Pastor Chris Royce

Sermon Text: 2 Timothy 3:14-17

Sunday, July 11, 2021

I try to imagine Timothy holding this letter in his hands from Paul. This letter, his second letter to Timothy, is kind of a big deal. After all the ink Paul put to page over the last 15 years, writing all these letters to different churches (Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, Corinthians, Colossians, and so on) 2 Timothy is the final letter Paul would write in his storied ministry. And the final printed words from the hand of Paul aren’t being sent to a church to be shared with numerous believers. Rather, the final printed words from the hands of Paul are sent to one individual, Timothy. Timothy is one of only two pastors in the New Testament who received a personal letter from Paul. Talk about special, huh?! Timothy is a pastor, receiving a letter of pastoral wisdom from perhaps the most noteworthy pastor of all time. It’d be like the varsity quarterback getting pointers from Russell Wilson, or the culinary student getting a private lesson with Bobby Flay. How about a letter of investing insights from Warren Buffett? Timothy’s hands must have been shaking as he held some of Paul’s final words in his hands. Addressed to him, no less!


What exclusive pearls of wisdom would Paul leave behind for the next generation of spiritual leaders? What secret to ministry would Paul impart to Timothy? Perhaps Paul would give his top pointer for how to deal with “those Christians” who always seem to get on the nerves of everyone else at church. Maybe Paul would give his key tactics for how to make Timothy’s next Living Christmas Card a success. What was Paul’s secret to faithful and successful gospel ministry that he could leave behind for his apprentice who he dearly loved? Well, it was no secret at all, really. Nor was it really a breakthrough revelation that Paul gave to Timothy. So simple are the final words that Paul leaves behind for Timothy, and for us: Continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. “Hey Timothy, just keep doing what you’re doing. Keep in the Word. Dear Christian, continue in the Scriptures, because they testify about Christ.” It’s as simple as that. 


For the last few weeks here at Messiah we had done a worship series called Upside Down where we talked about how God does things so differently. That series ended last week, but maybe I should have kept it going one more week, to today. Because don’t Paul’s words here seem like over-simplified advice for a Christian life and ministry? There’s got to be more! There’s got to be a secret! I mean, in our world there’s always someone trying to sell us – that they’ve found the secret to weight loss, the secret to productivity in the workplace, the secret to finding and keeping true love. Millions of people lap up books and watch videos from people who claim to have found “the key” or “the secret” to life success.  In our world, if you want to succeed at life you need to do something radical and different. As a matter of fact, maybe you’ve heard it said before that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. But in God’s kingdom, insanity is good. Continue in what you have learned. Continue to read and hear the Scriptures. Eat this same meal over and over again. That’s all. That’s another interesting thing, too. In life, we go from an Algebra I to an Algebra II textbook. We go from beginner piano lessons to intermediate and advanced piano lessons. There’s always a next course and new textbook. But God uses the same one all your life. The same black book that nourished you in Sunday School is the same exact book that your pastor will comfort you from on your deathbed. The lessons and stories don’t change. Every year you hear the same stories with the same unchanging truths. I like the way that one of the church fathers, Jerome, from long ago, described it: “The Scriptures are shallow enough for a babe to come and drink without fear of drowning and deep enough for a theologians to swim in without ever touching the bottom” Paul wants Timothy, Paul wants us, God wants us to remain in these simple, rich Scriptures all our days. What’s the “secret” to faithful Christian living? This. It’s so simple. 


It’s so simple that anyone can share it and relay it to others. I’m looking at that little line Paul throws in here: You know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures.  Earlier in this last letter, Paul said to Timothy that I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. How did Timothy, a gifted student and preacher of the Word come to the faith? Ultimately, God made it happen and created faith in his heart just like he’s done with all of us. But who did God use as the instrument? Mom and grandma. No deep theological training there. No masters degrees in divinity. Just two hearts who passed their love of the Lord onto the next generation. That’s what’s so beautiful about God’s Scriptures: If you cannot speak like angels, if you cannot preach like Paul, you can tell the love of Jesus, you can say he died for all. 


Take a moment and think about who the Lois’s and Eunice’s were in your life. Who were the everyday individuals that God used to nourish you and lead you in the truth? In addition to my wonderful parents, I, interestingly, had two Lois’s in my life. That was their actual names. My two teachers from kindergarten through 4th grade were both named Lois. These two played a large role to imprint on me a love for Christ and his Word. They weren’t master theologians who spoke with fire and conviction. They were ordinary folks who told me simple stories about Jesus and showed me catchy simple songs, too. I ask again, who were the regular, everyday people that God used to bless your walk of faith? Maybe it was an elementary school teacher from decades hence. Or maybe it was your parents or grandparents who sat you on their lap and read nightly devotions to you. Maybe it was that guy or girl you dated and now are married too that nudged you closer to the third strand in the cord, God. Perhaps it was that dear friend of yours that held your hand and walked with you as you came to learn and grow in the knowledge of Christ your Savior. Who were those from whom you learned it? Who might you be a Lois and Eunice to in your life right now? How might God be using you right now to lead someone else closer to the faith? Let no one say that they lack the wisdom, craft or skill to share the Scriptures with others. Look who were the key movers and shakers in Timothy’s life. God can accomplish a great deal through ordinary people.


Because the real power is found in the Word of God. That’s exactly what Paul gets at next. That’s why he encourages Timothy to continue on the path he’s walked all along: All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. As Paul passes the torch of ministry now on to Timothy, and as Paul gives this encouragement to Timothy, Timothy can work and serve in confidence. He has everything he already needs in the Word of God. This book that God has given to us – it’s so versatile, isn’t it? It’s a history book and a love story all rolled into one. It gives us both encouragement and warnings. It tears us down and builds us up. It reminds us who we are and it tells us where we’re going. Best of all – God’s word stands alone among all the other writings in the universe. Because it reveals to us the story of our Savior who came to save sinners. John 20:31 – These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. 


Martin Luther once wrote explanations to each one of the Ten Commandments – and in his explanation to the third commandment he said: We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it. Despise, that’s an awfully strong word he uses. At first we might look at this and think we have the “all clear”. We love God’s word, right?. We go through the effort to come and hear it on Sunday mornings. We hang Bible verses around our house. Some Christians even get tattoos of their favorite verses. Why would Martin Luther speak so strongly like this? “Despise”. Because it’s real. It’s something I’m guilty of. And so are you. We despise God’s Word more often than we care to admit. We hear the word of God and we read the Word of God but it goes in one ear and out the other. We constantly fail to apply these truths to our lives and live the way God wants us to live. We read and hear it, but not always gladly and eagerly. Often we view reading and hearing the Word more as a duty we need to perform than a sacred privilege God gives to us. The sinful nature inside each one of us despises what’s written on these pages. Words and phrases like “commandments”, “God your will be done”, “deny self”, I mean, who wants to hear that? We all want to live life our way, on our terms. We want life to go according to our will. Which one of us really wants God to rebuke or correct us? Wouldn’t you much rather prefer it if God stayed out of your personal affairs? Our sinful hearts are so hostile towards God. Luther was right. We despise this precious Word he has given to us. Paul says in Romans 8:7 – The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.


But two verses later, Paul says this: You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. Does the Spirit of God live in your heart? Just as Paul was convinced that the Spirit lived in Timothy’s heart, I am convinced it dwells in your heart, too. I confidently say yes. Because just as with Timothy, God has cleansed you through the Word. There’s two ways to think of this. First, he has opened your ears and heart to believe the message of life and salvation. That’s the work of the Holy Spirit. Second, another name for Jesus is the Word. John chapter 1, one of the most significant sentences in the gospels: The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. Jesus, the Word, through his life, death and resurrection has cleansed us from all our sins by his perfect sacrifice on the cross. He has taken our filthiness of sin and has made us pure, spotless and clean in the sight of God. 


One of the greatest lessons I took away from my time in seminary school was something one of my profs said about personal devotions. He told our class that devotion time (reading the word privately at home) isn’t about how faithful I am to God, but devotion is about how faithful God is to me. So true. Paul wants Timothy, God wants us to continue in these Scriptures not as a mark and measure of our faithfulness, but rather for us to sit and listen and hear about how a faithful God equips and strengthens us for the challenges and struggles of life. 


I can only imagine how Timothy’s hands shook as he held and treasured this letter. Yet, in addition to this one final farewell from a faithful friend, you me and Timothy have the riches of Scripture that testify about our Savior. Our Bibles are the shallowest splash pad for the smallest souls and also the deepest oceans for the most inquisitive minds of the mysteries of God. Splash around. Dive in. Immerse yourself in this living, active and powerful word that points us to our Living Water, Jesus Christ. Amen.