Sermon / Oct 16, 2016 / 2 Tim 3:14-15 / God's Not Finished With Us Yet / Pastor Terry Defoe
Our sermon text is found in the book of Second Timothy in the New Testament. I’m reading chapter 3, verses 14 and 15. The Apostle Paul says, to Timothy and to us:
14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (N.I.V.)
Grace, mercy and peace to you, from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Two weeks ago, we had a look at a similar Bible text from Paul's second letter Timothy. Two weeks ago, we spoke about the Apostle Paul passing the baton of faith to Timothy. Our text this morning continues that theme. The advice that Paul has for Timothy is just as valuable for us today as it was when it was first given. May God bless our consideration of his Word this day.
The Apostle Paul says to Timothy in chapter 3, verse 14:
As for you, [Timothy], continue in what you have learned...
So, how was Timothy to live out his faith in the years to come? And how are we to live out our faith today? One little word from Paul gives us the answer - it's a verb, an action word: “Continue.” In our day we might encourage a fellow Christian by saying, “Hang in there.” When we become a follower of Jesus of Nazareth, we’re in it for the long haul. It's as if the Apostle Paul is saying to Timothy that the Christian faith is not a short dash. It’s a marathon. The road of faith stretches far into the distance, far past what the eye can see. We’re not Christians one day a week, or an hour a day. We’re Christians 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for the rest of our lives and into eternity.
Have you ever watched the ironman races on T.V.? Here’s a description of what they're like –
An Ironman Triathlon is one of a series of long-distance triathlon races… consisting of a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bicycle ride and a marathon 26.22 mile run, raced in that order and without a break.
Swimming. Biking. Running. All in one race – a race that lasts for many hours and tests the human body to the limits. Just to be able to finish an ironman race requires amazing endurance. Winning it is something else again. So, what do you think? What’s the source of our endurance? Endurance athletes don’t run an ironman race the first day they start training. They work their way up to it. They change their lifestyle. They eat a special diet. They train, several hours a day, for many months. In other words, they build up to race day. They test themselves, at increasing levels of difficulty. They learn what their personal limits are. Their goal - running the race and finishing well – is achieved in a series of small steps.
The same is true for Christians. As we stay close to God’s Word and the sacraments, our faith will grow stronger. Our lifestyle will change to more closely match God’s will. We will change our diet, spiritually speaking. We will consume the bread of God’s word. We will be refreshed by Jesus’ living water. We will receive the body and blood of Christ with the bread and wine of Holy Communion for the forgiveness of our sins and the strengthening of our faith.
You’ll noticed that the Apostle Paul encouraged Timothy to continue on in what he had learned. He wants us to do the same. Most of us attended Sunday School when we were children. We went on to confirmation class. As adults we continue in our faith by attending worship services. Many of us have attended Pastor’s Classes or Bible classes over the years. We continue in our faith through our fellowship with other Christians. Our faith is a work in progress. Lifelong learning is a behavior. But it’s also an attitude. Years ago, when I lived in Vancouver, God called me into the ministry. At that time, I met Pastor Henry Treit. Pastor Treit was at Grace Lutheran Church here in Regina years ago. When I knew him, he was retired. After he left Regina, Henry Treit was a pastor in Idaho. He then retired in Vancouver, so that he and his wife Hilda could be near their son, Pastor Elroy Treit. One day, as Pastor Henry Treit and I stood chatting, he said something I’ll never forget. He said:
“Terry, I never met anyone I couldn’t learn something from.”
It’s true, isn’t it? Everyone we meet, we can learn something from. Something to emulate or something to avoid. In this life, God’s will is that we never stop learning. The Apostle Paul would say to us that when we become Christians, we are going to need all the grey cells the good Lord gave us. The Apostle Paul wants us to think critically and clearly. As Christians, we are not to believe everything the world tells us or everything we hear in the religious world. We are to check these things out, to see if they’re in line with God’s will and His word.
You may not know this, but we Lutherans are known among other Christian denominations as a teaching church. Much of what we do revolves around teaching and preaching. So, according to the Apostle Paul, we are to CONTINUE on in these things – to continue interacting with God’s word. We continue in our faith when we worship regularly with God's people. We continue in our faith when we set aside some time each week to worship the Lord and to fellowship with his people. Are there other ways to continue in our faith? Absolutely! I’ll give you some examples.
When we’re at home, we can read a devotional book like the Portals of Prayer. We can leave that little book in a spot where it’s easy to find. We can leave our Bible beside our easy chair, and look up the verses that are mentioned in our daily devotions. Some people like to do their devotions first thing in the morning. Some put their devotional booklet on the kitchen table and read it as they’re having breakfast. If you have the internet at home, you could make the Lutheran Hour’s devotional webpage your home page.
I knew a lady back in Alberta who was given a devotional book as a gift. It had a different reading for each day of the year. When that year was over, she found that the readings had been so helpful she decided to read them all over again the next year. She had been doing that for several years. Whenever I visited, she told me about the devotion she had read that particular day.
We also continue in our faith when we pray. There’s certainly no shortage of people we can pray for. We can pray for Christian leaders near and far. We can pray for politicians (maybe I should say, especially for policians!) and police. We can pray for the people on the prayer list in the church bulletin. Another way to keep our faith strong is through Christian fellowship. By that I mean getting together with other Christian people. Fellowship happens at church on Sunday morning, when we visit with Christian friends. Fellowship happens at the various dinners we hold at the church throughout the year. Fellowship happens at our Tailgate Picnic in June. Fellowship happens at our Bible Studies.
The Apostle Paul asked Timothy to continue in what you have become convinced of… in other words to continue on in the basic beliefs and teachings of Christianity. That’s our task, too. We continue in what God’s Word proclaims to us. We continue in Law and Gospel. It’s important to remember that this “convincing” is the Holy Spirit’s work. The Holy Spirit convinces us that what we believe – based on the Word – is right and true. A pastor can proclaim God’s word to you – and does that all the time. But the pastor cannot convince you that what he preaches is true. Only the Holy Spirit can do that. When the Holy Spirit convinces us of the truth of our faith, we have a settled feeling in our heart. We have a sense of peace – the Bible describes it as the peace that passes all understanding.
When Kathleen and I attended church at Killarney Park Lutheran Church in Vancouver, a wall banner was displayed at the front of the church. It said:
“May the peace of Christ DISTURB YOU!”
In other words, may the precious Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – the forgiveness and hope we have in Christ – prompt us to serve God and our neighbor.
You know those from whom you learned it, said Paul. Think back over the years. Who have your Christian teachers been? Permit me to reminisce for a minute. When I was 14, that was back in 1964, I took a year of confirmation with Pastor Elroy Treit, at Killarney Park Lutheran Church in Vancouver. And then, like many young people, I dropped out. I didn’t come back to the church until I was 21 – that was 1971. After the Lord re-ignited my faith, he called me into the ministry. My Christian teachers have included my seminary professors in Saskatoon. Who are my teachers today? I would say that Pastor Kenneth Klaus of the Lutheran Hour is one of them. My colleagues in the ministry are my teachers as well. And I need to add that I’ve learned much from you people. I’ve been challenged, corrected, guided, loved… by you folks. And I thank you for that.
The Apostle Paul wanted young Timothy to remember those who had introduced him to the Christian faith. He wants us to do the same. He wants us to remember the people the Lord has sent into our lives to encourage our faith. It’s good to remember them once in a while. Let me add this. You are a teacher too. Did you know that? You teach others about the Christian faith by the words you say. You teach others by your actions. Someone once said,
You might be the only teacher of the Christian faith that someone knows.
The Apostle Paul said to Timothy:
... from infancy – you have known the Holy Scriptures which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ
As we heard a couple of weeks ago, from the earliest days, there were special people in Timothy's life who taught him the Christian faith and modeled it in their behavior. Timothy's faith had a solid foundation. His mother was a Christian. And so was his grandmother. Their influence was positive and enduring. Let me ask you - has someone in your family had a positive influence on your faith? Perhaps it was your mother or father. It might have been a grandparent – or an aunt or uncle. It might even have been a baptismal sponsor. Paul is pointing out something very important here. He’s saying that faith and family go together. There’s a Bible verse that says:
Train up a child in the way that he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
The Apostle Paul has some special things to say about the Bible at this point. First, he says that the Scriptures are
Able to make you wise for salvation…
The Scriptures are a vehicle through which God delivers salvation to our address. The Scriptures reveal Christ to us. They reveal the manger, and the cross. They reveal an empty tomb as well. The Word works through the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion. And through these means of grace, God delivers salvation to us. He applies the benefits of Jesus’ death on the cross to our lives. The Scriptures truly do make us wise for salvation.
The Scriptures are inspired by God. God’s truth is breathed into them, by the Holy Spirit. The Scriptures are God’s word. We can trust what they say to us – about God and about ourselves. The Scriptures teach us God’s will. According to the Apostle Paul, the Scriptures are useful for rebuking, for correcting, and for training in righteousness. Rebuking is what the Law does. It tells us, “This far and no further.” God’s goal for us – individually and as a congregation – is that we be thoroughly equipped for doing his work in this world. God has given us natural abilities we can use for him. He has given us spiritual gifts we can use. Perhaps we have a gift for teaching. We can use that for the Lord. Or we may have a gift for administration. That again we can use for him. Some people have a gift for designing artwork and banners for the church. Some have a gift for music. All of these things are the equipment God gives us to do his work. Using this equipment allows us to be ready for every good work. Using this equipment allows us to … do God’s will…
This is what God wants us to do with our lives. This is our calling from the Lord. In a very real sense, this is our job description. Preach the word, says Paul. Get the word out. The Holy Spirit will spark faith in the hearts of those who have ears to hear the message. This is our calling as a congregation. This is also our calling as individual Christians. Our faith was meant to be shared with the world. Each of us has a part to play. May God bless our continued efforts on His behalf. To Him be all the glory! Amen.
Let's Pray -- DEAR HEAVENLY FATHER: Help us, as individuals and as a congregation, to continue on in our faith. Keep us firmly grounded in Your Word and the Sacraments. Equip us as Your servants. May our words and our actions always glorify You and Your Son. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.