Hold Onto Sound Teaching

Posted on 07 Oct 2019

“Hold Onto Sound Teaching”

II Timothy 1:1-14

World Communion Sunday – October 6, 2019

 

Paul an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, for the sake of the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus, to Timothy my beloved child: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus, our Lord.  I am grateful to God whom I worship with a clear conscience as my ancestors did, when I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day.   Recalling your tears I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy.  I am reminded of your sincere faith, the faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and now I am sure lives in you.  For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you with the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.  Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner.  Join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace.  This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began but it has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior, Jesus Christ who abolished death and brought life and immortality to life through the gospel.  For this gospel I was appointed a herald, an apostle and a teacher, and for this reason I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed for I know the one whom I have trusted and I am sure he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him.  Hold to the standard of sound teaching you have heard from me and the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.  Guard the good treasure entrusted to you with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us.  

 

Thank you, Brady, Radford for sharing about how your grandmother was very intentional

about what she did on Saturday in order to be prepared for Sunday morning.

Friends, ideas matter.  The ideas that are passed down to us from our parents and grandparents

matter.

We live according to our ideas about God, ourselves and others.

Our ideas govern our actions and regulate our feelings.  They are closely related to our beliefs. 

Some of our ideas are good. Some ideas need be encouraged and supported

and passed down to the next generation. 

Other ideas are not so good, but destructive and dangerous.

Some ideas need to be challenged in public debate and overturned

and need NOT to be passed down to the next generation. 

Bad ideas can lead to negative, poor actions that lead to the ultimate downfall of humane living. 

Good ideas can lead to positive, ethical actions that affect the good of humanity. 

 

One really good idea that my parents instilled in me is the importance of “showing up”.

Whether it was “showing up” for school every day, even when you don’t feel very well,

or “showing up” for church on Sunday, even when you’d had a full and busy week,

they taught me, and I learned the lesson well, that simply “showing up” makes quite a difference.

To illustrate, consider the following story…

Once upon a time, “a member of a church named Smith had previously been attending regularly,

but over time stopped coming to worship.  Aware of Smith’s absence

and aware of a few challenging life events that his old friend Smith had encountered,

after some weeks Elder Jones decided to make a visit to Smith. 

Elder Jones found Smith at home alone, sitting before a blazing fire. 

Guessing the reason for his old friends visit, Smith welcomed Elder Jones into his den,

led him to a comfortable chair near the fireplace, and then waited. 

Elder Jones made himself at home but didn’t say a word. 

In the grave silence, Elder Jones contemplated the dance of the flames around the burning logs. 

After a few minutes Elder Jones took the fire tongs, carefully picked up a brightly burning ember

and placed it to the side of the hearth all by itself.  Then Jones sat back in his chair, still silent. 

Smith watched all this in quiet contemplation as the one lone ember’s flame flickered and diminished.

It was a momentary glow and then the fire was no more.  Soon the ember was cold and lifeless. 

After several more minutes, Elder Jones glanced at his watch and realized it was time to go,

so he slowly stood up, picked up that cold, dead ember, and placed it back in the middle of the fire. 

Immediately, the ember began to glow once more with light and warmth. 

As Elder Jones reached the door to leave, Smith said with a tear running down his cheek,

“thank you friend for your visit and especially for the fiery sermon.  I’ll see you in church next week”.  

 

That story was published in the newsletter of the church I served in South Carolina.

A certain member of that church whose name was Hope – I’ll never forget Hope –

had been drifting toward inactivity.

There had been a long illness in their family and then a death and a funeral,

and, in his grief, Hope and his family had fallen out of the habit of coming to church.

And Hope had missed a number of the mission activities that had been so important to him. 

When Hope read that story in the church newsletter, he decided to re-engage.

He realized he had truly missed the fellowship of worship and the joy of serving.

Within months, Hope’s leadership and commitment was renewed

and over time he became of the most inspiring volunteers in the congregation. 

Because Hope decided to “show up” again, his faith was renewed,

and he began to have a significant influence upon those around him.

 

Paul wrote to young Timothy, I am reminded of your sincere faith,

faith that lived first in your mother and grandmother.

I remind you now to rekindle that faith, for God did not give you a spirit of cowardice,

but a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline. 

Do not be ashamed of the gospel, instead join me in suffering for the sake of the mission of Christ.

And hold fast to the sound teaching you have received,

guarding this treasure that has been entrusted to you.

 

Something was happening in the life of that congregation in Ephesus.

There seemed to be some “false teachings” coming from folks who had “missed the mark” in faith. 

In the midst of a competing ideas in Ephesus about how to live the human life,

ideas originating from the Cynic philosophers, the Stoics, and the neo-Pythagoreans –

all quite fascinating, yet different schools of thought in the first century –

Paul becomes concerned that Timothy was being pulled away,

that Timothy was backing down from his leadership role and not fully “showing up”,

that Timothy was no longer working in the spirit of power, love and self-discipline as he had in the

past. 

In the face of opposing ideas inside the church and tempting ideas from outside the church,

and facing the distractions of daily living, Timothy had become timid in his faith.

Intending to fan the ebbing embers of Timothy’s faith, the mentor Paul writes to his student Timothy

to remind him of his past, to encourage him in present, to offer him a vision for the future.

In short, Paul calls Timothy to be the man whom God created him to be –

a powerful apostle for the sake of the early church, for the sake of the world.

 

Bob Ramey and Ben Johnson, two of my seminary professors partnered on a book

called Living the Christian Life.  Bob and Ben outline in this book the five aspects of being a Christian.

The first aspect of being a Christian, living as a follower of Jesus,

is to be awakened to the goodness and mercy of God through the proclamation of the Gospel.

Today, we might say one has become “woke” to the goodness and mercy of God.  

The second aspect of being a Christian is to recognize that we are sinners in need of repentance.

This aspect is not to be taken for granted these days – that all of us, every one of us,

has fallen short and stands in need of God’s grace in order to be saved from the powerful effects of sin. 

Some seem to have forgotten that we are all in constant need of re-formation, even transformation.

A bit of self-reflection and confession is good for the soul, as they say.

The third aspect of being a Christian is to repent of our sin, to turn around and go the other direction.

We do so by turning our faces to God and trusting in Jesus Christ to lead us in his ways,

to lead us in the path of salvation, the path of wholeness and wellness,

the path of love and light and hope. 

The fourth aspect of following Jesus is not to become stagnant, but always to be seeking to grow

in our discipleship, seeking to learn more and more every day what it means to obey God’s word

in our particular context and to show God’s love to the people we find around us.

The fifth aspect of being a Christian is to belong,

to belong to a community of faith, to participate actively and responsibly in worship and service,

just as we promise to do when we join a church or baptize our child.

We have talked often lately at Decatur Presbyterian about the value and importance of belonging.

One cannot effectively belong, or expect to be growing in faith, unless one “shows up”.  

 

I may need to go back and read Johnson and Ramey’s book,

but I wonder if they did not emphasize enough a sixth aspect of being a Christian.

When we “show up” for church to be awakened to grace, to recognize our sin,

to repent, to grow, and to belong, we do so no doubt for our own edification,

but we also do so in order to be sent out to a world in need.

Thank God that Paul and Timothy and others felt the call to be sent out to all the world,

to spread the good news to every land.

On this World Communion Sunday, it is awe-inspiring to consider that Christians around the globe,

because of Paul and Timothy and others who responded to the call of Christ,

are gathering around the same table we gather around today.

Whether in large cathedrals or thatched roof huts,

Christians are “showing up” today at this table in order to be edified

and yes, in order to be sent out into the world, into their varying contexts.

And God knows the world today needs the love and good news that Christians are called to share.

 

My Mom and Dad took a Sunday off from singing in their church choir this morning to worship with

us.

I want to thank you publicly, Mom and Dad, for teaching me to “show up”.

Many of the things I was able to accomplish as a young person

was because you first taught me to show up.  

One of the many gifts I received by showing up at worship when I was a child

was the scriptural charge and benediction that my Dad would offer every week.

By repeating this charge and benediction every week,

over time the whole congregation had it committed to their memory.

At Dad’s retirement celebration some years ago,

after serving for 27 years as pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Marietta,

the entire congregation at the end of the service, in unison, offered this charge and benediction to Dad.

None of us needed the words written in the bulletin; everyone knew the words by heart.

 

Before I share this charge and benediction with you, I invite you to consider the weight of the ideas

that these words carry. Consider the importance of these basic Christian ideas over time

to a community of people.

Consider what it meant for that congregation to know these words and, over time,

 to live these words as best they could in their broader community and in the world.

“Go forth into the world in peace.

 Be of good courage, hold fast to that which is true, render to no one evil for evil,

 strengthen the faint-hearted, support the weak, honor all.

Love and serve the Lord, rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit,

and the strong and sure love of God, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,

and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you always.”

 

Our parents teach us many important lessons.

Brady’s grandmother taught him to be intentional on Saturday in preparation for Sunday.

Scott Overcarsh’s parents taught him to be an effective steward.

Scott, who will speak to you in a moment on behalf of the Stewardship Council,

has truly become an effective steward, generous with his time and his resources.

Before Scott speaks to us, I want to encourage you once more, as Paul encouraged Timothy:

Rekindle the faith that you have received.  Don’t live like a timid disciple,

but live with power, in great love, with self-control.

Do not be embarrassed to be a follower of Jesus, even in today’s world, rather,

be willing to risk losses for the sake of the good news of the gospel.

Hold fast to the solid teaching that you have received and guard it carefully,

for what you have received is a treasure not to be taken for granted. 

 

Rev. Dr. Todd Speed

Decatur Presbyterian Church, Decatur, Georgia