2 Timothy 012 – Thankful for Two Things2 Timothy 2:9-10 • Dr. Andy Woods • November 29, 2015 • 2 Timothy - The Call to Persevere
Two Things to be Thankful For
11-29-15 2 Timothy 2:8-10 Lesson 12
Good morning everyone. If we could take our Bibles and open them to the book of 2 Timothy, chapter 2, beginning at verse 8. As God allows it we’re going to try to make it from verse 8 to verse 10 this morning, continuing to move at light speed…, more like a snail’s pace but when you’re eating a meal you don’t want to just gobble it down, you want to kind of enjoy it slowly. Right? A good reminder for Thanksgiving, since we did a lot of gobbling in more than one way I guess, literally and figuratively.
2 Timothy 2:8-10, the title of our message this morning is Two Things to be Thankful For, so we’re kind of wrapping up the series of days, giving thanks for our blessings and the passage that we’re looking at this morning gives us two things that we can be thankful for beyond the many things we celebrated this last week. One of them is Jesus, verse 8, and the second thing is the work that God accomplished through Paul, the apostle, verses 9-10.
Of course, the point of this entire book is perseverance. Paul is not writing a book to question whether Timothy is a Christian; he is writing a book questioning whether Timothy is going to endure in his calling, despite adversity. We’ve seen chapter 1, sort of a general call to endurance, why Timothy should endure, and we move from there into chapter 2 where Paul basically gives ten metaphors for endurance.
What exactly does endurance look like? Well, endurance, first of all, is to be accomplished under the grace of God, as we have talked about, verse 1. But endurance is sort of like that of a teacher, verse 2, it’s kind of like a soldier, verses 3-4, a lot like an athlete, verse 5. And last week we saw that endurance is a lot like a farmer, verse 6. You know a farmer has to be industrious by nature and a farmer goes about his business, not seeing an immediate return on his investment because a crop doesn’t come up that day so he has to operate by faith, trusting the laws of nature. The spiritual life and perseverance in the spiritual life, particularly in Christian service, is largely like that of a farmer as we saw last time.
And then we saw in verse 7 Paul switching subjects, but before he switched subjects he launched what I think is an attack on uncertainty, because he says the Lord is going to give you, Timothy, understanding in everything. And we saw what that meant last time and how that’s so different from the message of the culture, particularly postmodernism which talks about uncertainty often.
But after he completes his thoughts in verse 7 he then moves into what I would consider to be the ultimate example of endurance. In other words, there is not, beginning in verse 8, a higher example of endurance than his next example, Jesus Christ. So Paul holds out Jesus as Timothy’s role model. Of course, Jesus is our role model in many, many things but in this area of endurance He is particularly our role model, because when you look at the agony of the cross and the horrors of the cross and everything that Jesus went through for us, and how He could of, at any moment, called the whole thing off, which He did not, we see in Christ a profound example of endurance.
So Timothy, when you’re thinking about quitting I want you to think about Jesus, and that’s very good advice for us, isn’t it? We’re thinking about quitting constantly when things get rough, but when we think about quitting we should think of Jesus. Notice verse 8; “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, a descendant of David, according to my gospel.”
You’ll notice this expression here, “Remember,” the way the Greek text reads, it’s what you call a Greek imperative verb, simply meaning this is a command. In other words, when we are thinking about quitting, Timothy, when you are thinking about quitting here’s a command for you; I want you to mentally recall, which is what remember means, Jesus Christ. Rather than focusing your eyes on yourself and your circumstances I want you to immediately think of Jesus Christ as your role model in endurance.
You’ll notice here in verse 8 that He is called “Jesus Christ.” A lot of people think “Christ” is His last name, He would be called Mr. Christ (I guess in their minds). But “Christ” here is not His last name; Christ is His title; Christ simply means the Messiah. In Hebrew it would be the Meshach, the Anointed One. He is the unique Davidic descendant, as we’ll talk about in a moment. He is the one who will rule this world in the coming thousand year kingdom, from Jerusalem. This man Jesus is, in fact, the Christ.
And I want you to remember Jesus, the Christ, when you’re thinking about quitting. I can’t help but thinking about a parallel passage in the book of Hebrews, chapter 12:2, it says this regarding our instructions, and you have to remember the audience in the book of Hebrews is thinking about quitting as well, leaving the New Testament truth and going back into Old Testament truths. The author of Hebrews says when you think about doing that to ward off persecution, think about this: “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Notice the expression, “fixing our eyes.” Where are your eyes fixed today? On yourself, on your problems, on your circumstances, or on Jesus Christ? He is, of course, our example in endurance because He endured the cross and the shame. Think of being hung, as the Son of God, on a cross just like a common criminal would be hung. And yet why did He do that? Because of “the joy set before Him.” He knew, in other words, what the cross would accomplish, and consequently He endured suffering because He saw something greater that would come out of it, on the other side.
You know, if you were the only person on planet earth and the rest of us six to seven billion people just disappeared, if you were the only one here you know Jesus would have gone to the same lengths for you as He went through for the entire world, because when Jesus died on that cross He did not just have the world generically in mind, He had you as an individual in mind as well. And to Him it was a joy, He knew what His death on the cross would accomplish. And so he was able to endure difficulty and hardship because of what it was accomplishing.
Believe it or not, beloved, God is accomplishing things through our present circumstances that we can’t even fathom and we need to have our eyes fixed on what God seeks to bring forth rather than on any momentary pain that we may be experiencing. And we look back to what Jesus did and we are just overwhelmed with thanksgiving. What a great thing to talk about during this Thanksgiving time of the year. Thank You Lord for what You did on our behalf! Thank You Lord for what You did on my behalf as an individual and what You accomplished. Where would we be without that. So Timothy, and to those of us by extension, you’re thinking about throwing in the towel I want you to think about Jesus, who very easily could have thrown in the towel but did not.
Now the problem, though, becomes this: there are a lot of different Jesus’ in the world. If you hear the name Jesus that’s not the significant issue. A lot of people throw around the word “Jesus” and they mean different things by it. The issue is what meaning are people pouring into the word “Jesus”? To some people Jesus is nothing more than a guru, or a motivational speaker. To other people, like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example, not if they come to your house but when they come to your house they will basically try to sell you on this idea that Jesus is a created being. Sometimes in their theology He is confused with Michael the Archangel. The Mormons, for example, believe that Jesus is the spirit brother of Lucifer. The New Age movement believe that Jesus is just one of many ascended masters. Islam believes, as Shahram pointed out to us a couple of Sundays ago, that Jesus is sort of a sidekick of Allah, and He’ll come back, and actually Jesus never went to the cross to die for the sins of the world.
So people throw this word “Jesus” around constantly, Jesus this, Jesus that. The issue is never the word “Jesus,” the issue is the meaning that people pour into the word “Jesus.” When you use the word “Jesus” what in the world are you talking about? Paul here is very specific on which Jesus he has in mind. And in fact, the way Paul describes Jesus it’s quite different than how the world describes Jesus.
Notice verse 8, “Remember Jesus Christ,” now he gives two qualities of Jesus, number 1, He has “risen from the dead,” and number 2, He is the “descendant of David….” Who, then, is the correct Jesus? The correct Jesus is not simply the crucified Son of God for the sins of the world, but He is also the risen Son of God for the sins of the world. The cross of Jesus Christ, obviously was a big deal, but what He accomplished on the cross means virtually nothing if there wasn’t a subsequent resurrection from the dead.
Why is that? Because His resurrection from the dead authenticated every teaching and word that He ever spoke, because He Himself predicated belief in Him upon His bodily resurrection from the dead. He said look, I’m about to be killed, and on the third day I will rise, and if He had not risen exactly like He said then we could simply attribute His teachings to an ordinary madman or lunatic. This is why the Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:14, “and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain, and your faith also is in vain.” Had Jesus not risen from the dead there’s no sense in preaching about Him because He was just an ordinary person, He certainly didn’t arise to the level of deity. And believing in Him has no real significance either because you’re just believing in an ordinary person who really can’t pull off what He’s promised to do for you, which is secure your eternity, if you in fact do trust in Him.
So Christianity rises or falls with the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. And where exactly did Jesus go after He rose from the dead? Well, he was on the earth for about forty days, Acts chapter 1, and then He ascended, Acts 1, to the right hand of the Father. In fact, the verse I quoted earlier, Hebrews 12:2 says that He “Has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Well, what’s He doing up there? And why is He sitting? Well, the reason He is sitting at the Father’s right hand is to signify that His work is completed. Remember the final words that he proclaimed from the cross, “It is finished,” which is actually an English translation from the Greek word, tetelestai, which is an accounting term, which simply means paid in full. There’s nothing else for Jesus to do in terms of procuring our salvation. That’s all been paid for.
But just because His work on the cross is completed and the sin debt of the world has been paid for you should not think that Jesus is somehow inactive. In fact, the book of Hebrews, chapter 7 and verse 25 puts it this way: “Therefore He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” What is intercession? It is praying on behalf of someone else. That’s what intercession is. And what Hebrews 7:25 indicates is that Jesus, at the right hand of the Father, always lives to intercede for us.
It’s interesting, it says here “He lives to make intercession,” you know, when someone says I live for the weekend they’re basically saying my whole life revolves around the weekend. What does Jesus live for? He does not live for the weekend; He lives to pray for us. His whole purpose, His whole sense of being at the Father’s right hand is to make intercession on our behalf. And so we serve, not just a crucified Savior, we serve not just a risen Savior, but we serve a living Savior who is active at the right hand of the Father who can’t wait to pray on our behalf. And He is performing currently a very vital ministry; the technical name for that ministry is the present session of Christ.
And one of the great tragedies of Christianity is we place so much stress on what Jesus did on the cross, as wonderful as that is, and we place so much stress on what Jesus will do when He comes back, and that’s a wonderful teaching also, but we have (in many cases) lost sight of what He is doing right now. Jesus is not just a yesterday thing and a tomorrow thing but He is a right now thing, active at the Father’s right hand in His present session, a session that would be impossible had Jesus not resurrected from the dead. And so Paul here places a particular emphasis on what Jesus he is talking about when he uses this clause, “risen from the dead.”
Now what else do we learn about Jesus? Not only has He risen from the dead, verse 8, but He is also the “descendant of David.” Well why is that significant? It’s significant because going back to Genesis 15 God made to the patriarch Abram, whose name later would be changed to Abraham, He made a covenant, God did, with Abraham. Israel is the only nation in the history of the world that has a covenant with God.
Now you say well, doesn’t the United States of America have a covenant with God? Well, in a certain sense we do, it’s called the Mayflower Compact; we, and this is all very well documented in American history, it’s what America’s settlers, it’s a good thing to think of around Thanksgiving time, as we just are exiting Thanksgiving, America’s settlers came to these shores and they put together what’s called the Mayflower Compact, and that’s basically a contract that they made with God. They made a contract with each other and they made a contract with God. But with Israel it’s different, Israel did not make a contract with God; God made a contract with who? Israel.
So Israel is the only nation in the history of mankind that has a contract originating with God and going to a specific people in a specific nation. And in that contract God promised to Abraham and his descendants, later would become the Jewish people, three things: land, which is a tract of real estate essentially from modern day Egypt to modern day Iraq, you can read about it and its borders in Genesis 15:18-21. [Genesis 15:18-21, “On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, ‘To your descendants I have given this land, From the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates:  the Kenite and the Kenizzite and the Kadmonite  and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Rephaim  and the Amorite and the Canaanite and Girgashite and the Jebusite.’”]
He promised Abraham blessing, personal blessing. For example, in Genesis 15:1 God promised to Abraham that he would be a reward to Abraham and a shield. [Genesis 15:1, “After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, ‘Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; Your reward shall be very great.’”]
And then He promised him also innumerable seed, or descendants. [Genesis 15:5, “And He took him outside and said, ‘Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.’ And He said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’”]
Now if you can understand that threefold structure you can understand the Bible because the rest of the Bible is God vindicating what He has promised to do to the patriarch, Abraham, for the patriarch Abraham and his descendants. And if God does not do what He has obligated Himself to do then God would be a liar. God cannot lie, the Bible says, it’s impossible for God to lie. [Hebrews 6:18, “so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie….”]
So all the way through biblical history God is coming alongside Abraham and his descendants and reaffirming and moving, in many instances, heaven and earth to fulfill what He obligated Himself to do. And this is the basis for what we call the sub covenants: the land is amplified in what’s called the land covenant, Deuteronomy 29 and 30. The blessings is amplified in what is called the New Covenant, you’ll find a description of that in Jeremiah 31:31-34. And the seed is amplified in what’s called the Davidic Covenant. The Davidic Covenant is mentioned in 2 Samuel 7:12-16 and it is a promise that through David’s lineage would come a forever throne and an eternal dynasty.
[Jeremiah 31:31-34, “‘Behold, days are coming, declares the LORD, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah,  not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,’ declares the LORD.  But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,’ declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.  They will not teach again each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,’ declares the LORD, ‘for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.’”
2 Samuel 7:12-16, “When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom.  ‘He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.  I will be a father to him and he will be a son to me; when he commits iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of man and the strokes of the sons of men,  but My lovingkindness shall not depart from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you.  Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever, your throne shall be established forever.’”] So when Paul mentions here Jesus not just as resurrected, but as a descendant of David He is clarifying which Jesus He is speaking of; He is speaking of Jesus Christ, none other than the One who was the rightful heir to the Davidic Covenant, originating with God’s promises to Abraham.
And this is why the gospel of Matthew, for example, written to Jewish Christians, I believe Matthew was the first of the four gospels written, it was written during a time when the church was still heavily Jewish, Matthew was written to explain to them exactly who the Jesus is that they believed in. And he documents very carefully in the opening chapters the genealogical connection between Jesus and David and Abraham.
Matthew 1:17 says this: “So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations;” he randomly picks fourteen generations, “from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations;” randomly picks fourteen more generations, “and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations.” So you’ll notice that Matthew carefully connects Jesus genealogically, not only back to David as the rightful heir of the Davidic Covenant, but going back to the time if Abraham which is where the seed promises originated which is the foundation of the Davidic Covenant.
And you say well, why does he pick fourteen generations? Three groups of fourteen here? Matthew 1:17, [“So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations.”] Well, the short answer to that is something called gematria. You say what? Gematria! Gematria is this idea that in ancient languages letters had numbers. So you could take anybody’s name and convert it into either Greek or Hebrew, attach the right number to the right letter, add up the sum of the parts in a person’s name and everybody’s name could be converted to a number. Well, guess what the total for David’s name is in Hebrew gematria.
In other words, if you spell out the name David in Hebrew and you attach the right number to the right letter and you add up the totals in David’s name, guess what the total is? It’s fourteen! That’s why Matthew picks three generations and he highlights fourteen names. He’s communicating very aggressively who this man, Jesus Christ is. Jesus is just no ordinary guy that just fell off the turnip truck. This is, Matthew says, the heir to the Davidic throne and I’m establishing that genealogically and I’m also establishing that through something called Hebrew gematria.
To those of us in the west in the year 2015 these ideas seem very foreign and strange to us, but if you were a first century Jew these ideas would leap off the page and you would understand exactly what Matthew was seeking to communicate, who Jesus is. He is not a created being, He is not the spirit brother of Lucifer, He is not a motivational speaker, He is not simply a descended master, this is the man who rose from the dead. And He is also the man that is the rightful heir to all of the Old Testament promises spoken of in the Old Testament, particularly the Davidic Covenant.
You’ll continue on there in verse 8 and Paul makes this statement: “according to my gospel.” “Remember, Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according” Paul says, “to my gospel.” Now there is a lot of misteaching out there on this subject of “my gospel.” Many people believe that when Paul says “my gospel” it was some kind of gospel that Paul had that no one else ever had or knew about. That cannot be, for the simple reason that Paul has just emphasized two things: number 1, the resurrection of Christ, and number 2, the Davidic ancestry of Christ.
Was Paul the only one that understood those things? I think not because when you go into Acts 2 what you’ll discover is the Apostle Peter, on the day of Pentecost, which was the inauguration of the church age, in Acts 2:25-29 you’ll see Peter making a reference to Psalm 16:8-11.
[Acts 2:25-29, “For David says of Him, “I SAW THE LORD ALWAYS IN MY PRESENCE; FOR HE IS AT MY RIGHT HAND, SO THAT I WILL NOT BE SHAKEN.  THEREFORE MY HEART WAS GLAD AND MY TONGUE EXULTED; MOREOVER MY FLESH ALSO WILL LIVE IN HOPE;  BECAUSE YOU WILL NOT ABANDON MY SOUL TO HADES, NOR ALLOW YOUR HOLY ONE TO UNDERGO DECAY.  ‘YOU HAVE MADE KNOWN TO ME THE WAYS OF LIFE; YOU WILL MAKE ME FULL OF GLADNESS WITH YOUR PRESENCE.’  Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.”
Psalm 16:8-11, “I have set the LORD continually before me; because He is at my hand, I will not be shaken.  Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices; my flesh also will dwell securely.  For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol; nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.  You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.”]
And in so doing Peter makes this statement in verse 30, right around there, verse 29 actually, “Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.” And what he is saying is this Jesus Christ is different than David, whom this Psalm was primarily speaking of but not ultimately because Jesus rose from the dead, and he uses Psalm 16:8-11 to document the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the very thing that Paul is speaking of here.
Furthermore, down in Acts 2:30 Peter, on the opening sermon on the day of Pentecost says this: “And so, because he was a prophet and knew that GOD HAD SWORN TO HIM WITH AN OATH TO SEAT ONE OF HIS DESCENDANTS ON HIS THRONE.” Now that is a citation from Psalm 132:11. Psalm 132, particularly verse 11, documents Jesus as the unique Davidic descendant [Psalm 132:11, “The LORD has sworn to David a truth from which He will not turn back: Of the fruit of your body I will set up your throne.”]
So in other words, Peter in Acts 2 is highlighting the very things that Paul is highlighting. What is Paul highlighting? Number 1, the resurrection of Jesus Christ; number 2, the Davidic ancestry of Christ. What is Peter highlighting back in Acts 2? The exact same two things. So therefore when Paul says “my gospel” he is not saying it is mine and mine alone. What Paul is getting at is it’s my gospel, not exclusively but it’s my gospel in terms of being personally applicable to me. Paul, with his gospel and with Jesus Christ, this was personal. Paul says this is something that’s mine. He’s not saying no one else understood it before me; he’s saying it’s personal to me. It’s not a statement of exclusivity; it’s a statement of personal intimacy.
And I can’t tell you how significant that is because when Paul talks about Jesus he talks about Jesus in terms of a personal relationship. There is a world of difference between knowing about Jesus versus knowing Jesus. There’s a lot of people out there that they know things about Jesus, they can rattle off all kinds of details and information. In fact, I know atheists that are capable of doing that very thing. In fact some atheists and Christ-rejecters might even know the Bible better than a Christian would. They can rattle off facts, they can rattle off information, they can rattle off details but you see, Paul makes a reference to “my gospel,” it’s not enough to know about Jesus, you have to know Jesus personally. And it really doesn’t matter what your parents believe, I’m not denigrating anybody’s heritage but that’s not really the issue with God because God has no grand-children, He only has children. It doesn’t matter what your denomination teaches; it doesn’t matter what books you’ve read.
The issue is not what is in your brain about Jesus that’s a significant issue. The issue is do you know Jesus personally? Do you know Him intimately? Does He speak to you through His Word? Do you speak to Him regularly through prayer? Is it a friendship? After all, are we not compared, Ephesians 5, to the relationship as the church between bride and groom. Is there not, Ephesians 5, intimacy in that type of relationship? Of course there is. That’s what our relationship to God is analogized to.
One of the dangers of being a Bible church and a church that focuses on Bible content and Bible doctrine in our sermons and Sunday School lessons and all of the other activities in the church is people get the mistaken notion in their mind that the sum totally of spirituality is what you know about God. And you see, with Paul it was so much deeper than that. Of course Paul is not against knowing things about God, he wrote thirteen letters after all so we can get to know information about God. But you see, Paul says it’s my gospel, this is personal to me, this is intimate with me.
And of course, the question I would have for you is this your level of understanding of Jesus? Is it just facts on a page like reading about George Washington or Benjamin Franklin or Thomas Jefferson or any other figure of history? Or is Jesus Christ something different with you? Is there intimacy? Is there a personal relationship? A lot of people think they can get that by sitting in a church. Well, sitting in a church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than sitting in McDonalds makes you a hamburger. Is it wrong to come to church? Of course not, we should not forsake the assembling of yourselves together. [Hebrews 10:25, “not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”] But your connection to a local church, your membership in a local church, your connection to a denomination is not the determining factor with God. The determining factor with God is this yours in terms of personal intimacy?
One of the characters of history I love to study is George Washington. I could come up here today and rattle all kinds of information off about George Washington, I could even tell you his favorite verse of the Bible. I could tell you about the verse that’s on his tomb where he was buried. I could tell you about his wife, Martha. I could tell you about his Mt. Vernon estate. I could tell you about the role he played in the establishment of this republic. I could even tell you about the miracles that I believe were brought forth through George Washington to the United States of America. I could talk to you about how he was physically protected many times, supernaturally.
But you see, I don’t talk to George Washington. Now if I ever start talking to George Washington there might be some kind of psychological problem( beyond the ones I already possess). Knowing about George Washington is totally different than knowing George Washington. And with Christ it’s not about facts and data and information, and I’m totally pro facts, data and information. But facts, data and information were never intended by God to be the end game. They were always intended by God to be a first step, because God has so much more for us than just us being able to regurgitate information about His Son, Jesus Christ. He wants us to know Him personally.
Now as Paul concludes verse 8 by talking about my gospel that logically leads him into talking about his next example, if you will, of endurance. And you’ll notice beginning in verses 9 and 10 this is where Paul actually talks about himself. Could you do that to somebody that you were trying to encourage, hold yourself up as an example? Could you do that to somebody who is waning in the faith and thinking about throwing in the towel? Could you hold up yourself as an example and say look at me; follow me as I follow Christ? I don’t know if I could do that. I don’t know how comfortable I really am in people looking to carefully at my own life.
But you see, Paul was such a believer in what he was seeking to communicate that he could actually point to himself as an example of endurance. His ultimate example is Christ, then Paul says to young Timothy look at me. And notice what the Apostle Paul writes there in verse 9, “for which I” that would be Paul, “suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned.” When Paul says “I” he’s talking about himself; it’s a transition from verse 8 where he just mentioned “my” in terms of the gospel, and he says Timothy, when you are down and discouraged and thinking about throwing in the towel because life’s circumstances are too difficult for you I want you to remember Me. I was imprisoned, I was treated as a common criminal. And in fact, if you think that your problems are severe and if I think my problems are severe I would challenge you this week to read 2 Corinthians 11:23-33 as an example of real suffering.
Paul writes this in those words, “Are they servants of Christ? – I speak as if insane – I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number,” in other words I was beat up so much I lost count of how many times I was beat up, “often in danger of death.  Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes.” Now if you received the fortieth one you were considered clinically dead because a human being could not endure forty lashes, so they would beat you up to thirty-nine lashes.  “Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep.  I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren;  I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.  Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of my concern for all the churches.  Who is weak without my being weak? Who is led into sin without my intense concern?  If I have to boast, I will boast of what pertains to my weaknesses.  The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, He who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying.  In Damascus the ethnarch under Aretas the king was guarding the city of the Damascenes in order to seize me,  and I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall, and so escaped his hands.”
Time after time his life was threatened. In fact, there was one occasion, and I think Paul is referring to it in 2 Timothy 4, which we will be getting to later on in our study, not today but down the road so I won’t belabor it, but in Timothy’s hometown there were so many rocks thrown at Paul that everybody thought he was dead and went home. I mean, he was just sitting there pummeled with rocks, lifeless, everybody assumed he was dead but he wasn’t dead. When the crowd had dispersed he went right back into the city that they threw rocks at him to complete his assignment from God.
You know, as they say many times, it’s’ not getting down that’s the issue, they used to tell us this in sports, it’s not getting knocked down, everybody gets knocked down, it’s are you going to get back up. And how quickly are you going to get back up. And beyond that, what is your attitude as you’re getting back up? That really is the hallmark of true endurance. And it’s so frustrating looking at Christians today; the slightest thing goes wrong and they’re willing to throw in the towel, abandon ship. Any little provocation, any personality conflict, anything that tries our patience, and I’ve got a finger out at you, I’ve got three more coming back at me, don’t I? Because I know I can get like this; it’s so easy to get bruised feelings, a bruised ego, just to say the whole thing is not worth it.
And yet you look at Paul’s life and how can we have that kind of attitude when Paul suffered so much on our behalf? How could we have that attitude when he holds himself out as an example and an illustration of true endurance? And how the prosperity gospel can ignore those verses and portray Christianity as some kind of leisurely, prosperous, healthy activity all of the time is totally beyond me. I don’t know if we’re reading the same Bible. I have a tendency to think we’re not because I read passages like this and I do not see promises of prosperity, although I’m not against prosperity if God does it, I do not see promises of leisure, I do not see promises of relaxation. I see American society promoting that, just look at all the commercials, all of the vacations you can go on, all of the retirement retreats, all of the homes you can buy in your golden years, all of this and all of that.
We’ve got to quit looking at all of that stuff and start looking at the Bible. The Bible never promises us any of those things. If God gives it to us praise the Lord. But those aren’t promises. What is promised in the Scripture is “all who to seek to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,” 2 Timothy 3:12 I go into these Christian bookstores and I see these books of promises and they’re always the happy promises. Go will give you peace, God will provide your needs. Thank God for all of those promises, I’m not trying to diminish them at all, but what about this promise? “All who seek to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” How come that one’s never highlighted?
You know, the more serious you get with Christ the more you’re going to find yourself in opposition from the world. God forbid, sometimes within your own church. And if that weren’t worse enough you’re going to find yourself in opposition with people you never thought you’d be in opposition with, sometimes within your own family. And in the midst of these types of things we turn to the Lord and say Lord, what am I doing wrong? And God smiles and says it’s not what you’re doing wrong that’s the issue, it’s what you’re doing right. And I’m not talking today about incurring persecution because we’re rude, crude, lewd and obnoxious. A lot of Christians are persecuted and quite frankly they deserve to be persecuted because of the way they conduct themselves in terms of their personal habits. What I’m talking about is seeking to live a godly life where God has put you, seeking to bloom where planted in God. And somehow we have this idea in our mind that all of this is going to happen without any opposition whatsoever. Frankly, there’s not a shred of New Testament evidence that backs up any such thing.
So Timothy, I know that you are tempted to quit but when you are tempted to quit I want you to think about Jesus and I want you to think about me, real world examples. And I love there at the end of verse 9, first the whole verse then I’ll emphasize the end of verse 9, “for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal;” look at this, “but the Word of God is not imprisoned.” Paul says you can put me in jail but you can’t put the Word of God in jail. I can’t help but think about what he would write to the Philippians; we call Philippians one of Paul’s four prison letters, along with Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon, written from Roman prison. Why do we call them the prison letters? Because he wrote them from prison.
And he talks there about Philippians 1:12-18, about his incarceration and he talks about the fact that he was actually chained to a Praetorian guard. [12, “Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel,  so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else,  and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear.  Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will;  the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel;  the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment.  What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice.”]
Now what would you do if you were chained to a Praetorian guard in a Roman prison? Most of us would be thinking about ourselves, right? Do you know what Paul is thinking about? This is what was on Paul’s mind. I’m not chained to him, he’s chained to me; he can’t go anywhere. Talk about a captive audience, figuratively and literally! Paul says you can put me in prison but you can’t chain the Word of God, I’m preaching to this guy 24/7 and guess what? He’s come to faith and the whole Praetorian guard has come to faith. The Word of God is not in prison. And guess what? Because I’m in prison, Philippians 1:14, other people are saying you know Paul is pretty bold about this Christianity, he got himself thrown in prison. Do you know what we’re going to do? We’re going to be bold. And Paul says his confinement was actually resulting in greater preaching.
And then Paul says down in Philippians 1:15-18, I wish we had time to read all of these verses, but he says look, there’s a lot of people that are happy I’m in prison because they’re trying to eclipse my popularity. They’re moving their ministries in and they’re trying to fill the void that I left. And Paul says on a normal day I would probably be discouraged about that but you know what? I rejoice, because the Word of God is being preached all the more. But Paul, they’re doing it with wrong motives? Who cares, the gospel is still being preached. The gospel is objectively true, is it not, regardless of the motivation of the preacher. [Philippians 1:15-18, “Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will;  the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel;  the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment.  What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice.”]
Did you know that the devil can preach the gospel and people would get saved, because the gospel itself is objectively true. Of course, Satan as the father of lies, twists the gospel. But Paul was not dealing with that situation, he was dealing with people preaching in his absence and he rejoiced. It brings to life what Paul says here, that the Word of God is not in prison. You can throw God’s spokesman and spokespersons into prison but you can’t stop the traveling of the Word of God.
Isaiah 40:8, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our God stands forever.” Matthew 24:35, “Heaven and earth will pass away,” Christ says, “but My words will never pass away.” Are you looking for a safe investment today? The world is scrambling around looking for safe investments. I know of one—the Word of God. Why is that? Because “The grass withers, and the flower fades,” and the Word of God stands forever. You invest into this book, learning it and obeying it, you’ve just made an eternal investment. You cannot stop the traveling of God’s Word.
I am reminded of Jeremiah 36. Jeremiah 36:1 says this: “In the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, this word came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying,  ‘Take a scroll and write on it all the words which I have spoken to you concerning Israel and concerning Judah, and concerning all the nations, from the day I first spoke to you, from the days of Josiah, even to this day.  ‘Perhaps the house of Judah will hear all the calamity which I plan to bring on them, in order that every man will turn from his evil way; then I will forgive their iniquity and their sin.’” Jeremiah, I’m giving you a prophecy, God says, it’s a prophecy of warning to Judah, that’s about to go into discipline under the hand of God because of their violation of My covenant.
You drop down to Jeremiah 36:23 and it says this: “When Jehudi” that would be the person reading the scroll in the presence of the king, Jehoiakim, “had read three or four columns, the king cut it with a scribe’s knife and threw it into the fire …, until all the scroll was consumed in the fire….” So Jehoiakim is listening to this scroll being read and he’s saying cut that part out of it, chop that part out of it, by the way, just take the whole thing and throw it into the fire. This is my winter home, I’ve got a fire going, and take that whole scroll that you have read from and I want you to just throw the whole thing into the fire because that scroll predicts discipline coming upon Judah, the nation of Israel.
And I love how Jeremiah 36 doesn’t just end with the king cutting the whole thing up and throwing it into the fire. Jeremiah 36:28, God speaking, says, “‘Take again another scroll and write on it all the former words that were on the first scroll which Jehoiakim the king of Judah burned.  And concerning Jehoiakim king of Judah you shall say…” down to verse 30, “he shall have no one to sit on the throne of David.” Jehoiakim, wreck the scroll; he didn’t just wreck it, he burned it. First he tried to edit pieces out of it that he didn’t like; then he said just take the whole thing, don’t just throw it into the trash, incinerate it.
The story doesn’t end there. God says to Jeremiah I want you to write everything that was just burned on a new scroll. Oh, and I want you to add some things too. So the new scroll is actually longer. And I want you to add on there that because Jehoiakim has done this, he will have no heir that will sit on David’s throne; he will be cut out of the Davidic lineage that we just mentioned a short time ago. So the new scroll came back just as good as the old scroll but better and longer. That is the Word of God; that is what is being said when it talks about, “The grass withers and the flower fades, but the Word of our God stands forever.” [Isaiah 40:8] You cannot stop the traveling of the Word of God; the Word of God, Paul says, is not in prison.
Voltaire, the noted French infidel who died in 1788 said that in one hundred years from his time Christianity would be swept from existence and pass into history. But what has happened? Voltaire has passed into history while the circulation of the Bible continues to increase in almost all parts of the world, carrying blessing wherever it goes. Concerning the boast of Voltaire on the extinction of Christianity and the Bible in one hundred years Geisler and Nix, who I’m quoting from here, point out that only fifty years after his death the Geneva Bible Society used his press and his house to produce a stack of Bibles. What an irony of history. [A General Introduction to the Bible, Geisler & Nix]
I’m reminded of the great persecution that Saul of Tarsus, the man who’s writing this letter to us, 2 Timothy, before he was converted brought against the church of Jesus Christ. Acts 8:1 says, “Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death.” that would be Stephen, “And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria….”
Now wait a minute, didn’t Jesus say that would happen in Acts 1:8, “you’ll be My witnesses in Jerusalem,” and then in where? “Judea and Samaria,” and then where, “to the ends of the earth.” Jesus never told them it would be persecution that would get them out of their comfort zones and push the Scripture and gospel preachers, if you will, into surrounding regions and areas. But you see, Saul of Tarsus knew what he’s speaking of here, that the Word of God is not in chains; the Word of God is not in prison, in fact, I tried to shut the whole thing down, I tried to stop it. And yet the more I tried to stop it the more the Word of God spread.
Tertullian put it this way, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” The more you keep putting Christians to death the more these martyrdoms begin to transpire, the more these martyrdoms begin to take place, it is a very interesting thing that the church keeps on prospering and the church keeps on growing. You think of places like China, where we’ve sent some missionaries, even from this church. You think of the communist clampdown of Christianity in communist China and yet it’s one of the most vibrant places in the world today in terms of people receiving the gospel. You heard Shahram share a few Sundays ago, one of the greatest trouble spots in the world is Iran. Iran is that regime that is mad and diabolical and seeking to go nuclear, and yet even within Iran, as we speak, the ancient country of Persia, a great spiritual revival has broken out.
What is Paul saying here in verse 9? You throw me in jail, that’s fine, but you cannot stop the spreading of Christianity and the preaching of the Word of God.
Going down to verse 10 which is the last verse we’ll cover this morning, Paul writes this. “For this reason,” for what reason? “this reason” would go back to the fact that you cannot put the Word of God in chains. There’s a reason I’m in this, Paul says; there’s a reason I’m doing what I’m doing. I, Paul says, am on the winning side of history. Don’t we all like to side with a winner. I would suggest if you want to side with a winner side with the Bible; side with God, side with the church.
Paul says, “For this reason,” going down into verse 10, “For this reason I,” Paul, “endure all things,” now what does it mean to “endure”? It means to put up with things, put up with grief, put up with flack, put up with being misunderstood, put up with having your words taken out of context, all the things that you go through when you try to live for God in a fallen world. Paul says I just put up with that, I endure it, I don’t just bail at the first sign of difficulty. Why? Because I am on, Paul says, the winning side of history, because he said at the end of verse 9 you cannot put the Word of God in prison.
 “For this reason I endure all things,” watch this, “for the sake of those who are chosen,” why is Paul enduring what he is enduring? Because his eyes are not on Paul, his eyes are on other people. He completely and totally understands that God is strategically using his life to bless others. And because God is strategically using my life to bless others I endure all things.
What is the pathway to joy? Joy is spelled this way, J-O-Y. The J stands for Jesus, the O stands for others, and the Y stands for yourself. If you put that order in its proper orbit in your life, number 1, Jesus; number 2 others; number 3, yourself, your life will take on a totally different trajectory. Your purpose in living will change. You will find yourself enduring things and putting up with things that you didn’t have the capacity to endure or put up with before your priorities were properly aligned. And you will, I believe, experience joy which is a deep down level of satisfaction that you’re in God’s will and doing God’s work. Not every Christian can experience that. Not every Christian walks through life experiencing internal satisfaction or joy. The answer is they haven’t spelled joy right. It’s J-O-Y, Jesus first, Others second, Yourself last.
Did not the Lord say, Acts 20:35, “It is more blessed to give than to” what? “receive.” Proverbs 11:24-25 puts it this way: “There is one who scatters, and yet increases all the more, and there is one who withholds what is justly due, and yet it results only in want.  The generous man will be prosperous, and he who waters will himself be watered.”
Do you know the pathway to blessing? Do you know what it is? It’s being “others” focused; it’s being focused on not your own holy trinity, which in many cases consists of me, myself and I, it is being focused on others, understanding that when you are watering others you are watering yourself; it is better to give than to receive. Luke 6:38 says, “Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.” This is not talking about financial prosperity, although I’m not against financial prosperity. I believe largely what it’s talking about is understanding that your life has meaning and significance and purpose because your priorities are in the right orbit.
Verse 10, I do these things for the sake of the elect, watch this, “so that they also may obtain the salvation,” what is the most important thing a human being can have? “the salvation,” salvation from what? Salvation from hell, salvation from an eternal separation from God, salvation from the wrath of God. Salvation simply means to be saved. Notice very carefully what he says, “so that you may obtain the salvation,” verse 10, “which is” where? Where do we find it? “which is in Christ Jesus.” Emergent church leaders, I do not believe that making disciples must equal adherence to the Christian religion. It may be advisable in many, but not all circumstances, to help people become followers of Jesus and remain within their Buddhist/Hindu or Jewish context.
What does Paul say here in verse 10? Salvation in who? “in Christ Jesus,” the Bible says “come out from among them and be separate.” [2 Corinthians 6:17, “‘Therefore, Come out from their midst and be separate’ says the Lord.’”] If you witness to a Muslim, if you witness to a Buddhist, a follower of Buddha, you don’t encourage them to go back; you encourage them to come out because salvation is in Christ Jesus.
Emergent church leaders, “Evangelism or missions for me is no longer persuading people to believe what I believe.” I don’t do that in evangelism, I persuade people to believe the way I believe because I believe the way I believe is the way God believes, because it’s revealed in God’s Word. Not so in the emergent church. “Evangelism or missions for me is no longer persuading people to believe what I believe, no matter how edgy or creative I get. It’s more about shared experiences and encounters; it’s walking the journey of life and faith together, each distinct to his or her own tradition and culture but with the possibility of encountering God and truth from one another.”
When I’m witnessing to a Buddhist, when I am witnessing to a Muslim, when I am witnessing to an atheist I do not go into it seeking to find common ground with them. I certainly don’t go into it looking for some kind of shared experience that we can walk down the road together. I come into it with the belief that their system is wrong and God’s system is right. And those verses that I have there at the top of the screen, if you want to know God’s opinion on alternative religious systems not found in the Scripture you’ll see that God’s critique is very harsh, under all of those verses where I’ve mentioned alternative religions. What the Bible teaches is Jesus as the narrow way. John 14:6; Acts 4:12; 1 Timothy 2:5 and many other passages.
[John 14:6, “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” Acts 4:12, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved. 1 Timothy 2:5, “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”]
And then finally verse 10, at the end, “…which is in Jesus Christ and with it eternal glory.” Paul was not one of these kinds of guys that evangelized people, checked it off his list and moved on to the next people group. What you’ll discover in Paul is salvation is a very broad concept. In fact, if you join us on Wednesday nights when I’m teaching Wednesday night study here at the church we’re going to be talking about the doctrine of salvation, beginning in January. Paul was not just about justification, he was about sanctification, and then you’ll notice here at the end of verse 10, “eternal glory,” which is the third tense of our salvation.
This is why Paul could write this to the Galatians, “My children,” so they’re believers, right, “with whom I am again in labor,” now why would he be in labor with them again if they were God’s children, and Paul’s spiritual children? “My children, with whom I am in labor again until Christ is formed in you,” Paul is saying I’m not just interested in getting you folks to heaven, I’m interested in birthing you, if you will, into the middle tense of your salvation which is your progressive sanctification. This opens our minds to what Paul was all about.
Did you know Paul on his missionary journeys always retraced his steps? The green arrow is the journey out, the red arrow is the journey back; that’s missionary journey number 1, Paul is retracing his steps. Paul goes through on missionary journey 2 the exact same area he went through on missionary journey 1. Paul, on missionary journey 3 goes through the exact same areas he went through on missionary journey 2. Why does Paul keep retracing his steps? Because to Paul the issue of salvation is not just getting people saved so they can go to heaven; it’s helping them to grow in Christ, because when Paul thought about salvation he thought about salvation in three time zones, or three tenses.
You know, when Sarah was brought home from the hospital when she was just born, we did not flop her in the middle of the kitchen and say help yourself to a ham sandwich when you get hungry. Stage 1, the birthing stage was accomplished, now there’s a totally different stage. Now this infant has to be brought to maturity, has to grow, in fact she couldn’t even eat yet; she could eat but she simply couldn’t eat meat yet, it’s hard to eat meat when you don’t have any teeth.
So through the maturity process, through the growing process a child that’s newborn starts to mature and to grow into a being a young person, ultimately a young lady, ultimately a young adult and any parent worth their salt is invested not just in step 1 but in step 2. And this is why Paul, when he talks about salvation does not just talk about justification, he also talks about progressive sanctification, and then he talks about future glorification.
You know, in the medical world being an obstetrician and a pediatrician are two different disciplines, aren’t they? In fact, in all my different encounters with doctors I have never met a doctor that’s both because those are two different skills. One helps the birthing process, the other, the pediatrician helps the child to grow. That’s why Paul keeps retracing his steps; he is not satisfied with these people now that their names are written in the book of life; he wants to help them grow, phase 2, progressive sanctification.
And this largely is what Sugar Land Bible Church is all about. Yes, we want to see people get saved but that’s not the end result in God; we want to see people develop, we want to see people grow. And where would we be today without Paul laying the foundation? And where would Paul have been without Jesus Christ before Him through His sacrificial death on the cross and His resurrection, laying the foundation that Paul built on?
See, we can look back at the lives of Jesus and we can look back at the lives of Paul, we can look at what they endured for our benefit and we can say thank You Lord. Can I ask you a question? When the next generation comes along are they going to be able to look back at our lives? Are they going to be able to look back at your life and see what God did through you to bless them? Are they going to be thankful for you? That’s a pretty hard-hitting question, isn’t it? Will future generations arise and call us blessed the same way we arise and call Paul blessed and Jesus blessed? It largely is contingent on whether we are going to respond to these teachings of endurance as outlined in the book of 2 Timothy.
It’s possible you could be here today and never have gone through step 1, never experienced justification, you’ve never been spiritually born. The way to be spiritually born is only one way, it’s to respond to the gospel. The gospel simply means good news, we call it good news because Jesus did it all on our behalf. He died on a cross, as we said earlier, He said “It is finished,” He rose bodily from the dead in order to authenticate who He said he was. He is ascended to the right hand of the Father and He leaves humanity and the church with a simple message that if you will simply trust in what I have done for you, not what you do for yourself, not what your parents did, not what your grandparents did, but you trust in what I have done, and in a nanosecond you are a brand new spiritual born baby. You have passed through justification and now it’s just a matter of spiritually growing and maturing.
How tragic it would be to come and listen to a sermon like this because of religious duty or obligation but have never experienced spiritual birth, thinking that if you go to church you’re all right with God, and that is not so. To become right with God you have to become His child. The only way to become His child is through the spiritual birth and you’re spiritually born, on the authority of the Word of God, trusting exclusively in what Jesus has done. Another way of saying trust is faith or reliance or confidence, you’re trusting in Jesus and Jesus alone for the safekeeping of your soul, trusting that He has both the integrity and authority to do what He has promised to do, which is safeguard your soul and to one day usher you into the presence of His Father.
It’s something you can do right now as I’m speaking, as the Spirit of God places you under conviction. It’s not something you have to join a church to do, raise a hand to do, walk an aisle to do, no human work is involved whatsoever. It’s a matter of personal privacy between you and the Lord where you respond to His message. If it’s something that you have done or are doing then on the authority of the Word of God you have changed your eternal destiny and now you are a newborn spiritual creature in Christ Jesus that needs to grow up into all godliness, but your hope of eternity is secure. If it’s something that you need more information of I’m available after the service to talk. Shall we pray.
Father, on this time of Thanksgiving we look back and we’re grateful for the lessons from Paul’s life and Christ’s life about present endurance. Help us to walk out these things so present generations can arise and look back on our lives and be thankful that we live at this time in history. We’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus name, and God’s people said….