Sermon on 2 Timothy 2:1-13, for the 18th Sunday after Pentecost (C), "A Good Soldier of Christ Jesus"


·         Sermon Notes: 
·         Paul is addressing Timothy, a young pastor, to build him up in Christ. You don’t need to be a pastor to also be built up by Paul’s words here.
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V. 1 “My child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus”—We need the strength of Christ as we live our Christian lives, just as soldiers need strength for their work. But it’s a different kind of strength. Soldiers look largely to their training and equipping for the physical and mental strength for their mission. A “good soldier of Christ” needs strength also, to endure suffering, face temptation, and grow in faith. How does God arm or equip “good soldiers of Christ” with this strength, by grace? Romans 13:12 & 14 says in spiritual battle we are to “cast off the works of darkness” and “put on the armor of light.” What is the armor of light? V. 14 says, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” Professional soldiers both ancient and modern wear armor and/or a uniform. Many here have military issued uniforms, and you all have been issued IBA (individual body armor). Likewise in Baptism God has clothed each one of you in Christ Jesus! Galatians 5:27, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” This is God’s standard issue uniform or armor, to all baptized believers in Christ Jesus! You need His strength, His grace, to stand on the battlefield.
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    Hopefully, you who wear the military uniform, that uniform instills a certain pride and honor in you. Less than 1% wear the uniform. High call of duty hopefully pushes you to a nobler life than you might otherwise live. Example of others, role models and mentors; discipline and training, and some positive and negative peer pressure! Leads to pride and honor in uniform.
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  Christians clothed in Jesus Christ...what does it mean for us to wear that uniform, rep’s of Christ? Pride and honor? To be clothed in Him? How are we elevated to the noble calling of a soldier of Jesus Christ?
o   Holy Spirit from the “inside-out.” Spiritual gifts sown through God’s Word and grow by the Holy Spirit.
o   example of others, mentoring, encouraging us in the body of Christ. We are not lone members, or lone-wolf disciples.
o   disciplined by the Lord; spiritual training—both individually and as body of Christ. God has promised that He disciplines those He loves. Hardship is not a sign that God has turned against you, but that through bearing your crosses and enduring under discipline, you might grow into maturity.
o   Hebrews 12:11, “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”
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Can only the 1% wear this Christian uniform? Clothed in Jesus Christ? Actually, God freely offers it to all. We don’t wear it by our achievement, our worthiness or good works, but it is pure gift—by grace. It’s freely given to the weak and lowly, and only the proud and arrogant refuse to wear it. But does that make it less of an honor? Less valuable or honorable to wear the “armor of God?” Absolutely not! Purchased by the precious blood of Jesus Christ! Free to us; costly to God! Jesus had to suffer on the cross and lead a perfect, obedient life. This is a priceless robe that a king would envy to wear! To know the honor of being dressed in Christ Jesus is to know the price and the sacrifice that He paid to clothe us so richly. To know what we were before, in the depths of our sin, and how He’s lifted us up to be called sons and daughters of God.
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   V. 2, instructions specific to Timothy as a pastor and mentor to others.
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  V. 3 Calls Timothy a good or noble soldier. It’s figurative, as Timothy was a pastor, not in a literal army. Lesson? 3 examples from everyday life. A soldier, an athlete, and a farmer. I know we have soldiers and athletes here; any farmers? Summary—a soldier teaches us to be mission-focused, and not distracted. An athlete teaches us to compete by the rules, for an honorable reward for our success. A farmer shows that the hard worker earns his share of the profits.
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       These lessons apply widely to us as well. Be a good or noble soldier. There is a lofty example to live up to. Spend some time reading the memorial plaques in the buildings and on the streets, and consider the example and the service of those who paid the ultimate price. Dishonoring the profession dishonors not only ourselves, but also our uniform and what it represents. We should not cheat or cut corners to get ahead, or receive awards or promotions, but compete fairly according to the rules. Stay mission-focused and avoid distractions, because it’s your aim to please your superiors with a job well done. We aren’t commended for shoddy work, or a job-half done, or nosing into someone else’s business and ignoring our work.
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   So also Christians don’t want to dishonor Christ as we are clothed in His grace. The “uniform posture” of the one who is clothed in the grace of Christ, is “ready to serve”—the “one who wants to be greatest among you must be last, and servant of all. For even Christ came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:43-45). That’s what our standard issue uniform, being clothed in Christ, represents.
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   What does it mean—soldiers don’t get mixed up in civilian affairs? Mission focused. Do your job; “stay in your lane;” be successful and please your superior. As soldiers of Christ, He enlisted us. He is the Lord and Commander and we are His followers, His disciples; baptized and taught everything He commanded. Those are His “marching orders.”
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  The next analogy is that an athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. No cheaters or poor sports. Disgrace of certain athletes who lost a career’s worth of awards and records after discoveries of drug use or doping, or shattered Olympic prospects. Fact of life: different natural talents, gifts, strengths. But we cheer and root passionately for the discipline, the training, and the growth in skill that athletes show as they develop their skill and strength to maximize their competitive edge. But we don’t like cheating.
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    Christian walk isn’t a competition, to defeat or push ahead of others. Marathon not a sprint; steady, enduring. How to react when a brother or sister stumbles, falls, or struggles? Look out for one another. Support the hurting; be a shoulder to lean on. Pray with the person who faces suffering and doesn’t know how it’s going to end. Eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith. By the rules, strive to obey all that He has commanded.
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      “It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. Think over what I say, for God will give you understanding in everything.” A person should not be robbed of the hard-earned profits of their labor. OT major point: workers should not be deprived of or delayed in pay. Unjust to take a person’s work and cheat them of their income.
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       V. 8 Always remember Jesus’ resurrection—the good news! Paul in chains (a “farewell letter”?). Constant reminder. Paul determined to preach nothing but Christ and Him crucified. Never outgrow it—the very shape of our Christian life: crucified and buried and raised to new life.
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       V. 9 I love how Paul says that he is in chains for the Gospel but the Word of God is not bound! No power on earth can bind the Word of God or make it powerless! Not prison bars, not governments, not evil men, not even death! The devil and the sinful world will make war against the Word of God until the final judgment, but they can never gain final victory. Final victory has already been established and assured to us in the death and resurrection of Jesus. So be a good soldier of Christ Jesus, strengthened by His grace! Don’t go into battle blind, unprepared, and without armor/undefended! Jesus has armored us and readied us for the spiritual attacks of the devil, so that we are not fearful or unprepared.
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     Do we fear resistance will hinder God’s Word? Take God’s promise to heart! His Word is not bound! The heavens and earth may pass away, but VDMA. Outlasts all opponents, and God’s Word never returns void. Speak God’s Word, put it to use in lives, and God will work! St. Augustine said: “The truth is like a lion; you don’t have to defend it. Let it loose; it will defend itself.”
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    V. 10 Paul sets the example of a good soldier, he will “endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.” Dedication to the good news of Jesus Christ: life on the line for others. Ultimate selfless service of a soldier. What does it mean to be a disciple of Christ? Jesus told us that we must deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow Him. Will you surrender anything, up to and including your own lives, for the Gospel? Rare to actually die as martyrs—but more now than ever before. How does selfless living benefit the elect? Consider the opposite: If we quit the faith at 1st sign of trouble….ran from danger…caved in under hardship…this gives you an idea of the answer. We would not be a good soldier of Christ. We would have the same opinion of a soldier who always tucked their tail and ran at any sign of danger. Soldier of Christ endures, is strengthened in the grace of Jesus, encouraging other believers to strive for salvation.
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      The closing lines of our reading v. 11-13 seem to be a hymn or recognizable saying of the faith, that St. Paul is quoting: The saying is trustworthy, for:
o   If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
12 if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself.
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       Spiritual death and burial with Christ in baptism. God drowns our old sinful nature. Death to ourselves, to enslavement to our passions and sinful desires. As necessary as death with Christ is, so certain is our resurrection. Romans 6: buried by baptism into death then raised with Him in newness of life. Count on your new life! It’s promised! Live with that joy and peace.
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       If we endure, we will also reign with Him. We’re still ‘in between.’ Future: final redemption of our bodies; promises outstanding, awaiting fulfillment. Plenty of challenges ‘in between’ and sufferings as a good soldier. Look to the final victory and peace when Christ is forever exalted as King. Right hand of the Father, at the throne. Still await the final subjection of all things under Him, and the final defeat of death. Beyond that, God has prepared for us to reign together with Christ! Do you remember that the New Testament speaks of you believers as a “royal priesthood?” Royal, or kingly, because we are to reign with Him.
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       If we deny Him, He will also deny us; if we are faithless, He remains faithful—for He cannot deny Himself. Jesus: confesses me before men, I confess (acknowledge) you before the Father. But whoever denies Him before men, He will deny before the Father. Echo. Do not turn your backs on God! But most interesting and comforting is the second part—if we are faithless, He remains faithful. This is an extremely important truth about God. He is always true to His Word. I wish we could say the same! I wish we were all always true to our Word. We should be!
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     So what does this mean for us? When a believer is faithless? They struggle and grow weak in the faith. Does God cancel His promises? Forsake His love for you? No! Even if we are faithless, God is always faithful, so if we return to Him, His love and His covenant for us are unchanged. Consider how far St. Peter fell, when he promised how bold and fearless he would be, standing by Jesus, even up to death. Like a fearless soldier. But when the rubber hit the road, and Jesus was arrested, Peter’s courage wilted. When the accusation came that he was one of the followers of Jesus, Peter wavered. He denied the Lord! What a devastating fall! Jesus looked on Peter with compassion, so that Peter remembered His Words. Jesus had prayed earlier for Peter that His faith would not fail. Jesus remained faithful, for He cannot deny Himself. What greater love can we ask for, than the Love of our God, who loves us through our greatest failings and weaknesses, and prays for us that our faith would not fail? What greater love than that He knows our mortality and our sin, loves us and cover us with such a grace as forgiveness. That He would die for such as us? “You, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus”—His grace is costly, it’s purposeful, it’s loving, it’s intentional. And He’s ever faithful. Who will not abandon us. Jesus rose from the dead, and He restored repentant Peter, He embraced Him again in His love, and sent him out on His mission again. He strengthened and bolstered Peter again with His grace to go back out and soldier for Christ Jesus. Peter soldiered on as a good soldier of Christ Jesus, the rest of his life. No doubt with bumps along the way.
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       Have you stumbled? Have you been faithless? Do you need to return to Jesus, your first love? Then remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead. Remember that His Word is not bound, and He is always faithful. Receive His grace as a gift, to be strengthened and renewed, so that you are sent back out on mission, to soldier on for Him! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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