a sermon preached on 17 February 2019 at Christ the Redeemer Anglican Church
Please pray with me.
May my heart’s affection, my mind’s attention, and my soul’s submission be to you, oh Lord, my Savior and my Redeemer. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
God is both old and new. There is no being older than God, and because his mercies are new every morning, and because he goes before us in time and space and creation and knowledge of all things, we may say there is no being younger than God either. Therefore, God cares deeply that we look at things which have come before us and we look to things which would come after us. God is a God of memory and of hope. That is to say, God is a God who deeply loves inheritance, and he is a God who does not neglect what is to come of that inheritance, namely that which lies beyond our site and understanding, the fruit of our labors.
Please turn in your Bible with me to 2 Timothy 1:1-9. I would like to read again for us today’s passage.
Today is our fifth sermon in our sermon series “The Green Church,” and today we will be moving from Paul’s first letter to Timothy to Paul’s second letter to Timothy.
Biographically, it is accepted that Paul wrote his second letter to Timothy around 64 or 65AD, during his second imprisonment in Rome. This imprisonment was recorded in Acts 28. This imprisonment was also shortly before Paul’s death.
By way of literary outline, Second Timothy has four chapters, but carries with it all the markings of a Pauline epistle. If First Timothy can be summed up with the six words we gave—war, prayer, conduct, thanksgiving, honor, and godliness—then Second Timothy may be summed up in four words—inheritance, work, discernment, and sober-mindedness. And so today we approach the book of Second Timothy, considering Paul’s advice to a green Timothy and therefore a green church like Christ the Redeemer Anglican Church. Today’s sermon is titled “The Green Church: Green for Inheritance and Work.” As we look at Second Timothy chapters one and two, our chapters for today, the two ideas which most stand out are inheritance and work.
In First Timothy chapter one, Paul makes it clear that Timothy was not simply called to this work and plucked from a void. Again and again he reminds Timothy, in his greenness that his Gospel work is part of generations, even his family. There are three reasons it’s necessary for the green church to never forget our work is an inheritance.
First, this inheritance prompts us to gratitude. Paul says in verse 3, “I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day.” The gravity of something being passed down to us, the depth of those before us who loved and served and cared for something, sparks gratitude in us. When we realize how much someone else has worked for something, and then that thing is given to us, a sense of thanksgiving wells up within us. We realize that, indeed, we did not create it all ourselves, but that it was indeed a gift to us. Under these pews upon which you sit, you will find the names of two churches. Two churches which owned these pews before us, and though be purchased these pews from a consignment shop. They are an inheritance, which God knew would end up in this church as they were being made. The pews are an inheritance. This building is an inheritance. This land. Our Bibles. Our bodies. Our DNA. Our nation. Most importantly, the Gospel. It’s an inheritance, and if we want to be grateful, we ought to dwell on that for a while. That is important for a young church.
Second, this inheritance is a safeguard. Knowing something is an inheritance causes not just gratitude, but a sense of responsibility. And that sense of responsibility creates in us a sense of gravity, of care, of ownership to be good stewards of what has been given to us. Starting in verse 4, hear Paul’s words: “As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in your as well.” Let that sink in for a moment. There is a ring in my family that was my grandmother’s ring, my paternal grandmother. Of the many grandchildren on that side of the family, very few of us knew her. I believe one or two of the grandchildren were alive before she passed. But this ring is given each year or every two years to a granddaughter in the family. It is passed through the family so each granddaughter has a chance to wear and appreciate this ring. And it is no light matter. The significance is not in the metal or stone itself but in the inheritance of the ring, it what it symbolizes. And so I bet if we set all the granddaughters in the room and asked them what measures they went to safeguard the ring, we would find they indeed have gone to additional measures to safeguard what has an additional and higher quality of inheritance. We guard the things we love. What about your mother’s favorite china or family heirlooms? Those things which have greater value through inheritance, we guard the most. This is one of the reasons the Constitution of the United States is often a topic of heated debate and attempts to safeguard: it, and all that comes with it, is an inheritance. How much more should we safeguard the Gospel, which has the power of life and death?
Third, this inheritance is a catalyst for our labors. Paul continues in verse six, “For this reason, I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for god gave us a Spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” Not only is an inheritance a prompt for gratitude and a matter to safeguard, but it is a catalyst which fans the flames of God’s gifts. Young, green, and maturing church, labor hard at the work set before you? Why? Because it is an inheritance! Which we did not deserve! Which we could squander! Which ought to be passed to our children and our children’s children. Are you tired? Have you come to the end of yourself? Great, because all this has been given to you. Steward it with vigor and joyful labor.
As we move into Second Timothy chapter two, the word inheritance is not left behind. The word which most captures our attention in Second Timothy chapter two dovetails nicely with the last point I just made. The word is “work.” If Second Timothy chapter one is about an inheritance. Chapter two is about a Christian work ethic. Paul tells us there are three things which are at the heart of a Christian work ethic:
First, a Christian work ethic requires divine strength. Christians are not to be a people who simply labor and toil by the sweat of their brow. A Christian work ethic and a southern work ethic are not necessarily the same things. Working hard is not the same thing as working by the strength of God’s grace. Paul begins chapter two, “You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus…” This is not a passing Pauline greeting. It is the center of how every Christian ought to approach the work set before them. So, as our inheritance is a catalyst for our labors, we ought to labor under the strength of God’s grace, knowing all things come from his hand. As we labor in the liturgy, as we labor to tell our friends about this church, as we labor to raise children, as we labor to run a school and teach, as we labor to make art or provide for our families, we do so by the strength of God’s grace.
Second, the Christian ought to work to build up. It is not enough to simply maintain an inheritance, we ought to build upon it, beautify it. In so doing this, Paul exhorts Timothy several times in chapter two to avoid quarreling, to not be a quarrelsome man. we will avoid tearing down, we avoid aimless quarrels.
Third, the Christian ought to work to be approved by God. Paul tells Timothy in verse 15, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” But this command causes us to ask a question, how does one become a workman approved by God? Paul tells Timothy to avoid quarreling, but are we approved by God simply because we avoid something? In the Anglican liturgy, as in others, we confess our sins of omission, that which we have failed to do, and our sins of commission, that which we have done. It is not enough to say God delights in us simply because there are things we don’t do. We ought to realize that in God’s economy, we doesn’t want a people who avoid doing things but a people who do what they ought to do, becoming who they ought to become. Paul answers our question in verse 22, “So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” So, in short, what’s Paul’s answer to how one ought to work to be approved by God? Put on the Lord Jesus.
This table is indeed where we put on the Lord Jesus. It is where we can with greater clarity see that the Gospel is an inheritance. This table reminds us that this inheritance prompts us to gratitude. It reminds us that this inheritance ought to be safeguarded. It reminds and teaches us that as an inheritance it is a catalyst for our labors, that from it we can go into the world to the work God has given us to do. This table also reminds that those labors are only done by divine grace given to our bodies. This table reminds us that we are to build up this inheritance in peace and not tear it down in being quarrelsome. We are to share and not snatch, and that includes inviting others to the tables in our own homes. And finally, in this table is symbolized the important truth that we are indeed workman approved by God, for in as much as we are in Christ, we are, by the work of the Holy Spirit, being sanctified from day to day, sunrise to sunrise.
Now hear, as we close our time, a poem from George Herbert titled “The Temper II”
THE TEMPER. (II)
Ii cannot be. Where is that mighty joy,
Which just now took up all my heart?
Lord, if thou must needs use thy dart,
Save that, and me; or sin for both destroy.
The grosser world stands to thy word and art;
But thy diviner world of grace
Thou suddenly dost raise and race,
And ev'ry day a new Creator art.
O fix thy chair of grace, that all my powers
May also fix their reverence:
For when thou dost depart from hence,
They grow unruly, and sit in thy bowers.
Scatter, or bind them all to bend to thee:
Though elements change, and heaven move;
Let not thy higher Court remove,
But keep a standing Majesty in me.