Finishing Well | 2 Timothy 4
Inspect, Expect, and Respect | 2 Timothy 3
The Lost Art of Argument | 2 Timothy 2:23-26
Being Useful for the Kingdom | 2 Timothy 2:20-22
Dealing with False Teachers | 2 Timothy 2:14-19
Remembering Christ | 2 Timothy 2:7-13
Enduring Hardship | 2 Timothy 2:3-7
Defining Discipleship | 2 Timothy 2:1-2
The Last Word: 2 Timothy 1:8-18
The Last Word: Courage in the Cold
2 Timothy 1:1-7
What does the word “useful” mean to you? In the seventh week of The Last Word, Todd Wagner contrasts useful members of the body of Christ with those who are contrary to our mission and illustrates how to turn from sin so that we might be useful ourselves.
Good morning, Watermark. How are we doing? I'm not kidding you. It is such a privilege to get to do what I do, to stand before you and hopefully cut straight the Word of God, to not get you wandering around wondering what truth is. It is really a privilege, so thank you for letting me have it. Let me pray for us.
Father, we come to you right now, and we want to see our living hope. I know there are friends in this room who are coming in here who do not yet understand that life can be found in you because life in this world has found them wanting. They question how a good, sovereign God could allow the abuse and the sadness and the trials and the diagnosis and the circumstance come to them the way it has. It has made them question you.
Even people who have sought your face this week, if they haven't questioned you, Lord, I know I have friends in this room who need to be reminded that you are their living hope. Their spines need to be stiffened. Their hearts need to be made true again. I know I need to focus on who you are and what you're doing and what's at stake and where we are in history and how it all makes sense. So we thank you that you have not left us here to hear some speculations of a 57-year-old, but we get to stand before you right now and open your Word and be instructed.
We are not the blind leading the blind. We are not blind men being led by madmen. We don't need philosophers. We thank you that we have the Word of God. So, may we pay attention to it. Would you use it to open the eyes of those who have been blinded to your goodness, and would you deepen the awareness in our hearts of those of us who already believe? We thank you, Father, for your nearness and for the majesty of your kindness toward us. Amen.
Next week is Easter, and I hope you lean into your fear of gathering and come gather with us if you're online, because we're okay. We've been here for a while doing this, and we're okay, and you will be too, so come and gather with us. It will be awesome. There's something about being in the room with other believers when you sing and when you study that does something right and good and true in us.
You're going to see today that God tells you this idea you should seek faithfulness in your relationship with him alone is a completely unbiblical idea. We understand that certain people have needed to be online for a while, but God does not want you to be online for long. He wants you to find a body you can connect to. I pray this may be a place that God gives you permission to connect with us.
All right. We are in 2 Timothy. It is such an amazing book. It's one we ought to study, because as I love to say, we are each week in here doing a little pastors' conference. We invite nonbelievers to come to it. We are helping individuals who aspire to be elders, leaders, overseers, faithful men and women. We're trying to help you so that when you stand before God he says to you, "Well done, good and faithful servant." We are here to equip, encourage, and remind you.
This isn't our only equipping. If all you're doing is getting equipped for 45 minutes to an hour a week, you're not very equipped. We have amazing opportunities here that are all through our Watermark news…Equipped Disciple, our men's studies, our women's studies. We have Training Days. We have amazing Core Classes. I keep hearing about Nathan Wagnon's "Following Jesus" that I'm going to personally take soon. I commend them all to you and encourage you to dive deeply into the Word of God.
David did a great job last week talking about what happens if you don't. We, today, are going to look at three verses. In order to do that, we get to go back to the six or so we looked at last week, because Paul is always reminding you of what he said, and then he's illustrating it. Let me just say this to you. In every single section of this letter… I was going to say "chapter," but remember, it's a letter. There are four easily broken up sections of the letter.
In every section, you're going to see the same thing…three things four times. Four sections, three things. In every section, you're going to see the Word of God venerated. "You should preach it, and you should protect it." We're just in the second section of this letter. We're going to get it two more times. Secondly, we are told this world is not our home and we shouldn't act like this is supposed to be heaven right now. It's not heaven, but we have a living hope.
Hope is having confidence that light will come when you are in the middle of the darkness. We are people who have confidence that greater and greater light is coming. So, in every section, you will see a reminder that this isn't supposed to be easy. "Do whatever it takes to maintain faithfulness." Then there's always some encouragement in every section. "You're going to be rewarded. God is not so unkind as to forget the kindness which you have shown toward his name."
What an amazing statement. I'm quoting from Hebrews. It's God's kindness that leads us to repentance. He calls us out of our darkness into his light, from our wandering, and he makes our paths straight. He takes us from the place of impossibility to be reconciled to him, and he makes provision for us. That's why we celebrate the cross at least once a year with great fervor and focus. We should do it every day, but at least once a year we lock in.
God has, in his kindness, shown us how to be reconciled to him, but then he says this: God is not so unkind as to forget your suffering and persevering and being faithful for him and holding true to the Word of God. It's going to be worth it. Christians, we need to be reminded of that. When you're at war, when you're in the middle of training as an athlete, when you're in the middle of the hard work of farming, it can get tiresome, and it's easy to quit. God says, "Don't quit." So, here's the section we're going to study specifically. It is in 2 Timothy 2:20-22. Let's just read it, and then I'm going to explain to you why we're going to bounce back a little bit. Here we go.
"Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work. Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart."
Again, I love the privilege of gathering together like this, because I've read that. I could quote it over the course of my life as a believer. I will tell you, sometimes you read a passage like that and go, "Okay. I'm going to be a vessel of honor," and you just kind of move on. There is so much here. When you study your Bible, when you look at your Bible, you want to slow it down and let it soak in. You want to ask yourself, "Why is it there? What's the purpose of the metaphor?" Ask questions and then go back.
One of the questions you have to ask yourself is in verse 21. What are the things we are to cleanse ourselves from so that in the large house we can be vessels of honor? None of us want to be useless. That's one of the things you're going to see. Let me take you back to the section we studied last week. In 2 Timothy 2:14, you saw this little phrase where it says, "Remind them of these things, and solemnly charge them in the presence of God…"
That's why I don't have any problem going back. That idea there, "Remind them…" The verb tense is continually. It's a present perfect verb, like, "Don't ever stop reminding them." It says, "Remind them of these things." Even in verse 14, what he's doing is he's taking you back and saying, "Remind them." Who's the "them"? David did a good job of telling us the "them" is the people who want to be faithful disciples.
Let me just remind you of this from 2 Timothy 2:2 where Paul says to Timothy, "The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also." What Paul is doing is explaining what a disciple of Jesus looks like. What I'm doing is I'm walking you through what God has left us so we can know, "If I'm going to be a useful vessel, if I'm going to be a faithful disciple, what should I look like?" HSo, he tells us in verses 3 and 4 just so we don't have to make it up.
The first thing you ought to be is an active soldier. We're not AWOL. We're not on leave. We are an active soldier. We don't (verse 4) entangle ourselves in the affairs of everyday life, and we suffer hardship, because God has asked us to live as aliens and strangers and to be at war with the spiritual forces of darkness in our own lives, and then, as we overcome that spiritual force of darkness in our lives, we can be a source of light to others and show the kindness of God to others so they, too, could join in the grace of God.
We are to be (verse 5) competitive athletes, professional athletes, not amateurs, not part-timers. We are to be (verse 6) hardworking farmers who don't just think food grows at Tom Thumb. We are to be individuals who know it takes a lot of labor. So, disciples are active soldiers, pro athletes, and hardworking farmers, and then he goes on to remind us and encourage us that it's worth it.
He's going to tell us and solemnly warn us that there are a lot of people who know the story of Jesus (I want you to clue in on this) who say, "Lord, Lord" to him who are going to hear from him "Depart from me." They're like a bunch of folks who walk into Dick's Sporting Goods and buy a Dak jersey and think they're a Dallas Cowboy or because they wear camo they think they're a soldier. Paul doesn't want Timothy to be disqualified, and he wants Timothy to reproduce other faithful men and women.
In his first letter to Timothy, he said, "If any person aspires to be a faithful man or woman, he desires a good thing." We're telling you how to be a good thing. We're telling you how to be that disciple, how to be a vessel of honor, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work. We're telling you how to be a vessel of gold and silver and not of earthenware and wood that you haul the garbage out in. We all know this.
In verse 19, it says, "Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands…" You might be asking yourself, "Well, Todd, which one am I?" I'm going to tell you how you can know this week. God knows who are his. That's verse 19. "The firm foundation of God stands." If you are in Christ, then that ground will not be shaken, but how do you know you're in Christ? You're not just a hearer of the Word who deludes himself, but you hear and act on the Word of God.
It's why we are reminding you. You don't just want to hear that believers say certain things. You don't just hear that believers are active soldiers, competitive professional athletes, and hardworking farmers. You want to make sure you do the things that active soldiers, professional athletes, not part-time amateur Christians, and hardworking farmers do. If you have the firm foundation that won't be blown away at the judgment, you will build on what you say you believe.
People say what they think, but they do what they believe. What Paul is telling Timothy is, "Timothy, are you part of the faithful and are you teaching faithfulness to others?" Not facts, but faithfulness. We are not here just to make an information transfer; we are here to be transformed by information. There are fewer and fewer churches today that are accurately handling the Word of truth. I'll prove that to you today sociologically.
There are fewer and fewer places where you can hear the Word of God taught, few biblical churches, Bible churches. There is not much orthodoxy out there anymore in America, but here's the danger: in most of the places where there's orthodoxy, there is no call and accountability to orthopraxy. What I mean by that is straight doing, straight practice. People will take notes all day long, and they go, "Oh, I love him. He's such a great teacher."
I don't want to just be a great teacher. I want to spur you on. I want to wake you up. I want to call you out and forward. I want you to do the same for me. I want you to admonish me when I'm unruly, encourage me when I'm fainthearted, and help me when I'm weak with great patience, because we don't want to merely be hearers who delude ourselves. People love to come and take notes with a sound exegete of God's Word, and we ought to make sure we have sound expositors of the Bible. Ex-posit: to take their thinking from the text, not guys who are trying to figure out what's right and true.
Here's the problem. There are a lot of useless dishes, because all they filled themselves up with is notes. They love good teaching, and they applaud how insightful they are, and it just stays there. Churches leave them alone. This is a place where we love you. You are free to come here. This is about as safe a place as you can have if you're a nonbeliever. We have an entire ministry set up where you can just come and ask questions and you're not going to offend us. It's called Great Questions.
We believe if God's Word is truth, then no amount of scrutiny is going to affect it, so we say, "Come and fire your best questions at us. Come and tell us what your intellectual problems are and why you're wrestling with embracing the way, the truth, and the life that is revealed by God through Jesus Christ." It meets every Monday night, and there are people who all throughout the week are doing that with their non-Christian friends and just saying, "Let's talk about it." We don't expect you, if you're not a believer, to act like you're a believer. That's lunacy.
It's why when we start our worship services here, we go, "Hey, we're about to sing right now, but if you're not a believer, why would you want to sing love songs to our God? You don't know him. But we're going to start to declare to you right now the greatness of our God, and we hope you listen, because it's not just when Todd gets up here to teach that you're going to hear truth. Here comes some truth: Jesus Christ is our living hope. Here comes some truth: we sing praises to him because of what he has done for us. Here comes some truth: God's love to us is reckless. It's so overwhelmingly kind we can't get over it."
So, we've already been preaching. We wouldn't expect you to come in here and act like a Christian. That's the worst thing you can do. We don't expect you to take Communion with us this Good Friday. You're welcome to come and see us remember the broken body and shed blood of Jesus Christ, but you don't have to do it, because you're not saved by rituals or by songs. You're saved by Jesus, and if you know who Jesus is, that information transforms you. That's what we're calling you to.
So, as a nonbeliever…hey, we love you. We're glad you're here, and we're not here to get you to change your behavior. Our goal is to help you understand the kindness of God to change your thinking. I bet if you're a nonbeliever here today you're just like me. I thought the second I believed in God life was over. There was no more Cancun Spring Break. There were no more multiple individuals I could hang out with in physically intimate ways.
There was no more…on and on and on and on, all of the things I thought were going to be so kind to me if I just drank deeply from those broken cisterns. I didn't want anything to do with God, because God, I thought, was a cosmic killjoy. So, I'm not looking to change your behavior. Can I tell you what changed me? What changed was my understanding that God loved me. I was like an arrogant adolescent, and I was (you're going to get this in a second) filled with youthful lusts.
I've raised six individuals filled with youthful lusts, and I saw me every time. What do I mean by that? There's something about kids, these sweet kids. Yesterday, I went to my very first grandchild's soccer game, and I remembered what a disaster 4-year-old soccer games are. To call it soccer… I told my son-in-law who was coaching that, clearly, he needs to work into his offense what the other team's offense was, which was one little boy… Every time he got near a ball, he would take it and basically pick it up and put it in front of the goal and kick it.
Because we live in the world we live in today, we can't tell them that's wrong, so they lost 12-1. I said, "You've got to work the hand ball, pick-up, 'move in front of the goal' into your offense." It's not soccer. But I love that 3- to 5-year-old. I love that age, but like Shere Khan in Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book said, the problem with Mowgli, the problem with man cubs is they grow to be men. There's something that happens 10 to 13 where we don't just cry because we want the food we want, don't just throw tantrums in the candy aisle.
We start to throw tantrums at all, and we think the whole world is mad, and if we can just do what we want to do and be left alone, life would be filled with joy. We start to think, "If I could just follow the lusts of my flesh, follow the pride of my life, if I could just get what my eyes see is good, life would be grand." Here's the problem. By the way, I'm preaching to you from the text. "Flee youthful lusts." Youthful lusts don't just exist in your youth; they start there.
The problem is some people never grow up. They never "adult." They never come to their senses. I can remember when my oldest son Cooper turned 18. He had a hard time, as he shared with a bunch of college students this week on Thursday night at The Nine. He had a hard time believing Dad had his best interests in mind, and he had a hard time believing God had his best interests in mind. He was a good kid, but he was playing with youthful lusts, and I knew it.
I just told him I loved him, and I said, "Hey, bro, you've got to learn to tame that thing. I know you think it's just a fun little thing to play with right now, but that little lion cub you're toying with grows up to be a lion, and it will consume you." I can remember when he was 18, he said, "Hey!" He was working at the time for a guy, and the guy told him, "Cooper, you turned 18 today. Do you know, physiologically, there's something that happens in a human's brain at 18 that, all of a sudden, there's a new chemical that allows them to no longer be a slave to their youth?"
Cooper thought that literally happened on May 19, and he announced to me, "Dad, I'm 18. It's all gone." I go, "Oh, I wish that was true. I just celebrated 55, and it's not true with me. Those youthful lusts are still trying to devour me. I have to flee them, and I have to pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. So, son, those things aren't gone, but I'm glad you want them to be."
What I'm telling you is we are committed to helping you here not just hear a transfer of information, but to be transformed by that information, because that's how you become a useful vessel. Verse 20 that we're starting with, "In a large house…" The large house there is the church. This is a large place here at Watermark, and there are useful vessels and there are useless vessels. There is gold and silver, and there is wood and earthenware.
There are individuals here who aren't just going to take out the trash, but (I say this with tenderness) who are going to be found to be wanting when they stand before the Lord, who are going to be trashed, right here at good ol' Watermark. They like the information. They say things with their lips, but their hearts are far from him.
That is why we pay attention, and from a pure heart that loves you, we address these things in one another's lives. We are not the morality police, but we are trying to say, "Hey, brethren, if we say we love Jesus, let us build on that foundation of love. Let us not kick against the goads, and let us not say he is good and then go our own way. Let us not say God's way is right and true and pure and still be committed to youthful lusts."
It's okay. I tell people all the time, "These are the youthful lusts that still wage war against my soul. You need to know about them. You need to pray with me. You need to make sure I'm not making a way to have those be present in my life. If pride rises up, if my pace is too much, let's have conversations all the time, because I want to be a useful vessel."
So, when you hear "youthful lusts," don't think it's just the problem of youth. That's when it starts. There's a time it turns on. We're born sinners, but there's a time when we can articulate our will to live as we want to live, and we go, "Dad doesn't know what he's talking about, Mom is out of date, and God is oppressive, and I think I'll follow me some me."
I see a lot of guys in their 20s and 30s who are just older boys. I see men in their 40s and 50s who are leaving the wife they're committed to, and they're just boys. They cannot discipline themselves. That's the mark of a man. You say something and you do it. You get up early and you work and you're diligent and you "adult," or, should I say, you "Christian adult."
The invisible church in verse 19… "God knows who are his." We at Watermark don't go around… The elders have never one time gone through the 10,000 members and gone, "Saved. Probably not. Useful. Useless. Gold. Trash." There's no label by you. But what we do do… First of all, we say we have a responsibility. We're going to give an account for your souls.
So we have a system here where we say, "Hey, are others around you affirming you and encouraging you and helping you and spurring you on to love and good deeds? Do we see you bearing fruit in keeping with repentance?" God knows those who are his. My job is not to see through you to see if you're really a believer; my job is to see you through to greater faithfulness. And it's your job.
That's why we have communities that are running their hands over each other's dishes and saying, "Hey, man. You've been useful to the Master this week." Verse 19 is the invisible church. Verse 20 is the visible church. Don't you see this? Don't you see Christians just in general and go, "That dude, that gal is faithful. That one? That one is getting the job done." We all see it. "That one is adequate and prepared for every good work. I want my non-Christian friends to be with that one."
That's what verse 20 is. All Paul is doing is saying, "God knows the ones who are his," but in the large house, there are some vessels (some skeuos) that are wood and earthenware, and the wood ones are dishonorable. They're not fit for public use. You don't want the world to know they call themselves Christian. Do you know anybody like that? You're like, "Hey, bro, can you do me a favor and take that off the back of your car? Can you just change your jewelry choice? Hey, please don't wear that tee shirt, because you're confusing people."
Paul says, "Remind them of these things," and that is who we are to be and what's at stake. Specifically this. Let me remind you of this. This is a trustworthy statement. Let me read to you again. Remind them, the ones who want to be faithful servants, the true church, the ones who are building on the foundation of Christ. This is verses 11-13 again. Listen to me. This is really important. It's a trustworthy statement. That's why he says in verse 14, "Remind them of that."
"If we die with him, we will live with him." In other words, if we're no longer about us but we're about living for eternity because we are active soldiers, pro Christians, and hardworking, diligent followers of Jesus, we will live with him. "If we endure," which is what soldiers and athletes and farmers do, "we're going to reign." It's worth it. But mark my word. "If we deny him, he's going to deny us." Paul is quoting there from Jesus himself. "If we are faithless, he is faithful, for he can't deny himself."
Let me remind you what this means. What he's saying is if you say one thing and do another, God is faithful, and he will not be mocked. He knows who the Cowboys are and who has been to Dick's Sporting Goods to buy a jersey. One of my favorite guys who wrote a book, Disciples Are Made Not Born… He exegeted, he wrote a commentary on this. His name is Walter Henrichsen. Henrichsen essentially said, "The faithfulness of God on his part is that means he will carry out his threats as well as his promises."
That's exactly what verse 13 means. God is faithful, and when he says he's not going to be mocked, he's not going to be mocked. Why do I say all this? Because you don't want to be useless. You don't want to be garbage that takes out garbage. You want to be gold, the gold standard, the faithful men who have heard these things and do it and give it to others. Paul is explaining how to be that.
Here's the deal. Look at verse 21. "Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things…" I told you what the "these things" were in verse 14. Now I'm going to tell you what the "these things" are in verse 21. I'm going to tell you how to be a vessel of honor right there in verse 20. He says some of the gold and silver vessels are vessels of honor. They are individuals who are diligent, who show themselves approved to God as a workman who doesn't need to be ashamed, because he's useful.
You don't want to be that guy that when your Master… The master of the large house, the master of the church, is not your little local elders. The master of the large house is Jesus. He is looking for you this week to be faithful and active in service so when you go out he can say, "You're ready in that high school. You're ready in that neighborhood. You're ready in that workplace. You're ready on that boondoggle. You're ready in that conversation by your kid's soccer game, and you're useful to me.
You live holy lives, and you're wholly committed to me, and you know this is war and there are souls that are in the balance, so you are on the alert, and you're not being compromised by the world." That's what the church is. Vessels of honor are individuals who are cleansed from these things. Now what are the "these things" of verse 21? Answer: they are the non-faithful teachers and compromised church that was described in verses 14, 16, and 17.
So, let me tell you what you have to be careful of. This is so important. He says, "Solemnly charge them in the presence of God not to be useless, which is a catastrophe…" That's the word ruin. Literally, it's the word katastrophe in Greek. It is a catastrophe if somebody doesn't give maximum effort to accurately handle the Word of truth yourself, but not only that, when you are under individuals who don't rightly teach the Word of God.
Talking about being useful, I one time was blessed… I had some friends who invited me to go on a fly-fishing trip. We were up in British Columbia, and we were fly-fishing. We were on this river, and we had an old crusty fishing guide who apparently didn't think we were paying him enough, because he wasn't happy from the day we said "Hello." And believe me, we were paying him plenty. This dude, for whatever reason, picked me out.
I mean, we didn't even say "Hello," and he goes, "Now who are you guys?" One of the other guys spoke up. He didn't break the cardinal rule of hanging out with me, which is you don't out me in terms of my vocation, but he said, "Well, we're a group of guys who hang out at church, and one of us is a pastor." I hadn't said anything yet, and the guy goes, "Well, I guarantee it ain't him." Our relationship went downhill from there.
We were on a river, and he was telling us what to do, and not very clearly, and I didn't do it fast enough. He goes, "Wagner! Having you is like losing two good men." I thought, "That's about as creative a way to tell somebody they're useless as I've ever heard." Have you ever seen Christians like that? Like, "Having you in the church is like losing Paul and John, because we have to go back and clean up after you all the time."
I've never forgotten that. "Having you is like losing two good men." "You are useless." He's saying, you're going to be useless if you are around individuals who don't speak the Word of God correctly, who are given to worldly and empty chatter. Do you know what that means? The reason I'm saying this again… You heard it last week, but Paul tells us to remind you.
When it says, "Avoid worldly and empty chatter…" You don't get in a discourse with the world. Christians are not to go, "You know, I know what God's Word says is the standard of marriage, but maybe we should change it. I know God says he created them male and female, but maybe we should change it. I know God said we shouldn't have sex outside of marriage, but maybe we should change it."
There was an article somebody showed me this week. It was from Christianity Today, and I tweeted it out. Christianity Today, which itself is struggling in too many ways, had an article called "The Cohabitation Dilemma Comes for America's Pastors." Can I just tell you something? There is no dilemma here about cohabitation. The Bible says, "Don't do anything that causes the ministry to be discredited."
There is a Real Truth. Real Quick. episode called Can I Live With My Boyfriend/Girlfriend if We're Not Having Sex? No. And you certainly shouldn't be having sex if they aren't your husband or your wife. There is no dilemma here. I just put out on Twitter… Pastors who go, "I don't know how we're going to stand against the tide of the worldly chatter. Maybe it's not as big of a deal as it should be, and maybe guys can get married, and maybe guys don't even have to be guys…"
"The transgender dilemma is coming." Not here. And neither is the gossip dilemma and the pride dilemma. Do you know what the dilemma is? It's the deity that is coming that is going to be the real dilemma for a lot of America's pastors. That's their dilemma. They're going to have to give an account. Revelation 22:12: "Behold, I am coming quickly, and my recompense is with me, and I will render to every man according to his work."
Some of you are garbage, and I don't want to be garbage. So, we don't have a dilemma here. We don't engage in constant evaluations about what God's Word says and whether we should modify it for today's age. That's why in 2 Timothy 4:1, Paul says this. In every chapter, there are three things: preach it and protect it, suffer for it, it's worth it. Second Timothy 4:1. See if this sounds familiar.
"I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season…" In other words, when everybody thinks God's Word is great, preach it, and when everybody thinks God's Word makes you a bigot, preach it. "…reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction." Do y'all see what we have to do? If you want to be useful, you have to get after it.
Here's what I was going to tell you. Just go through in your mind. I want to ask you if you agree with these things. I believe in America the percentage of people who profess to be Christians is still well above 50 percent. I think it's 60. It used to be 80. It might have dropped a little bit. Here are six things. There's a guy named George Barna. This is the sociological evidence that there are a lot of vessels that say they're useful…
"True or false? Absolute moral truth exists." Play along in your head. Secondly, "True or false? The Bible is totally accurate in all it teaches." Thirdly, "Satan is a real being. He's not a force. He's not symbolic. He's real, and so are the spiritual forces of darkness that labor with him." Fourthly, "A person cannot be changed or saved by good works." Fifthly, "Jesus Christ lived a sinless life and died on a cross and was raised from the grave." Sixthly, "God is all-knowing, powerful, creator of heavens and earth (no room for evolution), who sovereignly rules over all."
Are you six for six, at least in profession? Since 1995, they have asked those questions to individuals. Somewhere between 7 percent of Americans at its low to 11 percent at its high agree with those things, even while over 80 percent of Americans call themselves Christians. That, my friends, is straight truth. Those are all propositional statements, which if you disagree with them, you are outside of orthodoxy. You are outside of the faith once and all delivered to the saints.
Here's what's interesting. At the height of this, only 18 percent of evangelical, born-again Christians… Not people who said, "I'm born again" but who answer other questions that put them in the class of "The people who say these things we're going to call evangelical, born again." These are people who believe they're not saved by anything they could ever do, and they have a relationship with Jesus Christ that's still meaningful and a primary in their life today. Only 18 percent of those people are six for six.
Do you want to know why? Because only 51 percent of Protestant pastors are six for six. Can I tell you why America that is Christian and filled with churches is not filled with Christ? Because they have not purged themselves of these things. They still fund those churches. They employ those men as their pastors, and they are engaging every week in philosophy and worldly chatter. They are earthenware, and they are useless to their Master. They will get rendered according to their deeds.
I don't want to be that, so I have to make sure I am sanctified. That verb tense means it's something that is done completely. When you're saved, you are justified by grace through faith, but then you are being sanctified. Before you put somebody in a position of spiritual leadership, you want to make sure there is Jesus at work in their life.
I used to work at a place called Kanakuk, and I used to tell kids when they would stand up and say they trusted Christ and were going back to their compromised parents who were at a Protestant church led by a pastor who doesn't believe in a biblical worldview… I just said, "Can I ask you to do me a favor? When you go home, would you not start preaching to your mom and dad about how they're a dead, useless vessel at a dead, useless church? Would you just make your bed?
Would you start doing the dishes? Would you stop cussing? Would you ask your mom and dad to put Covenant Eyes on your phone? Would you say 'Yes, ma'am' and 'No, ma'am' and 'Thank you,' and would you write your parents a note talking about how amazingly blessed you were at what they did to sacrifice to send you to Kanakuk? Before you start preaching… And it's okay to share with them what decision you made, but let there be a little sanctification."
It's why Paul says, "Don't lay your hands on somebody too soon." That's not just chronological in terms of your age from birth. That also is just "Hey, before we put Michael Irvin up to give a testimony the second he says he's a Christian, let's make sure he's not hanging out at the White House too much." Not 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but 1990s Cowboy craziness. Don't Google it. Trust me.
It's just not loving. I get so sick and tired of seeing Christians who want some celebrity to make a quick profession of faith so we can throw them up there and talk to the world about how much they love Jesus. No. Before you're useful, there has to be a little sanctification, a little discipleship, a little training. If you're here, we want to train you, because we want you to be useful.
Let's do this very quickly. Verse 22: "Now flee…" The word there is pheugo. It's where we get the English word fugitive. I'm going to give you three things in verse 22. Write them down. First, run from. That's the first one. Flee like a fugitive. You don't toy with sin. You don't play with sin. If you've done something wrong, you don't hang around cops to see if you're quicker than them and go, "Bet you can't cuff me."
"Whoa!" Right? You are gone. You are hightailing it. You're jumping fences. You're getting in cars. You're carjacking people. You're doing whatever you can to get away from that thing which will own you and imprison you. That's the idea. I talk to guys all the time who go, "I just can't stop looking at porn." I'm like, "Tell me what you've done. Anything? I mean, are you willing to get a flip phone?"
"Oh no. I'm not going to get a flip phone."
"Are you willing to let somebody else…to get Covenant Eyes?"
"Oh no. I'm not doing that."
"Are you willing to get rid of Instagram?"
"Get off Snapchat?"
I go, "Well, you're about to be cuffed, bro, for a long time, and a slave to sin." I could go on and on and on with illustrations. It is flee. That's the first thing, but we don't just run from; we run to. Pursue, which means to persecute with zeal. It's the same word Paul said. "I used to pursue Christians to kill them. I'd hunt them down." It's the other side of this thing. On one hand, you're a fugitive fleeing from being in prison. On the other hand, you are doing right and running to overcome evil. Do you get that? There's a run from and there's a run to.
So, you pursue righteousness. Righteousness is your relationship with the law. I want what God wants for me. It's going to be good for me. Faithfulness, or faith. That is your relationship with man. It's going to change. I'm no longer going to see others as a means to my success and as a means to my pleasure. I'm going to be a man of my word, and I'm going to love them and seek their best interests. I'm going to be marked by love.
It's interesting that Paul says one thing, ultimately, about your relationship with God's law, and you're faithful to it, and that's really the bridge to the love. You're going to run after love, and you're going to discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness with zeal. Has that described your week? This week, have you been somebody who has run from sin or can you not wait to watch it on Netflix? Are you still cohabitating with sin?
Are you running toward? Would you define your week as a zealous pursuit of God's Word, a zealous effort to memorize it and journal and abide with Jesus? Would that describe your week? There's a running from, there's a running to, and then there's a running with, right here in verse 22. You're going to have peace when you pursue with zeal righteousness, faithfully loving other people. That brings peace to your life. It's the good way, and God wants you to walk in it.
You can't get there on your own, so you have a community of friends who you do it with who are pure hearted who call on God. That word for call means appeal to, ask for help from, depend on for protection and provision from a deity. That's the word. "O God, save us!" Are you around friends who go, "Apart from him we can do nothing. If God doesn't give us wisdom, we're going to be fools"? Is that your community?
Here are the core values of community: devote daily and pursue relationally. That is to feed your soul. That is the zeal to pursue righteousness and faith. Here's the second group of core values: live authentically and admonish faithfully. That's where you say, "This is how I'm feeding my flesh. This is where I need to be a fugitive from sin."
So, how are you feeding your soul? That's zealously pursuing. How are you feeding your flesh? That's the confession. Live authentically and admonish faithfully. Then counsel biblically and engage missionally, which is what the purpose of a vessel is. Vessels aren't just there to receive. Vessels receive…why? They are containers to feed, provide. It's our community core values. "Hey, don't feed your flesh, make sure you feed your soul, and if you're useful, you can feed others."
Is this not an amazing text? You have to quit having worldly chatter. If you have pastors who aren't calling you to biblical Christianity, you have trouble, but if you have pastors who are and you still aren't getting the job done, you're no alien and stranger. You're no immigrant. To quote Hamilton, immigrants get the job done. Immigrants from heaven who are here on earth get the job done. Amen?
Father, thank you for your Word. It's so rich, so good, so true, so necessary for me. O Father, thank you for your grace that lays the firm foundation. There is nothing we can do. We don't make ourselves gold and silver. You do. But I pray that we would then, Father, pheugo, run from sin, and we would dioko, zealously pursue righteousness, faith, and love and have the fruit of peace, and we'd do it not alone but in the context of community with our friends.
Lord, this week we want to come out of here reminded of what's at stake. Let us not be faithless, because you will be faithful, because you can't deny yourself. Let us not deny you. Corporately now we remind ourselves of the goodness of who you are so we might run with you this week. We thank you that all of our lives you've been faithful, and we celebrate the goodness of God that that might change our hearts and make us run with you. In Jesus' name, amen.