Keeping the Faith September 19, 2012Posted by roberttalley in Apostle Paul, Perserverance, Second Timothy.
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KEEPING THE FAITH
2 Timothy 1:13-18
In 1992 Jon Bon Jovi came out with an album titled “Keep the Faith.” Richie Sambora said, “‘Keep The Faith’ recognised how tough the nineties [were] and [tried] to encourage a positive message in… difficult times. [One of the songs, ‘I Believe’ [had the] message… that people should believe in themselves, not images they see on TV.” Keeping the faith, however, didn’t begin in the early 1990’s. Over two thousand years ago, Paul wrote about keeping the faith. The keeping of the faith also involved belief but it did not belief in one’s self but rather belief in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Today I would like for us to understand what it means to keep the faith and what the consequences of keeping or not keeping the faith are.
A. Keeping the faith involves holding fast to the healthy teaching we have received through faith and love in Christ (verse 13). Where does this love and faith come from? In this case it came from the Apostle Paul to young Timothy just as earlier it had come from his mother and his grandmother to Timothy. When we talk of sharing our faith, we mean telling about it but these people shared the healthy teaching of the word of God because of the faith and love that they had in Jesus Christ.
B. Keeping the faith involves maintaining spiritual health through the indwelling Holy Spirit (verse 14). Notice that maintaining spiritual health is not described as coming through the filling of the Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit, the baptism of the Spirit or even the anointing of the Spirit. It is simply through the indwelling of the Spirit that we are able to maintain spiritual health. It is not by becoming more yielded but rather based on the reality of our salvation. I trust Christ, the Spirit indwells me, and from then on my faith and spiritual health is dependent on the Spirit of God living in me.
Pastor Sugden of South Church was preaching once on “What God the Spirit Can Do for Us.” He said, “A fellow came to me not too long ago and said, ‘Do you tackle the dress problem?’ ‘No, I don’t.’ ‘Well, why?’ ‘Good common sense will teach us how to dress.’ Good common sense will teach us about our conduct…Good common sense will permeate our entire beings if we give God the Holy Spirit a chance in our lives. You know what I do? I pray for this every morning, because there are so many days I feel so low on common sense. There are so many situations where, humanly speaking, you have to be the one to call the plays. You have to be in touch with the living God and indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God, who will give you in that hour good common sense” (taken from Classic Sermons on the Holy Spirit compiled by Warren Wiersbe, preached on February 4, 1970 at MBI’s Founder’s Week conference).
C. We must not turn away from faith in Christ (verse 15). If we do, there are consequences (Hebrews 2:1-3, “Therefore, we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation…”).
Now this seems contradictory. If I am indwelt by the Holy Spirit, I will maintain my faith but if I do not maintain my faith I will not escape eternal punishment. What does this mean for those who seem to have begun in the faith but have fallen away? This is not an easy answer but I think 1 John 2 answers it well for us. “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they no doubt would have remained with us.” This should assure our hearts and help us to be serious without panic when we assess our spiritual wellbeing.
1. Turning away involves what we believe (2:17-18). There are some things that do not matter that much. It doesn’t matter whether you believe it is wrong or okay to bring food or drink into the auditorium here at church. We don’t but not because it eternally matters. There are things that matter but they don’t matter in eternity. Many of the issues we get excited about don’t matter. Sports, politics, finances, academia, entertainment. All of these have their place but they do not matter much at all. It does matter, however, what you believe about God’s Word. It does matter what you believe about Jesus. It does matter what you believe about sinful man. It does matter what you believe about God’s redemptive plan. To turn away from these things matters. To turn away from them is to allow the cancer of Satan to destroy us.
2. Turning away involves what we do (4:3, 10, 14-15). To say I believe the Bible is without error and then not to obey it is turning away. To say I believe Jesus is Lord and Savior and not to obey Him is turning away. To say I believe that God will save sinners through Jesus Christ and to try to get to God through good works is turning away from the sound pattern, the healthy regimen of doctrine.
D. We are rewarded by living out our faith (verses 16-18). We are not rewarded solely based on our belief system but rather on the outworking of our belief in Christ.
1. Our reward is undeserved (Compare verses 16, 18 with 4:6-8, 16). This is hard for us to understand. Olympians earn their medals. Soldiers earn their stripes. Our rewards, our medals, though they may identify us as faithful servants, suffering servants, and witnessing servants but the reward is not ours because the victory is not ours. Our victory is in Jesus.
2. Our reward is based on our actions toward others (verses 17-18).
“His official name was Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Amadeus Theophilus Mozart…He was only thirty-five when he passed on. He was living in poverty and died in obscurity. His sick widow seemed indifferent to his burial. A few friends went as far as the church for his funeral but were deterred by a storm from going to the gravesite. By the time anyone bothered to inquire, the location of his grave was impossible to identify…He is gone. Or is he? …Then what good lives on? …that ‘Mozart touch.’ No other sound is like it…In his music, Mozart lives on [a timeless trophy]…Okay, so you’re not brilliant…Your trophy is your contribution…” (from Chuck Swindoll). This passage and many others like it indicate that our trophy is based on how we minister to others.
The question today is this. Are you indwelt by the Spirit? If you are you have been changed and are being changed. If not then you cannot, you will not maintain your faith in Christ. You will look for salvation from another way, a different way. Look to Jesus alone and be saved.
Thankful for persevering faith (from a thanksgiving sermon series) November 16, 2008Posted by roberttalley in First Thessalonians, Perserverance, Religion, Sermons.
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THANKFUL FOR PERSEVERING FAITH (1 Thessalonians 3:6-13)
In this series on thanksgiving, I have mentioned the importance of investing our lives in others. I have been asked, how do we do that. In this sermon I will mention a couple of ways in which you can invest your lives in others. These are all in the context of sharing our faith and witnessing of Christ and how that those who believe in Christ are not only transformed but that they also persevere in their belief in Christ, in spite of whatever difficulties they may have in their lives.
First of all, I want to describe what perseverance in the faith does and what it looks like. You see, when we persevere in the faith, those who are living for Christ rejoice (verses 6-9). In other words, when you invest in the lives of others and they persevere in Christ, the pay off is joy in your heart.
Generally, perseverance shows itself through our faith and our love (verse 6a). In Thessalonians 1:3 we find faith and love connected to each other in the same context in which we find them here. These people were going through some trying times. They were being attacked by those who hated Christ Jesus. Paul wrote that this faith and love working in them is what got them into these trying times. It was this same faith and love reported by Timothy that confirmed that they were in Christ. In 5:8, Paul encourages them to continue to arm themselves in an evil world, awaiting the coming of Christ with this same faith and love.
Specifically, perseverance shows itself through our love for God’s people (verses 6b-7). Now there are a number of ways in which we can show the reality of our relationship to Christ but nothing trumps our love for our fellow believers in Christ. True fellowship with other believers is a proof of our fellowship with Christ. 1 John 3:14 tells us, “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death.”
This is the relationship that we see between these three men and the Thessalonians. They loved one another. They cared for one another. They prayed for one another. This love was the proof of the reality of their faith in Christ.
This is why we emphasize the importance of being integrated into the local church. Ultimately, it is not about church membership. It is not about full offering plates and full buildings and Sunday School rooms. It is not about a good worship experience. It is not about church attendance. The local church is loving one another with all the faults and failures that we may have. If you love the brethren you will want to join the church. You will not try to protect yourself by holding the church at arms length. You will want to take part in ministries and give toward them and bring others in, if you love the people to whom you belong in Christ. You will want to be in as many worship services as you can, if you love your brethren. I did not say “if you enjoy your brethren.” It is hard sometimes to enjoy everyone but you can always love them.
This gives strength to those who truly follow Christ (verses 7b-9). Verse 7 says they were comforted, that is, the good news of their perseverance in faith and love was a help to these three men in the midst of their on afflictions and trials. In verse 8, Paul expands this idea and says, based on your standing fast in the Lord, our lives are enriched. It is a strange statement to our ears but Paul says the quality of our lives are improved by the fact that you are standing steady in Christ. Then in verse 9 he loses himself in trying to describe how the faithfulness of the Thessalonians effects these three men. There are no words to describe the thanksgiving which we give for you. We rejoice with joy. When we come before God in prayer, you are the subject of our thanksgiving and you are the subject of our discussions with God. You are our strength and comfort and joy and thanksgiving.
Although we persevere in the faith, we continue to need perfecting (verse 10-13).
The perfecting of faith is important work (verses 10-11). It had such a high priority that Paul made it an integral part of his prayer life. Now we have already seen previously and know from 1 Thessalonians 1:2 that Paul, Silas, and Timothy gathered together at specific times to pray with one another for the believers in Thessalonica but this says that these three men were constantly during the day and during the night taking time to thank God for and pray for the believers in Thessalonica.
Perhaps you would say that such prayer goes above and beyond the call of duty. Paul would agree with you. He says they were praying exceedingly. The word means we prayed much more than much for you. These people were not on the backburner of their prayers but were given special attention by these men before God.
Remember, these men had only had three weeks or so among these people. Paul himself had attempted repeatedly to visit them again but he says Satan hindered him. He had sent Timothy to them and Timothy had come back with a good report of them but these three men’s concern for these people was so great that they made it priority in their prayers that God would enable them to return to Thessalonica.
What made this such a priority? They wanted to perfect their faith. These people had a faith that works. It was obvious to Timothy that there faith was real but they had some gaps that needed to be filled. They needed teaching on moral behavior, they needed teaching about the Rapture, and they needed to know how to function as a church. All of these things are a part of the perfecting of their faith.
Certainly, they were submissive to God’s will in this matter. In fact, it was quite awhile before God allowed them back into the region and we do not know if these men were ever in Thessalonica again. What we do know, however, is that these men had made the spiritual well-being of these people a top priority in their lives as revealed by the way they prayed for them.
Some of you are saying, I want to make praying for others a priority, but how.
Plan times of prayer. That is what these three men did. They planned times of prayer. Praying night and day as these men did does not come naturally for us but if we plan to pray we are more likely to pray at other times.
Pray with others. Besides memorizing Scripture there is nothing that will challenge you and encourage you spiritually more than praying with others.
Write down your thanksgiving for God’s work in others.
Memorize verses that talk about the things that you want to pray about.
The perfecting of faith builds on the love God has already placed in our lives (verse 12). Yes, these people were characterized by love for their brethren but their love needed to increase abundantly. This was Paul’s wish for them. The perfecting of our faith, the filling in of the gaps in our Christian lives is directly tied to our relationships to each other.
The perfecting of faith is revealed at the coming of Christ (verse 13). What Paul is saying is this, as your love abounds for each other and for those who are outside of the faith, you become stronger in the faith, you persevere more until ultimately when Christ comes and you stand before God, you stand without blame and holy because of your love for each other. In fact, that is the purpose for loving your brethren. It is about more than just getting along or all going in the same direction. It is about our standing before God. Do you want to have a good reputation before God? Love your brethren and love those who need your Savior. Do you want to be holy before God? Love your brethren.
Is your faith the type that will last when trials come? Obviously, you cannot know that until the trials come but you can still practice this love for the family of God. You can integrate yourself with each other in a myriad of ways. For most you it should mean an increase in prayer for God’s people and an increase in time spent around God’s people. When the game gets serious, it is those things that we worked on in practice over and over again, that are not forgotten.
Some of you are outside this family. We are commanded to love you also. Not just to be nice to you and polite to you but to love you. There is no better way to love you than to invite you today to put your faith in Christ. In 1 Thessalonians 2, Paul describes this love as that of parents for their children. There is nothing that would thrill us more than to have you come to Christ, putting your faith in Him for salvation. Do it today!
Next Week: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-22 THANKFUL IN EVERYTHING
Again, I was overly ambitious and only managed one chapter. Chapter 14 next week.
We first met the beast in Revelation 11:7. When you compare 13:1 with 12:3, what is immediately recognizable about this beast? According to 13:3, who is the “power behind the throne” during the reign of the beast?
The beast is from Satan.
What do we recognize about this beast when we compare 13:1-2 with Daniel 7?
He is part of the same political world system as the empires of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. In fact, the Beast’s empire is the final manifestation of the present world political system.
What does 13:3 and 13:14 tell us about the history of the beast when he comes to power?
He will recover from some deadly blow. Some believe this blow to be political, others that it would be a literal physical injury. Later verses do seem to indicate that either way it will be a violent blow (with the sword).
What will be the result of this event on the people of the world (13:3-4, 8)?
They will worship the beast and through him, worship Satan, many no doubt unknowingly.
How long will God tolerate this “new world order” (13:5)? What will God allow Him to do (13:5-7)?
God will tolerate this for 42 months. He will allow persecution of the saints and miracles to deceive the rest of the world during that time period.
What is the warning that Christ makes in verses 9-10?
The beast and those who follow him will be judged in the same way as they persecuted the believers.
What is the purpose of the second beast (verses 11-18)? Is he equal in authority to the first beast?
He has great authority but serves to turn men to the first beast rather than to Himself.
Should we be fearful of the number 666? Why or why not?
No. The beast has yet to be revealed and therefore this number does not yet have any current significance.
TRYING THE SPIRITS
1 John 4:1-6 and Deuteronomy 13:1-5, 18:21-22
Lying spirits exist and we are to test the spirits (verse 1). Now God has given us the final word but God has chosen to allow competition, to allow false spirits to speak their false doctrine through false prophets, to allow the lie to coexist on this earth with the truth.
It is not always easy to discern the false from the true. Just as counterfeit money is meant to be spent, false doctrine is intended by Satan to be believed and that means he must make it believable to the human mind and appealing to the human heart. That is why it is of eternal importance that we look into God’s Word and find out how to determine the difference between the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
TESTING SPIRITS IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
There are two passages in the Old Testament law in the book of Deuteronomy that discuss testing the spirits who claim to speak the truth. Now, it is easy to say that the Law was for then and not for today, for example in the law against eating pork which is also in the book of Deuteronomy (Deut. 14:8). We understand though that the law is more than the Ten Commandments and when Jesus said He came to fulfill the law He meant all of it, not just the moral code but also the civil and ceremonial aspects of the law. Not only that but as we saw about a month ago, “All Scripture is…profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). So how do we apply the Old Testament tests? By finding and investigating the timeless principles that apply to the subject of testing the spirits as taught in 1 John. (Ideas in this paragraph with thanks to Paul Lamey of Huntsville, AL.)
Test #1 -
If one part of the prophecy is proven untrue or inaccurate, then it is not of God (Deuteronomy 18:20-22).
“Here’s a Help Wanted ad you may find interesting: Spokesman needed for international firm. No experience necessary, no education required. Must be between 20-85 years old. Full- or part-time…Will meet often with the CEO who will instruct brief you on what to say to the public. Important that you be able to move in all circles of society–from the highest to the lowest. Good vocabulary a must, ability to speak in colorful images a big plus…Unlimited opportunity for advancement…Must be willing to endure ridicule, persecution, slander, and occasional beatings. This job carries only one significant negative aspect: Make one mistake and you will be stoned to death….That ad describes the biblical role of the prophet…The test for a biblical prophet was 100% accuracy. Make one mistake and you would be stoned to death…(T)he Jews had a well-defined procedure for stoning. The victim was stripped naked, with hands bound, paraded out of town and placed on a scaffold nine feet high. The first official witness pushed the victim off the scaffold. The second witness dropped a large stone on his head and chest. Bystanders then pelted the dying man with the stones. The corpse was then buried in a special place along with the stone that inflicted the fatal blow. No mourning ceremony was permitted. False prophets had to be stoned. The Law commanded it…(P)rophecy was not a growth industry in the ancient Israel. It was a risky way to make a living. Today prophecy (and messages from God) is big business–and not nearly so risky.” (Thanks to Ray Pritchard)
A WORD ABOUT DREAMS AND OTHER MODES OF CLAIMED DIVINE REVELATION
Not only does a prophet sent from God speak the truth with 100% accuracy but he knows that his message is 100% accurate and does not try to hide that fact. When someone says that they have a vision or dream or message from God and they temper their claim with the possibility of human fallibility then I know that I need not be afraid of that person. God does not speak to every subject but to every subject that He speaks, He speaks authoritatively and without error.
Test #2 -
If the prophecy leads away from the truth, then it is not of God (Deuteronomy 13:1-5).
Actually, this whole chapter deals with the seriousness of following anyone who would lead us away from the truth. In verses 6-10, if a family member attempts to lead away from the true and living God, they were to be stoned. In verses 11-18, if Israel heard that one of their cities had turned from following God, they were to go against it and destroy it with all its inhabitants, all its livestock, and to destroy everything in it. They were not to take anything for plunder. Obviously, we are not to apply the extreme measures that are commanded to the Israelites but we are to take this seriously.
APPLYING THIS TEST TODAY
How do we recognize the spirits (verses 2-6)? In other words, how does this apply today?
The Spirit of truth identifies…
…Jesus as God and man (verse 2). Any person or any group that denies that Jesus is 100% God and 100% man is not of God. The Bible is very clear. One of the reasons that we have started studying together the book of Colossians in the adult and junior high and junior aged Sunday School classes is the vital importance of this doctrine. If Jesus is not God then Christianity is a lie and if Jesus is not man then Christianity is a lie and the Bible is a lie. I do not have a problem with the Jehovah’s Witnesses refusal to celebrate birthdays. That is not an eternal issue. I do not have a problem with their refusal to salute the American flag. That is not an eternal issue. I do not even have a problem with their refusal to take blood transfusions. I think they are wrong and that it is an unfortunate belief but that belief will not send them to the lake of fire. I do have a problem though with their refusal to acknowledge Jesus Christ as God, not a god, but Jehovah God Himself. That is why I fight for the Virgin Birth. If Jesus was not Virgin Born, He was not God. That is why I fight for the Bodily Resurrection of Christ. If He did not rise bodily from the dead then there is doubt that He was really man. He was and is both. That is also why it is so important that we hold to the Bible as given by God without error. If the Bible is in error in any area, then how can we trust what it says about Jesus Christ and the message in verse 2 about Jesus Christ is only to be found in the Bible?
NOT JUST THE PERSON BUT ALSO THE WORK OF CHRIST IS PART OF THE TEST.
The Spirit also identifies the redemptive work of Christ as sufficient for eternal salvation (verses 9-10). I understand that John is not addressing this directly but it is addressed in other places in the Scriptures: the first half of the books of Romans, the epistles to the Galatians, the Ephesians, the Philippians, the books of 1 Timothy and Titus, the book of Hebrews. I am saying that it does matter what we believe about Christ’s saving work.
The word “propitiation” here means to appease God. We are sinners, we deserve the eternal punishment of the lake of fire but Jesus Christ came and died to appease His Father. That is the good news that we are to believe. If you believe that salvation comes any other way than through Jesus Christ alone, you are in the trap of the spirit of error. If you believe by being good you can satisfy God, then you believe the spirit of antichrist. If you believe that trusting Christ and being baptized to wash away your sins, then you are trusting a ritual. Paul said in Galatians of such rituals that they make the crucifixion of Christ of no effect. Either Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection was sufficient or it is not. If you believe the Church provides you appeasement before God, you are trusting the doctrine of the world. If you believe that the Lord’s Table which we partook of earlier in this service will impart God’s saving grace into your life, then you are trusting the doctrine of a false spirit. It is through Jesus Christ alone.
Acts 5:12 says that there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved. He does not need my help, He does not need your help, and he does not need the help of any ritual, good deeds, or organization. He is capable through His death alone of saving us and according to these verses, He does this because He loves us.
The Spirit of error… (verse 3-5).
…contradicts in some way the Spirit of truth (verse 3a).
Why? Because the spirit of error is of this world (verses 3b-5). This is not a new phenomenon (verse 3b). Since time began, Satan has been lying to humankind. Although it is true that as we get closer to the end, evil men will get worse and worse, it is a matter of degree and not of quality. The quality of the counterfeit is always bad. Some are more effective in their deception than others but counterfeits are always a lie.
WHAT IF I QUIT BELIEVING?
Believers in Christ have protection within them from false prophets (verse 4). In 1 John 2:18-27 we find specifically what he means by this verse. Some have asked me, what happens if I quit believing in Jesus Christ. According to these verses that will not and cannot happen. If you quit believing in Christ it is because you never truly believed in Him. I am not talking about doubts. I am not talking about those who give up in frustration and quit trying to live for Christ. I am talking about those and the text is talking about those who teach the truth and then turn their backs on it and attempt to drag others with them on their path. That is what John is addressing here. We, however, are protected. We are protected because we have the Holy Spirit living within us. We are protected because we have the truth in us.
The world has no protection from the false prophets because they think just like them (verse 5). This is an awful thing to think about but the Bible plainly teaches that the natural mind follows after the lie of Satan. The lie appears in all kinds of forms but every form is deadly. Which will kill you a bullet through the heart or a knife through the heart? So it is with the lie of Satan. There is no hope unless they are awakened by the Holy Spirit and believe the truth of the Word of God concerning Jesus Christ.
ANSWER THESE THREE QUESTIONS
When someone clearly sees and rejects the truth we know that they are not of God (verse 6). If you are here this morning, you have heard the truth. Did you understand it? If you understood it, have you accepted it or rejected it? If you have accepted it, how are you going to react when you hear the lie? That is our invitation this morning.