"Suffer For The Gospel"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2013 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
You're going through 2 Timothy, and it falls to my lot to do 2 Timothy 2. Now we'll not be dealing with the whole chapter in the time that we have tonight, but we are looking at the theme of 'Suffer For The Gospel'. Let's just pray together as we come to the scriptures. I hope that you're here to hear the voice of God, that's what we all need to hear - I need to hear Him myself as I stand before you tonight. There may be things that I haven't prepared to say, that God would have me say - and so we all have to be open to the voice of God, and you too if you're going to receive a message from the Lord tonight. It's very challenging Scripture that we are looking at this evening, so we need to have hearts that are in a disposition to be open to God. So let's come and just bring ourselves to the Lord afresh:
Holy Abba Father, we come to You in the name of the Lord Jesus. We thank You for the Lord Jesus Christ, we thank You for the Gospel, we thank You for the power of the cross, we thank You for the energy of the resurrection - that very life which flows to us because we are one spirit with the risen Lord Jesus. Lord, we pray tonight that because our Christ is ascended and glorified, You have promised to pour out the Holy Spirit, and have done at Pentecost, and we pray that we would stand tonight in the stream of that ever-flowing river from the throne of God. Lord, let us be in the full flow of the Holy Spirit tonight. We pray that the One who authored these words may apply them to each of our hearts, that He might have the victory in our lives tonight and in the church - for He alone is worthy. Amen.
2 Timothy 2, and we'll begin at verse 1 - we're only reading down to verse 13: "You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier. And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. The hardworking farmer must be first to partake of the crops. Consider what I say, and may the Lord give you understanding in all things. Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel, for which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains; but the word of God is not chained. Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. This is a faithful saying: For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him. If we endure, we shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us. If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself".
The theme, really, of chapter 2 is suffering for the Gospel. We see, right away, in the verses that we're looking tonight, that there is a war on. The whole of the New Testament indicates this to us, also the Old Testament - and so the whole revelation of God's Canon, old and new covenant, testify to this fact: that there is meant to be a raging conflict that we are engaged in. There is a spiritual war on, the clash of two kingdoms - darkness and light. Paul is very explicit in this regard in Ephesians 6, that great passage on the armour, the panoply of God. He tells each of us as Christians to adorn ourselves with what God has supplied for us - Jesus dying on the cross, and rising again, and ascending to heaven has bought for us the ability to be covered and completely charged with God's armour. The helmet of salvation for our mind, the breastplate of righteousness over our heart and our affections, the girdle of truth holding everything together, the shield of faith to quench the fiery darts of the devil, the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God, feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace - being ready to take the Gospel and take our stand in the truth of the Gospel - and all prayer, which I believe is the seventh piece of armour. In that passage Paul says, Ephesians 6:12: 'We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places'. Whilst we may have flesh and blood opposition in our lifetime, and we can see that all around us of course, we've got to see beyond the flesh and blood, we've got to see behind the human opposition to the Gospel, to understand that there are spiritual entities at work - there is a spiritual battle on.
In 2 Corinthians 10:4, Paul says: 'For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds' - because our fight is not with people, because our struggle is with invisible forces, the weapons of our warfare are not fleshly, they are not human. We do not engage in jihad. Though we do fight a spiritual war, we use spiritual weapons, which are mighty through God to the pulling down of these invisible strongholds that exalt themselves against the knowledge of God. There is a spiritual war on. I wonder do you know that? I've been very impressed by reading a book over the last number of months by John Eldredge called 'The Utter Relief Of Holiness', a wonderful book. There is a statement in it that has really impressed me, along with many of the things he has said on the subject of holiness - the statement goes thus: 'The spiritual war is heating up, wickedness is raging like a nuclear meltdown. It is going to take a supernatural life to withstand these trials' - he's right. There is a war on, and it is only those who are awake to the war, only those who are girded in the armour, only those who are standing in the strength of the Lord who will prevail, and who will survive for that matter.
So Paul exhorts us in verse 3 that we are meant to be soldiers: 'You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ'. This Christianity is not a game, it's not a hobby, it's not an appendage onto the end or the beginning of your week - it is a serious business! Just as human warfare is a matter of life and death, spiritual warfare that we are meant to be engaged in is a matter of spiritual life and spiritual death. There are eternal issues at stake. Though our faith is to be childlike, our faith is not child's play. I have to say that, in studying these texts for our benefit tonight, I have seen how Paul's language and the concepts that are encapsulated here challenges much of the modern imagery of Christianity in our world. It has to be said that much of it is weak and impotent. In fact, I have heard it said, and it is worth pondering - I'm not saying I agree with it, but it's worth thinking about - that Christian expression has become more effeminate in the 21st-century. Some have suggested that this is why men, in particular, cannot connect as well with church in the way that they used to in bygone days. I'm not stating that myself, but it's worth thinking about. It's worth asking - apart from the exception of 'O Church arise', a wonderful modern hymn - where are the modern day equivalents of 'Onward Christian soldiers', and 'He who would valiant be', 'Fight the good fight', 'Stand up, stand up for Jesus, you soldiers of the cross'? Has this note fallen out, as it were, of our repertoire of how we understand Christian expression - that we are in a battle, we are soldiers, and we are fighting in a war.
To put it another way: could you envisage 'Pilgrim's Progress' being written in the 21st-century? Or Bunyan's 'Holy War'? I think it is true to say that we have more brain in the Church today than we ever had, but little brawn. If we are soldiers, as Paul says we are meant to be, in verse 4 he tells us we need focus: 'No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier'. We need to prioritise. Carelessness in battle could cost your life as a soldier, or the life of your comrades, and it's exactly the same in the Kingdom of God - and there is so much carelessness around. Now when I speak of 'casualness', I'm not talking about dress - but there is a great deal of casual attitude in the church to the things of God. You wouldn't dream of being casual on the battlefield, would you, as a soldier? You would be on edge, you would have all of your faculties sharpened and at a great height, looking for every eventuality, every opportunity to strike and also to defend yourself against the enemy's strike. Now don't misunderstand anything I'm saying here tonight: there is a great emphasis on grace in the church, the modern church, which I love - I have to say that, and I think our emphasis and foundation ought to be grace - but there is a danger today that there is an emphasis on grace at the expense of any discipline or any order in our lives. If that is the case, it is actually robbing us. There is a danger that we have a type of grace, as the New Testament says, that turns itself into lasciviousness, a lawlessness. But we see here clearly that whilst we are under grace - and grace is the basis of everything that underpins our life in Christ, we don't earn pleasure of God, we get it gratuitously through what Jesus has done for us - nevertheless, it says here that if we are soldiers in the army of the Lord, we are to live, verse 4, to please Him who enlisted us as soldiers. We're not to be careless, we are to have priorities in our lives to please the Lord, to focus as soldiers of His.
So there is a war on, but Paul uses another analogy in verse 5 - he says there is a competition on: 'And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules'. So we are meant to be not only committed soldiers, but committed athletes. Paul says we must keep the rules if we're going to be awarded. All of us, probably, have seen people winning races and competitions, and then being subsequently disqualified because of some infringement. Now I'm not talking about rule keeping, that's not what Paul is getting at, but he is teaching us that there are principles of this walk and life and race in the Spirit, that must be adhered to if we are to live for God's glory. The reason why this is vitally important is that there is an adjudication day coming. The New Testament calls it the 'bema', that's the Greek word for the platform on which the umpire of the games - imagine the Olympics - would stand and adjudicate and award the various prizes. Paul says all of us, without exception, must stand before the Judgement Seat of Jesus Christ and give an account of the works that we have done in the flesh, whether they be good or bad.
Turn with me to 1 Corinthians chapter 3 verse 13: 'On that day', Paul says, 'each one's work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is. If anyone's work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire'. If you look, keep your finger in there at 1 Corinthians, and go over again to our text, 2 Timothy, but this time 2 Timothy 2 verse 20, verses that we didn't read, they are along the same lines. Second Timothy 2:20: 'But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honour and some for dishonour. Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honour, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work'.
So there is a Judgement Day coming, we are in a competition, we're in a race, the adjudication is going to happen one day - how will you fare? How will I? This is a tricky one - I mean, how we going to be judged? We're not judged on our sin, Jesus was judged for our sins on the cross - provided, that is, that we have confessed sin, I believe unconfessed sin we will face, having to answer for that, I believe that. But assuming that everything is under the blood, and you have kept short accounts with the Lord, and you have confessed everything and dealt with everything - what's going to be judged? Is it your works? That is often interpreted in evangelical circles as how many meetings you go to - that is not how you will be judged at the Judgement Seat. It certainly will not be how many works you're involved in. So what is the litmus test of judgement? What is the key principle? Well, go back to 1 Corinthians, this time chapter 4, and I want to read this verse 5 from the NIV - 1 Corinthians 4 verse 5, listen: 'Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God' - that is each who are worthy. He will expose the motives of the heart, the key to this adjudication is motivation. If you want to know what one of the greatest principles of running the race and keeping the rules - it's not just about running the race, it's not just about finishing it, and it's not just about appearing to win it, crossing the line first and everybody thinks that you're a real star - it's about your motivation along the way! That doesn't really matter for an athlete, but it matters for us, because God sees.
You may have heard the story of Chopin, the great composer and musician. He performed a concert with his orchestra which was littered with mistakes, and the audience couldn't tell. But there was an old man who didn't clap along with the applause, his name was Verdi, he was Chopin's instructor, and he knew every single one of those mistakes. What men may applaud, God may see as wood, hay, and stubble - because God sees the motivation. Our life, and this is a sobering thought, our life is putting word-by-word the sentence about ourselves into Christ's lips. We are manufacturing, by our lives, our own adjudication, what He is going to say to us on that day. Listen: this is not a dress rehearsal, this is the real event, we need to get serious, we need to put aside carelessness and apathy, a laissez-faire attitude. This is a war! This is a competition! The competition of the ages! That's why Hebrews tells us: 'Therefore let us lay aside every weight, and the sin that does so easily ensnare us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us'. Or 1 Corinthians 9, turn with me to it, 1 Corinthians 9 - there is a lot in 1 Corinthians about this - verse 24: 'Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate', or self-controlled, 'in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown', that's people who are in human athletics, 'but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore', Paul says, 'I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified'. What language! I don't want to sound negative, but I don't think that's the language of modern day Christianity - where we buffet our bodies, where we bring our bodies and our appetite and our senses subject to the Lordship of Jesus Christ to win this race. This isn't required of us to get to heaven or anything, but if we're going to make an impact for the Kingdom, and we're going to give all that we can for the glory of the Lord Jesus, we've got to do it! Gold medallist's don't have to get up every morning at 5 o'clock and cycle, or swim, or whatever, or row - but if they want to win the prize, and they want to bring glory to their country, they will do it.
There is a war on, there is a competition on, and we see in 2 Timothy 2 again that there is a harvest season. In verse 6, this is the third analogy Paul brings: 'The hardworking farmer must be first to partake of the crops'. There is a harvest field, but we are to farm it. You're a farmer! Just as a hard-working farmer is the first to enjoy the crops, and a lazy man receives nothing, Jesus said: 'The fields are white unto harvest, but the labourers are few'. The opportunity is passing. In John 4 verse 35, Jesus Himself said: 'Do you not say, 'There are still four months and then comes the harvest'? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!'. There is an urgency in battle, in the race of the Christian life, and in this harvest field there is a need for urgency.
Now this passage in particular demonstrates how far Paul was willing to go that the lost might be won. Look at verses 8 and 9 to see this: how Paul suffered for the Gospel. 'Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel, for which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains; but the word of God is not chained'. How Paul suffered for the Gospel! My question to you tonight, and to myself, is: do we suffer? In fact, Paul's life was so united with this message that he calls it 'my gospel', he had given himself entirely to it, that he had become lost in it - and he says: 'I suffer for this gospel'. This Gospel didn't give Paul a life of glamour and ease that many of the prosperity preachers would lead us to believe ought to be our right, but it says - Paul, speaking of his own experience - that he suffered trouble as an evildoer. Imagine that! He was public enemy number one! The world, the state considered him to be wrong. I have to tell you, that's the way we are being looked at today as New Testament believers. We are starting to suffer trouble as evildoers, we are being seen as intolerant, as irritants in society, and even the religious sphere is now rejecting evangelical Christians. But we ought not to be surprised, the Lord Jesus said in John 16:2: 'They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service'. People will kill Christians - and are currently doing so across the world - in the name of their god.
Now can I say tonight: this is what is meant by carrying your cross. There's a lot of garbage talked about carrying your cross. People talk about their latest medical infirmity as their 'cross', or in general they speak of the difficulties of life - that is not what carrying your cross is. Carrying your cross is not an irritable husband, or a grumpy wife. It's not an ingrown toenail, or a noisy neighbour. Carrying your cross is suffering for the name of Jesus Christ. Neither is carrying the cross being offensive in the name of Christ. A lot of people think that if they ram the Gospel down people's throats, and then they rub them up the wrong way and they get an attitude back from them, that they're being persecuted for the Gospel - when, in fact, they're just being persecuted for being obnoxious. That's not what Paul is talking about, but suffering for the offence of Christ, the offence of His claims, the offence of His work, His words, and His cross. When we take our stand for Him, when we graciously, lovingly speak up for Him, and we suffer for Him - that is what it is to carry the cross.
Of course, I could recite - and I'm sure many of you could - how believers in places like Egypt, Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, etc are suffering, now, for carrying their cross, but I don't want to go down that route tonight. I want to ask you: how are you suffering for the Gospel? You say, 'Hold on a minute, we live in a Western, civilised, liberal democracy! How could we be persecuted for the Gospel?'. Well, listen to what Jesus said: 'In the world, you will have, you will know tribulation'. John 15 verse 20: 'Remember the word that I said to you, 'A servant is not greater than his master'. If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you' - that's what Jesus said. In fact, look at 2 Timothy 3 verse 12: 'Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution' - it's emphatic. So if you're wanting to go on with God, you ought to be suffering some kind of persecution, and if you're not suffering and I'm not, then why is that? Well, surely it must be that our lives do not sufficiently collide with and challenge the norms of society? Surely it must be that we have adapted to the world around us, we have allowed it to push us into its mould, and instead of being a thermostat that regulates our environments - whether our local or greater environments - we have become thermometers that merely reflect the temperature of the spirit of the age around us. If we are not suffering for the Gospel, is it not because we aren't distinct enough any more, we aren't different enough, we aren't distinguished from the rest of society? I don't mean in idiosyncratic ways, or in peculiar oddities, but in the Christ-life that is meant to emanate from us, that Holy Spirit power that is meant to come up from within us and overflow out of us as a mighty, living torrent to touch others around us that we encounter. I'm talking about our characters that stand against the flow of the tide! Is that not why we aren't really suffering?
You will know Frank Carson, the late Frank Carson - he wasn't a theologian, nor an evangelist, nor a Bible teacher, he was a comedian. He said some very profound things, as well as quite a few good jokes as well! One of the things, after his death, when they were reminiscing about some of his quips, I heard said - and I thought it was very deep - he said about our own land, he said: 'There are too many Protestants, and there are too many Catholics, and not enough Christians'.
I believe a sifting is coming, I really believe that. Though it has been possible to coast along comfortably as Christians in our nation, I believe those days are closing and closing fast. Our faith is beginning to significantly collide with the accepted norms of society - now it always has done, but it's more blatant now than ever in living memory and modern times. There is an aggressiveness, a violence against the Gospel in the institutions of our land - and this sifting, I believe, is going to affect the church dramatically. It's going to sift out, sort out, those who are prepared to suffer for Jesus, who are prepared to lose their job, to have their pay docked, to be pulled into the office, to be sanctioned, those who are prepared to be stigmatised - and those who merely have a profession of convenience: 'Oh, I'm a Christian'; those who Jesus said in Mark 4:17, 'have no root in themselves, they only endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word's sake, immediately they stumble'.
Now let me ask you, and none of us can anticipate what we will do before persecution comes, but how do you think you're going to fare? I mean you're hardly getting things hot and heavy at the moment, and how are you doing standing up for Jesus Christ? How will you fare then? What areas will we be challenged in? Sexuality is one of the most obvious, the definition of marriage, the abortion laws, freedom of religious expression, euthanasia, genetic engineering, ethics in the workplace - these have always been challenges in modern times, but how long until those who are conscientiously objecting have to accept the wisdom of society over their faith, and are persecuted for not doing so? How long will it be? If there is not a gracious intervention of the Almighty, how long will it be until it comes, if it's not already here?
What is our reaction to be? Well, forgive me for going back to chapter 1, but the whole book is the context and I think it's helpful to look at this just for a moment. In verse 6, Paul tells Timothy he needs to avail of the Holy Spirit. Can I remind you of that quote from John Eldredge? Listen: 'The Spiritual war is heating up, wickedness is raging like a nuclear meltdown. It is going to take a supernatural life to withstand these trials'. If you look at the book of Revelation, the seven letters speak about 'overcomers' - and I believe that's the message that needs to come to the Church today. Some might be telling them: 'Oh, just relax, the Lord's going to come and take you all out of the heat' - I don't believe that's the message people need to hear. I believe the message they need to hear is: 'Yes, endure to the end; yes, look unto the Lord; but you need to realise there is a war - get the armour on, get ready!'. The heat is coming, you're not just going to be pulled out! I'm not touching any controversial doctrine or anything like that, I'm just saying that we need all the power of God in order to take our stand in this nuclear meltdown that's coming. I take great encouragement from Timothy, he is often called 'timid Timothy', commentators feel he was quite fearful, or at least that was his disposition that Paul was ministering to. Here in verse 6 of chapter 1 Paul says: 'Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands'. Listen: you cannot live the Christian life without the power of the Holy Spirit, and you will never overcome in your own life on your own steam - it is the Christ-life that overcomes. It is Christ in you, the hope of glory. It is not I, but Christ that lives in me, and the life that I now live, I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me. This Christian life is not our life at all, we have died and Christ lives in and through us!
That's not what a lot of people are living, they're living this Sunday-go-to-meeting thing, this church business, and teach Sunday School, and do something for the Lord, and know the doctrines that our folk believe in, read your Bible, pray every day if you want to grow. They're doing all this stuff in the flesh, and it's not the power of God. Listen: if you're going to prevail in what is coming - and you've got to understand that we're coming closer now in our society to what New Testament Christians had to face. They were fed to the lions - you can talk all you like about rapture to them, and they were looking for the Lord, but they were fed to the lions. They had to endure hardship, they had to go through much tribulation until they entered the Kingdom. You need God's Spirit! Stir up the gift of God that is in you!
You need to avail of the Spirit. Chapter 1 also tells us in verse 7 that you ought not to fear, don't fear: 'For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind'. Maybe you're saying: 'That's rich for you, you're giving me nightmares tonight'. Well, it is a weapon of the enemy to intimidate us to silence. Now fear is a natural thing - I mean, if somebody is coming at you with a sword or a machine gun, you're going to fear. Fear is actually a gift of God, did you know that? That's why we don't just run across the road without looking both ways, that's why we don't stick our hand in the fire - but fear was given to us as our servant, not as our master. The problem comes when we allow the enemy to master us by fear, and I believe what is happening in our society and our land is: we as Christians have become intimidated, through fear we are silent. Paul says avail of the Spirit and don't fear - God has not given you a spirit of fear, but power, love, and of a sound mind.
Here's the third thing he says: don't be ashamed. Verse 8: 'Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner'. Now let's be honest here - wouldn't it be terrible if we were honest in church?! Is there not a cringe factor in this modern era in being a Christian. Do you ever feel the cringe factor? Be honest now. The media's eccentric caricatures of Christians has influenced us. Now of course there are some hare-brained Christians that don't help the matter! But let's be honest: how does our self-image be affected by the spirit of the world and the attitude of outsiders to how we are as Christians and how we are meant to be? When we get to the stage when we're putting out feelers, and little study groups, and going round the doors with petitions about what kind of church people want out there - we're in trouble. In fact, if we do that, we should really take the survey and do the opposite of everything the people out there say! Don't get me wrong: we need to be a loving church, we need to be a church that touches the community, but we need to be the Church of God, and we need to recognise the spiritual battle that there is - and that will not come with compliance to the world system around us. It will come by being what God wants us to be, which is not being ashamed of the Gospel, and taking up our cross! Do you know what that is? Yes, it's suffering for Jesus, but it's a choice - you take up your cross, just as taking up the armour. You read Ephesians 6: 'Take up the helmet, take up the sword, take up the shield, put on' - you've got to actively make the choice, 'I'm going into battle in the name of Christ!'.
The good news is that even if the apostle Paul, like him, you get chained up for your faithfulness, the word of God is not bound. Isn't that wonderful statement? The word of God is not bound - and the testimony of Christian history was that persecution spread the Gospel right across the globe. Someone said: 'No government, nor religious authorities, no sceptics, no scientists, no philosophers, no book burners have ever been able to stop the work of the word of God - yet if there is any sense in which the word is bound, it is bound when it is abandoned by its friends'. That's worth thinking about.
How Paul suffered for the Gospel. Do we suffer? Quickly: his motivation was the lost in verse 10. Second Timothy 2 verse 10, his motivation: 'Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory'. Is our motivation the lost? I preached a sermon years ago on Romans 9:2-3, where the apostle Paul said that he almost wished that he were accursed for his brethren, his kinsmen according to the flesh, such was his passion for souls. I entitled the sermon: 'A Passion for the Lost, or a Lost Passion?' - I ask you tonight, I ask you Scrabo Hall, as you're entering a new season of evangelism, what the church in general needs to face: look in the mirror and ask whether or not, generally speaking, the passion for the lost has grown cold, and there is an indifference about saving people. I mentioned this morning the reality of hell, and we have become practical atheists with regard to this truth. Now I'll be absolutely honest with you: I find the concept of eternal damnation very, very difficult emotionally and mentally - but it's there, Jesus spoke of it, God's Word testifies to it, and if we're going to throw it out we might as well throw the whole lot out! I'm honest! It's either real or it's not, and if it's real we need to have a love for the lost that was Paul's motivation - is it ours?
But it wasn't just the lost, it was the elect, and the maturity of the saints 'that they may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory' - that they would not neglect their salvation, but explore the depths of so great salvation. There's not much motivation in many places of worship today to go deeper with God. They want to go through the motions and do what they know about.
Here in verses 11-13, as we come to a close, we find probably what was an early Christian hymn. It was well known by people, that's why he says it is faithful saying. Let's break it down, verse 11: 'For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him'. There is a principle that if we suffer for the name of Christ, we will be recompensed. 'If we died with Him' - now that, of course, could mean judicially speaking, in the spiritual realm, we have died with Christ just as baptism signifies, when we put our trust in Him and repent of our sins we die with Him, the old David Legge dies with Him, and I rise to new life in Jesus Christ. It could literally be speaking of the resurrection, which is going to happen when Jesus returns - that, though we physically die, we will rise again with Him. But I think in the context here it's really getting at the idea of martyrdom, that if we die inside for Him, Paul says 'I die daily', if we are constantly being offered as a sacrifice for Jesus in our suffering for His name, or if we literally have to pay the ultimate price, we will rise again! It's not the end.
Look at 2 Corinthians quickly please, chapter 4 verse 7, Paul again says: 'But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus' sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So then death is working in us, but life in you. And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, 'I believed and therefore I spoke', we also believe and therefore speak, knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you'. If we suffer we will be recompensed, if we die with Christ and for Christ, we will rise with Him.
As Paul said in his testimony in Acts 20:24, 'None of these things move me' - imagine that! What a man - all that he faced, and he says 'None of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself'. I mean, just stop there a minute: 'Nor do I count my life dear to myself' - what do we protect more than anything? 'So that', Paul says, 'I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God'.
If we suffer we will be recompensed, look at the second statement, verse 12: 'If we endure, we shall also reign with Him'. If we are faithful we will be rewarded. 'Endure' speaks of faithfulness. If we are faithful we will reign with Him. So what does 'faithfulness' mean? It means we will rule and reign with Christ when He returns. So that means this is training for reigning! There is a reward for suffering for Jesus, and to me that's the only way that you can count it joy when you enter into various trials for Jesus' sake - it's the only way that I can reason why the apostles, it says, 'they departed from the presence of the council', Acts 5, 'rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name' - because they're suffering would be recompensed, even if they had to die, Jesus would raise them again. If they endured faithfully, they would be rewarded, and they would reign one day with Christ.
But look at the end of verse 12: 'If we deny Him, He also will deny us'. If we are unfaithful, He will deny us. Now, look, I know how it works - and you look up the commentaries, and they'll give you a sugar-coated version of this to try and help you sleep better - but it's not really being honest with Scripture, at least I don't think so. Listen to what Jesus said in Matthew 10, listen: 'Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven'. Now I'm not going to dilute what the Lord Jesus said, that's what He said. If you're unfaithful to the Lord, if you deny Him, He will deny you. You say: 'Well, how will He deny me?'. Well, probably of reward, maybe - it's only a suggestion, I'm not being dogmatic - but maybe there is an element of reign that will be denied you when Jesus returns.
Yet the final statement here is, verse 13: 'If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself'. So if we are faithless, He remains faithful. Now there are two meanings possible there: one is that He is greater than our unfaithfulness, and He will be faithful to His promises - and certainly faithfulness is in view in that statement. But what are the promises that are being made here in this hymn? What are the promises that He's going to be faithful to? Well, one of them is: if we deny Him, He will deny us. That's the second meaning, and it's more ominous: He will be faithful to carry out His decree. It's sobering stuff, isn't it?
There is a war on. There is a competition on. There is a harvest field. How Paul suffered for the Gospel, do we? His motivation was the lost, is that ours? I read a very moving story with which I will close. One Christian, in the days of the ancient Roman Empire, was commanded to give money to the building of a pagan temple. He refused. Though he was old the Roman soldiers stripped him almost completely naked, and cut him all over his body with knives and with spears. Even they in their humanity started to feel sorry for him, so they said: 'Look, just give us one coin to the building of the temple, just one coin, and we will stop' - but he still would not. Then they said: 'Just burn one grain of incense to the pagan gods, just one grain, and we will stop' - but he would not. So he was smeared with honey, and while his wounds were still bleeding they set bees and wasps upon him until he was stung to death. He could die, but he could not deny his Lord, and he will not lose his reward.
You can have that same strength to live for Him as that man had to die for Him. How are we suffering for the Gospel? Let us pray.
The meeting is over, but let us just take a moment or two in the presence of God. What is He saying to you tonight? How is He challenging you? Have you heard His voice calling you to serve Him in some capacity, and you're deliberating about it, or hesitating? Is there something not right in your life, and you know that when you stand before the Judgement Seat, you'll be found wanting and you will suffer loss? Remember that Corinthians passage: some people will just be saved as by fire, everything will be burned up and their soul will just get in by the skin of their teeth - that's literally what it saying. Now that's by God's grace we are saved and secure, but who wants to get in by the skin of their teeth? Who wants to go empty-handed into the presence of the One who gave His blood for us? Deal with the Lord just in the quietness, speak to Him, tell Him what's in your heart, tell Him you want that power of the Holy Spirit to overcome, tell Him you want to be delivered from fear and intimidation and spiritual lockjaw, you want to be a witness - not just by cliches or trite sayings, but by your life, by the light that shines from you. I think all of us should be praying just now, and do you know what I believe we should be praying? I believe you should be praying that God will equip you for the torrent that is coming very soon.
Father, we thank You for the directness of Your word. We pray that each of us would be prepared, none of us would be uncovered against the wiles of the devil. Lord, I pray that every single person here tonight will be conscious of being enlisted as a soldier in the army of the Lord; as an athlete running to win the prize for Jesus, keeping the rules lest they be disqualified. Let none of us be wasting our time or beating the air, but let us be making a dent in this generation in which we live. Lord we thank You that in this day You are raising up a remnant of faithful people who are hungry and thirsty after righteousness, who are fed up with the facade and the veneer of superficial profession, and they want to go on with God, they want the Spirit-filled life, they want to have a testimony to extend the kingdom of Christ. Lord, may there be people here tonight who will join that band, the 7000 that have not yet bowed the knee to Baal. Oh, Lord Jesus Christ, find a people through whom You can shine Your light and life. Let me, Lord, and all of us, if the time should come, be faithful. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at Scrabo Hall in Newtownards, N. Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the recording titled "Suffer For The Gospel" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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