Pentecost 20c

Preached: October 6, 2013

Shamelessly Suffer for Your Savior's Gospel
2 Timothy 1:3-14

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Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The word from God with which the Holy Spirit fans our faith in Jesus is 2 Timothy 1

I'm grateful to God, whom I, like my ancestors, serve with a clear conscience, as I remember you continually in my petitions night and day, desiring to see you, since I remember your tears, in order that I may be filled with joy. I was reminded of the genuine faith you have, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice, and I am convinced that it lives in you also.

For this reason I remind you to keep God's gift burning brightly, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidness but of power and love and good sense. Therefore, do not be ashamed of the testimony concerning our Lord or of me his prisoner, but suffer together for the sake of the Gospel according to the power of God. He's the one who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not based on our works but based on his own purpose and grace. That grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the ages of time but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus. He not only made death powerless but also brought to light life and incorruptibility through the gospel. To this end I myself was appointed as a herald, apostle, and teacher.

For this reason I suffer these things as well. But I am not ashamed. For I know the One in whom I believe, and I am persuaded that he is able to guard my deposit for that day. What you have heard from me, keep as the model of sound teaching in faith and love in Christ Jesus. Through the Holy Spirit who lives within you, guard the good deposit. (2 Timothy 1:3-14).

This is the word of our Lord.

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:

The city burned. For five days the fire raged. Half of the city's districts were severely damaged. Twenty percent, completely destroyed. Accident or arson? Eventually a group was blamed which one writer described as “hated for their abominations” and for following “a most mischievous superstition” (Tacitus, Annals, 15.44). Some of them pleaded guilty, probably under torture. Others were rounded up just for belonging to that group. The year was 64 A.D., the city was Rome, and that hated group was known as Christians.

How shameful to be associated with such a group! There had always been some shame connected with being a Christian, since they followed a convicted criminal named Christ. Think of how we today might look at the followers of a convicted cult leader like Charles Manson. That's how Rome viewed Christians.

But until that fire, Rome basically left them alone. Then Emperor Nero took action. Christian leaders were arrested. The Apostle Peter was crucified upside down, according to recorded tradition. The Apostle Paul was chained and from his gloomy cell wrote this letter to Timothy, knowing that his own execution would soon come. How this put the shame of Christianity front and center! Now not only did you follow a convicted criminal, but your close friends and respected leaders had become convicted criminals and you too could suffer that public humiliation. Oh, the shame of it all!

The world still wants to shame Christians, true Christians. In our country the name /Christian/ doesn't necessarily bring shame, but to actually believe all that the Bible says and put it into practice, now that will bring you some cross-eyed looks. They shake their heads at us saying, “You believe in a six-day creation despite all the scientific evidence that the world was here for millions of years?” They shame our efforts to show how much each of us needs a Savior. They say, “Who are you to tell someone that what they're doing is sinful and that only you Christians have the right way to God. That's rather bigoted of you.” Haven't you felt your checks grow warm with embarrassment when others have tried to put down your faith?

Like Timothy we too value this encouragement from the Apostle Paul not to be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, Jesus Christ, no matter what kind of suffering (physical, mental, material, emotional) that following Jesus may bring us. Shamelessly suffer for your Savior's Gospel. That's the theme today. Keep that theme in mind as we look at three thoughts that help us do exactly that.

A. Remembering the God whom you serve just as those who have gone before

Timothy was serving the Christians in Ephesus, the western edge of what today is Turkey. In some ways he was like a head pastor, but even more than that, he was the representative of the Apostle Paul. In this last letter to his protege, Paul makes the connection with the past. Paul serves God with a clear conscience as his forefathers had, and Timothy also is walking in the same faith as his mother and grandmother.

You see, one way the Roman government was shaming Christianity was by labeling it an illegal religion, some sort of upstart, newly invented faith. How could it have divine truth if it were a new religion? Were was God before?

But the Apostle Paul served the same God as his forefathers had. For the Christian faith is the faith of the Old Testaments prophets, the faith of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the faith of Adam and Eve. For just as his ancestors had done, so also the Apostle Paul trusted the promise of the Lord God to send the one and only Savior for sinners who would crush Satan's head, reconcile the world to God, and bring eternal life to all who believe. The only difference between the Apostle Paul and the believers who had gone before him was that they looked to the Savior whom the Lord had promised and was still going to send and Paul, like us, look to that same Savior whom the Lord has now sent, as promised, in the person of Jesus Christ, God's Son. The Christian faith has it's roots back in the garden of Eden with the Lord's first promise to send the Savior, fulfilled in Jesus Christ alone

So don't be ashamed, dear Christian. You're not the one who has changed or forsaken your roots. The world ridicules us for what we believe about creation, miracles, the Bible, fellowship, the roles of man and woman, marriage, and above all that only Jesus saves. Even many churches have changed what they teach to fit in better with the world's mindset. But most of those changes are less than a century or two old in those churches, some less than a decade. However, what we teach and believe is what the true Church has taught throughout the ages, rooted in the apostles and the prophets, through whom God gave his written word. Like Paul, remember that the God whom you serve is the same God that those who have gone before you faithfully served.

And above all, what comfort to know that our God hasn't changed over all those years! The sinfulness that brought death to Adam and Eve brings death to you and me, passed on generation after generation. Every funeral testifies to that. But God's promise still stands, just as it did for our forefathers, just as it did for our mothers and grandmothers. His promise stands unchanged. Jesus has conquered death. Jesus has taken away our sins. For he has risen from the dead. That's nothing to be ashamed of no matter how the world might make us suffer ridicule for believing it. Shamelessly suffer for your Savior's gospel, remembering the God whom you serve, just as those who have gone before. He is still the only Savior.

B. Burning with your god-given gifts so that Christ Jesus shines through

Now as you suffer from the world's ridicule, God gives you the gifts needed to bear up, not only to survive but to shine with the light of Christ Jesus burning brightly

Paul reminds Timothy “to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands” (2 Timothy 1:6 NIV84). It's not that Timothy had let the flame die down. The word Paul uses means to keep on fanning, keep on burning. The laying on of hands takes us back to the time that Paul, along with the elders in Ephesus, installed Timothy in the office of ministry that God had given him. What a gift! Still today when pastors are ordained or installed, the laying on of hands reminds us that this office is a gift from God. And God had also blessed Timothy with gifts and abilities to carry out this office, gifts of teaching and preaching, gifts of wisdom and understanding, gifts of leadership and discernment. Why? So that Christ Jesus would keep on shining through.

No matter where God has placed you in life, dear Christian, he has given you gifts so that Christ Jesus shines through. Don't be ashamed to let Jesus shine through, no matter what suffering or ridicule you face from the world. Don't be ashamed thinking that you don't have the right gifts or enough gifts to let Jesus shine through. Just as every part of the body has different functions and abilities, so also God gives different gifts to different Christians. But just as every part of the body is useful for the good of the body, so also every Christian is useful. Don't neglect God's gift. Let Christ Jesus shine through whatever gifts God has given you. Keep on burning with his light.

What light shines from Jesus! Here is the power of God, the God who saved us and called us. He did that for you — not based on anything we have done, but rather based entirely on his own purpose and grace. That grace reached out for us from before the beginning of time, planning out our salvation in Christ Jesus. Yet we would never have known it except that God revealed his grace. Jesus came full of grace and truth, shining like a spotlight. He, and he alone destroyed death. He brought to light life, eternal life, the resurrection from the dead, life incorruptible and immortal. Paul was a herald, apostle, and teacher shining out with that message.

Let that same message shine out in your life, dear Christian. For it not only brings light and life to others, it brings you the strength to keep on burning with power, love, and self-control, no matter what the world does. That light of Jesus takes away our shame and makes us bold. Shamelessly suffer for your Savior's Gospel, burning with your god-given gifts so that Christ Jesus shines through.

C. Guarding the sound teaching of the Holy Spirit

And this now brings us to the final point: guarding the sound teaching of the Holy Spirit. “What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us” (2 Timothy 1:13, 14)

God brings his saving truths into our hearts and into the hearts of others through the words that he had directly given to the prophets and the apostles, like Paul. We who come after, even those, like Timothy, who personally knew the apostles, dare not change their words. We keep the pattern of sound, healthy teaching. A healthy body needs food that has no poisons added and no essential nutrients missing. Our faith needs sound teaching with nothing added or subtracted from God's Word.

The world tries to shame us into changing a word here or altering a word there to better fit the times, and soon God's truth is lost. Guard the sound teaching. For these written words of the Scriptures are the Spirit's words, and he will strength you to stand firm as long as you are standing on his word. Take your stand and guard his word well. There is no shame in that. Rather, on the day of our Lord's return we who have stood firm, guarding this good deposit handed down to us from God through the prophets and the apostles — we will lift up our heads in joy. So shamelessly suffer for your Savior's Gospel, guarding the sound teaching of the Holy Spirit.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313