Michael Youssef - Standing for the Truth
The greatest threat to the church of Jesus Christ always have been internal. If there's one person who fully understood that danger, it's the Apostle Paul. Here's a fact. Most of the defection from the truth starts with confusion, confusion about what is right and what is wrong. Who is the god of confusion? Satan. He creates the confusion so that people will throw their hands up in the air and say, "Michael, I don't know what is right and what's wrong anymore". That's what the god of confusion does. He first creates the confusion. The moment the confusion starts and begins to spread around, particularly among so called churches, you know what happens? I think, I visualize Satan and all his demons down in the pit popping the champagne corks, and they're high-fiving each other. Don't ever give up biblical truth.
Don't ever be tempted. Don't fall for the gimmicks. Don't get side-tracked by silly and useless arguments and debates. Don't be tempted to be dragged into debating some foolishness that has nothing to do with salvation. Don't fall in the temptation of wasting your time and your life on people who want to confuse you. Say, "Thank you very much. I have important work to do just like Nehemiah". You know, Sanballat and Tobiah came to Nehemiah and said, "Come on, let's negotiate". He said, "No, I'm too busy, I'm doing God's work". No negotiation, no discussion. And here in 2 Timothy chapter 2, Paul gives Timothy three imageries to help him understand how to stand for the truth and how to invest the truth into others, three imageries. One is that of a soldier. The other is that of an athlete. And then a farmer. Verse 1, he said, "Therefore, my son, be strong".
You remember he's a son in the faith, he's not a physical son. Be strong in the faith. How? By gritting your teeth? No. Try to pull yourself by your bootstraps? No. By self-affirmation? "I can do this. I can do it. I can do, I can do. Yes, we can. Yes, we can". No, no, no, no. But by becoming strong in the grace that is in Jesus Christ. The verb "be strong" here is in the imperative mood, which is making it a loving command from a father to a son, lovingly asking the son to do something that he knows it's wonderful for him. You know, there are a lot of paradoxes in the Scripture, and I preach a whole sermon on all the paradoxes in the Bible. I think the Christian faith is the only faith that has paradoxes. But one of the most baffling paradox in the Scripture, one that I will never understand fully until I go to heaven and be with the Lord, is how God is almighty, all powerful, can do all things, sovereign overall, and yet he entrusts the guarding of the truth, the guarding of the gospel, the guarding of the Word of God to a fumbling and stumbling adopted children like us.
That's a paradox I'll never understand until I get to heaven. We who are fumbling and stumbling can never do it in our own strength. That's the one thing that he makes clear here in verse 1. You can only guard and proclaim the message of the grace of Jesus Christ through the power of that grace. Please hear me right. We're saved by grace, we are justified by grace, and we are sanctified by grace. We live by grace every moment of every day. We are empowered by grace to overcome and become overcomers. And now, he said that grace will sustain you as you're upholding the truth and never giving up on the truth. Paul begins the chapter by lovingly, lovingly and gently commanding this son in the faith, the next generation leaders of the church to draw his strength not from himself, not from his qualifications, not even from his gifts, but to draw all of his strength from the grace of God. How will he experience that grace of God?
And Paul immediately goes on to explain that you can only experience that power of the grace of God in you when you invest this treasure, when you invest these truth in the lives of others. That's the only way you can truly experience the power of the grace of God, when you pour into somebody else. Not only that Timothy, to be strong in the grace of God, but he also needs to teach others to be strong in the grace of God. Verse 2, "What you've heard from me before with many witnesses entrust this message to faithful men, who will also teach others". And he's saying to him the secret for victory over fear, and timidity, and anxiety, and sorrow is to invest himself in others. Listen to me, discipling and mentoring somebody else is the greatest blessing that you can receive. Can I get an amen?
By the same token, sitting on your gift or gifts, sitting on your blessed assurance will cause you all sorts of inner anguish. I am absolutely convinced that our faith is like electricity. It does not enter you and me fully. You notice why I said fully? Unless it can pass through us. If you are unwilling to pass God's truth to the next generation, you are the one who misses out on the greatest blessing. We pass to the next generation not personal power, we have no power. The only authority that we have is the authority of the Word of God. The only thing we have is the precious treasure, the gospel of Jesus. And my beloved friends, this cannot happen when we just sit in the pews. Why? Soldier, that's the first one. Why, soldier? Because soldiers do not expect a soft or easy time. Soldiers take hardship as a matter of course because soldiers take risks. Because soldiers fight to win. If you want to win and have victory, you must learn the rules of warfare. If you want to win, you have to get into the battlefield. You can't watch it on television.
And that is why Paul said, "As good soldier endure hardship". Soldiers don't get entangled in civilian life. As good soldiers, we must not fall in the trap of pleasing people. Instead, only seek to please our commander in chief, the Lord Jesus Christ. The second way we ought to faithfully pass on and transfer the truth of the gospel is found in the image of an athlete. Verse 5, look at it with me. As spiritual athletes, we don't compete against each other. We don't try to outperform each other. No, no, no, no, no, but we are competing against the world, the flesh, and the devil. In ancient Greece, a winning athlete receives an evergreen wreath. But the athlete, no matter how good he is, no matter how accomplished he may be, he had to compete according to the rules.
That's what Paul's saying here. As a matter of fact, the motto was, "No rules, no wreath". Say that with me. "No rules, no wreath". And while we are in the race of our lives, we must not run according to our own fancies and desires. Not according to the rules of the new morality. Not according to the rules of reinvented Christianity. Not according to the rules of feel good Christianity. Not according to the rules of some false preacher and false teacher. No according to the rules of I will get to it if I feel like it. No, the crown and the victory is awarded to those who compete according to the rules of the Word of God and the authority of the Scripture. The next imagery Paul gives us here that he uses for faithfully passing on the baton, passing on the baton of the truth of the gospel to the next generation is the hard-working farmer.
Being a soldier on active duty, being an athlete willing to run according to the rules, and in verse 6, being a hardworking farmer. In the old days, of course, before the days of mechanization, farmers did some backbreaking work. I mean, they tilled the soil whether the soil was good or bad. They worked whether the weather is good or bad. They could not afford to sit back and say, "Well, you know, I just don't feel like planting today". Or when the harvest is ready, you said, "You know, I'm not just, I don't feel of the Lord that I need to be harvesting". I tip my hat to farmers because they cannot afford to be lazy and just operate by their emotions, how they feel. If they don't feel like it, they don't do it.
In the book of Proverbs, it says, "The lazy farmer loses his harvest either because he's asleep when he ought to be reaping, or because he's too lazy to plow the fields". Verse 6, look at it again, that's why Paul said, "The hardworking farmer deserve the firstfruit of his labor". That means that we ought to be very careful in the tilling of the soil of our character, that we daily plant the seed of the Word of God, and that we harvest the crop of holiness in our lives. But that's not enough. That is not all. Listen carefully 'cause that's the burden of his heart in this passage here. We will not get a great harvest unless we do the same things in other people. Unless we till the soil, and plant the seed, and gather the harvest.
And here's the summary. There will be no victory for the soldier who does not fight to win. There will be no wreath for the athlete who does not compete according to the rules. There will be no harvest for the farmer unless he tills the soil, plants the seed, and gather the harvest. Look with me in verse 7, please. Because here he gives us the balance that enforces our faithfulness as being soldiers and athletes and farmers. What I mean by this is this. Here's what he said, reflect on the Word of God and the Holy Spirit is gonna grant you understanding of everything. Why is that? Because the Holy Spirit dwells in us, the Holy Spirit have written the book the Bible, and the same person who wrote the book is the same person who dwells in us, and that's why you must never start your Bible reading before praying, "Lord Jesus, open my eyes to see wonderful truth from your Word". And he will do, he will answer that one.
Otherwise, there are some people who might read the Bible every day. You know why? Because they want to tick the box. Read the Bible, done that. That person who reads without meditating on the Word of God in his life, it's not gonna take hold. And that is why, as I often say, pray, "Holy Spirit, open my eyes". In the early hours of the morning, when I'm all alone with God, and that book is open in my lap, and I cry to the Holy Spirit to open my eyes and teach me from his Word, invariably, invariably, and I'll be reading something and the Holy Spirit will stop me. And he will say, "Michael, read that again. This encouragement is supposed to be for you. This affirmation is for you today. Oh, this rebuke is for you because," and he point his fingers on things I needed to be rebuked about. "This challenge is for you. This correction is for you".
And then he goes in verses 8 to 13, Paul really just takes Timothy back to basics. This is 101, he takes him to basics. Those verses 8 to 13, look at them with me, please. "Remember Jesus". What? How can Timothy forget Jesus? He said that he remembered his tears when he came to Christ, coming to Christ with tears. How could he forget Jesus? How can you forget Jesus? How can I forget Jesus? Let me just jog your memory. You know, when you face a problem, a crisis pops up all of a sudden, and you start making decisions and very quickly. And you begin to think, "What's the ramification? What's the implication? What are the consequences"? And you're thinking about... are you thinking of Jesus? No, hello. What does he want me to do? What steps does he lead me to take? What decisions that you want me to make to glorify him first and foremost?
And Paul is telling Timothy remember Jesus, not only because he is the heart of the good news, not only he is the heart of the good deposit, not only because he is the essence of the gospel, but he's also a role model that you can only follow by the power of the Holy Spirit. Without the power of the Holy Spirit working in us, without his strength, without his grace, we'll stumble in the first step we take. Remember Jesus. He is risen from the dead, that's his divinity. He is the son of David, that's his humanity. Remember Jesus who died on the cross, but he did not stay on that cross. Remember Jesus who was buried in the tomb, but he did not stay in the tomb. Remember Jesus whose Good Friday followed by Easter Sunday. Remember Jesus whose Gethsemane was followed by the resurrection. Remember Jesus that who suffered alone is also saying to you that your suffering is only for a season, that your pain will not last forever.
The time is coming, Timothy, when all of the strain and the struggle will be over. The time is coming when the tears will be no more. The time is coming when the heavy weight of sin will be no more. Then the apostle concludes this particular section with a hymn. Most historians believe that this was a hymn that was sung in the early church. "If we die with him, we shall live with him". If we die to self, if we die to self-gratification, if we die to self-centeredness, we will rise with him in glory. "If we endure, we shall reign with him forever". If we persevere and stand up our biblical grounds, if we do not give up the battle, we will be honored by God himself. Ah, but, "If we deny him, he will deny us". Do you think you found that hard to take? It's the truth. If we deny him, if we are unfaithful, he remains faithful to himself. Did you get that? There's a whole movement among certain evangelicals who preach something called hyper grace.
You say, "Michael, what is hyper grace"? That you can sin to your heart's content and don't worry about it, God's grace will cover it. God's grace will cover it. You don't need to confess, you don't need to repent, you don't need to acknowledge your sin. Grace will cover it. Beloved, this could not be further from the truth. Here's what Paul is saying. If we are unfaithful to him, he will be faithful to himself. He will always be faithful to his promises. What are these promises? If we deny him, he will deny us. That's a promise, and he's faithful to his promise. Here's a much better translation. If we disbelieve him, he remains faithful, he cannot deny who he is. He cannot be untrue to himself. That's the one thing God cannot do is deny himself or be contrary to himself. He remains forever himself.
Some of these false teachers and preachers misinterpret this verse and say, "Well, in the end, God is gonna feel sorry for people, and he's gonna let them all come into his heaven". Really? That would be contrary to himself. That would be God contradicting himself. In fact, God's faithfulness to himself is demonstrated in his justice as much as it is demonstrated in his love. His love says, "Come to me. Come to me in repentance and faith, and I'll forgive you". His justice says, "You reject me, you reject my truth, I will deny you before my Father in heaven and his holy angels". His love and justice are two sides of the same coin. His love and his justice are the evidence of his faithfulness. And that is why every believer under the sound of my voice must ask themselves the question, "Am I passing on this truth to other faithful men and women, boys and girls? Am I passing that truth? Am I soldiering? Am I running the race according to the rules? Am I tilling the soil, planting the seed, gathering the harvest"?