Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Ordination Sermon - The Fuel to Pastoral Courage - 2 Timothy 1:7 - Part One

Spending the last several weeks meditating on 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus (and other passages) has greatly refreshed my own zeal for the ministry which God has set before me. One of my kids asked me on Sunday night how long it took to prepare the sermon I preached as we brought Julian into the eldership. My answer (I think I stole it from somewhere in essence) was 41 years and one week. This sermon in particular had a lifetime behind it - not that I am the pastoral prototype(!) - rather, it is a subject that I have thought about for years.
Anyway, we do not ordain men at GFC... and we have our reasons. But we do confirm their calling to the eldership and the deaconate. What follows are some notes from the first part of my sermon on 2 Timothy 1:6-7 as we set aside a service to confirm the call of God on Julian Freeman.

The Fuel to Pastoral Courage - 2 Timothy 1:7

“I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

I. There are ways that this passage does not relate to us:

1. Timothy had a unique relationship to an Apostle. “I have no one like him,” “He is a son in the faith.” That is how Paul characterizes this man. Timothy had traveled with Paul, witnessed his persecutions firsthand and spent countless hours being mentored and trained by this apostle.

2. There was something unique in Timothy’s gifting because of this. Today, we lay hands on Julian: “we,” as in Murray and me. But we are not apostles nor do we transfer spiritual gifting via our hands. In fact, Mr. Spurgeon would suggest we are wasting our time! Speaking of this ceremony, he said, “Empty hands on a empty head make for an empty rite” – I think that is how he described this! But we have our reasons to press on.

II. There are more ways this passage does relate to us:

1. It is in the Bible – and all of the Scripture is “breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” This is more than a distant story, some history to be read at arm’s length. It is the Word of God spoken to us to teach, etc.

2. This passage also describes something that is common to the Christian condition – namely, temptation to shame and fear in relation to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

3. Although Timothy was uniquely gifted by the laying on of hands of an Apostle, he was gifted by the same Holy Spirit that gives gifts to every believer. In fact, the same Holy Spirit that is given to every believer in Jesus. And this Holy Spirit does not change personality or nature depending on whom He indwells! He is the same, yesterday, today and forever – He is the Spirit of love, power and self-control.

III. What’s more, there are several ways in which this Scripture relates to you, Julian, in particular:

1. You share with Timothy a similar family and spiritual heritage.

Like you, Timothy came from a Christian family. They were not always that way, since his grandmother Lois would have been alive long before Jesus was born. She must have been a faithful Jew, who, like her daughter Eunice, repented of sin and put her faith in Jesus when she first heard of him.

You have a similar heritage, Julian. Faithfully taught by your grandmother Marion, and your mother Lynn as a young boy, you were graced with a solid Christian upbringing.

Now, we all know this upbringing is not what saved you! I know that social structures, family background and genetics did not make you what you are... because I was there while you were growing up. I can testify to the entire world that you gave good evidence of being a slave to sin. That you were born with no special propensity or leaning toward Godliness. That you, like Adam, were under sin’s dominion. That you, like the rest of us, were as lost and dead in sin as any other.

Yet, God saw fit to use the means of grace to your conversion.

Parents, use those means! Read the Word. Pray. Evangelize your kids! Don’t fall prey to the temptation to think that conversion is unnecessary or a given – just because you believe in Jesus.

One day as a young High School student God saved Julian. The good seed sown in your life was met with the life-giving water and sunshine of the Holy Spirit and you became a Christian, not because of Mama and Nana, but because you saw your sin as a great offense to a Holy God and you turned in faith to His Son, Jesus.

Like Timothy, you have shown evidence of a sincere, a genuine faith. And it is to the praise of God that He would impart life to THREE generations – and we hope and pray to a fourth with your daughters and any other children.

But let me ask the rest of you: “Has God saved you?” Have you acted upon the facts of the Gospel: Jesus the Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. And that He now calls on all men everywhere to repent from sin and put their complete trust in Him alone for salvation. Have you turned to Christ? I am not looking for pastors here, I am looking for Christians! If you have not turned in faith to Jesus, do so today!

2. You share with Timothy similar gifts.

On the day God saved you, He gave you the Person of His Holy Spirit to dwell in you. He also gave you gifts to be used in His church for her good. Just as He does with every Christian.

Now, there was a council of elders that saw the gifting to pastoral ministry in Timothy. And these elders along with Paul laid hands on him and when they did, or prior to it, they were also given a word of prophecy concerning his life.

Today, the prophets are silent, but the Holy Spirit is not. By putting the desire into your heart to be an elder, and by confirming your giftedness through the Elders of your local church and the members of that local church – we are 100% certain that He has called you to this ministry. In the words of Paul to the Ephesian Christians – you are a gift to the church.

So, you are a gift. And you have been given a gift.

3. You are like Timothy in your need to exercise that gift!

Last year I made a great bonfire at the cottage. It began with soaring flames and intense heat. But that initial burst of energy rather quickly died down and would have slowly smoldered all day had I not tended my fire. I needed to poke at it to give it some air – add dry kindling when the damp wood took over – stir the embers to create more heat – and generally prod, poke and push to keep it burning hot and furiously.

Paul writes to Timothy that the gift he was given by God is much like my fire. It will not extinguish as long as Timothy lives (“the gifts of God are irrevocable!”)... but it can smolder away and become more smoke than flame – fogging up rather than giving light and heat.

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands”

Timothy’s gift, given as it was by Apostolic hand-laying, still needed to be fanned into flame. How much more your gifts, Julian. And ours!

Earlier, Paul wrote: 1 Timothy 4:14 Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you.

Fan it into flame... do not neglect it... these warnings mean we can do that very thing. An untended fire throws little light and little heat.

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