Date: 29 January 2023
Speaker: Ps Daniel Tan
Sermon Text: 2 Timothy 4:1-8
Blessed Sunday to all. I trust the past week has been a meaningful time of reunion with family and friends.
As we have been celebrating the Lunar new Year, in Hermon, we have been going through this sermon series entitled the Trellis and the Vine.
Today’s sermon is the 4th and final of this short series.
We have been reminded that Vine work is the Proclamation of the Word, that both Vine work and it’s supporting trellis can only be enabled through prayerful dependence upon the Holy Spirit.
Scripture then instructed us that Vine work is also team work. It requires the People of God to do the work of God.
Being and Making disciples of Christ Jesus is the privilege and the responsibility of every Hermonite.
Finally today, we want to be encouraged by God’s Word that we are to persevere in the task of Vine work.
Vine work is not a once-off effort. It is lifelong. It will require persistence, it will require resilience, it will require steadfastness.
So, I’m sure we are all familiar with this slide. We are to be God’s instruments moving people to the right.
If they are yet-believers, we want to share the gospel so that they can be transferred into God’s Kingdom.
If they are believers, we want to establish them in the gospel so that they can be transformed more and more into the likeness of Christ.
This past week, God has given us all many divine opportunities to do just that.
In the midst of our Lunar New Year visitation, God has brought into our paths many yet-believers and believers.
How has the Vine and Trellis sermon series, enabled you and I to have a biblical perspective to our visitations?
Have we been able to share the Gospel to our yet-believing relative? If God did not give us the opportunity to share, have we prayed for their salvation? Would you set aside a day each month to pray for them in 2023?
Have we been able to encourage our believing friends? Think back on the conversations at your gatherings, I’m sure a thanksgiving or a prayer item was shared.
For the items for prayer, how about we set aside a specific day each week to bring that item before God’s throne of grace? How about this year, we determined to intentionally follow up on that prayer item shared?
I submit that if we take the divine appointments God has given us during our CNY visitations and intentionally seek God in prayer throughout 2023, we will be fulfilling our mission statement to Glorify God by being and making disciples of Christ Jesus.
Church, the reminder and the equipping of vine work begins in Hermon, but the refreshing dew of Hermon, spreads far and wide. It is to be felt in our interactions with our family, our relatives and our friends.
This morning, I would like to share from 2 Timothy 4:1-8.
Here is Apostle Paul’s final letter to a young pastor Timothy who is shepherding God’s flock at Ephesus.
Today’s text is commonly used at the ordination charge of Ministers and Elders.
However, as Ps Luwin has shared from various Scripture passages last week, the proclamation of God’s Word is not the sole responsibility of ruling and teaching Elders.
As part of the body here in Hermon, God as ordained different parts to do different but complementary work.
Also God has so provided that we each are able to reach out to different sphere of people and so Vine work is to happen in all of our interactions.
And we acknowledge this truth because we believe what Scripture says in:
1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
A solemn charge (4:1) – whom we persevere for
2 Tim 4:1 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom.
On significant milestones of life, we make vows and promises. For example, when men go into National Service, there is a pledge to serve and defend the country.
When we get married, there are vows we make to God. For some professions, there is an oath which we take to uphold the standards of the profession.
When we become believers, we confess to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and commit to His body in the local church.
In all these instances, it is solemn, it is dignified and a certain gravitas permeates the whole ceremony.
Why is that so? Because we know that the oath, vow, promise that is being made is a life altering one. It is a serious one which will guide our thoughts and actions not when it is easy but more so when it is difficult.
2 Tim 4:1 begins in such a situation. Paul is telling Timothy that his commission as a pastor of the church in Ephesus is a divine charge.
Something that he is to remember for the rest of his life. Something that is to be followed through in seasons of plenty and in seasons of drought.
A compass bearing that is to constantly guide him. A reference point he is to filter all options against.
It is a divine charge which is made in the presence of God the Creator of the universe. It means that Timothy is to answer and to live out this charge under the watchful eyes of God the Father.
The eyes of which are all-knowing and every present.
There is no bigger authority for this charge to be issued under.
And then Paul adds, ‘and of Christ Jesus’.
The Messiah who gave His life as a ransom for Timothy’s sin. The one whom Scripture says is our Redeemer and Lord.
If that is not weighty enough, if Timothy has not metaphorically fallen down in awe yet, Paul says, this God in whose name the charge is given is one who is to judge the living and the dead.
There is no escaping this judgement. Whether you are dead or alive when Jesus comes again, you will be judged.
It means that God has the power to pronounce a verdict on all that Timothy will accomplish in his life. It means that God has the power to effect the consequence of His judgement as well. There is no fear if the person’s verdict cannot be carried out. But God’s verdict is sure.
And Paul ends by instructing that this judgement will come at Jesus’ 2nd coming. When Jesus will come to consummate His kingdom.
Again, emphasizing that Jesus is Lord and King.
And we believe, this judgement will surely come for Jesus’ 2nd coming is a guaranteed event.
Even when this charge is read out during ordination of Elders and Ministers, may I submit it should affect the rest of us as well.
Since we are the ones who have voted the Presbyter for ordination. The gravity of the charge should cause us to keep our Presbyters in constant prayer. It is a significant responsibility they bear.
Since ordination is for life in our denomination, may we persevered in our prayer support as well.
Lest we think that only Presbyters have such a charge, may I refer us to a well-known commission for all believers:
Mt 28: 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Jesus prefaces His commission to all believers by saying “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me”. This is no different than 2 Tim 4:1.
So, we persevere in the task because we have been given a solemn charge. A significant commission.
And we will persevere because it is none other than God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who has given this solemn charge.
As parents, we restrict the consumption of CNY goodies of our children because we know what is best for them. We have their long term health in mind. As filial children, we show our respect to our parents not just on festive occasions but by taking care of them throughout the year as well.
In many aspects of our lives, we delay gratification, we commit to do what is needed whether rain or sunshine all because of our responsibilities.
As ambassadors of Christ, let us remember our life-long responsibilities as well. These responsibilities have been given to us as a charge, as commission by God and one day, when Jesus comes again we will have to give an account to Him.
The world will say, no one knows the future. But as believers we do. The very certain future is the 2nd coming of Jesus and there He will judge the living and the dead.
A significant work (4:2-5) – what we must persevere in
After setting the context in which the solemn charge is to be given, Paul tells Timothy the significant work that he is to preserve in.
2 Tim 4:2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
There are 5 imperatives given, 5 commands – Preach, Ready, Reprove, Rebuke and Exhort.
And we observe that the 4 subsequent commands are based on the first imperative – Preach the Word.
The other commands basically flesh out how Timothy is to preach God’s Word.
To preach is to announce, to proclaim, to be a Herald. As a job description, it is to be an Ambassador for Christ.
What that means is that it should not be man’s wisdom that Timothy shares, it is not the latest societal trends that Timothy is to expound on. It is not his hobby horse he should flog nor any of his prejudices.
No, Pastor Timothy is to preach, to proclaim, to announce God’s Word. God’s Word found in Scripture.
The preaching of God’s Word in the context of the church is the responsibility of the Presbyters.
But as we have see from 1 Thess 1:8, the proclamation of God’s Word outside of the church is the privilege of every Hermonite:
1 Th 1:8 For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything.
Remember how the effectiveness of the Thessalonian’s Gospel witness had in a sense made Paul’s missionary efforts redundant.
So all of us are to do it in season and out of season. When it is convenient and when it is not. When it is encouraged and even when it will be rejected.
The majority of our CNY visitation is now over. When will be the next time you can share the Gospel to family and friends? Shall we intentionally prepare for the next occasion?
This Christmas, we are going to have 3 days of evangelistic programme – Sat (23 Dec), Sun (24 Dec) and Mon (25 Dec). Shall we begin to connect with our loved ones so that they can come?
The preaching of God’s Word also is useful to reprove, rebuke and exhort.
We reprove when we correct wrong understand. We rebuke when we correct wrong behaviour. And we exhort when we encourage right living and comfort the repentant.
Take the issue of human sexuality. Shall we use Scripture to reprove the wrong understanding that God has not made us man and female.
Shall Scripture rebuke those of us who have been unfaithful in our marriages. Shall Scripture exhort everyone that God has ordained the pleasures of sex within the boundaries of marriage.
HIM is having a seminar on the biblical worldview of sexuality. It is a very challenging issue in today’s society and we need God’s Word to help us navigate Satan’s lies. Please do register at our website today.
Scripture continues to say that as we herald and announce God’s Word, our attitude should be of complete patience and teaching.
Now that is difficult isn’t it. We have to be patient when they reject it. We have to be patient when they find it hard to understand. We have to be patient when it has to be re-learned or even un-learned.
So it means as we impart God’s truth, we must ask the Spirit’s help not to be frustrated, not to be exasperated, not to be irritated.
And we know why proclaiming God’s truth is going to take complete patience because the world is not going to accept sound teaching.
Instead, they would rather hear what suits them. The truth will not only be hard to accept it will be considered uninteresting. Myths, the fads of society will trill them more.
There is a slogan from Gold 90.5 – hear only the good stuff. It’s an apt portrayal of how we listen. We all have selective listening tendencies. Such bias listening happens not only to husbands. But it affects all humanity.
We listen to what suits us because we don’t like to hear hard truths. In the world today, many producers pay lots of money to lobbyist so that legislation is in their favour.
I remember as a university student that the pork sellers in Australian have state endorsement to advertise that pork is the other white meat.
They were trying to differentiate themselves from red meat which was deemed more unhealthy.
In the face of much challenges, discernment is going to be very important,
So, Paul tells Timothy, in order to be persevering, in order to be consistent, you need to always be sober-minded.
Clear headed thinking is needed to chart God’s path through the fog of society.
Next endure suffering. It means, there will be ridicule, there will be rude and offensive remarks made. Physical, mental and emotional pain and distress are to be expected.
Why, because you will not be speaking what is popular, it will not go down well with most people.
Because God did not say believers will be wealthy and healthy and well-received, thus we need to speak of persevering in the task and of having to endure hardship.
This is the reality on this side of eternity.
Thus we have to persevere in the work of the evangelist. Against the odds we are to still hold true to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Against the tide of society that says there are many paths to heaven, we are to say there is only one way. If we are in Christ, we await His commendation. If we are not in Christ, it is Jesus’ terrible wrath that we will expect.
Timothy, Paul charges, fulfil your ministry. See to it that all that God has purposed for you, you endeavour to accomplish it.
Don’t do only what you feel like doing. Fulfil your whole ministry. Don’t give up half way, fulfil and complete your ministry.
Is proclaiming God’s Word something of importance to your life purpose?
If you are a parent, proclaiming God’s Word to your children is not an option:
Deut 6:6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
Till the Lord takes us home, Scripture says the vine work of Gospel proclamation and living is to be evident in us:
Col 4:5 Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. 6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
May the challenging context we find ourselves in, not be a discouragement but instead remind us of how gracious God has been to us for He has opened our eyes to the truth.
Thus, from this privileged position, we endeavour to be sober-minded, to endure suffering and to fulfil God’s purposes for our lives.
A sanctified goal (4:6-8) – why we can persevere
So far, I’ve suggested 2 things for our consideration.
Firstly, we persevere in the task of vine work because it is God who has given us this charge and commission.
Secondly, we persevere in the task of vine work because that is the task God has purposed for us. We are to proclaim the Gospel at all times and use it for instruction, correction and encouragement.
And we are to do so with complete patience.
Finally, why we can persevere is because we have a sanctified goal.
The goal is to receive the crown of righteousness when Jesus comes again.
Scripture promise that all who eagerly look forward to Christ return will be awarded with Paul the crown of righteousness.
And Paul models for us what it means to eagerly await Christ return.
In v6, he uses Old Testament (Numbers 15:1-10) imagery of the drink offering that accompanies the sacrifices at the temple.
He is sacrificially living out his life for the Lord. Here, there is also a hint that his life will end shortly in his execution in Rome.
Remember Jesus said – Lk 9:23 “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
To live eagerly longing for Christ return is to live sacrificially for Jesus.
Next Paul gives us the phase which we often hear at believer’s funerals – I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
Before us are 2 pictures of Hermon. One taken in 1996 at BBHQ and another in 2017 at CCKBC.
May I share 3 Hermonites whom I feel have modelled for us 2 Tim 4:7.
The first is Lee Pang Soo. He had a heart condition that did not enable him to be active. He served to the best of his ability as our church admin staff while we were in BBHQ.
One thing I remembered was his care and concern for many. He would pen down cards and notes as an encouragement very frequently. The Lord took him home I think before he reached 50.
Michelle Wang was a wife and a mother of 2 children. She also had cancer. She came to know the Lord as an adult and 30 years after her baptism, the Lord called her home.
She was a quiet lady and if you did not know her, you would have not noticed her in church.
Yet she endeavoured to bring her children up in the faith and even when wrecked with pain during her cancer, still had a pleasant smile each time I visited her.
She taught me what it meant to treasure Holy Communion. Her children told me she looked forward to the monthly visits I made with Siew Kee.
At our visits, she sang heartly the few hymns we would sing in preparation for Communion and her spirit was lifted upon being reminded of the precious gift of eternal life in Christ.
Finally, the testimony of Uncle Paul. He lived to a ripe age of 91. Uncle Paul cared for his family, lovingly cooking meals for them daily.
I would see him frequently on his morning walks around Limbang area as he went about his marketing.
His ministered to a few older Hermonites through his post service conversation with them and at one time was an active participant in our brisk walking club.
I still have some of the notes that he wrote to me, pencilling down his thoughts as to his conviction of his faith.
How he was convinced of the falsehood of his previous faith and the implications now of His faith in Christ Jesus.
Though their earthly years differed greatly and some of them experienced terrible health challenges.
Yet I thank God for allowing me to witness in their lives, their good fight of faith, how they kept the faith and how they finished well.
I thank God that there are many more examples in Hermon of those who have modelled what it means to live, eagerly awaiting the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
This ends the series of 4 sermons on the Trellis and Vine.
I pray that it will not be forgotten but instead we will look at the 4 Ps - Proclamation, Prayer, People and Perseverance and reflect on how each are foundational pillars for our desire to move people to the right.
To fight the good fight, to finish the race and to keep the faith, gives us the reality that effort and resilience are needed and that significant challenges will have to be met.
The encouraging promise in the bible for us to persevere in the task of vine work is highlighted in these 2 verses:
Phi 1:6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ….. 2:13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Our perseverance will be enabled by the Spirit of Christ who is in us. And when we yield to Him, God will enable us to fulfill His purposes in our lives.