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Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/mountnasura/
 
Title:I know Whom I have believed
Text:2 Timothy 1:12 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Giving your heart to God
 
Preached:2020
Added:2020-12-06
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 62:1,3                                                                                

Ps 37:1,2

Reading – 2 Timothy 1

Ps 138:1,4

Sermon – 2 Timothy 1:12

Hy 13:1,2,3,4,5

Hy 71:1,2

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved in Christ, everyone in this world has faith. For everyone believes in something. And not just people of other religions, but also your average non-church-going and non-mosque-going fellow citizen has beliefs that he holds dear. You can be sure that even a committed atheist accepts certain things as eternally true. A person might not have a creed and confession, but he is still a believer—perhaps believing in the power of love, or science, or the importance of friendship and fairness.

We all believe, but the vital question is what we believe? In whom do we believe? Consider for a moment what the Belgic Confession says. This confession gives us the key features of a vast territory, the landscape of Scripture. It summarizes the fundamental points about who we are as people and where we came from, what the church is and how it should function, and about the sacraments and the government and the end-times.

But before it gets into all of that, the Belgic Confession begins in a straightforward yet remarkable way: it begins with the object of faith, the Being in whom we believe. Article 1: “We all believe with the heart and confess with the mouth that there is only one God, who is a simple and spiritual being; he is eternal, incomprehensible, invisible, immutable, infinite, almighty, perfectly wise, just, good, and the overflowing fountain of all good.” This is what we believe and confess—this is the One in whom we put our faith.

And believing in this God (and not another) makes all the difference. Faith in Him  changes your life. Faith in Him resets your purpose. Knowing this God gives you a hope and a future. This is what the Holy Spirit reveals in our verse for this sermon, which I preach to you on this theme:

 

“I know whom I have believed.” We see:

            1) a faith joined by sufferings

2) a faith placed in God

3) a faith kept forever

 

1) faith joined by sufferings: There are two letters Paul wrote to Timothy, and both are about the privilege and task of being a minister of the gospel. Timothy was a young man who had grown up learning the Scriptures and was brought to faith through Paul’s preaching. Now Timothy himself has become a pastor, but he needed guidance and encouragement for this work. That’s what Paul is doing in these letters.

And the apostle’s lessons are not dry and theoretical, but very personal. He often speaks out of his own experiences as a minister and as a child of God. Just in our verse alone, Paul speaks of himself five times: “For this reason I suffer… nevertheless I am not ashamed… I know…” Reading this short letter, we get the impression of a man pouring out his heart to God, and to Timothy, and to the church.

And I think the reason for this openness is clear: when Paul wrote this letter, he was about to die. Look at 4:6-7, where he says, “The time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” He had now been in prison for some time. He’d already had one hearing before the judge, and his next and last one was just around the corner. Paul had little doubt about the outcome—it was going to end with him “poured out as a drink offering.”

All this makes his words to Timothy very pointed and urgent. With Paul locked up in prison, or with Paul dead, Timothy and the new generation of church leaders will need to take up the task of ministry. They will need to preach the Word, guard the true faith, and faithfully shepherd the flock of God.

“To this work,” says Paul, “I was appointed a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles” (1:11). Ever since he met the risen Lord Jesus outside Damascus thirty or forty years before, he had been commissioned to serve the gospel. He’d given everything for this work, and now others would carry it on.

And Paul wants Timothy to know that doing the work of ministry will not be easy. While ministry brings a lot of joy and reward, you should also realize it takes great endurance. Because of it, Paul had much hardship—stonings and floggings, shipwrecks and imprisonments, hunger and thirst, loneliness and despair. His own body, he writes somewhere, bore the marks of suffering for Christ.

But it’s worth it! Says Paul, “For this reason I also suffer these things” (v. 12). Because of the amazing gospel and the glorious Saviour we believe in, we are willing to suffer for his cause. Paul knew that it was totally worth it to suffer for Christ, and he wanted Timothy to see this clearly.

And this is true for every Christian, whether or not you’re a minister or missionary or office bearer. In whatever position Christ calls us, He says his people will need to suffer. My brothers and sisters, each of us must accept the hardships of following Christ. For He says that suffering will come on those who are faithful!

Listen to what Peter says to his congregation, “Do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Pet 4:12). It’s NOT strange for Christians to suffer, but it’s strange for Christians NOT to suffer! Paul says the same thing, just a bit later in this same letter: “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (3:12).

Beloved, is that your honest expectation? That for Christ’s sake you will face various kinds of hardship? That when you live as a faithful Christian, you will most certainly invite abuse? If we are Christ-loving, Bible-believing, and church-going people traveling through this wicked and anti-Christian world, then the conflict for us will be very real!

We will suffer if we take seriously the words of Scripture and if we try to live by them in every aspect of our life. For example, we will suffer when we don’t follow the pattern of the world, when we don’t agree with its godless declarations or subscribe to its creed. Or perhaps we’ll suffer in our relationships, like when we break off friendships with people who love beer more than they love God, or we suffer when we dare to stand up for his truth.

And suffering as a Christian doesn’t only mean saying, “I cannot do this, and I must not do that.” It also means suffering through service. Christ’s demand on our lives means we learn to say, “I love God, and God calls me to give from my money sacrificially—so I will. I love God, and God calls me to speak up to defend the faith at work, even when that’s uncomfortable—so I will. I love God, and He calls me to love those people in my life who are difficult to love—so I will. I need to endure in doing this good thing, for his sake. I’ll do it, even if I have to suffer…”

We probably prefer not to think about such things. I would rather have an easy and comfortable life, than one that doesn’t involve much pain. But if we follow Christ, and do his will, we will suffer for a little while—yet we suffer with a sure hope.

That’s how Paul continues, “nevertheless I am not ashamed” (v. 12). This is another bold statement, because there was a lot of outward reasons for Paul to hang his head in shame. He was weak. He was in prison—which is never a place for heroes. Besides this, Paul was one of those idiots devoted to a dead Jew, someone killed years ago like the scum of the earth. But Paul will not retreat to a hole in the ground, and he doesn’t want Timothy to either: “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God” (v. 8).  

He wants Timothy to know, and all of us to know, that there’s no disgrace in standing up for Christ, even if you’re the last person standing. There’s no shame in being ridiculed or rejected for on his account. It might hurt for a while, but by faith we keep our eyes on him who is unseen. We are not ashamed, because Jesus is Lord, and God is on his throne, and the rightness of his and our cause will one day be seen.

As Romans 1:16 says, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” When you know this gospel, when you know the God of this gospel, you can have confidence even in the middle of persecution and temptation and suffering. This gospel is God’s power to save us, and to save everyone who believes, when we put our faith in him.

 

2) faith placed in God: Paul sounds very strong, doesn’t he? Like he’s the Iron Man or Captain Marvel of the Christian faith—like he’s blessed with a power beyond the reach of us normal people. But his strength isn’t from himself, but from the Lord God—the same God we believe in! Listen to Paul’s profound testimony, “For I know whom I have believed” (v. 12).

This was how he can suffer, and not be ashamed, and even endure to the end: He knows his God! The word “knowing” in our verse describes a close and intimate and living knowledge. This isn’t just knowing your Catechism—even though that’s really important—but this is knowing in your heart and in your life that God is yours, and you are his.

This is the knowledge that you gain by experience, where you have started to learn that God is fully trustworthy and totally capable. Your trust in God is built upon his holy character and his mighty deeds, where you have come to depend on his faithfulness, crave his mercy, and rest in his unchanging goodness. You have begun to see how God is busy in your life, so you love and fear him.

“I know whom I have believed.” There is, of course, so much you could say about God as the object of our faith. “Who is God?” is the kind of question that should blow the mind of any Christian. Who is God? Who is the One in whom I have believed?

We could say that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We could mention his perfections, like in Article 1: God is eternal, incomprehensible, invisible, immutable, infinite, almighty, perfectly wise, just, good. Who is God? The God in whom we believe is abundantly revealed to us in the 66 different books of the Bible, and He is revealed to us in the creation and preservation of the universe.

Each of us have just started to learn about this God. I say “just started,” because the width and depth and height of God’s character are ever beyond us. His love surpasses knowledge, says Paul in Ephesians. His ways are higher than our ways, says Isaiah. He is indeed, “incomprehensible,” not able to be fully grasped or known, yet He is always open to a deepening of fellowship with us. We have a lifetime of learning ahead of us, a lifetime of getting to know our triune God.

“I know whom I have believed…” Just before Paul says this, he gives us a glimpse of his own understanding of God. It’s in verses 9-10, and Paul there speaks about the God “who… saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” This is God, and what He has done!

Bottom line, what can Paul say about God? He is the one who saved us according to his eternal purpose. This God gives us grace in Jesus, the one who conquered death and brought us back to life. This is the great God in whom we have believed!

Now, the word “believed” in our text sounds like a verb in the past tense, similar to how I might say I trimmed the bushes last Saturday, but which I finished and no longer do today. But that’s not how Paul means “believed.” For him, for us, faith is never in the past tense. Faith is not something we’re given and then we put on the shelf. True faith is ongoing, a daily and vital resting in God.

Maybe we can’t remember a time in our life when we didn’t believe in God, but we likely have seen faith grow and mature, and we pray that it will keep growing. We all need to work and nurture our faith, for it isn’t meant to stand still. Over time, our faith must deepen with love and insight into who God is.

Because Paul knows God through Christ, he is immensely confident. You can really hear his confidence in the last part of the verse, “[I] am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to him until that Day” (v. 12). It’s all in good hands, says Paul. God has got this. He can keep what I’ve committed to him, until the very end.

But let’s take a closer look. What is Paul talking about? What has he (or any Christian) entrusted to God? When he speaks about “committing” something, he says literally, “my deposit”—God will keep my deposit until that Day. Back then, you’d picture this as a man going on a long journey. Before he went away, he would deposit his most precious and valued possessions with a friend so they wouldn’t get lost or stolen. And it was a sacred obligation to be given a person’s gold and jewels like this. You would do anything to remain faithful to this trust and one day to return the deposit intact.

Today we place our money on deposit at the bank, maybe even take out a safety deposit box for important papers and treasures. I used to have a safety deposit box, and it was always impressive to be escorted to the back of the bank, into the vault, past the massive steel door and heavy bars, and into a quiet room lined with these small, locked boxes. One key, then another key, and finally my box was opened. After locking up again, you went home with confidence: my deposit is secure! It’s not going anywhere.

Paul is likewise confident, “I am persuaded that God is able to keep what I have entrusted to him.” And by this he must mean his life, his very soul. Remember, the apostle is not going to be on this earth much longer. He is thinking about the end, but Paul has no doubt that God will keep him safe ‘til the very end. He will keep me!

We’re not in the same earthly position as Paul, but our standing before God in Christ is exactly the same. God has claimed us. He has given his sign and seal to us in baptism. God declared that we belong to him already long before we could form thoughts or speak or make commitments of our own.

God claims our life, but He also requires that we commit our life to him. That is the essence of life in the covenant: two sides, giving themselves to each other in love. God draws near to us, and we draw near to him.

This is what Paul has done: He has given his life to the Lord. He has lived in unwavering confidence based on what he knows about the Lord’s power and faithfulness. Even now, approaching the end, Paul commends his life to God. He has entrusted his whole being to God, his future and eternity, and he is sure that God can keep what He’s been given.

So for us. For each of us, we must daily entrust our life to the LORD’s care and grace. We want to commit our way to God, asking him to guide us with wisdom. We try to commit our worries to him, asking him to relieve us and give us peace. We commit our plans and behaviours and goals to him, praying for his blessing on what we do. We commit our future to him, asking God to preserve us and keep us loyal to him. We place our life on deposit with God, and we trust that He will be faithful.

As we said earlier, this is an ongoing activity. The act of entrusting and committing and resolving happens day by day, year by year. Because for as long as we live, we must fight against our tendency to rely on ourselves, to take charge of ourselves, to try and build an earth-based security. Probably every time we struggle with a trouble or hardship, there is the challenge to put aside our worry and simply trust in God and his promises. And probably every time we enjoy success, there is the challenge to put aside our pride and simply trust in God.

But we can trust in him, for we know him! So commit all things to him. Place your life in his hands. For what we have committed to him, He will surely keep, for He is God. We know whom we have believed, and we are persuaded that He can keep what we have entrusted to him until his great Day.

 

3) faith kept forever: Many of us are constantly making plans and looking ahead into the coming days and months and even years. Paul too, was looking ahead—he had his eyes on that “that Day” (v. 12), capital D.

It is very clear what day he means. In chapter 4, when Paul speaks of being ‘poured out…finishing the race and keeping the faith,’ he concludes by saying, “Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (4:8). There will come a day of judging when we all take our turn before the Lord, the righteous judge. There will be a day when we each must give an account of our souls.

Thinking about that day, a person may worry. We don’t like to be put on the spot, put under pressure. Our faith has been OK at times, but overall, we fear it hasn’t been good enough. We’re just not in the same spiritual league as Paul, or Opa, or someone else whose faith we admire. On that Day, will you and I really receive a reward? Not a crown of righteousness, but if we’re lucky maybe a certificate of participation!

But Paul’s confidence doesn’t depend on himself or his great accomplishment. Remember, God will keep what we have entrusted to him until that day! This is his work, dependent on his grace and goodness, not our own. That’s what the gospel is, after all. The gospel announces a salvation that God initiates, and the same gospel includes the promise that God will bring his work to a perfect completion. Our faith endures, because God endures. We know whom we have believed!

Once more, this calls each of us to rest in God with all our heart. Entrust your way to him, not in half-measures, or on a part-time basis, but fully and completely. Make your greatest longing not for some earthly glory or worldly goal, but for that great Day of the Lord’s appearing.

When you do, when your confidence is in Christ, then you can be sure that your faith will be kept forever—even until the end, when we get to praise God forever. Listen to what Jude says at the end of his letter: “God is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy” (v. 24). He can keep you. He will keep you. So trust in him. Commit yourself to him.  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2020, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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