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October 9, 2016, 12:00 AM

Gospel Message

by Sandy Bach

Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David—that is my gospel, for which I suffer hardship, even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But the word of God is not chained. 10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, so that they may also obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. 11 The saying is sure:

If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
12 if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he will also deny us;
13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful—
for he cannot deny himself.

14 Remind them of this, and warn them before God that they are to avoid wrangling over words, which does no good but only ruins those who are listening. 15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth.  (2 Timothy 2:8-15 NRSV)

 

Several years ago my mother attended a Sunday school class taught by a close friend of hers. The title of the class sounded interesting and she trusted her friend to do a good job.  Week after week she attended. And week after week I’d receive a phone call from her on Sunday afternoons. Each time she asked me about the truthfulness of Betty’s teaching.

“Mom, it really doesn’t matter what I believe. What do you believe?”

For several weeks this went on. Until I finally suggested that Mom find a different class. You see, the material Betty had selected was interesting, but provocative. Betty did her best to provoke the class. Mom felt that her friend was demeaning her beliefs rather than lifting them up.

Paul writes to Timothy about idle chatter. It seems that some of the members of the church at Ephesus are espousing that the second resurrection has already taken place. They offer classes, for a fee, that show people how to achieve spiritual nirvana, escaping the drudgery of life in this world.

It’s tearing the church apart. "Speak the truth,” Paul tells Timothy. “It’s gotten me into a lot of trouble, but the truth can’t be chained.”

Today, we try to find truth and it gets lost. Our post-modern era is less black and white and more shades of grey. These shades of grey are taken on as absolute truth and we’re left feeling foolish or angry or that we have it all wrong. It can even lead to damaging our faith.

Paul is in prison and winter is coming in more ways than one. It’s getting cold and he needs his cloak while he faces possible execution for his Christian beliefs. And though we don’t suffer nearly what Paul or other martyrs experienced, we can certainly relate to the questions and the momentary lapses of faith.

“What if they’re right? Am I looking at it the wrong way?”

And just when you wonder what to do, Paul gives us a guideline:
Remember.
Remind.
Be diligent.

The truth for us, as Christians, is that Jesus suffered on a cross and rose from the dead. We remember this when we re-affirm our Baptism vows. We died in the baptismal waters with Jesus and rose with him to eternal life.

The truth for us, as Christians, is that Jesus died for us and we are redeemed in that death. We remember this every time we witness poverty, social injustice, or anything that damages God’s coming kingdom.

We remember Jesus’ resurrection every time we enter into worship.

We remember Jesus’ activity while he walked among us. We pray for guidance and to walk with him, because we remember our baptism. That we died and were raised with him.

And we remind others.

A seminary professor of long-standing arrived in the President’s office one morning. He had suffered at the hands of Nazi Germany and had managed to escape and come to America with his wife some 30 years earlier. Recently, though, his wife had died. It was more than he could handle. He was through.

“I’m quitting,” he announced to the President. “I’m leaving the seminary. I don’t believe anymore.”

The wise President told him, “You’re not quitting. We’ll believe for you until you can believe for yourself again.”

Be diligent. Sometimes it’s hard to be diligent. It’s when life is going well that we need to be the most diligent. Because when times get difficult, we need that deepened faith. We also need the faith of our community to help us through. We believe and we worship and pray together; we believe and we commune and fellowship together. Sometimes we believe for others.

Remember. Remind. Be diligent.

Creationism vs. Evolution.
We don’t know for sure.
Christ is risen.
Of that we can be sure.

Universalism. Are we all going to heaven or just some of us?
We don’t know for sure.
Christ is risen.
Of that we can be sure.

Homosexuality. Is it a sin or are we hardwired?
We don’t know for sure.
Christ is risen.
Of that we can be sure.

These are difficult issues for us, aren’t they? We each have our own sense of what the Bible says about them. We have trouble understanding how those on the other sides of the issues can possibly believe the way they do.

Don’t they know the truth?  No. They don’t. Neither do any of us until we finally stand before Jesus in the next life.

Jesus Christ is Gospel. He is good news. He is God come to earth to walk with us. We can’t add to the gospel or take away from it. Jesus Christ is Gospel and we see it in his work “for the life of the world” (John 6:51.)

Our doctrine is important to help form our faith. Our beliefs are important in helping us understand how to live out that faith. But neither of these are gospel.

We die with Jesus; we endure with Jesus, knowing that we also live with him and will be with him someday. Sometimes we lose faith; sometimes we quit believing. And that’s when we allow others to believe for us. That’s when Jesus carries us, because he isn’t about to let us go. Not ever.

Earlier in chapter two of Second Timothy, Paul reminds us about soldiers and athletes and farmers. He knows that there will always be opposition and struggle in the church. Our human tendencies can lead us astray to jealousy or rejection. When that happens, people suffer.

Paul reminds Timothy to stay focused on the mission. Be like a soldier who stays at his job without veering off course. Be the athlete who knows the rules of the game and has the discipline of hard work and training behind him. Be the farmer who works hard every day, knowing that the harvest will happen.

Remember. Remind. Be Diligent.

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him…” and “avoid profane chatter” (vv 15 & 16.)

All glory and honor be to God.

Amen.


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