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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Title:Despite your circumstances, always remember the victorious Jesus Christ
Text:2 Timothy 2:8-9 (View)
Occasion:Easter
Topic:Persecution
 
Preached:2021
Added:2021-07-20
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Hymn 32

Psalm 103:1,5 (after the law)

Psalm 66:1,2 & Psalm 68:1,2

Hymn 41

Hymn 37

Scripture readings: Luke 24:1-12, 2 Timothy 2:1-13

Text: 2 Timothy 2:8-9

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


Beloved congregation of Christ,

Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia are such a cruel part of this broken world.  I imagine some of us can remember family and friends who were afflicted with these kinds of things.  Maybe at first they could still have meaningful conversations with you.  They could still live at home.  But it usually doesn’t take long for all that to change.  In a couple of years they can be in a care home and completely unable to communicate.  They don’t know their spouse anymore or their children.  If you’ve seen a loved one go through this, you know how hard it is to see someone slip away bit by bit until there’s just a shell left. 

Not being able to remember because of Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia is a sign we live in a broken world, a world after the fall.  Not remembering someone can be caused by human weakness, because we’re frail and our brains break down.  But sometimes not remembering someone can also happen because we allow ourselves to forget.  We don’t keep that person in the front of our mind anymore.  Then we might seldom think about that person who may have been important to us at one point in our lives.  We’ve basically forgotten them.

That happened to the people of Israel in the Old Testament.  After God had delivered the people from Egypt and brought them to the Promised Land, we get the time of the judges.  In the days of the judges, God’s people were wicked and rebellious.  In Judges 3:7 we read, “And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD.  They forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asheroth.”  The Baals and Asheroth were idols, false gods.  They forgot God and ended up serving idols.  Weak and sinful hearts are prone to forgetting the God who has saved them.    

Pastors aren’t exempt from this.  Our text for this Easter Sunday morning was originally written to Timothy.  Timothy was a young pastor in the church at Ephesus.  The apostle Paul had been a sort of mentor to him.  Now Paul was in prison in Rome.  He was suffering and facing death.  This letter is sort of like a last will and testament to his protégé Timothy.  Paul tells him to remember what’s really important for life and ministry:  the victorious Jesus Christ.  This is important so he doesn’t become discouraged and abandon his calling to preach the gospel.  What’s most important for Timothy to remember is equally important for those he’s pastoring.  What’s true for the pastor is true for the people here.  It’s true for all of us as well.  On this Easter Sunday, we’re looking to the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The Holy Spirit teaches us to always remember him and what he’s done.  So the theme for the sermon is this:  Despite your circumstances, always remember the victorious Jesus Christ

We’ll consider the victory in his:

  1. Person and work
  2. Preaching

It’s easy to take the word “gospel” for granted.  In verse 8, Paul writes that there was a gospel he embraced and preached.  To understand the significance of that word “gospel,” it’s helpful to think in terms of rescue or deliverance.  Some of the most dramatic rescues have occurred in battle.  Think of the Vietnam War.  Think of the famous Battle of Long Tan, fought in 1966 by Australian soldiers.  One company of 108 soldiers ended up in a lengthy battle with a much larger number of enemy forces, over 2000 of them.  For a time it looked like the Aussie soldiers would be totally wiped out by the enemy.  But then suddenly there was good news.  There was deliverance.  Rescue came in the form of eight armoured personnel carriers.  Heavily armed and carrying reinforcements, these armoured personnel carriers rescued the survivors of the Battle of Long Tan.  When you’re in a life-threatening situation and rescue arrives like that, it’s good news.  It’s no wonder that the soldiers who could stood and cheered. 

The gospel is good news like that.  It’s the best news one could hope for in the life-threatening situation faced by sinners.  The gospel is a wonderful message of rescue, deliverance, liberation.  It’s the announcement of something we couldn’t do for ourselves.  Those soldiers of D Company at Long Tan were about to be run over, they couldn’t save themselves.  They desperately needed outside help.  So do we.  If we didn’t get outside help, we’d be facing eternal death.  That outside help has come in the victorious person and work of Jesus Christ.         

Our text speaks about both his person and his work.  Let’s first consider how it speaks about the person of Jesus Christ.  Timothy is called to remember Jesus Christ as risen from the dead.  What does that tell us about his person, about who he is? 

Well, first of all, it tells us that Jesus is alive.  The tomb is empty.  The resurrection is a fact of history and the fact is that Jesus Christ is today still living and breathing.  The cross wasn’t a dead-end for Jesus.  We have a living Saviour who emerged from the tomb after three days.  Today we joyfully celebrate this incredible fact of history. 

But how did Jesus come back to life?  How was he resurrected, never to die again?  The Bible answers that in different ways.  In some places it says that God the Father raised him from the dead.  In other places, Jesus was raised by the power of the Holy Spirit.  But in yet other places, we’re told that Jesus raised himself from the dead.  For example, in John 2:19 Jesus famously says, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”  He was speaking about his body.  Jesus was speaking about his resurrection and he said he would raise himself from the dead.  And he did.  And what does that tell us about who he is?  What ordinary human being has ever been able to raise anyone from the dead in his own power?  Moreover, what ordinary human being has ever been able to raise himself from the dead?  Nobody has the power to do this.  Only God has the power to raise the dead.  And so when Scripture speaks about Jesus raising himself from the dead, that’s teaching us he is divine.  Jesus is the Son of God, he is the second person of the Trinity.  Jesus is true God together with the Father and the Holy Spirit.  His resurrection points to his deity.  Jesus Christ is risen from the dead – and that shows how he is the same victorious God we sang about in Psalm 66 and Psalm 68.  He is the same victorious God who rules sovereignly over all our circumstances.

Our passage also speaks about the humanity of our Lord Jesus.  Look with me again at verse 8.  After telling Timothy to remember Christ risen from the dead, Paul also tells him to remember Jesus Christ as the “offspring of David.”  That tells us two things about the person of Jesus Christ.

The fact that he’s the offspring of David tells us that Jesus is not only God, but also a human being.  When he came into the world at his incarnation, he took on a human nature.  That human nature came from his mother.  Even right now at this very moment, Jesus Christ has the DNA of Mary.  As such, he has a family tree.  He has an ancestry that stretches back to King David. 

That relates to the second thing we’re told here about the person of Jesus Christ.  Coming from the line of David means he has a royal ancestry.  Jesus is the Messianic King.  In 2 Samuel 7, God made a covenant with King David.  He promised that David would have a descendant whose kingdom would be eternal.  Jesus is that descendant, an eternal King in David’s line, the fulfillment of God’s covenant promises in the Old Testament.  This reality is also described in Psalm 89.  In Psalm 89, the covenant with David leads to a royal descendant who is an unstoppable, victorious King.  Look, if Jesus Christ is your victorious King, you’re in good hands no matter what.  Remember Jesus Christ, the offspring of David – be encouraged by knowing that he’s on the throne of your life, just as he was on the throne of the lives of Timothy and Paul.          

The good news Paul preached was also about the victorious work of Jesus Christ.  There would have been encouragement for Timothy in remembering that work.  And there’s encouragement for us too.

Let’s start with the work of Jesus Christ in being the offspring of David.  As the Messianic King, Jesus reigns.  These days when we think about royalty reigning, it’s not all that impressive.  Queen Elizabeth reigns over us, but she basically has nothing to do with our nation’s daily affairs.  Her role is mostly symbolic and ceremonial.  She gives inspiring speeches, bestows knighthoods, and opens hospitals – and most of that is done in the UK, not here in our country.  Our Queen reigns, but not really.  King Jesus is completely different.  When we say King Jesus reigns, what we mean is that he is actively calling all the shots.  His power and authority are real.  What King Jesus says goes.  There’s no one that can second guess him.  There’s no one who can resist his will or overturn his orders.  Whether they acknowledge it or not, everyone is subject to this King.  King Jesus stands supreme over all.

Paul wants Timothy to see Christ’s victorious mighty reign as an encouragement for his ministry.  In the first verses of 2 Timothy 2, Paul is encouraging this young pastor in the face of weakness, suffering, spiritual warfare, straining, and hard work.  If Timothy forgot Christ the offspring of David, he could easily become discouraged and give up.  But if he remembers the Messianic King, he’ll find strength to keep going.  This is because of two wonderful truths about Christ the King. 

The first is that he has the power to help.  Through his Holy Spirit, he is able to powerfully lift up his subjects.  He is the almighty God.  King Jesus has a hand of power, and he also has a heart of love.  That’s the second truth.  That heart of love for his subjects means King Jesus is willing to help.  He has mercy and compassion on all who acknowledge his rule.  So if the King is able to help, and he’s willing to help, then he’s going to help.  Timothy could count on it. 

And so can all believers today.  Yes, Timothy had a special task, a special calling in Christ’s church.  He was a pastor.  But the same truths which encouraged him would have encouraged the people he pastored too.  And they should encourage us today as well.

You’re probably not facing the same kind of situation Timothy did in his ministry.  If you’re struggling right now, it’s likely some other circumstances.  Whatever the circumstances, you need to remember Jesus Christ the victorious King on his throne.  You need to remember how he reigns over you and your circumstances. 

Maybe it’s worry.  Maybe you’re consumed with worry about something.  The story is told of the world’s worst worrier.  He was suddenly completely cured.  One of his friends met him and said, “What’s going on with you?  You look like you don’t have a care in the world.”  “I don’t.”  “What happened?”  “I hired somebody to worry for me.”  “Well, how much did that cost you?”  “He charges $10,000 a day.”  “But how can you afford that?”  “That’s his worry.” 

Wouldn’t it be great if you could do that?  If you could hire someone to worry for you?  Loved ones, you have a good and loving King on the throne.  King Jesus has offered to take all your worries on himself.  For that, he won’t charge you anything.  What earthly royalty reigns like that?  What earthly royalty would offer to take your worries on himself? Remember:  King Jesus is one of a kind, the best and greatest King we could hope to have.

The second part of his work has to do with his resurrection.  When he rose from the dead on the third day, that was part of his work for our salvation.  There are a couple of ways we could consider this work of his resurrection.

One way might be to consider it in connection with everything that came before.  For example, there could have been no resurrection apart from his death on the cross.  There could have been no death on the cross apart from his suffering.  There could have been no suffering and dying as a human being apart from his holy conception and birth.  Everything to do with the good news of our rescue through Jesus has a connection to the resurrection.  The resurrection implies everything to do with the good news of our rescue through Jesus. 

But we can and should also focus on the resurrection itself.  When Jesus rose from the dead, that wasn’t just a supernatural happening.  It was an essential part of our salvation.  When Jesus rose from the dead, that was connected to our justification, to our being declared right by God.  Romans 4:25 says that Christ was raised for our justification.  Just like his incarnation had been necessary to confirm the possibility of his death, his resurrection was necessary to confirm his death was effective.  If Jesus had not been raised, his death would have accomplished nothing.  You see, Christ’s resurrection proves that God accepted the sacrifice he made in our place on the cross.  It proves that Christ was victorious on the cross.  He was victorious over Satan and over sin.  His resurrection shows that Christ is victorious over death too.  All our enemies have been defeated and we’ve been rescued.  The empty tomb changes everything.    

What an enormous comfort and encouragement that is to Christians!  Think of Timothy in his day.  Pastors in every age face challenges.  It can be disheartening to watch what happens with the people you love.  It can feel like you’re on the losing team, headed for defeat.  Paul encourages Timothy, “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead” – remember his victory over Satan, sin, and death.  We don’t worship a defeated Saviour.  The Lord we serve isn’t a loser.

Today we might look around us and see a grim situation for the Christian faith and for Christians.  In our lifetimes, many of us have seen our nation turn from one in which Christian values were widely accepted to a nation which has abandoned all of that.  Now Christianity is something to be mocked, perhaps even something to create legislation against.  It seems reasonable to conclude that we’re heading for dark and difficult times for us as Christians.  It might feel like we’re defeated, the church is losing, the gospel is failing.  But don’t trust your feelings.  The Holy Spirit encourages you here, “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead” – remember his victory over Satan, sin and death.  Our Lord Jesus Christ has conquered his enemies.  They know they’re conquered and they’re on their way to being finished.  That’s why they rage.  But it’s futile.  Because Jesus has risen from the dead, those enemies can never win.  Never.            

The sinfulness of your own heart can also make you discouraged.  Maybe there are sins from which you just can’t seem to break free.  It can be frustrating.  You can feel like sin is always winning, that it always has the upper hand in your life.  The enemy is on top.  For you too, loved ones, the Holy Spirit gives encouragement:  “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead.”  Remember that he’s victorious over your sin too.  His resurrection guarantees that your sin has been paid for and covered in the sight of heaven.  And his resurrection also promises that you’re alive with him.  Yes, there’s a battle going on right now in your life.  It’s the battle that all Christians face.  But look at that empty tomb.  That’s the promise of victory.  As you look to the victorious Lord Jesus Christ in faith, you will make progress in this life fighting against sin.  There’ll be tastes of victory already in this life, and the full measure of victory in the age to come.      

So we’ve seen that our Lord Jesus is victorious in his person and work.  Our passage also speaks about the victory in his preaching. 

Paul writes about the fact that he preached this gospel of a victorious Saviour and it landed him in prison.  Preaching the gospel led to Paul suffering.  As verse 9 says, he was “bound with chains as a criminal.”  Paul was locked up in a dungeon.  These days some people actually want to be in prison – it gives them a roof over their heads and three meals every day.  But no one would ever have wanted to be in a Roman prison.  No heating, no sanitation, little if any food.   And we think of chains and we think of nice smooth steel chains like we have today.  But chains in those days were rough with sharp edges that could cut into your skin.  Paul was being treated like he was a murderer or a traitor; he was being treated like he was a danger to society.  For doing what?  For preaching the good news of Jesus Christ.

But here’s the irony:  even though Paul is chained up in a dungeon, even though it looks like he is being restrained and held back, “the word of God is not bound.”  Paul might be bound, but the gospel of Jesus Christ risen from the dead, the offspring of David, that gospel isn’t bound at all.  That good news is continuing to be preached by others and it’s continuing to score victories for Jesus Christ.  People are continuing to be brought to faith in Christ and being saved from their sins and the wrath to come.

What’s the explanation for this?  It’s the simple fact that it’s the word of God.  A human being can put another human being in prison, chained to a wall.  That may happen to me someday, maybe it’ll happen to you.  Human beings can and do restrain other human beings.  But no one can restrain God.  God is almighty, omnipotent.  He will do whatever he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth.  God wants the gospel message of the victorious Jesus Christ to go out to the ends of the earth.  And so it will.  No one can stop the preaching of the good news because no one can stop God.         

That was to be encouragement for Pastor Timothy.  He got this letter from Paul, who was in prison.  Maybe Timothy thought, “Well, that’s probably going to happen me too.  Then what’s going to happen with the gospel I’ve preached?  How will it continue to go out?”  Paul says, “Remember, remember that our God is powerful and victorious.  Remember Jesus Christ and you see it clearly.  The word of God can never be bound.  You or I might be thrown in prison, but God will raise up someone else to carry the gospel torch.  He’ll make sure the joyous message of Jesus Christ keeps being spread.” 

It’s encouragement for us too.  We’re not in prison or facing prison at the moment.  But like I said before there is the prospect of a much more unfriendly world for Christians and churches.  If that happens, we need not worry for the cause of the gospel.  Our God is mighty.  People are just people.  They’re weak and insignificant compared to God.  The Word of God will never be bound, will never be restrained, will never be stopped.  God will do what he wants to do in this world and we just have to keep reminding ourselves of that.

You see, we can all come down with a case of gospel amnesia.  When we get gospel amnesia, we forget Jesus Christ.  We forget his victorious person and work and then we get discouraged, fearful, worrisome.  God wants to immunize us against gospel amnesia.  That’s why he gives us his word.  His word directs again and again to remember our victorious Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, our Lord and King.  AMEN.

PRAYER         

Almighty God and Father,

Thank you for our Lord Jesus who rose from the dead victorious over all his enemies.  Thank you that we share in his victory.  Thank you that he is alive today as the Messianic King.  Thank you for his good and wise rule over our lives.  With your Holy Spirit please keep us from gospel amnesia.  Help us always to remember Jesus Christ, so we can always draw encouragement from who he is and what he’s done.  We praise you that your Word is never bound.  We pray that it will continue to go forth here and everywhere else, bringing salvation to every corner of the earth for the praise of your Name.                     




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

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