Last Sunday we began studying the first chapter of 2 Timothy, Paul’s last surviving letter from Nero’s dungeon before his martyrdom. Paul encourages Timothy to remain faithful in the face of persecution, even while others are deserting the faith in fear for their lives. Paul reminds Timothy of the sincere faith of his mother and grandmother, who passed down their wisdom to him as a child. We discussed the advantages of being a believer from childhood, of having the assurance of God’s love and forgiveness as you develop your worldview.
Paul encourages Timothy to “fan into flame” the gift of the Holy Spirit in troubled times:
For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7
When we know our salvation is certain, that it does not depend on our strength, but on God’s mighty power and unfathomable love, we gain the confidence to follow Christ in a world that does not welcome Him. Paul repeatedly admonishes Timothy not to be ashamed of the gospel:
So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner… Yet I am not ashamed [of his suffering/imprisonment], because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day. 2 Timothy 1:8a, 12b
The world does not understand the wisdom of God and constantly tries to make Christians ashamed of their faith in Christ, holding up false idols that on the surface seem more appealing – love, fairness, self-esteem, freedom. All these good things are gifts of God, but lead us astray if we put them in the proper place of God and His truth.
We may also be tempted to be ashamed of our fellow Christians, who are just as sinful and prone to error as anyone else – but we are forgiven, and it makes all the difference. We well know how big a job the Holy Spirit has to sanctify our own hearts, and we struggle to extend forgiveness to those around us as Christ lavishes his forgiveness on us.
The joy of knowing we are forgiven is the great gift that non-Christians do not understand – a great gift that God is eager to give them. We are privileged, not ashamed, to serve as his ambassadors, proclaiming His goodness to the world, that some may be saved. As Paul writes to the Christians in Rome:
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? Romans 10:14
Our mission is to bring the Word to the world, and we should not be ashamed of Christ, lest He be ashamed of us. And yet there is a place for deeds of service as well – for we cannot simply preach the love of Christ for all humankind without showing His love through our service. This week, consider how you might show God’s love to someone in your life, perhaps with a visit, a word of kindness, or other loving service.
Our pastoral epistles study will continue next Sunday, March 17, with a discussion of 2 Timothy 2. To review our recent Pastoral Epistles studies, please use the links below.