The Church at War
THE CHURCH AT WAR
1 Timothy 6:11-21
If you have a Bible, and I hope you do, I’m going to invite you to open with me to 1 Timothy 6 as we prepare to finish out, tonight, our journey through Paul’s first letter to Timothy. We have seen Paul address false teachers, importance of prayer, instructions regarding leaders in the church, instructions regarding widows and elders, instructions to slaves and masters. He has warned us about the dangers of materialism. Then, you start thinking, as we come to the end of this letter, you think, “All right, as Paul brings this thing to a climax, to a conclusion, what is utmost in his mind that he wants to communicate to Timothy, that he wants to leave with Timothy and the church at Ephesus? What’s most important, in a sense?” These are the words he writes. 1 Timothy 6:11:
“But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.
“As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life. O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called ‘knowledge,’ for by professing it some have swerved from the faith. Grace be with you.”
Recognize the Global Reality…
So, one key statement in what we just read that I think sums up the essence of Paul’s final charge to Timothy. It’s in verse 12; you might underline it. This simple sentence: “Fight the good fight of the faith.” It’s the same language Paul used back in the first chapter, at the end of the first chapter, when he said, “Timothy, wage the good warfare, holding on to your faith.” So, it’s almost like he’s bookending it. End of chapter one, end of chapter six, saying to Timothy, “Timothy, you are in a war. You are in a fight that requires vigilance in order to hold on to your faith.” That’s what I want us to realize this morning...to realize this global reality: you are involved in a spiritual war. We, together, are involved in a spiritual war, and it involves every single one of us in this room. The Bible is clear on this one: we are in wartime, not peacetime.
This is all over Scripture. We don’t have time to turn to all of these places, but Hebrews 12:4 says, “We are at war against sin.” 1 Peter 2:11 says, “There is a war waging within our souls.” Jude 3 talks about the struggle of our faith. In the very next book, a letter that Paul writes to Timothy...2 Timothy...Paul says, “We are soldiers.” In the second letter that he writes to the Corinthians, two times Paul talks about how we as Christians have weapons that we fight with. Ephesians 6:12 may be the clearest when Paul says, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” The reality is every single person in this room is involved in a spiritual war. Get this. Recognize this. Realize this.
It looks different in each of our lives, but there are things going on in every single one of our lives in this room. There are things going on that are attacking your faith. Some of you in this room are in a battle for your marriage at this moment. Some of you are battling as parents with children. There are battles for purity happening across minds and lives all across this room. Brothers, some of your minds are battlegrounds for lustful thoughts...war being waged. Singles, some of you are in relationships where there is a daily, weekly, battle for purity and holiness. Married brothers and sisters, there are some of you that are in battle against an affair coming around the corner you’re inching toward. There are battles over worry, and doubt and despair represented across this room. Maybe for some of you it’s all of the above, or even things we haven’t even mentioned. There’s a battle for materialism that is raging all around us in this culture that is affecting your soul.
Here’s the reality: we are involved in a spiritual war. Whether you’re at home, whether you’re at work, whether you’re on your campus, whether you’re alone, whether you’re with others, there’s spiritual battle raging. You might think, “Well, I’m not even a Christian. This doesn’t apply to me.” Absolutely, it applies to you. There is a spiritual battle raging for your soul at this moment.
We’re involved in a spiritual war, and the enemy in this spiritual war is formidable. Spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms who desire, whose aim is to defame God’s glory, to distort God’s gospel and destroy God’s people. There is an adversary who wants to wreck your marriage. There is an adversary who wants to destroy your relationships; an adversary who wants to abolish your purity; attack your integrity at all costs; keep you from knowing the goodness and the glory of God and spreading the gospel of God. 1 Peter 5:8 says, “...the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” He is your enemy and, though he is not God, no matter how strong or smart you think you are, you are no match for him on your own.
Scope of this spiritual war is universal, cosmic in scope. It involves every language, every people, every nation, every tribe, every family and every life, which means involvement in this spiritual war is inevitable. You do not choose whether or not to be involved in this spiritual war. Your involvement in this spiritual war began the day you were born. You cannot ignore this war. The Bible does not say, “Ignore the devil and he will flee from you.” If you try to avoid this war, pretending like there is no struggle to be had or war to be fought, then you will not stand; you will waver, you will falter, you will be defeated by the enemy. Spiritual retreat only leads to spiritual defeat, which is dangerous because the stakes in this spiritual war are eternal.
Hear this: Casualties in this war do not merely lose an arm or a leg or an eye or even an earthly life; casualties in this war lose everything, even their own soul, and they’re plunged into a hell of everlasting torment. I don’t want to over-dramatize this, but this is reality. Think about it. There is a God over this world who desires every single person in this room to be saved. There is a god...little “g” god...in this world who desires every single person in this room to burn in hell. Cosmic battle...you and I right in the middle of it. How we fight this battle, wage this warfare...to use Paul’s language here...has implications for every one of our lives for all of eternity and the lives of others for all of eternity.
Fight the Good Fight…
So, feel this. Paul says, “Timothy, fight the good fight.” Now, you think, “Is there such a thing as a good fight?” “Yes,” Paul says there. There is such thing as a good fight. When you’re fighting for eternal life, when you fight for joy and for peace, when you fight for confidence and fight for hope, this is a very good fight for you, and not just for you, for others. For when you fight the fight to live and spread the gospel so that others escape everlasting torment and enter into everlasting life, that’s a good fight. This is a good fight.
I think about yesterday morning in my life. I think about two brothers in our faith family who I thought were my friends...Mark Whitehead and Forest Walden...one of them an elder, no less...and they’ve been trying for a while to get me to a place called Irontribe; it’s a cross-fit workout. Yesterday was “Friend Day,” so they invited me to “Friend Day.” Now, when I think of something like “Friend Day,” I have pleasant thoughts in my mind. I have thoughts of friends smiling, joking and having fun. “Friend Day” is a happy day.
Not this “Friend Day.” I get there yesterday morning, and we were told that together as friends, we’re going to do a simple 12-minute workout. “Twelve minutes,” I think. “How tough can that be?” So first, we warm up. Let me just say that I was winded and sore at the end of the warm-up. Then began the longest 12 minutes of my entire life...running, doing ball tosses and squats and ring pushups. Twelve minutes later, I was on the floor, my legs threatening to explode. Lying there, pale, as people walked around me speaking in hushed tones, asking, “Is that guy okay?” “No!” I thought, “I am not okay! I’m miserable!” When I woke up this morning, I was not okay. I can hardly lift my hands above my shoulders. I couldn’t even worship tonight. I had to stop like right here; couldn’t get any farther. I’m fine sitting down right now, but I’m afraid of what will happen when I stand up in a few minutes.
There were other members from Brook Hills watching this, and one of their children came up to me as I’m lying there, miserable, and this child has the audacity to look at me in the face, this young child, and say, “Pastor David, you’re a pretty good preacher, but you’re not a good runner.” So, I look back at that and strangely I conclude that was good. Clearly, my body needed that. So, it was a good fight. Not an easy fight, but a good fight, and I will be going back to fight for more.
So, here’s what I want us to do tonight: I want you to think about where the fight is being waged in your heart and life right now at this moment. So, we’re all involved in spiritual war; there are battles raging in each of our lives in different ways. It might be some of the things I mentioned...maybe in your marriage, or your parenting, or relationships; how this battle is raging in your thoughts, in your emotions. So, where is the point? I want you to think in your life, right where you’re sitting; where’s the point or where are the points where the spiritual battle is raging the most fierce in you right now? What I want you to do is I want you to keep that at the forefront of your mind, and I want to bring the Word to bear on that. I want to comfort you. I want to challenge you. I want to encourage you to fight that fight well.
What Paul does, is he surrounds the statement, “to fight the good fight” with imperative verbs, with commands, for Timothy to know how to fight this fight. So, I’ve got five of them listed in your notes here, and I just want you to keep those things that are going on in your life right now at the forefront of your mind and let this Word just come right into your lap and to the middle of the spiritual battles that you find yourself in.
Flee evil that pulls you from God.
Here’s the first thing Paul says. Verse 11, he says, “But as for you, O man of God, flee these things.” So, how do you fight the spiritual battle around you? Number one: you flee evil that pulls you from God. You fight by fleeing. Now, you might think, “That doesn’t sound like fighting. That sounds like running from a fight.” Brothers and sisters, sometimes running is the best way to fight for your life. If I meet a 300-pound strong man in the street who wants to demolish me, hand-to-hand combat is not going to be the best strategy to fight for my life. Running is going to be the best strategy to fight for my life. So, Paul says, “Run from these things.” What he’s talking about when he says, “these things,” is the materialism and quarrelling and slander and selfishness that he’s mentioned right before this in chapter six. He says, “Run from sinful actions. Run from every temptation to sin. Flee. Don’t flirt with sin; flee from sin.” Sin. Get this. Do not be deceived. Sin always starts slowly. Sin always starts suddenly. Just one glance. Just one thought. Just one kiss. Just one purchase. Just one minute. Just one whatever. No! Run! Run!
However, see this. This goes deeper than just actions. Paul says, “Run from sinful desires.” Run from “these things.” You go back to what he said right before this in verses 9 and 10. He’s been talking about the desire for riches; the love of money; cravings that pull you from God. Whenever you have a desire that pulls you from God, run! Then...now don’t miss this; take this one step deeper. This is so huge. In the fight of faith, we’re not just running from sinful actions or sinful desires. Ultimately, we’re running from sinful thoughts. Think about it. “Fight the good fight” of what? Faith. Fight the good fight of faith, and faith at the core is belief.
The Bible is saying here, “Fight to believe God.” This is huge! You think about it. Why do we...right after what Paul has said in 1 Timothy 6 about materialism, why do we run after materialism and things? Paul made it very clear. The reason we run after materialism and things is because we do not believe God is gain. We do not believe God is enough for us, so we fill our lives with more stuff and bigger and better things because we think that’s what’s going to satisfy us. If we would just believe God, we wouldn’t have to run after all these things.
So, you fight materialism with belief in God. This is where we realize that all of our struggles with sin are at the core struggles of belief. Think about it. Why do you lie? You lie because you believe in doing so it will be better for you. You lie because you don’t believe God who says, “It is better for you to tell the truth.” Why do you give in to sexual impurity? The reason you give in to sexual impurity is because you don’t believe that purity is good and best for you. You think you’ll have more delight in impurity. So, the way you fight that is by believing God. You see, God knows what He’s talking about.
You think about struggles with worry or despair or doubt. All of these are struggles to believe God. Worry comes when you struggle to believe that God will take care of you. Despair comes when you struggle to believe that God is good. Doubt comes when you struggle to believe that God is true. So, in this fight of faith, flee sinful thoughts. Flee anything and everything that would lead you not to believe God, which is a side note real quick here...a side note that reminds us of the importance of wielding the Word in the fight of faith. That in this good fight of faith our primary weapon is the Word.
When you find yourself struggling to believe that God is with you, wrestling with loneliness, not seeing some presence, how do you fight that? You fight that with Joshua 1 and Matthew 28. He said, “I will be with you always.” I’m going to believe Him. When I don’t feel His presence, I’m going to believe that He is with me. Fight the fight of faith with the weapon of the Word. You’ve got things going on in your life. Things are just kind of crashing down all around you. You think, “Is God in control? Does He care? Is this going to work? There’s no way this can work together for good.” How do you fight that? You fight that with Psalm 31:15. “My times are in your hand.” Job 42, “Your purpose will stand.” Romans 8:28, “You will work all of these things together for my good as I love you, and I’m called according to your purpose.” You fight the fight of faith with the weapon of the Word. He said, “I’m going to believe this Word.”
Pursue goodness that draws you to God.
So, flee. Flee evil that pulls you from God. Now, you don’t just run from something; you also run to something. So, you flee evil that pulls you from God, and you pursue goodness that draws you to God. He says, “Flee these things and pursue.” Then, he gives a list of six different things to pursue: righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. So pursue. Run after these things. Run after righteous thinking and living. Right thinking; right living. Run after that. Run after godly belief and godly behavior.
Godliness, this word that we’ve already seen, is one of Paul’s favorite terms in the book of 1 Timothy. God-centered belief, God-centered behavior, a life that revolves around God. Saturate your mind, your heart, your life, with God first and foremost. This is how you fight the fight of faith. Saturate yourself with God...godliness. Righteousness. Godliness. Then, he says, “Pursue faith.” Pursue deeper trust in God. We fight the fight of faith by running after faith. Amidst the struggle and the war going on in and around you, grow in faith. This is where we remember the most difficult times in our lives are the times where our faith has the opportunity to grow the deepest.
Malcolm Muggeridge said,
“Contrary to what might be expected, I look back on experiences that at the time seemed especially devastating and painful, with particular satisfaction. Indeed I can say with complete truthfulness, that everything I have learned in my 75 years in this world, everything that has truly enhanced and enlightened my existence, has been through affliction and not through happiness, whether pursued or attained.”
This is Romans 5: “We rejoice in suffering because we know, we know, that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance character, and character hope. Suffering is going to lead me to hope, and hope does not disappoint us because God has poured our his love in our hearts by the Holy Spirit whom he has given us.” So, in the midst of your struggle, ask God for deeper faith. Pursue deeper faith...deeper trust in God. Then, run after greater affection for God. Pursue faith and love. Pursue love; love toward God. Nurture your hearts. Love toward God.
I was thinking about...there was something I was wrestling with just a couple of weeks ago, so I set aside some time just for extra concentrated time with the Lord. Really wrestling through some things in prayer, and as I was doing that, the Lord led me to John 15:9. Just in a fresh way, I came to those words where Jesus says to His disciples...do you remember what He said? This is an amazing statement. Jesus says, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you.” Wow! Just think about that. That “as the Father has loved me...” That’s a lot! The Father loves the Son a lot! Jesus says, “That’s how I have loved you.” Then, He says, next line, “Now remain in my love.” Well, yes, of course! Where else would I want to go? Of course! Maybe even tonight in the midst of your spiritual trouble, just let this soak in. As the Father has loved Christ, so Christ has loved you!
So, dwell in His love! Remain in His love! You see how in the middle of the fight of faith! Our hearts are...I just sat there with John 15:9 in front of me and on my knees, my heart just being warmed with love...the love of God, with love toward God.
Fight the fight of faith. Pursue love, and not just toward God, but also from that toward others. Fight the fight of faith. To love your husband, to love your wife, to love your neighbor, your enemy, your coworker. Greater affection for God. Pursue patience amidst difficult circumstances. “Pursue steadfastness,” Paul says. Endurance. Perseverance...the power to press on even when it gets harder, even when it seems like the end is farther away. Don’t give up. Some of you have been in battles that have been raging for a long time, and I simply want to encourage you, pursue steadfastness. Don’t give up. Matthew 24:13, “But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” Hebrews 3:14, “For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.” Pursue patience amidst difficult circumstances.
Finally, pursue kindness toward difficult people. Gentleness. This is strange. Fight the good fight with gentleness. How do you fight gently? There’s strength here, but there’s a quiet strength; this is a humble strength. It doesn’t play out in harsh, hurtful tones but in kind, gentle demeanor. Even toward those who, maybe, are a part of or causing some of the spiritual struggle around you. This is a good fight. You look at all these things and those things are worth fighting for. Every Christian wants these things, but the reality is you look at that list and those things are not natural to us.
What I love about what Paul does next, he brings us back to the realization that these things have been bought for us in Christ. So, Paul says...next words in the text...he says in verse 12, “Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”
Experience the life that you have been given.
Paul says, flee these things, pursue these things, and then, in the middle of it all, fight to experience the life that you have been given. Such an interesting verse. Paul is telling Timothy to take hold of eternal life, but Timothy has already been given eternal life in Christ! When Christ called his name, and he confessed his faith.
However, here’s the reality. You think about it. In your life, as a Christian, as a follower of Christ, you are in Christ. You have His life, but you struggle on a daily basis to experience the fullness of His life in you. You and I know there’s coming a day in the future when we will experience fully and completely, free of sin, the life that Christ has bought for us. There’s coming a day when the spiritual battles of this world will be over, but until that day, it is a day-to-day struggle, battle, to experience the life that Christ has bought for us. So, I would say to every brother or sister in this room, every Christian in this room, just as Paul said to Timothy, as you fight these spiritual battles in your life, remember these things. Remember that He has called your name. You belong to Him. You are His. You are His child. Mark it down. You are not fighting against God. God is fighting for you!
That’s good news. You’re not fighting against God; God is fighting for you! He has called your name. You’ve confessed your faith. You’ve taken your stand with Him. Like Mallory, earlier in the day...she stood and was baptized...you’ve taken your stand in the presence of witnesses. Paul says, “You have died to sin, and you live in Christ. You’ve confessed your faith.”
So, in light of this, in the presence of God, live in light of God’s presence. Paul says, “I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things...” Think about it, as you fight this battle, God, who is your life, is with you! You fight in, with the presence of God, the Creator of all things, the Sustainer of all things. He’s the one who is with you, and He is for you! You know He’s for you because of the confession of Christ.
Live in light of God’s presence; live in view of Christ’s faithfulness. When the life of the Son of God was on the line standing before Pontius Pilate, knowing that He was about to face His death, He made the good confession, Paul says. He confessed His kingship on your behalf, and it cost Him His life. This is the Savior who died for you! Check this out! The Savior who died for you stands beside you in battle! Oh, this is so good! What do we have to fear? The Savior who died for you is also the King who is coming for you. We fight the fight of faith with our eyes fixed on the sky, looking, longing for the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. We flee evil. We pursue goodness. Knowing, trusting, anticipating that He could come back at any time, and He will come back at some time. When He comes back, at that moment, we don’t want to be found playing around with the things that He has freed us from.
He’s coming back for the faithful, not the faithless. Let’s fight the fight. Yet, even amidst all of those exhortations, we still experience struggle, and we feel weak and we wonder if we can go on. This is what I love about what Paul does next. He just erupts into praise to God. The encouragement is clear: live in awe of God’s greatness. He just overflows into this majestic, glorious ascription of praise to God. “He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.”
Do you feel weak, brother or sister? Do you feel weak? If you do, look up. Look up and see the one who is with you, the one who is for you. His rule is universal. He is the only sovereign. Cancer is not sovereign. Divorce? Not sovereign. Difficulty? Not sovereign. Strife? Not sovereign. Temptation? Not sovereign. Despair? Not sovereign. Your God is the only Sovereign over all of these things. He rules them all. His rule is universal. His reign is invincible. He is the King of kings, Lord of lords. Only one capital “K.” Only one capital “L” in all of history. There’s no one whose reign even begins to match His. He is immortal. God alone has immortality. Think about it. He is above history. God is beyond time. He is deathless. Psalm 90. He is “from everlasting to everlasting.” He is unapproachable, dwelling in unapproachable light. Oh, what a great picture! God lives, He dwells, in an atmosphere of blinding holiness and purity and glory.
Unapproachable and inconceivable, “whom no one has ever seen or can ever see.” Greater than anyone can even imagine or dream! He is totally transcendent beyond us! “To him be honor and eternal dominion.” He possesses all power, and He deserves all praise! This is the God who is your life!
What in this world can take this life away from you? Nothing. Nothing can. Nothing can steal joy from you when this God is your life, and nothing can rip hope away from you when this God is your life. So, grab hold of Him. Grab hold of the life that He gives. Take hold of it. Grasp it. Experience it. It’s yours. He is yours. He’s yours.
It makes this a really, really good fight to fight with Him. Now, it just makes sense. I’ve often wondered, it seems like 1 Timothy 6:16, “Amen,” would be a good place to stop the letter...a triumphant close. I’ve often wondered, “Why does Paul go back to this talk about materialism and what to do with riches?” However, it makes sense when you think about it, and you realize that Paul is, in a very real sense, just reiterating what he said earlier in 1 Timothy 6:6 when he said, “There is great gain in godliness with contentment.” In God, you have gain! You have great gain in God!
Give away material treasure.
So, you are free to fight the fight of faith by...next imperative...give away material treasure. “...Do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share.” As you put your hope in God, don’t love money when you can love God! Don’t desire riches when you can desire God! He gives good things so receive them gratefully from the Father who gives good gifts...receive gratefully, be content in them, live simply...just recapping what we’ve seen in the last couple of weeks...knowing that this God frees you up. In God, you are free to live so differently from the rest of the culture around us, to live so differently.
We don’t need more bickering, more stuff and things. We have God! Live simply in order for you to give extravagantly. Believe God on this one! People, brothers and sisters, living amidst the greatest wealth this world has ever known, be generous, willing to share. Give it away! Overflowing from contentment in God, to give away, and in the process, thrive eternally. There it is again. Store up treasures for the future when you will take hold of eternal life.
Here’s the reality. Let’s be honest with one another, brothers and sisters. As long as we are living in this culture, we will fight battles against materialism, and I simply want to urge you tonight and over the last three weeks based on 1 Timothy 6, I want to urge you not to give up in that battle. It is a constant battle. It is a battle every time you see an advertisement. It is a battle every time you drive by a store. It is a battle every time you see what someone else has. Fight the battle. Fight for great gain in God. Fight to be free from the pursuit, desire for, craving for more riches. Fight it with extravagant giving. There are no easy answers in this battle. It is a day-to-day battle. I just want to encourage you not to give up the battle because souls in this room, and souls all across the place are at stake without fight this fight. So, “give away material treasure,” Paul said.
Guard all spiritual truth.
The last exhortation...command...to fight the good fight, Paul says, “Guard all spiritual truth.” You can almost hear Paul audibly in verse 20 bringing this thing to a close. He says, “O, Timothy,” this affection and endearment, this emotion, “O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you.” This right here is the essence of the fight of faith. We fight to be faithful to the gospel. We have seen this all throughout this letter from 1 Timothy 1 all the way here to 1 Timothy 6. It’s been a constant stream throughout. Paul has said, “Don’t teach any different doctrines. Hold on to the faith. Appoint elders who teach this Word. Train yourself in the words of the faith. Devote yourself to the public reading of this Word. Watch your teaching closely. Teach these things. Fight the good fight of faith, holding on to faith.”
Why is all this so important? Paul says, “Guarding the gospel, not wavering in this gospel.” It’s important, first, for our sake. He said it over and over again. People have wandered from this truth. In 1 Timothy 1, he said, “They’ve been handed over to Satan.” In 1 Timothy 6, he’s used words like, they have “pierced themselves with many pangs.” Here, in verse 21, “...Some have swerved from the faith.” Oh, brother or sister in The Church at Brook Hills, I urge you, I plead with you, not to gloss over this. Do not think, “Well, I would never waver from the gospel.” You will be tempted every single day to waver from the gospel. Paul is saying all of this to Timothy...the pastor of the church at Ephesus who he had worked with for years, who had been faithful in all these things...and he’s warning him over and over again. “Hold on to the faith. Hold on to the faith. Hold on to the faith.” This should be a wake-up call to every one of us in this room including myself. Not one of us here is immune to the temptation to wander from the faith.
Fight to hold on to the gospel until you take your last breath. Whether that’s tomorrow or 80 years from now, keep fighting. Don’t give up that fight. So fight. Be faithful to the gospel for your own sake and fight to be faithful to the gospel for others’ sake. Now, I want you to think about this on two different levels. First, I want you to think about this: fighting to be faithful to the gospel for the sake of others who are outside the church. So, here I’m thinking about those who are lost...who are perishing. People who are separated from God, dying in their sin on a road that leads to an eternal hell. There are people in this room who fall into that category...who are not followers of Christ, who have not been reconciled to God through Jesus, forgiven of your sin. There are people you work with who fall into this category. There are people you live next to. There are people that you are on campus with, that you sit in the classroom with who are on a road that leads to eternal hell. Mark it down: the adversary is waging war, and one of his clearest aims is to keep you silent with this gospel.
So, fight against fear. Fight against nervousness. Fight against the desire for man’s approval or applause, and fight against the desire for man’s acceptance. Fight against reputation. Fight against pride. Fight those things in order to share the gospel. You think about the moment when you begin to share the gospel with someone who does not know Christ. There is spiritual battle raging in that moment, and the Holy Spirit of God is in you...“Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” There is power to be found for spiritual battle. You are not alone in that battle but don’t shrink back from that battle. Fight the battle for the sake others. Fight to be faithful to the gospel. Don’t hoard the gospel. Spread the gospel. Fight to spread it. Fight against the temptation to create a self-centered, self-saturated Christianity that consists in hoarding the gospel, celebrating the gospel, in your life, but never sharing it with people who are on a road that leads to an eternal hell. Fight against that.
So, fight to be faithful to the gospel for the sake of others who are outside the church, and then fight to be faithful to the gospel for the sake of others inside the church. Here’s what I mean by that. The church landscape in Western Europe and across the United States is littered with churches that used to preach this gospel and used to hold fast to the Word, but since then, have wandered into all sorts of liberal theology, questioning the character of God, denouncing the glory of God, diminishing in some situations, totally ignoring the Word of God. There are supposed churches gathering all across this land today that are gathering together to hear man’s thoughts and man’s opinions and the Word of God is hardly anywhere to be found. Churches that once used to hold fast to this Word. So, let us be warned, brothers and sisters, that this same exact thing could happen at The Church at Brook Hills if we do not hold fast to this Word.
So, for the sake of those who come behind us, hold fast to this Word. I mentioned earlier, I am not immune to the temptation to fall away from this faith and away from the gospel, away from the Word. So, if I do, if you see that happening, then do not let me remain as pastor. Don’t let anyone be a pastor who is not holding fast to this Word. Even if I am faithful to this Word, even if I hold fast to this Word, the reality is there’s coming a day...unless Jesus comes back...there’s coming a day, could be tomorrow, could be next year, could be 30 years from now, when I will not be the pastor here anymore and somebody else will be the pastor. Make sure that brother is holding fast to this Word. We want our children’s children’s children’s children to be holding fast to this Word because we guarded it well in our day. We were faithful to pass the baton on to those who came after us. Not with our twisting and turning and according to cultural trends...we hold fast to the Word no matter what it costs us in the culture.
So, fight to be faithful to the gospel for others’ sake even in the church. As we fight to be faithful to the gospel, we fight as we’re filled with God’s grace. You might think, “All this fighting...I just don’t have the strength to do it.” This is where I love Paul’s final words. It’s as if he looks at Timothy after all he has said to him, after all these commands and exhortations, and he clearly knows that Timothy cannot do this on his own. So, he looks at him, and he says, “Grace be with you.” To use the words of Paul in Colossians 1:28-29, he says, “Timothy, you work at all these things, but you work with the power of Christ and the strength of Christ that so powerfully works in you.” You need grace to fight these battles.
This is where I want to leave us in this journey through 1 Timothy. I want to leave us tonight with two simple, significant words of encouragement. Number one: Know this...we are never alone in this war. We’re never alone in this war. Now, obviously we know that, based on what we’ve already seen in 1 Timothy 6, we know that God is with us. We know that He is with us and for us, but I want you to see this even in a bit different way. When Paul says in verse 21, “Grace be with you,” what’s interesting is, and you might circle it and put a note in your Bible...this is important. When he says, “Grace be with you,” that word “you” is not a singular “you.” The word “you” is plural. You might even have a note in your Bible that sends you to the bottom. The Greek for “you” is plural, which is interesting. Kind of weird.
When Paul started this letter, he said, “To Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” He has written this letter to Timothy, but he gets to the end, and he says, “Grace be with you.” It’s not “You, Timothy, grace be with you.” It’s “You, church at Ephesus, along with Timothy; Grace be with you.” So, when I say to us, “We’re never alone in this war,” obviously, I mean that God is with us, but also, as you fight this fight of faith, not only is God with you, but the people of God are with you. You are not alone in this war.
Not one of us is engaged in spiritual battle alone. We are all facing battles all across this room. You’re facing battles. I’m facing battles. We’ll all face different battles all week long, and we need one another. This is where I want to, once again, just encourage you. If you are not involved with a small group of brothers and sisters where you are locking arms in this battle, to get involved in a small group of brothers and sisters where you can lock arms with brothers and sisters who know you, who know the battles you’re going through, you know the battles they’re going through, you’re sharing life with each other, you walk through the battles together, and spreading the gospel with one another. This is what the picture is intended to be all week long that we are with one another, sharing life with each other, in small groups of brothers and sisters, locked arms, fighting the battle together. Then, we come together all as one on Sunday...army of soldiers, brothers and sisters saying, “We’re tired, but our God is great. He is worthy to be praised and glorified and honored, and He’s won the battle. So, we’re going to rejoice in Him. We’re going to listen to what He says. Then, we’re going to go back out to war this week with one another, by each other’s sides.”
This is what the picture of the church that you’re seeing here in 1 Timothy 6; you, together, fight this fight of faith with grace amidst all of you. One of the ways we experience God’s grace is through one another. This kind of battle is not intended to be played out with a bunch of anonymous church attenders or church hoppers. This battle is intended to be played out with brothers and sisters who are on the front lines together, locked arms saying, “We have a mission to accomplish we’re running after together.” So, we’re not alone in this war.
The second word of encouragement is...we’re not, yet, to your notes, but I’m kind of setting it up, because I know that once you write it down in your notes, you just kind of tune me out. So, we’re going to wait. We’re going to get there. All right. So, here’s the deal. The outcome of this spiritual war is irreversible. It’s irreversible, i.e. the battle, the war has already been won. So, that’s what this table represents. We’re about to have the Lord’s Supper in just a second. Christ has taken the penalty of sin upon Himself, and He has risen from the grave. He has conquered sin and death, and He has conquered Satan. Satan is a defeated foe, and he will be destroyed! Will be, guaranteed! So, what that means is as we fight this good fight of faith, we’re not trying to win. I quoted earlier 1 John 4:4. “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” This transforms our perspective on our battles, right?
Think about it this way. The morning of April 9, 1865, General Robert E. Lee meets with General Ulysses S. Grant to sign an agreement marking the end of U.S. Civil War. The war was over. Peace accomplished, but interestingly, just south of where we sit tonight, from Montgomery to Mobile, the battle was still raging. Even though the Civil War was technically over, the battle at Fort Blakeley still took place...fighting just as real, guns and bayonets just as devastating, and death just as brutal. The war had been decided but the fighting was still going on. It wouldn’t be until days later when full and final peace would reach all throughout the land.
This is not a perfect picture but follow with me here. I think it captures a bit of the fight of faith that we find ourselves in. The victory has been accomplished! Satan has been defeated! What continues to be at stake, though, is the lives of those who are still fighting, and just as peace had yet to be fully enforced in lower Alabama, Jesus’ victory has yet to be completely enforced in this world. The day is coming, it’s going to come, when He will come and force His victory finally and completely. Evil will be totally abolished, but now, we find ourselves in the midst of a fight of faith. As we do, I want you to hear this, not just hear this, let this soak in. This, I pray, will transform your perspective on the battles you’re walking through right now. We do not fight this war for victory; we fight this war from victory. That changes everything. He has conquered sin and death and the grave. He has conquered Satan.
So, you are battling a defeated foe this week. So, flee evil that pulls you away from God. Pursue goodness that pulls you toward God. Experience the life that has been bought for you. He’s called your name. You’ve confessed your faith. Live in light of His presence. In view of His faithfulness to you. In awe of His greatness. Guard this gospel as you give your life on the frontlines of a mission to make His glory known to the ends of the earth. That’s a good fight worth fighting.
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