The 18th Sunday after Pentecost September 26, 2010

INI

Guard the Good Deposit

2 Timothy 1:3-14

Scripture Readings

James 4:7-12
Mark 9:38-50

Hymns

5, 297, 293, 49

I thank God, whom I serve with a pure conscience, as my forefathers did, as without ceasing I remember you in my prayers night and day, greatly desiring to see you, being mindful of your tears, that I may be filled with joy, when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also. Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, to which I was appointed a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles. For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day. Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.

Dear friends in Christ:

If you were dying what would you want your last words to be? What wisdom would you want to pass along to your relatives, what last request? When the Apostle Paul wrote his second letter to Timothy, he was in prison and knew that the end was near. This was, in fact, the last book of the Bible written down by his hand.

After Paul’s miraculous conversion to Christianity, his missionary journeys, his shipwrecks, his trials—what words were so important to pass along as the end drew near? He wrote to the young pastor Timothy: “What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.[vv.13-14 NIV]

The “good deposit” to which the apostle referred is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Timothy had been given this treasure by his grandmother, Lois and his mother, Eunice. They had taught him the good news about his Savior. From them he had learned of the Messiah—the promised one—who would save the people from their sins. From them he had learned of the Child born in Bethlehem who had died, risen, and ascended again into Heaven. Timothy believed that Jesus had forgiven him and one day would bring him to his heavenly home.

This Gospel was worth treasuring—worth hanging onto. It was worth guarding and watching over as one would keep a most precious jewel. Paul did not want Timothy to lose sight of what had been entrusted to him. He wanted him always to ponder the Gospel in his heart and to share it with others for their blessing and benefit. He wanted Timothy to take care of this precious message and to see to it that he did not throw it away or disregard it when faced with temptation or doubt.

Now the real thrill is that You have the same deposit! You have been entrusted to hold the same precious jewel. You too have been given the Gospel of Jesus just as Timothy was. You have been taught the good news of Christ by your parents or grandparents or friends or pastors or others so that now you have something to watch over too. GUARD THE GOOD DEPOSIT I. Guard it by fanning into flame the gift of God and II. Guard it without being ashamed.

I.

But how do we do this? How do we properly watch over the Gospel that has been given to us? Let’s look at what Paul says to Timothy. He first reminds him to “fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you…[v.6 NIV]

Timothy, who had once been a traveling companion of Paul’s, was now a public minister in the church at Ephesus. When he had been installed into this office God had also seen to it that he had the necessary ability to carry out his task. Timothy’s gift was his ability to preach, teach, and oversee the work of the church in Ephesus. He was a man particularly suited to the work of the ministry. Therefore Paul says, “Fan this gift into flame, make use of the abilities the Lord has given you. Preach with all diligence and boldness. Teach and encourage and do your work with a spirit of boldness, power, love, and self-discipline. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity. Don’t let your gift lie unused, but cultivate it and build it up.”

The same goes for us. How can we be good caretakers of the Gospel of Jesus which has been given to us? We can fan into flame the various gifts that God has given to each one of us so that those gifts can be used to glorify the message of Christ. Like Timothy was to make use of His abilities to honor the name of Jesus, so we make use of our abilities to testify boldly of Him. We build up and exercise the gifts we have been given so that those gifts can be used in the service of our Lord.

When I was young we had a fireplace in our house. Next to the fireplace was a bellows. I was always rather fascinated by this tool. You could move the handles and create a stream of air out the nozzle that would blow the ash all around the hearth! More importantly, when the fire was getting low in the grate you could add a little wood and then turn the bellows toward the embers. Blowing the air toward the coals would cause the flames to appear again all of a sudden as if by magic and the fire would take off. All that was needed was a little stirring up by the bellows.

Sometimes we need a little stirring up too. We all have God-given abilities that can be used in some way to bring glory and honor to the name of Christ, but sometimes we don’t think to use those gifts, or we are too timid to use them. But making use of our gifts to serve God is part of how we guard the good deposit which has been given to us.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul said: “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully(Romans 12:6-8).

So fan the flame a little! You have a gift. Use it! Encourage others if that is what you can do. Teach if you can teach. If you are a voting member, participate in the meetings. Serve if you can serve—serve in whatever capacity you are able. Show mercy. Help with the needs of others. If you have knowledge share it at Bible Class and at home. If you can talk to children talk to them about Jesus. Use whatever abilities that God has given you. Use them to benefit Him.

II.

Don’t be timid about it. That good deposit—the Gospel of Jesus Christ—is so precious that we guard it without being ashamed. We use our gifts to serve the Lord without fear.

Paul’s preaching and teaching landed him in prison and eventually led to his death, but he had no regrets. In fact, He called on Timothy to become a sufferer right along with him. He was not ashamed that when he used his particular gifts to honor the Savior it led to earthly trouble and difficulty. He tells Timothy to face his afflictions too without being ashamed.

You can expect that as Christians you will be outcasts to a degree. Depending on where you live and the other people who are around you, you might each face different types of troubles because you trust in Jesus. When you use the gifts God has given you to bring honor and glory to Christ you might face ridicule and scorn. You young people might get strange looks from your worldly friends when you tell them you attend confirmation class, or Sunday School, or Vacation Bible School. When people see you using your talents to serve Christ instead of yourself, you may be laughed at. But you can all face anything that comes to you without being ashamed of Jesus, without being sorry that you are His followers—His disciples.

How can you be strong even when we encounter hardship because of Him? Just look at the jewel itself and be strengthened. Look at the thing with which you have been entrusted—the good news of Christ—it is the Gospel for which you suffer.

The Gospel tells us how God has saved us from being separated from Him because of our sins—separated from God in Hell forever. The Gospel tells us that God has given His own pure and holy Son into death, punishing Him in our place. After this, God calls us to live a holy life. He makes things better for us right now, before we even get to the final glory and joy of heaven, by working in us so that we don’t wreck ourselves with evil and wickedness. He cleanses our hearts and changes our attitudes

He saved us “not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace.[v.9 NIV] For Christ was sent to suffer and die, not because we were so great, but because the Father’s love was so great.

God saw us in eternity and determined even then to do this for us. This “grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began.[v.9] There was never a moment that He took His eyes off us. Never a moment did He not have our salvation in His thoughts.

Jesus Christ has appeared and has destroyed death and has brought “life and immortality to light through the Gospel.” [v.10] Jesus has reversed the effect of sin—death itself—by taking our sins on Himself so that death no longer has a claim on us. We will rise again to live with our God forever.

Satan, I defy thee;
Death, I now decry thee;
Fear, I bid thee cease.
World, thou shalt not harm me
nor thy threats alarm me
while I sing of peace…
Lightnings flash and thunders crash;
yet though’ sin and Hell assail me. Jesus will not fail me.

[TLH 347:3/2]

This is why Paul could sit in prison and say “do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord.” This is why He could tell Timothy that this was a cause worth suffering for. If you’re going to face hardship and trouble, there’s no shame in facing it on account of Jesus. There is no need to be like Peter in the courtyard and pretend that you don’t know the man. There is no better One to stand up for in all the earth. No better One for whom to use your energy and talent. No better One than the One who is able to keep us until the Last Day.

Guard and treasure the Gospel that has been entrusted to you. Never be ashamed to use the gifts God has given you to glorify His precious message of salvation. Amen.

—Pastor David P. Schaller


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