What the Gospel of the Resurrection Teaches us about the Current Terri Shiavo CaseTuesday, March 29, 2005
The following is an application of my sermon this past Sunday which never got included in the notes. I truly believe that the resurrection of Christ excites hope and encouragement in light of coming persecution for sake of righteousness. It is coming, by the way. Pandora's box has been opened in the starvation and dehydration of Terri Shiavo. My grandkids will see the day when this is common, unless something happens to stop it.
As you are reading this point of application from 2 Timothy 2:1-13, don't bother trying to decypher whether I'm a premillenialist or a postmillenialist. I believe with the premils that times will get worse, not better. The Bible clearly says this not just implicitly but explicitly. But I also believe with the postmils that the gospel of Christ is the only thing that can and will stop it. With that forward, here is the unspoken application.
This nation’s continued decline is recorded in Scripture. In his last letter to Timothy, Paul wrote, “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God…” (3:1-4).
In light of such a society, we and our children are more likely to suffer persecution as Christians at the hands of our government than at any other time in our nation’s history. Paul told Timothy in verses 13-14 of this same chapter, “Indeed all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.”
And what was Paul’s counsel to Timothy? “As for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed…” What had he learned and what had he come to firmly believe? The God-inspired Scriptures which would make him competent for every good work he was to perform in the future.
One work to which he just referred was suffering for the sake of Christ at the hands of persecutors. Beloved, though our days have grown worse, our days of living for the glory of God grow brighter! For never in the history of the church has it more glorified God than when it acted as its Cornerstone did in suffering and dying!
That is why Paul gave Timothy three pictures chapter 2, which he was to study and meditate on in order to learn how to minister more to the glory of God. He was to be a soldier, an athlete and a farmer. In all of these illustrations, the one truth which he was to meditate upon, the one truth which would give him more and more understanding on how to be like a soldier, athlete and farmer, was the truth found in verse 8. “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel for which I am suffering.” Consider each illustration and how it relates to the resurrection of Christ.
First, we live and preach the gospel with wholehearted service, remembering that if Jesus Christ was raised from the dead, we will be too!.
In verse 3, Paul wrote, “Share in suffering as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (v. 3). Paul goes on to warn Timothy that, “No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.” We are soldiers because we are at war. Our war is not with flesh and blood, as Paul wrote in Ephesians. Rather, we war against that which we cannot see, the spiritual forces behind the judges and legislators and police and doctors. And every soldier enlists with the full knowledge that he lives to fight and defend. Part of the soldier’s very fabric of existence as a soldier is the willingness to give up his or her life for the greater good. They are willing to die. They are willing to suffer. And when the suffering gets tough, the soldiers keep going. They don’t stop because it hurts or because they are scared.
And every soldier lives for a purpose, namely, to carry out the command of his officer. Paul wrote, “his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.” Not to carry out an order results in a court martial. That is why he is a soldier, to carry out orders. And every believer here this morning lives and breathes to carry out the orders from the Captain of our Salvation, as the writer of Hebrews calls Him. As the line in the hymn “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” goes, it is Christ’s “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.”
That is how we must be willing to live and breathe, beloved. We are soldiers of the cross, pressing forward, preaching the gospel, expanding the kingdom. We can war without fear, even when the battle is at its roughest, because we remember Jesus Christ risen from the dead. If we are killed in this battle, what happens to us? Remembering Jesus Christ helps us remember that what happened to Him will happen to us! He was raised from the dead after being killed for the glory of God, and so will we! He was raised again to reign as king, and we will be raised with Him to reign with Him!
Second, we live and preach the gospel with wholehearted devotion, remembering that if Jesus Christ was raised to reign, we will also be raised to reign with Him.
The second illustration Paul gives Timothy is that of an athlete. Paul writes, “An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules,” in verse 5. If an athlete does not compete according to the established rules of the game, he is cheating and will not achieve or retain a victory. In the Olympic games of Paul’s day, an athlete had to complete a ten month training course and then swear a vow saying he followed the rules. That’s probably what Paul is referring to here.
His point is that each Christian is an athlete who must cross the finish line, but they can only do so when they have followed the rules. Those rules are the gospel, the truth of Scriptures. And this takes wholehearted devotion and discipline. This was Paul’s way of saying to Timothy, “Become a disciplined person so you will be ready to suffer for the gospel when the time comes.”
That is how we must live. We are athletes, running hard, forgetting what is behind, preaching the gospel, expanding the kingdom, passing the baton to others. If we run in this way, we can run knowing we will attain the crown of life promised to us. Remembering that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead means that just as He finished the race and won the victory, we have that same victory through His efforts. We will get what He got and go where He went!
Third, we live and preach the gospel with wholehearted diligence, remembering that if Jesus Christ reaped what He sowed, we will also reap what He sowed for us.
The final illustration Paul uses for Timothy is that of a farmer. In verse 6, “It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops.” Lazy farmers go hungry. Diligent and busy farmers will eat well. The life of a farmer is one of the most difficult and physically demanding in history. He gets up early, and goes to bed late. He works long hours because he can’t afford to lose any time. He is constantly plowing and harvesting, sowing, tending, weeding, storing. He experiences regular disappointments in the form of frost, bugs, disease and natural disasters. He must exercise extreme patience since everything happens at a snail’s pace. Finally, he experiences much boredom in repeating the same mundane tasks every single day.
Paul’s point to Timothy and to us is that the ministry of the gospel is a ministry of strain, struggle, diligence, patience, all of which are akin to suffering. Diligent people are better at suffering. And after their suffering is over they, like the farmer will get their reward. And just what is that reward? Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead. His reward is your reward. He earned it for Himself and for you.
Summary: The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead gives us a powerful encouragement and exhortation to step out against the evil of tyrannical acts like what is happening to Terri Shiavo and do what is right. Even if the consequences are as simple as jail time or as great as execution, our consequences are eternal life, and reigning with Jesus Christ Himself. In short, the resurrection of Christ from the dead compels us out into this sinful world to suffer for the sake of righteousness at the hand of evildoers. Much of the evil done to believers in the NT was done by the hand of pagan governments. Our day and time is no different. We must take Paul’s encouragement to Timothy as ours. And we must sing the hymn Paul sung in the middle of chapter 2. “If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he will also deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful – for he cannot deny himself.”