Wednesday, December 7, 2016

"Proclaiming the Gospel of Christ ..."

Day #343

Scripture Reading:  II Timothy 1 - 2 …

Understanding your place in God's plan and purposes inspires you to go deeper in your relationship with God and to commit yourself to being equipped as a "soldier of Christ Jesus," ready to share the Gospel with those in your immediate sphere of influence and with others whom you may meet.  It is not by accident that you are alive at this moment in history, or that you are in the family you are, or that you have the gifts and abilities you have.  You are a unique individual whom God has placed in this world at this time for HIS glory!  Your life is HIS and what you do with it has significance.

That's what Paul wanted Timothy to know … and that's what God wants YOU to know!  Paul and Timothy had labored together for the Gospel and were now separated, as Paul had been taken as a prisoner to Rome.  While under "house arrest" in Rome, Paul continued to proclaim the Gospel and wrote to Timothy to encourage him to do the same.  He tells Timothy to "fan into flame the gift of God which is in you" … "for God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline" (1:6-7).  God never calls us to do something without giving us what we need to do it!  As someone has said, "God doesn't call the qualified, He qualifies the called!"  Our Father in heaven uniquely prepares each of His children to fulfill His purpose for our lives, and that purpose centers around your faith in Jesus Christ and your commitment to His Body, the Church, and to spreading the good news of the Gospel.

We do well to remember the importance of the message we bring to the world because Jesus Christ "has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel" (1:10).  I say it often that there is no other message in the world that has the power to transform sinners into saints, to bring eternal life to those who are spiritually dead.  So Paul declares, "I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day" (1:12).  What have you entrusted to Jesus?  "That day" refers to the day of judgment, when Jesus returns and calls those who believe to Himself.  Have you entrusted yourself to Jesus?  Do you believe that His blood covers your sins in God's sight … that He paid your debt and you HAVE forgiveness of your sins and eternal life as His Spirit lives and works within you??

Timothy had been born again by God's Spirit and called to proclaim God's truth.  He had been placed on the earth at this time, for this reason.  So now Paul says, "What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus" (1:13).  And in Chapter 2, he charges Timothy to equip others to teach the Gospel, too:  "The things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others" (2:2).  The principle of multiplication rests in God's instruction to pastors and teachers to equip others to share the Gospel, too.  What could possibly be more important than raising up those who will pass this message on to others?!

With that in mind, Paul tells Timothy, "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth" (2:15).  He gives Timothy and us counsel from God when he tells him to avoid godless chatter and foolish arguments. It seems today that we are too easily distracted from our primary purpose in making disciples through the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Many even within the Body of Christ spend most of their time and effort engaging in idle conversation or senseless disputes.  Speaking of believers, Paul writes, "The Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.  Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will" (2:24-26).

We need to understand the war that is going on in the spiritual realm for the souls of men and women, boys and girls, all around us, and we need to engage in the battle, armed with the "sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God" (Ephesians 6:17).  That takes us back to the importance of being equipped.  Handling God's Word correctly is taken far too lightly in the visible church today.  People with little knowledge are teaching false doctrine, oftentimes being very sincere as they do so because they don’t know any better.  False teaching is like cancer, and it spreads by various means throughout the church, as well as the world.  Peter writes that his spiritual brother, Paul's letters to the churches "contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction" (II Peter 3:16).

Sound teaching is "passed on" through godly teachers whose only authority comes from the Head of the Church, Jesus Christ, as He speaks through His Word.  That's why Paul told Timothy to pass on the things he had heard Paul say to reliable men who would then teach others.  The church is not fulfilling its mission if this is not taking place.  Leaders cannot lead if they do not know the truth, nor can they safeguard the flock under their care from false teaching.  As Paul was about to leave Ephesus, he called together the elders whom had been appointed as overseers and said to them, "Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.  Be shepherds of the church of God, which He bought with His own blood" (Acts 20:28).  Fulfilling that task requires men who have gained a knowledge of God's Word through careful instruction and study.

The mission Jesus entrusted to the Church can be and is fulfilled only when the Gospel of Jesus Christ is being proclaimed.  May God raise up many soldiers in Christ's army who will be faithful to proclaim the unchanging truth of God's Word to all who will be given ears to hear!

"Father, throughout the centuries You have raised up godly men to proclaim the Gospel and empowered them by Your Spirit.  Be gracious to Your Church in these last days, that we may not waver in our commitment to make disciples of Jesus and so fulfill our calling, for Your glory.  Protect Christ's Body from false teachers by equipping soldiers for His army.  Let the power of the Gospel shine through the darkness, in Jesus' name, Amen"

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