I would like to continue our study on the topic of discipleship from II Timothy. I addressed the issue of suffering for the Gospel in the last article and you can read it here. As a recap of the previous article, when suffering for preaching the Gospel:
- Do not be ashamed of the Gospel.
- Do not be ashamed of those who do suffer for the Gospel.
- Follow your mentor’s example of suffering for the Gospel.
Let’s take a moment to read the text.
13 Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. 14 Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you. 15 You are aware of the fact that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes. 16 The Lord grant mercy to the house of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains ; 17 but when he was in Rome, he eagerly searched for me and found me- 18 the Lord grant to him to find mercy from the Lord on that day -and you know very well what services he rendered at Ephesus. (II Timothy 1:13-18)
In this article I would like to explain how to retain the high standard of the Gospel and why we should do it as good disciples of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, many people view Christianity like they do fire insurance. You can live without God but it is a good idea to have Him in your life, put just a part of your life instead of your way of life. In order to support this idea, the Biblical idea of discipleship is basically removed from church teaching. I want my get out of hell card stamped so I will go to church from time to time, give some money, get baptized, and all is well. This is not the picture that the Bible presents to us as Christianity. This is not discipleship. When we come to Christ to “get saved” we come and become a disciple of Jesus Christ. It is a free gift that costs you everything. You give up your way of life and take on God’s way as revealed in His Word. This is the standard that is set before us and Paul explains how we are to retain it.
I. Retain the (high) standard of the Gospel. (13)
As I explained earlier, the Gospel comes with a high standard that we must accept when we receive the Gospel and the salvation that it brings in our lives. Accepting it is just the beginning. Once we accept the Gospel, we are now challenged to retain it, or hold on to that high standard as we live life day by day. Paul exemplified the standard by the way that he lived his life on a daily basis. He accepted the Gospel and his life was transformed. He then dedicated his every moment to living by that Gospel and taking it to the people of the world. He served God by serving the people around him. He invested in the lives of others, making true disciples of Christ and not church going spectators. Paul reminded Timothy, a young pastor, of this important truth. Today, we do not need more church goers. We need more genuine disciples of Christ who will impact the world around them. This will happen when people receive the high standard of the Gospel and live it our daily. Verse 13 explains that part of the high standard of the Gospel is manifested in two way, faith and love. Faith means taking God at His Word and living by what He says. Love here is “agape” self-sacrificing love. If we were to put it all together, the high standard of the Gospel is to live by God’s Word which causes you to live a selfless lifestyle toward the people around you. Paul is a great example of this. We need to follow in his footsteps the way that Timothy did. Do you live according to the high standard of the Gospel as a true disciple of Christ or are you just a church going spectator? Where does discipleship rank on your list of priorities?
II. Guard the Gospel as you share It. (14)
Paul teaches us to view the Gospel as a treasure. Do we really value the Gospel? Or, do we mostly just give lip service to It? How much time do you spend reading and studying the Bible on a daily basis? Many people who go to church would claim, “I just do not have time with my busy life”. So, if you consider the Bible a treasure yet do not have time for It then what is your real view of the Bible (Gospel)? We are to view the Bible that we have in our hand as a treasure, why? Because It has the power to change your life and It gives you daily guidance on how to live, how to make correct decisions for your own good and the good of the people around you. Do you want to know how to build a marriage that works and lasts? The Bible will teach you how, step by step. Are you struggling raising your kids? Do you need advice constantly? The Bible has the answers. That is why It is to be viewed as a treasure. If you see the Gospel as a treasure that has been entrusted to you then you will guard It (benefit from It) and pass It on to others who can be transformed by It as well. The Holy Spirit that indwells you as a result of being a disciple of Christ, will give you the desire to view the Gospel as a treasure and the ability. The Holy Spirit will move you to want to invest that treasure in others.
III. Be aware that others have turned away from the standard of the Gospel. (15)
Not everyone will view the Gospel as a treasure. Some people will initially accept It because they want that fire insurance but when difficulties come as a result of living by and sharing the Gospel, they will turn away from the standard. They may still go to church from time to time but they do not have the dedication that is required by Christ in order to be His disciple. Some will completely walk away. Both end up in the same category because neither makes disciples which is the fruit spoken about in John chapter 15. This happened to the great Apostle Paul. He was a great evangelist, preacher, teacher, church planter, mentor etc. and yet people still walked away from him and the Gospel. Jesus explained that this would happen so we should not be surprised. Paul tells Timothy to watch out for 2 specific people because they may try to “join” Timothy’s church and then cause the same problems, leading others astray in the process. In the process of discipleship, we are to see every person as a potential disciple of Jesus Christ, but we are also to be aware of the people we invest in. If you have a group of followers and one is upset and ready to walk away, he usually does not go by himself. He wants to take others with him. Phygelus and Hermogenes convinced others to join them, many of the believers in Asia to be exact.
IV. Follow the example of Onesiphorus. (16-18)
Onesiphorus is a counter-example to Phygelus and Hermogenes. He was a faithful follower of Jesus Christ. He began to feel the persecution as did Phygelus and Hermogenes yet he did not run away. In fact, he went looking for Paul in prison so that he could serve him. He put his life on the line and opened himself up to persecution because he was totally dedicated to the Gospel. Paul knew that God would repay Onesiphorus for his attitude and actions. Onesiphorus knew that too but he did not serve to be blessed or rewarded. He served because he had the right attitude. So, do whose attitude and actions are you following, Phygelus and Hermogenes or Onesiphorus? Do you seek to serve those around you? Do you seek to serve your mentor, even if you have to suffer persecution for doing it?
May the Lord help us retain the high standard of the Gospel as we live It out day by day by investing in the process of discipleship.