August 26, 2012

Not like fiction

Only fiction writers can get away with starting a story near the ending and making readers wait for enough background to understand what is happening and why. The rest of us, in conversation, have to fill in the history of our story; otherwise our listeners will interrupt us and ask questions until we do.
Whenever a devotional reading takes me to just one verse, it is rare that the verse stands alone. If it begins with “therefore” I want to know what the “therefore” is there for. Today’s reading from 2 Timothy 2:12 made me back up to find that out more, but also go forward to finish the thought. The verse is “…if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us…” The idea behind this encompasses at least five more verses.
Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. The saying is trustworthy, 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 also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself. (2 Timothy 2:8–13)
Paul is writing to Timothy, a young pastor, but the letter has good instruction for all Christians. He tells me to remember Jesus Christ, and His resurrection (it proves His deity) and His lineage (it testifies to His humanity). Paul preached about Him -- not about social issues or human interest stories as is so common for many pastors today. Paul affirms that he suffered persecution for his preaching; he had been chained in prison -- as if telling people about Jesus was a crime.

However, Paul knew that God’s Word could not be bound with chains like he was. The Word has the power to change lives and because of that, he endured all that happened to him. He was more concerned about the eternal destiny of others than he was for his own comfort and freedom. I need his powerful example!

Paul knew that those willing to give their lives to Jesus would live forever. He also knew that endurance of any persecution was the mark of someone who eventually would experience victory over all things. While it was true that denying Jesus meant Jesus would deny us, Paul pointed out that our faith does not make Jesus true – He is true regardless whether we believe or we doubt. He is who He is.

This last few phrases kick relativism in the face. Those who suppose that whatever a person believes makes that “true” for them, cannot say that to Paul. This philosophy should not convince me either. Jesus is faithful, regardless of what I think of Him. Those who think He does not exist cannot make Him go away, and those who believe He does exist did not create Him by their faith. He is objectively true.

Jesus Christ rises above the philosophies of men. He created human beings, and knows us intimately, not just because He is God and omniscient, but because He became one of us and experienced life with its trials and temptations just as we do. He is our Advocate, our Redeemer, our Savior and Friend. He cares about us and walks with us. Many push the thought of Him aside, but their pushing cannot erase His reality.

Lord, on this Sunday morning I woke up with worship music in my heart. You put it there because You are there. I may falter and bounce all over the place in my faithfulness, but that does not change You. You are my rock and my anchor, my solid place, the One in whom I rely on and can trust because You are You, the changeless and eternal God. Praise Your name!

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