Commissioning Service

Introduction Leading on from the commissioning part of this service I want us to look tonight at one of Paul's charges to the commissioned Timothy - a young leader in the church who was feeling timid and lacking in confidence as a minister of the gospel. I wonder how many of us here tonight are feeling timid about the work we've been called to? How we need to hear these words of Paul to Timothy. So we will look tonight at 2 Timothy 1:1-14. How relevant this second letter to Timothy is for us today as we seek to serve Christ at the end of the 20th century. At a time of theological and moral confusion. At a time when there are many opportunities to share the gospel but also a good deal of opposition. At a time when it is not easy to be a Bible believing Christian when you are dismissed as a fundamentalist. (Though the overseas bishops at the Lambeth Conference were an encouragement and perhaps signal the start of a changing climate.) At a time when it can be hard to admit that we're a Christian at school or college or on the ward or in the office. At a time when we can be easily distracted from Christ centred and Bible based ministry and forget the central message of the gospel. At a time when many young Christians steer clear of becoming full time pastors, especially in the Church of England. At a time when the temptations are to be timid, to be ashamed of the gospel, to water down the gospel to make it more acceptable, to not be willing to put our heads above the parapet and be willing to suffer for the gospel. At a time when some Christians seem to want worldly happiness rather than to share in the sufferings of Christ for the sake of the gospel and be blessed as a result (Mt 5). And at a time when a certain U.S. political is under the spotlight for lying, cheating and immorality. BUT as for you Timothy, but as for us writes Paul 4 times in this letter, be different. Don't conform to the spirit of the age but rather be faithful, stand firm in the truth and righteousness of God. Be courageous. Paul here is writing to the timid young church leader Timothy from prison in Rome. According to chapters 1 and 4 of this letter Paul is in a dark dungeon, chained, lonely and cold. He is awaiting trial and realises that death is inevitable. Tradition has it that Paul was beheaded shortly afterwards. Paul has almost finished the race but he wants to make sure that the gospel continues to be spread and faithfully taught after his death in spite of the suffering this may lead to. So Paul is writing to Timothy to encourage him to persevere in, to pass on and to preserve what he has received - the gospel of Christ and the apostolic teaching. And the letter calls us to do the same today. Paul's 2nd letter to Timothy is therefore an urgent letter for our times, as one writer puts it. "A new generation of young Timothys is needed who will guard the gospel, who are determined to proclaim it and are prepared to suffer for it, and who will pass it on pure and uncorrupted to the generation which in due course will rise up to follow them." (Stott) Are we willing to pass it on whether as parents, youth leaders, student workers, home group leaders? Look at v.5 of 2 Tim.1 where we see that Timothy's mother and grandmother had been important in bringing him up in the faith. Passing on their knowledge of the gospel. We all have a role to play. And are those of you who are in CYFA or who are students or those of us in 20's and 30's willing to be the new generation of young Timothys? It might be costly but as the missionary Jim Elliot, who was martyred in South America, said: "He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep in order to gain what he can never lose". 2 Timothy is a letter which contains much encouragement for those of us who are perhaps feeling timid at the start of this new academic year but also much challenge. So let's now look more closely at what Paul says to Timothy and I want to look at the first 14 verses of chapter 1 in 4 parts: first, TIMID TIMOTHY vv 3-8; secondly, DO NOT BE ASHAMED OF THE GOSPEL vv 9-10; thirdly, BE WILLING TO SUFFER FOR THE GOSPEL vv 11-12; and fourthly, GUARD THE GOSPEL vv 13-14. So first, TIMID TIMOTHY vv 3-8. Look at vv.6-7.

"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 did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline."

Timothy was timid, at least in his situation here. (See also 1 Cor. 16 and 1 Tim. 4) He lacked confidence even though he had been gifted by God. Even though he'd had a good grounding in the faith and had a genuine faith. (vv.5 & 6) He was under pressure. He was struggling with the suffering the church was facing and with the fact that Paul, his spiritual dad, was in prison. (v.8) As a result he was being tempted to be ashamed of the gospel and of Paul. He was also being asked by Paul to take on more responsibility in the church and he was probably feeling unable or unworthy to cope. He was young, perhaps in his mid 30's, prone to illness and probably shy and rather introverted as a person. Perhaps you can identify with Timothy - I know I can to an extent. I'm in my mid 30's, I've been given some responsibility in the church, I'm not particularly extrovert and I'm sometimes tempted to be ashamed of the gospel. For example, I was talking to a headteacher about assemblies and their desire for them to be more inclusive for all faiths. The temptation was there to be ashamed of the gospel and to water it down but we can resist by the power of God. Maybe you feel timid as a Christian whatever age you are about the ministry that you're involved in here or elsewhere. You have gifts but you're too shy to use them or you're unwilling to spread the gospel because of the reaction and rejection and suffering which might result. Perhaps some of you don't go to a school or college CU for that reason. Jesus says in Mt 5:11, "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me." Humility, meekness and an awareness of our dependency on God yes but not timidity. Cowardliness has nothing to do with Christianity. (Barrett) None of us find it easy to share our faith nor do we find it easy to stand up for our faith at school or work especially when we feel we're in a minority of one. How we often need the encouragement and reminder that Paul gives Timothy here to be committed to the gospel and to fan into flame the gift of God which is in you. I always find it encouraging to read that John Chapman, the Australian evangelist who has conducted two missions here recently, was for many years unable to admit to anyone how really difficult he found it to speak to people about Jesus. He writes:

"I thought there must be something wrong with me and sometimes I even doubted whether I was a Christian because of this fear. This spark of doubt would flare up into a flame whenever I was challenged with a question such as, 'How many people have you led to Christ?' It was a long time before I discovered that almost all Christians were like I was. All Christians are tempted to be ashamed of the gospel. Jesus warned us that we would be and Paul has to encourage Timothy not to be ashamed." (From 'Know and Tell the Gospel')

So how does Paul encourage Timothy to be faithful to the gospel and to overcome his timidity? And how can we be encouraged and encourage others? Well in 6 ways. First Paul encourages Timothy by writing to him and we too can be encouraged from the very same letter which still applies to us today. Writing to people or e-mailing them can be an important source of encouragement yet one which is rare today. Secondly Paul reminds Timothy in v.2 of the grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. Three blessings of God's love - grace to the worthless, mercy to the helpless and peace to the restless. Who tonight needs to be reminded of the blessings we have through from and in Christ Jesus? And of his promise to be with us to the end of the age Thirdly Paul prays for Timothy - v.3. "Night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers." We need prayer support and to pray for others that we all may be faithful and bold in proclaiming the gospel. Fourthly Paul praises Timothy and shows that he has confidence in him. Look at vv. 3,5 and 6. Paul thanks God for Timothy, for his sincere faith and for the gift God gave him. We respond to encouragement don't we? It gives us confidence though the glory goes to God. Fifthly Paul reminds Timothy of the gift of God which is in him, v.6. How the Holy Spirit has equipped him and how that gift needs to be fanned into flame through use, through stepping out in faith. Do we need to fan into flame the gift of God which is in us? Sixthly, v.7, Paul reminds Timothy that God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. It is the Holy Spirit who enables us and equips us to serve and by his power we can overcome our fear or timidity. It is the Holy Spirit who gives us power for witness and for service. It is futile for us to rely on ourselves. Acts 1:8. We need to keep on being filled with the Holy Spirit each day (Eph 5:18). The Holy Spirit also gives us love. If we have love for those who don't know Christ we will be able to endure the suffering that can come with taking the gospel to them. True Christian love, energized by the Spirit enables us to sacrifice for others and not be afraid. The Holy Spirit also gives us self discipline, endurance to battle on and self control so that we can remain calm and faithful even when the heat is on. Therefore Timothy did not need any new spiritual ingredients in his life. All he had to do was fan into flame what he already had. The Holy Spirit has been given to all who are in Christ Jesus. The Holy Spirit does not leave us no matter how much we fail (John 14:16); but he cannot fill us, empower us and use us if we neglect our spiritual lives. It is possible to grieve the Spirit (Eph 4:30) and to quench the Spirit (1 Thess 5:19). So to my second heading DO NOT BE ASHAMED OF THE GOSPEL. Look at vv.7&8:

"God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self discipline. So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner."

At the moment many Newcastle Utd. fans are not ashamed to wear the Gullit wigs. Yet many Christians are often nervous about their allegiance to Christ in public. But because we have been given a spirit of power, love and self discipline then we should not be ashamed to speak about the good news of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit will give us the words and will do the convicting of sin.We should not be timid about sharing the gospel. Why? Well look at Paul. He was not ashamed of the gospel even though he was in jail and about to die for it. His life had been totally changed around by Christ. He had been chosen and gifted by the Lord to take the gospel to the Gentiles. He had been given a spirit of power, love and self discipline. And he also knew that the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith (Romans 1:16). And therefore we must let everyone know about the gospel in the power, love and self discipline of the Spirit. Whether they are in the group we have some responsibility for here or outside the church. We cannot afford to be ashamed of the gospel. People need to hear. People need the Lord. God does not want people to perish but to have eternal life. Romans 10:14-15:

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? {15} And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!"

Many people in Newcastle are not ashamed to use the name of Jesus as a swear word. If only they knew that if they used his name in a very different way they could be richly blessed. "For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved" (Romans 10:13) We must not be ashamed to speak about the glorious name of Christ and the glorious gospel. We may not all be gifted evangelists but we are all commanded to go and make disciples. And what is this gospel we are not to be ashamed of ? Look at verses 9 and 10:

[God] who has saved us and called us to a holy life--not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, {10} but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

The gospel is the good news of salvation, the good news of our Saviour Christ Jesus. We are saved in Christ by the grace of God, i.e.God's riches at Christ's expense - forgiveness of sin , new life and eternal life only through faith in the death and resurrection of Christ. Christ has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. We are not to be ashamed of that message. We are to herald or proclaim it and teach it whatever the cost. (v.11) Which leads us on to my third heading: 28) Thirdly, BE WILLING TO SUFFER FOR THE GOSPEL. Look at vv. 8 & 9:

So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, {9} who has saved us and called us to a holy life--not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time,

Do not be ashamed of the gospel but join with me in suffering for the gospel by the power of God. We are not to be ashamed of the gospel and therefore we must be willing to suffer for it too. And when we do face the prospect of suffering for the gospel we must not then suddenly become ashamed. Look at vv. 11 & 12:

And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. {12} That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.

Paul is not ashamed even though he is suffering in prison for he knows Christ personally and knows that his future is secure in Christ whatever might happen to him on earth. Now at present in this country we don't go to prison for spreading the gospel although St Oswalds Walkergate were taken to the High Court by the diocese for trying to ordain a minister of the gospel while standing up for gospel truth. Neither do we get beheaded or fed to the lions. But we might get called names at school - 'God squad' etc. We might lose friends, be thought of as fools or as sad people. We might lose out on promotion. Are we willing to be fools for Christ? Remember that we don't suffer for the gospel in our own strength but by the power of God. Timothy was weak in himself and so are we, but by the power of God we can endure. Jesus suffered for us on the cross and calls us to be willing to suffer for him. Fourthly and finally, GUARD THE GOSPEL. Look at vv.13 & 14:

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

With the spirit of power, love and self discipline living inside us we are not to be ashamed of the gospel, we are to be willing to suffer for the gospel and now we are also to guard the gospel. How? Again with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us. And says Paul with Christian faith and love. With faith that the gospel message is God's message and true, and with love - we are to speak the truth in love. As home group leaders, youth leaders, music group leaders etc keeping the sound teaching of the apostles and guarding the gospel is as vital today as it was then. Sadly some in the wider church don't and in those places there is no real preaching of the Word and they have lost the gospel message. In contrast 2 Tim 4:2-4:

Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction. {3} For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. {4} They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

We are called to remain faithful to God's Word, to guard the good deposit with the help of the Holy Spirit. And in turn what has been entrusted to us - namely the gospel - we must entrust to men who will also be qualified to teach others. Home group leaders to assistants, youth leaders to young people. And 2 Tim. 2 - we are to be approved workmen - workers in the Word, correctly handling the Word of truth. So let us encourage one another here to fan into flame the gift of God which is in us, to use the gift for the sake of the gospel and for the glory of God. To not be ashamed of the gospel, to keep the gospel of Christ central to our preaching and teaching ministry, to be willing to endure suffering for the sake of the gospel, to guard the gospel with the help of the Holy Spirit. Martin Luther-King used to say 'Keep the faith' - yes but don't keep it to yourself - share it!

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