge in pornography. There is no one here or anywhere with whom I have been flirtatious, communicating innuendo, or worse. I have no secret relationships that would undermine my wife’s trust in our marriage covenant. I am not afraid that someone is going to “out” me on social media or walk in hear during this service and accuse me of hypocrisy.
    • I have a clear conscience with regard to my finances. I have not cheated anyone or fudged on my taxes. I am not living beyond my means and looking to material wealth for my security.
    • I am not carrying unresolved anger or bitterness toward anyone. I am not nurturing a hurt and hoping for another’s suffering.
    • Oh, brothers and sisters, I yearn that we all experience the freedom and joy of a clear conscience. If you are today living in hidden sin, walk away from that prison, experience the cleansing power of Jesus as you confess and repent of your sin. Confess your sin to God and then to Christians in your life that can support and restore you.

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 …

  • The Spirit of God gives gifts to the children of God. This is distinct from the fruit of the Spirit. Every believer is empowered to live under the easy yoke of the Lordship of Christ and bear the fruit of the Spirit.
    And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.—Galatians 5:24 
  • Paul says elsewhere that he wants us to understand what spiritual gifts are about:
    • Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed.—1 Corinthians 12:1 
  • Paul teaches that there are different gifts given from God
    • Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.—1 Corinthians 12:4–6 
  • Paul teaches that the Lord is the one who determines who receives what gifts
    • All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.—1 Corinthians 12:11

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.

  • “The gospel ... is the power of God for salvation" (Romans 1:16).
  • The gospel is the love of God poured out on us.“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
  • The gospel frees us from a life enslaved to the winds of the world or the opinions of others. We can truly live in light of what we know is true, right, and beautiful.



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