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2 Timothy 2:1-13 We suffer because we live in unchained gospel freedom!

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Teasing hurts. Teasing someone by calling them names hurts. Name calling changes how we are seen; it affects our reputation. It affects whether someone wants to sit by us, pick us to be on their team, play with us, work with us, date us, love us, etc. When a hurtful nickname sticks around, it chains us to that negativity and suffering. Whatever teasing you suffer, God’s view of you does not change. He is above any influence or opinions of this world. He has freed you from the ugliness of this sinful world to be a citizen of his glorious heavenly kingdom.

The prophet Ezekiel was called by another name. God called Ezekiel ‘son of man’ almost ninety times. God did this to remind Ezekiel that he was a sinful human being. The term kept him humble so that pride did not overtake his heart while he brought God’s message to Israel during their exile in Babylon. Pride would have tempted the faithful prophet to look down on Israel since they were a rebellious people. It would have been tempting to separate himself from them because of their hostile rejection of him for bringing God’s message as we hear in our Old Testament reading from Ezekiel 2, 6 And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words. Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions. Do not be afraid of what they say or be terrified by them, though they are a rebellious people. 7 You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious.

God was not name calling the Israelites by referring to them as rebellious. He was addressing them according to their history and their sinful hearts. But for all their rebellion, God still loved his people and sent prophets to them. God continued to call his people to repentance promising his gracious forgiveness.

Others can call you “Christian,” in many ways. “You are a Christian,” can be said with joyful excitement, uneasiness, inquisitiveness, apathy or hatred. These various feelings toward the name “Christian” occur because of the difference between God’s point of view and a worldly point of view. Our New Testament reading helps us understand how to react to the name “Christian” as God would have us react. In our New Testament reading from 2 Timothy 2, we hear the fifth and final of the Apostle Paul’s ‘trustworthy sayings’ to the young Pastor Timothy, 11 Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; 12 if we endure, we will also reign with him.

This first half of the trustworthy saying describes the Christian in light of baptism. In Paul’s letter to the Romans 6, he wrote, 8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. In baptism, God links us to Christ so that through Christ we have died to sin and have been resurrected to live a new life. Then a couple chapters later in Romans 8, we hear, 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. If we remain in our baptismal grace and keep our faith despite suffering, we will share in the glory of Christ in heaven.

And in Revelation 3, we hear that in heaven we will rule with Christ, 21 To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. Hearing Paul’s fifth trustworthy saying assures us that God putting his name on us at our baptism and giving us his gift of faith so that we can be called “Christians” is good.

But against God’s good meaning there still stands the negative world view of those who hold on to Christ. The second half of Paul’s trustworthy saying warns us against the negative view of Christians. Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 2, 12 … If we disown him, he will also disown us. This first half of the second part shows the negative power that suffering as a Christian can have on us. When Christ is mocked by society, the easy path is to disown Christ.

When government laws ask us to go against Christ, the easy path is to disown Christ. When our friends and coworkers single us out as hypocrites, judgmental or naïve for our faith, the easy path is to disown Christ. When our own family members ridicule and disown us for our faith, the easy path is to disown Christ. When we look at ourselves in the mirror or pictures of ourselves on a screen feeling like Christ is not enough to make us feel good or give us strength to endure suffering, the easy path is to disown Christ. When we get entangled in a worldly view of ourselves and when we subtract from what God calls sinful or blur the line of what he calls good, we disown Christ opting out of suffering for him, so the world can call us “accepted.” In these moments God calls us on our sin and calls us rebellions in love, so we see the truth that being accepted by the world means being disowned by Christ leading to future eternal suffering in hell.

Jesus was disowned for us. In our Gospel reading from Mark 6, while Jesus was teaching in the synagogue of his hometown, the people closest to him did not want to claim him as their own, as we read in Mark 6, 4 Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” 5 He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 6 He was amazed at their lack of faith.

Jesus did not find acceptance in his own town and among his own relatives because they saw him through worldly eyes, rather than through the eyes of faith. This is an example of the last part of Paul’s trustworthy saying in 2 Timothy 2, 13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself. Although he would be rejected by faithless people, Jesus remained faithful to teaching who he was. He was the promised Savior. More than being disowned by his hometown and relatives though, Jesus was disowned by the religious and secular leadership as the Sanhedrin and Roman governor both condemned Jesus to crucifixion. And most of all, God the Father disowned Jesus as he was punished for our sins and endured hell on the cross.

Jesus remained faithful to save the unfaithful world. Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 2, 8 Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. Jesus’ faithful suffering for us ended with victory. Jesus was faithful to God’s law, faithful to suffer death, faithful to the prophecies of the Old Testament and faithful to use his power to give life all for us. Jesus’ resurrection stands against all false claims against God, against his mercy, grace, love, power, justice, etc. This is the great truth of the Gospel that our salvation does not depend on us. The truth is we are unfaithful sinners, but God is the faithful Savior. This assurance allows us to suffer the chains of this world because the gospel is not chained. Even if we must suffer, nothing has, is or will stop, contain or limit God.

We have real freedom and an eternal glory with the living Christ Jesus in heaven. Thus, Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 2, This is my gospel, 9 for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained. Through the Word of God, the gospel, God called you to faith in Christ. Although the attempts continue, nothing in this world has the power to change what God has done for you. You are truly free because of Jesus.

We join in suffering because of Jesus. The sin chained world is against the unchained gospel and so it is against us who live by it. In our New Testament reading from 2 Timothy 2, our suffering for Christ is illustrated in three ways. First, 3 Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. We are concerned about God’s will, not the world’s just like a soldier listens to his commanding officer, rather than civilian commands. This conflict of wills puts us at odds with the world causing us to suffer.

Second, Paul writes, 5 Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules. The many strict rules of the Olympic games overwhelm the casual viewer from home, but they are what allows an athlete the chance at a gold medal. To the world, the words of John 14 may sound strict, but to us they are life, 6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. We follow Jesus and no one else for the victor’s crown. And third, Paul writes, 6 The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. As the farmer is the first to enjoy his harvest, so we will enjoy a harvest of peace, joy and endurance by being in the Word of God.

The devil’s plan is to move us far from the cross and empty tomb, so that it seems we have no reason to suffer for a distant Savior. Instead, we should embrace this world is his whisper, but there is no victory or rich harvest without Jesus. So, Paul’s words pull us back in front of the empty tomb as he writes, 7 Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this. 8 Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, 9 for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained. At the empty tomb, we see the unchained strength of the gospel. These words fill us with the insight to endure suffering as a Christian because we have been freed from this world and made citizens of Christ’s glorious, eternal heavenly kingdom.

Teasing with name calling hurts. It changes our reputation. It affects whether someone wants to sit by us, pick us to be on their team, play with us, work with us, date us, love us, etc. When a hurtful nickname sticks around, it chains us to that negativity and suffering. When we were rebellious sinners, God called us to repentance. Through Jesus we are forgiven because he was treated as sin on the cross. You are now called a “Christian,” or little Christ, a citizen of heaven because he saved you. God is above any influence or opinions of this world and his view of you does not change. The sinful world threatens us for our faith, so we suffer because we live in unchained gospel freedom. Amen.

Gunnar Ledermann, Pastor Divine Peace Church

Gunnar Ledermann

I’m passionate about Rockwall’s vibrant community and actively engage with local non-profits and community organizations, including the Rockwall Chamber of Commerce, the City of Rockwall, and the Downtown Rockwall Association. My background includes a bachelor’s degree in Classical Languages and a master’s degree in divinity. Currently serving as a pastor at Divine Peace Church in Rockwall, I also enjoy spending time with my wife, Marinda, and our three children.

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