Pastor David B. Curtis

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Empowering Grace

2 Timothy 2:1

Delivered 06/18/2000

How many of you enjoy being sick? I know that that's a stupid question, nobody enjoys being sick. I think that if we had our choice, we would all like to live long and healthy lives. And I think that most of us realize that, for the most part, a long healthy life is the result of appropriating means to acquire that end. We know that God is sovereign over health and life, but I hope we also know that God uses means to accomplish his ends. The consensus among health and fitness people is that the two main contributing factors to longevity and health are diet and exercise. Relax this is not a health message - just an analogy.

I read an article last week about Jack LaLanne. Jack is now 85 years young. A recent computer analysis pegged his physiological age at 29. Jack works out every day, and his philosophy is to do every exercise as hard as possible. He also claims to work every one of the 640 muscles in his body every day. This includes facial exercises and picking up marbles with his toes. Not only does Jack work out every day, he also is very disciplined in what he eats. He says, "If man makes it, I don't eat it. And I don't eat anything that comes from a cow."

On his 70th birthday, Jack towed 70 boats bearing a total of 70 people 1½ miles while handcuffed and shackled.

Norman Walker, who is recognized throughout the world as one of the most authoritative students of health and nutrition, advocated a vegetarian diet with plenty of exercise. He recently died at the age of 119.

Though we would all like to be healthy and active at 85 like Jack LaLanne are we willing to apply the means of diet and exercise to get there? The majority of us are not. Most people fall into the category of wanting things that we are not willing to work for.

Proverbs 13:4 (NKJV) The soul of a lazy man desires, and has nothing; But the soul of the diligent shall be made rich.

Well, just as there is a pathology to the physical life the same is true of the spiritual life. If we want to live healthy productive spiritual lives, we must appropriate the means that God has prescribed. Just as Jack LaLanne and Norman Walker didn't drift into a healthy physical life, neither will we drift into a healthy spiritual life. Spiritual victory is attainable, but we must appropriate the means that God has prescribed in order to reach that goal.

In our study this morning, I want us to focus on:

2 Timothy 2:1 (NKJV) You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

Paul is writing this to Timothy, his son in the faith. Through the preaching of Paul, Timothy had come to know the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior. For many years, Timothy had traveled with Paul on his missionary journeys. He had been Paul's companion, even in prison. Entirely faithful to Paul, he had been like a son to him.

At some point, Paul had left Timothy in Ephesus to build up the church there. Timothy was more than a local pastor. He was a representative of the Apostle Paul. As the course of his life unfolded, Paul ended up in prison in Rome. Imprisoned for the faith - a prisoner of Emperor Nero. From that prison cell he wrote Timothy in Ephesus. This is Paul's last letter. He wanted to encourage Timothy to continue faithfully in his service to the Lord.

Paul's command to "be strong " is in the present tense, which more precisely means: "keep being strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus ".

Does that command sound strange to you? Do you know how to be strong in grace? In order to know how to be strong in grace, you must first know what grace is.

In order to interpret the Bible correctly, we must have some understanding of Hermeneutics. Hermeneutics is the science of biblical interpretation.

The purpose of hermeneutics is to establish guidelines and rules for interpreting the Bible. Any written document is subject to misinterpretation, and thus we have developed rules to safeguard us from such misunderstanding.

God has spoken, and what He has said is recorded in Scripture. The basic need of hermeneutics is to ascertain what God meant by what he said If we are going to understand what God meant by what He said, we must diligently work at applying the rules of hermeneutics. And one of those rules is: Determine carefully the meaning of words.

Whatever else the Bible is, it is a book which communicates information verbally. That means that it is filled with words. Thoughts are expressed through relationships of those words. Each individual word contributes something to the whole of the content expressed. The better understanding we have of the individual words used in biblical statements, the better we will be able to understand the total message of Scripture. Accurate communication and clear understanding are difficult when words are used imprecisely or ambiguously. Misuses of words and misunderstanding go hand in hand. Take for example:

Proverbs 29:18 (KJV) Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

This verse is often quoted to inspire people to look to the future and believe that God will do great things in a certain area, such as a vision of church growth, or a building program. What does the word "vision"mean? Webster gives a meaning of: "the ability to foresee or perceive something not actually visible." That is often how this verse is interpreted. But, what does the Hebrew word used here mean? "Vision" is the Hebrew word chazown, which means: "a revelation from God." Having no revelation from God is quite different than not having the ability to foresee something not visible. The NKJV makes this verse more understandable to the twentieth century reader.

Proverbs 29:18 (NKJV) Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; But happy is he who keeps the law.

There are two basic methods by which words are defined: etymology - which is the science of word derivations. And usage - which is how the author uses a word. Usage always takes precedence over etymology. In addition to origins and derivations, it is extremely important for us to study language in the context of its usage. This is necessary because words undergo changes in meaning depending on how they are used. The word "scan" used to be defined in English dictionaries as meaning: "to read carefully, in close detail." More recent editions define scan as: "to skim over lightly."

Also, there are scores of words in the Bible that have multiple meanings. Only the context can determine the particular meaning of a word. An example of this would be the word "grace."

When we hear the word "grace", we most likely think of it as: "Free and unmerited favor shown to guilty sinners who deserve only judgment." That is a meaning of grace, but it's not its only meaning. That meaning doesn't fit in our text.

2 Timothy 2:1 (NKJV) You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

How was Timothy to be strong in the "free and unmerited favor shown to guilty sinners who deserve only judgment"?

The verb "be strong" is in the imperative mood; that is, it expresses a command. Paul wanted Timothy to do something to receive this grace, but "grace" by definition is free and unmerited.

We must understand that "grace" is also used in the Bible to mean: "God's power that enables us to deal with life's circumstances."

Let's read the verse that way and see if it makes sense. You therefore, my son, be strong in God's power that enables us to deal with life's circumstances [the grace] that is in Christ Jesus.

Paul wanted Timothy to appropriate God's grace and be strong in it. Now, the question is: How do believers appropriate God's grace? Let me answer that question in one word and then expound upon that word - humility! We appropriate the grace of God by humility.

I think that we can see this in the verses that tell us that God gives grace to the humble.

Proverbs 3:34 (NKJV) Surely He scorns the scornful, But gives grace to the humble.
James 4:6 (NKJV) But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble."
1 Peter 5:5 (NKJV) Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble."

So, God gives grace - His enabling power to deal with life's circumstances - to the humble. If we are going to "be strong in His grace", we must be humble.

Do you understand the biblical concept of humility? Could you give a definition of humility? We can't humble ourselves if we don't know what humility is. Humility is not a downcast attitude of one who is unable to look someone in the eyes, and says, "Gosh, I'm really nothing." Biblically, humility is dependence upon God and submission to His will.

How do we humble ourselves before God? We need to know this. If the humble receive grace, we must know how to be humble. We need grace, enabling power to live our lives. By "appropriating God's grace," I mean to take possession of the divine strength He has made available to us in Christ. God uses means to bring us His grace. We appropriate grace through humility.

Both Peter and James connect humility with submission to God.

1 Peter 5:5 (NKJV) Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble."
James 4:6-7 (NKJV) But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble." 7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

Submitting to God is humility. The word that Peter and James use for "submit" is the Greek word hupotasso, which means: "to line up under, to get in rank." It demands that we accept our proper station under God as our absolute authority. Submission has the idea of obedience. Luke uses the same Greek verb when he describes the 12 year old Jesus in:

Luke 2:51 (NIV) Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart.

Let me give you three ways in which we are to submit to God:

1. SPEND TIME IN GOD'S WORD.

Why is it important for us, as Christians, to read and study the Bible? It is important because the Bible is a means of appropriating God's grace.

Acts 20:32 (NKJV) "So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

The reference here is to the ongoing use of Scripture in our daily lives to build us up in the Christian faith. Paul calls it, "the word of His grace;" the word through which we come to understand and appropriate God's grace in our daily lives. The Bible is the only source of truth we have about God.

2 Timothy 3:16 (NKJV) All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,

Paul is saying to Timothy that the Bible comes from God. He is its ultimate author. The Bible provides information that is not available anywhere else. The Bible is divine self-disclosure. In it, the mind of God is revealed on many matters. With a knowledge of Scripture, we do not have to rely on secondhand information or bare speculation to learn who God is, and what he values. In the Bible, God reveals himself.

If we are to appropriate the grace of God, then, we must spend time in our Bibles. We must seek to know and understand the great truths of Scripture.

The Bible is more than just a book of objective truth; it is actually life-giving and life-sustaining.

John 6:63 (NKJV) "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.

Growth in the grace of God requires time spent in the word of God. God works in our lives through His word.

1 Thessalonians 2:13 (NKJV) For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of Godwhich you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.

How do we know that God's grace is sufficient for our particular trials? How do we learn the importance of humility and the destruction of pride? Where do we learn about the grace of God? The answer to all of these questions is the Scriptures. That is why Scripture is called the word of His grace. God uses Scripture to mediate His grace to us. R.C.H. Lenski said, "God and the Word of his grace always go together; God lets his grace flow out through that Word."

The close connection between God and the word of His grace is illustrated in:

Romans 15:4-5 (NKJV) For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope. 5 Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus,

Verse 4 tells us that we receive patience and comfort from the Scripture. Yet verse 5 says God gives patience and consolation. Patience and consolation are provisions of God's grace to help in time of need. He usually provides these provisions through His word.

If we are to appropriate the grace of God, then, we must regularly expose ourselves directly to the Word of God. We don't earn God's blessing by reading His word. But a regular intake of God's word is necessary to sustain a healthy spiritual life and to appropriate His grace.

The humble person, the one dependent upon God, comes to God's word on a regular basis to learn from God. But the proud person spends no time in the word; he doesn't need to learn, he doesn't need God's counsel, he is independent. I think that a lack of time spent in Scripture is a manifestation of pride.

Jeremiah 13:15 (NKJV) Hear and give ear: Do not be proud, For the LORD has spoken.
Psalms 119:21 (NKJV) You rebuke the proud; the cursed, Who stray from Your commandments.

I'm sure that those of you who regularly spend time in God's word understand that it is a means of grace. It is through His word that he strengthens us, encourages us, comforts us. Truly God's word is a means of grace. If we are going to appropriate God's grace, we must spend time in His word.

So we submit to God by spending time in His Word. And we are also to -

2. LIVE IN SUBMISSION TO GOD'S AUTHORITY STRUCTURE.

All authority that exists is from God and we must line up under his authority structure if we are to receive His grace. Let me give you several institutions that we must submit to.

A. Family

Wives are to submit to their husbands and children are to submit to their parents.

Ephesians 5:22 (NKJV) Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.
Ephesians 6:1 (NKJV) Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.
1 Peter 3:1 (NKJV) Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives,
1 Peter 3:5-6 (NKJV) For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands, 6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror.

Now, some of you women might be asking, "Aren't we all equal spiritually?" Yes, we are according to:

Galatians 3:28 (NKJV) There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

We all stand before God equal in Christ, but in terms of function there must be authority and submission.

1 Corinthians 11:3 (NKJV) But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.

Aren't Christ and the Father equal? Yes they are equal in essence, but in terms of function within the Godhead, the Son submitted to the Father in a beautiful act of humility. The same is true in marriage, for the sake of function, the woman is to take the place of submission to the headship of the man.

For a wife or child to not live in submission to their husband or parents is to be proud, and to be proud is to not receive God's grace. God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.

How do you tell who is the head of the family? The head is the one making the decisions. Men, are you the head of your family? You're supposed to be.

B. Government.

1 Peter 2:13-14 (NKJV) Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake, whether to the king as supreme, 14 or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good.

Peter says that believers are to submit to every ordinance of man. Why? Because society is maintained on the basis of authority and submission. Without it there would be anarchy. Whether we like our government or not we are to submit to its lawful laws, all of them, as unto the Lord.

C. Church.

Hebrews 13:7 (NKJV) Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct.
Hebrews 13:17 (NKJV) Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.

The leaders of the local church are part of God's authority structure. Believers are to submit to the elders of their local church.

D. Labor Relations.

1 Peter 2:18 (NKJV) Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh.

If you are not submitting to your boss, you're not submitting to God, and you are proud and will not receive God's grace.

We are to live in submission to God's Word, to His authority structure, and to His:

3. PROVIDENCE.

Are you living in humble submission to God's providential dealing in your life? We talked about this last week. God works in our lives through circumstances. An example of this is seen in Job's life. When faced with some extremely bad circumstances Job submitted to God's providence when he said:

Job 1:20-21 (NKJV) Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. 21 And he said: "Naked I came from my mother's womb, And naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD."

Is this how you respond to difficult circumstances? This is submission to God's providence.

Do you want to be strong in the grace of God? The humbling of ourselves under God's mighty hand always leads to grace. This grace consists in God giving us the strength to deal with our circumstances, whatever they are. That is something we all want.

So, as you can see, humility is the key in all of these means. It is the humble person who spends time in the Word of God, lives in submission to God's authority structure and submits to God's providential will. As we read the word, submit to authority and to God's providence, we are given grace - the power to enable us to deal with life's circumstances.

James 4:6 (NKJV) But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble."

If you are proud (not spending time in God's Word, not submitting to authority, and not submitting to God's providence in your life), God will resist you. But if you are humble, God gives you grace - enabling power! Spiritual health is no accident.

1 Peter 5:6 (NKJV) Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time,

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