Saturday, April 25, 2015

Sermon & Illustration

This past Sunday, I got my first opportunity of 2015 to preach at my Louisville home church.  The requested text was 2 Timothy 2:8-13, which is one of the New Testament passages designated as a "trustworthy saying," the other three being 1 Timothy 1:15, 1 Timothy 4:8-9, and Titus 3:4-8.  The message can be streamed or downloaded at the church's website:
"When the Blessed Assurance is Your Only Assurance" (April 19, 2015)

I hold to the full inerrancy of biblical inspiration, so I believe that the totality of the Scriptural canon is equally inspired by God and profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in all godliness.  That said, when the inspired apostle Paul writes to Timothy and explicitly calls attention to a particular idea as a "trustworthy saying," we ought to take special note.  Paul identifies passages like these as something that we should strive to internalize into our hearts so that we can recall it with speed and ease when we need those words the most.  These type of promises are the ones that we ought to turn to when we are struggling with the trials and tribulations of life.  That's one of the themes I focused upon during my sermon.

Reflecting upon this text during my preparation led me to consider the parallels in this "trustworthy saying" and the Christian hymns we so often sing in worship. My favorite hymns are those that convey edifying biblical truth in a manner that is especially memorable enough to stir the affections of the heart.  Most of the classic hymns feature a common refrain (often the chorus) that unifies thematically the unique lyrics of each verse.  The individual hymn verses--though diverse in their wording and emphases--aid the singer's understanding of the unifying "big idea" theme by teaching development of the main idea and even providing an example of application across various circumstances.  Even when I forgot some of the words to a particular verse (as I am prone to do), I know the chorus by heart well enough to look away from my hymnal's text.

I think Paul is doing a similar thing in his instruction to Timothy in this passage.  By the time Paul wrote the letter, he had experienced perhaps the most traumatic experience of his entire ministry.  Unjustly imprisoned, he stood alone at his legal defense, isolated from the love and support of his former partners in ministry.  So as Paul passes on wise counsel to young Timothy, he sums up the heart of his message in these poetic, hymn-like words:
For if we have died with Him, we will also live with Him.
If we endure, we will also reign with Him.
If we deny Him, He will also deny us.
If we are faithless, He remains faithful...
For He cannot deny Himself.

Each of these verses carries a distinct emphasis, but the unifying chorus is that trusting in the promises of God through Christ is what gives us assurance and motivation for our endurance of the difficulties of life.  This is a truth Paul never forgot; even in his darkest times, he learned to cherish it all the more dearly.  I trust the same became true of Timothy.  I pray that the same might be said of me and you.

I've been blessed with opportunities to deliver many sermons over the past two years, but this is the first time I've had anybody translate my delivery into the artistic medium.  So far as I can remember, the little dots at the bottom of the picture are an accurate representation of the folks who sat in the first few pews for the service.  It was also a Lord's Supper Sunday night, so the bread and juice are on the table at the foot of the pulpit.

Artistic Credit to Draven Cheatam

"I have stored up your word in my heart, that I may not sin against you." Psalm 119:11