Finishing The Race For Jesus – part 2: The Book of 2 Timothy

In the first of this two-part series, we examined the last letter (2 Peter) written by the apostle Peter just before his demise. At approximately the same time, the apostle Paul writes his last letter as well – which came to be known as the biblical book of 2 Timothy.

We find Paul arrested and imprisoned in Rome once again. This time he is awaiting his imminent execution. Just like it happened to Jesus, many of the lukewarm believers are now abandoning Paul in his final hours. Yet Paul soldiers on, writing his last letter to his faithful disciple Timothy, to encourage him to continue fighting the good fight of faith:

Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you…For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord…who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel… 2 Tim. 1:6 – 10. NKJV

God has placed a gift within each and every one of us, to be used for advancing His kingdom, by leading others to salvation through Christ. It is our most precious duty as the children of God. So, how do we do that?

Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and the love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you. 2 Tim. 1:13, 14. ESV

You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. 2 Tim. 2:1, 2. NKJV

Paul is telling us to preserve God’s word in its purity, and to continue to ask the Holy Spirit for deeper revelation of that word, in order that we may both perceive it and pass it along to others with the utmost clarity – so that they may do the same. Our task is a godly and sacrificial one that rises above the opposition in the world:

Take [with me] your share of the hardships and suffering [which you are called to endure] as a good (first-class) soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier when in service gets entangled in the enterprises of [civilian] life; his aim is to satisfy and please the one who enlisted him. 2 Tim. 2:3, 4. AMP

Think over these things I am saying [understand them and grasp their application], for the Lord will grant you full insight and understanding in everything. 2 Tim. 2:7 AMP

Then, Paul tells Timothy that regardless of present personal circumstances and appearances, the power behind the word of God will always accomplish His will:

Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! 2 Tim. 2:8, 9. ESV

Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. This is a faithful saying:

If we died with Him, we shall also live with Him.
If we endure, we shall also reign with Him.
If we deny Him, He will also deny us.
If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself. 2 Tim. 2:10 – 13. NKJV

We have the power of God in us to overcome anything that the world throws our way. God, through Christ, strengthens us with a guaranteed hope that we were spiritually reborn when we accepted Jesus as our savior. Our heavenly calling is to spread the gospel in the midst of the spiritual struggles on earth, so that we can claim our eternal reward.

There is no hope for those who deny the Son of God. We however, can rest in peace, knowing that we stand in His loving acceptance through our faith in Christ. Our heavenly charge is to share this peace with as many others as we can, by living out Christ’s example:

Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved (tested by trial), a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly analyzing and accurately dividing [rightly handling and skillfully teaching] the Word of Truth.

But avoid all empty (vain, useless, idle) talk, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness. 2 Tim. 2:15, 16. AMP

Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His,” and “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” 2 Tim. 2:19 NKJV

Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work. Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, with those who call upon the Lord from a pure heart. 2 Tim. 2:21, 22. NASB

And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel, but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will. 2 Tim. 2:24 – 26. NKJV

Paul is saying that we need to be intimately familiar with the accurate meanings of God’s word (via the Holy Spirit) so that we are always prepared to engage in communication that is rich in salvation for the ears of the hearer. Keeping that as our prime focus, we can rise above the petty and meaningless drivel that passes itself off so often as viable discourse in the world. Also, for God’s words to have impact, they must come from the mouths of those who have separated themselves from the ways of that same world.

Finally, we want to bring the good news with gentleness. We are not to try to win our way through violence, but instead we want to peacefully disarm with love…

We are beacons of light for Christ, uncovering the darkness – a task that will grow increasingly vital as time passes and the doubters turn more and more to the base desires of their flesh:

…in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness but denying its power.

Avoid such people. 2 Tim. 3:1 – 5. ESV

Sounds like the ‘last days’ are ‘these days’ don’t they? It’s up to us to keep the faith because this ‘cold new world’ will be increasingly hostile towards the followers of Christ:

Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. 2 Tim. 3:12, 13. NKJV

Nevertheless, exposing people to the ‘good news’ remains our prime focus, because it is only that news, which brings the eternal life that will be conferred by God Himself upon those who accept it, and it will complete God’s intended work in them:

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Tim. 3:16 NKJV

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and understanding.

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 2 Tim. 4:1 – 4. ESV

God wants all of His children out soldiering for His kingdom, gathering souls in for their salvation while there are still people willing to receive His message.

That is the greatest show of love that we can make for others – presenting them with the chance for endless love. Whether they accept it or not is entirely up to them; we will have faithfully delivered the message and can stand at the judgment seat of Christ at the end of time, and hopefully speak the words of Paul’s final outpouring for His Savior:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that Day, and not to me only, but also to all who have loved His appearing. 2 Tim. 4:7, 8. NKJV

I can just picture Jesus welcoming Paul with open arms, exclaiming, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

Epilogue

Shortly after the apostle Paul (and Peter simultaneously) finished their last letters, church tradition tells us that Nero executed them both.

We can be eternally grateful that God sent these powerful soldiers of His to deliver the salvation promise with such clarity, conviction, and boldness; and they did so in spite of the many obstacles that the devil had laid in their paths.

There is only one original apostolic Love Soldier left standing. Next time…

Good night and God bless.

Advertisements

Finishing The Race For Jesus: The Book of 2 Peter

In the mid 60s A.D., there was a fire in Rome; and the emperor at that time (Nero) blamed the Christians. Subsequently, he launched a murderous campaign against them.

The apostle Peter writes a letter during this time, to the same churches in Asia minor where he had sent his previous one (now known as 1 Peter). This new letter has come to be known today as the biblical book of 2 Peter. In it, Peter intimates that he is imprisoned yet again, and that he is certain he is about to be executed. Indeed, this would be his last letter.

Yet, Peter is finishing his race for Jesus in full steam – writing now to encourage the church to stay committed to godly ways, and to resist any false teachers who try to distort the pure doctrine of the church of Christ.

Peter begins by describing some of the gifts that God bestows upon His children to help them reach that godliness: Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.

For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. 2 Pet. 1:2 – 4. NASB

God empowers us, through Christ, to be able to live a godly life; and we advance that empowerment when we continue to walk in the word of God – becoming more Christ-like daily.

Peter then tells us how to hang on to our divine gifts:

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.

For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Pet. 1:5 – 8. ESV

Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Pet. 1:10, 11. NKJV

Peter is asking us to run our race for Jesus until we take our last breath, or until He returns, whichever comes first. Jesus will be waving the checkered flag, congratulating you, saying ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’

Peter continues to encourage his audience by reminding them that Christ Himself conferred apostolic authority and the wisdom of God upon him. So, they can take everything that Peter says right to the bank:

For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.

And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. 2 Pet. 1:16 – 21. NKJV

We can see then that all of the authors of the books of the Bible were Holy Spirit-inspired, so that they could receive and reveal the pure, unadulterated word of God…

At this point in his letter, just like the apostle Paul, Peter warns the church about satanically driven false teachers, who will try to destroy it. This will be a continual battle that will be fought right up until Jesus returns:

But also [in those days] there arose false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among yourselves, who will subtly and stealthily introduce heretical doctrines (destructive heresies), even denying and disowning the Master Who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.

And many will follow their immoral and lascivious doings; because of them the true Way will be maligned and defamed. 2 Pet. 2:1, 2. AMP

And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. For if God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment…making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly…then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment…for them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved.  2 Pet. 2:3, 4, 6, 9 & 17. ESV

Peter is saying that we must always be alert, discerning the godly from the ungodly – following God’s righteous path so that we do not fall prey to the darkness that awaits the sons and daughters of disobedience. Regardless of what they may spew from themselves, we are to stay firm in the true hope of Christ’s return:

…you should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles. Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” 2 Pet. 3:3 – 4. NASB

Nevertheless, do not let this one fact escape you, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day. The Lord does not delay and is not tardy or slow about what He promises, according to some people’s conception of slowness, but He is long-suffering (extraordinarily patient) toward you, not desiring that any should perish, but that all should return to repentance. 2 Pet. 3:8, 9. AMP

God has a plan; and He promises that all of it will come to pass. It will be fulfilled when He decides that it is time for time to run out, and not a second earlier. God is not stretching out the time for your heavenly transition because He’s sadistic. He does so because of His great love for the human race. God wants everyone to have a chance to latch onto his or her salvation.

God made that promise over two thousand years ago. However, if you look at how old the universe is, (believed to be over sixteen billion years), 2000 years is just a flash in the pan.

God is a promise keeper. He will send His Son for us. How will that look?

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works upon it will be exposed.

Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn!

But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. And count the patience of our Lord as salvation. 2 Pet. 3:10 – 15. ESV

You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen. 2 Pet. 3:17, 18. NKJV

When Christ returns, He’s going to help His Father do a major universal re-do; and it will be a wonderful, marvelous new beginning for the children of God – who have been doing their best to live holy lives, rejoicing in the fact that Jesus makes up the difference when they have fallen short. Hallelujah!

Good night and God bless.