Remember Jesus Christ

We can’t stay on the mountaintop, but we can remember to carry the truths we learned there back into the plains and valleys below.

Anson Kroeker on April 21, 2019
Remember Jesus Christ
April 21, 2019

Remember Jesus Christ

Passage: 2 Timothy 2:1-13
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Last week was wonderful, wasn’t it? Wrapping up our series, singing each of those songs that reminded us of the journey we’ve been on in these months, and then ending with “Is He Worthy?”. It was wonderful. Someone made the comment that singing that last song felt like heaven, and I had the same thought.

There’s nothing better to me than being in the company of the redeemed with our attention fixated on the most worthy person in the universe with nothing to compete or distract. And as our service came to a close last week, I just wanted it to keep on going. I wanted to go further up and further in and I wanted to be in glory already.

But we’re not in glory already. The service had to end and we all left and went home and ate lunch and continued on with the rest of our lives in this fallen world.

So how did you do with that? How did it go for you? As you headed to bed on Sunday evening, or as you woke up on Tuesday morning, did your heart feel the same things towards Christ, and did you have the same awareness of His glory, as you did while we sang together on Sunday morning?

It kind of goes without saying, doesn’t it? Mountaintop experiences are wonderful, but most of us find that we don’t get to stay up there for very long.

But that doesn’t mean that our time on the mountaintop is a waste. It doesn’t mean that those experiences aren’t worthwhile or meaningful or important. What it does mean is that we need to know how to take the truths we experience on the mountaintop and carry them with us into the plains and valleys below where we spend much of our time.

And that’s why today’s passage is so encouraging and helpful to us, because it teaches us how to do that. It teaches us how to take the truth we know, the truth of the resurrection of Jesus that we’ve celebrated today, and take it with us into the realities of the broken world in which we live.

And this is an absolutely necessary thing to learn if we’re going to sustain a lifetime of love for Jesus. This is an absolutely necessary thing to learn if these past eight months of this sermon series are actually going to mean something for you long-term. This is an absolutely necessary thing if Easter Sunday is going to be more than just a flash in the pan of your life.

Paul to Timothy

And so we’re going to lean in to these words which come to us from God through the Apostle Paul. Paul was a man who knew the mountaintop. He had been caught up to heaven itself and been taught directly by the risen Lord Jesus (2 Corinthians 12:1-4, Galatians 1:11-12).

And yet as he writes this last letter to Timothy, he’s locked up in a Roman prison. Early church history suggests that the place Paul was imprisoned was little more than a cistern with a hole in the roof and a direct connection to the city sewer, which often flowed into the cistern itself.

And Paul’s stuck there, while Timothy is struggling away in Ephesus trying to help a church that seems stuck. They don’t seem to be responding to his leadership, the issues don’t seem to be getting any better, and he’s got his own personal health issues to deal with on top of that. The suffering is starting to pile up.

And from what we can gather from this letter, Timothy is getting worn down. He’s starting to feel weak. Fear and shame are nipping at his heels and he’s finding faithfulness a lot harder than he thought. And everything he’s experienced in the past, all of his amazing adventures with Paul, all of his own moments on the mountaintop, are not magically making everything easier for him in this day-to-day grind.

And so Paul writes to encourage him and help him find his strength again. We hear that in verse 1 of our passage- “You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:1). Timothy needed strength and he needed to seek it in Jesus, who was able to strengthen Him.

Timothy also needed perspective. He needed to remember that the Christian life is war, and especially so when you’re on the front lines like he was, and so instead of being surprised by this suffering, he needed to embrace it. “Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus,” as verse 3 says.

And then in verses 5 & 6, Paul uses two more metaphors to push Timothy even further into this idea of embracing difficulty and long-term endurance. Nobody becomes a farmer or an athlete because they think it will be easy. But they embrace the difficulty, and they buckle in for the long-haul, and they defer their hopes and expectations for the future, being content to wait for their reward—all qualities Timothy needed to emulate.

“Remember Jesus Christ”

But then Paul gets to the heart of his exhortation in verse 8, and what is also the heart of our message this morning. “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel.”

This verse is so important that we’re going to take the next few minutes to reflect on it, one piece at a time.

Let’s first consider this word “remember.” Keep this in mind. Think about this. And, by implication, don’t forget!

Does that seem strange to you that Paul would tell Timothy not to forget about the person Who is the whole reason he’s in ministry in the first place? Some think so. One commentary on this verse said, “Paul certainly doesn’t think that Timothy is in danger of forgetting Jesus.”1Crossway Bibles, The ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008), 2339.

But I’m not so sure about that. I have no problem with the idea of Timothy forgetting about Jesus, because don’t we all? Isn’t that what we’re doing every time we sin, every time we give in to temptation and doubt? We forget about Jesus.

Not permanently, but certainly in the moment. It’s horrible to actually describe it in these words, but that’s kind of the point, and that’s the point of Paul’s exhortation here. Remember Jesus Christ. Keep Him in your mind. Don’t forget about Him.

That’s what Timothy needed to do, and that’s what we need to do.

“Risen from the Dead”

But he doesn’t leave it there. He goes on: “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead.” Paul deliberately tells Timothy to remember the risen Jesus, which is why this is such a good verse for us to be considering this Sunday. It tells us that the remembering Timothy was supposed to do was not just a memorial type of remembering. Like what we do on Remembrance Day. Like what every other religion in the world is confined to. Remembering the past and the past alone.

But that’s not the kind of remembering that this passage is speaking about. It’s telling us to keep in mind a person who is raised from the dead and who is therefore alive.

I wonder if you’ve ever stopped to think about this major implication of the resurrection. I remember when this first hit me like a ton of bricks. Yes, Jesus died, and yes, He rose from the dead, but for years I tended to leave it there, filing the resurrection away as a historical event.

But if He’s alive, then He’s still alive. Today, Jesus is alive. Today, Jesus has a heart that is still beating, lungs which are still breathing. And I don’t totally get how that works—where the present heaven is, and if there’s oxygen there—but we know that Jesus’ body wasn’t something He left behind. He ascended into heaven bodily, and has sat down at the right hand of God, where He is interceding for His people (Romans 8:34).

And that means that the man Jesus Christ is alive today. He’s not a figure of history. He is a living person. And I don’t know about you, but just realizing that Jesus, in the body, is alive somewhere today is a thrilling thought. It’s like if you heard that He was in the other room—what would that do to you? Well, it’s not that different. He’s alive.

And that means Jesus knows you. If you have trusted in Him, then you can know that He died for you on the cross, and He intercedes for you today. Through His Holy Spirit, He is at work in your life. He is intimately acquainted with your every weakness and every nuance of your story.

And so we can’t just take Him or leave Him, because He won’t leave us. We can’t just ignore Him, because He won’t ignore us. He rose from the dead and He is a living and active person today, and we must to remember this.

The fact that Jesus is risen from the dead has some other big implications that would have been meaningful to Timothy in his situation. The resurrection reminds us of the incredible suffering that Jesus endured in His life and in His death. He faced constant opposition from His enemies. And as He suffered on the cross, it looked like his enemies were right. It looked like they won.

And there’s Timothy, suffering away, feeling all alone, his enemies stacking up.

And so the resurrection of Jesus from the dead would have been hugely encouraging to Timothy.  God’s enemies don’t get the last word, despite all the appearances. Suffering doesn’t get the last word. Death doesn’t get the last word. And just like this was true of Jesus, so it will be true of us, His followers, as we suffer with Him faithfully.

Like Romans 8 says, “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Romans 8:16–17). We suffer along with Christ in order to be glorified along with Christ.

And this isn’t just a metaphor. We literally will be raised from the dead and glorified just like Jesus was. And Paul makes this exact point in verse 11 of our passage: “The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him.”

When people are suffering we’re often tempted to say glib things like “cheer up, things will get better.” And yet a statement like that is quite a bit more true that we think. It will get better—in the resurrection, when you arise with a new body. It’s that long-term hope that Paul is speaking of here. This isn’t your best life now—it’s your best life later. That’s the hope that keeps us going in our suffering.

And that’s the hope we’re reminded of in the resurrection of Jesus. He is the firstfruits of a great harvest that will one day include us.

Charles Simeon was a man who understood this truth well. He was an English pastor in the 1800s who stayed in one church for 49 years. And you might think that a pastor must be well-loved to stay in one spot for that long, but in fact the opposite was true. He was hated and opposed by many in his church. People would literally lock the front doors of the church to keep people out. And then for ten years they locked the little doors at the end of the pews so that nobody could sit down and people had to stand through the whole service.

He faced incredible opposition. And he stuck it out for almost 50 years. And a friend once asked him how he did it, and here’s the answer he gave: “My dear brother, we must not mind a little suffering for Christ’s sake. When I am getting through a hedge, if my head and shoulders are safely through, I can bear the pricking of my legs. Let us rejoice in the remembrance that our holy Head has surmounted all His suffering and triumphed over death. Let us follow Him patiently; we shall soon be partakers of His victory.”2H.C.G. Moule, Charles Simeon, London: InterVarsity, 1948, 155f.

That’s it right there. That’s the lesson Paul is trying to teach Timothy. Jesus, our head, has passed through suffering and death into resurrection life, and so will we. So remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead.

“The Offspring of David”

There’s one more important phrase Paul adds in verse 8 that we need to consider: “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David.”

I hope you pick up on the significance of this phrase after our journey in these past few months. Jesus is the Jewish Messiah, the One long-promised by God. Jesus is the fulfillment of the hope of God’s people and the Son of David who, right now, is reigning at the right hand of God, just like David foresaw in Psalm 110. Jesus is the king who is going to reign upon the earth one day, like we sang earlier: “He lives forever with His saints to reign.”

And this hope would have profound implications for Timothy. Timothy would be familiar with the parable we considered last week, and he would have known that as he laboured away in Ephesus, he was being tested and was proving himself as a faithful servant who was going to reign with King Jesus.

And isn’t that, once again, exactly where Paul goes in verse 12? “if we endure, we will also reign with him…” So endure, Timothy, because you serve the risen Son of David, and you are going to reign with Him when He takes up His throne here on earth.

Our Need to Remember

So that’s what Timothy needed. He needed to remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David.

Just think about how much Timothy had experienced. He was mentored by a guy who had seen saw the risen Jesus face-to-face. He got letters in the mail that were inspired by the Holy Spirit and became a part of Scripture. He lived in a time where you could go talk to eyewitnesses who still remembered what Jesus’ face looked like and tell you what His favourite food was. He ministered in a city—Ephesus—which had so recently been turned completely upside-down by the power of the gospel (Acts 19). Everything was still so new and fresh, and yet here he is, struggling away, and Paul needs to say “remember!”

How much more for you and me? How much more do we need to remember, to call to mind, to make sure we don’t forget Jesus Christ, risen from the dead?

I know that some of you are in a similar set of circumstances as Timothy—suffering hardship, feeling your weakness, and needing to remember.

Another angle on this command to remember is the sermon series we just finished. I’ve poured my heart out for you these past eight months, trying as best as I can to teach you the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27) and show you who Jesus is from one end of the Bible to the other. But it won’t mean much if you just go and forget about it all. In many ways, it is up to you now to remember what you’ve been taught, to remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, and to carry that remembrance into every corner of your life.

Remembering to Remember

So how do we actually do that? How do we remember to remember the risen Jesus? I mean, we’re doing that this morning, on resurrection Sunday. But once a year is not often enough.

So how do we remember Jesus Christ? How do we take the truths we learn on the mountaintops and not forget about them in the plains and valleys below? How do we make sure that these past eight months aren’t a waste of time? How do we make sure that we don’t wait until Easter 2020 before the next time we remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead? I have four answers I want to suggest to you today.

1) The first one is: come to church every Sunday. And I know that sounds like an obvious one, but it’s maybe not. Many Christians treat church like an optional extra in their life, something they very quickly give up for other priorities. I’ve had people tell me not to preach too long because they need to get home to watch the football game.

Or maybe you come, but you don’t engage very deeply. You let your mind wander through each of the songs. You use the sermon to get caught up on some missed sleep. You’re here, but it’s not that important to you.

But I would argue that gathering once a week with God’s people, and fully engaging ourselves while we’re here, should be one of the greatest priorities in your life.

Do you know why Christians meet on Sunday? It’s because it’s the day of the week that Jesus rose from the dead. The early Christians called it the “Lord’s Day,” and they would meet together every week to remember the resurrection of Christ.

So make it a life priority to remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, by meeting with God’s people every week. This is a priority for me even on vacation. We’ll plan travel around Sunday and make sure that, as much as possible, we can be in a good church on Sunday morning.

2) Second, connect with God’s people throughout the week. It’s another thing we see in the New Testament: that the people of God shared life with one another. Whether it’s through our homes in hospitality, or in our small groups, or meeting people for coffee, we should be a part of each other’s lives, and we should be making the Lord a regular part of our conversation. It should be normal for us to ask each other, “How goes the spiritual battle? What has God been teaching you recently? What have you been reading in the Word? How can I pray for you?” And we use those times to remind each other about our risen Saviour and His grace for us. We help each other not forget, just like Paul was doing for Timothy here.

3) Third —and you knew I was going to say this—read your Bible often. As we consistently spend time in the word we’re going to be reminded of Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, and we won’t be allowed to forget.

To bring it back to the sermon series again, a part of my goal in this series was to lay a foundation of understanding so that as you read the Bible on your own, you have a better understanding of what’s going on and how the pieces fit together. These past eight months have been an investment into your own personal study for all the years yet to come.

So do that. Make it a priority. Yes, we all have time, we just decide to spend it on other things. If you don’t have a Bible, we’ve got some by the water cooler and you can just take one. If you’re not sure how to read or where to start, come talk to me and I can recommend some great reading plans to get you started.

Remember Jesus Christ by letting His word remind you day in and day out.

4) I have a fourth suggestion. I find that for myself, I can have a great time in God’s word in the morning, but by three in the afternoon, with all of the other stuff that comes at us in a day, I’m not doing a great job of remembering and living in that truth the way I should. And so I need to embrace the discipline of remembering throughout the day, just like Daniel, who prayed three times each day.

And I don’t do this perfectly, and I’m still figuring this out, but I’m trying. When I sit down for supper with my family, I don’t just thank God for the food. I thank Him for His grace and ask for His help to trust Him in the hours that are ahead. I try to use things like lock screens on my phone that have Scripture verses. Ways to remind myself to pray and think about the love of Christ and ask for His help throughout the day.

We are each so prone to forget, prone to wander, prone to not remember our Saviour. And all the distractions of life in the modern world don’t help with this. But it doesn’t need to happen. We can turn off the TV, put the phone on Do Not Disturb. We can take advantage of these means of grace—the church community and our own personal disciplines—to make sure we remember Jesus Christ and live in the light of His resurrection from the dead.

So we’re going to end here with “O Church Arise.” We’re going to remember the resurrection in this song. We’re going to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to put strength in our every stride. And then we’re going to go out into the rest of our week, ready to fight the good fight and ready to remember.

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