Saturday, August 30, 2008

Remembering Who Jesus Is! -- 2 Timothy 2:8-14a

Remembering Who Jesus Is! -- 2 Timothy 2:8-14a
By Pastor Lee Hemen
August 31, 2008 AM

Who is Jesus to you? Think about that for a moment, will you? Who is Jesus to you? Is He some nice guy who went about doing good or perhaps a good guy who went about being nice? Is He the Son of God for you, the messiah, or perhaps your little buddy that you keep on your dashboard just for insurance sake? Who is Jesus for you? In today’s world there are many perceptions of who Jesus is, some of them right on and some of them quite odd. I believe as never before, Christians need to remember who Jesus is.

This question was forefront in the mind of Paul when he wrote his pastor friend Timothy at Ephesus. He wanted Timothy to never forget and to continually remind others of “these things.” In today’s world we as believers in Jesus must be about remembering who Jesus is. He is not “Jesus Christ,” in the sense that we equate this as his personal name, but rather He is the Savior of the world. Paul wanted Timothy to fully understand who Jesus was because Timothy was finding it difficult to remain focused on what his own ministry was to be about. This is true for Christians right now as well. Therefore let’s pause with Paul in remembering who Jesus is.

READ: 2 Timothy 2:8-14a

Paul would write to the theologically struggling church at Corinth, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” (1 Corinthians 13:1) He knew that a musical instrument, no matter the big noise it made, quickly faded away and was nothing by itself. The same is true for those who claim Christ but really have no idea who He is. Sometimes, Christians can sound good, but like a clanging cymbal are soon quiet in their lives in Jesus. In remembering who Jesus is, Christians need to remember that…

I. Jesus is the instrument of our salvation! (v. 8a)

1. An instrument is only a piece of brass or wood until it is played! Paul realized this held true for the spiritual realm as well. Here’s what I mean: Christians have to “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David.” “Christ” is not the last name of Jesus. He is not Mr. Christ, rather, it refers to and describes for us who Jesus actually is, the promised Messiah. Literally, “the anointed one” whom the Hebrews and thereby the whole world had been waiting for! The Jews longed for a military leader that would reestablish the kingdom of David and drive out their hated Roman conquerors. Instead they got a suffering servant that Isaiah wrote about that was “descended of David.” However, Jesus was “raised from the dead” to prove that what He related about Himself was completely true! He related to His disciples privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.” (Luke 10:23-24) and “He told them, ‘This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.’” (Luke 24:46-47) We must never forget that Jesus is the Messiah, the instrument of our salvation!

EXAMPLE: I will never forget when I was playing the violin in a junior orchestra, that each instrument had a part and an importance to play. Whether it was the first or second violins, violas, or cellos each had an importance in the quality of the music played. The same was true for the drums, brass, and the lowly triangle. In fact, I remember we had just finished Beethoven’s familiar Fifth Symphony and the orchestra had ended in a great crescendo. There was a lull and then the person holding the cymbals dropped one with a resounding crash. It was not the proper punctuation or ending for the piece of music played. In fact, it was not just embarrassing for our conductor, the teen who made the faux pas wanted to crawl away. Instead, the conductor said with a flourish, “And thus ends Beethoven’s Fifth, with a resounding crash!” No matter what occurs in life, we must never forget that Jesus is the Messiah, the instrument of our salvation!

There is an old song called “Johnny One Note,” that tells the story of a young man who could sing only one note really loud. In fact, he sang it so loud that you could not hear the brass or the drums, only his one note. Often, Christians are accused by other religions of being “Johnny One Notes,” because we will not sing any other spiritual song but the one we know concerning Jesus. Paul would applaud those who willingly are accused of just singing out loud the one note of Jesus Christ. In fact he told Timothy that in remembering who Jesus is we have to remind ourselves that…

II. Jesus is the gospel message we suffer for! (vv. 8b-10)

1. The song Christians should sing over and over is “Jesus saves!” Paul bluntly wrote Timothy that “This is my gospel.” It was Paul’s “good news.” The melodic message of hope to a spiritually dead sin-fallen world. Paul took his message so seriously he was willing to suffer for it. We find that he was “chained like a criminal,” But even in his chains Paul knew that “God's word is not chained!” Preaching the good news about the crucified but resurrected Son of David was what had landed Paul in a Roman jail. Much of the Book of Acts catalogs Paul’s suffering for the cause of Christ. Paul endured “everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.” Do you understand the implications of Paul’s words to Timothy? He meant that he was willing to suffer and sing his solo for the sake of us, who he called “the elect.” We are chosen of God and it was Paul’s privilege to sing the message loudly even if it meant he suffered for it! And, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, that is what we are called to do as well. We are called to join the chorus and sing out loud the one noted tune that Jesus is the only means of salvation. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) Peter echoed Jesus’ lyrics by singing, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) and we as believers need to sing it loud and proud remembering that Jesus is the gospel message we suffer for!

EXAMPLE: There are those who try to twist the gospel to suit their own means. Using it as a sounding board to garner more money for the poor, making Jesus out as just another good spiritual teacher, or as a means to liberate the oppressed. In the 60s and 70s it was popularized by communistic leaning theologians called “Liberation Theology” and it has gone totally out of vogue now. However, there are still those who see Jesus as a means to ease their personal pain in life or as a good buddy, but none of these is the gospel message we suffer for. The reason the Christian, like Paul, suffers for the gospel’s sake is because the real gospel contains at its core the spiritual truth to “obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus.” Christians suffer because people do not want to come to the realization that Jesus is the means for spiritual salvation and not the agent for social or political change. Can a Christian influence bring these things about? Certainly, but that is not the reason for the gospel message. We must remember that Jesus is the gospel message we suffer for.

Several years ago I read about a young husband who forgot that he was married. According to the newspaper account, the day after the newlyweds returned from their honeymoon, the husband was 3 hours late getting home from the office. Dinner was burned--and his bride was burning mad. He had absentmindedly gone to his mother's house! As humorous as that is when people who belong to the Savior suffer from a similar memory problem, it's not very funny. Christians need to remember that…

III. Jesus is our identification! (vv. 11-13)

1. A trustworthy saying is only as good as the truism it is built upon! Paul was so certain of what he knew to be true that he openly declared to a timid Timothy, “Here is a trustworthy saying!” Here is something you can take to the bank! Here is something you can count on! Here is an eternal truth for spiritual life: “If we died with Him, we will also live with Him; if we endure, we will also reign with Him. If we disown Him, He will also disown us; if we are faithless, He will remain faithful, for He cannot disown Himself.” WOW! The Christian is so identified with Jesus that they are His because of His death, burial, and resurrection. They have by faith died to self; are risen to new life in Him; now live for Him no matter what they do, think, or say; and cannot ever be separated from His love for them! Paul knew that Christians “are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” and he would write that “I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39) Do you believe this little child of God? If this is true, then are you willing to be identified with Jesus Christ? Are you? Then, “keep reminding (yourself) of these things!” Remember who Jesus is. He is our identification!

EXAMPLE: Spiritual identity is important to God. Why? He wants those who claim to know Him to really know Him. Let me explain: Several years ago a 5-year-old boy recognized himself on a TV show about missing children. He had thought he was where he was supposed to be. But when he saw himself on television, he realized that he was separated from the one to whom he rightfully belonged. He told his babysitter, who then called the authorities. Before long, he was in the arms of his mother. It's easy to assume that everything is all right spiritually and that we are where we ought to be, yet not really know who God is. We may think we do, but we have never trusted in Jesus His Son. Can you imagine realizing that you had been “missing” for years only to realize you were not really who you thought you were? Jesus related that “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21) Spiritual identification is still important. Who do you identify with and whom are you identified with? Paul would say, remember who Jesus is. He is your identification.

We who are united to Christ need to remind ourselves continually that we belong to Him, and we are to choose to live for His glory. Paul did just that with Timothy, helping him and us a Christians to remember who Jesus is. Jesus is the instrument of our salvation, Jesus is the gospel message we suffer for, and Jesus is our identification.
NOTE: This article is copyrighted by Pastor Lee Hemen © 2008 and the property of Pastor Lee Hemen. You are welcome to copy it, email it, or use it but please if you copy it, email it, or use it you must do so in its entirety.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Being Strong In God’s Grace! -- 2 Timothy 2:1-7

Being Strong In God’s Grace! -- 2 Timothy 2:1-7
By Pastor Lee Hemen
August 24, 2008 AM

Not everything nor everyone in our life is worthwhile. We discover this when we purchase cable or satellite TV or when we have friends that desert us during a time of crisis. Having 500 channels of nothing or fair-weather friends gets disappointing in a hurry. This holds true for much of what is equated as “spiritual” in our world as well. Here’s what I mean: We get so distracted so easily as people. Like honey bees, it is as if each little blossom in life demands our attention, wilted or not, and we busily flit from flower to flower.

What then is to attract our concerted effort and examination? Paul makes it clear that not everything is life is worthwhile when he wrote that “‘Everything is permissible’—but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible’—but not everything is constructive.” (1 Corinthians 10:23) This was certainly true for his friend Timothy who needed to be strong in God’s grace. Paul gives him four good examples from daily life for Timothy to follow in order to be strong in God’s grace. Let’s discover what they are this morning.

READ: 2 Timothy 2:1-7

What does it mean to be strong in God’s grace? Does it require a good diet, lifting weights, or running laps? Perhaps if your physical stamina is not up to snuff you may need to work your physical muscles for sure, but here Paul is writing about Timothy’s spiritual conditioning. He related immediately that in order to be strong in the Lord…

I. Christians need to be godly teachers of God’s grace! (vv. 1-2)

1. Grace is given even when we do not deserve it! God’s grace is not something the believer has to earn or worry about as far as their salvation is concerned. (Notice I said “believer.”) As a strong Calvinistic Baptist I never worry about my standing with the Lord as far as eternal security is concerned. Those who have not trusted Christ have a lot to worry about! However, there are those that can misunderstand what it means to “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” Paul wanted Timothy to not take for granted the favor of God. In fact, he wanted Timothy to “entrust” what he personally had learned about God’s grace to those who were “reliable” and “qualified” to teach others about it! Grace is not something to mess around with. The Christian’s strength is not their own, it is firmly established in the power and love of God through Jesus Christ! Unreliable teaching about spiritual things comes from ungodly people who do not know the grace of God for themselves. In fact, later, Paul would say these kinds of people’s “teaching will spread like gangrene!” (v. 2:17) In order to be strong in God’s grace, Christians need to be godly teachers of God’s grace!

EXAMPLE: God’s grace is not to be handled lightly by the believer. It is to be taught by those who know it firsthand, who are reliable and qualified to do so. I fear few are tough enough or have integrity to do so in our day and age. Remember General Patton? Sure he was accused of being "insensitive" to a shell-shocked hospitalized soldier by whacking him with his riding crop, but we have very few of those in the ranks of the church in our day and age. Here’s what I mean: Paul, like Patton, was more concerned for the battle and for those men and women already in the midst of the fight. Paul was afraid Timothy was too timid and allowing others to face the bullets unprepared. Patton may not have been correct in hitting the man, but he was correct in his concern that if he was indeed faking it, this would demoralize and influence others in the ranks. The Lord’s Army cannot be reduced to a kind of religious Girl Scout Troop that honors anyone’s opinion or endorses any form of religiosity as long as it makes one feel better about themselves. This kind of teaching is simply pabulum for the pathetic. In order to be strong in God’s grace, Christians need to be godly teachers about God’s grace.

Let me ask you a question: “Does a good soldier follow orders or not?” Jesus told His followers: “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” (John 14:15) Some say modern church goers have a problem with the old-style hymns. I think it is because so many of these hymns speak to the fact of serving, obedience, and sacrifice. I mean, when you hear words like: “Marching on, marching on, For Christ count everything but loss! And to crown Him King, we'll toil and sing, 'Neath the banner of the cross!” how are you supposed to respond to that? Why? Paul knew that…

II. Christians need to be good soldiers able to endure! (vv. 3-4)

1. What does it mean to “endure hardship… like a good soldier”? Does it mean we follow the orders given us, trust those over us, respect rank, be brave when everyone else is running for cover in the face of overwhelming odds? Maybe it is going back and rescuing those that have fallen on the battle field with little or no concern for ourselves? Maybe it’s joy in being allowed to wear the uniform under God’s banner? I believe Paul meant all of these things and more! All of these fit well with being a soldier of Christ. Good soldiering needs to be found in the church. Timothy was evidently whining to Paul about what a tough assignment he had in Ephesus. Paul did not respond by telling Timothy, “There, there little buddy, you can do it!” Nope, Paul instead tells Timothy “Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” Tacitly Paul is reprimanding Timothy and also those of us who are less than good soldiers in the Lord. Buck up and endure the hardship you face! It is temporary and your life in Christ is eternal. You live not for today but forever and you need to live like it matters to you and others. Good soldiers endure no matter what the circumstances because they know it is expected of them to hold the line and fight on with all of what God has given them: His mighty grace!

EXAMPLE: Are you offended when asked to sacrifice? Just by showing up on Sunday, giving something once in a while, or by going to Sunday School is not considered a sacrifice. Would the Christian hymn “Onward Christian Soldiers” be best rendered: “Onward, Christian comrades, marching to our seats, With the love of Jesus makes us feel real neat! Christ, our little buddy helps lead us to our latte; Always ever forward to the free biscotti! Onward, Christian comrades marching out to eat, With the love of Jesus makes us feel real neat.” Have we made Christianity into a purpose driven life, a concept to follow, a commodity to purchase and use rather than seeing it as a life changing call to sacrifice everything we have to further the work of God’s kingdom? Christians are called to be “good soldiers” of the Lord. That means wearing the uniform with pride, serving with integrity, and doing whatever it takes to further the work of the Lord without any regard for ourselves. Are you a “good soldier” that is not afraid to endure hardship for the sake of the kingdom?

Recently, during an Olympic race several of the competitors stepped on the line of their fellow competitors. Even though they outran them, they were disqualified and they had to forfeit their medals because they did not follow the rules. It may seem harsh, but the rules are the rules and just because you think that’s not fair, does not erase the fact that the rules exist and are to be followed. The same is true for the life of the Christian. In fact, if you want to be strong in the grace of God, Paul related…

III. Christians need to be competing as athletes wanting victory! (v. 5)

1. If following the rules is true of a simple foot race, why do people think it is not true of spiritual things as well? There are so many folks who want to rewrite their own rules for spirituality. They want to redefine God, holiness, salvation, or what God’s instructions truly are. Christians can be just as guilty in trying to make up their own rules for spirituality. Far too many think that holy thinking can replace holy living. Feeling good about one’s self can never save you or make you righteous before a holy God. We are to be holy because God is holy. We are to be living sacrifices, servants of the Lord, seeking to know and do His will in all areas of our lives. God does not exist to give us an emotional daily boost so we can face the day. We exist to live and breathe our lives for Him. We live to honor and glorify the Lord who died for our sins. It can be a hard task at times. Paul bluntly told Timothy, “if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor's crown unless he competes according to the rules.” Athletes in Paul’s day had to swear they had trained for at least 10 months before competing, in our day they have to take drug tests. Every athletic event has rules and all who fail to discipline themselves to observe those rules are disqualified. Paul wanted Timothy to run so as to win the crown and not be disqualified. Not losing his salvation, but negating his faith practice in front of others. Competing requires a Christian to have strong qualities of discipline, self-control, endurance, and a certain toughness. In being strong in the grace of God, Christians need to be competing like athletes wanting victory in life.

EXAMPLE: There are those who want to tie spiritual weights around the ankles of others so that they are hindered in knowing God’s grace for themselves. Some want to redefine sin, making it more of a “mistake” one makes in life that God will simply wink at. There are those who desperately think that by just being “good enough” is good enough! Folks try to rewrite the rules that God has given us because they do not like the race set before them. They want it all and they want it their way and God is just going to have to fit into their scheme of how the universe works. Yet, Paul reminds his friend Timothy that “if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor's crown unless he competes according to the rules.” How dare Paul say such a thing! Doesn’t he know that we want to rewrite the rules? In being strong in the grace of God, Christians need to be competing like athletes wanting victory.

Do you go to church wanting it to give you something for nothing? What have you invested in the work of the Lord on a regular basis? What daily sacrifices do you make in time, talent, or treasure to further the harvest in the Kingdom of God? “The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops,” but if you are watching and waiting on the sidelines while others do the heavy lifting, what does that say about your faith? Paul related that to be strong in the grace of God…

IV. Christians need to be hardworking farmers enjoying their crops! (vv. 6-7)

1. Did you know that most scams center around people’s personal greed? Paul tells Timothy that in the spiritual realm there are no shortcuts to spiritual living and nothing comes without a sacrifice. Con artists know it is almost impossible for people to pass up a good thing. What seems to be too good to be true, usually is, even in the spiritual realm. If you want to be strong in the grace of Christ Jesus, you have to be willing to personally sacrifice for it and not try to take a shortcut to holiness. A farmer knows what this means. He buys seed, plants it, waters it, and then hopes it will grow without too many weeds. Then, he has to work at keeping the weeds that do come up with the crop out of it. He also fertilizes it and continues to water and care for it daily. Then, when it is ripe, he has to harvest it, pack it, store it, and or sell it by getting it to market or a buyer. Famers work hard and “should be the first to receive a share of the crops.” Why should someone who is lazy that has not invested in the planting, care of, and harvest share in the outcome? Why then are there so many who think they should when it comes to God’s grace? A church will not grow as it should if believers are not being the farmers they are called to be. After all, “The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor.” (1 Corinthians 3:8) and “He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.” (2 Corinthians 9:10) To be strong in the grace of God, Christians need to be hardworking farmers enjoying their crops!

EXAMPLE: It is amazing to me to see all of the food and produce just one huge grocery store contains. Think about that for a moment. We rely on the store to have what we need when we need it, whether it is apples or oranges, meat or potatoes, dairy or diet soda, we want it fresh and we want it when we want it. But all of that is contingent upon truckers, packers, and warehousemen. However, at the very beginning of this modern food chain is the farmer whether big or small, that produces the poultry, corn syrup or produce we eat daily. God’s church in this world depends upon the Christian farmer to plant the seed of the gospel, water, and harvest a crop. A crop of souls for His kingdom. Christians can be strong in the grace of God by being hardworking farmers enjoying their crops!

Christians need to be godly teachers of God’s grace, good soldiers able to endure, competing as athletes wanting victory, and hardworking farmers enjoying their corps.
NOTE: This article is copyrighted by Pastor Lee Hemen © 2008 and the property of Pastor Lee Hemen. You are welcome to copy it, email it, or use it but please if you copy it, email it, or use it you must do so in its entirety.