The Weeping King (Luke 19:28-44)

Leaders try hard not to cry in public. Instead, they seek to project a measure of strength and courage in difficult situations. They usually want to send a message that everything is under control. Crying just unnerves the people who have to watch it. Therefore, politicians and public figures try to stuff their tears and stifle their emotions. If, for some reason, they do ever cry in public, they strive to “leak a little,” not gush. 

As Jesus rode into Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday, he cried openly in front of the masses. Luke 19:41 says he wept over the city, and the word for “wept” in the original means to sob or to wail. It was a great lament, not a little sniffle. But why was Jesus so upset? His answer was both bold and blunt: “because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you” (Luke 19:44). God came to his people in the person of Christ, but they did not recognize him and submit to his authority. Rather, they tried to leverage that authority for their own ends.

Luke’s account of Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem is a spiritually challenging passage—one that ultimately reminds us that to receive Jesus is to receive God, and to reject Jesus is to reject God. Knowing that some people would reject him at great cost to their own eternal well-being, Jesus wept for their souls. Indeed, his tears were an ominous sign that the week ahead would be a long and difficult one for him.

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The Gospel Unchained, Part 12: Hope in the Midst of Hardship (2 Timothy 4:9-22)

What would you like your final words to be? When it comes time for you to leave this life and enter the next, what would you wish to say to those who remain behind? The Apostle Paul’s last words to the church can be found in 2 Timothy 4:9-22. 

In this passage he chronicles the kinds of earthly hardships he endured throughout his ministry (i.e., the pain of seclusion, desertion, deprivation, opposition, and isolation). But he also sets forth the kind of support he received—and believers can expect—from God, even as they follow in his footsteps. To paraphrase, Paul reminds the church, “God will supply you, God will strengthen you, and God will save you.” 

In short, Paul instructs the church to overcome earthly hardship with heavenly hope. He reminds his readers that the earth cannot take them when God is keeping them, and the earth cannot keep them when God is taking them. He is sovereign over the lives of his people and the unfolding history of the world.

Paul then bids farewell with a blessing: “The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you” (2 Timothy 4:22). After this, we hear nothing else he says. After this, we read nothing else he writes. After this, we learn nothing else he thinks. His martyrdom is imminent, so these are the final words of Paul to the church. What does he want believers to remember as he signs off? What does he want ringing in their ears until Jesus comes back? 

Paul wants the church to remember the presence of God (“The Lord be with your spirit”) and the powerof God (“Grace be with you”). Grace, of course, is the unmerited favor of God that can captivate a terrorist like Paul. It’s also the unlimited power of God that can convert a terrorist like Paul and use him to change the world in Jesus’s name. What could the grace of God do through you?

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The Gospel Unchained, Part 11: Fight to the Finish (2 Timothy 4:1-8)

The Battle of Gettysburg was the bloodiest conflict of the Civil War. Nearly 7,800 people were killed, 27,000 were wounded, and 11,000 were captured or went missing. The North defeated the South in that 3-day battle. Had they not done so, it’s likely that today the United States would not be united. In fact, most historians regard Gettysburg as the turning point of the war. 

One of the heroes to come out of that battle was Joshua Chamberlain, a professor of theology and rhetoric at Bowdoin College in Maine. On July 2, 1863, the second day of battle Col. Chamberlain defended the left flank of the Union on a hill called Little Round Top. Had he failed to hold that position, the Union line would have collapsed, the battle would have been lost, and the Confederates would have marched on Washington and overtaken the White House. 

But Chamberlain and his men from the 20th Maine held firm. With great courage and tenacity, they repelled wave after wave of attack late into the afternoon. Even after his men ran out of ammunition, Chamberlain refused to retreat. Instead, he ordered that famous bayonet charge down the hill, which put the Confederates to flight and ended their plans to penetrate the Union line.

What’s not so famous, however, is a crisis that Chamberlain faced just two days before the Little Round Top incident. Chamberlain inherited 120 insurgents from the 2nd Maine. That regiment had folded because there were so many casualties in it. Naturally, the survivors assumed that when their unit ended, their term of service had ended, too. But not so, according to the military brass. They had to be re-assigned. Understandably, the men of the 2nd Maine were furious, so they dropped their muskets, and they refused to fight. 

They had seen enough war. They had seen enough death. And some of them were wounded themselves. They were emotionally drained; and they just wanted to go home. But they were rounded up like cattle and marched at gunpoint over to the 20th Maine. Now, put yourself in Col. Chamberlain’s boots for a moment. You’re preparing for your next campaign just north of where you are now, when suddenly, 120 grumpy, burned-out insurrectionists are dropped into your lap. What are you going to do with them? How are you going to get them on board? 

How do you motivate a group of wounded and weary soldiers to keep fighting the good fight? Chamberlain gets them on board with a speech—a stirring exhortation that is almost as powerful as the Gettysburg Address itself. After promising not to shoot the insurgents—which he had every right to do—Chamberlain talks to them with respect. In short, He reminded them that their purpose far outweighed their pain, and their prize far outweighed their price.

When it comes to Christian service, that’s a message believers need to be reminded of on a regular basis because ministry can be hard. Kingdom work is exhausting. Volunteer ministry can sometimes be discouraging, dispiriting, or disillusioning. Certainly, there are moments of great joy and celebration, but Christian service has a way of wringing us out like a wet dish rag. Paul’s burden in 2 Timothy is to light a fire under his young protégé to fight like a good soldier and keep fighting, even when the battle gets fierce. To that end, Paul tells Timothy—and he tells believers today—to press on in view of both the pain and the payoff. In short, he says fight to the finish, and receive your crown from Christ.

Paul, the old war horse, now in chains, sitting in the shadow of execution, just weeks away from martyrdom—what’s he concerned about? What’s foremost on his mind? The continued sharing of the gospel after he’s gone. It’s no time to go AWOL on the gospel, says Paul. He tells God’s people to fight well as a service to Christ (4:1-5), and finish well as a sacrifice to Christ (4:6-8). Just as he did.

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The Gospel Unchained, Part 10: Navigate the Last Days (2 Timothy 3:10-17)

Here’s a black and white photo that doesn’t look like much, but it tells an amazing story:

It’s an SAR—a Synthetic Aperture Radar— image of Hurricane Ike as it approached the coast of Texas in September 2008. Ike was the seventh costliest Atlantic storm in history, leaving about $38 billion worth of damage in its wake.

If we look at the picture carefully, we can see within the well-defined eye, near the right side toward the bottom, a tiny white dot. That dot is the 584-foot Cyprus bulk freighter Antalina, which got caught in the storm when its engines failed. 

There were 22 souls aboard the vessel when the storm hit. The wind was so severe, the Coast Guard had to call off its rescue attempt. The ship and the crew were forced to ride it out—inside the fury of the storm—hoping against hope that they wouldn’t be swamped or capsize. The satellite image shows the ship still safely afloat as the eye passes over them, giving them a brief respite until the southeastern wall pummeled them again.

Happily, the Antalina made it safely through the storm, and a tugboat pulled it safely to port after it was all over. All 22 crewmen survived, and the ship was undamaged. Quite significantly, the crew always knew where they were. Even though their engines had failed, they had a map and a compass to navigate the adventure. Better yet, the Coast Guard never lost sight of them. They were always on the radar, and officials always knew exactly where they were. It’s disorienting to be in a storm, but the tools of navigation have a way of keeping crew members tethered to reality—even when they’re getting pummeled by a hurricane. 

Can you imagine what kind of storms will visit us in the last days? Can you imagine how disorienting it will be when all hell breaks loose and unleashes its fury one last time prior to the return of Christ? We have hints and glimpses in Scripture of what those days will be like, but the intense depravity and deception will swirl around God’s people like never before. Jesus said it would be so bad, he put the question like this: “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8). In other words, the hurricane of depravity and deception will be severe. 

On another occasion, Jesus described these days like this: At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:10-13).

But how do we stand firm to the end? How can we be saved in the storm? Paul tells us in this passage to navigate the last days by the map of God’s word, the compass of God’s workers, and the North Star of Jesus Christ. It’s not a specific battle plan, but a general one, and believers do well to implement it now. We can do so by emulating God’s faithful workers (vv. 10-14) and examining God’s faultless word (vv. 15-17).

Indeed, the launching point for believers is always the inspired, God-breathed Scriptures because: (1) they are the sacred writings; (2) they are the source of saving truth; and (3) they are the spoken word of God. Thankfully, God has not left his people without a map and compass to navigate the storms of life. As Vance Havner once said, “A Bible that’s falling apart is usually owned by somebody who isn’t.” Best of all, God never loses sight of his people. They’re always on his radar.

Sermon Resources:

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The Gospel Unchained, Part 9: Mark the Menace (2 Timothy 3:1-9)

Hedviga Golik was born in Croatia in 1924. One night she made herself a cup of tea, sat down in her favorite armchair in front of the black and white television, and then watched her favorite programs. There she stayed—for the next 40 years! True story. Her lifeless remains were found sitting in front of the same TV four decades after she was reported missing.

Croatian police said she was last seen by neighbors in 1966, when she would have been 42 years old. The neighbors all thought Hedviga had moved away, but she was found by police who finally broken into her apartment. Fortunately for their noses, the windows had been slightly open all those years.

A police spokesperson said: “So far, we have no idea how it’s possible that someone reported as missing so long ago was not found before this, in the same apartment she used to live in.”

When the officers got there, they said it was like stepping into a place frozen in time. There was tea still in cup. There was moldy popcorn still in the bowl. Nothing was disturbed. There were just lots of cobwebs everywhere.

Neighbors were shocked by the discovery. Jadranka Markic was just 9 years old when Hedviga vanished. She said: “I still remember her. She was a quiet woman who kept to herself but was polite. We all thought that she had just moved out and gone to live with relatives.”

There was much soul searching in the community over this discovery. The recurring question was, “How did we miss this? Have we been so inwardly focused, so self-absorbed, so inattentive that didn’t even know she died in our midst? How could we have been so selfish not to see this?” Keith Green—who was something of a musical prophet from the early 1980s—had a captivating line from one of his songs: “It’s so hard to see when my eyes are on me.”

A major characteristic of the last days is selfishness. In fact, Paul’s message here is this: The last days are filled with people who are filled with self. And here we are in the “selfie” generation. Our culture features a magazine called Self. And we’re all living on this side of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs—the highest of which is “self-actualization.” Indeed, it really is “hard to see when my eyes are on me.”

This message looks at the ways and the wiles of the proto-gnostics Timothy encountered in Ephesus in the first century, drawing parallels to the similar ideologies in our day. “Last days” people enthrone the sinful self, he says, and they aren’t bothered by it. It leads to a distortion of the gospel called “antinomianism.”

Archbishop Trench once said the selfish person is like a hedgehog which, “rolling itself up in a ball, presents only sharp spines to those without, keeping at the same time all the soft and warm wool for itself within.” Ultimately, the question raised in this message is not, “Who are the people I know who fit the description of a selfish person?” The question raised is, “To what extent do I fit the description of a selfish person?”

John Stott has said, “If a man is proud, arrogant and swollen with conceit, of course he will never sacrifice himself to serve others. God’s order, as plainly declared in his moral law, is that we love him first (with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength), our neighbour next and our self last. If we reverse the order of the first and third, putting self first and God last, our neighbour in the middle is bound to suffer.” Just like Hedviga Golik.

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The Gospel Unchained, Part 8: Be Useful to God (2 Timothy 2:20-26)

A man used to visit the old general store out in the country. The owner of the store had a clerk named Jake, who seemed to be the laziest man in the whole world. One day the man noticed Jake was gone, so he asked the owner, “Where’s Jake?” “Oh, he retired,” said the owner. “Retired? Then what are you going to do to fill the vacancy?” The owner replied, “Jake didn’t leave no vacancy.”

That may have been bad grammar, but it was an astute observation. Because Jake was incredibly lazy, he wasn’t very useful to the owner, and, therefore, he wouldn’t really be missed. We do well to ask ourselves the challenging question: “What kind of vacancy would there be in God’s kingdom if we left?” 

Scripture indicates wants all his people serving Christ in some way. In fact, he’s given gifts to each believer to be used in his service. And yet, for so many who claim to know Christ as their Savior, their faith is like football—an occasional Sunday spectator sport. They’re not serving Christ day by day. But those who truly know Christ can’t be happy sitting in the stands. We want to be in the game.

We may need to sit out from time to time to catch our breath. We may need to go to the trainer’s room once in a while if we’re hurt. We may even need to be on the injured-reserve list for a period of time, until we get healthy. But our desire is to get in the game and be of some use to our team and our coach.

The teaching in 2 Timothy 2:20-26 reveals the kind of person God loves to use. We might think God uses only people who have impressive gifts and abilities. Spiritual gifts certainly play a part, but they’re not the main feature in being used by God. Paul tells us in this passage God loves to use those who are cleansed, kind, and committed.

The apostle uses two more images or metaphors to make his point—the “vessel” (v. 20) and the “servant” (v. 24) The calling of the vessel is to be cleansed to be useful to the master. The calling of the servant is to be kind and committed so that some will be saved and delivered from their bondage. When it comes to God’s calling on our lives, believers are not to leave any vacancies.

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The Gospel Unchained, Part 7: Watch Out (2 Timothy 2:14-19)

Somebody once said, “The main thing in life is to keep the main thing the main thing.” That’s true in Christian theology, too. Jesus once spoke of “weightier matters of the law” (Matthew 23:23), meaning some things in the Torah are more important than others. Likewise, the Apostle Paul spoke of “disputable matters” (Roman 14:1), meaning some things in the Christian life require no ecclesiastical positions or pronouncements. The Early Church called such things adiaphora, meaning “matters of indifference.”

The fact is, certain aspects of the Christian faith are never worth disputing (2 Timothy 2:14, 16-18a), while certain aspects of the Christian faith are always worth defending (2 Timothy 2:18b). The bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (along with his followers at the end of the age) is in this latter category. That’s always doctrinal hill to die on—so much so that Paul devotes an entire chapter to it in 1 Corinthians 15. Without the resurrection, he says, there is no Christianity.

Paul tells us in this passage that when it comes to haggling over WORDS, cut it out (2 Timothy 2:14, 16-18). However, when it comes to handling THE WORD, cut it straight (2 Timothy 2:15, 19). He instructs young Timothy—and he instructs Bible teachers today—“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15). 

The image is rich with practical insights for today’s teachers. Our calling is to be faithful to what God has revealed in his Word, a task that requires hard work, courage, and living primarily for the approval of the One who inspired his Word to be written down for our instruction. 

Moreover, we should want the apostles and prophets of old—were they sitting in the front row of our classrooms or sanctuaries—to hear our sermons and lessons, and nod in agreement after we teach, saying, “Yes, that’s what I meant. You were faithful to the message I wrote down about God and his ways many years ago, and you demonstrated its relevance for God’s people in your day.”

In short, Paul’s message for us is: Watch out for Bible teachers who make much of what is little and little of what is much. What we need to make much of in our day is Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, and his gospel of salvation for all who believe.

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The Gospel Unchained, Part 6: Remember the Gospel (2 Timothy 2:8-13)

Adoniram Judson was the first overseas missionary sent out from America. In the early 19th century, he and his wife went to India. A short time later, he went to Burma, where he labored in gospel work for nearly four decades. After 14 years on the field, Judson had a handful of converts and had managed to write a Burmese grammar. 

During that time, he suffered a horrible imprisonment for a year and a half, and he lost his wife and children to disease. A man who had been incarcerated with Mr. Judson described their prison conditions as he re-called them:

“The only articles of furniture the place contained were these…a gigantic row of stocks, similar in its construction to that formerly used in England…[only these were stocks for the feet, not the head and hands]. It was capable of accommodating more than a dozen occupants, and like a huge crocodile opened and shut its jaws with a loud snap upon its prey…. The prison had never been washed, nor even swept, since it was built… This gave a kind of…permanency to the odors… 

“As might have been expected from such a state of things, the place was teeming with creeping vermin to such an extent that…the greater portion of my dress was plundered. Surely it was enough for Mr. Judson to be shut up in the hot, stifling stench of a place like this without having his ankles and legs weighted with…irons, the scars from which he wore to his dying day. 

“He could say with the Apostle Paul, ‘I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.’ When Mr. Judson was subjected to these indignities and tortures, he was in the very prime of life—36 years old.”

There’s nothing like a good missionary biography to illustrate how small our sacrifice for Christ often is by comparison. Adoniram Judson suffered greatly for his Christian commitment. But, like the Apostle Paul, Judson considered his work for Christ to be infinitely more important than his own personal comfort. 

Where does that kind of inner strength come from? It comes from the grace standing behind what Paul writes to Timothy: “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained” (2 Timothy 2:8-9). In other words, you can endure anything when you remember the gospel is everything.

Looking back on his life, Judson wrote these words: “If I had not felt certain that every trial was ordered by infinite love and mercy, I could not have survived my accumulated sufferings.” Like Paul, Judson believed that no suffering is too great if it brings about the salvation of those who place their trust in Jesus Christ—a trust that leads to “eternal glory” (2 Timothy 2:10). Or, as Martin Luther put it:

Let goods and kindred go
This mortal life also
The body they may kill
God’s truth abideth still
His Kingdom is forever

Sermon Resources:

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The Gospel Unchained, Part 5: Endure Hardship (2 Timothy 2:1-7)

Early in the 20th century, there was an ad in a London newspaper that read as follows: “Men wanted for hazardous journey: small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, and constant danger. Safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success.” That’s not a very compelling invitation, is it? Except for the fact that it was signed by Sir Ernest Shackleton, which caused thousands of men to respond to the ad. 

That’s because Shackleton (1874–1922) was one of the principal figures of the period known as the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration. He was the great expeditionary hero who got closer to the South Pole than anyone else history up to that point. 

For that achievement, Shackleton was knighted by King Edward VII on his return home. No wonder thousands of men responded to his ad. Who wouldn’t want to be part of a great adventure with a proven leader on an expedition that had a great chance of succeeding?

The Christian Bible teacher Warren Wiersbe once said that if Jesus Christ had advertised for workers, the announcement might have read something like this: 

“Men and women wanted for difficult task of helping to build My church. You will often be misunderstood, even by those working with you. You will face constant attack from an invisible enemy. You may not see the results of your labor, and your full reward will not come till after all your work is completed. It may cost you your home, your ambitions, even your life.” Not a very compelling invitation, either, is it? Except for the fact that it’s signed by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords himself—Jesus of Nazareth.

Millions of people all over the world still respond to such an invitation. That’s because Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah of Israel, who came right on time in fulfillment of scores of OT prophecies. He lived in the 1st century during the days of King Herod. He healed the sick, cast out demons, taught God’s Word, loved the outcast, revealed the Father, and died on a bloody cross. On the 3rd day, he rose again.

For that achievement, Jesus was declared both Lord and Christ of the universe on his return home to heaven. No wonder millions still respond to his call, difficult though it may be. Who wouldn’t want to be part of a great adventure with a proven leader—a resurrected leader—on a missional adventure that cannot ultimately fail? Yet, many people do resist that adventure, and it’s not hard to see why.

In this passage, the apostle Paul calls Timothy—and by extension, he calls all believers—to be willing to endure hardship for the gospel. That’s a tough sell in our comfort-driven culture, isn’t it? But that’s Paul’s message to the church: To be an effective, contagious Christian, suffer now for the sake of future gain. What a challenging message!

How many of us show the dedication of a soldier (v. 3-4)? How many of us show the discipline of an athlete (v. 5)? How many of us show the diligence of a farmer (v. 6)? These are the illustrations Paul uses to motivate Timothy—and his church—to ensure the gospel baton is passed to the next generation. Who’s ready to sign up?

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The Gospel Unchained, Part 4: Take Care (2 Timothy 1:13-18)

When Abraham Lincoln died in 1865 at the hand of an assassin’s bullet, nine newspaper clippings were found in one of his pockets. Every article concerned some notable accomplishment of the late President. One clipping highlights a speech by the British statesman John Bright, noting that Lincoln was one of the greatest men of all time. 

That’s not news for those who live a century and half later, but in 1865, the jury was still out. The nation was divided, and Lincoln had fierce critics on both sides of the war. Life was often difficult for “honest Abe,” and he needed encouragement. Whenever something nice was printed about him in the newspaper—which wasn’t very often—he would clip it, read it, re-read it, and he keep it for a while.

Most people, especially leaders, need encouragement. Life is tough, and it’s even tougher when you have to lead. That includes the Apostle Paul, sitting in Roman a dungeon 2,000 years ago. It is dark, damp, depressing, and lonely. Thankfully, a man called Onesiphorus visited Paul as often as he could. Each time he did, Paul was refreshed in body, mind, and spirit.

Maybe that’s why Paul wrote such powerful letters from prison. It’s very possible we have people like Onesiphorus to thank for that. Yes, Paul was led by the Holy Spirit when he wrote, but he was lifted by Onesiphorus before he wrote. 

Do you have an Onesiphorus in your life—someone who blesses, refreshes, and encourages you? Better yet, are you an Onesiphorus to somebone else? If so, you could very well be assisting the spread of the gospel, as discouragement is one the enemy’s greatest weapons against believers. Paul’s message to Timothy in this passage is the same message for us today: Take care of God’s word and God’s workers. Why? So more people will know him. And people will know him more.

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The Gospel Unchained, Part 3: Stand Firm (2 Timothy 1:7-12)

The “Alexamenos Graffito” is the earliest surviving pictorial representation of a crucifixion. Created in the late 1st to mid 2nd century A.D., it portrays a Roman soldier worshiping the crucified Christ. But the image has a twist. As Jesus dies on the cross, he features the head of an ass instead of a human. The Greek caption, which is difficult to decipher, roughly reads, “Alexander worships his god.” 

The purpose of the political cartoon is to mock Christians for their nonsensical worship of a crucified deity. In this case, Alexander is portrayed as especially ridiculous because he—a Roman citizen—is worshiping a dying criminal. The idea is absurd to the Roman mind, and the message is clear enough: “Your messiah is an ass, and anyone who worships him is an ass, too.”

The blasphemous picture provides a look at the kind of pressure the early followers of Christ faced throughout the Roman Empire. It also gives us an indication of why Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:18, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

It can be discouraging when everyone around you belittles your Christian faith. It was no doubt dispiriting to Timothy in Ephesus, which is why Paul seeks to light a fire under his protégé. Paul’s message to Timothy in this passage contains the same message for us today: Never be ashamed of the Christ who took your shame. Jesus hung on the cross, naked and alone, bearing our sin and shame. Therefore, we can endure a measure of social pressure and hostility for him. The gospel is worth it.

Paul tells Timothy—and he tells us us—to stand firm as a follower of Christ because God has given us the power to do so. Specifically, God the Father started our salvation, God the Son secured our salvation, and God the Holy Spirit sustains our salvation. Therefore, we have a God-given capacity to face all things, including persecution for our Christian faith. That’s because Jesus was not only crucified; he is also risen from the dead. His followers will be, too.

Sermon Resources:

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The Gospel Unchained, Part 2: You Got It (2 Timothy 1:1-7)

Jesus said in John 10:10, “I have come that you might have life, and have it more abundantly.” That raises the question, “Are we living the abundant Christian life Jesus intended? Specifically, “Are we living the abundant Christian life such that others can tell that we are vitally joined to Jesus, and we ourselves know that we’re fulfilling God’s call upon our lives?” How would we know? Can you say with all sincerity:

  • I am where God wants me to be.
  • I’m doing what God wants me to do.
  • I’m serving where God wants me to serve.
  • I’m advancing the kingdom of God.
  • I’m sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.
  • I’m walking in the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • I am fulfilling my Christian calling.

If not—why not? What’s holding you back? What’s preventing you from being all that God wants you to be? We know for sure it’s not God who’s holding you back. It’s not your circumstances or life situation, either, because God is sovereign over those. It’s not even Satan who’s holding you back because he’s on a divine leash. The opening section of 2 Timothy gives us insight into the question.

As we’ve seen, this letter is Paul’s farewell exhortation to his young apprentice, Timothy. Paul is going to be executed soon, and he knows it. So, in this correspondence, he begins to pass the baton of ministry to his dear son in the faith. To do that, he’s going to issue 25 commands or admonitions about priorities in ministry, spiritual landmines to avoid, and dangers to guard against. Twenty-five exhortations in a 4-chapter book!

But before he issues any commands, Paul is going to motivate Timothy by reminding him of what he already has. By extension, he’s going to remind us, too. His message to believers of all ages is this: God has given you everything you need to fulfill your Christian calling. The message is not unlike what Peter writes in 2 Peter 1:3, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.”

This message looks at seven treasures believers have now, all of which can be pondered or cultivated over the course of one’s Christian life. Like Timothy, maybe you need to draw on the resources you’ve already been given in grace. Or, like Paul, maybe there’s someone in your life you can encourage in the faith. You have what you need to do it.

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The Gospel Unchained, Part 1: My Dear Son (2 Timothy 1:1-2)

Goodbyes are not easy, but sometimes they are necessary. What we say in those moments often captures what’s most important to us in life—and what we think will most benefit the other person. For example, what do we say when we drop our children off at college, and we won’t be able to see them for several more months? 

What do we say when we bid farewell to our children who depart for military service abroad, or move a long way away from home after they get married? Or what do we say to a loved one whose life is nearing its earthly end? At those times, everything seems to come into focus, and only important things are said—things of value, things of love, things of eternity, and things of God.

Second Timothy is Paul’s goodbye letter to his young apprentice, Timothy. Paul is going to be executed soon, and he knows it. What is on his mind at that moment? What claims his attention? What does he regard as most important for the sake of his dear son in the faith? The letter we call 2 Timothy tells us. And that’s why it has often been called, “Paul’s last will and testament to the church.” It’s his “swan song,” his final message, his parting words. Believers, then, do well to lean in and listen to what he has to say.

When the letter is written (ca. 67 A.D.), Paul is lonely, cold, and in prison—again. Timothy needs instruction, counsel, and encouragement—again. And Paul is preoccupied with the gospel of Jesus Christ—again. Broadly speaking, his charge to Timothy, and to the church at large, is centered around the gospel:

  • Guard the gospel (2 Tim 1:14).
  • Endure hardship for the gospel (2 Tim 2:3, 8-9).
  • Continue in the gospel (2 Tim 3:13-14).
  • Share the gospel (2 Tim 4:1-4).

What is this gospel that the author is so passionate about? It’s the gospel that had the power to convert a former terrorist (“Saul”) to Jesus Christ and become a worldwide evangelist and writer of a significant portion of the New Testament (“Paul”). Simply stated:

The gospel is the good news announcement that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, lived the life we should have lived, died the death we should have died, and rose again from the dead, sharing his life with all who believe in him. He ascended into heaven, taking our humanity with him into the Trinity, and now stands vindicated by his Father, reigns triumphant over the powers of darkness, and works to make all things new in the great restoration of the cosmos.

Paul wants young Timothy—and the church universal—to know that the gospel of Jesus Christ is unchained and unstoppable. Indeed, around the world today, approximately 190,000 people will put their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. That is, every two seconds someone comes to faith Christ. That’s over 60 Pentecosts every day! Quite significantly, 40,000 will be in the People’s Republic of China; 30,000 will be on the African continent; and 25,000 will be in India. Moreover, around the world today, 500 new churches will be planted, and 40,000+ Bibles will be distributed.

If you’re part of the church of Jesus Christ, you are part of something that cannot and will not fail. There may be setbacks and persecutions along the way—just like in the book of Acts—but the destination is guaranteed. As Woodrow Wilson once said, “I would rather fail in a cause that will ultimately succeed than succeed in a cause that will ultimately fail.” The gospel will not fail.

Sermon Resources:

Contact This New Life directly for the sermon audio file.

Good News, Bad News (Ecclesiastes 1:1-4; 12:13-14)

Ecclesiastes is one of the most puzzling and provocative books in the entire Bible. Like coffee, it can be an “acquired taste” for people. In a dour sort of way, it deals with a key issue of human existence—namely, the meaning of life and all the questions surrounding that issue:

  • “Who am I, and why am I here?”
  • “What can I do with my life that will make it worthwhile?”
  • “What’s the ‘big picture’ of this world, and how do I fit into it?”

The everyday weariness, frustrations, injustices, and sense of emptiness that people often experience during life “under the sun” don’t seem to square with the fleeting moments of happiness, joy, contentment, and fulfillment that are also part of the human story. 

Aggravating the problem is a certain death that looms over every person—a dread that stands in sharp contrast to the pulsating life that each living person has now. 

Ecclesiastes challenges us to think deeply about foundational questions. Life and all it contains appear to be meaningless vapors—here today and gone tomorrow. What, then, is the big picture of this world and its intersection with our transitory lives? 

And if there is no Big Story at all, what is the point of all our little stories? Ecclesiastes offers an answer that is rather surprising: Live now. Live forever. Amidst all the bad news of this world, there is good news in the end.

Sermon Resources:

Contact This New Life directly for the sermon audio file.

A Supernatural Walk (Matthew 14:22-33)

The Apostle Peter did something that no other mortal has ever done. He walked on water at the invitation of Jesus. He also sank like a rock after a few steps because he was distracted by the wind and became afraid. At that point he needed a lifeguard and a towel. Mercifully, Jesus rescued Peter out of his predicament.

Such is often the case for Christ’s followers today. Jesus calls us to a supernatural walk with him, but so often our lives lack a supernatural component. Honestly, when is the last time something truly supernatural happened to you or through you—something that can be explained only in terms of God having done it?

A miracle? A divine healing? A real and specific answer to prayer? A deliverance from some sort of bondage? A victory over some sort of besetting sin? A restoration to wholeness and true contentment, whatever the circumstance? A divine love that God gives you for the unlovable? The ability to forgive someone who sinned against you? Could it be that we’re just too comfortable in our Christian boats, never stepping out of them in faith, where the chances of sinking are greatly multiplied?

For all that, this story is primarily about the identity of Christ. Jesus says to Peter, “It is I. Don’t be afraid” (Matt 14:17). Literally, Jesus says: “I am. Don’t be afraid.” That’s a reference to the divine name, “Yahweh,” that God revealed to Moses at the burning bush (Exod 3). Moreover, Job 9:8 says that God alone “stretches out the heavens and treads on the waves of the sea.” So, here on the Sea of Galilee we have another declaration and another demonstration of the deity of Christ. He is God in human flesh.

We also have a revelation of Jesus’s gracious character: (1) Jesus responds to our cries for help (v. 31a); (2) Jesus rescues us in our time of need (v. 31b); and (3) Jesus reminds us to keep our faith in him (31c). That’s because without Jesus we’re sunk. Or, as Jesus himself said, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

After Peter and Jesus climbed into the boat, the wind died down (v. 32). That’s not coincidental timing; it’s another indication that even nature bows to the lordship of Christ. If all nature bows to Jesus, shouldn’t we bow to him as well? That’s where the supernatural walk begins. And if we should stumble along the way, Jesus is right there to catch us (v. 31).

Sermon Resources:

Contact This New Life directly for the sermon audio file.