-We need help with Super Church/Next…especially during the summer.
-Whatever you can do will be a blessing to the church and the kids.
-Kids Kamp is about a month away, we need people willing to invest in our children for three impactful mornings.
Dear friends, (Peter wrote) do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 1 Peter 4:12-14
When I was a young believer I read…Richard Wumbrands, “Tortured for Christ” and “Fox’s book of Martyrs” and many other similar books about people who suffered and died for their faith.
It was enormously challenging for me as a 20 something college student to read these books…and I tried to understand what the implications were for me living in Wichita, KS…experiencing some minor ridicule for my faith, some minor inconvenience…but no real suffering.
I would sometimes read these books on my knees…moved by the sacrifices…trying to discern what it meant for me.
How do you get from where you know you are to where you know you need to be?:
-I’m here…Sometimes surprised and dismayed by suffering.
To this place Peter wrote about? “Rejoice you participate in the sufferings of Christ.”
Is this just Bible rhetoric…or a real possibility for real people, even in Wichita, KS?
If it is a real possibility…what are we to do about it?
What is the next step from right here to move that direction?
We will come to this question.
Let’s to go our passage for today, 2 Tim. 3
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
“Mark this” is a very strong “Hey Tim, heads up here!”
Your life and ministry will take place in some terrible times and around some terrible people at times.
The last days are all the days until THE last day…so from Christ’s life and death to his return.
In different parts of the world at different times…evil and social degradation have cycled up and down.
But here is a general description of what to expect from people who live their lives far from God during the times until the Lord returns…not everyone, of course…and in varying degrees in different people.
Paul gives a representative list of things he has personally experienced in people over the years…to give Timothy a heads up.
Although Timothy is no ministry newbie, he has probably seen all this himself…his work is hard…and so his perspective leaks.
Paul is likely…telling Timothy…that what seems crazy, abnormal…is “normal” for these times.
Not good…but normal.
We aren’t going to work through the list of traits of terrible people in terrible times…just remember, this is not Paul randomly judging people…
…he is warning pastor Timothy to be aware of the reality of the world in which he will be living and working.
He is normalizing what probably feels abnormal at times to Timothy…so Timothy can take a breath, or a knee…get his bearings and then press on.
Not to check out, hide out, or flake out…but to fully engage and bring transformational change during times that will often be terrible, and around some people who are up to no good.
See this as good intel…to fight and function effectively you need to know what is true and real around you.
Remember in Chapter 2 Paul told Timothy to gently instruct those who oppose him in the hope that will repent and know the truth.
Here he tells him that there are certain people he is to avoid altogether.
So clearly, he is not just generally judging anyone and everyone all around him…rather he is telling Timothy to have SA…to live with wisdom.
Some people are to be fully and graciously engaged…others are to be avoided.
There is NO formula to know which kind of person you are dealing with…but there are some clues, or evidences to watch for…for instance.
They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes (Jan knees) and Jambres (Jam brees) opposed Moses, so also these teachers oppose the truth. They are men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected. But they will not get very far because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone.
The toxic few have leadership in people’s lives and they are on the offensive to win others over to their way of life…and they are destroying lives and homes in the process.
In verse 6 Paul is not saying that women are gullible…he is saying that these evil men are targeting gullible women.
Lest you think he is picking on women at all…remember this is not hypothetical but actual battlefield circumstances that Timothy is facing, and Paul has it seen over and over.
If he were writing today…he might just as well say “There are women who gain control over gullible men”
Mary Baker Eddy, founder of the Christian Science cult/religion…held tremendous influence over men.
I have a friend, who is a Christian Science chaplain…he is a good man, I like him a lot, but to the extent he believes what Mary Baker Eddy taught…he is deceived by her.
So again, don’t miss the point here…Paul is not saying “women are gullible”
His point is tactical guidance…how to know who to gently instruct and who to avoid all together
Watch for people who are trying to target…the vulnerable…watch for those who try to undermine the naïve.
Those who are “always learning but never come to a knowledge of the truth”
Meaning…ever in search of the new, the clever, the cool, the different…but they never embrace the simple truth of God revealed in the gospel.
What about these guys, Jannes(Jan knees) and Jambrees…they sound like a 70’s pop group.
They were in fact the names given in Jewish tradition to the court magicians who opposed Moses before Pharoah.
Moses was sent with the truth (word) of God to Pharoah and God confirmed his word through some miraculous acts.
But instead of being convinced, Pharoah called in his own court magicians who mimicked by trickery or by some form of dark art…some of what Moses was doing.
Either they were skilled in optical illusion or they had demonic powers…or both…but they deceived Pharoah and his heart was hardened to the Word of God.
Just like these guys in Pharoah’s day were eventually exposed…so too the false teachers in Timothy’s times (and our own) have numbered days.
This is a really helpful balance for the tendency to over react or obsess over the danger of false teachers and teaching.
To obsess and worry over “End times” or “last days” and the deceptions of those times… is the opposite of why Scripture speaks of them at all.
We learn about the end so that we can be courageous, confident, faithful…not fearful, self-protective.
On the one hand we don’t underreact to false teaching…ideas matter, they shape lives and even eternal destiny.
On the other hand, we are not to panic and focus on the danger around us…the truth will prevail, God will see to it.
Those who teach lies…will eventually be exposed…they will not get far.
For instance…suppose people have ever heard of Moses?
How about…Jannes (Jan knees) and Jambres (Jam brees)?
No one knows who those guys are.
Paul wants Timothy to be aware, proactive…but confident.
LTC Hal Moore lead his vastly out numbered battalion to a victory early in the Vietnam war.
Moore was certain that they were going to win but it did not look certain to his men.
In the movie version of the true story, a soldier in panic cries…
“We are being overrun!”
Moore replies “Nah boys, we are going to win this fight.”
I hear this kind of confidence in Paul’s words to Timothy…do not underestimate the enemy…do not overestimate him either…pay attention to your training and your resources.
There were days when it had to seem to Timothy like… “We are being overrun…false teaching is winning…run for the hills, stockpile food, build a bunker.”
Paul is saying here, “Nah, Tim…we are going to win this fight.”
COL Moore, more so than his men…knew about all the resources available them…and he been in battles before…this was the first for his men, not for him.
His confidence in winning that battle…was not in his feelings, but rather in actual capabilities…real resources he had available to him.
Paul is going to move next to reminding Timothy of the resources available to him.
This is not going to be something Timothy would be unaware of…but rather what Timothy needed to keep focused on.
When you are in a fight…enduring hard times…you need to be reminded of key realities.
Glance at the problem, the opposition…gaze at the resources that God has given you.
Paul has warned Timothy…there are going to be (and already were)…some terrible times, attended to by some terrible people.
Timothy has to minister in that setting…but he cannot fear or obsess over that fact…he needs to focus on what faithfulness looks like.
So now he is going to remind Timothy of some important resources and realities in his life
You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
There are three resources for Timothy here…three reasons Paul can say, “Tim, we are going to win this fight.”
- Power of example:
Timothy, look at the facts of my life, and the implications for your own life
- Power of conviction
Timonthy, Stay faithful in what you know to be true about the gospel. Live decided not deciding.
- Power of truth
Timothy, You have all you need for your life and work in God’s word (truth).
1.First…the power of example. Truth lived out by his mentor in the faith.
Paul doesn’t give Timothy some cheap and cheesy, “It will be aright” without any factual substantiation for that claim.
Paul doesn’t tell Timothy to “feel courageous” or to try and evoke emotions of confidence…things without real foundation
He appeals to what Timothy has actually seen in real life, in Paul’s life…Tim can expect that God will be faithful to him as he has been to Paul.
What Paul has experienced flows from what he believes and teaches…the gospel.
This is not hubris on Paul’s part…elsewhere he wrote, “Follow me AS I follow Christ.”
He tells Timothy…out of love for Timothy…not arrogance…look at my life…draw courage from it.
We must not shrink back from the responsibility we have to be examples of living a Christlike life for others.
It is, at times, terrifying to think others are watching us and trying to live to some degree based on our example.
It should keep us humble and properly “afraid”
But it is not love or even humility to tell others “Don’t look at me!”
If you are in their life and have a leadership role there, who are they supposed to look at?
Sure, to Jesus…but Jesus has placed you close to them so they can use your life to get a fix on what it means to follow him.
Taking this responsibility seriously benefits others…but also becomes a powerful incentive for us to live a holy life.
*Many years ago a friend, who at the time, had a teen son at home was out for a run and stepped over a pornographic magazine lying open on the sidewalk.
As he reached the halfway point in his run and headed for home, he crossed the street in order to not glance at the image he had seen.
Small, but a profound choice…but here was his motivation in the moment.
He told me his first thought was, “I want to be able to lead my son well.”
So, he ran away, literally, from temptation.
Embrace the reality and necessity of being a model for others to follow…which incentivizes us to follow Christ…even as it can help them do so.
On the other side of this equation…it’s good to have men and women in our lives that we respect and we can use to help set our direction by.
They won’t be perfect…so don’t demand perfection from a protentional or actual mentor.
So, Paul reminded Timothy of what he had heard from him and he had seen in him.
His teaching…the gospel.
His way of life.
-Early on, the “Way” was a term for the Christian movement, it was a word that referred to an actual path or road.
-So “way” became a metaphor for the way of life that following Christ was about.
Here are some different aspects of Paul’s way of life or path that were to encourage Timothy.
His purpose: This is referring to living with resolve.
*Not a purpose statement on the wall…but a life of determined “grit”
-Paul was not perfect but he really didn’t waiver from the path once he stepped on it.
His faith: This means Paul’s personal trust in God, but for Paul his trust in God is always “objective” not just “subjective.”
-meaning “his personal faith” is founded on “the faith”…the truth of the gospel.
-Patience is the underlying belief that God is in control, that time is always on his side.
-And then living in light of that reality in this moment.
*Mere human patience, like Ben Franklin pursued…a pure self-improvement endeavor is not what Paul has in mind here.
-Ben Franklin, brilliant though he was…often failed at his own life long efforts at self-improvement.
This patience is human endurance powered by good theology…God has my time and all time in his control…I can, therefore learn to be content and joyful in what the times bring to me.
*This is a super important encouragement for Pastor Timothy in his difficult circumstances…and probably for you in your own circumstances.
Love: This word, agape, shows up in every one of Paul’s letters, 71 times in total.
-He loved God and he loved people…this love came from God and was nurtured by Paul
Endurance: Persecutions: Sufferings:
-Paul’s first missionary journey took him to Antioch, Iconium, Lystra…the region of Timothy’s upbringing.
-It was there Paul was stoned and left for dead…and experienced a ton of opposition.
*Timothy knew this part of Paul’s story…and what the implications were for his own story.
-Paul could have made himself out to be heroic, or a victim…instead he gives Christ credit for his endurance.
“The Lord rescued me.”
Not that God kept him from harm and pain…but rather he allowed him to survive and continue to faithfully serve.
Then there is that verse 12 “Everyone who wants to live a godly life (Timothy, hear that?) in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.
Here is a simple statement of fact with huge implications:
-The righteous will suffer (for now, but not forever)
-The unrighteous will often prosper (for now, but not forever)
We will come back to verse 12 in our conclusion/final application:
So, the first encouragement from Paul…
- Power of example: Look at my example…the facts of my life, and the implications for your own life.
Look at the second encouragement…
- Power of conviction. Stay faithful in what you know to be true about the gospel. Live decided.
He wrote: Continue in what you have become convinced of.
What is he convinced of?
From his childhood Timothy has heard the gospel and seen it modeled by his mom and grandmother and Paul, and others.
But he is not some mind numbed robot, blindly following the beliefs of others.
He has leaned into Scripture himself…which has made him “wise for salvation through faith in Christ.”
He hasn’t merely become “bible smart”…he has been born again…changed by the truth.
The gospel message: What Christ has done and what it means…has the power to change our lives when we believe and receive it.
*So, it’s curious that Paul would feel the need to say “Continue in what you have become convinced of.”
If he was actually convinced of something, wouldn’t he automatically continue in it?
Well…do you always?
I don’t…not automatically.
*Perhaps you were convinced that you should marry your spouse…you made vows to her or him…do you have to choose to continue in what you are convinced of?
*What about participation in church life, small groups, exercise…on and on.
How many things that are good and that we have become convinced of as being true and necessary…and yet, we have to choose over and over to continue in them.
Timothy has decided, he is convinced…now he must live the decided life everyday, not the continually “deciding” life.
*By the way, if you grew up in a Christian home, surrounded by believers and exposed to the Scripture, like Timothy was…it is not fully rational to discard the gospel simply because you heard it early on.
The question is always and forever…what is true? What is real.
Whether you heard the gospel from childhood, or not until adulthood…the timing of your exposure to the truth is not relevant…the truth itself is.
If you were exposed to the truth of the gospel as a child…like Timothy was…you are still, like Timothy was, responsible to choose, personally “to become wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”
Now, look at Paul’s third encouragement for Timothy.
- Power of truth: You have all you need for success in your life and work in God’s word
16All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17so that the man (servant) of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Robert Yarbrough says that verses 16,17 drop like on anvil into the flow of the conversation…and this is intentional…it gives them special emphasis.
He doesn’t want Timothy to overlook or underestimate Scripture’s:
- Scripture’s divine origin
“God-breathed” is a word only used here in Scripture.
The same idea is expressed by Peter
Scripture did not have “its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet 1:21).
This doesn’t downplay human action in the writing or Scripture but affirms Scripture’s ultimate origin is God, who gave it.
And because Scripture comes from God…it is true and profitable, valuable.
- Scripture’s value
Scripture has unparalleled value and is essential for Timothy’s life and work.
Paul gives four dimensions of its value or usefulness:
I think of these four functions like a driver of car…following a road, or “the way”
Teaching: Here is the way to travel and how to travel it
Rebuking: Warning when we have left or are in danger of leaving the way. (Rebuke is a helpful warning…even if we are irritated by it…like a rumble strip on the side of the road)
Correcting: How to get back on the road.
Training: How to stay on the road. The Bible is the primary resource for habits that grow us into the image of Christ.
*So we have scriptures origin, value and now it’s impact.
- Scripture’s Impact on Timothy’s life and ministry.
The effect will be that Timothy will be able to meet whatever challenge comes to his life.
He will be:
“Complete, equipped for every good work.”
This summarizes: teaching, rebuking, correcting, training…in righteousness…Christlikeness.
You will be equipped for all these important and necessary things.
Let’s go back to verse 12
“Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted”
This echoes Jesus’ promise that following him mean taking up one’s cross.
What are we to do with this if we are not currently suffering persecution for our faith?
5th Century Christian writer Jerome wrote of “Red martyrs” and “White martyrs”
Red signifying those who spill their blood for the gospel.
White those who embrace the cruciform (cross) life in the humdrum of their daily walk.
In her article in Christian Century magazine K. Green-McCreight wrote:
“Suffering is simply part of our fallen condition. It is already part of our lives. Afflictions surround us: loss of loved ones, failing health, dashed hopes and dreams. When we place this suffering at the foot of the cross, we may be able to point beyond ourselves to the God who redeems our griefs and draws us into the light of his presence. We might in this way serve as white martyrs, signposts and witnesses to Christ. This kind of living into our afflictions can forge in us gifts of patience, hope, compassion, and peace that can witness to Christ in powerful ways. Thus we can give voice to Christ, who went to the cross in silence.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, killed by the Nazis prepared for the ultimate test of faith by small acts of obedience…that grew his character and faith to the point that he was able to be faithful unto death.
Robert Clinton, in his great book, “The Making of a Leader” writes of the process God uses to develop leaders:
-This includes many small foundational things early such as integrity and obedience tests, ministry tasks, and learning small faith lessons.
-God builds a person able to lead and sacrifice in substantial ways…through these small, processes.
Jesus said that if we are faithful in the small things we will be faithful in the large.
“I don’t think verse 12 indicates that every Christian will die for their faith…but faithful servants of Christ will undergo testing and trials in their daily lives that will be costly to what they hold dear and that will prepare them for increasing sacrifice and pain.”
Yarbrough, Robert W.. The Letters to Timothy and Titus (The Pillar New Testament Commentary (PNTC)) (pp. 669-670). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Kindle Edition.
Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus…describes a “nothing held back commitment to Christ.”
You may not be, and probably will not be killed for this kind of life in Wichita…but it will cost you.
A relationship, a job, a friend.
Time. Money. Self-gratification.
Image. Criticism. Being called out of step with the times.
We are not to seek pain and loss…we are likewise not to live our lives avoiding these things.
God calls us to faithfulness.
Faithfulness looks like this… “When I know the right thing to do, I will do it regardless of the cost.”
“I will not ask ‘what if’ I do the right thing, I will simple say ‘yes’ to God when I know the good to do.”
Let me affirm some small, but significant choices I have seen that have been evidences of costly faithfulness…training in godliness.
- River members serving the Afghan community
- Several helping many of them with amended tax refunds
- A large group of men training all day a week ago Saturday to serve us, keep us secure.
- Men and women working Sunday nights with youth…giving up rest, relaxation, going into Monday morning more tired than they would have to.
- All those who serve upstairs and down with our small children
- Making coffee…small sacrifice, indeed…but still it requires “death” to another hour or two on Sunday.
I’m not comparing this to “red martyrdom”…that’s not the point.
Faithfulness with what is front of is the point…that was Paul’s point for Timothy.
God’s word, he wrote, is useful for teaching:
-The “cross-centered” scripture teaches, is the best life possible.
We are to die to self and be alive to God and others…this joy, there is no better path for you to travel.
His word is useful for rebuking:
-Have you left the path?
-Are you living the miserable, and empty life of putting yourself first?
-Are you trying to save your life? No one does. No one can.
-If you are…then you are unhappy because of the life you are leading, it is not because of circumstances or people around you.
His word is useful for correcting:
-Repent, turn from self, turn to Christ.
His word is useful for training in righteousness:
-Be faithful in the small acts of service and sacrifice…your faith, your endurance, your capacity, your heart for God and others…will grow through training.
Pray for those who are giving their lives as “red martyrs”
Be the man or woman who is giving away your life as a “white martyr”…giving yourself away as a living sacrifice, pleasing to God…in your day to day choices of faithfulness.