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Author:Rev. Jeremy Segstro
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Congregation:Cloverdale Canadian Reformed Church
 Surrey, BC
 cloverdalecanrc.org
 
Title:Trustworthy & True Part 3: A Trustworthy and True Strengthening
Text:2 Timothy 2:11-13 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Unclassified
 
Added:2022-01-19
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading: Ephesians 6

Text: 2 Timothy 2:11-13

 

A TRUSTWORTHY AND TRUE STRENGTHENING

  1. He Grants us Abundant Life

  2. He Grants us an Eternal Crown

  3. He Grants us a Faithful Verdict

 

  1. Psalm 9: 1, 3, 4

  2. Psalm 37: 1-3

  3. Psalm 21: 1, 4, 5, 6

  4. Hymn 51:1-3

  5. Hymn 78:1-5

  6. Hymn 41:1-3

 

Words to Listen For: book, prooftext, hypothetical, cream, kiss

 

Questions for Understanding:

  1. What is the purpose of this saying?

  2. What does it mean for the Christian to die? (Hint: 3 things)

  3. What is the first step of endurance?  The second step?

  4. Are the last two statements opposites or not?  Why?

  5. Contrast Peter and Judas

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


The neon lights act as both an invitation and a deathtrap, and he’s well aware of both.

As inviting as they are, as real the temptation, even though he has never been inside, he knows what’s behind the painted windows and the black curtains.

And as darkness has fallen on the city, he watches them line up and flock.

They will eagerly pay the cover charge and the 2 drink minimums.  The lights and signs outside said that there would be nude dancing, and with the cover of darkness and the anonymity of most of them being far from home, every door on the strip will be filled.  And he takes the long walk down the middle.

As he glances off to the side, he recognizes one of the faces.  It’s Alex.  He used to come to church.  Eyes are quickly darted down.  He realizes, So that’s where he’s been.  And there is a sense of loss.  Almost as if there is a scoreboard in his head, and he realizes that another one’s gone.  He gets it.  As a man, he gets it.  Simply walking through the streets, he realizes the allure of what’s behind the doors.

And when he gets to the end of the strip, as the lights start to go behind, as the neon fades away, in the darkness, he fumbles for the keys.  He opens up the little door to the church and he will walk inside and sit.

It’s Wednesday night.  It’s the routine.  He’s let everyone know that this is the night he will work on a message.  If you want to come by, if you want to hang out, if you want prayer, you’re welcome to come - the Pastor Is In.

Occasionally a family will bring news of someone sick - maybe you can pray for them?

Occasionally there will be a spouse who is upset about the state of their marriage, and a heart that’s broken, and there will be a chance for prayer.

But more often than not, he will sit by himself.  And on this night, like every Wednesday night, he will sit there and try to talk himself into it.  Does he have what it takes for one more weekend?  One more sermon?  Will anyone show up?  And in a town like this, does it do any good?

 

Beloved congregation,

This was a modern retelling, a modern description of what it was like for young Pastor Timothy in Ephesus.  I can’t take credit for it, another minister wrote this, and it is hauntingly beautiful.  Even though the details are different, it is hauntingly accurate for so many of us.  If not right now, then at some point in our lives.

Even if we feel strong in our faith this week, we remember last week.  Even if we feel all the joy and strength of the Holy Spirit, coursing through our veins, we know that these feelings won’t last forever.

God will always be with us, strengthening us...but we won’t always feel it.

This is where Timothy was at.  He was a pastor who felt he was in over his head.  He privately wondered if Paul was right to choose him as his spiritual son and plant him here in Ephesus.  He secretly wondered if God was right to choose him to be a minister.

And it is to this struggling pastor that the Apostle Paul writes this letter.  It is to this struggling pastor that the Apostle Paul writes this saying:

If we have died with Him,

we will also live with Him;

If we endure,

we will also reign with Him;

If we deny Him,

He also will deny us;

If we are faithless,

He remains faithful - for He cannot deny Himself.

Paul, through this saying, is telling his readers, first Timothy, and then us, to be strong.

It is a bit of a reconstruction of events to imagine that Timothy’s struggles are because of the wickedness of Ephesus around him...but we know that Ephesus was particularly wicked.

It is a bit of a reconstruction of events to imagine that Timothy was tempted by lust...but Paul specifically reminds Timothy to flee youthful passions (translated as “lusts” in other versions).

It is a bit of a reconstruction of events to imagine that Timothy was disheartened by those who left his church, but Hymenaeus and Alexander had been excommunicated for their public rejection of the gospel.

Whatever exactly was causing Timothy’s weakness, it was shown in his timidity (chapter 1:7), and Paul was concerned that Timothy was in danger of becoming ashamed of him, or, even worse, ashamed of Christ (chapter 1:8).

The Apostle Paul, prompted by the Spirit, inspired to write this letter, knows of Timothy’s troubles, and seeks to strengthen him.  But he does not rely on cliches, he does not write Timothy a self-help book...because if you look inside yourself to find the solution for your internal weakness, you will find only disappointment and further frustration.  Paul reminds Timothy that strength and endurance come, not from taking a deep breath, and forcing yourself to do what needs to be done, but rather, strength and endurance lie in looking outside yourself.  Strength and endurance lie in looking up.

For what does the Apostle write immediately after his concerns over Timothy?

          Chapter 1:9 - God has saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus                                before the ages began

And then, what does Paul say at the beginning of chapter 2?

            You then, my child, be strengthened - by what? - strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus!

 

And it is in this God-given strength that Paul can instruct Timothy, and, by extension, all of us,

    If we have died with Him,

we will also live with Him;

If we endure,

we will also reign with Him;

If we deny Him,

He also will deny us;

If we are faithless,

He remains faithful - for He cannot deny Himself.

On first glance, this saying appears to be about US.  It seems that Paul is telling Timothy to dig down, deep within himself, for strength.

  • WE must die with Him
  • WE must endure
  • WE must not deny Him
  • WE must not be faithless

On first glance, this saying is about us…but on first glance, the Christian life is about us too.

But instead, this saying, like all of Scripture, like all of life...though it is FOR us...it is not ABOUT us.

It is always, only, ever, about our God, and what He does for His people.

This morning, therefore, I preach...to YOU, the doctrine of the gospel of JESUS CHRIST, under the following theme and points:

A TRUSTWORTHY AND TRUE STRENGTHENING

  1. He Grants us Abundant Life

  2. He Grants us an Eternal Crown

  3. He Grants us a Faithful Verdict

He Grants us Abundant Life

More often than not, he will sit by himself.  And on this night, like every Wednesday night, he will sit there and try to talk himself into it.  Does he have what it takes for one more weekend?  One more sermon?  Will anyone show up?  And in a town like this, does it do any good?

And it’s in the midst of that contemplation, that there is a slapping of sandals outside as a young man comes, breathing hard.  He has a leather satchel hanging over his shoulder, and says, amidst rough breaths:  Mr...Mr. Timothy?  Yes?  News!  

He sits and unfolds the scroll.  He starts to read, and after the first word, he sets it down, tears welling up in his eyes.  Paul.  He thought for sure it was bad news of another illness, or another withdrawal from the church.  But...it was his beloved mentor.  His spiritual father.  The one who, some years ago now, had set him up in this town.  He was the one who breathed encouragement to him.  The one who said don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, you show them, you show them how to live a life...this city needs you.  And page by page, his hands begin to shake as he reads.

This letter that sits so comfortably in our Bibles, this letter that is forgotten by many, and for others just relegated to the prooftext for the inspiration of Scripture in chapter 3 were likely the last words Paul ever wrote. 

These words were likely wept over by Timothy as he re-realized how much he needed God.  How he didn’t need to work harder...he just needed to pray harder.  He just needed to fill his mind with the power of God.  He needed to direct his attention to the finished work of Christ.  He needed to remember God’s grace, and that it is GOD who saved us, who gave us life...and not we ourselves!  Timothy needed to remember: If we have died with Him, we will also live with Him

Notice that he doesn’t say “you.”  He says “we.”  

So who is he talking about here?

First of all, he is talking about himself and Timothy.

In this letter, and in this statement, Paul is putting his arm around Timothy as it were, pulling him close to his side.  "We are in this together - you and I.  We’re in this together, and I understand your challenges, your weaknesses, your doubts."

Paul knows what it is to see the challenges of the Christian life, and to see them as insurmountable.  But he has learned.  He has learned strength, and so he preaches to Timothy, even as he preaches to his own soul.

This saying is, first of all, for Paul and Timothy.  And then, for the rest of the church, even for us today.

If we have died with Him,

we will also live with Him;

There are three options for understanding what this means.  Three options, and rarely can a preacher choose all three.  But today is one of those rare occasions where I can, and so I will.

Paul has all 3 of these deaths in mind when he writes this saying.  Let’s look at the saying once more

If we have died with Him, we will also live with Him

The first death is what Paul speaks of in Galatians 2 - I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. and explains further in Romans 6 - We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

There once was a minister who went on a tour of Israel with some members of his church.  It was his first trip, but some of the members had been before.  They got the same top notch tour guide who had shown them around the last time.  They wanted to do something nice for their pastor, and they knew this man was the best.  He showed them all the important sites - he took them to Bethlehem and to Nazareth.  They swam in the Dead Sea and prayed at the Mount of Olives.  Finally, they arrived at Calvary.  At Golgotha, the place of the skull.  And the tour guide asked the group if any of them had been there before. The Pastor raised his hand, and the guide was confused.  “I thought this was your first trip to Israel!”  The Pastor said, “Yes, this is my first trip here, seeing the sights, smelling the smells, but I was here, 2000 years ago.  I died on that cross with Christ.”

This is the first death that is in the mind of the Apostle Paul.  You DIED with Christ.  Jesus Christ died to put an end to sin and evil.  Not just sin and evil in the heavenly realms, defeating Satan and all his minions, not just triumphing over the evil Roman empire, but putting an end to the sin and evil that are inside of you.

He died to destroy your sinful nature, and if you believe in Him, if you have devoted your life to Him and trust in Him for salvation, then you are already dead...in the best possible way.

 

And this brings us to the second type of death that Paul is referencing here.  The Christian dies two spiritual deaths.  There is the death of justification.  The death that we died with Christ on that cross.  Once and for all.  All believers have died.

But it is because of this first death that we need to die again.  And again, and again, each and every day of our lives.

Because one death isn’t enough.  The death of justification necessarily leads to the death of sanctification.

This second death is described by Paul in Colossians 3 - Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.  On account of these the wrath of God is coming...put off the old self with its practices and..put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 

 We must die everyday when we wake up in the morning.  You wake up, and you note, with thankfulness and with awe, that you are dead.  And now you have to live like it!

Dead to sin.  Dead to lust, dead to pride, dead to what is worldly, dead to what is corrupt.

Timothy needed to be reminded to constantly die, in that city lit by those flashing neon lights of temptation.  You need to die, in this city, with those same lights….maybe not on the streetcorner, but on the computer screen.

 

And there is also a third death.  Not spiritual like the first two, but physical.

Paul was writing this letter to Timothy, in the shadow of death.  These were likely the last words he ever wrote.  Paul’s martyrdom was not hypothetical, but it was really coming.  And quickly.  Whether days after writing this, or weeks after, likely not much more than that, Paul was beheaded for his faith in Christ.

Paul died.

But at that moment, he was never more alive.  The life that started on Calvary, the life he lived everyday by dying, was finally complete, as he was promoted to glory and saw the face of Christ.

If we have died with Him, we will also live with Him

There is nothing more comforting, nothing more strengthening, than to know that the worst the Devil can throw at you...his biggest weapon, the weapon that all unbelievers fear...is nothing more than a promotion.  Nothing more than a transport.  Nothing more than a glorious gift.

What a comfort!  What an encouragement, to Paul, facing his death, and Timothy, facing discouragement!  Tradition tells us that Timothy would, 30 years later, suffer the fate of a martyr too.  Beaten to death by clubs for powerfully defending the truths of the gospel.  He HAD been strengthened.  And one wonders if this saying rang in his head as he received those blows.

If we have died with Him, we will also live with Him.  That you God, even for this!

 

It is only with this promise, this promise of an abundant, everlasting, blessed life in and with Christ, that Timothy can have what is needed to endure.  Our second point.

If we have died with Him, we will also live with Him;

If we endure, we will also reign with Him.

Dying MEANS living

Endurance LEADS to reigning.

But what exactly does it MEAN to endure?

To endure means to be faithful.  It means to be faithful unto death.  It means to fight evil til your last breath.  To resist temptation to the point of shedding your own blood.  It means to walk in the footsteps of your Saviour.

How many times was He tempted?  At least 3 times by Satan, the master tempter.

How many times was He threatened with death?  Herod tried to kill Him as a baby, the Pharisees continually tried to arrest Him and execute Him.

How many times was He blasphemed, insulted, and ridiculed?  Too many to count.  By his family who didn’t believe Him, by the Jewish leaders who told Him he came from Satan.  By one of the criminals on the cross.

And what did He do?  Did He ever swerve from His path?

No.  Not even at His weakest moment in the Garden of Gethsemane.  But He still prayed: Not my will, but Yours be done.

What does it mean to endure?

It means to love the LORD your God.  It means to strive to obey His Word - ALL of it.  Not just the parts that are easy, not just the parts that agree with your conscience.  But all of it.

Endure, and submit until it hurts.  And then endure some more.

There are aspects of God’s Word that are easy for me to obey and are hard for you to obey, and vice-versa.  The difficulties, the temptations that grip us are specially designed by the evil one.  He will not attack me in the same way that he attacks you.

A particularly clever author once put it this way: The devil has a filing cabinet.  And in that filing cabinet he has a file on you.  He has a folder with your name on the tab.  That folder contains exactly what it would take to make you fall.  Satan knows exactly what will bring you down.  And every day he is working that strategy to make it a reality.

Do not be deceived.  We have an enemy, and he knows your name.  He knows your track-record.  He knows each and every weakness, and he will do everything it takes to exploit it.

And you are the only one who can fight this.  You are the only one who can resist the tempter’s power.  You are the only one who can choose to endure.  Your parents can’t make this choice for you, your teachers, your children, your pastor.  It’s up to you.

It’s only you...but you’re not alone.  The one who gave you life empowers you to properly use that life.

How do we endure?

The only defense against the flaming arrows of Satan is the armor of God, as we heard about in our reading.  And it is well-named, this armor.  Because, notice something unique about each piece of it.  Each piece represents, not a work of OURS, but a work of HIS.

  • The belt is God’s truth

  • The righteousness that can protect us is God’s

  • The sandals are the readiness given by the good news of Jesus Christ

  • The shield is the faith that God has gifted to us

  • The helmet is our salvation, won for us by His work

  • The sword is His Word

Not one of these things are from us.  Not one of these things represents anything that WE can do.  From head to toe, we are clothed in His powerful work.

He grants us endurance, but now we have to endure.

And to endure, you have to know your enemy.  You have to know exactly what arrows Satan is shooting at you.  Know your file as well as he knows it.

The Apostle Peter knew what was in his file but he refused to accept it - Lord, I am ready to go with you, both to prison and to death.  But he denied Christ before the night was out.

The rich young ruler went through the commandments and said I’m good with all of these.  My obedience is complete.  But Christ hit him where it hurt - his wallet.  Sell what you possess, and give to the poor.  And he was gone.

You have to KNOW YOURSELF in order to ENDURE.

Would you give up your freedom?  Be carted off to jail for the gospel?  If you said yes to this immediately...then it’s not your weakness.

What is the gospel worth to you?  What is Christ worth?

Not what you would FIRST offer.  Not what is an EASY ANSWER.  But that which is hard.  That thing to which your heart is bound.

Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.

If we endure, if we will be faithful no matter what, and keep our rudder true, then we will reign with Christ.

The waves may sink me, or the calm may save me, but I will keep my rudder true.

I WILL KEEP MY RUDDER TRUE.  I WILL ENDURE.

Then you will reign with Christ.

If I were preaching in another church, another denomination, I would expand on this quite a lot, because many other Christians are not familiar with this promise.  That we will REIGN with Christ.  There are those who think that only the best and brightest Christians will reign.  That the cream of the crop will rise to the surface.  But we know, that as Christians, we are not only prophets, we are not only priests, but we are also kings.

We are heirs of the Kingdom of God, heirs of God, and co-heirs with Christ.  This is the promise to each and every Christian.

We will all reign with Him, over all things.  Over all creatures.  Eternally.

Though we may leave this life beaten and bruised, suffering, Scripture tells us that the world is not worthy of us.  They despise us, but we are greater, we are more...not because of WHO we are, but because of WHOSE we are.  We are more, because we belong to Jesus Christ.

Though we may be despised and rejected on this earth, when that death finally comes, we will be clothed in white, with crowns on our heads, given incorruptible bodies, reigning perfectly and justly with Christ.

And for those of us who endure, we long for that day.  But for others, for those who deny Christ, those who deny His power, His majesty, and His love, those who are faithless, His justice is fearsome.  His justice is unwanted, but it will come, all the same.   Our third point.

The third part of this saying is by far the most difficult.

You may notice that this saying could be broken up into 4 parts - 4 if-then statements

    If we have died

    If we endure

    If we deny Him

    If we are faithless

And there are some who do this.  Many who do this.  But the final two if-then statements belong together, for they teach the same lesson.

On first glance, you may wonder what I mean.

If we deny Him, He will also deny us

If we are faithless, He remains faithful

These seem like opposites.  These seem as though they could not possibly go together, for they contradict each other.

He will deny us - He will remain faithful…

These teach opposite truths, do they not?

Let’s look at them one at a time

If we deny Him, He will also deny us

Denial is the opposite of endurance.  Whereas endurance says: The waves may sink me, or the calm may save me, but I will keep my rudder true.

Denial says: I’ve run the race, and I’m tired of the race.  Denial says: I’ve given up too much for Christ.  This is where I draw the line.

And there are believers who are like this.  In Ephesus, where Timothy was serving, Hymenaeus and Alexander had made a shipwreck of their faith.  They refused to fight the good fight.  They had denied the gospel, they had denied their Saviour.

And we know what the response to this is.  Christ Himself taught this in Matthew 10

Everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before

my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will

deny before my Father who is in heaven.

Denying Christ is a decision made RIGHT NOW that affects ETERNITY.  Denying Christ in this life is sowing seeds of destruction for the life to come.

We see 2 denials in the life of the disciples: Judas, and then Peter.  Their denial was the same, but the results were drastically different.

Judas denied Jesus, and he denied Him much sooner than we think.  Judas kept the money bag, and all throughout Christ’s earthly ministry, he would help himself to what was inside.  Instead of dying to himself everyday, he fed his sinful nature.  This denial led to the greater denial of the betrayal in the garden, with a kiss.

Peter denied Jesus.  The other disciples had fled, but Peter went into the courtyard outside where Jesus was put on trial.  He was asked if he was a follower of Jesus, and three times he denied it, the last time with oaths, swearing, and calling curses down upon himself.  Peter denied his Saviour.

But then Judas killed himself, and Peter went on to lead the New Testament church.  Peter went on to be a pillar of believers, an example.  He wrote 2 New Testament books, and was martyred for his faith, tradition has it that he was crucified, just like his Lord.

So what is the difference?

The difference between Judas and Peter is that Peter repented.  When you are faithless, you don't repent.  When you are faithless, you stubbornly continue to deny your God.  But Peter...Peter humbled himself, and was reinstated on the beach.  3 times he declared his love for Christ.  Once for each denial.

Denying Christ is wrong.  It is sinful.  It is wicked.  But it is forgivable.  Our sins do not empty the cross of its power...our sins are the very reason that the cross happened.

Peter’s denial happened in a moment of weakness.  It was a denial, but it was not faithlessness.  Judas denied his Lord after a consistent pattern of unbelief.  A consistent pattern of faithlessness.  Being faithless is an ongoing denial.  Day after day after day.  It is not a season of sin, it is not a season of doubt, a season of weakness, but month after month, year after year being unbelieving.  Being rebellious.  Being prideful, refusing to repent.  All throughout Scripture, every time the term faithless it is used, it refers to a complete lack of faith, and is usually accompanied by the promise of judgement.  The promise of condemnation.  This promise that was fulfilled in Judas Iscariot.

It’s important to understand this, because there are some who take this final part of the saying to mean that, even if we lose our faith, God’s grace preserves.  If we are faithless, He remains faithful.  

Isn’t this good news?  That whatever we do, even if we are faithless, God will still save us!  WE ARE SAVED BY GRACE, NOT BY FAITH!  Even if you lose your faith and live as a non-Christian, once saved, always saved!  That’s what this means!

But this isn’t the gospel.  This is a lie from the depths of Hell.

You may think that I am being too strong on this, but I mean this literally.  This is from the depths of Hell.

For this is what the Devil has always done - Did God really say…? You will not surely die!  You won’t be condemned!

The Devil wants us to rebel against God.  He wants us to be faithless, whatever way he can get us there.  Whether it is through leaving the church, or staying in the church but being spiritually dead.  Being an outward Christian, while refusing to repent for the sins you keep committing.  Being a whitewashed tomb.

This is what the Devil did to Jesus - Just worship me.  Get down on your knees and worship me, commit a bit of idolatry...but then you get what you want!  God is bigger than your sins, isn’t He?  Just disobey, it will be easier that way.

To be sure, there is a truthful doctrine known as the Perseverance or Preservation of the Saints, but this means that God will bring sinners to repentance.  Time after time after time.  If we are saved, He will enable us to live faithful lives.

He enables us to be like Him, for He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.

It is not that He cannot deny US.  Our Saviour Himself promised to deny those who would deny Him.  The PREVIOUS VERSE promises that He will deny those who deny Him.

 

He will never deny HIMSELF, for He remains faithful and just.  Jesus Christ is not like us.  He does not waver, He does not stray.  He is always truthful, He is always trustworthy.  When He says that there will be a reward for those who serve Him faithfully on this earth, faithfully unto death...He means it.

If you are a follower of Christ, then this life is as close to Hell as it will ever get for you. Let me say that again.  If you are a follower of Christ, then this life is as close to Hell as it will ever get for you.

He is always truthful, He is always trustworthy.  When He says there will be condemnation for those who deny Him on this earth...He means it.  If you deny Christ, then this life is as close to Heaven as it will ever get for you.

Beloved...RIGHT NOW counts FOREVER.

If you long to find yourself in the first part of this saying, if you long to die with Christ, that first time, and every day after...if you long to endure, to leave everything else behind to serve Him faithfully...do it while you still can…it’s not too late!

He is faithful to Himself.  He is faithful in His justice, but He is faithful in His mercy.  He is faithful in His wrath, but He is faithful in His love.

Throw yourself at His feet.  Cling to His cross.  Look to Him for your strength, for your joy, for your life.  And the neon lights of this world will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.

AMEN.




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

Please direct any comments to the Webmaster


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