Sermon Options: October 2, 2022

February 20th, 2022


2 TIMOTHY 1:1-14

Paul tells Timothy that he has been entrusted with a treasure. To entrust is to place a valued keepsake in another person's possession. As a minister of the gospel, Timothy had been charged with guarding the treasure entrusted to him. He was to guard it, defend it, protect it. If we are to allow Paul's challenge to Timothy to be God's challenge to us, then two questions must be answered as we hear the call to guard the treasure. They are: What is the treasure? And how do we guard it?

I. What Is the Treasure?
In Matthew 13:44, Jesus offers a parable about the Kingdom of God. "The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field." Jesus portrays the kingdom of God as the great treasure of life—it is the pearl worth any price paid to receive it. In joy, each of us shall sell our lives so that we can inherit all that God has in store for us. The Kingdom is like a treasure. Let us ask why. What is so great about the gospel story of Jesus?

In these verses of the text, Paul carefully and reassuringly reminds Timothy of all that the gospel can do. In verse 9 he reminds Timothy of the power of the gospel to save. In verse 10 he reminds Timothy of the gospel's power to both bring life and offer immortality. Simply stated, the gospel is a treasure because it has the power to save, it brings life, and it offers immortality.

The gospel has the power to save. To the church at Rome, Paul writes, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile" Rom. 1:16 NIV). The power of the gospel is this—a relationship with Jesus Christ is able to take any person from where they are and bring them to where God wants them to be. It is a forgiving, liberating, invigorating new life that Christ offers. The great hymn of faith declares, "Amazing grace! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found; was blind, but now I see." That is the transforming power of the cross that it has the ability to melt hearts, change attitudes, forgive the past, and usher us into a relationship with God.

The gospel brings life. Christ's offer of new life is the offer to an abundance of life: "I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly" ( John 10:10) . We've all experienced long and hard winters, where even by April 1 there are no dogwoods in bloom, no azaleas displaying their color, only the drooping jonquils even hint that spring is coming. But come it will, and life will be restored. Flowers will bloom, trees will bud, plants will grow. In the deepest, longest winters of our lives, deep below the surface, there has always been the promise of life from God. God through Jesus offers hope in the midst of our despair, joy amid sorrow, relief from heartache, and grace in the depths of guilt. The gospel is a treasure because it brings life, over and over again, just like spring.

The gospel offers immortality. In verse 10 Paul states that "Christ Jesus abolished death." Understand clearly, that death is a part of life. We will all face it someday. We will all die, but the promise of the gospel is that death is not an end, but rather a journey to an eternal life. In Christ there is immortality. Our relationship with God established through Jesus will never be severed. Our place in God's kingdom will never be erased. Our life will never end. It will change but it will not end. The treasure of the gospel is rich enough to provide abundant life in this world and everlasting life in the next.

II. How Do You Guard It?
Paul's challenge is to guard the treasure. And in verse 14 he outlines the key factor in doing so. "Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us." Paul quickly reminds Timothy of his weaknesses and inability to guard the treasure of the gospel all by himself. The strength and wisdom he will need will come from the Holy Spirit. Nor can we be much of a guard without the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. It is the power of the Spirit who will help us to guard, defend, preserve, and protect the gospel. With the Holy Spirit providing power to us, allow me to outline for you three ways to guard the treasure. Here's how: We spread it, we live it, and we should demand the proper use of it.

First, we guard the gospel when we spread it. When you and I spread the gospel, we ensure that its power and influence is greatly multiplied. We have a world to reach with the good news of Jesus and by telling more, we reach more. The more people who know Jesus, the more we can be sure that the gospel will never be extinguished or forgotten. Therefore you will guard it by giving it away. Let us increase the number of people on the force who will help us to know and preserve and spread the gospel.

Second, we guard the gospel by living it each day. When we walk with personal integrity as Christians we guard the gospel. When our walk and our talk match, Christ is honored. So often our spasmodic behavior makes the gospel suspect. Rather than guard the gospel we give nonbelievers an opportunity to criticize it. When we fail to practice what we preach, we harm the cause of Christ.

The Pepsi Cola company had a TV ad that portrayed a Coca-Cola stockman filling the shelves of a store with Coke as seen through the eyes of a security camera. He looks around, thinking no one is watching, and he reaches in and takes a Pepsi. As soon as he does the whole shelf comes crashing down and everybody in the store comes rushing to see what the commotion is all about. In the background the music plays, "Your Cheating Heart." It makes for a funny ad, but lack of fidelity to a cause will bring it to ruin. We must be faithful, consistent, and genuine. We guard the gospel by living the gospel each moment.

We guard the gospel as we demand the proper use of it. There are many modern-day charlatans who use the name of God for the sake of furthering their own prejudices and selfish desires. There are many who do things in the "name of God" that God would never have anything to do with. It ought to bother us and stir us to action when we see the gospel of God being used to further ungodly causes. Our blood ought to boil when the holy name of God is profaned. We guard the gospel when we demand that those around us use it properly. (Jon R. Roebuck)


LUKE 17:5-10

Today's gospel verses come from Luke's account of Jesus' journey to Jerusalem. They are heard along with sound advice offered by a suffering but joyful minister to a discouraged younger colleague. Through the psalm we are reminded of shameful defeat and vengeful pain in the history of God's people. Might the gospel verses also suggest a sober view of faithfulness?

We may long for faith that can move mountains, uproot trees, heal the sick, and raise the dead. But Christian faith must be, above all, basic trust in God's goodness and ultimate sovereignty. Compared to an inflated notion of our own powers of belief or our special place in God's purposes, the faith required to endure suffering and to perform life's ordinary tasks may seem small.

I. Illusions of Grandeur
This age tempts us to inflated egos and expectations. Grades and degrees are often given rather than earned. Résumés are padded. Superlatives have lost their meaning from overuse, and we are enticed daily to think of ourselves as remarkable individuals who deserve nothing but the very best.

Even the gospel is easily distorted so that faith and Christian service are linked to great deeds and proportionately grand rewards. But instead of thinking big, flying high, and claiming our just deserts as God's favored ones, we might do better to "think small."

When the moving van arrived at my new home in a small town, two boys who lived nearby hurried over. Then came an older brother and their father, Ray. All four pitched in to help, staying until the final box was unloaded. When I tried to pay these volunteers along with the hired crew, Ray's response was gracious but firm: "Oh, no," he said, "we were just being neighborly."

You have read about people who, when confronted with an emergency, risked life and limb to save another. When asked about their heroism such persons often respond: "Anyone else would have done the same." Good neighbors and ordinary heroes don't expect reward or recognition for being decent human beings.

II. Jesus' Anti-Inflationary Measures
When Jesus told the story of a farmer and his slave, was he hoping to shape a comparable sense of identity in his followers? The meaning of the story for those who first heard it rested on assumptions about clear roles in a stratified society. But Jesus himself is the role model for his disciples. If they are to serve as the future church, he must expose their inflated notions of what following the Messiah will mean.

Earlier in today's Gospel, Jesus had punctured the disciples' illusions about their faith. His response might be paraphrased: "Increase your faith! You speak as if you had some. If your faith were the size of a pinhead, you wouldn't need any more."

This exchange and the story of the farmer and his slave are related because the ordinary, mundane chores of discipleship require faith that does not rely on sensationalism.

III. The Company of Saints
Who Think Small Ordinary Christians go about the business of habitually praying, keeping their promises, practicing hospitality, forgiving their enemies, making difficult decisions without certainty, being part of the church, helping their neighbors, and starting over after failure, harm, or loss. Sometimes they do these things with a song or a smile, sometimes with weariness from work that seems tedious and inconsequential.

Often without inner assurance or external confirmation, the faithful take their vulnerable places in God's economy and do the thankless tasks before them. If you asked them how or why, they would simply say: "But what else could any follower of Jesus do?"

May we aspire to a faith so small! (Janna Tull Steed)

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