Faithful: Shared Faith

Faithful: Shared Faith

Sermon Podcast Audio 

Now that its August, many people will say farewell to
their 18 year old children who are moving out of the house.
In this time of transition from high school to college, I guarantee these
parents are taking moments to give advice – to challenge and encourage their
kids on how to live, how to study, how to make friends, and in general, how to
be successful on their own.

Leaving home can be scary and exciting. It’s a typical time for a few parting words from parents,
teachers, and friends. It’s the nature of transition – people want to pass on life
lessons they learned to those who are following behind them.

Encouragement from Paul

The book of 2 Timothy is essentially the apostle Paul’s final
words of encouragement and challenge to his protégé, Timothy.
This book, or really letter, was the last recorded letter we have from the
Apostle Paul.

Based on the things Paul wrote in the letter, we know he was in
jail, ready to be killed for his faith. It was probably around 65 AD, when
Nero, the ruler of the Roman empire, was persecuting the Christians. So, we can
imagine, Paul is laying out all the most important advice he has for one of his
closest friends, somebody he is counting on to continue supporting the many
churches Paul planted.

The main message from Paul that we read in this letter is for Timothy to remain
faithful.

2 Timothy 2:1-2

You then, my child

These verses begin by showing just how close Paul and Timothy were. Paul often
referred to Timothy as his son.
What does that tell us about how Paul views Timothy?
Like any parent, I think Paul wants what’s best for Timothy, and he feels
responsible for Timothy.

Paul knows that it was his own teaching and modeling
as a spiritual father that has most shaped Timothy’s faith and conduct.
As the chapter continues, don’t forget that close bond
between these two.

be continually strengthened

While almost no version of the bible gives this exact phrase, this is really the best
translation given the verb tense used in the Greek. I point this out because it’s important to see that what Paul is going to challenge
Timothy to do will take continual strength.
It’s not going to be easy. It’s not going to be a one-time event. It’s going to be an ongoing, challenging task – one which takes
continual, ongoing strength.
It seems intimidating, doesn’t it? But that’s why we have the next phrase.

by the grace that is in Christ Jesus

None of us can have continual strength in the face of adversity and
persecution. Eventually, we all lose faith and succumb to the pressure. But
Paul is telling Timothy – for you it’s different, your strength doesn’t come
from within – it comes from the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

Remember that grace is unearned favor, and this continual strength is coming
from the unearned favor of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who has sent His Holy
Spirit to every person who believes in Him.

And now here is the actual challenge Paul is issuing to Timothy:

and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust to
faithful people

Basically, what Paul is saying is: Take everything you heard me say and pass it
on to others!

Pass It On

In order to dig a bit deeper, we can ask: what is Timothy to pass on? The answer we find in verse 2 is: “What you have heard from me
in the presence of many witnesses.” What do you think that is? What were the
things that Paul probably taught most often, especially in front of others –
the things Paul most wanted passed on?

The obvious answer is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Earlier in this letter, Paul
told Timothy,

“Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord … who saved us
and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his
own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,
and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ
Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through
the gospel,” -2 Timothy 1:8-10

That right there is the heart of what Paul is telling Timothy to make sure he
passes on to others. People need to know Jesus Christ saved us from death, not
because of anything we did, but by his grace. And in freeing us from death, he
has given us life and immortality to be with God for all of eternity.

That is Good News. That sets people free. That is something worth giving your
life for. And that message is what far too few people in America understand
anymore! Instead, we pass on other meaningless stuff – like that people should
live their lives according to a list of do’s and don’ts, should give to the
church, and be an overall “good person” if they want to get to Heaven. But Paul
focuses Timothy on this core truth – the Good News of Jesus!

The Twist

But here comes the surprise. Paul doesn’t stop here. If this is how this
sentence ended, all of us would nod our heads in agreement – yup one pastor
encouraging another pastor to teach the Gospel. Sounds good. Totally expected.
But here’s the twist:
entrust to faithful people who will be able to pass it on to others also.

So, this charge is for more than just Timothy – it’s for all those he entrusts
the Gospel to. Just like Paul taught Timothy, and Timothy is to teach others,
even those others are to teach even more people.
And this isn’t meant to be like seminary, where Paul, a preacher, is teaching
Timothy, a preacher, to only teach other preachers who only teach other preachers.

The way Paul writes this, nobody is off the hook of being expected to pass on
the faith. Paul is challenging Timothy to begin a discipling network where
everyone passes down their faith to another after they receive it.

Before I continue, I want to clarify one thing, when I say “pass on the faith”
I’m not referring to evangelism. While that is an essential part of being a
Christian – sharing the news of Jesus with non-Christians – that’s not what
Paul is instructing Timothy about here. This passage is about discipling young
Christians to be the next leaders and making sure they are taught everything
they need to be mature in Christ and pass it on to others.

Application

Now when we look at these two verses all put together, it has a pretty clear
message both for Timothy back almost 2000 years ago and for us today. The
message is this – By the strength God gives you, pass on your faith!

I know this sounds really simple, but may I ask you a question: who are you
passing on your faith to? I imagine  many of us don’t have
a specific person in mind, or maybe we’re thinking of somebody we ONCE passed
our faith on to, but who are we discipling today?
Now in asking this question, I’m not trying to make you feel guilty, but I am
hoping to challenge you going forward.

You see, it’s not fair for me to blame any of you for not being more active in
passing on your faith. The church has to take a lot of the blame for a couple
of reasons.

1) Many of you have been taught through the years that pastors have the
spiritual gift of teaching, and therefore, we are the ones who are to teach and
train people in spiritual things. As a result, you haven’t seen passing on the
faith as something that’s your responsibility. Instead, you have simply tried
to get people to come to church with you so the PROFESSIONAL teachers could do
what we do best.

2) Similarly, you have been given the impression that passing on faith to
others is difficult because it takes an advanced degree from seminary. As a
result, you not only have been told it’s not your job, but you have implicitly
been told, “You’re not qualified to do it.”

Today I want to tell you that both these messages are completely and
utterly untrue.
Yes, pastors are supposed to have the spiritual gift of teaching, but I think
it’s wrong to assume that passing on faith to another person requires the gift
of teaching.

For example, being a “teacher” is not a prerequisite for parenting. Parenting is teaching through sharing life together, teaching in the middle of
experiences, and simply being there to answer questions as your kids mature and
ask more and more questions.

In the same way, passing your faith on to a
younger believer doesn’t require you to teach a Bible lesson but to simply walk
through life with that person, sharing how the Gospel intersects every arena of
life.
And since you don’t have to be a teacher to help a new Christian grow, you also
don’t need a degree on your wall to be qualified to pass on your faith. The
only qualifications are that you understand the Christian faith yourself and
are striving to live it out by the strength of God’s grace.

So, if you consider
yourself a mature Christian who tries to live like Jesus, you are more than
qualified to disciple others in their faith.
If you have been a
Christian for more than a year, you should be able to disciple another person.

Needs at Ashworth Road

You are capable of leading the ministries of this
church! It’s not the job of the pastors to do all the ministry to you or for
you – Ephesians 4 says its our job to equip YOU to do the ministry of the
church. And right now, what we are realizing as a staff is that we are reaching
our capacity as a staff for doing more ministry.

We realize
that we are going to have to shift our focus to being more intentional to equip
you to do the ministry of the church.
Brent made this statement earlier this week, “Discipleship is our top priority
at Ashworth Road this year.” If we don’t begin to shift from being a church
where the pastors are doing all the discipling to a church where the people are
released as spiritual leaders to train others, then we are hitting our maximum
effectiveness as a church.

We need you to accept the call to help disciple
others and pass on the faith.
Here are a few examples of where we need you to step into the ministry of
disciple-making:

  • As a youth pastor, I have 25-30 kids coming every Wednesday
    night, and while I would love to personally teach and train every one of them,
    I simply don’t have the time. I need a good-sized team of others to come
    alongside me if I want to actually disciple these youth and help pass on faith to them. Otherwise, for most of the teens, I’m just a talking head at the
    front of the room, spouting off stuff about Jesus, but I never actually know
    them or their issues, and I never speak to their specific need.
  • As we are putting together discipleship groups, we are realizing that
    we have way more people who want to be in a group and be discipled, than people
    who feel qualified and capable to lead the groups. Again, the load on the
    pastors is larger than we can carry, and we need a small army of people
    standing with us, ready to take on the roll of passing on their faith to
    others.
  • Even Kerri needs help with Kid’s ministry, finding people who want to be
    involved in discipling our children in the language they understand – love and
    play. I know working with kids may seem like a tiring task, some of you may
    even see it as unimportant, but most people make a commitment to follow Jesus
    before the age of 12 – so these kids are at the opportune age to commit their
    lives to Jesus and soak up all that it means to follow him. 

Conclusion

In saying all this, I hope you hear how important it is for you all to receive
this message today. We need people to begin to see themselves as the next
generation of leaders who are going to actively take part in the faith
development of another.

We need people to understand that following Jesus means more
than sitting and soaking under his teaching – it means passing on what you
learn so the message of Jesus may spread.
We need you to recognize that you are qualified and capable to step into these
roles. Without you, our existence as a church rests on the energy of the
pastors.

Yes, this is a call to something that is hard and takes time. That’s why Paul
told Timothy to be continually strengthened. And that is why you will have to
rely on the strength that comes from God alone if you are to accept this
mission. There will be times where you will wonder if you are making any
difference. But then you will see
those breakthroughs and realize that all your energy and toil were worth it –
1000 times worth it.

Can you imagine what our church could be like if in a couple years we had
80% you actively passing your faith on to people who were new to faith in our
church. Rather than waiting for these new people to slowly learn what they need
to by attending church on Sundays, imagine the difference it would make to have
somebody in their life, teaching them through various experiences, making sure
to pass on the truths that are most important.

This is exactly how we grew up in our families. It’s exactly what we do as our
teenagers prepare to leave the nest. And it’s exactly what we need to focus on
doing to help develop new Christians to become people of impact for the Kingdom
of God.

By the strength God gives you, you must pass on your faith! That was Paul’s
challenge to Timothy and that’s my challenge to you today.

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