First Presbyterian Church of Elmer
107 Chestnut Street
Elmer, NJ 08318
Sermon Notes (Sunday February 22nd, 2015)
Rev. Mouris Yousef, Pastor
“An Unchanging Message for an Ever-Changing World” #4
Isaiah 49:1-6; 2 Timothy 1:13-14
This morning we conclude a 4-week series of messages that we titled, “Un Unchanging Message for an Ever-Changing World.” As I was preparing these messages, I had a solo goal in my mind that is giving ourselves as individuals and as a congregation another chance to discover or rediscover the meaning and the implications of the gospel of Christ on our lives. Galatians 1:6-10 has been a key Scripture to this series of messages. We said that it is very easy to lose sight of the one true gospel. You and I know that there are many false ones out there! We are always tempted to alter, to modify, and to water down the demands of the one true gospel. We are always tempted to embrace and to pursue a cheap grace rather than the costly grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.
This morning I would like to spend sometime with the words of the Scripture in 2 Timothy 1:13-14. Paul charges Timothy, a young minister in Ephesus, to “Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to him.” When we have something that’s worth guarding, then we find a safe place to put it. We can buy a safe, we can rent a safety deposit box in a bank, or if we lived during the time of Jesus, we would dig a hole somewhere in our field or house and store our valuable treasures in jars of clay. We, the Church of Jesus Christ, have something worth protecting. We have something worth guarding. Scripture is very clear about this. This morning I would like to look at this and ask two questions. The first: what is it that we have to protect? Second: how do we protect it?
First: What Is It That We Have to Protect?
The second letter to Timothy was written near the end of Paul’s life. Paul was in prison in Rome awaiting death. Within a few short years after writing this letter, Paul would be martyred under Nero’s reign. And so Paul writes this letter to his young associate, Timothy, encouraging him to continue the fight of faith even as Paul approaches the end of his life.
At the end of the previous letter that Paul had written to Timothy, a few years earlier, Paul had written in 1 Timothy 6:20, “O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you.” What deposit? What is Paul talking about? Well, here in Paul’s second letter to Timothy in chapter 1:13-14, Paul again writes: “What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you – guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.” What Paul is saying here is that Timothy has been given something that is valuable and that needs to be protected. It’s a deposit – something that one person has placed in trust to another person’s safekeeping.
Paul is talking about the message that he has entrusted to Timothy. The gospel is the good deposit we’ve received. The apostolic gospel is the good deposit. It is “the pattern of sound teaching.” In 2:2 Paul calls it “The things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses.” Paul charges Timothy to protect it, keep watch over it, and with God’s help ensure that it’s kept safe. In other words, it’s something that is in danger of being lost if it is not protected. Friends, the gospel is too valuable to lose. There is nothing that is more important than guarding the gospel.
Second: How Do We Protect It?
How do we protect the gospel? I am sure we could come up with all kinds of ways to answer this question. As your pastor, I always ask myself how can I keep the gospel central to our life together here at the Elmer Presbyterian Church. That is my job as I preach weekly. Everything I teach must be grounded in the gospel. I need to make gospel connections, showing the doctrinal and behavioral implications of the gospel. Every ministry of the church must maintain the gospel at its core. We’ve got to be swinging the gospel hammer continually. I think this is exactly what Paul is saying we need to do.
But the important question I am posing here is: what do we need to do to protect the gospel? The general thought over the last few weeks was in order to guard it, we first have to know it. Let me add a couple quick thoughts to this. From Paul’s letters to Timothy, two important things can be identified as fundamental ways to guard the gospel message. The first important thing is Evangelism, sharing the good news with others. This is exactly what Paul mentioned in 2 Timothy 1:8-10, “So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life–not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” In Isaiah 49:6 God says, “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”
A second way to guard the gospel message is found in 2 Timothy 2:1-2, “You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.” Paul says that’s exactly what Timothy is to do. He has already had this information passed on to him by Paul in the presence of other witnesses. He’s supposed to find reliable people so he can entrust the gospel to them. But those reliable people are not supposed to just hold on to the gospel themselves. They will be entrusted with the gospel so that they, in turn, can pass it on to others. We already have four generations in this verse: Paul, Timothy, reliable people, and others. The gospel is protected as it is transmitted from generation to generation. We become part of a living chain of truth that extends through the centuries. The story of Christianity is one of countless chains, countless generations who have entrusted the gospel to others who can, in turn, entrust the gospel again to the next generation. This applies to all of us: elders, deacons, members, parents, Sunday school teachers, youth leaders, and everyone.
Surprisingly enough, Paul is not saying that we protect the gospel through printing out millions and billions of copies of the Bible. We do not guard the gospel though building magnificent cathedrals. We do not protect the gospel when we take it and hide it for ourselves. Rather, we guard the one true gospel when we share it with others and keep it alive. We guard it when we entrust it to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. My hope for each one of us during the month of February was to gain greater clarity on the gospel and all of its implications. As we do this, we would value the message, treasure it, and allow the message to move us to share it with others and entrust it to reliable followers who qualify to teach others. Church, you’ve the best product ever. We have the most amazing news anyone can hear! Let me stop here today and we will begin a new series of messages during the month of March that I called, The Great Ends of the Church. In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!