October 27, 2013

The Loveless Church - Oct 27, 2013

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Billboards are an effective marketing tool. When you’re driving down the road you can’t help but see these huge signs. You can’t help but read what they say. That’s why they work.

One advertising company in Florida decided to use their billboards to launch a publicity campaign for God. Maybe you’ve seen some of their signs. Typically they’re white lettering on a black background, and they feature a short statement attributed to God. For example, one reads…

"What Part of "Thou Shalt Not..." Didn't You Understand?" -God

"Loved The Wedding, Invite Me To The Marriage" -God

"Let's Meet At My House Sunday Before the Game" -God

While the signs are cute, I’m not sure how effective they are at reaching people. I suppose they might at least provide a conversation starter for Christians who want to talk to people about God.

But what if God himself chose to communicate to people like this? With a direct message posted for them to see? But instead of renting out time on a billboard, what if God took up pen and paper, and wrote a detailed message for Redemption church? A letter he would use to address things that are going on in our fellowship right now?

Would God have words of praise for us? Words of rebuke? What direction would he write to us? What encouragement?
In the book of Revelation, Jesus himself dictates seven messages for seven churches. The apostle John was directed to write these messages down in a book, and make sure it got to the leaders of the seven churches.

Today we’re going to open a letters and see what Jesus had to say to one of the churches of Asia minor. May the Holy Spirit open our minds to hear, and to take to heart what he says. Amen.
Jesus’ first letter is directed to the group of Christians who were meeting in the city of Ephesus. So, before we open this letter, I’d like to start with a little history.

The city of Ephesus was located in Asia Minor. It was a big city, boasting somewhere around 300,000 inhabitants. To put that into perspective, if Ephesus were located in Washington state it would be the second largest city—second only to Seattle.

Because of its port, Ephesus was an economically important city to the Roman Empire. It was also a religiously important. Besides its three temple dedicated to emperor worship, Ephesus also housed the great and mighty Temple of Artemis. This temple was classed among the seven ancient wonders of the world. It’s footprint was larger than a football field. It’s foundation was white marble slabs, the largest of which measured about 10 feet by 6 feet by 5 feet.

One traveler, who had seen the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Colossus of Rhodes, and the Pyramids of Egypt said that when he finally set eyes on the Temple of Artemis, all these others wonders were “put in the shade”.
The apostle Paul first visited Ephesus on his second missionary journey. This first visit was short, he just stopped by town. But when he came back through town on his third missionary journey, Paul ended up staying for two years.

There were great opportunities for spreading the message of Jesus in Ephesus, but there was also great opposition.

Paul started by preaching the message of Jesus to the Jews in the local synagogue. But after three months, it became clear that the Gospel was no longer welcome there. After two years of preaching at the hall of Tyrannus, and from house to house, the Gospel had made such an impact that silversmiths who sold idols of Artemis started a riot to have Paul thrown out of the city. In one of his letters Paul describes his time in Ephesus as a time when he did battle with wild beasts (1 Corinthians 15:32).

Yes, there were great opportunities there for spreading the Gospel, but also great opposition.
Ephesus was highly religious, but that wasn’t always a good thing. Most of the religions were pagan cults. And it seems like everyone had an angle to play. The silversmiths wanted to make money. Traveling sorcerors wanted to use the name of Jesus as a magic charm. And some wanted to bring the teachings of other temples into the Christian church and blend them together. But still the message of sins forgiven through Christ grew and flourished. At one point a group of converts to Christianity publicly burned their magic scrolls. And when they tallied up how much these scrolls had been worth it totaled 50,000 silver pieces. That’s about two life’s wages.

This was the city of Ephesus. Huge. Rich. Full of pagan temples and false teachers. And now, home to a group of people who had come to trust that the resurrected Jesus was the Son of God, and their Savior from sin.

To these people Jesus wrote the following…

Revelation 2:1-7 (ESV)

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.
“ ‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’”
Jesus begins by describing himself as the one who holds the seven stars in his right hand, and who walks among the seven golden lampstands. In the chapter before this one, John saw a vision of in which Jesus was indeed walking among seven golden lampstands, and holding seven shining stars in his right hand.  

There Jesus explained that these seven stars stand for the seven leaders of the churches in Asia minor. One of them stood for the pastor of the church in Ephesus. The golden lampstands were the churches themselves, where the precious people of God held up the light of the Gospel.

The message of the vision was one of comfort. To the pastors it said, “Don’t worry, I hold you in my hand. It is MY power that will enable you to do the work I ask you to do.” And to the churches the vision said, “Don’t worry, I still walk among you. I can see all that you are going through, I see all.”

This is why Jesus can tell the Ephesian Christians that he KNOWS their works. He has witnessed them firsthand. He’s seen how hard they’ve been working for him. He’s seen how they’ve persisted in the faith, even though they live in a city full of false religions and false teachers. Jesus has taken special note of the fact that they refuse to put up with wicked people, and they test every new teacher who comes their way to make sure he’s preaching what the Bible says.

The Ephesians had been STEADFAST, holding TIGHTLY to the teachings they’d been given. But, Jesus has one bone to pick with them. He says their love has grown cold. They no longer love like they did at the beginning.
Now, it’s good to remember that we’re reading someone else’s mail here. We don’t know exactly what Jesus is referring to when he says that they’ve “abandoned the love” they had at first. But you know, we don’t really need to know the exact details. We know how the love of Christ works. First John 4, verse 19 says…

19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:19-20 ESV).

When we see how much God cherishes us, so much that he sent his precious and only Son to die for us, that love moves us to respond with love. With love toward God, and love toward others. It’s that simple.

As sinners we do all sorts of things that have to do with hate. We say ugly things. We lie. We do hurtful things. But through the Gospel of Christ we have been introduced to a huge and unbelievable love. The Son of God cared for us so much that he humbled himself, became human, lived a painstakingly perfect life, suffered hell for our every sin, and died to give us forgivnesss and eternal life. This is love.

And when we truly grasp, truly believe, that the Son of God did all this for us, love begins to grow inside us. And that love begins to reach out, not only to God who saved us from hell, but also to the people who we interact with every day.
But in Ephesus, their love had started to grow cold. They were steadfast in keeping the word of God pure. They didn’t let false teachers fool them into abandoning Christ. They bore up under whatever persecutions came their way. But along the way they started to drift away from the love of Christ. They started to treat the Gospel like it was just a message to guard, not a message to LIVE and message to CHERISH.

Through a letter that the apostle Paul wrote to Timothy we get insight into some of the things that were going on in Ephesus. In First Timothy 1, verse 3 Paul writes…

As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions” (1 Timothy 1:3-7 ESV).

Apparently, Timothy had been successful in his work. The church at Ephesus had been led away from false teachings and pointless speculation. But we see in these words of Paul a general attitude that was growing among the Ephesian Christians. Our religion is mostly about having the right doctrine, not so much about living out the Gospel of forgiveness through our daily conversations and interactions with those around us.

Jesus had a sharp warning for the Ephesian Christians. Go back to the love you first had, or your lampstand will be taken away. When the love of Christians grows cold, when religion becomes an academic exercise, when religion is just about being right—then there is real danger of losing the faith altogether. Being doctrinally steadfast, but unloving, is not the way of Christ.
But Jesus doesn’t just sound the warning, he also lays out the path to restoration for the Ephesian Christians. Look again at verse 5. Jesus says…

Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first…” (Revelation 2:5 ESV).

Jesus says, Dear Christians, first you need to look back. REMEMBER how excited you were when you first learned that your sins would not condemn you to hell. Remember what it felt like when you learned that God LOVED you so much that he bought you back with the precious blood of his SON. REMEMBER.

Next, Dear Christians, REPENT. That is, turn around. Turn away from your loveless I’m-right-and-you’re-wrong mentality. Guard against false teaching, but do it out of loving concern for your fellow Christians, and out of loving concern for the people who don’t know about the gift of forgiveness found in Christ’s cross. REPENT.

And finally, Dear Christians, RETURN to the way you used to be. Do the things you used to do. Learn to love again, with a love like the one I have for you. RETURN.
Along with his serious rebuke, Jesus also offers the Ephesians a Gospel promise. In verse 7 Jesus says…

“To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God” (Revelation 2:7b ESV).

The one who conquers isn’t the person who succeeds in winning all their battles against sin and temptation. None of us do that. In one of his letters, the apostle John writes…

“Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:5 ESV).

Those who trust in the Lord Jesus, are those who conquer.

It would be Jesus who would reinvigorate the Christians at Ephesus. It would be the message of his grace and forgiveness that would move them to love again. And it would be HIS LOVE FOR THEM that would bring them to eternal life in the end.
So, this letter was written to the fellowship of Christians at Ephesus. But how much of it applies to our fellowship at Redemption Church? Do we deserve the same commendation? The same rebuke and warning?

If Jesus were writing directly to us would he say, “I’ve seen how hard you’ve been working for me?”

Would he say, “You’ve tested each of your leaders by comparing their message with the Bible?”

Would he commend us with the same words, “I’ve seen how patiently you’ve endured for my name?”

Would he find fault with us like he did with the church at Ephesus? Would he say, “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first?”
We don’t need a billboard written by the hand of God to shock us on the roadside. And we don’t need a letter addressed specifically to us from the hand of Christ. We have the letter that he wrote to the Ephesians. It was indeed written specifically for them, but it was also written for our learning. And we CAN take to heart the things that are written here. May the Holy Spirit open our hearts to ponder these questions, and to re-center our lives closer to the cross, closer to the message of forgiveness through Christ—as individuals, and as a church.

Let’s pray. Lord Jesus, you send us leaders to guide us with your Word. Help us never to become complacent. Teach us to pour over your word and hold our pastors and spiritual leaders to teaching only what is found in Scripture. Lord Jesus, we believe that you walk among us, unseen, and you view all that we say and do. Forgive us for the times we have not been steadfast with your word. Lead us to hold tightly to what it says without wavering. Forgive us for the times we have not endured patiently, but have grown tired of speaking a message that much of the world disagrees with. Forgive us for the times we have lived out our faith with a chip on our shoulder, instead of speaking the truth in love to those who need to know of your everlasting love. Open our hearts to hear your direction. Lead us to be, as Paul says, “more than conquerors through Him who loved us”. And carry us, by faith in your all atoning sacrifice, to the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. Amen.

October 20, 2013

Jesus Walks Among Us Still - Oct 20, 2013

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When I was a little kid, my older brothers liked to scare me. The house we lived in was heated by an old wood burning furnace situated in a big cement room in the basement. As you entered the furnace room, on your left was a wall of unfinished studs. Nails were driven into the studs, and we hung all of our winter coats and jackets there.

On the other side of the room, farthest from the door, there was a wood shoot and a little cement room where the wood for the furnace was stacked. In the center of the room was the furnace itself, and hanging above it, the room’s only light. You had to reach up and pull a string for the light to turn on.

Here’s how it would usually go. My brother Seth would say something like, “Caleb, mom wants me to get something from the furnace room, but I’m too scared to go in there. Will you turn on the light for me?” With all the self confidence in the world I’d reply, “Of course Seth, I’m not afraid. I’ll go in there for you.” And so I’d creep into the dark room. The only thing I could see was the fire glowing from the slats in the door of the furnace. That little pool of orange light was where I had to get in order to turn the light bulb on.

Little did I know, my brother Andy was hiding behind the furnace, waiting for me. As soon as I got within reach of the pull string Andy would growl like a rabid dog, at which point I would shoot about two feet into the air and tear back toward the door. But meanwhile, Seth had tucked himself in among  the coats. So, as I shot toward safety, Seth would roar out of the forest of jackets, pushing my speed past mach three as I rocketed up the stairs to the kitchen.

I used to have nightmares about dark things reaching for my feet as I raced up those basement stairs.

If there had only been a way to turn on the lights BEFORE entering that furnace room, everything would have been so different.

If there’s a recipe for fear written down somewhere, I’m pretty sure it says, “Just add darkness”. When we can’t see what’s going on around us, things can get pretty scary. When someone turns on the light, everything changes.
As adults, we’ve learned how to control our fear of the unknown to a certain degree. But when the events in our lives cloud the way before us, that fear of the unknown can come back. In our sermon reading for today, Jesus turns on the lights and shows us what’s really going on around us.

Though we can’t see him, Jesus Walks Among Us Still. He is almighty God. He calms our fears. And he carefully tends the light of the Gospel that we hold.

Revelation 1:9-20 (ESV)

I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. 10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet 11 saying, “Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.”
12 Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, 15 his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.
17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. 19 Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this. 20 As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.
The apostle John was an old man by the time he received this vision. Recently the events in John’s life had taken a turn for the worst. He had been exiled to small island in the Aegean sea.

John was a mature Christian by this time. It’s doubtful that his faith had been shaken by his present situation. But all the same, Jesus would now come to John and strengthen his faith through a powerful vision.

As is the case with visions, we may not understand all the fantastic details of what John saw. But one thing that comes out clearly is the fact that Jesus is Almighty God.

To begin with, John describes the voice that he hears as being like the loud blare of a trumpet, or like the roar of a huge waterfall, or like the crashing of many waves on a beach. The voice alone is overwhelming. But when John turns to see WHO is speaking, what he sees is even more breathtaking.

He sees a human figure, clothed in a long robe and a golden sash. Gold is, of course, a color associated with kings. And this mighty king that stands before John is an ancient king. His hair is the purest of white. And his eyes are not a captivating dark brown, or a striking blue. No, they are like fire. They are piercing eyes. Eyes that can see into the darkest corners of the night, eyes that can see into the darkest corners of one’s heart.

While human in form, this figure is different than any mere mortal. He is divine in every detail. Even his feet look otherworldly. John says they are like bronze that has been purified in a fire and then polished to a high sheen. There is no place where these strong feet are afraid to tread.

But when John’s eyes move upward, he sees more amazing things. In the man’s outstretched hand there are seven sparkling stars.

But even more striking than that, is the man’s face. John can barely stand to look at it, it’s so bright. Like the noon-day sun, this face shines with an inner, brilliant light. And this was strangely familiar to John. John had once seen Jesus of Nazareth shining like this on a mountain where they had gone to pray.

But before John’s mind could process all of this, the strangest thing of all happened—a great double edged sword slid out from inside the man’s mouth. The Word of God is said to be like a double edged sword, capable of cutting to the very heart of man’s inner motives.

This was too much shock for the old John to take. So terrible, so powerful, so glorious was this vision that John fell to the ground like a dead man.

But then John felt the touch of the figure’s hand, stronger than strong, and yet like the gentlest of caresses. And he spoke again telling John not to be afraid.

And why should John not be afraid? This figure is the first and the last, the eternal God. This figure is the one who died, but who is now alive forevermore. This figure is the one who can open the grave and restore life to the dead. This figure is none other than John’s old master—Jesus. The Jesus who died for John’s sins, and who promised him a place in heaven.  The Jesus who died to take away the sins of the world, and who also promises us a place by his side.

What is there to fear when the almighty and eternal God is on your side? This is the message that Jesus communicated to John. And this was the message John was to send to Christians elsewhere.
Remember when John looked back? He saw Jesus walking among SEVEN LAMPSTANDS. And Jesus explains what this means. The seven lampstands were seven church. The churches of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. The message is clear. Jesus is walking among you dear Christians. Though unseen, he lives where you live. So be at peace! Put your fears to rest. Your powerful Savior is alive, and is walking among you at this very moment.

The book of Revelation is full of striking images, many of which we don’t always fully grasp. But the overarching message of Revelation is crystal clear—there was a great fight between the Lamb and the Dragon, and the Lamb won. There was a great battle between the Son of God and Satan, and the Son of God won. And the thing he won was forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life for sinners like you and me. No matter what earthly dangers surround us, we can have peace, because our souls are secure in the hand of the Almighty Savior. He has washed our sins away by his blood, and has made us his people of faith.
For pastors this vision holds a special comfort. Jesus says those stars in his right hand are the “angels” of the churches. The Greek word for angel simply means “messenger”. The context tells us when the Bible means a spirit being who is a messenger and when it means a human being who is a messenger. The stars in Jesus’ hand are the human pastors of the churches of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, and all the rest. It was to these “angels” that John’s book was to go.

Now, we pastors don’t usually feel like shiny stars. We know how sinful and dirty our hearts really are, even if our congregations don’t. We know that we don’t deserve to proclaim the precious message of sins forgiven through Jesus. No pastor is worthy enough, or capable enough for this task. But the strong right hand of the eternal Son of God holds us up. We are weak, but he is strong. Our trembling and flickering light is surrounded by the brilliant light of the Gospel. And what a comfort that is.
There is also a special comfort here for every Christian congregation. Jesus says those lampstands are churches. They are GOLDEN lampstands, valuable to God. And they are shining beacons of light in a sin darkened world. This is the imagery Jesus uses to describe YOU. Precious, light bearing people. Caretakers of the souls saving message of Jesus’ cross.

Jesus once told his followers,

14 You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16 ESV).

And this is the same thing Jesus communicates through this vision: You are precious to me. You bear the light of the Gospel. SHINE OUT with the message of forgiveness!
Maybe there’s been some darkness in your life lately. Events and circumstances that have made you feel abandoned or alone. Maybe you’ve been feeling like God isn’t all that close to you right now. Maybe some heavy guilt has lead you to wonder whether God really has a place for you in his kingdom. Maybe you’ve doubted if God can really be paying attention to your little insignificant life.

Jesus has this to say to you, “You are golden, you are light, because you belong to ME.” He pulls back the curtain for us in this vision and shows us that he wasn’t kidding when he told his followers that he’d be with them to the very end of the age. He turns on the light in our darkness and shows that there is nothing to be afraid of here, for HE, the almighty God, walks among us still.
Jesus had a specific message for John to pass on to each of the congregations he named in our sermon reading. Jesus told John, John wrote it down. The messages were delivered to actual groups of Christians. We’ll be spending the next five Sundays, examining what Jesus had to say to these seven churches. May the Holy Spirit help us to understand what he said to the churches back then, and how it applies to our own congregation today.

May the Holy Spirit work through these words of Christ to surround us with his light. May he lead us to grow stronger in the faith, and to shine out with the precious Gospel in all we say and do. Amen.

October 6, 2013

No Shame - Oct 6, 2013

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As the parent spoke sharply to her little child, the child looked up, her brow all scrunched up, eyes narrowed with remorse, the lip of her frowning mouth quivering with pent up sadness.

As the defendant was led from the courtroom to the jail cell he shielded his face from the popping flashbulbs. Only the posture of his down-turned head could be seen from behind the newspaper held in his cuffed hands.

As the rout continued on the playing field, more and  more players on the bench waited for the inevitable defeat from underneath the shade of white towels.


Shame is one of the most painful and lingering of human emotions. We feel it when we’ve done wrong, or failed on some level. We feel it even more when we perceive that others can see how we’ve failed.

Sometimes our shame is deserved. What we’ve done is truly shameful. Other times this feeling is wrongly imposed on us by other people. The school bully is skilled at producing shame in others, even when there is no legitimate reason for them to feel shame. Sometimes we even wrongly impose this feeling on ourselves by wallowing in guilt over things which were never really in our power to change.

Without the forgiveness that comes from Jesus, shame can never truly be overcome. For even when we can do something to fix what we broke, or take back the word we spoke, we can never change the permanent record. We cannot go back and erase what we did, or delete what we said. Only God can take the brush of forgiveness and paint over our past sins and failures, with the blood of his precious Son.

If you suffer from feelings of guilt and shame, that is where you must go. To the cross of Christ. To the arms of God. Only there can we find one who has the authority to say, “Your sins are forgiven. I wore your shame. You stand cleansed and holy in me.”

It has been said that for those who trust in Christ, death has lost it’s power. No longer is death a solid and terrifying thing. For those in Christ death is only a shadow that we must past through on route to our Savior’s welcoming arms.

And the same thing happens to our shame. It becomes less powerful when viewed beside Christ. Our shame becomes merely a shadow that sometimes passes over us. We look on our daily sins with shame, but that shame is lightened and dissipated in the light of Christ’s voluntary and forgiving sacrifice.

This idea is summed up when we say with confidence, “Yes, I am a sinner, but a FORGIVEN sinner, because of my loving Savior.”
Our sermon reading for today focuses on the idea of shame. More specifically, Paul says followers of Christ should feel NO SHAME when we suffer because of our faith in Christ.

These are the words that Paul wrote to a young pastor named Timothy, in the first century AD.

2 Timothy 1:3-7 (ESV)

I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
The first thing that we see in Paul’s letter here, is his great love and concern for pastor Timothy. Paul had been instrumental in bringing Timothy to faith. In another place Paul calls Timothy “his son in the faith” (see 1 Timothy 1:2).

Paul thought of Timothy often, and prayed for him just as much. Timothy had accompanied Paul on some of his mission travels, but had been left to shepherd the congregation in Ephesus. Ephesus was a place where Christians had faced persecution, as they had in most places in this early time.

Paul remembered how Timothy had wept. We aren’t told what the situation was, but Timothy’s tears were emblazoned on Paul’s memory, and he deeply wished to be reunited with Timothy once again. But that was something Paul wasn’t sure of. Paul was, after all, writing this letter to Timothy from a prison cell in Rome. This was the second time Paul had been imprisoned there and, from other words in this letter to Timothy, we know that  Paul felt this second imprisonment would end in his execution. His only hope of seeing Timothy was if Timothy could come to Rome sometime soon.

But Paul didn’t want Timothy to dwell on his approaching death. Instead Paul wants to prepare Timothy for persecution that would no doubt come his way soon. Persecution that would arise from Timothy’s proclaiming the message of sins forgiven through Christ.
To prepare Timothy for the future, Paul reminds him of the faithful examples that he had in his own family. His grandmother Lois was a believer, and so was his mother Eunice. And the same spirit of power, love, and self-control that Timothy saw at work in his mother and grandmother was also at work in him.

Paul continues to encourage Timothy in the faith by saying, verse 8

2 Timothy 1:8-14 (ESV)

Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who 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, 10 and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, 11 for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, 12 which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me. 13 Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 14 By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.
When Paul was imprisoned in Rome the first time, he was very concerned that other Christians not be discouraged by his chains. In his letter to the congregation at Philippi he writes…

12 I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. 14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear” (Philippians 1:12-14 ESV).

It would have been very easy to interpret Paul’s imprisonment as a sign of defeat. That’s certainly the way the world saw Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion. So, the great man you claim as the Savior of the world was arrested, beaten, and tortured to death on a cross? And your church’s greatest evangelist is where? In prison at Rome?  

To most of the world, being arrested, condemned, and executed are indeed shameful things. Let’s face it, if you’re arrested, condemned, and executed that often means you were at fault, right? That you did something to deserve what you got. But Paul tells Timothy, the suffering that comes because you preach soul saving message of Christ is NOTHING to be ashamed of! If you were suffering for your own crimes, that would be one thing, but if you’re suffering because your trying to save sinners from hell, that’s NOTHING to be ashamed of. That’s your glory!

And that’s what Paul would have us learn today too. When you suffer for Christ and his Gospel, don’t be ashamed of that suffering.

Be like the apostles instead. Once the twelve apostles of Jesus were arrested because they had been openly telling people about the free forgiveness that Jesus has for all sinners. The authorities of Jerusalem had the apostles beaten and they forbade that they preach the name of Christ anymore. What I mean by “beaten” is that they were formally stripped and given 39 lashes with a wooden rod. And when they were finally released, the Bible tells us that they went away anything but shamed.

Acts 5, verse 41 says…

41 Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. 42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus” (Acts 5:41-41 ESV).
Basically, in this letter by Paul, he is telling Timothy, be ready to face the same kinds of persecution you’ve seen other followers of Christ endure. But when you do suffer because of the Gospel, don not be ashamed.

Remember the faith of your mother and grandmother.

Remember the spirit of power, love, and self-control that is becoming yours through faith in Christ.

Remember whose message you’re suffering for! This is the message of the very Son of God, the one who took away your every sin.

Remember me, Paul, I’m suffering for the Gospel too!

Remember how far back our salvation was planned out! From before time began the Lord has been setting up his plan of grace.

Remember how the promises of God found in the Old Testament became visible when the Son of God became human for us.

Remember how he destroyed death and put a huge spotlight on the way to life and immortality—through faith in his cross!

Remember, remember, and don’t ever be ashamed to suffer for Christ. Pain is not defeat. Ridicule  is not defeat. Even defeat is not defeat in Christ. If our lives are taken, the Gospel will march on in the hearts and mouths of others.
When the devil imposes suffering on followers of Christ, he does so in order to sour our peace. He does so to make us lose hope in the promise of heaven. He does so to trip up our service to the Gospel. But here’s the thing we have to remember.

The truth that our sins stand forgiven in Christ cannot be changed by pain. The truth remains the truth.

The wisdom of God’s grace in Christ isn’t changed when human beings call it foolishness. It remains the most powerful wisdom this world has ever seen.

And the Holy Spirit doesn’t abandon the Christian in the hours of suffering. We may FEEL abandoned. We may FEEL shamed. But before God in heaven our suffering for his name is precious. Psalm 116 says…

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints” (Psalm 116:15 ESV).

And no doubt, precious in the sight of the LORD is the suffering of his saints also. There is no shame in it before the LORD.
The world around us has a lot of shame to lay at the doorstep of Christians. You guys were the whole reason the crusades happened! Most of the great wars in the world have happened because of religious nuts like you! You’re nothing but a bunch of self-righteous hypocrites. Who are you to say you have the only way to heaven? Churches are just crutches for people too weak to think for themselves! You just want to tell everyone else how to live their lives! Shame on you!

And our own hearts lay more shame at our feet. We know all the ways in which we have not lived like God wants us to. We know the shameful thoughts, careless words, and wicked things we’ve done. And so does God. Our shameful sins are the reason he sent his Son to this earth.

But God doesn’t talk to us like the world does. This is what God says to his people. First Peter 2, verse 6…

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture:
                        ‘Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone,
a cornerstone chosen and precious,
                        and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.’” (1 Peter 2:6 ESV).

Prayer: Father in heaven, we often feel guilt over our sins. When we do, remind us to run to Christ, where his death and resurrection can cover over our shame with your forgiveness. Help us to think of your grace often, so that we never feel ashamed for being Christians, or for suffering for Christ. When people dismiss our faith as silly, help us to feel compassion instead of shame. Help us to be bold carriers of Christ’s forgiveness. And let us always find peace and fulfillment in the love that Jesus has for us, the love that he showed us so clearly on that dark Friday. By your power, help us to follow the pattern of sound words that you have laid down in the Bible. Help us to guard the good deposit that you have laid in our hearts. Amen.