Sermon by: Robert Austell
In today’s sermon text, Paul is writing to his young friend and student, Timothy. His words here are fitting for us today, as he, too, has just talked about money in relation to faith. We have been talking about stewardship as worship for the past several weeks. By the end of the text today, Paul is urging Timothy and those who would read and hear these words to seek to be rich in the things of God rather than the things of this world.
That teaching on earthly and heavenly riches is interrupted by verses 11-16, which in my words say this: “Timothy, I’ve been talking about the specifics of money, wealth, and faith, but what all that really has to do with is this one thing – live for Jesus; live for the King!”
In the calendar of the church, today is the end of the story told by that calendar. Next week a new church calendar year starts with Advent and looking forward to celebrate Christ’s birth. Today is “Christ the King” Sunday, in which we remember and celebrate the end of the story. That’s why you were called to worship from the Revelation passage, for Christ will come again to judge the living and the dead because he is the “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.”
I will be brief today. We are looking outward in missions and we are coming later to the Lord’s Table. I’m also not a big one for lists, but today I’m going to list 10 things to help us live for the King. If you have your own Bible or can write on the bulletin, I hope you’ll list them and go back to them this week and maybe even in the New Year for further study.
The list of ten breaks out into four must do’s, four reasons why, and two contrasts. Paul is writing to Timothy, but his words are appropriate to any who would follow Christ, so I will address the ten things to you and me.
Four Must Do’s
1. Flee (v. 11)
Paul warns us first to flee from the love of money that he has just described in vv. 9-10. There he called the love of money a ‘snare’ – that is, the attractive lure or bait a hunter uses to draw an animal into a trap. So, says Paul, the love of money can lure us into a deadly trap.
2. Pursue (v. 11)
As we run away from that trap, we are to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. This is a short virtue list meant to describe what right living looks like. That’s what righteousness is – it is being and doing right before God. While we cannot achieve perfect righteousness apart from God’s help through Jesus, that’s not what Paul calls for here. He urges us to pursue righteousness as we run away from the traps of sin.
3. Fight (v. 12)
Perhaps recognizing that a life of faith is not quite that simple - not a straight shot, but more of a roller-coaster ride – Paul says that we are to “fight the good fight of faith.” That is, the life of following Jesus doesn’t come easily or naturally, but is a conglomeration of choices, confession, repentance, humility, and commitment. Like a real fight, there will be short-term wins and losses. Some days we will have resounding victory over sin; some days we will feel like giving up. But we are to keep fleeing sin and pursuing Christ. That’s the good fight.
4. Take Hold (v. 12)
One key strategy to pursue righteousness and to fight the good fight is to take hold of eternal life. Eternal life has been promised and assured by Jesus Christ to all who believe. That is Good News, particularly on those days when the roller coaster has dipped low. The assurance of our salvation is like a life line to which we can cling when all apparent hope is lost. God has not gone anywhere; our prayers reach His ears whether we feel like they do or not. Jesus has secured a place for us with him for all eternity. Cling to that truth; take hold of it!
Four Reasons Why
Paul goes on to give four reasons why we these are “must do’s.” These make #s 5-8 of our “ten things to live for the King.”
5. Calling (v. 12)
It is this life and hope to which, as Christians, you were called! God has rescued you, not so you can keep sinning, but so that you can live and be transformed in the likeness of Jesus Christ. God has rescued you from death so you can live right and be right with Him! This is your purpose; it is your calling.
6. Confession (v. 12)
And this is the confession you have made in Christ. One of the essential first acts of becoming a Christian is to make it known – to confess it. This is what folks do when they join the church. This is what folks do when they are baptized. This is why new Christians are so eager to share their testimony and faith with others. When you have been rescued by God, you want to tell people. This phrase gives both the reason for church and the mission of the church. We are not to follow Christ in a vacuum, but to do so in the presence of many witnesses. That’s the church! And we are to continue to make him known to the world. That is what it means to confess Christ.
7. Charge (v. 13)
In v. 13, Paul goes on to charge us, with God as witness, to “keep the commandment” – that is, to obey God. This is the why and the what – obedience is our marching order. That’s the case from the first to the last, in the Garden and in the End, and everywhere in-between. To follow Christ is to obey Christ; this is our charge and obligation, and it is our delight!
8. Who God is (v. 13-16)
Finally, in a little different format, God is our reason for living for the King, because He IS the King! In vv. 13-16, Paul cannot invoke the name of God without erupting into a song of praise. God is the Creator and Sustainer, who gives life to all things. And He is:
…the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and the Lord of lords, who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion!
That’s why one day every knee will bow and every tongue confess… if we can catch even 1/1,000,000th of the awesomeness and glory that is God, then this would all be so much more self-evident to us. We must live for the King because God is the King of kings! Whatever the most awe-inspiring, breath-taking, heart-stopping, amazing thing you’ve ever seen is: Grand Canyon, the Alps, the ocean, the billions of galaxies of which our Milky Way is just one, or any earthly ruler or power… God made and holds all that in His hand and is infinitely stronger, larger, more powerful, and is moving behind and in front of all of those things.
If no other reason makes sense, then live for the King because of who God is.
We could and probably should stop there, but I’ll quickly mention two final things to help us live for the King. These are #s 9-10.
9. Rich in God (v. 17)
Paul comes back to the topic he was on before the interlude of vv. 11-16: money and riches. Now he offers strong contrasts. Rather than seeking to be rich in this world, he challenges us instead to be rich in God, who “richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.”
10. Rich in Good Works (v. 18-19)
Likewise, and tenth, we are to be rich in good works, to be “generous and ready to share, storing up for [ourselves] the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that [we] may take hold of that which is life indeed. Again, Paul challenges us to turn our eyes away from what will trap us in this world and fix our eyes on our present life and future hope with God. That is what he calls “life indeed.”
Live for the King!
In many ways, this text and topic at the end of the church calendar year pulls together themes we’ve been looking at throughout 2007. We studied Hebrews 12:1 this summer: we are to fix our eyes on Jesus and run after him, avoiding the entanglements of sin around us. We studied Philippians last Spring: this hope in the assurance of our salvation is the source of supernatural strength and joy, even in the midst of the very real suffering of this present life. As we saw this Fall in Luke 13-14, God is the inviting host who supplies us with all we need. And as we have considered these past few weeks, life and wealth is not grasping after what we covet here on earth, but a whole-life stewardship of what God has entrusted to our care while we live and breath. Our lives are to be lived in obedience and service to the King of kings.
Beloved, hear the Good News and God’s calling to all who would believe:
God has rescued you from sin and death and has called you out of darkness into light. Come, believe, and follow Him. Live for the King, for He is worthy and He is Lord! Amen.