The Lord's Day Evening
November 11, 2012
“Leaving a Legacy, Building a Dynasty
2 Timothy 1
The Reverend Mr. Paul Levy, Sr.
(Mr. Ralph Kelly) Tonight we have a guest preacher with us and I know that the standards are high around here so I decided what we needed was a Welshman who was married to an Irish lady that loves the Lord Jesus, to come preach to us tonight because we all have such great fondness for such a person. So it is my delight to introduce to you tonight my friend, Paul Levy. Come and preach for us.
(Mr. Paul Levy) Well thank you very much, Ralph, for your warm welcome. I bring you greetings from the congregation where I serve, the International Presbyterian Church in England. And thank you very much for many of you have greeted me and given me a warm welcome. I'm not sure that you’re going to understand my accent. I am certain that I didn't understand many of your accents but we’ll try our best. I've been told to be slow. But let's turn to God in prayer. Let us pray.
Our gracious heavenly Father, our triune God, You who spoke this world into being, who created this world by the Word of His power. You are the God who has revealed Himself in the glory and the beauty of creation. You who have sent Your Son, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Word became flesh. So Father we praise You that You have revealed Yourself in Your Word and we pray that as we read it and as it is preached, Your Spirit will take it and convince us and convert us and build us up in the most holy faith. For we pray this in Jesus' name. Amen.
I'm going to read God's Word from 2 Timothy chapter 1. 2 Timothy chapter 1. Let's hear the Word of God:
Paul,an apostle of Christ Jesusby the will of God according tothe promise of the 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 thank Godwhom I serve, as did my ancestors,with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day.As I remember your tears,I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded ofyour sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois andyour mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.For this reason I remind youto fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands,for God gave usa spirit not of fear butof power and love and self-control.
Thereforedo not be ashamed ofthe testimony about our Lord, nor ofme his prisoner, butshare in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us andcalled us toa holy calling,not because of our works but because ofhis own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now hasbeen manifested throughthe appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus,who abolished death andbrought life andimmortality to light through the gospel, for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher,which is why I suffer as I do. ButI am not ashamed, forI know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard untilthat Daywhat has been entrusted to me. Followthe pattern ofthe sound words that you have heard from me, inthe faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.By the Holy Spiritwho dwells within us, guardthe good deposit entrusted to you.
You are aware thatall who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes.May the Lord grant mercy tothe household of Onesiphorus, for he oftenrefreshed me and was not ashamed ofmy chains,but when he arrived in Romehe searched for me earnestly and found me - may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord onthat Day! - and you well know all the service herendered at Ephesus.
There was a famous preacher in the UK at the turn of the 20th century called F.B. Meyer. He was very, very popular. You may have seen some of his books. When F.B. Meyer was in his last illness he called the doctor and he asked his doctor, who was a personal friend, “How long have I got?” And the doctor said, “Well just a couple of hours. You should be dead by four o’clock this afternoon.” It doesn't say much for the doctor's bedside manner. Apparently at that point, F.B. Meyer turned over and went to sleep and he awoke with a start at six o’clock in the evening. He looked at his bedside clock and said, “Goodness me, I should have been gone hours ago.”
Now if you knew that you only had a few hours to live or a couple of day or just a couple of weeks, how would you cope with that? How would you cope? Who would you need to write to? Who would you need to Skype? What would you need to say if you knew that your time in this world was coming to an end in the not too distant future? Well, that is the context of 2 Timothy. That is the occasion of this letter. From the apostle Paul to Timothy, it's his last letter. He's in prison. You've heard the expression, haven't you — “Nero fiddled while Rome burned.” And that is the occasion. It's about AD 64, roughly. Nero, according to tradition, set fire to Rome. You know the story. At a very ambitious building project, he wanted to clear some from the city some of the slums that were there and so he set fire to Rome and he blamed the Christians. He needed a scapegoat and the Christians were that scapegoat. And as a result of that, the first official Roman persecution of the church broke out.
And that's the background. That is the sort of time that the apostle Paul was arrested. And he is no stranger, is he, to prison life, to incarceration. He was a repeat offender when it came to telling people about the Lord Jesus, but this time Paul knows he's not coming out. He's on death row. The executioner is sharpening his blade and he knows that it's going to happen. “When you know you’re going to die tomorrow, it wonderfully concentrates the mind,” said Samuel Johnson. And Paul knows, doesn't he, that he's going to die. So what's Paul concerned about? What is on Paul's mind? The one thing the apostle Paul is concerned about is not the fact that he's going to lose his head but that the world does not lose the chance to hear the Gospel. And so he writes to Timothy, his apprentice, and he says in verse 14, this is the verse that unlocks the book, really. It's the theme of 2 Timothy. He says this — “By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit.” Guard the good deposit entrusted to you. And 2 Timothy is a book that tells you and I how to do that. It tells you and I how to preserve the Gospel after we are dead and gone so that the Gospel will continue to advance. Three points to make sure that the Gospel will advance in Jackson long after you are dead and buried.
A LEGACY IN THE LORD
And the first thing is this. Paul does this. He reminds Timothy of his legacy in the Lord. He reminds Timothy of his legacy in the Lord. Look at verses 3 to 7. Now up to now, Christianity had been a kind of official protected religion in the Roman world. Christians were regarded as a strange, weird, kind of Jew, a Jewish sect, and Judaism was a protected religion in the Roman Empire. But all that is about to change, isn't it, because official persecution of the church is about to break out. And Paul is in prison, he's on death row, not as some kind of Jewish rabbi but he's there as a Christian. And Christians are being blamed. They are very much now in the public eye and Paul is on trial because he is a Christian. And it's very interesting about how he speaks about that. Look at what he says about his life and ministry. Look at verse 3. He says, “I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience.” What's he trying to say? You see, what he's wanting to say is Paul is saying, “I'm not some sort of cult leader.” He's not involved in some sort of new fad, some heresy called Christianity. Jesus is not some kind of Johnny-come-lately Messiah. He is the fulfillment of what was promised to the forefathers, to the ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, to Jacob. And you and I, as well as Timothy, we stand, don't we, at the back end of a long line of believers that stretches right back from the patriarchs — from Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob. He's saying the Old Testament is our book; Judaism is our heritage. We are not disconnected from that. And that is what I think Paul means when he refers to our ancestors, our forefathers. That is our legacy.
And you notice how he goes on to talk about this legacy. He says, this heritage, you are connected, 2 Timothy verse 3, “as I remember you constantly in my prayers day and night.” And then he goes on, doesn't he, to speak about in verse 5 his grandmother Lois and his mother, Eunice. And it seems as if, he's suggesting, I don't think it's fair to say it, but it seems as if, doesn't he, that Timothy is a bit of a wimp, that Timothy is a mommy's boy. His father is not around; he's overprotected by his mum and he believes the same thing as his granny. And at first reading, it seems, doesn't it, to confirm everybody's worst prejudices about Christianity. I don't know whether you do this in the United States but we do a thing in the summer time called “door to door ministry.” I don't know whether you know that, where you go knocking on the door as a church and people open the door and you say, “We’re from the local church.” It's absolutely terrifying. You normally end up praying that the person doesn't open the door or you knock so quietly they’ll never hear. But anyway, what normally happens is that you go and open the door and some giant of a man opens the door. Normally he's wearing a vest. He's absolutely enormous and I manage to spit out, “I'm the minister of the local church around the corner.” You know what he says? He says, “I’ll get the wife and the kids. I’ll send the kids to Sunday School.” That's a standard response for men, isn't it, about Christianity, about the church — “It's for women and children. That's what Christianity is for.”
Here's Timothy. He mentions his mum and Paul mentions his mum and his grandmother but there's no mention of his dad and it just confirms people's prejudices about Christianity — that it's just for women and children. It's old fashioned; it's out of date. It's something from a bygone age that we've left behind. And here's Paul congratulating Timothy as having the same faith as his grandmother. It's a bit old-worldy. And the world says, “Well surely we need something more up to date than that, don't we?” Wasn't Timothy a little bit of a wimp when you read those terrible commentaries where they talk about “Timid Timothy”? His dad doesn't seem to be around, he's overprotected by his mum, he's spoilt by his granny, and it confirms people's suspicions about Christianity. And that is the impression that sometimes you get.
Now I say that is an unfair impression, that Timothy is one of those kind of weak, rather dependent sort of characters; a bit inadequate. And again, people say that, don't they? “Well Christianity, I'm glad it helps you; I'm glad you pray but I don't really need that sort of thing. I don't need a crutch.” Do you get that? “Christianity is for the weak and the feebleminded, the women and the kids.” Not that the women and the kids are weak and feeble-minded; don't think that. But they think it's irrelevant. Now you could read it like that, but if you did read it like that you’d be making a profound mistake if you did, if you abandoned Christianity because of that. Because I want you to see tonight that Paul is very, very positive about Timothy's background. He says, “Thank God,” as he recalls Timothy's heritage. He is thankful to God for this. He says, “I thank God for your upbringing. I thank God for your mother and your grandmother, those godly women, Lois and Eunice.” And Paul is very thankful for them. Before even their conversion, if you look at chapter 3 and verse 15, you’ll see that they taught Timothy the Bible. Do you see what it says? “How from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise to salvation.” And Paul says, “I thank God for that. I thank God, Timothy, for your godly heritage you've got and so should you.”
And that is one of the ways that the Gospel is preserved in the world. It's one of the ways that the Gospel advances in society, how the Gospel is entrusted to generations. Long after you and I are dead and buried, that is how the Gospel is going to continue. It is not going to die out with us. It was here long before we arrived and it will be here long after we are gone. And that is what Paul is saying. He says to you tonight, “If you want to see the Gospel advance in Jackson, for it to continue after your day, here's the application: Leave a Legacy, Start a Dynasty. That is one way, one of the ways that God preserves His Gospel in the world. Every single one of us here tonight, to a greater or lesser extent, is a product of our upbringing, of our inheritance. That is one of the marks, isn't it, of a good biography. You know a good biography, it doesn't start with the subject, does it? It goes back to the parents and the grandparents and you see how the individual fits into their background or their heritage. And every family represented here tonight has got a history. What a blessing it is. What a privilege it is to be brought up in a believing home. What a privilege it is to belong to a believing family. If you’re from a Christian home tonight, if that is your background, if you’re a teenager tonight, don't be embarrassed by that. Thank God for that. It's amazing that privilege that God has granted you, in sovereignty, to allow you to be born into a believing family. It is a wonderful thing; don't squander that. Don't take it for granted.
And I’ll say this as well. Mums and dads, what a wonderful thing that is. The world discounts that, doesn't it? I don't know your culture but in the UK, in some ways to be a mother and to be a grandmother, in the world's eyes, in lots of ways, it's counted as nothing. But as far as the Bible is concerned it's a very high calling indeed. It's a very high calling to be a mum in God's kingdom. To be a grandmother in the covenant people of God, it's a wonderful privilege. And we ought to be praying, don't we, for mothers and grandmothers in this congregation, for their high calling, for their ministry. Every family has a history and at some point in every family's history, if you go back far enough, eventually somewhere along the line God breaks into a family and He raises up a matriarch or a patriarch, someone through whom He's going to change the whole future direction of your family. And you may be that person.
Perhaps you come from a non-Christian home. You say to me tonight, “Actually, my parents, they don't love the Lord Jesus. That's not my background.” Well if that's so and you’re a Christian, you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this. And maybe the Lord has made you a Christian so that you will become a matriarch or a patriarch, someone who your children will look back to and say, “Thank God that they became a Christian because it's changed the future direction of our family.” And if you want to see the Gospel preserved in Jackson then start a dynasty. If you’re not yet married, marry in the Lord. If you’re married, teach your kids the Bible. If you’re still single and you’re not sure whether you’re ever going to get married, be a surrogate aunt, be a surrogate uncle, be a surrogate grandmother to the kids of this church. Pray for your nephews and your nieces so that future generations will rise up and bless you. Three generations time, who is going to be preaching the Bible in this room? Three generations from now, who will be evangelizing the people of Jackson? Well it ought to be one of our children, shouldn't it? One of our nephews, one of our nieces, one of our grandchildren.
It was fantastic this morning. It is such a joy to sit in worship when you’re not the minister of a church and to think, “I don't have to do anything. I don't have to worry about anything.” What a joy it was to see that girl, wasn't it? I think I heard Ligon right to say that it was the fifth generation of somebody who had memorized The Shorter Catechism. Isn't that an amazing thing? Five generations! Now I don't know who it was that was first converted in that family, but what a legacy, what a dynasty. Start a dynasty; leave a legacy.
THE CALL FOR GOSPEL LOYALTY
Secondly, the way that the Gospel is preserved is that Paul calls for Gospel loyalty. He reminds Timothy of his legacy in the Lord and then he calls for Gospel loyalty. Look at verse 15. “You are aware that all who are in Asia turned away from me.” That is a weak translation. It is “deserted me.” “Among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes.” You've got to wonder what their parents are thinking. But everyone in the province of Asia, what we call modern Turkey, had deserted Paul. Ephesus was where Timothy was placed. Everyone in the province of Asia, including Ephesus, Paul is saying everyone has deserted him.
You might know Kristof; some of you might remember Kristof. He was the Russian leader. He was the man who followed Stalin as one of the leaders of the Soviet Union. If you can ever read his biography, it's a fascinating read. He was quite a character and a leader in the 60s. And he was once in Washington, D.C. and he and President Kennedy did a press conference. Kristof had been part of the pullet bureau during Stain's reign of terror and now he’d taken over from him. During the press conference, somebody asked Kristof, “What were you doing when Stalin was killing millions of people?” That's fair enough, isn't it? The question was translated so there was a little bit of a time delay and as the question was translated, Kristof just grew redder and redder in the face. And if you know anything of him, Kristof was a very hot-tempered man. When the translator finished, finally Kristof exploded into the microphone, “Who said that? Who asked that question?” Of course, no one moved a muscle. Everyone had their heads down and were writing in their notebooks. None of the journalists made eye contact. And Kristof said, “That is exactly what I was doing, keeping my head down, and I'm ashamed of it.”
Let me ask you, what makes you want to keep your head down as a follower of Jesus Christ? In school, what makes you want to keep your head down as a follower of Jesus Christ? In the office, what makes you want to keep your head down? What embarrasses you about being a Christian? What makes you ashamed to be associated with Jesus Christ? It's easy, isn't it, as I read in verse 15; just look down at it again. It's very, very easy for me to feel superior to people in Asia. They deserted Paul. What does that mean? They kept their heads down, that's all. What are the things that make us want to keep our heads down, to keep a low profile? Let's look at that.
Three times Paul says in this passage, “Do not be ashamed of the Gospel.” So look at verse 8. He says, “Do not, therefore, be ashamed about the testimony of our Lord of me His prisoner.” And then in verses 11 to 12 he says, “for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, which is why I suffer as I do, but I am not ashamed. I am not ashamed so don't you be ashamed!” Or again this man, a message for us in verse 16, do you see that? “May the Lord grand mercy to that household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains.” Three times Paul says, “We’re not ashamed.” He's calling for Gospel loyalty from Timothy, from you, and from me.
Now why would anyone be ashamed of the Gospel, especially when you think about what it is? It is good news, isn't it? How can there be any good news for Paul? Paul, you’re on death row, you’re about to have your head chopped off, everyone in the province of Asia has deserted him. Where is the good news? Well look at verses 8 to 10. “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share in suffering for the Gospel by the power of God., who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of His own purpose and grace, which He gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel.”
I'm reading, at the moment, the biography of William Wilberforce by William Hague. It is a terrific, it is a fantastic read. And you may have seen the film, Amazing Grace — the story of Wilberforce and the abolition of slavery. Let me tell you an interesting fact — that Wilberforce started The Society for the Abolition of Slavery fifty years, fifty years before slavery was actually abolished. In fact, out of the original group of people who had met together to form The Society for the Abolition of Slavery, only one person survived to actually see it happen - fifty years, strategizing, plotting, planning, sweating, and suffering for the cause. But look what Paul says here. He says there's another kind of slavery that he refers to. Look what he says. Look how he refers to it. He says, “God has saves us and it's a rescue operation.” In what way has God saved us? Well, look at verse 9. “He saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of His own purpose and grace.” God gave us not what we deserve; He gave us the opposite of what we deserve. We deserve hell but God gives us life and that is how Paul introduces himself to Timothy, isn't it. He says, “I'm the apostle of life.” We don't deserve life but God has given us life eternal, abundant life in Jesus Christ. And look at the way He's given it. Do you see what it says? “Before the beginning of time.” Before the beginning of time, God had a plan to abolish death. Before the beginning of time, God set up a society for the abolition of sin and death. But now in time it has been revealed. Look at verse 10. “Which now has been revealed, has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel.” Death has been abolished. Death has been diffused.
Do you remember where Paul is? Sitting in a prison. There's a bomb ticking away in his cell; it's a time bomb. He's on death row and the executioner is sharpening the blade. But Paul says, “Thank God Jesus has diffused the bomb.” That's what he's saying. Paul knows he's still going to have to die. I'm afraid of dying. I wouldn't like my head to be chopped off; you wouldn't either. I'm afraid of dying. But I can honestly say, because of the Lord Jesus Christ, I'm not afraid of death. As a Christian, you don't need to be afraid of death because Jesus has diffused the bomb. Do you remember 1 Corinthians 15, isn't it? Paul boxes death; he taunts death. He says we don't have to live in fear of death. Paul taunts death. He says, “Death, where is your sting?” It's a picture of a bee, isn't it? A bee stings and once the bee has stung, well then it dies. Once the sting has been extracted on the bee, the bee dies. And death is like that. And that is what Jesus has done for us. Jesus has taken the sting out of death. And what Paul is saying here is, “Why would anyone be ashamed of Jesus when they understand that He has come and He has put Himself under the sting of death.”
What is the sting of death? It is the sting of sin and guilt. That is what makes death so terrifying and so frightening. That is why people are afraid to die because in death, you don't just encounter your own weakness, but in death you encounter God, your Creator, and you will have to give an account to Him like I will because it is appointed for man once to die and then the judgment. And that is why death is so frightening. “But thanks be to God,” says Paul in 1 Corinthians, “who has given us the victory in Christ Jesus.” Jesus has diffused death. He's extracted the sting of death. So wonderfully tonight, you and I, we don't have to go through life in bondage to fear death. Death is one of the great taboos, isn't it? At least in the British culture, I don't know your culture. I do know that one American hospital speaks of death as “a negative patient input.” People are afraid, aren't they, to talk about death. They’re afraid to think about it. But you don't have to think like that. You might fear the circumstances of how you’ll leave this world, that's fair enough, but you don't have to be afraid of death anymore. Do you know why? Because you and I belong to The Society for the Abolition of Sin and Death. That is what the church is. That is what you are about as a congregation and what we're about in England. That is our message. We are The Society for the Abolition of Sin and Death. That is our message. And what is there to be ashamed about that?
Catherine Booth was part of the Salvation Army. She was the daughter of William and Catherine Booth. And she wore the uniform. She was a great evangelist in her own right; well known in France. She was traveling on a train in uniform and one of the passengers recognized Catherine Booth that she had a uniform on. When people realize that you’re a minister they never know what to say. And the person who was opposite of her in the train carriage noticed her uniform and said, “Well, I go to church.” And Catherine said this, “You go to church? Is that all you do in a dying world? You go to church?” And the conversation ended at that point! (laughter)
Let me ask you, what are you doing for a dying world? Going to church? Is that all? That is the challenge that Paul is giving to Timothy. Look at verse 6. “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.” We’re not absolutely certain what the laying on of hands there means. It could be referenced as baptism, ordination. Paul saw some gift in him; he set him aside for ministry. We’re not exactly sure but the point is here — here is a young man whose life had been turned around by the Gospel. The Gospel baton has been passed down to him from his mother and his grandmother and Paul says, “Make sure you don't grow cold. Fan the flame. Stir up the gift that is in you. Be a passionate Christian, Timothy. Don't be lukewarm. Be self-disciplined, be loving, be powerful, be effective, go for it. Don't be half-hearted about this. Timothy, you have got the very message that this dying world needs to hear, so go for it!” Stir up the gift within you. A call to loyalty.
SHARE THE LIBERTY OF SUFFERING FOR CHRIST
And then lastly, Paul invites Timothy to share the liberty, to share the liberty of suffering for Christ. Share the liberty of suffering for Christ. Now look at verse 8. Can you do that with me? If the person next door to you has fallen asleep, give them a little nudge and tell them to read verse 8, not out loud. Now here's the surprise; always look for the surprise in the passage. What's the surprise in verse 8? I'd ask you to shout out but that's not the done thing in Mississippi, is it? Look at verse 8. Can you see it? Whose prisoner is he? Do you see it? He's not Nero's prisoner, is he? Isn't that fantastic? Look at verse 8. “Therefore do not be ashamed about the testimony about our Lord, nor of me His prisoner” — not Nero's prisoner.
I want to describe to you the conditions that the apostle Paul was in. The tradition is that Paul was in the Mamertine prison which is about like the Tower of London. Everybody knows where the Tower of London is. I hope you do. You’d know where it was. If somebody was being held in the Tower of London you’d know where to go. But that doesn't actually fit with the passage because everybody knew that. But look at verse 16. Onesiphorus has great difficulty in finding it. You wouldn't have great difficulty finding somebody if you knew where they were. Paul was not in an obvious position. There were lots of prisons in Rome. Now let me read to you a description, it's a lengthy description, but it will help us get the point of the passage in Chris Greene's excellent commentary. Let me read this to you, okay?
“The prisons in Rome were squalid and physically dangerous and delays in court procedures meant that they were usually overcrowded, way beyond their capacity. Unheated, sleep was almost impossible on the rough pallets of the floor with no bedding provided. Paul would also be wearing heavy iron chains, perhaps linked to other prisoners to prevent anyone escaping. The iron reacting to the prisoner's sweat rusted, making their flesh rot. The heaviness weakened limbs, already short of food, and as many prisoners commented the constant noise of chains on stone was yet another factor making sleep impossible. Food beyond a meager prison ration, which was barely enough to sustain a life, was the prisoner's own responsibility. But how could Paul, alone and cut off in Rome, arrange that? Lack of access to water meant that prisoners were not just filthy but frequently unrecognizable from the caked on dirt and the matted beard and hair. But who would trust violent prisoners with access to a barber and his razors? Clothes rapidly reduced to rags in such circumstances. It's no wonder that the prisons were associated not only with execution but also with death from disease and not infrequently suicide. One further obstacle lay in Onesiphorus’ path as he traipsed the back streets of Rome trying to locate the prison which held Paul and identify him among many thousands of prisoners. The prisons were airless and unhygienic because they were largely windowless. Obviously that prevented prisoners from getting out but it also prevented much light from getting in. The more secure a cell wall the less light it would have had and an underground cell would have had none at all.”
Now here's my point:
Onesiphorus was searching for an unrecognizable Paul among thousands of identical wretches often in the pitch dark. It is no wonder that Paul comments that when he was in Rome ‘he searched hard until he found me.’ Onesiphorus had performed the heroic labor of love.”
The search for Paul would have been dangerous, it would have been unpleasant, and it would have been very dangerous. And Paul says that is where he was and he says to Timothy, “Don't be ashamed of me. Join me.” Who in their right mind would want to join Paul in those circumstances? “Don't be ashamed of me; join me in suffering for the Gospel. Don't be ashamed of me because I'm not Nero's prisoner, I'm Jesus’ prisoner.” In fact, isn't that at the heart of the paradox of Christianity? You hand your life over to Jesus, lock, stock, and barrel, and that is what Paul has done, isn't it? Verse 12 — “which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that He is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.” In those days you didn't have a bank. If you were going away on a journey, you would find someone you trusted to look after whatever valuables you had. And Paul says, “I'm not ashamed because I know somebody who I can trust myself to.” Do you? Do you tonight? Who are you going to trust yourself to? You are you going to trust yourself to against that Day, the Day of Judgment? Paul says, “I'm not ashamed because I know” — he doesn't say, “I know what I believe,” he says, “I know whom I have believed and I am persuaded.”
George Whitefield once asked one of his followers, “What do you believe?” “I believe what my church believes,” said the man. Whitefield said, “What does your church believe?” The man replied, “My church believes what I believe.” Whitefield realized he wasn't getting anywhere so he said to the man, “What do you both believe?” “The same thing of course,” the man replied. There are a lot of people like that, aren't they? We have people like that in my church. They go to church, they believe something, but they don't know what they believe and they've never really checked it out. They've never read the Gospels; they've never been persuaded by the Man, Jesus. What do I mean? Perhaps you've just drifted in tonight, you’re really welcome if you have, but you don't know; you've never checked it out. Have you ever sat down and thought, “Who is Jesus of Nazareth and what has He done and how can I trust Him?” Are you persuaded in that? If you’re not tonight, don't go home without asking somebody to read a gospel with you. One of the ministers would love to do it or one of the Christians sitting by you. “I am persuaded, I am persuaded of Him, of Jesus, and that is why I am prepared to suffer for Him.” Paul says, “That is why I'm not a prisoner of my circumstances. That is why I'm not a slave to the spirit of the age. I'm not a prisoner to my culture or my sub-culture. I'm free! I'm free because I'm His prisoner! And I'm persuaded that He is able to keep that which I've committed to Him against that Day.” And that is what it means to be a Christian, isn't it? That you've committed yourself to Jesus. You've handed yourself over to Him. You've entrusted yourself to Him, lock, stock, and barrel.
I live near Heathrow Airport. There are lots of people around there that struggle with flying. And at Heathrow Airport there's a flight school. And in the flight school you get shown a film of how safe it is to fly and then they get a pilot in and the pilot says how great he is and how he's able to fly the plane and then you’re shown statistics about what it's like to fly and how the risks are much less than other forms of transport. And then you go through an assimilator. And in the assimilator they show you what it's like to experience a flight. But you know what the end of the test is, the end of the course is? You've got to take a flight. You've got to walk up the steps and get on the plane.
That's what it's like with Christianity, isn't it? You can know all about the Lord Jesus, you can know all about Christianity, but at some point you've got to entrust yourself to Him. You've got to fall back on Him; you've got to get on the plane. Have you trusted Jesus for yourself? Look at verse 12. “For I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that He is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.” For I know. Do you know tonight? Let me round this up. Let me challenge you to share the Gospel with anyone and everyone you meet, let me challenge you not to be ashamed because you've got a wonderful message, and let me challenge you to join the fellowship of the free by staying loyal to Christ. Stay loyal to the One who has set you free at such costs. Live for Him, and if necessary die for Him. Leave a legacy; start a dynasty, so that the Gospel will be preserved in Jackson, Mississippi for generations to come.
Thank You, Father, for this wonderful news that has been passed down to us. Thank You that here in the United States, the Good News has got to us and we have received this message of salvation in Jesus Christ. Thank You, Lord, so much that in the death of Christ, death itself has been destroyed and we have been given a future and a hope and we have been ushered into everlasting life. And Lord, we pray that this week You would not allow us to keep quiet, to keep our heads down. Don't allow us to be ashamed of this message. Make us ambassadors of this glorious Gospel, for we ask it in Jesus' name and for His glory. Amen.
Now receive the Lord's blessing.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God the Father and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
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