How do you say goodbye? Perhaps you're one of those people who doesn't say goodbye. It's all too much, you're worried that if you start…well you'll start crying and it'll get all embarrassing! Or maybe you're happy to cry, happy to get all emotional! You let it all out! Or maybe you're one of those who slips a letter in someone's hand that says 'Do not open until you're in the air' Or something like that. What do you say, when it might be the last thing you say?
Look at 6 v.20-21, these are Paul's last words to Timothy. Now I know that on the other side of the page we've got the letter of 2 Timothy, but Timothy didn't. And Paul didn't know he was going to write again when he finished letter number 1. So look at how he finishes.
In a way these last two verses sum up everything that has come before. Paul has written to Timothy, his young disciple, whom he sees almost as a Son…urging him to keep on preaching the gospel in Ephesus. Urging him to keep on standing up against false teachers, to guard the gospel and defend the faith …to put the church in order, so that is might continue to be the place where people can come and hear the truth…and to make sure his life is in order so that he doesn't wander away from the truth and become a false teacher.
That was the first half of the letter. And then in the second half of the letter, Paul shows Timothy what he must teach others so that they too will guard the church and their lives.It has been an incredible letter, and I hope that you've enjoyed studying it week by week every bit as much as I have.And now, at the end of the letter, Paul chooses his final words.His final words to his dear friend and brother.These are the words that Paul wants to leave ringing in Timothy's ears. And they are remarkable words.
In verses 11-16, Paul gives Timothy 3 commands, and 3 encouragements.
Look at v.11… Do you remember what we saw last week in v.3-10? Paul had warned Timothy about the danger of wanting more, and the danger of having more.
Look at v.9-10… The world chases after things. And things cost money, so we love money and want to get rich. But you, Timothy, you shouldn't be like that. You shouldn't be chasing after the things that this world loves. Instead you should be chasing after the things of God. And that's Paul's first command…
1) Pursue Holiness. (v.11)
Now why does he call Timothy, "Man of God"? Well I think it's for at least two reasons. Firstly to remind Timothy that he's not like the world around him and not like the false teachers, he is a man of God, he is God's man, he has been chosen by God, and he knows and loves God. But secondly I think Paul is deliberately making the point that this command isn't just for Timothy, it's for anyone who is a Man of God, or woman of God. If you are a Christian, Paul says, then you should pursue holiness.
Last week we saw the negative… that we should flee from the dangers of money, and riches and things.
But now Paul gives us the positive. We're not only to run away from the those things. We are also to run towards,
righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and patience.
As Christians we have something much better to spend our lives chasing after than success and career and riches. We have things that will last for eternity. We must pursue holiness. So are we? Are you? Are you seeking ways to be more righteous? Do you try to imitate God's godliness? Are you praying for more faith? And trying to be more loving? Do you recognise the times when you need to endure? And trying hard, at all times, to be patient? We need to pursue holiness.
Secondly, Paul says, we need to…
2) Keep on keeping on. (v.12)
Paul says to Timothy, and to all of us who are men and women of God… we need to fight the good fight of the faith. Now what does that mean? Well we've seen throughout this letter that for Timothy part of what that means is to stand up against false teaches and continue making sure that the church teaches the truth. That was Timothy's job, just as it is mine and Rod's and Chris' job, as church leaders.
But now Paul is talking more broadly to all Christians, and saying that we too should fight the good fight of the faith. Now I'm told that the word Paul uses for fight here actually has two meanings. It can mean 'fight', and it can mean 'run'. So this verse could equally be translated, 'Run the good race of the faith.'
Turn over the page to 2 Timothy 4. When Paul wrote this it seems that he was pretty sure this really was going to be the last letter he ever wrote to his young disciple (and indeed it was). And look at what he says in v.6-8… What Paul is commanding Timothy back in 1 Timothy 6 is exactly how he lived sought to live his own life. Fighting the good fight and running the race, right up until the end. Paul is saying to Timothy, and to you and me.
Keep going. Keep going and keep going and keep going. Keep on keeping on. The Christian life is a fight. You can never stop fighting against sin, or fleeing from temptation, or turning away from the world. When you're in the middle of a battle, you can't just stop to take a breather because you're tired. You need to keep on keeping on. You can't stand still in the Christian life. It's a race, you need to keep running if you're going to finish. Keep on keeping on. That's Paul second command. And his final command is…
3) Start Your New Life Now. (v.12b)
Now what is Paul talking about here? What does it mean to take hold of eternal life, and what is the good confession? Well, I think he's referring to Timothy's baptism. When we are baptized we confess our faith in Jesus Christ. We renounce our sin and our old way of life and we commit, with God's help, to live a new life in him. Baptism is a sign and symbol of the new life we live. Our old life, with its sin, is washed away, and we begin a new life. Or we go down into the water, like dying to our old life, and rise up into new life.
And what is that new life? Well it is a life that we will live in Christ for all eternity. We know, as Christians, that when we die we will go on living. If we've put our faith in Jesus we'll go on living with him forever. And so Paul reminds Timothy, and us, that we shouldn't wait until death to live that new life. We can live our new life now. Eternity, and our eternal lives, have already begun. And if we know that heaven awaits, and an eternity of being in a perfect relationship with God is ahead of us…
Well then, Paul says, we should start living that life now. In the new heavens and the new earth everything will be made new, and we will know God perfectly and love him perfectly. But if we know that is what lies ahead of us, well then don't wait until death to begin your new life. Start living your new life now. 3 commands, followed by 3 encouragements.
And the first is in v.13… Now on first reading that may not seem to be much of an encouragement. In fact at first it may seem as if Paul is reminding Timothy that both God and Christ have witnessed his three commands to him, so he had better keep them! But I don't think that's what's going on. Now the question is, why does Paul remind Timothy that God is the one who gives life to everything…and why does he remind him that it was Jesus who made the good confession before Pilate? I think the answer is that Paul isn't trying to scare Timothy by calling God and Christ as his witnesses, He's trying to encourage him.
Paul has just called Timothy, and us, to start living a new life. Pursuing godliness, fighting the good fight, and starting eternal life now. And that's not an easy task. Living a faithful life as a Christian is hard. But remember, Paul says, it's God who gives life.He gave you life in the first place and he will certainly be with you as you seek to live a new life following him. And it's not only God who is with us, it's also Christ. When we're seeking to be holy, to live by faith, to run the race and start living our eternal lives now, well at times that means we're going to have to stand up and be counted. At times that might mean that the world hates us.
At times when we declare that Jesus is the King of our lives, we will be mocked and persecuted. But remember, Paul says, Christ has gone before you. He stood up before Pilate and made the good confession that he is the King. He stood his ground and declared the truth even when he knew it would cost him his life.
Do you see? Paul's first encouragement to us is…
1) We Are Not Alone. (v.13)
We're not alone as we seek to live our new lives going God's way and declaring Christ. No, God himself, and Christ his Son, are with us and have gone before us. That's the first encouragement. And the second is that…
2)The End is In Sight. (v.14)
Paul knows that he is calling Timothy and us to a high calling. Pursuing holiness, keeping on and starting our new life now is not an easy task. It is, as he has already said, a fight, it's a battle, and people get hurt in battle. But the end is in sight. Just as he came the first time, so the Bible tells us that Jesus will come again. And just because we don't know when he will return, doesn't make Jesus' return any less sure. We don't know the day, but every day it is drawing nearer. And God will bring it about in his own time. And not only is the end in sight, but we know what will happen in the end. When Jesus returns he will come as the King.
The Christian life may be a battle, but we already know the outcome of the war. The end is in sight. And finally Paul encourages us that…
3)Glory Is to Come. (v.15-16)
There is something wonderful about v.15 and 16 isn't there.It's almost as if Paul can't help himself.
He was just talking about God and the return of Jesus in v 14 and it's as if he gets all caught up in the wonder and majesty of God. He did the same back in 1 v 17, it's as if Paul only ever needs half a reason to remind us how great our God is! But I think these verses say a bit more than that. They do paint a beautiful picture of God as the King of kings and the Lord of lords… But why does he remind Timothy and us, that God alone is immortal and that he lives in unapproachable light? That no-one ever has seen him or can see him? And that he will receive honour and, might forever? Well, I think Paul reminds us of all those things that are true of God… Because he wants to remind us that they will also be true of us if we follow him.
Yes, God alone is immortal, but we will live with him forever if we follow him in this life. Yes, God is so perfect and brilliant and holy that he is described in the Bible as being like a brilliant light. But we too will be made perfect and holy on that day. On that day we will see God face to face. And, incredibly, on that day we will share in his honour and might, forever.
Do you see? Paul says, be encouraged, keep going, don't give up and don't wonder away from the faith… You're not alone, and the end is in sight, and it will be glorious.
Just a few weeks ago a new film came out called the Edge of Tomorrow.I haven't seen it, and I'm not endorsing it (so if you go and see it and it's terrible, don't blame me!) But the premise of the film, as far as I understand it, is this. That every day the character that Tom Cruise plays lives the same day.He's a soldier in a war…and every day he lives the same day over again. And he will go on living that same day over and over again, until he has learnt how to win that war. And in a way, that's what the Christian life is like. Everyday we are called to live our lives for God,…to pursue holiness…to keep on keeping on, and to start our new lives now. Every day God calls us to live our whole lives for him, and tomorrow, he will ask us to do the same again.
In fact, he will go on asking you and me to live our lives for him all over again, every day, for the rest of our earthly lives. Every day we live for him, and we are on the edge of tomorrow…when he will ask us to do it all again. But we don't do it alone, God himself is with us, and Christ has gone before us. And we don't keep doing it until we get it right, and we win the war. He has already won the war. We keep doing it until he comes back to claim the victory he has already won. We keep doing it until God comes back in glory, and we share in his glory.
Who knows what tomorrow will bring? But whatever comes, God has called you and me… To pursue holiness To keep on keeping on. And to start our new life now. So let's decide today, to live tomorrow for Him.