Courageous Testimony – The Motives

2 Timothy 2:1, 8-13

You can listen to the Sermon HERE

We continue our series on the Spirit-filled life, asking each week, “What does this passage teach us about the Spirit-filled life?” Last week the passage from 2 Timothy 1 taught us that the Spirit-filled life is a life of courageous testimony; i.e. a life in which we overcome the temptations to be timid and silent about the glorious truth of the gospel, and instead stand up and speak out the message of life in Christ Jesus at every opportunity.

Timothy faced the threat of persecution and even death for speaking out the Good News of Jesus and His teaching. The threats we face are far less. But Paul’s aim was to command Timothy, and us today: Do not be silent! Do not be timid! Do not be ashamed! Do not compromise!

Last week we particularly considered the question: How can we live this life of courageous testimony? The answers we discovered in 2 Timothy 1 were:

  1. Pray for each other.
  2. Remember your spiritual heritage.
  3. Fan your gift into flame.
  4. Trust the power of Holy Spirit within you.
  5. Be moved by the love of the Holy Spirit within you.
  6. Exercise the self-discipline which comes from the Holy Spirit within you.
  7. Remember the glory of the Gospel

In 2 Timothy 2, the focus shifts from the how to the WHY. The letter sets before us those truths that should be our motives.

Remember Timothy was living in an era when to pronounce publicly that Jesus is Lord, not Caesar, was tantamount to treason and could swiftly lead to your imprisonment and even death. He lived at a time when the Roman Empire was riddled with sexual immorality of every kind and it was broadly and absolutely accepted, and to name these behaviours as sin and call for repentance would raise ridicule at best and fury at worst. He lived at a time when many were becoming wealthy through the production of household idols. Pagan worship was big money. And when you go around preaching that idols are dead pieces of silver and gold and cannot save, and that people need to reject such things and turn in repentance to the true and living God through faith in His Son Jesus Christ … your life can be in danger. Just look at what happened to Paul in this very city of Ephesus in Acts 19 when the silversmiths stirred up a riot because Paul’s preaching was destroying the profitability of their idol businesses.

Now if you are going to speak out courageously and call people to repentance from sin and faith in Jesus in the face of the possibility of ridicule, rejection, rioting and even death … you will need some powerful motives. What are those motives for the Christian?

  1. Love for JESUS (v.1, 8-9)

Paul says, “My son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (v.1) and “remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead. (v.8)”

It starts there! There is no higher motivation than Jesus!

We speak about Jesus. We testify to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. We bear witness to the personal life-transformation done within us by Jesus. And we do it because we are so immensely grateful to Jesus for all He has done … and because we have experienced Him and love Him. Loving Jesus more than anything else is the only way a human being can remain faithful to Him even in the face of death.

All human beings are created with an innate drive to survive. Biologically, when we are in danger, our bodies are pumped full of adrenaline – the so-called “flight or fight” hormone. We are hardwired to want to survive. As part of that instinct … most of us tend inevitably towards desiring comfort and personal safety, security and wellbeing, and the acceptance and approval of others … and we will pay a premium to have it. We will go to great lengths to avoid discomfort, danger, disapproval and inconvenience.

I think I’m correct in saying that 99-100% of us here today marvel in confusion when we read of people who refused to deny Christ and were killed for that refusal. We feel deep down that if we were placed in a similar situation we would have denied Christ. Our instinct for survival would have overwhelmed our desire to remain faithful to Jesus.

When we study the stories of these martyrs, however, we discover a common denominator. Revelation 12:11 explains it in these words: “They did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.

In a nutshell: They loved Jesus more than they loved their own lives.

Now you and I are far less likely to be faced with a literal threat of death. In our culture and community the greatest threats are likely to be ridicule and rejection. And yet, we still find ourselves shying away from even this. We don’t want to rock the boat … so we remain silent.

The answer to that tendency is not to hit ourselves over the head and berate ourselves for our wimpy Christianity. NO. The answer is to love Jesus more deeply.

When we love Jesus more than we love our own lives … we have never been freer.

When we are self-consumed … when we love ourselves first and foremost … we will always compromise … we will avoid confrontation and conflict and the risk of offending others … because there is no higher goal in our lives than our own self-preservation and comfort.

The #1 motive for courageous testimony will be that we love Jesus above everything else. Oh to be consumed by the magnificence of Jesus!! The One who lived and died and rose again from the dead for us and for our salvation!

Oh to love Jesus more than life itself.

I pray for the Holy Spirit to infuse every fibre of our beings with love for Jesus Christ the Son of God –the One who has loved us first with an everlasting love.

 

  1. Love for the Elect (8b-10)

Paul was one crazy evangelist!!He was seriously driven to make sure that EVERYONE heard about Jesus and His salvation.

He says to Timothy, “This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s Word is not chained. Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect.”

We know that when he was writing this letter, Apostle Paul was imprisoned in Rome. He was soon to be executed. And yet we know that he was so committed to preaching the Gospel that everyone who came within earshot of him would have heard the good news of Jesus told to them. He was crazy for the Gospel!! He said in Philippians 1:12 “What has happened to me has really served to advance the Gospel. As a result (of my imprisonment) it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.”

Now; was this because Paul was just loud and outspoken?? Was he just trying to get attention? No!! Attention was bad. More attention meant more persecution.

No. He says in v.10: “I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus.”

That right there is the 2nd main motivation. #1 Jesus! #2 The elect!

Who are the elect? They are those whom God has elected for salvation. They are those who the Father is drawing to salvation through faith in Christ. They are those who will come to enter the Kingdom of God through faith in Jesus Christ.

But does this imply that only certain people are elected by God to be saved?

Strict Calvinists would say yes to that question. Methodist theologians would differ. Jesus said that “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son so that whosoever believes in Him will have everlasting life,” and we believe that this means that God has elected to save ALL who call on the Name of Jesus.

Romans 10:9-13 says, “if you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 11 As Scripture says, ‘Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.’12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile – the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’

So we believe that God elects to save everyone who repents from sin and places their faith in Jesus Christ.

And this is why our courageous testimony is SO important. Romans 10:14 says rightly: “How 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?”

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a universal Gospel … not because everyone is automatically saved as some people want us to believe … but because all can be saved! And we have the high privilege of being the human agents through whom the saving gospel is brought to their hearts. God draws people to Jesus … but they also need a human being to tell them about Jesus and how to know Him and be saved through Him. This is our privilege.

So our 2nd motivation is that we testify courageously because we love those who have not yet come to know Jesus … and we love them enough to tell them about Jesus and to call them to repent of their sins, believe in Him, and receive His salvation.

To love someone who is far from God is to tell them about Jesus. To love someone who is far from God is to call them to repent of sin, trust in Jesus and receive forgiveness of sin and life everlasting.

  1. The Promises of God (v.11-13)

The “trustworthy saying” of v.11-13 has the form of an early Christian hymn. It seems to be a sort of a sung creed – a statement of belief.

And basically it is four promises … for truths about our future which will motivate us to remain faithful to courageous testifying about Jesus.

  1. If we died with Him we will also live with Him: If our courageous testimony leads to our martyrdom – well we know that we will simply have exchanged this painful, frustrated existence for the glory of the perfect presence of the One we love! That’s a win!
  2. If we endure, we will also reign with Him: If our courageous testifying leads not to death but to rejection and persecution that makes life really tough … we get rejected by loved ones or we lose property or material wellbeing because of our faithfulness to Jesus … well fear not because our eternal future is that we are going to reign with Christ in glory. Here we may be subject to evil rulers … but eternity is coming… and there we will reign with Christ.
  3. The third promise is a strong motivator too … even though it is a negative motivator … it is a warning: If we disown Him, He will disown us. You say, “But that doesn’t sound like Jesus.” Well in fact it sounds exactly like Jesus who said in Matthew 10:32: “Whoever acknowledges Me before men, I will acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before My Father in heaven.” Jesus’ words! Not Paul’s. Not mine. Just remember … this is not about one or two moments where we failed and we “disowned” Jesus by our silence or our refusal to stand with the cause of Christ. Jesus will forgive us for that and restore us … just as He forgave and restored Peter. This is a present continuous in the Greek … so it is about a settled disowning. It is a decision to continuously refuse to be aligned to Jesus and confess Him as our Lord, Saviour and Master. If that describes us … then we are in grave danger and Jesus will deny us in eternity.
  4. The final promise is that if we are faithless, He will remain faithful, for He cannot disown Himself. Nothing we do or fail to do will ever change Jesus. A person may battle to have faith (i.e. be faithless) clinging to Jesus by their fingernails … but this has zero effect on Jesus. Jesus remains faithful and true all the way to eternity … and no matter how much we struggle to hold on to our faith in Jesus … Jesus will always hold on to us.

These glorious truths also inspire and motivate us to remain faithful to Jesus and be courageous in our testifying for Him.

Conclusion

Let us pray that the Holy Spirit within us will fill us with a zealous and passionate love for Jesus, a selfless love for those who need to hear the Gospel, and with a growing awareness of the beautiful promises of God for our lives. And may we theerby become a people motivated to give courageous testimony for Jesus.

Advertisements

A Life of Courageous Testimony

2 Timothy 1:1-14

You can listen to the Sermon below HERE

We continue our series on the Spirit-filled life. We continue asking: What does this passage teach us about the Spirit-filled life. Today’s passage, I believe, tells us that the Spirit-filled life is a life of courageous testimony.

Last week we were in the 1st letter to Timothy. Today our reading is from the 2nd letter to Timothy. It is written by the apostle Paul while languishing in a Roman jail. This was Paul’s second imprisonment in Rome and would very soon end in Paul’s death. It is the very last of Paul’s letters. In some ways it is his last will and testament and in it he writes to his beloved disciple in Ephesus, Timothy. In fact Timothy is more than a disciple, Paul regards him as a dear son in Christ.

By this time the persecution against Christians had intensified and it was increasingly life-threatening to be identified as a Christian and to publicly proclaim one’s faith in Christ. So, as Paul wrote to Timothy, his fear seemed to be that Timothy might become timid and silent about the glorious truth of the gospel.

Have you ever been timid and silent about the glorious truth of the gospel?

Paul’s aim in writing this opening chapter of his letter is very clear – it is to call Timothy not to be timid and ashamed of the good news of Jesus, but rather to a life of courageous testimony.

The Word of God through Paul was telling Timothy then … and it is telling us now:

  • The world around you is putting all kinds of pressure on you to remain silent about Jesus and His teaching. Do not be silent!
  • The world around you can feel like a very threatening and dangerous place to speak up and speak out about Jesus and His teaching. Do not be timid!
  • The message about Jesus and His teaching can seem frightfully outdated and old-fashioned and sometimes out-of-touch with what everyone around you believes. Do not be embarrassed or ashamed!
  • The world around you can put all kinds of pressure on you to compromise and water-down the message of Jesus and His teaching. Do not compromise on sound teaching.
  • Do not be silent! Do not be timid! Do not be ashamed! Do not compromise!

That is powerful stuff. Those are powerful words if ever you have fallen silent or compromised the fullness of the Gospel message because of fear or embarrassment.

Now on the one hand we should all feel very convicted this morning … because at some moment in our lives I am willing to assert strongly that all of us have fallen silent or watered down the message of Jesus due to fear or embarrassment of some kind.

But on the other hand we should be encouraged that we are in good company. Timothy himself also clearly struggled with this in his humanity.

And then we should claim for ourselves the truths of this passage in God’s Word. It is not only God’s Word of command and encouragement to Timothy through Paul … it is also God’s word of command and encouragement to you and to me … to determine in our hearts today that we will live a life of courageous testimony … speaking out loudly and clearly the testimony of Jesus and His teaching.

How are we going to do this?

  1. Pray for each other (v.3-4)

Just very briefly allow me to point out that being part of a local fellowship of Christ-followers brings with it the call to pray for each other. Paul says to Timothy: “Night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers.” Paul and Timothy had a deep relationship. Paul remembered Timothy’s tears when they had parted . You and I are in a deep relationship too … a covenant relationship with each other as members of this local church.. As Paul prayed for Timothy, so we are called to pray for each other as well. It is not only that you as members are called to pray for me, your minister; and that I, your minister am called to pray for you. It is also that we are all called to pray for one another as co-members of the Body of Christ.

In Ephesians 6 (Paul’s letter to this church that Timothy was now pastoring) he pleads with them: “Pray for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel.” Fearlessly. Just as Paul prayed for Timothy … so he had also asked that they would pray for him.

As co-members of the Body of Christ we need to be praying for each other to fearlessly testify about Jesus and His teachings.

Number 1 – Pray for each other!

  1. Remember your spiritual heritage (v.5)

Paul reminds Timothy about his mother and grandmother, from whom he had received his faith in Jesus. From Acts we know that Timothy’s mother had been Jewish but his father was a Gentile. There is no mention of the father here, which strongly suggests that his father was not a believer. And yet, despite that, Timothy’s mother and grandmother had risked rejection from his father to pass on their faith to him. Remember your spiritual heritage.

Now that may be a family member who led you to Christ. But it may also be others who stand as beacons in your memory … people who led you to Christ … or discipled you … or taught you the truth that Jesus taught. These people in my life were definitely my parents and my brother … but also men called Kurt Francis and Jaidevan Sarangarajan and Bill Griffin and Brian Jennings and Paul Viljoen and Gerald Lee. When I was a young believer, these men taught me and inspired me and encouraged me … and quite frankly would often have told me exactly what Paul told Timothy … don’t be timid! Speak up!! Speak out!

The Word of God says to us today: Remember those people! Remember your spiritual heritage! And be brave!

Number 1: Pray for each other. Number 2: Remember your spiritual heritage.

  1. Fan your gift into flame (v.6)

Here’s a very beautiful point. We are not called to live lives of courageous testimony without resources. This is the first of them … there are a few more to come in this passage.

When Paul had laid hands on Timothy to commission him as the pastor in Ephesus he knew that in that moment God had given Timothy the gift necessary to accomplish his ministry there. In Timothy’s case it was probably a package made up of the spiritual gift of leadership, teaching & pastoring … and it definitely included the gift of evangelism – the gift of verbally proclaiming the good news of Jesus.

God never calls us without equipping us … without gifting us to be able to accomplish the calling. But far, far, far too many of us have hidden our gifts under our chairs … because we feel safer that way.

  • Some of us here have indeed been called to courageously testify about Jesus by preaching the gospel to the local church and community … but your spiritual gift of preaching is hidden under that blue chair you’re sitting on.
  • Some of us here have been called to courageously testify about Jesus by leading worship … but your spiritual gift of music or worship-leading is hidden under that blue chair you’re sitting on.
  • Some of us here have been called to courageously testify about Jesus through painting or drawing or other visual arts … but your spiritual gift of artistry is hidden under that blue chair you’re sitting on … or worse … you are just using that gift for personal expression rather than ministry.
  • The list goes on and on. Hidden under these blue chairs are gifts of dance and drama and administration and service and encouragement and pastoring and management and faith-filled intercession … and on and on.

The Word of God to us today is … whatever your gift may be … fan it into flame!! How do you fan it into flame? Well the first step is to air it … to get it out from under your chair into the fresh air by using it. Fan it into flame by using it!

Number 1: Pray for each other. Number 2: Remember your spiritual heritage. Number 3. Fan your gift into flame

  1. Trust the power of the Holy Spirit within you (v.7)

The Word of God here highlights three specific resources the Holy Spirit gives us – the first of which is power. Paul tells Timothy to remember that he has not been given a spirit of timidity or fear. He has received a spirit of POWER.

When we consider stepping out to courageously testify to a friend or family member about Jesus … or to step up front to give a testimony in Church … or to sing or lead worship or pray … or to go out on the streets to present Jesus through art or drama … we may very well feel that we don’t have the strength to do it. We know what we should do … but we feel powerless to do it. We feel timid … afraid … embarrassed … maybe even paralysed.

God’s Word to us here is: “In those moments, do not trust your own strength. Go in the power that the Holy Spirit gives you.” Trust the power of Holy Spirit within you.

Long before, the Lord had said through the prophet Zechariah: “It is not by might nor by power but by My Spirit says the Lord” (Zech. 4:6). In other words we will not accomplish God’s call through human might or power … but only in the power of the Holy Spirit.

  • Romans 8:11 says that the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead lives in us.
  • Ephesians 3:20 says that God is “able to do immeasurably more than we could ever ask or imagine according to His power that is at work within us.”
  • Ephesians 6:10 says: “Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.”

Yes we are weak. But He is in us and He is all-powerful. And His power is made perfect in our weakness, says 2 Corinthians 12:9.  So when you feel afraid or inadequate: Trust the power of Holy Spirit within you.

Number 1: Pray for each other. Number 2: Remember your spiritual heritage. Number 3. Fan your gift into flame. Number 4: Trust the power of the Holy Spirit within you.

 

  1. Be moved by the love of the Holy Spirit within you

Because Timothy (and we) may be tempted to give in to fear, the Word tells him and us to remember that we have not been given a spirit of timidity or fear. We have received a spirit of POWER and of LOVE.

Remember the beautiful truth of Romans 5:5. God has poured His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. That love, we know, is not romantic love or even any kind of emotion of love. It is a self-sacrificial love. God’s Spirit within us fills us with self-sacrificial love. He fills us with love for God that is greater than our love for anyone … even greater than our love for ourselves. So we live to bring pleasure to the God we love.

Like John would later say in 1 John 4:18 “Perfect love drives out fear.” The Holy Spirit within us fills us with love for God, which over-rides our fears. He fills us with love for the people we are called to testify to, which moves us to speak up and speak out because we realise that unless we share the gospel and the truth of Jesus with them they might never know that they too can be saved from sin and death and receive the free gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus.

Perfect love overcomes our fears.

Number 1: Pray for each other. Number 2: Remember your spiritual heritage. Number 3. Fan your gift into flame. Number 4: Trust the power of the Holy Spirit within you. Number 5. Be moved by the love of the Holy Spirit within you

 

  1. Exercise the self-discipline which comes from the Holy Spirit within you

Because Timothy (and we) may be tempted to give in to fear, the Word tells him and us to remember that we have not been given a spirit of timidity or fear. We have received a spirit of POWER and of LOVE and of SELF-DISCIPLINE.

The word is sophronismos (Greek #4995), one of these great Greek untranslatable words. I have heard it defined as “control of oneself in face of praise or of pain.”

I love that. Because I see in myself two powerful desires that may lead me to be timid in my testimony for Christ. 1. The desire to be liked and admired by others. 2. The desire not to experience pain and rejection.

When called to testify about Jesus and His words, the fear of offending others, earning their scorn or dislike or being rejected or even ostracized by them can easily stop us from speaking out. God’s Word says that when faced with this kind of temptation to “shut up” because of the fear of man (our desire for praise or the avoidance of pain) we should instead trust the power and love and self-control that the Holy Spirit gives.

 

Number 1: Pray for each other. Number 2: Remember your spiritual heritage. Number 3. Fan your gift into flame. Number 4: Trust the power of Holy Spirit within you. Number 5. Be moved by the love of the Holy Spirit within you. Number 6. Exercise the self-discipline which comes from the Holy Spirit within you.

  1. Remember the glory of the Gospel (v.8-10)

I’ll conclude with this. It is pretty much the most important point in this part of 2 Timothy. Paul summarises the glory of the good news which we are to share with others. He wants Timothy (and us) to remember that we are not bearers of just some unimportant good news. We are bearers of the best news ever delivered to the human race.

Here’s my paraphrase of Paul’s summary:

  • God loved humanity with an infinite love before the beginning of time … before God created the Cosmos and placed us in it.
  • In love, God created humanity.
  • When humanity rebelled against God and were separated from Him by our own rebellion, God Himself came to rescue us through the life and self-sacrificial death of Jesus.
  • By living a perfectly innocent life, then dying and rising again, Jesus destroyed the power of death on behalf of all who would believe in Him.
  • And now, life and immortality are given to all who hear and believe and receive this Jesus as their Saviour and Lord by faith.

This is magnificent news!! We are loved by God the Father. Jesus, God the Son,  has taken our punishment for sin on Himself. If we turn away from sin and rebellion and trust in Jesus Christ … we will receive life and immortality. That is something worth testifying about.

The Spirit filled life is a Life of Courageous Testimony. In order to life this life:

  1. Pray for each other.
  2. Remember your spiritual heritage.
  3. Fan your gift into flame.
  4. Trust the power of Holy Spirit within you.
  5. Be moved by the love of the Holy Spirit within you.
  6. Exercise the self-discipline which comes from the Holy Spirit within you.
  7. Remember the glory of the Gospel

Godly Contentment

1 Timothy 6:6-19

You can listen to the Sermon on our Website

The Spirit-filled Life is a Life of Godly Contentment

Having spent some time in 1 Timothy 2 last week, we are familiar with the fact that this is a letter written to a young minister who was leading the church in Ephesus.

One of the difficulties this young pastor, Timothy, faced was that there were other religious teachers in Ephesus who were doing the rounds and enticing Christian people to leave behind the gospel they had embraced when they heard it preached by the apostles or by Timothy himself.

One particularly insidious teaching that was proving very enticing to the Christians is mentioned in verse 5 – immediately before our passage for today. Our passage is a direct response to this false teaching … which was that “godliness is a means to financial gain.” (1 Timothy 6:5)

Like so many false teachers today, who teach what we call a prosperity gospel, these teachers were claiming that God wants you to get rich. So one’s “religion” was practiced as a  means to attain wealth.

The apostle Paul’s response to that claim is very direct and very clear. In verse 5 he says that people who think that way have a corrupted mind and have been robbed of the truth.

Why is he so direct? Because this false teaching is so very, very dangerous. It goes right to the heart of Jesus’ teaching – presented identically in Matthew 6:24 and in Luke 16:13

“No-one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”

This false teaching puts money at the centre and makes God essentially just a means to the ultimate end of gaining more money.

Today’s passage holds up in contrast the life of someone who loves and is devoted to GOD over against someone who loves and is devoted to  MONEY. It holds up in contrast those who seek fulfilment and satisfaction in MATERIAL GAIN over against those who find fulfilment and satisfaction in GOD.

So let’s approach it this way:

  1. The dangers of the love of money
  2. The freedoms of loving God

 

  1. The Dangers of Loving Money

It is not money itself that is said to be the root of all kinds of evil in verse 10. Rather it says: “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.”

Please note that the danger we are being warned against as Christ-followers is not having money. The danger is loving money. The danger is putting money at the centre of one’s life. The danger is seeking one’s fulfilment in the possession of money and the things it can buy. And that danger is a very grave spiritual danger.

Verse 9 says: “Those who want to get rich” – that is those who have decided that their goal in life is riches – those who place money at the centre – “fall into temptation and a trap.”

God’s Word warns us here that the love of money has the natural tendency to send one down a very slippery slope. Here’s how that warning is explained in v.9-10:

  1. When one loves money and centres one’s life on it, sooner or later (but usually sooner) the pursuit of more money or material things will bring one to a moment of Often that temptation will be to compromise on what one knows is right. They always say that everyone has their price. Offer someone enough money and they will compromise, abandon their ethical standards, betray a friend, do whatever it takes to get their hands on the money.
  2. Then, once one has given in to temptation, too late one discovers that the temptation was actually a trap. You thought it was going to take one small lie to land that big contract … but now you discover the small lie has to be followed up with a bigger lie to cover the first lie … otherwise you’ll lose your ill-gotten gain and your good name. So the first temptation leads to a bigger temptation … and you are trapped. We know how this slippery slope works. Before you know it you are trapped in a compromise … and it is beginning to define who you are – and your relationships with God and others and being harmed.
  3. But because the love of money is so powerful, one thrashes about trying to save oneself from this trap one finds oneself in and that desire to save oneself at all costs ends up harming one even more … and 1 Timothy 6 warns that the bottom of this slippery slope is a ruined life … “ruin and destruction” it says.

So many lives have been ruined by the love of money. So many loving spouses have been sacrificed on the altar of the love of money. So many children have been sacrificed on the altar of the pursuit of more and more.

And then the second half of verse 10 issues just as stark a warning: “Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” The worst result of the love of money – being centre on money – is that one ultimately loses one’s faith. One has in fact replaced God with money. And money cannot give life. Only God can.

So those false teachers, teaching that godliness is a means to great financial gain … those prosperity gospel teachers … are selling very, very dangerous lies which, when believed and pursued, end up robbing people of the abundant life that Jesus died to give us.

 

  1. The Freedoms of Loving God

Now by contrast, 1 Timothy 2:6 says the actual truth is this, “Godliness with contentment is great gain!” So godliness is NOT a means to financial gain. Rather when one has a contended godliness, one experiences true “gain”. Let’s unpack that a bit.

Godliness … which I would love to define as “one’s lived relationship with God” is not a means to an end … it is the true end in itself. Someone else defined “godliness” beautifully as “devotion in action.” Enoch in the Old Testament is a great example of godliness. We are told that he walked with God and that by doing so he pleased God. Godliness means that we are devoted to God and our relationship with God. And this verse in 1 Timothy strongly suggests to us that having God and one’s relationship with God right at the centre of one’s life gives one a deep and abiding contentment.

Here in 1 Timothy this godliness and the pursuit of it is described in v.11-12: “Pursue righteousness (i.e. right relationship with God), godliness (i.e. the living out of that right relationship with God), pursue faith, love, endurance and gentleness (i.e. seek to live outwardly in ways that correctly express your relationship with God in relation to the world around you). And when you do this you will discover that you have taken hold of the eternally abundant life Christ gave you.

A big part of the eternally abundant life as described in this passage is Contentment … What is that anyway? The dictionary defines it as a state of happiness and satisfaction, because one has everything one needs.

When one places God at the very centre of one’s affections – i.e. when one loves God above everything else – and when one makes one’s relationship with God the most central relationship in one’s life – one will experience the beauty of godly contentment. And one will soon discover that all the pleasures the world has to offer are NOTHING by comparison. Godliness with contentment is great gain.

When we find this eternal contentment in and though our relationship with God, then what we have or don’t have materially becomes irrelevant … and we get to that wonderful point of accepting that whatever God wants me to possess is fine with me. We adopt the attitude of v.7-8 “We brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.”

Our perfect contentment … born out of our relationship with God … allows us to be content with our material state too. There is no reason to chase after financial wealth when we have discovered the abundance of spiritual wealth to be found in God. We look after our real needs, and that is all that truly matters.

Now, I love v.14-16. We may find ourselves wondering why Paul would include this doxology – this expression of praise to God – in the middle of his teaching. What is he doing? He is offering us a vision of the God who should be at the centre. How could we ever think that money belongs at the centre when our God is the “blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no-one has seen or can see … to whom be honour and might forever”?

 

Now, don’t get this wrong. This is not an invitation to laziness. Scripture is full of injunctions to work hard and work well to the best of our ability. But it is the goal of that work which is vital. Scripture calls us to work hard and work well in order to bring glory to God. Get that … we work hard and well to bring glory to God … we serve God with our work … we do not serve the Money-Master with our work. Gaining financial well-being might also come our way because of our hard work … it often does… but that is not our ULTIMATE AIM. The ultimate aim of our hard work is to please God and glorify God, who created us and gave us the ability to work.

And then lastly, the passage invites us to consider what we should do if our hard, God-glorifying work leads us to become financially well-off … or for that matter if we are well-off financially already when we come to know Christ. We might say it is about how to be rich with godly contentment.

 

  1. How to be rich with godly contentment

The answer given is in v.17-19 and it is really straight-forward.

Note this in v. 17, it is a COMMAND … it’s not a suggestion. God commands those of us who are rich in this present world. Who is that? Well that is almost all of us. Because almost all of us here have more than just food, clothing and shelter. Most of us. Maybe all of us have more than we need just to survive. So we are COMMANDED:

  • Make sure you keep trusting in God and not in money. Make sure you remember money is not your security, God is.
  • Make sure you remember that the money in your possession comes from God and belongs to God, so trust God not the money … and use the money for God’s purposes, not your pleasures.
  • Make sure you don’t think your money sets your level of importance. Don’t be arrogant towards those who have less than you.
  • Do good – that is, with the money God has placed at your disposal, do things that honour God!
  • With the money God has placed at your disposal, do good for others.
  • Be generous and willing to share with those in your spiritual family. I’m adding the phrase “with those in your spiritual family” because the Greek word is It is being willing to share what one has with one’s spiritual family. When we see true needs among our brothers and sisters in Christ, and God has placed enough money at our disposal to meet those needs, true freedom leads us to release God’s money from our bank accounts to meet those needs.

In other words, in a nutshell, use the money that is at your disposal to pursue the purposes of God and the wellbeing of those around you.

Unlike the rich young ruler in Matthew 19, Jesus does not command ALL of us to sell everything we have and give it all away, but He does command us to make sure that we have enthroned Him at the centre of our lives and not money … and that we therefore use the money at our disposal to bring Him glory and honour and to pursue His Kingdom purposes in our world.

So to go right back to the start: No, God is not a means to increase our Money. Rather Money is a means of worshiping the one true God.

Standing on our knees

“When we started praying at the square, I had to repent, because I hadn’t been praying for our president or our government. Because we didn’t like them, we didn’t pray, even though we are Christians and the Bible tells us to pray,” said Nadia, my translator and a pastor’s wife in Kharkov. Now they pray every day for those in power over them, whether they like them or not.

Please read this great article by Nicole Leigh in light of last Sunday’s Sermon.

Standing on our knees

Praying for ALL

1 Timothy 2:1-8

You can listen to this Sermon HERE

When the letter of 1 Timothy was written, it was addressed to the young minister, Timothy, who had been left behind in Ephesus by the apostle Paul to be the teacher and pastor of the fledgling church there. Timothy was:

  • pastoring a church of people who had converted from paganism and emperor worship, and not many of whom had a foundation in the Old Testament revelation of God.
  • He was under pressure from travelling Christian teachers who wanted to enforce the full rituals of the Law of Moses on even non-Jewish Christians;
  • and the entire church was under pressure from intense persecution where the Christian disciple’s life was in danger every day, simply for confessing that Christ is Lord.

The letter was therefore written:

  • to encourage and spiritually strengthen Timothy in his ministry;
  • to give him some very clear direction on what to teach and how to address false teaching that found its way into the church;
  • to remind him of the truth of the Gospel message that he was to proclaim; and
  • to inspire him to remain faithful in the face of terrible persecution and opposition to Christianity.

In chapter 1, Paul gives a lengthy introduction to the letter. He sets the scene for his instructions to Timothy in the rest of the letter. He tells Timothy that he is writing these instructions so that, by following them Timothy may “fight the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience.” .

And then Apostle Paul begins the meat of his instructions in chapter 2.

And what is the very first thing Paul instructs? What did he teach Timothy to treat as the foundation of his entire ministry in Ephesus? He says:

“I urge then first of all … that requests, prayers, intercessions and thanksgiving be made for everyone; for kings and all those in authority …”  (v.1)

1.PRAY!!

Please let that sink in for a moment. God’s Word instruct us here as pastors and teachers that the very first thing to urge upon ourselves as disciples, and on our churches, is prayer. Without prayer a pastor will be powerless and ineffective. Without prayer a church will be powerless and ineffective. Without prayer a Christian will be powerless and ineffective.

It is not strategizing that holds the key to effective ministry and world-transformation … it is not planning that holds the key to effective ministry and world-transformation … it is not financial wealth that holds the key to effective ministry and world-transformation … it is not political activism that holds the key to effective ministry and world-transformation.

The key to effective ministry and world-transformation is PRAYER!

God’s Word here uses four different words to exhort us to pray. And without going into a crazy word-study, these four words show that we should pray in a multifaceted way:

  1. Requests: Some versions correctly translate the word as “supplications”, which helps us to see that we should pray for God to supply immediate needs – knowing that God is able to supply that need. It brings to mind the Psalmist’s image of the storehouse of God … and us, as stewards on earth coming to the Lord to requisition supplies from His storehouse.
  2. Prayers: This word is never used of anything except prayer to God and carries a sense of deep reverence and worship. It is not just a knee-jerk cry to God for the meeting of needs … it is a more thought-through approach of reverence and worship to God, that brings ourselves to the throne of God’s grace to find mercy.
  3. Intercessions: This is such a beautiful word when applied to prayer because it carries this idea of someone who cares very deeply and has great compassion for another person approaching the LORD with whom they have a deep intimacy, to ask the LORD to minister to the other person.
  4. Thanksgivings: It initially sounds strange that we would be instructed to make thanksgivings for others: “I urge, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for everyone.” This is a reminder to thank God for what God has done in response to our prayers.

Hear the Word of the Lord to us today: our first ministry in the world is the ministry of prayer! Without prayer a pastor will be powerless and ineffective. Without prayer a church will be powerless and ineffective. Without prayer a Christian will be powerless and ineffective.

2.PRAY FOR EVERYONE

This tell us the scope of our prayers. We are to pray for everyone. Now, yes, that of course includes us, ourselves. It includes our church. It includes our families. But the apostle is also very specific that it also includes “kings and all those in authority.”

It was not much of an ask to instruct the early Christians of Ephesus to pray for everyone around them whom they cared about – that came as naturally to them as it does to us. But it would not come naturally to them to pray for the emperor and other Roman authorities. These very authorities were often the ones persecuting them for their faith.

Talk about being given a tough sermon to preach. I imagine a Christian in Ephesus replying to Timothy as he taught them this:

Christian: “Let’s get this straight. We are to cry out to God with great reverence and great fervency and great compassion for God to meet the needs of the Emperor who recently ordered the arrest of our brother Gaius for refusing to worship the Emperor as God?”

Timothy: “Yip – I see you understand me well. And I can see that you battle with this. So let me remind you of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who, hanging on the Cross cried out to the Father with great reverence and fervency and compassion: ‘Father, forgive them, they know not what they do!’”

CMC – All around us are situations crying out for the intervention of God! Led and empowered by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us we are to pray with great reverence and fervency and compassion for “everyone” ….

We are to submit to the Holy Spirit of Jesus within us as He leads and empowers us to pray for women who are the target of domestic violence; children who are being bullied; foreigners who are being attacked. And when we do, we will probably find that this comes naturally!

But in order to be like Christ in the world … we will also have to submit to the Holy Spirit of Jesus within us as He leads and empowers us to pray for those who are abusers and bullies and violent murderers … and even for politicians … and our president too.

The scope of our calling is to pray for everyone. Pray for those we love and those we despise. Pray for those who are good to us and for those who oppose us. Pray for all people everywhere!

Now, I think the apostle can sense that Timothy and his church might still be asking the question: “But WHY for these kings and authorities and people who are clearly pursuing evil intentions?” The answers to that question are our 3rd and 4th points …

WHY pray for everyone … especially “those” ones?

3.PRAY FOR EVERYONE BECAUSE THE GOSPEL IS UNIVERSAL

God-honouring behaviour comes from proper biblical theology.

Here Paul adopts the approach of motivating behaviour through powerful theology. We will not bring ourselves to pray for all people, even those we perceive to be evil or even our enemies unless, we get this theology straight:

As Christians we believe:

  • There is One God. That means the One who is God over us … is also God over the Emperor … is also God over the murderous gangster. Our God is the One True God who is over all. He created me … He created the Emperor … He created the gangster.
  • There is One Mediator between God and humanity. He is Jesus Christ. There is only one way for a human being to come home to God and that is through Jesus. So Timothy, Jesus is the Mediator between you and God … but He is also the Mediator between the Emperor and God … and between the murderous gangster and God. He holds out His hand to me to lead me back to God … but He also holds out His hand to the Emperor … He holds out His hand to the gangster … to lead them back to God too.
  • He gave Himself as a ransom for all human beings. When Jesus died on the cross He died to take the punishment for YOUR sins, yes. He also died to take the punishment for the Emperor’s sins … and the punishment for the sins of the murderous gangster.

If Jesus Christ laid down His life to pay for that person’s sins … who am I to dare to refuse to pray for them? 

I’ll repeat that because I am so convicted of it today: if Jesus Christ laid down His life to pay for that person’s sins … who am I to dare to refuse to pray for them?

When we pray for all people, says v.3-4, “this pleases God our Saviour who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” AHA!

When we pray for “all people” we pray for them with this ultimate aim – that they may be saved from the evil power of sin and death, and be brought to a knowledge of the truth.

Let’s think about that under the final heading.

4.PRAY FOR EVERYONE BECAUSE PRAYER CHANGES THE WORLD

Praying for anyone at all can fall under the scope of praying for them “to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth”.

Yes, some of us are already saved from the consequences of our sins through faith in Jesus. But even the Christian who has journeyed a lifetime with Jesus still needs to be saved from the power of sin’s temptations and destruction. Even the life-long Christian still needs to grow in greater knowledge of the truth.

When we pray for the murderous gangster or the one bullying our child, that is hugely difficult, but it becomes a powerful weapon of spiritual warfare when we pray for them to be saved from their sins by the Mediator Jesus Christ who broke the power of those sins on the cross.

We are to pray for them … envisaging the day when that person meets Jesus face-to-face and throws themselves upon His mercy … begging forgiveness for the sins committed while they were living in the dominion of darkness … and surrendering their lives completely to Him.

Pray for the radical salvation of every gangster, every abuser, every violent criminal, every politician, every president … pray that they will be born again through faith in Jesus Christ and made brand new people by the power of the Holy Spirit!!!!

And guess what will happen when this occurs in the life of everyone for whom we pray. Here’s how 1 Timothy 2:2 describes it: “(Then we will) live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”

Last week we saw that the Spirit-filled life is a life of prioritising and seeking the lost, and rejoicing when they are found. Today we discover that this ministry begins in fervent, reverent, compassionate, powerful prayer.

Do you want to be living in a community where all people are free to live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness? PRAY! PRAY FOR EVERYONE! PRAY ESPECIALLY FOR THOSE WHO SEEM TO BE PREVENTING US FROM LIVING THIS WAY. Pray that the One True God will meet them face to face. Pray that the One Mediator, Jesus will lay His hand on them. Pray that they will come to saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Spirit-filled life is a life of praying for everyone.

CONCLUSION

Our passage concludes in v.8: “I want people everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer without anger or disputing … or as the word can also be translated … doubting.”

Don’t do this reluctantly, in other words. Don’t come to this ministry of prayer begrudgingly. Stand up and lift up your hands in prayer – that was a normal prayer posture for early Christians. The early African Christian scholar and author from Carthage, Tertullian, said they prayed like this because it offered an image of Christ on the Cross.

So be like Jesus, Paul is saying, stand up, stretch out your hands to remind yourself of Jesus’ self-sacrificial attitude on the cross … and pray even for those who persecute you and spitefully use you (the way Jesus taught you to do). Don’t do it begrudgingly .. .and whatever you do, don’t doubt for a minute that God is able to answer.

Pray with fervency. Pray with reverence for Jesus who died for that person. Pray with compassion for that person, so lost and broken in their sin. Pray for them to be saved through faith in Jesus Christ who laid down His life on the Cross for them. Pray for them to be brought to a full knowledge of the truth and have their lives totally transformed.

And when God answers our prayers … the world will be transformed!

Seeking the “Lost”

Luke 15:1-10 and 1 Timothy 1:12-17

You may listen to the Sermon Audion by clicking on THIS LINK

The Spirit-Filled Life is a Life of SEEKING THE LOST AND REJOICING IN THE FIND

Today our Lectionary brings us a beautiful combination of readings:

  1. 2 parts of a 3-part parable about being lost and found, and
  2. the Apostle Paul’s testimony of his own lost-and-found experience.

Context

The context of the Jesus’ telling of the parable is this.

Throughout Jesus’ ministry, the ways He spoke and behaved tended to attract to Him people who were considered to be undesirables by the Religious Leaders of the day. The riff-raff. In this particular instance Jesus was teaching a large crowd of people about the cost of discipleship (See Luke 14) and in the large crowd listening to this teaching, there were a noticeable number of people identified in Luke 15:1 as “tax collectors” and “sinners”. To the Religious Leaders, these were two groups of clearly undesirable people.

  1. The “tax collectors” were undesirable because they were greedy, conniving and dishonest collaborators with the oppressive Roman Regime.
  2. The “sinners” were people regarded as immoral misfits. The word covered known prostitutes, adulterers and petty thieves.

What was noticeable to the Religious Leaders was that this was not an uncommon happening. Jesus attracted these people AND would always welcome this riff-raff and EVEN eat with them.

The word used in the accusation that Jesus “welcomes” sinners is a word used of a welcoming embrace normally reserved for family members. People still caught up in lives of corruption, criminality and sexual immorality received a loving embrace from Jesus.

AND, as if that wasn’t bad enough, in their culture to eat with someone was to show affirmation and even approval of the person.

Jesus was welcoming and building friendly relationships with known “sinners” and “undesirables”. No wonder the Religious Leaders were muttering and complaining. They felt Jesus was sending all the wrong messages.

Hearing their complaints is what moved Jesus to tell this parable. Which tells us that the main point of the parable is to call out the attitude of the Religious Leaders. Bear that in mind.

The Parable

At first glance, it feels as though Luke 15 is three parables. But on closer inspection v.3 says: “Jesus told them this parable” (singular).  It is actually one parable with three parts.

  1. the story of a lost sheep.
  2. the story of a lost coin.
  3. the story of a lost son

One parable in three parts … all about those who get lost and are then found again.

Part #1: The Priority of the Lost (v.4a and 8a)

The common denominators of the sheep and the coin in these stories is that they are very valuable and that they get lost.

The sheep was out in the fields with the shepherd who had brought it into the world, carried it as a lamb when it was too weary to follow the flock, checked it every night for parasites, slept in the fields with it, led it to safe pasture, and protected it daily from predators.  The shepherd loved and valued each of his sheep almost as if they were his children. And then one day the sheep wandered off and got itself lost.

The coin did what coins do and obeyed gravity. In a poor home the silver coin was security against a rainy day. In village life, almost everything was bartered not bought … and coins were kept for when there was nothing left to barter. The woman had frugally stored up 10 silver cons for her family’s rainy day. Wherever it was being stored, it somehow dropped out of sight into a dusty corner of the woman’s peasant home.

The sheep and the coin were both incredibly valuable to the shepherd and the woman respectively, and they both got lost. And precisely because they were valuable and lost – they were a priority.

The 99 sheep and the 9 silver coins that were not lost were each just as valuable, but they were not lost. In the meaning of this parable … they represent the Religious Leaders. They were, in their opinion anyway, safely “at home” in the “will of God”. And the “lost” sheep and coin were those considered “sinners” and far away from the will of God.

The problem was that the Religious Leaders thought the “lost” were not only far away from the will of God but also far away from the heart of God … and that they should be avoided in case they should “contaminate” the “found”. And nothing could have been further from the truth.

Here they were … 99 sheep bleating and complaining that the shepherd was off looking for the lost one … when in fact they should have been cheering Him on.

The Shepherd’s priority was the lost. The Woman’s priority was the lost.

Here is the lesson of Part 1 for us today … as established followers of Jesus who know that we belong to the family of God … Those who are on the outside … the vulnerable … the displaced … the despised … the “sinners” and the “corrupt” are the priority of Jesus Christ. They should be our priority too if we are to be Christlike.

So let’s ask ourselves: What is our attitude towards those “out there”?

Let us repent of any un-Christlike attitude towards those who are lost … those who have wandered far from God. And certainly, let us make “the lost” our priority. Yes, it is vitally important for us to fellowship with each other and worship our Lord together … but it is also crucial for us to prioritise ministry to those on the outside of the faith.

So first: Think of someone today who you know is outside of the faith-family of God … someone lost in sin …or just lost because they have wandered far from God. Name them in your mind … because this sermon is about you … and them.

Part #2: The Passion of the Search (v.4b-5a and 8b-9a)

In these two stories another common denominator is the passion of the search.

The shepherd goes out into the wilderness. He loves that sheep so much that he risks the very same dangers that his sheep faces – the predators, the bandits, the sinkholes, the sudden cliffs of the Judean wilderness. He loves that sheep and he risks Himself to find it. He is passionate in his search.

Likewise the woman. She values that coin so highly. She searches for it “carefully” and with great urgency (the Greek word implies). She knows that the longer the coin is gone the less likely she is to uncover it in its dusty corner.

For both of them this was an urgent, passionate search.

Jesus is bringing home a strong message to his detractors. It is not just that He tolerates the lost; i.e. the despised tax collectors and “sinners” … it is that He is passionately and urgently seeking them out.

Here is the lesson of Part 2 for us today … established followers of Jesus who know that we belong to the family of God … Jesus Christ is passionately and urgently at work seeking out those who are outside of the family of God, and we need to adopt that same urgency.

We also need to adopt the same approach. What was Jesus’ approach to searching? In contrast to the Pharisees who were like 99 sheep standing safely in the kraal bleating ceaselessly about how dumb the lost sheep was to get lost … and how irresponsible the shepherd was to go off looking for it … bleating about how filthy those rotten sinners were … by contrast to them … Jesus went to where the lost people were … and He opened Himself up to loving and welcoming relationships with them. He welcomed the crowds of tax collectors and sinners and He embraced them and fellowshipped with them as a relational invitation to them to come home to the faith-family of God.

So the second question, in relation to the “lost” person you named earlier is:  How will YOU reach out to them with warm and loving fellowship as a relational invitation to them to come home to the faith-family of God?

Part #3: The Party of the Find (v.6b-7 and 9b-10)

This is where the stories have been heading all along. Jesus brings them to their natural, happy ending. The sheep is found. The coin is found. In both cases neighbours and friends are summoned to come and rejoice with the Finder (the Shepherd and the Woman). A party is thrown in celebration.

Of course this is what would naturally happen.

And Jesus’ point is … this is Heaven’s reaction when one of God’s lost ones is found.

I think Jesus made His point. Yes, these sinners and tax collectors lost their way. Yes they were far from God … no arguments there. God hates adultery … God hates corruption … God hates theft and murder and violence. And people who do those things are LOST and separated from God by their sin.

BUT … Jesus Christ was passionately and urgently at work seeking out those who were on the outside … the “sinners” and the “corrupt”.

AND when these people were FOUND by Him then, unlike heaven, the Religious Leaders were like neighbours who refused to join the party. They would not rejoice. Instead they complained.

This parable was both:

  1. an indictment on their attitude and behaviour, and
  2. an invitation to them to stop muttering and join the party.

The question begs asking however: “It’s easy to know when a lost sheep is found … and its easy to see when a lost coin is found. But when is a lost sinner found?”

The Story of Saul/Paul

This is where the story of Paul in 1 Timothy 1 is really helpful. Because Paul, was a LOST man. In 1 Timothy 1:13 he describes himself like this: “I was once a blasphemer, a persecutor and a violent man.” If you know the early chapters of the book of Acts, Paul was on a mission to eradicate Christians. He was a self-declared enemy of Jesus! Lost never looked quite as lost as Paul was!

But when Paul was lost, Jesus was passionately SEARCHING. Paul himself said in 1 Timothy 1:15 that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst.” In a general sense Jesus came into the world to seek and save us all. But He also comes specifically to seek out every individual. We know from Acts 9 how the risen Jesus came to Paul on the Road to Damascus and met him in a voice from heaven and a blinding light. It was a dramatic moment of searching and of offering Paul a way back.

However Paul was not FOUND by Christ on the Damascus Road. Because even after that dramatic encounter, Paul still needed to make his own choice. And it was only 3 days later when Ananias came to Paul and laid hands on him that Paul appears to have fully entrusted his life to Jesus, and was saved and filled with the Holy Spirit and baptised.

But the key to understanding Paul’s moment of being found and of coming home to the faith-family … is that he says that he WAS once a blasphemer and  persecutor … but Jesus saved him. Paul was FOUND … in the moment his new-found faith in Jesus caused him to REPENT. To turn away from his sin and to turn TO God by faith in Jesus.

In the Parable: Both in v.7 and v.10, Jesus clearly says that the party that is thrown in heaven is thrown because of “one sinner who REPENTS”.

While a  sinner is unrepentant in their sin … there is nothing over which to rejoice. The search for that sinner has not yet ended. A sinner is only “found” in the metaphorical sense of this parable, when he or she has repented of their sin, and turned to God through faith in Jesus.

That bears repeating: A sinner is only “found” in the metaphorical sense of this parable, when he or she has repented of their sin, and turned to God through faith in Jesus.

While somebody is still unrepentant over their sinfulness and rebellion against God … there is no reason to celebrate … they are still lost.

This parable is not an invitation to say that sin does not matter to God. Sin matters. It matters because sin destroys our lives … but more importantly … and listen closely … sin matters because sin tarnishes our ability to bear the image of God. Sin is not only sin when someone gets hurt. Sin is sin because it misrepresents God to ourselves and to the world.

Committing adultery is not only sin because people get hurt when you get found out. It is sin because God is a faithful God … and humans are to bear His image … and adultery is unfaithfulness. Sin always matters (even when no-one gets hurt) because it is a misrepresentation of God.

Jesus was welcoming the crowds of tax collectors and sinners and He was embracing them and fellowshipping with them as a relational invitation to them … to repent … to turn away from their sin and turn TO God … and leave their lives of sin behind.

Another example and a conclusion

The woman caught in adultery and cast before Jesus in John 8 is a classic example of a lost one in the process of being sought. Lost in the sin of adultery and brought before Jesus by the Religious Leaders as a test of his theology: Jesus protected her. Jesus did not condemn her. Jesus spoke with her. Jesus protected her dignity. But Jesus said to her as He turned to leave: “Now leave your life of sin.” (i.e. REPENT).

In protecting her, Jesus was not implying that her adultery did not matter. His loving protection was part of an invitation to her to make her choice and leave her life of sin. We do not know if she was ever “found” in the sense of this parable. Because the John 8 story ends there.

This Parable holds out to us a way of living which we humans seem to always find incredibly difficult (I know I do). That way of living is:

  1. to live with an orientation TOWARDS those who are still on the outside of the family of God and still living in ways irreconcilable with the family of God; i.e. the person you named earlier; AND
  2. to live in an attitude of deliberately LOVING WELCOME AND WARM RELATIONSHIP with those still on the outside; i.e. the person you named earlier; AND somehow at the same time
  3. to not condone the sin but rather, in that same loving and warm relationship, to issue the invitation to the sinner to turn away from sin and turn to God.

If we are to be used by Christ in bringing lost sinners home to the family of God … the Jesus-way is not to stand at a distance and point and shout: “Sinner, sinner” like the Pharisees did. The way is to go close and build relationship and reveal the love of God in Christ … and in that position of loving fellowship to issue the invitation of God.

May the Lord give us grace to do this!