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Be Strong - Don't Be Distracted (2 Timothy 2), Part 2

From the series Becoming an Effective Disciple Maker

We all struggle with distractions in our world today. Whether it’s technology, work or busy schedules – there always seems to be something diverting our attention. In this program, Chip reveals the deceptive power of an unfocused life, and the intentional steps we can take to refocus ourselves on God and what really matters.

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Message Transcript

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.

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.”

“The Lord’s bondservant must not be quarrelsome, but kind.” Not neutral. Kind! To everyone.