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The Secret of My Success (2 Timothy 2:1)

The Secret of My Success (2 Timothy 2:1)
By Dr. Andy Woods

Good morning everybody. If we could take our Bibles and open them to 2 Timothy, the book of 2 Timothy, chapter 2 and verse 1, covering just verse 1 today, if we’re lucky. The title of our message this morning is The Secret of My Success, I’m talking about Paul’s success. The Secret of My Success. And if you show up next week you might ask the question, who are you and what have you done with my church, we’ve got all these people here I don’t recognize, there’s a different preacher, and that’s because, as was announced, we’re doing our Answering Islam Conference, coming up this Saturday, starting at 1:00 going to about 9:00 in the evening. And then that conference is going to continue into our regular church time. So we’re not going to be having our regular Sunday School sessions, we’re going to have one large Sunday School class in this room. I think I’m teaching that one, I’d better get that straight before I show up next week.

And then in our pulpit next week Shahram Hadian is going to be giving the message, dealing with something that is a very important thing to understand within Christianity today, something forming called Chrislam, where people are trying to sort of unite the principles of Islam and the principles of the Bible together as if light had any fellowship with darkness. So he’s going to be dealing with that. So I encourage you to come to our conference; if you’re planning on coming we’d love to get you to sign up on our home page, if you go to our Sugar Land Bible Church home page it’s pretty easy to follow, I actually signed up myself without messing everything up, and I’m one of the technology idiots out there. So if I can do it you can do it. And the reason we want a sign up, even though the conference is free is we have a large number of people coming and we might have to miraculously expand the room with more chairs. We’ve done that before; so the signup sheet gives us a clue on what to do in that respect.

We find ourselves in the book of 2 Timothy, which is about finishing the race, finishing well. This is a significant book because it’s Paul’s last word just prior to his death. It’s written to a very young man named Timothy, who is the next runner in the relay race of truth, a man that Paul mentored, led to Christ and then mentored. And Timothy is kind of getting the view that all of this Christian service is just too difficult for him and he’s thinking of throwing in the towel. So Paul writes this book to this young man to encourage him to finish strong, finish well.

And this book, of course, has special relation to us because all of us at times think that the opposition we receive either from the church or from the world is just too much to handle and we’re always tempted to sort of be less assertive in our calling. So the book is almost tailor made for us as it was tailor made for Timothy.

We concluded last time chapter 1 which is a general call to faithfulness in the ministry. Paul expresses a greeting, a thanksgiving, reminds Timothy of his gifting, reminds him of the courage that he can have through the Holy Spirit, tells him not to be ashamed of the gospel and then gives him negative examples of endurance, examples not to follow, examples from his own area, Asia, where Timothy was. And then he concludes with a shining positive example, a man named Onesiphorus, here’s who you should imitate, Timothy, in this calling that you have, particularly of the need to endure.

We now move into chapter 2, we’re moving essentially from point to picture. People that are left-brained are attracted to chapter 1. People that are right-brained and more creative are very much attracted to chapter 2 because what Paul does here is he articulates his teaching but he gives Timothy ten pictures, ten metaphors, if you will, ten visual images of what endurance looks like.

But even before he begins to articulate these ten metaphors he reveals to Timothy what I think is the highpoint of the book. I think actually this may be the highpoint of the Christian life because he tells Timothy what the secret of Paul’s success was, and is, and what Timothy can experience if he understands this secret. Most commentators rush right over verse 1; we will not be doing that because of its import, not only to Timothy but to us, in terms of the Christian life. So today we’re spending our time on verse 1 and you’ll notice what verse 1 says, “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”

You’ll notice the word “therefore.” Whenever Paul uses the word “therefore” we like to ask what is the word “therefore” there for? It’s a conclusion of everything he’s taught in chapter 1. There’s been a calling to endure and all of the thoughts that Paul has disclosed to Timothy he comes to a conclusion about this in chapter 2 and verse 1.

You’ll also notice the word “you” in the New American Standard Bible, “you,” the second person pronoun, personal pronoun, “You therefore, my son,” so it’s a concluding statement to Timothy and then indirectly to us as well. Now you’ll also notice this expression “my son.” The Greek word translated “son” is teknon, where we get the word child, and he is not referring to Timothy here as his physical child, he is referring to Timothy as his spiritual child, his spiritual son.

And that is going to become very important to the interpretation that I’m going to provide you with here in chapter 2 verse 1, in just a moment, but for the time being what’s most important to understand is that Timothy was a believer in Christ. There isn’t any doubt that he is a Christian. Paul would not have referred to him as his son if there is some kind of ambiguity in the apostle Paul’s mind about the saved, regenerated status of this young man, Timothy.

And it’s highly doubtful that Paul would have ever put Timothy in charge of a church. In fact, he was in charge of, Timothy, the most influential church of that time, in the first century, a church that Paul himself had planted, called the church at Ephesus. There is no possible way that the apostle would have installed this man as leader of that church if there was some kind of question mark about Timothy’s salvation.

And Paul begins to describe the grace of God, the Greek word for grace is charis, and he specifically says that this grace, which simply means unmerited favor, favor coming to you that you do not deserve, he simply says that has been made available to you and in fact is now available to you through Jesus Christ.

You’ll notice that this grace comes to us through Christ and only through Christ. The Bible is very clear about this in many, many places; John 14:6, you can jot that down; Acts 4:12, 1 Timothy 2:5. [John 14:6, “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” Acts 4:12, “And there is salvation in no one else’ for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” 1 Timothy 2:5, “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”]

If you’re not “in Christ” you don’t have the grace of God, the unmerited favor of God. Why? Because as we celebrated a little earlier it’s at the cross of Christ that sin was judged in our place, and we appropriate by faith what Jesus did for us. But if that has never happened in your life then you actually are still under the wrath and the judgment of God. So in Jesus Christ, because He bore our sin penalty, we now experience grace or unmerited favor.

Now what’s so interesting about this is he says to Timothy, who very clearly is a believer, “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” It’s very clear here that Timothy is already a Christian. Well, the question begins to arise, if Timothy is already a Christian and has already experienced the grace of God, why would Paul tell someone who has already experienced the grace of God to “be strong in the grace” of God? Because we know from here, the reference to “in Christ Jesus,” we know from Paul’s other writings, for example, in Ephesians 2:8-9, which tells us that we have been saved by grace through faith, we know that a person can never receive the grace of God unless they are “in Christ.” So quite clearly Timothy has already experienced the grace of God. [Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; [9] not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”]

Well, if he’s already experienced the grace of God why does Paul then tell him to be strong in the grace of God; I thought grace was something that Timothy already had. And the short answer to that question, which is an issue that I’m going to develop this morning, is Paul is talking about not simply grace to be saved originally. We place our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and we receive from God unmerited favor, the grace of God. That is not what Paul is dealing with here. He is dealing with, rather, grace for daily living.

That is the secret to my success, not simply believing in Jesus Christ so you can go to heaven, as important as that is, but there is something else available through the cross, it is grace for daily living. I believe that this is the key to unpacking the entire chapter. I believe that this is, in fact, the key to unpacking the entire book. I believe that this is the key to unpacking everything that the Apostle Paul shares in his letters – grace for daily living.

And I think this about your average Christian and I know this because I suffered under this and continued to suffer under this mentality for many, many years, I continue to suffer unto it even today, and here is the problem: we understand the grace of God as a yesterday thing. When we talk about the grace of God your average evangelical Christian says yes, I trusted in Jesus Christ and I’m going to heaven, and they look at grace as something that is yesterday. And then they talk about the fact that isn’t it wonderful that because we’re believers in the Lord Jesus Christ we’re going to die or be raptured (one of the two) and we’re going to go and be with Jesus in heaven forever.

And so we look at the grace of God not just as a yesterday thing but as a tomorrow thing. And all of those truths, the yesterday grace of God and the tomorrow grace of God are fantastic truths. What we miss is the present tense grace of God. Paul, writing to Timothy, saying “you, therefore, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” In other words, grace, or unmerited favor, is not just a yesterday thing, it’s not a tomorrow thing, it is a right now thing. And it’s only as you tap into that grace that is available from Christ, present tense, that you will even come close to being able to do the things that God has called you to do, young Timothy. Paul says that, in essence, is the secret of my success as an apostle.

This word translated “be strong” in the Greek is endunamoo, or dunamoo where we get the word dynamite, dynamic. You might also recognize the word endure or endurance. And what you discover about this verb when you study it in the original is it is what you call in the imperative mood. What does that mean, in the imperative mood? What that means is this is a command by Paul to Timothy. It’s not one of those deals where, you know, try this on for size and see if it works. It’s an actual command; this is not a suggestion, this is something you must do to endure the way God would have you to endure.

And what is something else very interesting about this word is it’s not only in the imperative mood but it is in the present tense. This is not something you did once, this is something you must do on an ongoing basis, to tap into a higher energy source which you need to become all that God has called you to become in this life.

Dr. Constable, in his online notes, says this about that Greek verb, he says this: “The present tense of the Greek passive imperative endunamoo indicates the need for continual dependence on God. One does this as he or she walks in submission to the Spirit of God and in harmony with the will of God; God then can and will provide strength.”

Timothy, the reason that you are stumbling, the reason you are faltering, the reason that you are being tempted not to endure is because you have tapped into the grace of God, past tense; you understand the grace of God future tense, but what you don’t understand is the grace of God is a “right now” thing. It’s not just a yesterday thing, it’s not just a tomorrow thing, it’s a “right now” thing which you can experience moment by moment.

And when I read these verses in preparation for today I started to think to myself, wow, that is what my life is so frequently missing. I so frequently don’t understand the magnitude of the grace of God. I have limited the grace of God to something in the past, something in the future, where God is saying grace is a “right now” thing as well. And I started to scratch my head, I started to think, I started to look through the entire Bible and I just saw example after example after example of the biblical teaching on the present tense grace of God. I began to see this teaching in Paul’s writings. I began to see this teaching in the Old Testament and I began to also see this teaching in the teachings of Jesus Christ as well.

What was the secret of Paul’s effectiveness? That’s why I’ve entitled this The Secret to My Success. There had to have been something going for Paul other than his natural abilities. There isn’t any doubt that Paul had a lot of natural abilities but preaching was not one of them. Eloquence, oratorical pizazz was not something Paul had going for him. In fact, in 1 Corinthians 2:4 Paul says, “And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom,” if I come to you just like the Greeks had come to you I would have come relying upon my eloquent style, my gift of gab so to speak. Paul says I didn’t rely on any of that, probably I didn’t rely on it because I didn’t have any of that.

So who was Paul? Paul was a guy that put his shoes on one foot at a time, as do the rest of us. He was a man who is, like us, is beset by the same limitations that we are beset by, the same sin nature that we are beset by, the same human foibles and fallibilities that we are beset by. But let me tell you something about Paul: there probably is not a man that has ever lived, other than Jesus Christ Himself, who has done more upon this earth to expand God’s purposes. After all, it was Paul who got the gospel out of the borders of Israel. Not even Jesus did that. Paul did that through his three missionary journeys.

Here’s kind of a map of the first one. On the first missionary journey he went into southern Galatia, and the non-Jews start getting saved like crazy on that first missionary journey. You can read about it in Acts 13 and 14. And if that wasn’t enough Paul goes on another missionary journey, later on in the book of Acts. And here he moves into Galatia, retracing his steps, then into Asia, then into Macedonia, then into Greece. And then Paul says the job’s not done yet, because he went on missionary journey three, largely retracing the steps that he had walked and trodden on missionary journey number two. And if that was not enough, the crown jewel was the fact that Paul got the gospel all the way to Rome. This is something that Christ never did. Christ, when He ministered He ministered within the borders of the land of Israel.

And yet Paul gets it all the way to Rome and you know the saying, “all roads lead to” where, “to Rome.” So in the ancient world Rome is the ancient city; Paul understands that if the gospel goes there it goes everywhere. Where would the gospel be without Paul? This man, the Apostle Paul obviously was tapped into something. I do not think it was natural ability that got Paul this far.

And if that weren’t enough, Paul along the way pens 13 letters. What do these 13 letters reveal? They reveal the age of the church, the time period that we’re living in now. We would know very little about the age of the church had it not been for the pen of the Apostle Paul. And what Paul wrote in those letters, under divine inspiration, are books that are still blessing us 2,000 years later.

I don’t think Paul, when he did all of these things, was relying on natural ability. I think he is explaining something that very few Christians understand, the right now grace of God. By the way, Paul did all of these things, not in luxury, he didn’t get on an airplane and fly from place A to place B, he wasn’t staying in the hotel. You know, when I got speak at a conference they put me in a nice hotel, they pay for my air flight, they take my message and put it on the internet. Paul had none of those things going for him.

In fact, Paul is actually experiencing opposition in place to place where he went. In fact, in one location, on the first missionary journey they threw so many rocks at Paul that they all thought he was dead and all the rock-throwers went home. And Paul gets right up and goes right back into the city that he got kicked out of and he completes the work that God gave to him.

You see, it’s one thing to receive advice from somebody who’s never done much with their lives. People are full of advice, do this, do that. I always like to look at their life and say okay, you want to give me advice on this or that, what have you accomplished. But see, with Paul it’s different, this is a man that was radically used by God as probably no human being has ever been used in the history of the world. And he is unfolding here the secret, if you will, to his success. That makes me all ears; I’m interested in what he tapped into, I’m interested in what he had going for him that I have lost sight of as a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s important to understand that from 2 Timothy 4:6, a verse we’ll be looking at later in our series, that Paul is ready to die. He says in that verse, “the time of my departure is at hand.” And it’s almost as if just before he dies he writes this letter to Timothy showing him the secret, which really is no secret at all, as we will see, it’s a very common teaching in the Scripture, but he is showing to Timothy the principle by which Paul became what he became.

And Paul’s point is I have no corner on God, I have no monopoly on the grace of God. The present tense grace of God, unmerited favor and not just a yesterday thing, not just a tomorrow thing, but a right now thing is available to you as well. I started to look at this and I began to write down Scripture after Scripture where Paul demonstrates the “right now” grace of God. We see it in Paul, we see it in the Old Testament, and we see it very clearly in the Upper Room. And I look at this, I slap my forehead and I say how have we missed this; it’s such a basic biblical concept.

But indulge me if you will as this doctrine, the right now grace of God begins to show up in Paul’s writings. Paul’s ministry effectiveness was based on the right now grace of God. How do I know that? You can journey with me on some of these Scriptures if you want, we’ll be looking at quite a few of them. But 1 Corinthians 15:10, notice what that says, Paul says, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them,” and I’m so glad the verse doesn’t end there; if the verse had ended there it would look like Paul did what he did because of his labor. He says, “I am what I am…I labored even more than all of them,” did you catch the last part of verse 10, “yet not I, but the grace of God within me.” Or “the grace of God with me.”

The grace which brought me to saving faith in Christ, the grace that will take my soul to heaven, is also with me as I do ministry and it is through the grace of God that I am able to do what I do. I’m not relying upon natural abilities, I’m relying upon the unmerited favor of God. We see this also in 1 Corinthians 3:6, regarding the whole subject of church growth. If you survey the literature church growth is a hot topic amongst pastors. How do you get the church to grow? Paul puts it this way: 1 Corinthians 3:6, “I planted,” so obviously Paul was not lazy, he had a very strong work ethic, but he relied upon more than his work ethic. “I planted, Apollos watered,” 1 Corinthians 3:6, “but God,” I love that, “but God was causing the growth.”

What causes the growth of the church, bona fide growth of the church? I’m not talking about glitzy marketing plans. What I’m talking about is the work of God which expands people that come under the influence of our Lord Jesus Christ and become part of the body of Christ. What does that? It is God that causes it. Man can take no credit for it because it is something that only God can do. And I love how the book of Acts concludes. You know, Acts 2:41-47 is the first church meeting in the history of Christianity, and this is what it says: [47] “praising God and having favor with all the people.” And I love this last phrase, “And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

If you had Paul speak at a church growth seminar he would get up and disappoint his audience because he would say I had nothing to do with the growth of the church, I was just faithful where God put me and it was God that built the church into what it became. In fact, the church became so strong that it even withstood the Neronian persecution; the church was under persecution from the time of Nero all the way up to the time of Constantine. And through all of that persecution, and it was horrific, martyrdoms were quite frequent, the church just kept expanding and expanding. It must be the work of God.

I’m reminded along these lines of what Jesus said in Matthew 16:18, Jesus saying to Peter, “I will build My church.” There is so much theology in those words, we could spend the next several months talking about it. You’ll notice the church belongs to Christ. You’ll notice that the church is put in the future tense, it’s not something that existed in the Gospels or in the Old Testament. And you’ll notice this expression here, “I will build” it.

I can’t tell you how confused we get in ministry where we place upon our own shoulders the building of the church. The fact of the matter is, God never called us to build the church. God never called a pastor to build the church. We shift so easily unto our shoulders burdens which only God can do and we are wondering why we’re so burnt out and frustrated and fatigued, because we are doing things the Lord never called us to do. We’re called to be faithful; the results, on the other hand, are God’s.

And I love this next one, Paul’s preaching, because it wasn’t based on eloquence in his own rite, Paul’s preaching was dialed into the present tense grace of God because back to 1 Corinthians 2:4, Paul says, “and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.” I can’t tell you how grateful I am for those verses because there are many times when I get up here and you can ask my wife about this, I say you know, this sermon is going to fall flat, I’ve researched, I’ve studied, I don’t have much to say and my wife always smiles and she says this will probably be one of your best sermons, because you’re going to get up there and you’re not going to rely upon yourself and your education, and you’re just going to let the Lord work through you as you’re available to him.

And this is what Paul did in his preaching, he didn’t rely on intellect, nothing wrong with intellect. He didn’t rely on academia, nothing wrong with academia in and of itself. But what is intellect and academia and a speaking style at the end of the day? It’s just a few loaves and a few fish. These are things we just put in the Lord’s hands and if He decides to multiply it that’s His business. And somehow we have gotten confused on this.

The present tense grace of God in his preaching, the present tense grace of God in his gifting, we have looked at it in prior sessions that all of us have at least one spiritual gift. These are Spirit empowered abilities to serve the Lord in a very unique and special way. Every Christian has at least one. 1 Corinthians 12:4 says, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.” [5] “There are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord.” Verse 11 says, “But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.”

The fact of the matter is, you are gifted in ways that I’m not; I’m gifted in ways that you’re not. You’re gifted in ways the person that is sitting next to you is not gifted and they’re gifted in ways that you’re not gifted in, because if two of us are identical, one of is unnecessary, right? I don’t need two right hands, one would be redundant. And God is able through these gifts of the Spirit to expand the work of the church, to expand his purposes upon the earth, but notice that they’re called spiritual gifts. These are things that we do not conjure up in the flesh; these are things that are miraculously endowed on us and given to us from on high.

Paul also saw the present tense grace of God in his ability to live above and beyond the yearnings and the dictates of the sin nature. Do you realize that when you become a Christian, yes, you get a new nature; yes, you get the Holy Spirit.; yes, you get the resources of God, but the old nature doesn’t just wither away and die. It’s there within us until our dying breath. And we are so tempted, are we not, quite frequently to go back to the old nature. And yet Paul was able to live a life above and beyond the dictates of the old nature.

I want to know how he did that because I struggle with this constantly. Well, in fact, the secret is really not a secret. In the book of Galatians, chapter 5 and verse 16 Paul explains how he was able to do it. “But I say, walk by the” what? “Spirit, and you will not carry out the lusts of the flesh.” The flesh was real in Paul just like it’s real in all of us, yet Paul was not sinless but he was able to sin less as he learned to walk by the Spirit.

What does that word “walk” mean? It’s this idea of a continual action, it’s this idea of continual dependence. It’s this idea of accessing moment by moment by faith the resources of God, the present tense grace of God and how that enables the believer to say no to the yearnings and the dictates and the demands of the old nature which is always saying come back to the old way of life.

I don’t think Paul learned this lesson right out of the gate. I think he struggled with this. How do I know that? Because of what he says in Romans 7:15, Paul says, “For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing that I hate.” Have you ever felt that way? And those of you that didn’t raise your hand are guilty of another sin, lying.

There’s constantly this idea that we have where we want to do the right thing but it seems like we end up doing the very thing that we hate doing. The sin nature has such dominance over us and people say well, Paul obviously made that statement before he was saved, because a Christian can’t struggle with sin. I think that’s completely wrong just by looking at the outline of the book of Romans. Paul made that statement in Romans 7. In Romans 6-8, the larger section, he’s dealing with the progressive sanctification of the Christian. He’s not talking about the status of an unbeliever any longer. That’s a discussion he left behind a long time ago, in chapters 1-3.

Paul says in Romans 7, “For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man.” Right after he says what I do I hate, and I don’t understand what I am doing, he says in verse 22, “I joyfully concur with the law of God in my inner man.” There is no possible way Paul could have made that statement as an unsaved person. An unsaved person, by definition, in their innermost being does not delight in the law of God. What is the unsaved person like? Paul has explained that back in Romans 3:11, “There is no one who understands, there is none who seeks God.” That’s what unbelievers are like.

But if someone delights in the things of God, desires to do the right thing, they are obviously a Christian and what is Paul explaining, then, in Romans 7:15 where he says, “For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing that I hate.” What is he even talking about there? He is talking about his struggles as a new Christian. He is talking his struggles in daily life as a new Christian, someone who understood that the grace of God happened yesterday. Someone who understood that the grace of God will happen tomorrow. But someone who has not yet dialed into the present tense grace of God. Paul was what we would call a Romans 7 Christian, a Christian struggling with sin, returning constantly to the old nature but how different Paul is in Romans 8.

At some point he graduated from being a Romans 7 Christian to being a Romans 8 Christian. And in Romans 8, as you know, he mentions the Holy Spirit, probably more times in that chapter, in a concentrated way, than any other time in all of his books. He began to tap into the present tense grace of God to overcome the yearnings and the dictates of the old nature. Oh, those yearnings were there but Paul says I reached a point where I decided I didn’t have to return to them because of the present tense grace of God. When I tried to defeat the sin nature through human power I was so frustrated, but dialing into the present tense grace of God has allowed me to live above and beyond the sin nature.

Paul talks about the present tense grace of God in Christ-like character. Notice, if you will, Galatians 5:22-23, Paul writes this, “But the fruit of the” what? “Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, [23] gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” I don’t know about you but I’m not normally this way. I’m not normally loving, joyful, peaceful, certainly not patient, especially during rush hour. I’m normally not kind, I’m not normally good, I’m not normally faithful, I’m really not gentle and I’m really not a person of self-control, you should see how much Halloween candy I ate last night.

And Paul is saying of course you’re not that way. That’s why these things are called the fruit of the Spirit. It is the Spirit of God that replicates or reproduces the character life of Christ in terms of these attributes in our lives. There is so much teaching in the church today about how you need to be more loving, you need to be more patient, you need to be kinder, you need to be gentler, and that is not what Paul teaches at all. That’s why these things are called “the fruit of the Spirit.” There must be something higher than ourselves which gives us the capacity to do this and these things. That’s what I would call the present tense grace of God.

Paul experienced the present tense grace of God in overcoming fear. Are there not things that God has called you to do, like something could be as simple as sharing your faith with your neighbor; something as simple as inviting a friend, maybe a Muslim friend to our Answering Islam Conference. We get so afraid of doing something that simple because we’re afraid of rejection. All of us are dominated by fear so frequently and while the emotion of fear is something that we all experience it is not something that we must bow to.

You might remember what Paul said to Timothy earlier in the book that we’re studying. The book of 2 Timothy, back in chapter 1 and verse 7, Paul says, “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and self-discipline.” Yeah, Timothy, you may be afraid. And Paul says if I’m honest with myself I was afraid, but fear is not something I caved into and avoided the work of God in my life because the source that gave me courage, which helped me overcome the natural emotion of fear was the Holy Spirit within me. The present tense grace of God even allows us to overcome the all too common emotion of fear. And guess what folks? The present tense grace of God equips us for the suffering that we are now in. As one of the elders of this church I have a chance to look at all of the prayer requests that are submitted. These prayer requests are heartbreaking in the sense that there are people in this flock through multiple circumstances are walking through very, very deep waters right now, economic problems, health problems, family problems, relational problems. We all suffer to one degree or another, and yet what we discover in Paul’s writing is that the present tense grace of God equips us for suffering. God never promises to remove suffering. What he promises is to give us grace to be sustained in the midst of suffering.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 sums it up so beautifully, it says, “Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! [8] Concerning this I implored three times that it might leave me. [9] And He has said to me, ‘My” what? “grace” charis, same word, “is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”

Paul says there was a time in my life, about fourteen years ago that I was brought into the third heaven and in this vision I don’t know if I was in my body or out of my body, I just know it happened to me. In this vision I heard things that a human being is not fit to hear and anybody in that circumstance would be puffed up with pride because they had access to knowledge that other people didn’t have.

And Paul says the Lord humbled me and prevented me from being lifted up with pride so that I would be usable in spite of these surpassing revelations. And the Lord introduced into my life a thorn, now think of a thorn, the Greek translation is better translated a stake, there was a stake, I don’t know what it was, stake, not s-t-e-a-k, stake s-t-a-k-e, a painful stake, that was introduced into my life. I don’t know what it was, was it a relational problem, was it a health problem, people speculate. But whatever it is I know this much, it hurt. In fact, it hurt so bad that Paul said to God take it away, and he didn’t ask just once, he asked twice, he asked three times but Christ spoke to him and said I’m not going to take it away, what I’m going to do is give you grace so that you can be sustained in the midst of it.

It’s very interesting to me that the very first martyr of Christianity, Christendom, the very first martyr of the church age was a man named Stephen. And I often wonder how a person can experience martyrdom? Did you know our brothers and sisters all over the world are being martyred for the things of God? When you tap into The Voice of Martyrs ministry and things that are happening with ISIS in Islamic countries around the world, how do you be faithful to Christ in the midst of martyrdom? Acts 7:55 says this of Stephen: “But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God;” how did Stephen do it? He was tapped into the present tense grace of God being full of the Holy Spirit.

What’s the conclusion of Paul’s thoughts then? The conclusion is Galatians 3:3, “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” How did you Galatians ever get into your minds that you were saved by faith alone under the power of the Holy Spirit alone but now you are attempting to live the Christian life through human power. “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” That is Paul’s conclusion. Also Galatians 5:4, “You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by the law; you have fallen from grace.”

I remember the very first Bible study I ever taught, not the first one but one of the first ones. I announced to the class “once saved, always saved,” we are eternally secure. And I got a phone call that week, one of the class members said well, what about Galatians 5:4, “You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace,” what are you going to do with your once saved always saved doctrine now, Mr. Wise Guy? And I said ugh…because I really didn’t have an answer, I had never looked at this verse carefully.

In hindsight, do you know what that verse is talking about? It’s not talking about people that lost their salvation and went to hell, it’s talking about people who are regenerated, having experienced the grace of God in the past are now trying to accomplish the work of God and the Christian life through human will power. That’s what it’s talking about. And their predicament is so severe that Paul says you’ve actually been severed from Christ; “you have fallen from grace.” How had they fallen from grace? They are missing the grace of God in daily life; it’s not something that they think about. That’s Paul’s conclusion of the matter.

Well, is this teaching in the Old Testament too. Don’t worry, I just have one verse on Old Testament, although I could give you many. Zechariah 4:6 this is written to Zerubbabel. Who was that? Zerubbabel was the governor presiding over the returnees, when they came back into the land after the 70 year captivity. Zerubbabel was the guy that was supposed to rebuild the temple that had been destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar 70 years earlier. He was looking at a bunch of rocks spread everywhere. Not only that, the inhabitants of the land were opposing the work of the temple. Not only that, but God’s people had quit on the project.

Talk about a discouraged guy; talk about a guy that looked at the assignment and said it’s just too big for me. And then the Lord spoke to him through the prophet Zechariah. Zechariah 4:6 says this: “Then he said to me, ‘This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel, saying, ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My spirit,’ says the LORD….” You’ll get this done but you’re not going to get it done through yourself, you’re going to have to begin to manifest and experience the present tense grace of God in daily life. See, this whole teaching is here, it’s been here for us the whole time. As a matter of fact I believe this is the point that Jesus is making in the Upper Room.

John 15:1-8, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. [2] Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. [3] You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. [4] Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. [5] I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. [6] If anyone does not abide in Me he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. [7] If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. [8] My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.”

Jesus talked very clearly about branches in the vine and branches out of the vine. A branch in the vine bears fruit, a branch out of the vine does not bear fruit. Your average Bible commentator looks at that and says well, that’s the difference between a believer and an unbeliever. A believer is that branch in the vine, the unbeliever is that branch out of the vine. May I just say to you that that is the wrong interpretation. Why do I say that? Because when Jesus gave that teaching he had an audience of eleven; the only people listening to Him talk were the eleven in the Upper Room, the only unbeliever in the crowd, Judas, had left the room in John 13:29-30. He’s talking to eleven individuals whose salvation there is no doubt. But what He is saying is this is the secret of your success in God as you go forth into a hostile world. It’s like a branch abiding in a vine. Isn’t it interesting that Jesus keeps using the word “bear fruit” over and over again? Did you know that as a Christian there is not one shred of biblical evidence which tells us to produce fruit? God never tells us to produce fruit. I’ve had this wrong for years, I thought I was supposed to go out and produce fruit for God. He doesn’t use the word “produce fruit.” He uses the word “bear fruit.” Well, what’s the difference? If the branch simply remains in the vine, Jesus Christ, the fruit comes automatically, it comes naturally, it comes spontaneously, it comes organically. He never gives a command here to these disciples to go produce fruit. He just says something very simple, “Abide in Me.” What does that even mean? It’s the difference between a believer in fellowship with Christ and a believer out of fellowship with Christ. That’s the point. If you stay in fellowship with Me, the secret of your success is not a secret, and it’s not even your success because it’s something God is going to do through you. You are not to be focused on what you’re supposed to do, which is our natural tendency, focused on the externals. He says just stay focused on Me. If you stay focused on Me the fruitfulness will come, you’ll be dialed into the present tense grace of God and you’ll be stunned at what God does with your life, utterly stunned. You may sit back and scratch your head every day and say I can’t believe this happened. Well, the reason you can’t believe it is you didn’t do it, the Lord did it through you. You just stayed connected to Him. In the vine, in fellowship — fruit. Out of the vine, out of fellowship — no fruit. Well, how do you stay in fellowship with Christ as a Christian? I might analogize this to a marriage. After all, we’re called the bride of Christ, aren’t we? If someone comes to me, for example, with marital problems, we’re not getting along in our marriage, I’m asking three, maybe four questions.

Question number 1, are you keeping short accounts with each other? What does that mean? If you’ve offended your marital partner have you apologized for your selfishness. Marital counseling is pretty easy, you go and be unselfish, you go and be unselfish, counseling session over. Because we do things that offend our mate and when we offend our mate they’re still our mate, hopefully they won’t go down and file for divorce papers just then and there. But fellowship between the two of us has been broken. See, there’s a reason why the Bible says do not let the sun go down on your anger, lest you give the devil a foothold. I read that and I said to Anne, we need to move to Alaska, the sun never goes down and I could just be angry all the time. That’s not the point, the point is to keep regular short accounts. When you offend your mate just apologize.

The second question is are you spending time together, quality time? The third question is what’s your level of communication? When she talks to you do you listen? Do you have opportunities to talk to her, and vice versa? Is there a healthy line of communication? Quality time, short accounts, open channels of communication. Isn’t it interesting how marital problems disappear. Is that not what we are to do with the Lord? First question, are you keeping short accounts with God? Not if you sin, but when you sin, are you exercising 1 John 1:9, because sin in an unconfessed sense does not cause you to lose your salvation, it does not alter your legal standing as a child of God, but it breaks fellowship between you and God. And consequently the vine or the branch rather is severed from the vine, Psalm 66:18 says, “If I regard wickedness in my heart the LORD will not hear.” So I need to exercise 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Question number two, are you spending time with the Lord? Is being with the Lord or being with the Lord’s people or being in an environment where the Lord can reign and rule through His Word, being in a healthy church, I mean, all of these kinds of things, are these priorities for us? Because if we’re not around the Lord or the Lord’s people or the things of God, how easy it is to move into dis-fellowship with the Lord.

The third question is are you communicating with the Lord. You mean we can talk to God? Yeah, it’s called what? Prayer. You mean God can talk to us? Yeah, it’s called His Word. Hopefully that’s sort of happening now is the Word of God is being faithfully taught under the power of the Holy Spirit this morning.

If we’re keeping short accounts with God, if we’re spending quality time with the Lord, if the channels of communication are open, then we are like that branch connected to the vine and the success or effectiveness, the eternal result that God wants to produce come forth quite naturally. This is what Paul is saying here to Timothy. “You, therefore, my son, be strong in the grace of God which is in Christ Jesus.” Not the yesterday grace of God, not the tomorrow grace of God, but the right now grace of God, which as I’ve hopefully showed this morning is the teaching in the Bible from cover to cover.

A. T. Robertson, in his Word Pictures says this: “Christ is the dynamo for power only when and while we keep in touch with Him.” Let me read that again. “Christ is the dynamo for power only when and while we keep in touch with Him.” Recognize where ministerial or career or anything thing that God has… family, success, comes from. It comes out of your relationship to God and I can guarantee you this much — God does not call you to do anything, whether its ministry, suffering, family needs, that He has not first empowered you to do. God doesn’t order things and not pay for them. Whatever God orders He pays for. And if God has called you to do something don’t look at the size of the obstacle that’s in front of you, look at the present tense grace of God that is available to you as you begin to discover the secret of Paul’s success and every fruitful Christian’s effectiveness in the world.

Of course, it’s possible today that you could be here today and not even understand how to enter into a relationship with God to begin with. And this is something we call the gospel; the gospel means good news. We call it good news because Jesus did it all in our place. By simply believing, which is another way of saying trusting or relying or having confidence in what Jesus has done we are given the gift of life. Believing in Jesus Christ, trusting in Him is something you can do right now, even as I am speaking. You can do it in the privacy of your heart and the quietness of your own heart as the Holy Spirit places you under conviction. It’s a matter of privacy between you and the Lord where you respond to Him in you heart of hearts by way of faith. It’s something you could do right now as I am speaking. If it is something that you need more clarity on I’m available after the service to talk. But after coming into that relationship with God now begin to grow in Him by understanding that the grace that He has just given you is available right now for whatever predicament that you are in. Shall we pray. Father, we’re grateful for this teaching that You gave to Timothy in this verse; forgive us Father, for having missed what is so obvious. Help us to walk out today and tomorrow and this week faithfully the walk that You have given us to walk through the power of the Holy Spirit. We will be careful to give you all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus name, and God’s people said….

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