Broadcast

Be Strong – Don’t Be Distracted (2 Timothy 2)

From the series Becoming an Effective Disciple Maker

Do you struggle to consistently walk with God amidst all the pressures and distractions of everyday life? In this message, Chip’s in 2nd Timothy chapter two continuing our series, Becoming an Effective Disciple Maker. Hear how we can build strong spiritual roots, and take intentional steps to refocus every part of our lives on God.

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Message Transcript

The big question I think as we open chapter 2, I put on the top of your notes: How can a person remain true to their calling, to their Lord, and to His Word in a hostile, anti-Christian culture while dealing with our own personal inadequacies and problems? It’s a long sentence, but I think the parallels in our day are very similar, don’t you?

I mean, in the world that we are living in, all the chaos, all the uncertainty. Vaccine, masks, diseases, economies, emerging countries, nuclear missiles. I mean, you can stick your head in the sand and stay glued to Netflix or whatever your favorite thing is and try and find a gated community to separate from all that is happening.

But if you come up for air, you are living in one of the most historic times in human history. And we have been here before and God has always taken a portion of His Church that is in tune that grasp what is going on, that don’t get distracted, that don’t get pulled into secondary things. And they step up and they do what followers of Jesus [have] always done.

They live the truth, they share the truth, they love people that are like them, they love people that aren’t like them, and they are counter-culture and they are counter-culture usually, unfortunately inside the Church as much as outside the Church.

Notice at the end of chapter 1, he gives a couple illustrations. He names two people and he says, “You know what? Don’t be like them. They drifted. Under pressure.” And then he says, “You know that slave? When everyone else was afraid, that converted slave, he searched all over Rome. And he found me.

And he didn’t, wasn’t concerned what the implications would be. And so, he is giving Timothy, he is giving him this truth and then he says, “Here’s a negative example; here’s a positive example.” And look at your text. What is the very first word of chapter 2?

He has put “you” in the emphatic position. “You, Timothy, I have talked about these two. You, therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful people who will be able to teach others also.” And then he comes back to his theme. “Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.”

And then he gives, in your notes I talk about three metaphors and just for the sake of all the English teachers, I understand they are similes, right? When you use “like” or “as” it’s a simile. There are a lot of us that didn’t know what a simile was, so I said metaphors.

“No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him. And if someone likewise competes as an athlete, he is not crowned as a victor unless he competes according to the rules. And the hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops. Consider,” ponder, reflect – that’s the idea – “what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. Remember Christ Jesus risen from the dead, descendent of David, according to my gospel, for which I suffer hardship to imprisonment as a criminal; but the Word of God is not imprisoned. For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they may obtain the salvation for which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory.”

And then he goes and talks about: This is a trustworthy statement.”

Here’s what I want to do. I want to – the first section here, it’s Paul talking to this young pastor about his personal life. After he gets done with his personal life, the second section, he’s going to shift and say, “Now, this is your responsibility in terms of your teaching and what you do in the Church.”

And so, when I went through and I studied this, I thought, Okay, “You, therefore.” I think we skip over the first line. “Be strong, that’s in the grace, of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Anybody remember where that, “Be strong in the Lord, in the strength of His might,” where that comes up somewhere else? Yeah, Ephesians. It’s about spiritual warfare.

See, what he’s saying is, “Timothy, I just gave you a challenge. I invited you to suffer with me. And the whole world is falling apart around you. It’s illegal to be a Christian. I’m going to get killed and I’m asking you to follow in my footsteps.”

And so, the first thing isn’t, “Buck up, get more committed, make it happen, you can do it.” This isn’t a pep talk. This is, “Therefore, you be strong in the grace,” the favor of God that provides supernatural power that allows you to do what He wants you to do and become who He wants you to become, that is impossible out of your own self-effort.

And so, I sort of outlined this with, if I was kind of thinking of receiving this, Paul’s action plan for Timothy and for us to be strong in difficult times. Number one, make abiding in Christ your number one priority every day. Abiding in Christ the number one priority. Not what you do, not what you accomplish, it’s John 15:5. “If you abide in Me, My words in abide in you, you’ll bear much fruit. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and prove to be My disciples. A branch can’t…” right? “…it can’t bear fruit in of itself unless it abides in the vine. So neither can you unless you abide.”

All it means is staying connected. Your personal relationship with Jesus, your connection in saying, “I need You today and so, I need fresh manna from Your Word. I need You today so I’m going to ask and I’m going to sit quietly and listen to You before I rush in today. I’m not going to get up and find out how the stocks are doing and how much I have lost in the Wall Street Journal. And I’m not going to see what is said in Facebook. And I’m not going to turn on the TV while I’m getting ready. I’m going to pause and recognize there are so many distractions and what happens first in my morning and what happens just before I go to bed are the things that shape my day and shape my sleep.”

So, first and foremost, my number one priority is to abide in Christ. It means time with God. It means renewing your mind. It means probably having an exact time when you turn this off. It means that it’s not in your bedroom. It means that every time it buzzes that you actually turn off your notices. It means when the kids come around or the grandkids are around and you’re with friends, you might even have a fun little thing where there’s a little basket and you say, “Hey, it’s great to have you all here. I have put my phone in the basket. Could you guys throw it here? Could we have genuine, uninterrupted time with one another?”

I don’t know if you have gone to any restaurants lately and seen a family sitting around a table in a restaurant and all five people like this. Now, you know what? All I know is in God’s infinite wisdom and the creativity He gives human beings, I cannot figure out how in the world I can press a button, I’m not going to now, and say, “Hey, Siri, who was Nero?” And within less of a second I get Wikipedia’s everything on Nero, when he was born, all the rest. Or, “Hey, where’s the closest coffee shop?” Or, “Hey!” That’s an amazing and wonderful thing.

But there is, if the enemy can’t get you to just willfully sin and rebel, he will distract you and occupy your mind with such trivia that you will not abide in Christ. And is it a bad thing? Of course not. But you’re going to learn those three similes or metaphors, one of the key ones is discipline, self-control.

And so, I think that the application, if there’s one verse for me it’s Proverbs 4:23. It’s the core of your being. “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the issues of life.” And your heart is always determined by your diet. “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good, and the evil man out of the evil treasure. For that which the mouth speaks is that which comes out of the heart. The mind set on the flesh is death; the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace. Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are on earth where your life is hidden with Christ in God.”

Just do a little word study on the word mind. Your mental diet. “As a man or a woman thinks, so you become.” Your mental diet will determine who you are. Who you are sitting in this seat today is the combination of the things you have read, the things you have watched, the conversations you have had, and where you think.

And so, if you want to change, it’s not trying harder or bucking up. Romans 12:2, “Do not,” or literally, grammatically, it’s, “Stop allowing this world system to squeeze you into its mold or conform you, but rather start allowing,” passive voice, “your mind to be renewed so that your life could demonstrate what the will of God is, that it’s good, acceptable, well-pleasing, and perfect.”

And so, all I want to say is I think for Timothy, the first thing is, “Timothy, you need God’s grace. So, seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. And all those things that you’re tempted to worry about, He’s going to take care of.”

Second is make personally investing in FAT people your number two priority. And some of you who maybe have been in a discipleship background or are familiar with the Navigators or Dawson Trotman, that bricklayer who discipled me was greatly influenced by the Navigators. It’s a parachurch ministry that focuses on discipleship. And we learned early on, invest in FAT people.

And that was not about size or weight. “F” was for faithful, “A” was for available, and “T” was for teachable. You don’t spend your time equally. You spend your time, you help everyone, train a few. Now, the ones that are inside your house, if they’re not FAT, you help them become FAT.

And what I would encourage you here is rather than sometimes we hear about discipleship and we get this idea that I’m going to start doing all these things out there as opposed to ask: What are the rhythms of your life? Who can you take a walk with and share what is happening in your life? Who becomes a workout partner? Who are some people that you grab coffee with?

I was with a guy that I hadn’t seen in about fifteen years and I pastored in a really interesting community called Santa Cruz for twelve. And it was probably the second year and someone invited him to church and he found out that I liked basketball. I think his wife told him that thinking maybe he’ll come to church.

And I was a gym rat. I mean, I’m like addicted to basketball. And I played up until my early sixties, until these back operations happened. And he came up right after the service and I was a young guy then, about forty. And he said, “I hear you play basketball.” I said, “Yeah.” I said, “Are you new?” He said, “Yeah, there’s my wife.” “Great.” He said, “Do you play?” I said, “Yeah.” He goes, “Okay, I’d like to play sometime.” I said, “What are you doing at two o’clock this afternoon?” He said, “Nothing.” I said, “Well, I play every Sunday afternoon. That’s how I wind down and here’s my address. I’ve got a great outdoor court.” Dave and I started playing basketball every Sunday afternoon with my sons and a few other guys. And it was two-on-two, three-on-three. We were soaking wet.

And I look back and I remember laying on the ground soaked with sweat or when he or I broke a nose, broke an ankle, we were very intense. We had lots of fun. But there were always injuries. And I look now twenty years, he’s a businessman, he has discipled his family, the rest of his family has come to Christ, his whole life was changed and I actually, what I needed was a workout. And I needed a friend. And he needed a friend.

And I look back and it was in that very normal time of doing that that he would share about a struggle in his marriage or he learned about spiritual warfare or he would say, “You know something? I’ve been listening to you and, you know, I just, you know, I grew up going to church now and then. If you put a five-dollar bill in, you’re doing okay. And, like, I felt a God moment I would maybe put in a twenty. And I started this tithing stuff,” he goes, “man, I started looking at the numbers, like, that’s a lot of money, Chip.” I said, “Yeah, and it’s not yours.” “Oh, yeah, that’s right.” And, but, all I can tell you is it was a life-on-life journey and that’s what people need.

We have sort of created this thing where it’s just this little group where you take them just through this study and, yes, all that is a part of it. Timothy, what I want you to do, yes, you have to preach. Yes, you have to visit people in the hospital. Yes, there are administrative duties. But no matter what, you have to make disciples. You have to look for: Who are the faithful people? There are always people near your world that are spiritually hungry. There are some spiritually hungry people that aren’t even believers, but they are looking, they are asking.

So, who are the spiritually hungry people and how do you invite them into your life? And here’s the deal. It’s a huge commitment. Because when I said the danger and deception of distractions, we all have a rhythm. Some of your rhythm, and please don’t take this: Stop doing this or start doing that.

You just have a rhythm like you watch the news every night. Or you know what? On Saturdays you watch this football game and that football game. Or you’re a lady and you always go and do these things. And at some point, you have to stop and say, “Are those rhythms producing the outcome of my life that I want.”

I was twenty-eight years old, and my entire life changed when I had three kids, was in school, in seminary, and I met with Prof Hendricks. And he rearranged my focus and I remember writing down the kind of person I wanted to be, the kind of pastor, the kind of dad, the kind of husband. And I literally wrote it down.

And he said, “If it’s not in your schedule, it’ll never be in your life.” So, I put it in my schedule and when I looked at it, I didn’t have time to do anything else. And I thought, That’s impossible. And I remember asking God for help and we did an experiment in our house. My kids were, you know, younger. And we just decided, for a couple weeks, what would it be like to not turn on the TV during the week?

Well, it was great for my kids, but it was killing me. I mean, you can’t go to bed until you have watched the news and heard the monologue, right? When I grew up, my parents, you watch the news – Johnny Carson, and then you go to bed. So, that means you go to bed at eleven or eleven thirty and then you get up at six thirty, seven, whatever. Well, after four or five, six nights, you know, my kids are young, hey, we have sung, we have read, we have prayed, we have shot basketball. It’s eight thirty. My wife is an early-to-bed-er. I mean, like, really early-to-bed-er. It’s like nine o’clock and I’m going, I mean, you can only read so much, right? So, oh, what the heck. I guess I’ll go to bed. So, I go to bed at nine or nine thirty. I’ll wake up at five or five thirty. I just bought two hours. It was like, Oh! So, I started to do all the things that only I could do early. And then I apply that to kind of my work and said, “You know, before I have meetings…”

Like, even now I have a green zone. Five a.m. to ten a.m. I don’t open my email, I don’t talk to people. If there’s an emergency and someone texts me, great. But from five to ten, what I know is that’s my, that’s when I am going to accomplish the most. I can have meetings and relationships other times. Here’s all I’m saying. If you’re going to invest in people and you’re going to abide in Christ, we feel like we don’t have the time. Just all I’m saying is don’t, you know, some of you will go, Oh, does that mean I can’t watch football games? No, no, no, no!

What it means is what if you looked at where your time is going and where your relationships were and said, “My first priority is abiding in Christ and number two is I’m going to personally invest. I’m going to make my life one where I reproduce my life.”

Face-on-face, person-on-person, life-on-life. People’s lives change when you’re with people.

Notice then he goes on and he says, “Develop a never-give-up attitude by actively meditating on three specific metaphors.” And we read them. The first one I believe is the singular focus of a soldier. Why would he use that term? Because soldiers are in a battle.

The number one thing, and this is Chip, this isn’t, like, Bible. This is just my personal perspective. I believe the number one thing that has done the most damage in Christianity and especially in America is the subtle belief that Jesus came to make me happy and make my life work out. And so, what we have created in the Church is consumers.

And so, when people leave church or whether they decide where to go to church, it’s about: What did you do for me lately? Is this program working? Am I happy? Is this all that? And God, what have You done for me lately? And the prosperity gospel has now gone across the world where the whole idea is that somehow, you can manipulate God by breathing or speaking something into existence, but the whole goal is that God will make your life work out.

Instead of, you are a creature and you follow His agenda. And the goal is you make His agenda work out. And by the way, when you do that, the by-products are often a richer and deeper marriage. The by-products are kids that, by and large, will have a heart for God. The by-product, He may well bless your life with finances and some other things. But they are never the goals.

I mean, most of us would say that the early apostles were pretty successful in following Jesus, right? Nod. Nod. Just, right? Okay. They obeyed Him. Can anybody remember, like, what happened to all the apostles except John? How they ended their life? In our theology today, they would have been out of the will of God. I guess they weren’t walking with God; they got killed! Because God wants you to be happy, healthy, wealthy, and wise all the time.

Here's the thing. It’s easy for some of us, I’m guessing where you’re coming from, to look at that over there instead of saying, “How much of that has creeped into me?”

How much of that has been when I look at the pandemic, you look at the pandemic and you evaluated your experience or the Church or life or what is going on – how much of it was, “This isn’t being played out the way I want it played out for me.”

Instead of, “What in the world would God have us do in light of all the needs and the hurts and the struggles and the fears that everyone is going through?”
First of all, the focus of a soldier, it’s a battleground. Guarding what goes into your mind, not getting distracted. Not getting distracted by, we’ll develop it a bit later, secondary things. Important, but they are secondary.

Second, the continual discipline of a victorious athlete. He uses the word for a crown. There are a couple words in the New Testament for crown. One is for, like, for a king and the other was a wreath if you were a victorious athlete. And he uses that. It’s running a race, it’s discipline.

When you competed in the Olympic games at that time, you would often have to go for a year or two years and you would go into a closed training. And if you didn’t show up for that training, you couldn’t compete. And so what he’s saying is we have to go into training. There’s a certain outline that God wants for us in terms of our life where we have to discipline ourselves to [combat] what we are all struggling with, right?

I’m lazy, left to myself. When I feel a little bit blue, you know what? This, some crackers, NFL game, Diet Coke, some cheddar cheese. But my feet up. And then at halftime, some popcorn. Third quarter, a piece of pizza. And then I find myself, you know, like, you know, during the commercials I get bored, so I flip to something else and then during that I flip to something else. And then I flip to something else. And, why? Because, well, I got tired and when I’m tired, I’m vulnerable. And so, I just want some relief. I’m the only one, right, who does any of this? Okay, just stop looking at me that way!

And then I find myself watching something that I’m kind of numb. And then I stay up later than I wanted to, then have a hard time getting up. And then instead of feeling refreshed and invigorated and focused, I feel lethargic. See, you understand, you’re either developing habits and practices that create a negative and guess what. Then I feel lousy about it and, so what? Well, there’s another game on tomorrow. And, well, forget that. Well, now Friday night we’ve got football. Thursday night we’ve got football. Saturday morning we’ve got football. And now there’s the NFL Ticket!

It is so easy and it’s not just football, right? What’s yours? Hobbies or Facebook or streaming or Instagram. We can just fill our lives. Or posting about politics or posting about vaccines or posting about… or sitting in front of the tube for an hour and this is the news and five minutes you know all the…And now for the next two hours – blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And depending on whether you’re a FOX person or a CNN person, it doesn’t matter what objectively happened, whoever is on the other side of that is the devil incarnate. And it’s all their problem. And it’s not us.

And here’s what has happened: hostility in the Church, in families, in the culture. He says, “No.” You need to be like that athlete. We’re all tempted, but you have to be disciplined. What you do, what you think, who you’re with.

And then I love the last metaphor – simile – is the patient perspective of the farmer to [combat] discouragement. What a farmer knows is you never reap in the same season that you sow, right? See, some of us are going to get really fired up and we are going to say, “I’m going to start really growing and discipling at a new level.” And you’ll do it for about two weeks and you’re not going to see a lot of change and you’ll think, Ah, what the heck.

That’s like a farmer going and saying, “Boy, we need some, we need corn this year.” And he puts some corn seed and sticks it in there and comes back in two weeks, “I guess it doesn’t work!”

Or comes back in a month and there’s one little, tiny sprig. Or he comes back, like, in two and a half months and it’s up to here and it looks good, but there’s just these little things on it. See, the hard-working farmer understands perseverance, patience, endurance – the Christian life isn’t for wimps. It’s a hostile culture. We’re not on a cruise ship. Jesus is, you know, it’s a fallen world. The idea is not: How is everything going to work out for your life or my life. The thing is, there’s this incredible joy and purpose and focus as you walk with God.

See, I think the pendulum was way over here. I am pushing over here and my wife would say, “Chip, you know, I think you need to lighten up a little bit and we need to enjoy ourselves and there’s refreshing things and there are wonderful gifts from God’s and it’s important to take vacation.” And I’m, yeah. I believe all that. And I do that.

But I’m in front of a group of people in a culture that basically has so far over here that I feel like we need to go back and say, “In the world that we are living in, we need the kind of Christians that say, “I’m in a battle and I’m going to be a soldier who is focused and I’m not going to get distracted with secondary things. I’m in a race and I’m in a race that, you know, I’ve got all eternity to enjoy a lot of stuff, but in this little thing called time, I’m going to discipline myself, my body, my emotions, my relationships in a way that,” as we’ll learn a little bit later, “I’m a vessel of honor. I’m someone that God used.”

And here’s the thing. The by-product of all of that will be the kind of peace and the kind of joy and the rich relationships and the satisfaction that we thought pleasure of having more or going to this place or that place would deliver.

And so, he says, “Timothy, I want you to ponder these.” It takes practice, it takes persistence, it takes a partner. I don’t think anyone can do this alone. You need people in your life that say, “I will do life like that with you.”

And so, the application is this question: Where do you struggle? and how does verses 1 and 2 apply to you?” How does it apply to you? And all I want you to know is we all struggle. We never arrive, but we make great progress.

And then he shifts and it’s almost like a battle cry. It’s, “Remember, remember, remember! - who Jesus really is and what He has really done.” We read it. What does it say? Remember Christ risen from the dead - divinity. Son of David - humanity. According to my gospel.

I was thinking about this and, you know, sometimes I unconsciously think of Jesus as, oh, like the author of this book or the Jesus that lived back then and did all these things. You know what he’s saying is? Stop it! He’s alive right now! At this moment. Remember Jesus, resurrected from the dead, sitting at the right hand of the Father. He is praying for you, He’s praying for me right now. He is sovereignly orchestrating His plan in all of history and He loves you and He’s available and He’s for you and His Spirit lives in you, manifesting the personality and the presence of Jesus with all the power that raised Him from the dead dwelling in you. Remember that! Remember that! That’s what he’s saying.

This isn’t like, oh, the Jesus that used to live and I know He’s done these things and these doctrines and these truths. Remember He is alive.

And I read it, and remember He was human. He was tempted in all ways like you. He understands when you blow it, when you’re not disciplined, when you’re impatient, when you struggle, when you log on to a site, when you eat too much, when you have lustful thoughts. He understands and He has forgiven us and He loves us. And we are apprentices. That’s what a follower is. We follow an apprenticeship to Jesus. And every apprentice, when you’re learning something – what? You stumble.

I love Psalm 37. It says: if the Lord delights in a man, the Lord delights in a woman, when he stumbles,” or, “when she stumbles you will not fall. For the Lord will hold you by His hand.”

And to remember that you’re not performing for a God whose arms are crossed, whose toe is tapping and saying, “Why don’t you get with the program?” It’s a risen Savior who says, “I have given you all that you need. My arms around you. Hey, together, let’s walk together, let Me show you what I have created you to do. Don’t compare yourself with anyone else. I have gifted you, I have put you in this family, in this season of life, in this season of human history. And I am going to use…open this book. I just use ordinary people. There are no superstars. There really aren’t. But what I want you to do is I want you to remember that I’m alive and I’m powerful and that I love you and that I am for you.”

Remember the person of Jesus, verse 8. Remember the power of God’s Word, verse 9. “For which I suffer hardship and imprisonment as a criminal,” he’s picturing being chained, “but the Word of God is not imprisoned.” The same power, the power is not in the messengers. The power is in the message. When the weakest person takes the message, there’s power. For the gospel is the power of God unto salvation.

So, you remember that. You remember the eternal implications of those who taught you. He says, “For this reason I endure things for the sake of those who were chosen so that they may obtain salvation.”

In other words, there’s significance on the line. I don’t understand how it all works. I know that we need to believe and trust God and I know God chooses and I know He’s sovereign and I know we are responsible. And how those things fit together, this was written long before Calvin wrote his Institutes, or Jacob Arminius tried to say, “Hey, I think you got a little off.”

Only Paul and Jesus knew. What he knew is God’s chosen people and the means by the way He chooses them is they hear the gospel and they put their faith in the gospel, and He has prepared people and He loves people. And whosoever believes can have eternal life. If we don’t suffer, if we don’t endure, if we don’t go into battle and do what God has called us to do, then there’s a big problem out there. So, he says there’s a lot on the line. So, remember. Remember what is at stake.

And then I like this. I just put verses 11 through 13. Remember to keep preaching the gospel to yourself. It says, “For this is a trustworthy statement: If we died with Him, we will also live with Him; if we endure, we will also reign with Him; if we deny Him, He will also deny us; if we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” And most think this to be a hymn of doctrine that has been developed over time in the Christian Church.

The first line is literally Paul’s Romans chapter 6, right? We have died with Him in baptism. When we believed, we entered into His death. And if you have entered into His death and you have trusted Christ, you’re going to live with Him. It’s in the present tense. That’s not the future. Right now. You live with Him in His power.

If we endure, we will also reign with Him. You think of all those passages in Revelation about perseverance and endurance. He’s talking about the rewards that believers have for doing what they are called to do, giving an account for their life.

Again, another whole area. I certainly don’t understand, but it’s very clear in Scripture that heaven isn’t someplace where you just float around and drink iced tea and go to an eternal worship service. There’s a new heaven and there’s a new earth that’s as concrete as this one except it’s perfect. And there are nations and there are songs and there are poems and there’s work. And there’s responsivities. And some big part of the reward is what we do now in our faithfulness to Christ has a direct proportion about part of our eternal existence and the rewards that God wants to give us.

And as we know, if you have ever been to a birthday party and you don’t have a gift to give, it’s a really lousy feeling. And there will come a day when, remember that old song, “Casting our crowns before the throne”? There will come a day where the greatest moment I think we will ever have is whatever rewards by the grace of God we have received by being faithful and enduring and doing what He called us to do, we will have an opportunity to put those at Jesus’ feet and recognize like never before, it was of His grace and it’s our gift back to Him.

Again, some of these theological concepts are radically different from the Christianity of: be a good person, read your Bible a little bit, go to church, try to be nice, hope your kids turn out right.

Now, those are nice desires. That’s not the New Testament Christianity. It was: Follow this person who is risen from the dead. And there’s a world in desperate need of hearing that forgiveness is available. Follow Jesus. Be willing to suffer. Live out your faith. Be a soldier. Be focused. Be an athlete. Be disciplined. Be a farmer. Keep sowing, even when you don’t see the results for a while. And remember the risen Lord.

And then you have this interesting. He says, “If we deny Him, He will deny us. And if we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” And, you know, if you want to have, read a lot of controversy, go to that next verse and the whole issue of apostacy. My best sense is that Peter denied Him, didn’t he? And I think when we deny Him as believers, genuine believers, He denies us the peace, the fruit, the direction. I don’t know about you, but I have lived as a believer not, willfully, not walking in God’s will. And I didn’t not experience the fruit of the Spirit. I didn’t, right?

And, now, are there some people who drift away who probably demonstrate that they never were believers, but they disowned God? Peter actually said, “I don’t know Him.” And when we do that, by our behavior or by our words, I think we forfeit the blessings of God.

But I think Paul is trying to encourage Timothy and encourage these people to persevere. He says, “If we are faithless, when we really blow it, He’s faithful. He can’t deny Himself.”
And so, there’s a real warning for people that are, I think, playing around with the Christian life. And I think there’s a real comfort for those of us that are believers to realize that if, in our behavior or a lifestyle, we will deny Him, then we are going to reap the consequences of behaviors that God never wants for us.

But I think it’s also a word of great encouragement. I don’t know anyone that isn’t faithless at times. I don’t know anyone that doesn’t blow it. I don’t know anyone that doesn’t feel like, I just don’t know if God could really help me now in light of…and you fill it in, right? I think he’s saying, “God will always be true to His Word.” The millisecond that we repent, the moment we turn from whatever it is, and say, “God, I am broken over this.” He is faithful. This entire section is written to a young pastor, “Don’t give up. Don’t give in. Don’t be ashamed of the gospel. Don’t shrink back.”

And then he shifts gears and he says, “Now, Timothy, let me tell you about what is happening in the Church and what you need to teach.” He says, “Remind them of these things, and solemnly exhort them in the presence of God not to dispute about words, which is useless and leads to the ruin of his listeners.” And then, by contrast, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the Word of God. But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it leads to further ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, men who have gone astray from the truth, claiming,” these are false teachers, “that the resurrection has already taken place; and they are jeopardizing the faith of some.”

And so, in this section, what he is doing, he’s saying, “Look, be diligent in study; accurately communicate God’s Word as your number three priority. [1] Abide in Christ, [2] make disciples, and then [3] make sure, Timothy, you accurately communicate God’s Word in a world where there is such false teaching and such chatter.”

So many secondary things, so many arguments. In verses 15, 18, and 24, I get the idea. Dig deep into God’s Word, humbly teach the truth boldly. Verse 15, 18, and 24 use this of the doctrine, the truth.

Second, refuse to get sucked into pointless debates. Picking it up at verse 14. He says, notice, “Solemnly exhort them not to dispute about words.” 16, “Avoid worldly and empty chatter.” 19, “Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal: ‘The Lord knows those who are His;’ and ‘Everyone who names the name of the Lord will turn away from wickedness.’” He's really telling him: Make sure you stay focused on the things that are important, on God’s Word and God’s truth.

And by way of application, I just think the secondary things that we are facing, I think you should do your research and have convictions about masks and freedom and vaccines and politics. And then you should wisely vote and participate and be a Christian citizen. But I don’t think any of that can become above our first priority of being followers of Jesus and disciples of Jesus and recognizing that people that disagree with us about any of those areas, inside or outside the Church, are somehow the enemy.

We have taken secondary causes and I think the enemy is laughing as we actually attack one another. Jesus prayed for our unity, but Paul says, “Once you’re in the body of Christ,” can I tell you that someone who is on the opposite side of wherever you are politically if they are a believer, you are one with them. Someone who is on the opposite side of vaccines from you, wherever you’re at, you are one with them. Someone who has a commitment about opening the church, not opening the church or wearing a mask -
if they are a follower of Jesus, Ephesians 4, we are one body. The command isn’t to create unity. It’s to maintain the unity.

So, it’s we can agree to disagree, but how would you ever talk to or treat a brother or sister in Christ? With dignity, with respect, with gentleness, with a first listening to understand.

The challenge in our world, over and over, the truth, the truth, the truth, the truth. This would be, if Paul was alive today, I think: the empty chatter - the posting, the arguments about these secondary things. Instead of: I have done my best research, guess what, I watched FOX, then I watched CNN. Then I read this, then I read that. Then I listened to this podcast, I listened to this podcast. Then I heard people who, Christians I agree with, Christians I disagree with. I did my own research. These are my convictions. And I can understand that other people could have different convictions.

My command is how I treat them is to love them, honor them, respect them, and tastefully and kindly disagree in conversation, not in condemnation. We’ve got to get back to there. And here’s the thing. Isn’t it interesting? I guess there’s nothing new. They had the same problems there. Now he, there’s this interesting line, at least it was new for me. In the midst of all of this, who is right? Who is wrong? There’s all this chaos.

He says, “Now, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal.” When they would build a building in the ancient world, they would put an inscription. And often it was, here’s this big building, and Claudius Augustus – blah, blah, blah, blah, blah – right? You know? It’s like, he did it during this time. And he is using this metaphor. And he says there are two inscriptions. He says: one inscription, “‘The Lord knows whose are His;’ and the second, ‘Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to keep away from wickedness.’”

And so, then he moves to his next sort of picture. And what he wants to now talk about to Timothy is: “Timothy, in the Church there’s always going to be chaos. There’s always going to be false teachers. There’s always going to be people that drift, there are always going to be people that are faithful.” And so, now he’s going to take this picture and he’s going to say, you know, in a normal home you have certain vessels, you know?

You have gold or silver or a chalice and then there are things that are made out of wood or this or that. And basically, he’s going to say, “You know, there are certain things that are honorable, and certain things that are disposable,” if you will.

And then he, right in the middle of his metaphor, he shifts and basically says, “Here’s the deal, Timothy. What you need to do is in the midst of all the chatter and all the chaos and all the confusion and all the pressure and all the persecution, what you want to be is a vessel of honor for God.

And to be a vessel of honor, what you need to do is walk purely before Him. And you want to be the kind of person that God can use, that the Master could really use for His eternal purposes.” And then he’s going to go on and talk about the impact of that, not only for you, but for your hearers.

So, we pick it up, notice there’s another “therefore.” “Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be an implement for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.” And then I love this. I memorized this in the Living Bible as a young man when I so struggled with lust and just didn’t feel like I could ever overcome it. “Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace with those who call upon the Lord from a pure heart.”

And he’s just saying to him, “You know what? There are internal temptations.” “But refuse foolish and ignorant speculation, knowing that they produce quarrels.” And then notice this admonition.

Boy, I would like, maybe we should all post this today on our Facebook or whatever Instagram.

“The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind,” to people that agree with you. Oh, so, oh. I’m not sure, I think I might have misread that one.

“Skillful in teaching.” Skillful. Skillful teachers don’t beat people over the head. Skillful people don’t shove stuff in front of their adult children that say they don’t really walk with God anymore and you ought, you should, you ought, you should. Why don’t you…? This is going to happen to you. They don’t argue with them over politics at Thanksgiving. It doesn’t mean they agree with them. It doesn’t mean they condone their behavior.

Notice, “Skillful in teaching, patient when wronged.” It’s an interesting word study on that word. It kind of has the idea of something that has a long fuse. Something that takes a long time to get to the point where you blow up or you react. Anybody here been wronged by someone that you really love?

By the way, no one can hurt you like your kids. They are your source of greatest joy and greatest heartache, because they’ve got your heart. Patient when wronged.

“The Lord’s bondservant must not be quarrelsome, but kind.” Not neutral. Kind! To everyone. “Chip, you mean I’m supposed to be kind to…?” And you fill in the political figure or the person who represents what makes you most angry. I’m supposed to be kind to them? Yeah, that’s how the world got turned upside down. You mean I’m supposed to love my enemies? I’m supposed to pray for those who persecute me? Those people that are trying to ruin our country? Take away what I hold near and dear?

See, one of the things Christians in America are going to have to ask is, “Do you care more about America or the kingdom of God? Do you care more about God’s agenda or what you feel like we are losing?” Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s a free country. We should be great, Christian citizens. But I think we are very unwise to bring Jesus into the fight. He doesn’t take sides. His agenda is way bigger than the future of America.

Christians have become a voting bloc instead of a transformational people taking the gospel and living out the kingdom of God to transform a nation from the inside out.
Half of the population completely disagrees with your values. Is the agenda to win a political war or to win their souls?

And is the agenda to act in such a way that they would scratch their head and say, “I totally disagree with you, but your kindness and your love and the impact in the community and what you’re doing for the poor and how you’re helping other people and the difference that you’re making.” Well, guess what, they asked about the hope within us.

They are not the enemy; they are blinded by the enemy. God loves them. Our credibility wasn’t because we preached the gospel. We’re right and you’re wrong. And it was that we began to do the things that Jesus did without compromising the truth to which they would say, “So this is Christianity?”

Guess what, there are no “them.” There’s just people. You sit down and talk to someone. “Tell me, what was your family like? What, tell me a little bit about some of the struggles you have gone through.” Have you had that conversation?

These are people! Hurting people. People that don’t know Jesus. People that long for hope and they deal with…But you know what? Doesn’t Jesus love liars and adulterers and stealers and fornicators and alcoholics and drug addicts and…? I was trying to describe this room.

And I think that’s what He’s saying to Timothy and what He’s saying to us and He says you have to have a minister’s, servant’s heart.
The big question I think as we open chapter 2, I put on the top of your notes: How can a person remain true to their calling, to their Lord, and to His Word in a hostile, anti-Christian culture while dealing with our own personal inadequacies and problems? It’s a long sentence, but I think the parallels in our day are very similar, don’t you?

I mean, in the world that we are living in, all the chaos, all the uncertainty. Vaccine, masks, diseases, economies, emerging countries, nuclear missiles. I mean, you can stick your head in the sand and stay glued to Netflix or whatever your favorite thing is and try and find a gated community to separate from all that is happening.

But if you come up for air, you are living in one of the most historic times in human history. And we have been here before and God has always taken a portion of His Church that is in tune that grasp what is going on, that don’t get distracted, that don’t get pulled into secondary things. And they step up and they do what followers of Jesus [have] always done.

They live the truth, they share the truth, they love people that are like them, they love people that aren’t like them, and they are counter-culture and they are counter-culture usually, unfortunately inside the Church as much as outside the Church.

Notice at the end of chapter 1, he gives a couple illustrations. He names two people and he says, “You know what? Don’t be like them. They drifted. Under pressure.” And then he says, “You know that slave? When everyone else was afraid, that converted slave, he searched all over Rome. And he found me.

And he didn’t, wasn’t concerned what the implications would be. And so, he is giving Timothy, he is giving him this truth and then he says, “Here’s a negative example; here’s a positive example.” And look at your text. What is the very first word of chapter 2?

He has put “you” in the emphatic position. “You, Timothy, I have talked about these two. You, therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful people who will be able to teach others also.” And then he comes back to his theme. “Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.”

And then he gives, in your notes I talk about three metaphors and just for the sake of all the English teachers, I understand they are similes, right? When you use “like” or “as” it’s a simile. There are a lot of us that didn’t know what a simile was, so I said metaphors.

“No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him. And if someone likewise competes as an athlete, he is not crowned as a victor unless he competes according to the rules. And the hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops. Consider,” ponder, reflect – that’s the idea – “what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. Remember Christ Jesus risen from the dead, descendent of David, according to my gospel, for which I suffer hardship to imprisonment as a criminal; but the Word of God is not imprisoned. For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they may obtain the salvation for which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory.”

And then he goes and talks about: This is a trustworthy statement.”

Here’s what I want to do. I want to – the first section here, it’s Paul talking to this young pastor about his personal life. After he gets done with his personal life, the second section, he’s going to shift and say, “Now, this is your responsibility in terms of your teaching and what you do in the Church.”

And so, when I went through and I studied this, I thought, Okay, “You, therefore.” I think we skip over the first line. “Be strong, that’s in the grace, of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Anybody remember where that, “Be strong in the Lord, in the strength of His might,” where that comes up somewhere else? Yeah, Ephesians. It’s about spiritual warfare.

See, what he’s saying is, “Timothy, I just gave you a challenge. I invited you to suffer with me. And the whole world is falling apart around you. It’s illegal to be a Christian. I’m going to get killed and I’m asking you to follow in my footsteps.”

And so, the first thing isn’t, “Buck up, get more committed, make it happen, you can do it.” This isn’t a pep talk. This is, “Therefore, you be strong in the grace,” the favor of God that provides supernatural power that allows you to do what He wants you to do and become who He wants you to become, that is impossible out of your own self-effort.

And so, I sort of outlined this with, if I was kind of thinking of receiving this, Paul’s action plan for Timothy and for us to be strong in difficult times. Number one, make abiding in Christ your number one priority every day. Abiding in Christ the number one priority. Not what you do, not what you accomplish, it’s John 15:5. “If you abide in Me, My words in abide in you, you’ll bear much fruit. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and prove to be My disciples. A branch can’t…” right? “…it can’t bear fruit in of itself unless it abides in the vine. So neither can you unless you abide.”

All it means is staying connected. Your personal relationship with Jesus, your connection in saying, “I need You today and so, I need fresh manna from Your Word. I need You today so I’m going to ask and I’m going to sit quietly and listen to You before I rush in today. I’m not going to get up and find out how the stocks are doing and how much I have lost in the Wall Street Journal. And I’m not going to see what is said in Facebook. And I’m not going to turn on the TV while I’m getting ready. I’m going to pause and recognize there are so many distractions and what happens first in my morning and what happens just before I go to bed are the things that shape my day and shape my sleep.”

So, first and foremost, my number one priority is to abide in Christ. It means time with God. It means renewing your mind. It means probably having an exact time when you turn this off. It means that it’s not in your bedroom. It means that every time it buzzes that you actually turn off your notices. It means when the kids come around or the grandkids are around and you’re with friends, you might even have a fun little thing where there’s a little basket and you say, “Hey, it’s great to have you all here. I have put my phone in the basket. Could you guys throw it here? Could we have genuine, uninterrupted time with one another?”

I don’t know if you have gone to any restaurants lately and seen a family sitting around a table in a restaurant and all five people like this. Now, you know what? All I know is in God’s infinite wisdom and the creativity He gives human beings, I cannot figure out how in the world I can press a button, I’m not going to now, and say, “Hey, Siri, who was Nero?” And within less of a second I get Wikipedia’s everything on Nero, when he was born, all the rest. Or, “Hey, where’s the closest coffee shop?” Or, “Hey!” That’s an amazing and wonderful thing.

But there is, if the enemy can’t get you to just willfully sin and rebel, he will distract you and occupy your mind with such trivia that you will not abide in Christ. And is it a bad thing? Of course not. But you’re going to learn those three similes or metaphors, one of the key ones is discipline, self-control.

And so, I think that the application, if there’s one verse for me it’s Proverbs 4:23. It’s the core of your being. “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the issues of life.” And your heart is always determined by your diet. “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good, and the evil man out of the evil treasure. For that which the mouth speaks is that which comes out of the heart. The mind set on the flesh is death; the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace. Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are on earth where your life is hidden with Christ in God.”

Just do a little word study on the word mind. Your mental diet. “As a man or a woman thinks, so you become.” Your mental diet will determine who you are. Who you are sitting in this seat today is the combination of the things you have read, the things you have watched, the conversations you have had, and where you think.

And so, if you want to change, it’s not trying harder or bucking up. Romans 12:2, “Do not,” or literally, grammatically, it’s, “Stop allowing this world system to squeeze you into its mold or conform you, but rather start allowing,” passive voice, “your mind to be renewed so that your life could demonstrate what the will of God is, that it’s good, acceptable, well-pleasing, and perfect.”

And so, all I want to say is I think for Timothy, the first thing is, “Timothy, you need God’s grace. So, seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. And all those things that you’re tempted to worry about, He’s going to take care of.”

Second is make personally investing in FAT people your number two priority. And some of you who maybe have been in a discipleship background or are familiar with the Navigators or Dawson Trotman, that bricklayer who discipled me was greatly influenced by the Navigators. It’s a parachurch ministry that focuses on discipleship. And we learned early on, invest in FAT people.

And that was not about size or weight. “F” was for faithful, “A” was for available, and “T” was for teachable. You don’t spend your time equally. You spend your time, you help everyone, train a few. Now, the ones that are inside your house, if they’re not FAT, you help them become FAT.

And what I would encourage you here is rather than sometimes we hear about discipleship and we get this idea that I’m going to start doing all these things out there as opposed to ask: What are the rhythms of your life? Who can you take a walk with and share what is happening in your life? Who becomes a workout partner? Who are some people that you grab coffee with?

I was with a guy that I hadn’t seen in about fifteen years and I pastored in a really interesting community called Santa Cruz for twelve. And it was probably the second year and someone invited him to church and he found out that I liked basketball. I think his wife told him that thinking maybe he’ll come to church.

And I was a gym rat. I mean, I’m like addicted to basketball. And I played up until my early sixties, until these back operations happened. And he came up right after the service and I was a young guy then, about forty. And he said, “I hear you play basketball.” I said, “Yeah.” I said, “Are you new?” He said, “Yeah, there’s my wife.” “Great.” He said, “Do you play?” I said, “Yeah.” He goes, “Okay, I’d like to play sometime.” I said, “What are you doing at two o’clock this afternoon?” He said, “Nothing.” I said, “Well, I play every Sunday afternoon. That’s how I wind down and here’s my address. I’ve got a great outdoor court.” Dave and I started playing basketball every Sunday afternoon with my sons and a few other guys. And it was two-on-two, three-on-three. We were soaking wet.

And I look back and I remember laying on the ground soaked with sweat or when he or I broke a nose, broke an ankle, we were very intense. We had lots of fun. But there were always injuries. And I look now twenty years, he’s a businessman, he has discipled his family, the rest of his family has come to Christ, his whole life was changed and I actually, what I needed was a workout. And I needed a friend. And he needed a friend.

And I look back and it was in that very normal time of doing that that he would share about a struggle in his marriage or he learned about spiritual warfare or he would say, “You know something? I’ve been listening to you and, you know, I just, you know, I grew up going to church now and then. If you put a five-dollar bill in, you’re doing okay. And, like, I felt a God moment I would maybe put in a twenty. And I started this tithing stuff,” he goes, “man, I started looking at the numbers, like, that’s a lot of money, Chip.” I said, “Yeah, and it’s not yours.” “Oh, yeah, that’s right.” And, but, all I can tell you is it was a life-on-life journey and that’s what people need.

We have sort of created this thing where it’s just this little group where you take them just through this study and, yes, all that is a part of it. Timothy, what I want you to do, yes, you have to preach. Yes, you have to visit people in the hospital. Yes, there are administrative duties. But no matter what, you have to make disciples. You have to look for: Who are the faithful people? There are always people near your world that are spiritually hungry. There are some spiritually hungry people that aren’t even believers, but they are looking, they are asking.

So, who are the spiritually hungry people and how do you invite them into your life? And here’s the deal. It’s a huge commitment. Because when I said the danger and deception of distractions, we all have a rhythm. Some of your rhythm, and please don’t take this: Stop doing this or start doing that.

You just have a rhythm like you watch the news every night. Or you know what? On Saturdays you watch this football game and that football game. Or you’re a lady and you always go and do these things. And at some point, you have to stop and say, “Are those rhythms producing the outcome of my life that I want.”

I was twenty-eight years old, and my entire life changed when I had three kids, was in school, in seminary, and I met with Prof Hendricks. And he rearranged my focus and I remember writing down the kind of person I wanted to be, the kind of pastor, the kind of dad, the kind of husband. And I literally wrote it down.

And he said, “If it’s not in your schedule, it’ll never be in your life.” So, I put it in my schedule and when I looked at it, I didn’t have time to do anything else. And I thought, That’s impossible. And I remember asking God for help and we did an experiment in our house. My kids were, you know, younger. And we just decided, for a couple weeks, what would it be like to not turn on the TV during the week?

Well, it was great for my kids, but it was killing me. I mean, you can’t go to bed until you have watched the news and heard the monologue, right? When I grew up, my parents, you watch the news – Johnny Carson, and then you go to bed. So, that means you go to bed at eleven or eleven thirty and then you get up at six thirty, seven, whatever. Well, after four or five, six nights, you know, my kids are young, hey, we have sung, we have read, we have prayed, we have shot basketball. It’s eight thirty. My wife is an early-to-bed-er. I mean, like, really early-to-bed-er. It’s like nine o’clock and I’m going, I mean, you can only read so much, right? So, oh, what the heck. I guess I’ll go to bed. So, I go to bed at nine or nine thirty. I’ll wake up at five or five thirty. I just bought two hours. It was like, Oh! So, I started to do all the things that only I could do early. And then I apply that to kind of my work and said, “You know, before I have meetings…”

Like, even now I have a green zone. Five a.m. to ten a.m. I don’t open my email, I don’t talk to people. If there’s an emergency and someone texts me, great. But from five to ten, what I know is that’s my, that’s when I am going to accomplish the most. I can have meetings and relationships other times. Here’s all I’m saying. If you’re going to invest in people and you’re going to abide in Christ, we feel like we don’t have the time. Just all I’m saying is don’t, you know, some of you will go, Oh, does that mean I can’t watch football games? No, no, no, no!

What it means is what if you looked at where your time is going and where your relationships were and said, “My first priority is abiding in Christ and number two is I’m going to personally invest. I’m going to make my life one where I reproduce my life.”

Face-on-face, person-on-person, life-on-life. People’s lives change when you’re with people.

Notice then he goes on and he says, “Develop a never-give-up attitude by actively meditating on three specific metaphors.” And we read them. The first one I believe is the singular focus of a soldier. Why would he use that term? Because soldiers are in a battle.

The number one thing, and this is Chip, this isn’t, like, Bible. This is just my personal perspective. I believe the number one thing that has done the most damage in Christianity and especially in America is the subtle belief that Jesus came to make me happy and make my life work out. And so, what we have created in the Church is consumers.

And so, when people leave church or whether they decide where to go to church, it’s about: What did you do for me lately? Is this program working? Am I happy? Is this all that? And God, what have You done for me lately? And the prosperity gospel has now gone across the world where the whole idea is that somehow, you can manipulate God by breathing or speaking something into existence, but the whole goal is that God will make your life work out.

Instead of, you are a creature and you follow His agenda. And the goal is you make His agenda work out. And by the way, when you do that, the by-products are often a richer and deeper marriage. The by-products are kids that, by and large, will have a heart for God. The by-product, He may well bless your life with finances and some other things. But they are never the goals.

I mean, most of us would say that the early apostles were pretty successful in following Jesus, right? Nod. Nod. Just, right? Okay. They obeyed Him. Can anybody remember, like, what happened to all the apostles except John? How they ended their life? In our theology today, they would have been out of the will of God. I guess they weren’t walking with God; they got killed! Because God wants you to be happy, healthy, wealthy, and wise all the time.

Here's the thing. It’s easy for some of us, I’m guessing where you’re coming from, to look at that over there instead of saying, “How much of that has creeped into me?”

How much of that has been when I look at the pandemic, you look at the pandemic and you evaluated your experience or the Church or life or what is going on – how much of it was, “This isn’t being played out the way I want it played out for me.”

Instead of, “What in the world would God have us do in light of all the needs and the hurts and the struggles and the fears that everyone is going through?”
First of all, the focus of a soldier, it’s a battleground. Guarding what goes into your mind, not getting distracted. Not getting distracted by, we’ll develop it a bit later, secondary things. Important, but they are secondary.

Second, the continual discipline of a victorious athlete. He uses the word for a crown. There are a couple words in the New Testament for crown. One is for, like, for a king and the other was a wreath if you were a victorious athlete. And he uses that. It’s running a race, it’s discipline.

When you competed in the Olympic games at that time, you would often have to go for a year or two years and you would go into a closed training. And if you didn’t show up for that training, you couldn’t compete. And so what he’s saying is we have to go into training. There’s a certain outline that God wants for us in terms of our life where we have to discipline ourselves to [combat] what we are all struggling with, right?

I’m lazy, left to myself. When I feel a little bit blue, you know what? This, some crackers, NFL game, Diet Coke, some cheddar cheese. But my feet up. And then at halftime, some popcorn. Third quarter, a piece of pizza. And then I find myself, you know, like, you know, during the commercials I get bored, so I flip to something else and then during that I flip to something else. And then I flip to something else. And, why? Because, well, I got tired and when I’m tired, I’m vulnerable. And so, I just want some relief. I’m the only one, right, who does any of this? Okay, just stop looking at me that way!

And then I find myself watching something that I’m kind of numb. And then I stay up later than I wanted to, then have a hard time getting up. And then instead of feeling refreshed and invigorated and focused, I feel lethargic. See, you understand, you’re either developing habits and practices that create a negative and guess what. Then I feel lousy about it and, so what? Well, there’s another game on tomorrow. And, well, forget that. Well, now Friday night we’ve got football. Thursday night we’ve got football. Saturday morning we’ve got football. And now there’s the NFL Ticket!

It is so easy and it’s not just football, right? What’s yours? Hobbies or Facebook or streaming or Instagram. We can just fill our lives. Or posting about politics or posting about vaccines or posting about… or sitting in front of the tube for an hour and this is the news and five minutes you know all the…And now for the next two hours – blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And depending on whether you’re a FOX person or a CNN person, it doesn’t matter what objectively happened, whoever is on the other side of that is the devil incarnate. And it’s all their problem. And it’s not us.

And here’s what has happened: hostility in the Church, in families, in the culture. He says, “No.” You need to be like that athlete. We’re all tempted, but you have to be disciplined. What you do, what you think, who you’re with.

And then I love the last metaphor – simile – is the patient perspective of the farmer to [combat] discouragement. What a farmer knows is you never reap in the same season that you sow, right? See, some of us are going to get really fired up and we are going to say, “I’m going to start really growing and discipling at a new level.” And you’ll do it for about two weeks and you’re not going to see a lot of change and you’ll think, Ah, what the heck.

That’s like a farmer going and saying, “Boy, we need some, we need corn this year.” And he puts some corn seed and sticks it in there and comes back in two weeks, “I guess it doesn’t work!”

Or comes back in a month and there’s one little, tiny sprig. Or he comes back, like, in two and a half months and it’s up to here and it looks good, but there’s just these little things on it. See, the hard-working farmer understands perseverance, patience, endurance – the Christian life isn’t for wimps. It’s a hostile culture. We’re not on a cruise ship. Jesus is, you know, it’s a fallen world. The idea is not: How is everything going to work out for your life or my life. The thing is, there’s this incredible joy and purpose and focus as you walk with God.

See, I think the pendulum was way over here. I am pushing over here and my wife would say, “Chip, you know, I think you need to lighten up a little bit and we need to enjoy ourselves and there’s refreshing things and there are wonderful gifts from God’s and it’s important to take vacation.” And I’m, yeah. I believe all that. And I do that.

But I’m in front of a group of people in a culture that basically has so far over here that I feel like we need to go back and say, “In the world that we are living in, we need the kind of Christians that say, “I’m in a battle and I’m going to be a soldier who is focused and I’m not going to get distracted with secondary things. I’m in a race and I’m in a race that, you know, I’ve got all eternity to enjoy a lot of stuff, but in this little thing called time, I’m going to discipline myself, my body, my emotions, my relationships in a way that,” as we’ll learn a little bit later, “I’m a vessel of honor. I’m someone that God used.”

And here’s the thing. The by-product of all of that will be the kind of peace and the kind of joy and the rich relationships and the satisfaction that we thought pleasure of having more or going to this place or that place would deliver.

And so, he says, “Timothy, I want you to ponder these.” It takes practice, it takes persistence, it takes a partner. I don’t think anyone can do this alone. You need people in your life that say, “I will do life like that with you.”

And so, the application is this question: Where do you struggle? and how does verses 1 and 2 apply to you?” How does it apply to you? And all I want you to know is we all struggle. We never arrive, but we make great progress.

And then he shifts and it’s almost like a battle cry. It’s, “Remember, remember, remember! - who Jesus really is and what He has really done.” We read it. What does it say? Remember Christ risen from the dead - divinity. Son of David - humanity. According to my gospel.

I was thinking about this and, you know, sometimes I unconsciously think of Jesus as, oh, like the author of this book or the Jesus that lived back then and did all these things. You know what he’s saying is? Stop it! He’s alive right now! At this moment. Remember Jesus, resurrected from the dead, sitting at the right hand of the Father. He is praying for you, He’s praying for me right now. He is sovereignly orchestrating His plan in all of history and He loves you and He’s available and He’s for you and His Spirit lives in you, manifesting the personality and the presence of Jesus with all the power that raised Him from the dead dwelling in you. Remember that! Remember that! That’s what he’s saying.

This isn’t like, oh, the Jesus that used to live and I know He’s done these things and these doctrines and these truths. Remember He is alive.

And I read it, and remember He was human. He was tempted in all ways like you. He understands when you blow it, when you’re not disciplined, when you’re impatient, when you struggle, when you log on to a site, when you eat too much, when you have lustful thoughts. He understands and He has forgiven us and He loves us. And we are apprentices. That’s what a follower is. We follow an apprenticeship to Jesus. And every apprentice, when you’re learning something – what? You stumble.

I love Psalm 37. It says: if the Lord delights in a man, the Lord delights in a woman, when he stumbles,” or, “when she stumbles you will not fall. For the Lord will hold you by His hand.”

And to remember that you’re not performing for a God whose arms are crossed, whose toe is tapping and saying, “Why don’t you get with the program?” It’s a risen Savior who says, “I have given you all that you need. My arms around you. Hey, together, let’s walk together, let Me show you what I have created you to do. Don’t compare yourself with anyone else. I have gifted you, I have put you in this family, in this season of life, in this season of human history. And I am going to use…open this book. I just use ordinary people. There are no superstars. There really aren’t. But what I want you to do is I want you to remember that I’m alive and I’m powerful and that I love you and that I am for you.”

Remember the person of Jesus, verse 8. Remember the power of God’s Word, verse 9. “For which I suffer hardship and imprisonment as a criminal,” he’s picturing being chained, “but the Word of God is not imprisoned.” The same power, the power is not in the messengers. The power is in the message. When the weakest person takes the message, there’s power. For the gospel is the power of God unto salvation.

So, you remember that. You remember the eternal implications of those who taught you. He says, “For this reason I endure things for the sake of those who were chosen so that they may obtain salvation.”

In other words, there’s significance on the line. I don’t understand how it all works. I know that we need to believe and trust God and I know God chooses and I know He’s sovereign and I know we are responsible. And how those things fit together, this was written long before Calvin wrote his Institutes, or Jacob Arminius tried to say, “Hey, I think you got a little off.”

Only Paul and Jesus knew. What he knew is God’s chosen people and the means by the way He chooses them is they hear the gospel and they put their faith in the gospel, and He has prepared people and He loves people. And whosoever believes can have eternal life. If we don’t suffer, if we don’t endure, if we don’t go into battle and do what God has called us to do, then there’s a big problem out there. So, he says there’s a lot on the line. So, remember. Remember what is at stake.

And then I like this. I just put verses 11 through 13. Remember to keep preaching the gospel to yourself. It says, “For this is a trustworthy statement: If we died with Him, we will also live with Him; if we endure, we will also reign with Him; if we deny Him, He will also deny us; if we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” And most think this to be a hymn of doctrine that has been developed over time in the Christian Church.

The first line is literally Paul’s Romans chapter 6, right? We have died with Him in baptism. When we believed, we entered into His death. And if you have entered into His death and you have trusted Christ, you’re going to live with Him. It’s in the present tense. That’s not the future. Right now. You live with Him in His power.

If we endure, we will also reign with Him. You think of all those passages in Revelation about perseverance and endurance. He’s talking about the rewards that believers have for doing what they are called to do, giving an account for their life.

Again, another whole area. I certainly don’t understand, but it’s very clear in Scripture that heaven isn’t someplace where you just float around and drink iced tea and go to an eternal worship service. There’s a new heaven and there’s a new earth that’s as concrete as this one except it’s perfect. And there are nations and there are songs and there are poems and there’s work. And there’s responsivities. And some big part of the reward is what we do now in our faithfulness to Christ has a direct proportion about part of our eternal existence and the rewards that God wants to give us.

And as we know, if you have ever been to a birthday party and you don’t have a gift to give, it’s a really lousy feeling. And there will come a day when, remember that old song, “Casting our crowns before the throne”? There will come a day where the greatest moment I think we will ever have is whatever rewards by the grace of God we have received by being faithful and enduring and doing what He called us to do, we will have an opportunity to put those at Jesus’ feet and recognize like never before, it was of His grace and it’s our gift back to Him.

Again, some of these theological concepts are radically different from the Christianity of: be a good person, read your Bible a little bit, go to church, try to be nice, hope your kids turn out right.

Now, those are nice desires. That’s not the New Testament Christianity. It was: Follow this person who is risen from the dead. And there’s a world in desperate need of hearing that forgiveness is available. Follow Jesus. Be willing to suffer. Live out your faith. Be a soldier. Be focused. Be an athlete. Be disciplined. Be a farmer. Keep sowing, even when you don’t see the results for a while. And remember the risen Lord.

And then you have this interesting. He says, “If we deny Him, He will deny us. And if we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” And, you know, if you want to have, read a lot of controversy, go to that next verse and the whole issue of apostacy. My best sense is that Peter denied Him, didn’t he? And I think when we deny Him as believers, genuine believers, He denies us the peace, the fruit, the direction. I don’t know about you, but I have lived as a believer not, willfully, not walking in God’s will. And I didn’t not experience the fruit of the Spirit. I didn’t, right?

And, now, are there some people who drift away who probably demonstrate that they never were believers, but they disowned God? Peter actually said, “I don’t know Him.” And when we do that, by our behavior or by our words, I think we forfeit the blessings of God.

But I think Paul is trying to encourage Timothy and encourage these people to persevere. He says, “If we are faithless, when we really blow it, He’s faithful. He can’t deny Himself.”
And so, there’s a real warning for people that are, I think, playing around with the Christian life. And I think there’s a real comfort for those of us that are believers to realize that if, in our behavior or a lifestyle, we will deny Him, then we are going to reap the consequences of behaviors that God never wants for us.

But I think it’s also a word of great encouragement. I don’t know anyone that isn’t faithless at times. I don’t know anyone that doesn’t blow it. I don’t know anyone that doesn’t feel like, I just don’t know if God could really help me now in light of…and you fill it in, right? I think he’s saying, “God will always be true to His Word.” The millisecond that we repent, the moment we turn from whatever it is, and say, “God, I am broken over this.” He is faithful. This entire section is written to a young pastor, “Don’t give up. Don’t give in. Don’t be ashamed of the gospel. Don’t shrink back.”

And then he shifts gears and he says, “Now, Timothy, let me tell you about what is happening in the Church and what you need to teach.” He says, “Remind them of these things, and solemnly exhort them in the presence of God not to dispute about words, which is useless and leads to the ruin of his listeners.” And then, by contrast, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the Word of God. But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it leads to further ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, men who have gone astray from the truth, claiming,” these are false teachers, “that the resurrection has already taken place; and they are jeopardizing the faith of some.”

And so, in this section, what he is doing, he’s saying, “Look, be diligent in study; accurately communicate God’s Word as your number three priority. [1] Abide in Christ, [2] make disciples, and then [3] make sure, Timothy, you accurately communicate God’s Word in a world where there is such false teaching and such chatter.”

So many secondary things, so many arguments. In verses 15, 18, and 24, I get the idea. Dig deep into God’s Word, humbly teach the truth boldly. Verse 15, 18, and 24 use this of the doctrine, the truth.

Second, refuse to get sucked into pointless debates. Picking it up at verse 14. He says, notice, “Solemnly exhort them not to dispute about words.” 16, “Avoid worldly and empty chatter.” 19, “Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal: ‘The Lord knows those who are His;’ and ‘Everyone who names the name of the Lord will turn away from wickedness.’” He's really telling him: Make sure you stay focused on the things that are important, on God’s Word and God’s truth.

And by way of application, I just think the secondary things that we are facing, I think you should do your research and have convictions about masks and freedom and vaccines and politics. And then you should wisely vote and participate and be a Christian citizen. But I don’t think any of that can become above our first priority of being followers of Jesus and disciples of Jesus and recognizing that people that disagree with us about any of those areas, inside or outside the Church, are somehow the enemy.

We have taken secondary causes and I think the enemy is laughing as we actually attack one another. Jesus prayed for our unity, but Paul says, “Once you’re in the body of Christ,” can I tell you that someone who is on the opposite side of wherever you are politically if they are a believer, you are one with them. Someone who is on the opposite side of vaccines from you, wherever you’re at, you are one with them. Someone who has a commitment about opening the church, not opening the church or wearing a mask -
if they are a follower of Jesus, Ephesians 4, we are one body. The command isn’t to create unity. It’s to maintain the unity.

So, it’s we can agree to disagree, but how would you ever talk to or treat a brother or sister in Christ? With dignity, with respect, with gentleness, with a first listening to understand.

The challenge in our world, over and over, the truth, the truth, the truth, the truth. This would be, if Paul was alive today, I think: the empty chatter - the posting, the arguments about these secondary things. Instead of: I have done my best research, guess what, I watched FOX, then I watched CNN. Then I read this, then I read that. Then I listened to this podcast, I listened to this podcast. Then I heard people who, Christians I agree with, Christians I disagree with. I did my own research. These are my convictions. And I can understand that other people could have different convictions.

My command is how I treat them is to love them, honor them, respect them, and tastefully and kindly disagree in conversation, not in condemnation. We’ve got to get back to there. And here’s the thing. Isn’t it interesting? I guess there’s nothing new. They had the same problems there. Now he, there’s this interesting line, at least it was new for me. In the midst of all of this, who is right? Who is wrong? There’s all this chaos.

He says, “Now, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal.” When they would build a building in the ancient world, they would put an inscription. And often it was, here’s this big building, and Claudius Augustus – blah, blah, blah, blah, blah – right? You know? It’s like, he did it during this time. And he is using this metaphor. And he says there are two inscriptions. He says: one inscription, “‘The Lord knows whose are His;’ and the second, ‘Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to keep away from wickedness.’”

And so, then he moves to his next sort of picture. And what he wants to now talk about to Timothy is: “Timothy, in the Church there’s always going to be chaos. There’s always going to be false teachers. There’s always going to be people that drift, there are always going to be people that are faithful.” And so, now he’s going to take this picture and he’s going to say, you know, in a normal home you have certain vessels, you know?

You have gold or silver or a chalice and then there are things that are made out of wood or this or that. And basically, he’s going to say, “You know, there are certain things that are honorable, and certain things that are disposable,” if you will.

And then he, right in the middle of his metaphor, he shifts and basically says, “Here’s the deal, Timothy. What you need to do is in the midst of all the chatter and all the chaos and all the confusion and all the pressure and all the persecution, what you want to be is a vessel of honor for God.

And to be a vessel of honor, what you need to do is walk purely before Him. And you want to be the kind of person that God can use, that the Master could really use for His eternal purposes.” And then he’s going to go on and talk about the impact of that, not only for you, but for your hearers.

So, we pick it up, notice there’s another “therefore.” “Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be an implement for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.” And then I love this. I memorized this in the Living Bible as a young man when I so struggled with lust and just didn’t feel like I could ever overcome it. “Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace with those who call upon the Lord from a pure heart.”

And he’s just saying to him, “You know what? There are internal temptations.” “But refuse foolish and ignorant speculation, knowing that they produce quarrels.” And then notice this admonition.

Boy, I would like, maybe we should all post this today on our Facebook or whatever Instagram.

“The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind,” to people that agree with you. Oh, so, oh. I’m not sure, I think I might have misread that one.

“Skillful in teaching.” Skillful. Skillful teachers don’t beat people over the head. Skillful people don’t shove stuff in front of their adult children that say they don’t really walk with God anymore and you ought, you should, you ought, you should. Why don’t you…? This is going to happen to you. They don’t argue with them over politics at Thanksgiving. It doesn’t mean they agree with them. It doesn’t mean they condone their behavior.

Notice, “Skillful in teaching, patient when wronged.” It’s an interesting word study on that word. It kind of has the idea of something that has a long fuse. Something that takes a long time to get to the point where you blow up or you react. Anybody here been wronged by someone that you really love?

By the way, no one can hurt you like your kids. They are your source of greatest joy and greatest heartache, because they’ve got your heart. Patient when wronged.

“The Lord’s bondservant must not be quarrelsome, but kind.” Not neutral. Kind! To everyone. “Chip, you mean I’m supposed to be kind to…?” And you fill in the political figure or the person who represents what makes you most angry. I’m supposed to be kind to them? Yeah, that’s how the world got turned upside down. You mean I’m supposed to love my enemies? I’m supposed to pray for those who persecute me? Those people that are trying to ruin our country? Take away what I hold near and dear?

See, one of the things Christians in America are going to have to ask is, “Do you care more about America or the kingdom of God? Do you care more about God’s agenda or what you feel like we are losing?” Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s a free country. We should be great, Christian citizens. But I think we are very unwise to bring Jesus into the fight. He doesn’t take sides. His agenda is way bigger than the future of America.

Christians have become a voting bloc instead of a transformational people taking the gospel and living out the kingdom of God to transform a nation from the inside out.
Half of the population completely disagrees with your values. Is the agenda to win a political war or to win their souls?

And is the agenda to act in such a way that they would scratch their head and say, “I totally disagree with you, but your kindness and your love and the impact in the community and what you’re doing for the poor and how you’re helping other people and the difference that you’re making.” Well, guess what, they asked about the hope within us.

They are not the enemy; they are blinded by the enemy. God loves them. Our credibility wasn’t because we preached the gospel. We’re right and you’re wrong. And it was that we began to do the things that Jesus did without compromising the truth to which they would say, “So this is Christianity?”

Guess what, there are no “them.” There’s just people. You sit down and talk to someone. “Tell me, what was your family like? What, tell me a little bit about some of the struggles you have gone through.” Have you had that conversation?

These are people! Hurting people. People that don’t know Jesus. People that long for hope and they deal with…But you know what? Doesn’t Jesus love liars and adulterers and stealers and fornicators and alcoholics and drug addicts and…? I was trying to describe this room.

And I think that’s what He’s saying to Timothy and what He’s saying to us and He says you have to have a minister’s, servant’s heart.