Leaving a Legacy, Building a Dynasty

Sermon by Paul Levy on November 11, 2012

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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.

Let’s pray.


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.

© 2019 First Presbyterian Church.

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