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Sunday, January 21, 2018

posted Jan 21, 2018, 7:31 PM by Site Administrator

GUARD THE GOOD DEPOSIT

 

2 Timothy 1:13-2:14

Key Verse 1:14

 

Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you – guard with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

 

            First, "Guard the good deposit" (1:13-2:2). Look at verses 13 and 14. Let's read these verses together:

 

13What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. 14Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you-- guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

 

            Here, Paul exhorts Timothy to keep his teaching as the pattern of sound teaching. What is sound teaching? It is the teaching that is not sided, but well balanced and thereby healthy. In verse 14, he calls it "the good deposit that was entrusted to you," and in 4:3, Paul uses another expression, "sound doctrine," saying that in the last days people would not put up with sound doctrine, but with the messages of what their itching ears want to hear. Teaching only what people want to hear is unsound teaching. So, sound teaching is to teach not only what people want to hear, but also what people must hear whether they like it or not. There are messages we want to hear - the message of God's unconditional love, the message of God's sin-forgiving grace, the message of the hope of the resurrection and eternal life in the kingdom of God, the message of God's blessings that makes you successful, rich and victorious,... When people hear such messages, they respond enthusiastically with many "Amen"s. But there are messages we must hear whether we like them or not - the message of repentance and turning to God really, the message of denying ourselves and taking up the cross of mission, remaining faithful even to death, the message of losing our life for Jesus and the gospel, the message of selling everything we have and giving to the poor,... 

 

            Paul did not just teach what their itching ears wanted to hear; he didn’t just preach the messages of God’s blessings and forgiveness all the time. Instead, he preached sound doctrine, covering the full spectrum of the gospel, not only blessings and privileges in Christ, but also our duties and responsibilities as children of God. For example, in the previous passage, he talked to Timothy about God's promise of eternal life and at the same time, he talked about God's calling to be an apostle; he talked about God's grace of salvation and God's calling to a holy life; he prayed that grace, peace and mercy be with Timothy, and at the same time, he encouraged Timothy to join with him in suffering for the gospel. In this way, he talked about both our rights and responsibilities as children of God. His teaching is well balanced; it was sound teaching.

 

            Modern day, it seems that people do not keep sound teaching. Instead, they gather around the teachers who teach them what they want to hear. So, they keep hoping from one church to another. As a result, even though they attend churches for many years, there is no change in their life because there is no true repentance or true submission to God. To them, serving God and dedicating themselves to God's work completely is an option, which usually they do not choose. Since they do not seek God as the matter of life and death, their Christian life is boring - they themselves do not like that kind of Christian life. Then, they try to find meaning and fulfillment in other things in the world. They are unhealthy, unsound Christians. Paul encourages all of us today to keep his teaching as the pattern of sound teaching. What he taught Timothy in 2Timothy 1 is the pattern of sound teaching – grace, peace and mercy be with you, and join with us in suffering for the gospel; God’s salvation and God’s calling to a holy is God’s grace; God’s promise of life gives us eternal life and apostleship. With this sound teaching, we can all grow as sound and healthy Christians.

 

Paul also says, "Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you." The good deposit refers to what Paul held onto and served; it refers to the gospel - the pattern of sound teaching. Paul had this gospel and served it so vigorously facing all kinds of sufferings and hardships. Now as his service was complete, finishing his mission as a herald and an apostle and a teacher of the gospel, he was handing it down to his successor Timothy, saying, "Guard the good deposit."

 

The word, "guard" shows that there were challenges. In those days, there were two main threats to the gospel. One was some Judaic Christians’ legalistic view of Christian life. They taught that Christians must keep all the laws - dietary laws, Sabbath laws, and the laws about ceremonial cleansing. They were so called, "the right wing." When these authentic looking Jewish Christians who came from Jerusalem, the Holy City, with PhDs in theology taught them to keep the laws, the Gentile believers could not help. As a result, many Christians were misled. The other threat was Gnosticism. Their main idea was that spirit is always good and flesh is always bad, and spirit and flesh cannot influence each other at all. So, once your spirit is saved by faith in Jesus, no matter what you do with your flesh, your saved spirit cannot be affected, and thereby, your salvation is secured forever. Based on this teaching, Christians did not need to fight against their flesh, because no matter what they did with flesh, still they were saved. This idea was liberal; they were so called, "the left wing." This idea attracted so many Christians and misled them. Today, actually, this Gnosticism is still found in the main stream Christianity. They say, "Once saved, forever saved. You cannot lose your salvation no matter what." Instead of using the term, "Gnosticism," they use human logic to back up their idea, saying, "God saved you by sacrificing his Son. He will never lose your salvation no matter what." It may sound appealing to our logic, but that’s not what the Bible says. Paul encouraged Timothy to guard the pure and complete gospel against all this kind of ideas and isms – no compromise. Christians should be neither left wing nor right wing, but a whole bird.

 

The popular message in Christianity today is the healthy wealthy gospel. This teaching focuses on God’s blessing, especially material blessings on believers. You believe in Jesus, and God blesses you academically and materially, so you become successful, wealthy and healthy. It sounds good, but the problem with this teaching is that there is no self-denial, no true commitment to God, and no reason to suffer for anything, even for God, but you pursue success and God helps you and makes you successful in every aspect of your life – eventually, all the gospel messages are rejected. Another threat is moral corruption. It is really shocking that the divorce rate among the church going people is higher than that of non-church going people. One main reason for divorce is adultery. Often, people find their sin partner in the church. Moreover, now the society lowers the moral standard - actually, it seems that there is no moral standard in the world. In 2015, the United States Supreme Court ruled that state-level bans of same sex marriage are unconstitutional; so, in the USA, same sex marriage is legal. Many main stream church denominations in America such as PCUSA (Presbyterian churches of USA), Anglican church, ELCA (the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America), and many more churches accept same sex marriage, and ordain homo-sexual people. Jesus' message is: Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near. If this is not considered as sin, then, what sin should people repent of? Maybe, the sin of stealing candies at Target when they were 4 years old?  "Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you."     

  

Paul says, "Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you with the help of the Holy Spirit." It is very easy to be deceived by our own desire and dreams; If we neglect spiritual struggle with the word of God and prayer, we may quickly be deceived by our own desire. So, we must study the word of God and pray diligently so that we may be guided by God's Spirit.

 

       In verses 15 through 18, we see Paul talking about two different groups of people. They were all believers, loving Paul and honoring him as a great man of God. But when a persecution broke out, and when Paul was put in a dungeon, their true color was exposed. Paul says, "15You know that everyone in the province of Asia has deserted me, including Phygelus and Hermogenes." They did not want to identify themselves with Paul, because they did not want to be in jeopardy; they quickly abandoned their faith and their relationship with Paul. Paul specifically mentions about two names – Phygelus and Hermogenes; it seems that they were church leaders in Asia, very influential, and Paul and Timothy both of them knew them well. Their betrayal hurt Paul a lot. But at the same time, some people showed their loyalty and faithfulness to God and Paul his servant. Among them was Onesiphorus. While persecution was going on, he came to Rome, and searched for Paul – all the apartments in Rome and dormitories on the University of Rome, but he could not find him. But he didn’t give up. He searched for him continually; he ran advertisement on the newspaper, "Rome Today." But still he could not find him. But he kept looking for him, and finally found him in a dungeon! How happy he was! And how sad he was! When he visited Paul in the dungeon, when Paul saw him, he was very surprised; because of Onesiphorus, Paul was comforted and encouraged greatly that from the depth of his heart, a prayer for him came out, even two times. "May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains." "May the Lord grant that he will find mercy from the Lord on that day!"

 

Look at verses 1 and 2. Let’s read these verses together:

 

You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.

 

Since Paul was imprisoned, many disciples failed to keep their faith under severe persecution of the Roman government as he mentioned in 1:15.  So now Paul encourages Timothy to be strong so that he may be able to stand firm as a man of God despite harsh circumstances.  No matter what others do, we must stand firm in God. How can we be strong? Paul says "in the grace that is in Christ Jesus." In Jesus, there is God’s grace, and when this grace of God becomes real to us, we become strong and we can stand firm in God in all circumstances. As challenges rise, take down your root in the grace of Jesus deeper and deeper, remembering what he has done for you - how he died on the cross for you, and how he has been helping you in your life all this time. Then, when Jesus' grace is so fresh in your heart, you are strong that nothing or no one will be able to put you down or shake you or take you away from Jesus Christ.

 

Paul also gave him an instruction to entrust what he learned from him to reliable men so that they would teach the same sound doctrine to others. Timothy was the pastor of the church in Ephesus. But it did not mean that he should be teaching all the time and all his congregation should remain as spiritual babies. Instead, Paul instructed Timothy to establish leaders among his congregation, train them, and let them teach others also. In that way, all people would be taught on the sound doctrine and have a chance to grow as sound Christians. All of us must grow as reliable men who can teach sound doctrine to others.

 

Second, "This is my gospel" (2:3-14). In this passage, Paul shows us the essence of the gospel, by saying, "This is my gospel." What kind of the gospel did he teach? What is his understanding of the gospel? We pray that we may grasp what the gospel is about through this passage. Look at verses 3 through 6. In these four verses, Paul comes up with three figures – a soldier, an athlete, and a farmer – to show us what kind of attitude we must have as Christians, or as evangelists. Let’s read verses 3 and 4 together:

 

Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs – he wants to please his commanding officer.

 

            As Timothy served God's work as the pastor of the big church in Ephesus, there were so many difficulties. Basically, the government was against Christianity; there was always the danger of being arrested, punished and even killed. Christians were ignored and despised. Maybe, Timothy had some financial difficulty; some people were rebellious, challenging his authority. Should he shrink back because of these difficulties and challenges? Should he stop his mission only because it was hard? No way! No matter what, he must do God's work continually, and in order to do God's work continually, enduring hardship was inevitable. When you do God's work, there are hardships. You want to build God's kingdom here on earth. Even building a house is hard and there are so many different kinds of hardships. Then, what about building a kingdom of God in man's heart, on campuses and in this world? Surely, there are hardships - challenges and difficulties. Then, how can you do God's work continually? You endure all related hardships in doing God's work. Only then, you have a chance to fulfill God's mission upon your life. Don't be those chickens that run away only because of hardships and challenges. But be faithful to Jesus even to death; remain there in God's mission as Jesus' loyal soldiers.

 

            Paul portraits here those Christians who endure hardship very well for the sake of serving God's mission as good soldiers of Christ Jesus - they are the ones who please their commanding officer Jesus Christ our Lord. They are reliable and precious in the eyes of the commanding officer. They are his dangerous weapons whom he can rely on, and he is very proud of them. This is real Christian life serving God's purpose and enduring hardship for God's mission. Don't you want Jesus to be proud of you? Don't you want to be Jesus' dangerous weapons? Then, in doing God's work, endure hardship like good soldiers of Christ Jesus.

 

            Paul also says, "No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs." This is the most basic; if any soldier gets involved in civilian affairs, saying, "Oh, today, I cannot join the mission, because of my mother's birthday party," he is no longer a soldier, but a private citizen. What Paul here shows us is that, in serving God, we must not be limited by our own civilian affairs such as family gathering, marriage, anniversaries, baby shower, funeral service, etc. These things, once we get involved in them, quickly entangle us that due to so many civilian duties and responsibilities as sons or daughters, as fathers or mothers, we cannot do God's work freely. Instead, we must make ourselves available for God to use anytime and anywhere, being ready to say, "Yes, Sir!" all the time. We remember what Jesus said to a man who said to him, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father." Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God." (Lk 9:59,50) This is how we can really live as Christian soldiers for Christ, always putting our first priority on God's mission, making ourselves available for God to use anytime and anywhere.  

 

Look at verses 5 and 6. Let's read these verses together:

 

Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor's crown unless he competes according to the rules. 6 The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops.

 

            Here, Paul portraits Christians as athletes, competing for victor's crown. With this, he shows us another important aspect of our Christian life, that is to compete according to the rules. There is one rule that all Christians must abide by so that we can receive a great reward from God - the victor's crown. What rule? Paul says, "The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops." You work hard for God, and you become the one who enjoys God's reward first. It is a universal rule for anything - you study hard, so you are the one who enjoys good grades; you work hard, so you become the one who is promoted first; you do fishing diligently, so you have many sheep under your care; you work hard to pioneer your school, and you are the one who establishes God's kingdom on your campus. You serve God diligently, so you receive his reward first. Again, what is Paul's message? Simply, he encourages us to work hard for God's kingdom purpose. He wants us to be spiritually successful and victorious like spiritual all A students; he wants us to enjoy a lot of fruits like a spiritual hardworking farmer. How? By working hard! This is the rule. Everyone understands this rule; it is applied to their practical life in the world all the time - at work and at school, and everywhere.

 

            But strangely, Christians do not think that this will be applied to them spiritually. Instead, they never work hard for God's kingdom, but think that they will reign together with Jesus even forever; they say that they will have the crown of righteousness, but they never work hard for God's kingdom - instead, they work hard to pursue their career and success in the world. This kind of idea is cheating. Paul says to the believers in Galatia, "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life." (Gal 6:7,8) Do you want to receive great reward from God? Do you want to take charge of ten cities in the kingdom of God? Then, work hard for God's kingdom purpose! This is what Christian life is about. As a conclusion, Paul says, "Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this." Think about these three illustrations - a good soldier, a good athlete, and a hardworking farmer-, then, you will understand what Christian life is about, and how you must live as children of God in this life. I pray that we all may be found as good soldiers of Jesus Christ. I pray that we all may be good spiritual athletes and hardworking farmers for God's kingdom.

 

Look at verse 8. Let's read this verse together:

 

Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David.  This is my gospel, 

 

            After talking about how we must live as Christians through three illustrations, Paul now comes up with the best example, that is, Jesus' example. The expression, "descended from David," shows that he was the Promised Savior in the Bible. Yet, the expression, "raised from the dead," shows how he entered his glory. His resurrection was amazing, and with it, he was declared as God. Yet, in order for him to have this glory, what did he do first? He died first! Jesus worked so hard for God even to the point of death on the cross. Then, he became the first to receive glory in the resurrection. If you are confused about your Christian life, about how you should live your life, or what to pursue, think about these three illustrations. If you still need more confidence, then, think about how Jesus entered his glory. Think about how wholeheartedly Jesus served and pursued God's kingdom work - even to the point of death on the cross. Then, he received glory from God. This is how we must live our Christian life. Paul says, "This is my gospel." This is his understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ; this was the very gospel he preached wherever he went - you work hard for God, and you enjoy God's reward; you endure hardship in doing God's work and thereby please your commanding officer, Jesus Christ, then, he gives you great reward. This was the gospel Paul preached - the gospel of Jesus Christ. Because this was his understanding of the gospel, of how things would be applied to him, he worked hard for the gospel, enduring hardship even to the point of being chained like a criminal. That's what he believed, so that's how he lived his life.

 

            Many people misunderstand the gospel of Jesus Christ. They think that the gospel is about salvation by faith in Jesus Christ. But that's not all; that's just one part of the gospel. People just hold onto this one part of the gospel only and refuse to do anything for God, even quoting from the Bible, saying, "We are saved by grace alone, not by works." Even they claim that such idea comes from Paul's teaching. They don't know what they are talking about; so, in their mind, they have the knowledge of salvation, but in their practical life, there is no change. That's why, so many people, even after attending the church for 20 or 30 years, do not bear any good fruit for God at all, but usually, bad fruit of sin and death. It is all because they are not really dedicated to God and thereby, they never live as hardworking farmers for God or they never live as good soldiers for Christ Jesus in their real life. Simply, they are the athletes who do not compete according to the rules; they cheat, so they are all rejected. Paul shouts, "This is my gospel." His understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ, his understanding of Christian life is very sound - simply, you receive your reward from God when you work hard for Him. How does that sound? It sounds just, fair, and reasonable; everyone can accept it and agree to it. The gospel is sound teaching; it is the sound doctrine. When you really accept the gospel, you become sound people with sound mind, and you live sound life, real healthy Christian life. That's what the gospel of Jesus Christ does for those who believe. Christians must not be deceived by their own sinful nature. God cannot be mocked; He cannot contradict himself by rewarding A man reaps what he sows. Work hard for God and be blessed by God.

 

Let's read verses 11 through 13 loudly:

 

V11  Here is a trustworthy saying:  If we died with him, we will also live with him;  v12  if we endure, we will also reign with him, if we disown him, he will also disown us;  v13  if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.

 

            Paul concludes his teaching of the gospel, saying, "Here is a trustworthy saying:..." So, what he says now in verses 11 through 13 is really trustworthy - things will go really in this way. Here, the important phrase is "with him." "If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure (for our own understanding, we can add, "with him,") if we endure with him, we will also reign with him." Paul's point is that the principle that was applied to Jesus is applied to all of us also. If we die for God's kingdom work in the same way Jesus died for God's kingdom work, then, we will also live in glory in the same way he lives in glory. If we endure hardship for God's kingdom work in the same way Jesus endured hardship for God's kingdom work, then, we will also reign with power and authority in the same way Jesus reigns with power and authority. The same principle, the same rule that was applied to Jesus is applied to each and every Christian. Before, we were objects of God's wrath. But now in Jesus Christ, we are given this chance to enter glory together with our Lord Jesus Christ; only if we live for God and work hard for him, He will give us glory and power in his kingdom. Before, we were jobless - nothing worthy of our life commitment - no direction, no purpose, and no meaning. But now, God has hired us as his employees, and he promises that if we work hard for him, he will give us great reward, including great promotion to the position of rulers together with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Will you reject this offer? Will you blow away this chance? No way! You must gladly accept this offer of God, and work hard for Him. Then, he will be pleased with you and bless you with all things in heaven and on earth, and you will be happy. So, let's work hard for God's kingdom purpose; let's endure hardship in serving God's mission; let's die to ourselves and to the world so that we can live for God alone, and we will live with him and reign with him forever.

 

            What if, anyone does not like this idea? Paul says, "If we disown him, he will also disown us." Just as Paul has described so far, things will be applied to us according to the rule. If anyone does not accept this principle, God does not lose anything, but that person loses, and things will still go on according to the truth, because God cannot disown himself. God cannot bless what is unfaithful, what is dead, and what is sinful, God cannot bless anyone against his own principle, because He cannot disown himself. When we check out verses 11 through 13, we see that Paul encourages us with the first two cases - "if we died with him," and "if we endure with him." Dying with him is good, and enduring with him is good. He also warns us with the next two cases - "if we disown him," and "if we are faithless." So, don't reject this truth. Don't be faithless, but have faith in Jesus - he is there to help you and bless you. Accept his will for you and follow him and pursue him wholeheartedly. He will never disappoint you.

 

            So far, we have learned what the gospel is about. How is the gospel? It is indeed sound teaching - not sided, but really balanced, really understandable and logical - you work hard for God enduring all hardships, and you receive great reward from God. The gospel is sound teaching. Last year, we studied the gospel of Luke. What do you see when we compare Paul's gospel to Jesus' teaching of his disciples in the second half of Luke's gospel? They are the same. This is the gospel of the cross. Let's accept this sound teaching - the gospel. Let's build our life based on this sound teaching of the gospel so that we will live a sound life, developing sound character as children of God.

 

Look at verse 14. Let's read these verses together:

 

Keep reminding them of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen.

 

            Paul encourages Timothy to keep reminding his congregation of these things. As God's servants, we must keep teaching this sound doctrine. We must help all our students accept this sound teaching and build up their life based on this sound teaching of the gospel. Human heart is corrupt beyond cure. We easily become self-seeking, lazy and complacent. So, we need to keep reminding ourselves and others of this sound teaching of the gospel.

 

One Word:       If We Endure With Him, We Will Also Reign With Him. 

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