July 7, 2019

Pleasing, Prizing, Producing

Ken Currie (Downtown Campus) | 2 Timothy 2:1-13

“If we are faithless, he remains faithful”—for he cannot deny himself.

Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some.2 Timothy 2:13–18


Reminder Paul’s last words to Timothy? Who would you write your last words to? What would you say? I pondered this as I prepared this sermon. I think it’s pretty simple. If I knew that I was headed to certain death, like Paul does in this letter, and I had the opportunity I would want to say two things, 1) I love you and 2) follow Jesus. Like, I REALLY love you and REALLY REALLY REALLY follow Jesus.

Today, we are going to work through this text and see …

1) One Big idea
2) Two Surprises
3) Three examples
4) Four Directions

One Big Idea

So that’s the big idea of this passage and sermon. The call for our lives to be devoted to Jesus, pure, single-minded, joy-filled, long-suffering, tolerant, holiness-producing, and of gospel-preaching devotion to Jesus. This runs counter to the message in our day (that echoes the sin in the Garden) that we are to be devoted to ourselves. And this is what many try to do, however, we are not the Creator but the creation, and as much as we pretend or try, it can never work to try to be Creator.

Two Surprises

1) In order to be wholly devoted to Christ, we must be strong in grace. This is easily passed by, but we should linger here. This is an odd way to talk. What do you think about when you think of strength? “Be strong.” Strength allows us to overcome obstacles, accomplish our goals, control our environment. Grace is the exact opposite. We need grace because we are unable to overcome our own sin, to accomplish godly goals to control our environment, or even ourselves. So, do not be strengthened by lifting weights, religious activity, discipline, focus or any other thing in yourself, BUT, be strengthened by the free gift of salvation and empowerment for the Christian life through the work and authority of Jesus.

If you ever try to explain this to an unbeliever, it will make no sense. But for the Christian, this resonates. The Christian life is not passive. Whole devotion, pursuit, passion for Christ not by virtue of what we do but what Christ has done. 

2) In order to be wholly devoted to Christ we must share with others. Entrust these things to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. The specific here is that Timothy is to pass along the gospel-centric truths that he heard Paul preach (doubtless countless times) to others as well. And, in particular, be on the hunt for men who will be faithful with truth (the good deposit), who will guard it as well and will continue the pattern of passing on the sound words to others. 

It is interesting and maybe surprising that a way to be strong in grace is to teach to others. And yet, again, we know this to be true, don’t we? There is a strengthening of our own faith when we testify to others. There is an accountability and clarity.

Three Examples

Each one is a way to illustrate the idea of undistracted devotion:

Soldier - One overarching motivation: Please the one who enlisted him, his commander. There are competitors for the attention of the soldier, but the soldier must maintain his allegiance to the commander and the mission the commander assigns.

My oldest daughter is currently deployed to the Middle East. Her job is to provide medical care to U.S. personnel during flights to and within the region. We are very proud of her and, of course, consider her exceptional. Her allegiance and duty are straightforward. Can you imagine if she were to opt out of a mission because of a ballet recital? Nothing inherently wrong with a recital, but she must maintain her commitment to the commander and his mission.

Athlete - I like sports. I like participating, watching, and supporting. I have coached all my children in sports, except I did not coach my daughter in ballet. (We all agreed that was probably just best for everyone involved.) There are two defining concepts in athletics, 1) There is a winner (and therefore there is a prize even if the prize is usually just satisfaction). 2) There are rules to abide by. There is no point in competing without a winner and there is no point without rules. We all know this. (I know there a sports for small children that are just participation, but we all know this only lasts so long.) In the Christian life, the gospel defines the rules, the situation, the reality. People are all sinners, the penalty of sin is death, Christ came into the world to save sinners. This calls to mind 1 Corinthians 9:22–27.

To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. 

Farmer - Unlike athletics and some familiarity with the military, I am not much of a farmer. However, the last few years we have planted a little box garden in our backyard with some tomatoes, peppers, and the like. Again, this is not some high-minded principle. If you grow a garden, you get the fruit. If you put the work in, you get the benefit. The farmer tills, fertilizes, plants, weeds, waters, and this is hard work. The person who counts on his livelihood as a farmer makes a huge investment into seed and puts it into the ground. The Christian stakes his or her life and eternity on Jesus from Jesus reaps the reward of fullness of joy and eternal life.

Bottom line? In every case it may, on the surface and for the short run, seem like loss, but we can say with Paul that to live is Christ and to die is gain. The soldier gains the pleasure of his commander, the athlete gains the prize, and the farmer gains the first fruits. In each case, the final outcome is gain.

Four Directions

1) “Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything” (v. 7).

This reflects the call to read and meditate on the Word. We do not disengage our minds to grow in spiritual maturity. We engage, we think, ponder, and wrestle. This calls to mind Psalm 1:1–2.

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.

This is not rote, mindless repetition. How would that be delightful. As New Covenant believers we are never far from rehearsing the amazing story of Christ first to last. As we meditate God works by the power of the Holy Spirit to bring us understanding.

2) “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel” (v. 8).

As Timothy ponders the truths that he has learned from Paul, he is to be careful not to stray into irrelevant territory or consider anything other than Jesus Christ and his gospel as central.

(Illustration: Arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.) 

3) “Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (v. 10).

We must state plainly that those who are saved have been predestined to eternal life not because of anticipated faith or intrinsic holiness but because of God’s sovereign and perfect choice.

And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.—Acts 13:48

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.—John 6:44

Here we have what some might consider confusing or controversial in two ways:

1) Isn’t our suffering supposed to be for Jesus?

Suffering, laboring, pouring our lives out, forbearing for Jesus or for others is a false dichotomy. We find no contradiction in Paul who says to the Philippians that he can endure the loss of all things because Christ is the supreme Treasure also says to the Thessalonians that they are his glory and joy.

2) If people are elect, then why would Paul, Timothy, and we need to endure for their sake?

God uses his people to spread his message. It is the highest privilege. We, like soldiers, seek to please our Commander and to receive the prize and the first fruits. Therefore, we receive the reproach of others that they may be saved for this is God’s will, that some will be saved through the ministry of the church. We are persuaded that God ordains the ends and the means to that end. God ordains that the gospel be spread throughout the world by the testimony of his people.

I said that there are four directions: The final one I will share as we prepare to partake of the Lord’s Table together.


4) The fourth direction is found in vv. 11–13 and can be summarized as Don’t deny Christ:

“The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself.”

Are you afraid that you will not die sufficiently with him? Are you afraid that you will not endure enough? Are you afraid that you will deny him and be faithless? 

I would remind you that Christ died for you and that when he begins a good work, he completes it. It is good that we consider ourselves soldiers singlemindedly aiming to please our Commander. It was to Jesus that the Father said, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17; see Mark 1:11).

It is good that we understand the rules so that we might win the prize. I would remind you that Jesus is the only One who kept the law of God (the rules) in heart and word and attitude and deed with perfection.

It is good that Christians labor in the harvest field in which God has placed them and enjoy the fruits of that labor. But I would remind you that Jesus earned the first fruits. Do you know what they are? US! We are the fruits of the harvest field!

So our hope is not in what we do for God, but what he has done for us. God is pleased with us in Christ because of the gospel. In Christ, we receive the prize of God himself and the inheritance of eternal joy because of his work on the cross!

So, we come to the Table that reminds us that we have not earned it and we do not deserve it, but God is pleased. He is our prize. We have received the first fruits of Christ’s labor for us.

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