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Jack Graham - Passing the Torch


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    Jack Graham - Passing the Torch
TOPICS: Legacy, Generations

The title of the message in this our LEGACY series is "Passing the Torch". Every generation has the responsibility to pass the torch of truth to the succeeding or the coming generation, the next generation. We, of course, know that we are simply one generation away from total depravity and paganism. All you have to do is look at most of the churches in Western Europe and see a generation that has lost its way. The churches are empty. Young adults are not following Christ and the lifestyle does not honor Christ. And if we're not careful we can miss our opportunity today to pass this faith to the next generation. We have this huge... Every parent has a responsibility to train up your own children to know Christ and to follow Him fully.

And every church has the responsibility to train up a spiritual generation, a generation of children. This includes guarding the Gospel, and that really is what 2 Timothy is about as Paul the great apostle is teaching and training his young protégé in the ministry, his son in the ministry, Timothy; training and propelling him forward with the faith. Every generation has this huge accountability before God and responsibility before God to make sure that we get it right so that we can give it away to the coming generation. Now that doesn't mean when we give it to the next generation that we sit on the sideline and watch. I heard someone say this week, "If you aren't dead, you're not done"! Alright? If you're not dead, you're not done!

So every generation has a responsibility to serve God with all of our hearts, minds, souls, and strength until we take our last breath. But in the meantime we begin to look over our shoulders and realize that the next generation is on the way. And it's like a relay race. The responsibility of the runner is to make sure that the next runner gets the baton. It's call the transfer zone, and races are won and lost at the transfer zone. If the baton is dropped the race is defaulted for that team. But if the success to pass this torch or this baton in the next generation. If we're successful in doing that than the all win! Paul was young Timothy's father in the ministry.

Now I had a father in the ministry. He was a very intriguing, interesting character. His name was W. Fred Swank, and he pastored the same church in east Fort Worth for forty-three years. And he produced a host of young people that went on to serve Christ on the mission field and many of us who were called to preach. I had the privilege after I graduated from Hardin-Simmons University to come back home to seminary and to serve with Dr. Swank on his staff. Now that was a learning experience, because as I said he was just this big bombastic and yet powerful and attractive, appealing personality; he was a man's man and he was an athlete when he was a young man so I especially was attracted just to his persona. And he taught me so many things in life and in ministry.

And that is what the Apostle Paul is doing with his protégé, young Timothy. Paul was concerned about massive defection among believers. abandoning the faith and so he writes in 2 Timothy 2, 1 to 2: "You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men". There it is, passing the faith along; that's the transfer zone, what you have learned you entrust with faith men. The disciple is now a disciple-maker, so these "faithful men will be able to teach others also". And this is how the faith has proceeded from generation to generation, from faith to faith to faith.

As we learn the faith and live the faith, then we give the faith to others. And he's saying be strong and courageous, and fearless in the face of the enemy. Literally these verses say strengthen yourself in the grace of God. We know that we're not strong in and of ourselves; therefore, it is the grace that saves, the same grace that saves us keeps us and we are saved by grace, we are to serve by grace. Find your strength in the grace of God. We're to do more than keep the faith, we are to pass the faith along. the Gospel is too good to keep for ourselves. And so that is why we are committed to making sure that the Gospel goes forward through faithful people. Those who are trustworthy and dependable and honorable in biblical faith.

And so with that as his mission with young Timothy and with us, he then gives six metaphors, portraits if you will, of what it means to live for Christ in each generation. And I want to cover briefly with you all of these metaphors because together it is composite of what the Christian life should look like from generation to generation.

Number one, the soldier, verses 3 and 4; the soldier is described: "Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus". No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who has enlisted him. Now Paul spent quite a bit of time in his years on mission with Roman soldiers in jail. So he often used illustrations describing the Christian life as warfare, for example. 1 Timothy 6:12, "Fight the good fight of faith". He spoke of "putting on the whole armor of God" as we wage spiritual warfare. That we're to fight with the strength that God gives us. And the good soldier, according to this passage is to be focused and strong; mentally and physically tough.

Now it's not easy to be a soldier. One of the mottoes of the Navy SEALS is this: "The more you sweat in training the less you bleed in battle". That's good counsel for us in Christ in spiritual warfare. The more you train and are spiritually prepared and sweat in training the less you bleed in the spiritual battles you fight. If we're to be spiritual soldiers, we must be willing to pay the price in preparation. And frankly most of us are not. I wonder out of a class of thousands today who are listening to this message, how many of us are passing our spiritual training: in prayer, in Bible study, in worship, in meditation, and all the disciplines of the Christian life? We are to be spiritual soldiers! And the soldier, Paul says, is not entangled by the world, not by civilian affairs, makes a break with the civilian world to be in this world of the soldier.

I tell young ministers, and I will tell young Christians, if you're to be successful in life you have to break free of entanglements and entitlements. The world will entangle us and the tentacles of the world will slow us down and even stop us. And so a soldier has to separate himself and the entanglements of the world. And then the entitlements of the world: Frankly from generation to generation there's a sense of entitlement, and one of the problems that this generation, you are going to have to face is a sense of entitlement.

You have been given so much more than previous generations! And you must not begin your life's journey as an adult simply with an idea that I'm entitle to something, that everyone's going give me something. No, a soldier of Christ recognizes the call to separation and even to suffering! For one reason: to please the Commander! Our Commander is the Lord Jesus Christ. The three ways to live: you can live to please yourself, you can live to please others, or you can make it your ambition, your aim to please God. The Christian soldier aims to please God in all things. Christian ministry is not part-time; Christian life is not part-time! We are to be passionate, fully devoted followers of the Lord Jesus Christ!

The second metaphor is the athlete, verse 5: "An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules". Now the Christian is to be a competitor. I like that. Too many people have the idea that the Christian is soft or to be soft; that we're a bunch of mild mannered people telling people how to be more mild mannered. The Apostle Paul was not soft! He was a spiritual athlete. He said, 2 Timothy 4:7 "I have finished the course", and he's on his way to the finish line at this point. And he loved athletics. He often referred to the athletic arena whether it was typically the Olympian sports of running or jousting or boxing or any of these kinds of competitions. He he was all in! And so he looks now to the athlete and says, "We are to be like spiritual athletes, muscular in our faith, running hard to the finish line. And we run to win".

I don't get these games that you don't play to win. To me, if you're going to play, you play to win. That's competition. I don't like this thing of giving everybody a trophy just because they showed up! Or a ribbon because you participated. You know, when I was a little kid... this always makes you sound old when you start saying, "Back in my day". But when I was a kid we played ball. Maybe if we won the game we got a snow cone! Now we think we have to give everybody a ribbon or a trophy just because they showed up or signed up. I think that's teaching the wrong lesson regarding entitlements, by the way. Life is not free; life can be a challenge.

And Paul recognizes that and he says, "Run, that you may win"! That's 1 Corinthians 9, verse 24-27: "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it! (Run that you may win!) Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we, an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly (I'm just not out there running for the fun of it or running my own direction) I do not box (he turns to the boxer, to the ring, rather) as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified".

Paul was running just a little bit scared, knowing that if he did not keep his eyes on the prize and keep his eyes focused on Christ, then he could be disqualified; put on the bench spiritually, and that was an unthinkable, unimaginable thing to Paul, that somehow he would not be able to preach Christ. So we run the race according to the rules. Every game, every contest has rules. If you don't have rules, you have chaos. We're to run, therefore, with integrity and character and obedience to Christ. Run for the prize, strive for the prize. The legacy that we're talking about in this series is making your life matter, and life matters when you run for the prize, for eternal reward and not just earthly applause the athlete. Paul, at the end of his days, did say, 2 Timothy 4:7 "I have finished the race; I have kept the faith".

There's a third metaphor. Paul's jumping around here a bit. He's just listening to the Holy Spirit as God is guiding him in writing these words to us in our own generation, and he says, "Be like the farmer". Look at verse 6: "It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops". Now, if the athlete is to run hard, the farmer ins to work hard! Athletes, when they run and run and win, they get trophies. Soldiers, when they fight and win, they get medals. You know what farmers get? Calluses! And in the Christian life we are called to work hard like farmers; not to be saved, but because we are saved, according to the grace that is in us. We're not saved by working hard; we can't work that hard. But when we come to faith in Christ then we are called to work hard "unto good works". It requires hard work to bring in the harvest!

There's no easy way to serve Christ! Work hard! No one ever drowned in their own sweat. Work hard because Christ has called us to produce a harvest. What is this harvest? Well, first it's the harvest of the fruit of the Spirit in our own lives, the character of Christ. That's why the Bible says whatever one sows that he will also reap. If you sow good things into your life, you sow the Word of God, you sow faith, you sow prayer, you sow purity into your life, you're going to reap a spiritual harvest of the fruit of the Spirit. Spiritual character. You sow to the flesh, you sow to your own personal pleasures and gains and you reap corruption. To be a fruitful Christian you must sow seeds into your life. It doesn't just happen. You have to be present to receive the Word of God. You have to open the Word of God for yourself and commit to spiritual growth in your life.

In the Bible harvest is also referred to as converts, those who we lead to Christ; that we are to go as farmers, sowing the seed. Psalm 126:6 says, "He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him". This is the picture of the soul-winner, that he's the sower sowing seeds and bringing forth the harvest. Jesus said, "The harvest is ready, the harvest is ripe, but the laborers (those who are willing to work) are few". The consumers are many. the watchers and the participators and the applauders are many, but the laborers are few. Christian, God is calling you to work in this kingdom, to work in the church of Jesus Christ. Paul put it this way in Colossians 1:29, "For this I toil, struggling will all His energy that He powerfully works within me". He is strong within us and will enable us to do the work that He has called us to do.

The fourth metaphor (picture), is the workman. Verse 15 of chapter 2. Look at it, great verse, "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth". Now the worker in this case is the artist, if you will or the sculptor. It's really an illustration of someone who works with their hands to make something beautiful. And he's saying to Timothy, "Make sure as a workman that is not ashamed that you rightly divide or handle the word of truth, which is the Word of God". It means to cut it straight, to say it straight up, to teach the truth of the Bible as it is! And he describes running off in distractions and doctrinal impurities. He says: "Avoid (verse 16) irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene".

He said false doctrine, false teaching is not only produces ungodliness, but it produces gangrene. It is deceptive and it is disastrous, catastrophic and cancerous in any generation! And what is essential, church, is that with these students coming along. We heard a statistic earlier that 60-70 percent of students that leave churches across America today abandon their faith, often because they are never taught their faith at home or in the church! Why would anyone put their kids in a church that doesn't believe the Word of God? We fought for our denomination a generation ago because of the denominational drift towards liberalism. Thank God, that battle was won and our denomination is strong and in tact. But the fact is, it is a vigilance that we must always keep from generation to generation! And I challenge you, young men and women of the next generation, do not compromise! Do not capitulate! Do not give up on the inerrancy and the infallibility of the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus! Be a workman that does not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth!

Clean vessels is number five. Verse 20 says: "Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use and some for dishonorable". Now this is a very practical illustration Paul uses. Most likely you have in your house the stuff you eat on, the good stuff. Maybe they gave it to you at your wedding. It's the expensive stuff. You put it up; use it for special occasions. Then you got the ordinary everyday stuff. You know it looks, you know it's a montage of different kinds of stuff. You know, some you picked up at the filling station; you know, it's just plastic. Whatever you eat on everyday. My dad, he used to love to go to the filling station in those days... That dates you, filling station, by the way, and you'd fill up your car with gas and they'd give you free glasses.

My dad loved that! We had all kinds of cheap, crumby looking glasses from gas stations. That's what we drank out of. But the Apostle Paul was saying it doesn't matter if you are a golden chalice or a plastic cup; what matters is that you are clean! God will use any kind of vessel but a dirty vessel! Who wants to drink out of a china cup if it filled with filth? The Bible says Isaiah 52:11, "Be clean, you who bear the vessels of the Lord". So He's calling us to spiritual cleanliness and purity and righteousness; to make it our aim. Look at verse 22: "Flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace". I wish I had more time to talk about that, but just note that. Here is what we are to pursue "righteousness, faith, love and peace".

This is our holy ambition. We have this treasure in earthen vessels, but when the world sees us, may they not see the cup, may they see the treasure that is in the glory and the grace of God. Resist selfish ambition and self indulgence and sinful pleasures and arrogance and immaturity, but pursue righteousness and faith and love and peace. One final thing, the servant. Verse 24: "And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will". This metaphor changes now to that of a household servant, to the slave. And we are servants of Christ called to do whatever it takes in humility and commitment to the One that we serve.

I told you earlier about those Navy SEALs. There's a book called The Lone Survivor. It's the story of four men, Navy SEALs, who went out behind enemy lines in Afghanistan, and they were surrounded by one hundred fierce Taliban fighters, just four of them. Only one survived to tell the story. Marcus Luttrell. He spoke of those days behind enemy lines. They'd already lost two of the men and one of his buddies was mortally wounded and dying. And this is what he said, he said: "Marcus, they got us good, man". He spoke with great difficulty, (Luttrell says) and trying to concentrate. He said, "You stay alive, Marcus! You stay alive, Marcus"! I knew I must stay alive.

What that dying man said to Marcus that day I want to say to you, church, because we're all dying men preaching and teaching dying men. I want to say to you, church, stay alive! I want to say to you students, stay alive in Christ! Do whatever it takes but you stay alive and let the Gospel of Christ live in you. And you tell the world that Jesus loves them! You tell your family to come that Jesus loves them! You'll not just be a survivor, but you will win in the battle of life. Amen.
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