First Mennonite Church
April 5, 2015
The Resurrection Gift: Power, Love, and Self-Control
Text: 2Timothy 1:6-14
I am a second generation evangelical Christian. (I do not like to define myself as an evangelical, not because I am ashamed of the term, but because the term can be vague. I rather call myself a believer in Jesus Christ and or follower of Jesus Christ, but for the purpose of my point here I will call myself a second generation evangelical Christian.) My parents are first generation believers. My upbringing in matters of faith was deliberate and clear. My parents quoted scriptures to us their children when giving us advice. My parents’ faith guided their words and actions and they saw that we their children understood why they acted and spoke the way they did. Among many other examples of their desire to follow Christ, I remember my dad coming from his field and telling us of the verbal abuse he had suffered from the owner of the field next to his. Once, after such one-sided rant, this gentleman shot into the air with his shotgun as a way to show his aggressiveness toward Dad. But Dad would say, “Jesus teaches us to love, even our enemies.” We felt terribly sorry for Dad and sometimes we were afraid of what might happen to him. Last week, my mother told me that just recently this man has joined the church where she and Dad attend.
In the case of my mother, in the early days of her conversion Mom suffered rejection from her mother and her three sisters. Mom would go to visit grandma but grandma would pretend as if my mother was not there. Grandmother would not address a word to Mom and not reply if Mom asked something. My three aunts did the same. Mom kept visiting her mother and sisters and eventually they also gave their lives to the Lord.
In many places, the life of faith for Christians is not easy. First generation Christians are often ridiculed, abused, persecuted, and in some places they are even killed. (Just this week we heard of the massacre of young Christian students in Garissa, Kenya. And we should remember the families of the victims in our prayers.) In the case of the mother church that planted my home church in Belize its church building was burned down because the villagers did not want a Mennonite Church in their town. However, every so often, for those whose faith is so severely tried and whose new life in Christ represents a radical alternative to the way of life to those around them, the power of God is evident. God’s presence, love, and holiness are revealed in an undeniable fashion. Sometimes those who oppose the gospel at first are compelled to give it a try.
In the case of Timothy, not only was his mother Eunice a believer, but also was his grandmother Lois. I can only imagine Timothy growing up under the spiritual guidance of both his mother and grandmother. In Acts 16, verse 1 says that Timothy’s father was Greek. This might mean that Timothy’s father was not a Christian and definitely not a Jew. So allow me to say to you mothers and grandmothers who do not have the full support of your husbands in raising your children or grandchildren in the faith: join with your daughters in raising their children in the knowledge of the Lord. Support each other. Eunice and Lois raised a young man who became a man of God and whom Paul called his spiritual son. Yet it seems that the young man Timothy was ailing from what often is the typical situation of a young person when only one parent is a committed Christian. Timothy was becoming remiss or negligent with his faith. Paul could only recall Timothy’s fervent and tearful prayers in earlier days. Paul could only remember of Timothy’s sincere faith, which was nurtured by his mother and grandmother. But at that juncture when Paul was writing his second letter, it seemed that Timothy’s faith and Christian fervor were in need of rekindling. It was not that he had abandoned his faith, but that it needed a personal spiritual revival.
My dear friends, rekindling the faith and the gift of God in us is a constant need we all have. We have heard it many times and in various ways: “Conformity and routine are the killers of all passion.” This is true about love between married couples, but it is also true about our love and passion for the Lord. The faith and fervor of Timothy, being a third generation believer, might have started to show signs of conformism and timidity, and therefore Paul needed to warn him.
We, therefore, should be cautious in allowing conformism to relegate Christianity to attending church services only. We should be careful not to allow conformism to relegate our love for God to occasional prayers in our lives. We should be vigilant not to allow conformism to distort our faith in Christ to a simple list of religious affirmations. To any whose faith has become like that and even for those who take seriously their commitment with the Lord, the words of Paul to Timothy are a timely reminder: I remind you to rekindle the flame of the gift of God. So let us ask ourselves, how fiery is our faith today? What are we doing to keep our faith ablaze?
Three components to that gift
For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.
First of all, timidity is not a gift of the Spirit of God. The Greek word deilia can be translated fearfulness, cowardice, or timidity. Timidity produces a sense of powerlessness, aggressiveness, and confusion. But the Spirit God has given us is a Spirit of power, love and self-control. This grace or this gift was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
The apostle Paul equates timidity to the spirit of death which the resurrection of Jesus has defeated and destroyed. The life that Jesus has brought to light is a life filled with power, love and self-control. Therefore, as we celebrate Easter Sunday today, let us be reminded that the gift of God to us is a Spirit of power, love and self-control. Let us take a look at these three component of God’s gift to us.
In Matthew chapter 28, verse 18, the first words that came from Jesus’ mouth after his resurrection were, “All power/authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations ….” And in Acts 1:8, in light of his disciples’ uneasiness due to his imminent departure, Jesus promised them, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” For the Spirit God gave us is not of timidity, but of power! The power Jesus gave his disciples and gives us today by his Spirit is power to become his witnesses. It is not power to subdue others. It is not power to control or to impose our beliefs. It is not power according to the world. It is power to be his witnesses.
How is this power showing in your life, my dear brothers and sisters? In John 15, verse 5, Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.” The power of God depends on our connection with him. The power of God is guaranteed to us only if we abide in Jesus. The power of God in us is for us to be his fearless witnesses regardless of the challenges there might be to our faith. A Spirit of power is what the resurrection of Jesus gives us. Receive it! Act on it! It is a gift of God to you because Jesus brought life and immortality to light through his resurrection.
On the contrary, being powerless causes us to be fearful and ashamed as Paul says in Romans 8:15. But because we have been adopted into the family of God through Jesus, we have been freed from spiritual slavery. But the truth is that God has given us a Spirit of power to be his witnesses. So we are not ashamed of the gospel.
The Spirit God has given us is of love. God is love, says the apostle John. Christ would not have come if it were not for the love of God. Christ would not have died, if not because in love he laid down his life for all. Love, Greek “agape” is the act of seeking the wellbeing of the other without condition or hope of reward. Love does not discriminate. Love is free. Love cost God his Son. Love causes us to love even if it hurts. Love is not selective. Of all virtues love will remain throughout eternity because love is the nature of God.
My dear friends, in the parable of the Good Samaritan when Jesus was asked by the Pharisee, who is my neighbor, the Pharisee wanted Jesus to appoint a few people who would be entitled to the Pharisee’s love. Pardon me for entering the fray: This pharisaical spirit of wanting someone or some judicial system to define who Christians can serve or love is not a primitive or far away problem as one might think. It is happening even in modern America. But today as we celebrate Easter Sunday, let us remember that the Spirit God has given us through the resurrection of Jesus is one of love. Love that is sacrificial. Love that knows no bounds, because the Spirit God has given us is of love.
You know how it feels when you lose it. It has happened to me also. That is, when you “lose your cool” or “when you stick your foot in your mouth,” as we commonly say. And although at first we might think that losing self-control is simply an incident of carelessness on our part or something happening on a “spur of the moment,” but for us Christians lacking self-control should be a matter of serious consideration. The Spirit God has given us is of self-control, therefore, when we show evidence of having self-control, we are actually manifesting the gift of God’s Spirit dwelling in us. And likewise, when we show evidence of lacking self-control, maybe it is an indication of our need to rekindle the fire of God’s gift to us.
Again, Paul reminded Timothy that the gift of God is a spirit of power, love and self-control. This gift has been give since Jesus has brought to light life and immortality through his resurrection. For what purpose has God given Timothy and all believers this three-fold gift? Paul immediately says:
So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. God wants us to be bold witnesses of the gospel. Just as Timothy was called to not be ashamed but to join Paul in his suffering, we too have the same calling. Jesus suffered and died for the sake of living and proclaiming the gospel. Paul suffered also and Timothy was called to join Paul in his suffering. Can it be different for us if we want to be faithful to the gospel? Can we avoid something that is inherent in the gospel, which is suffering when its founder underwent it and all those who followed after Jesus? It is only by the power of God that we can endure suffering for his sake. It is only when his love for others and even our enemies that we will be willing to suffer. It is only when the presence of the Spirit of God of self-control dwells in us that we will not seek retaliation and avoidance of suffering.
Let us hear the words of the apostle Peter regarding suffering for the sake of the Lord. 1Peter 4:12-19 says:
12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. 16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And,
“If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”
19 So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.
Let us therefore rekindle the flame of God’s gift to us. Let us receive God’s Spirit of power, love and self-control he is giving us through his resurrection. Let us not be ashamed of the testimony of the Lord. And let us not shy away from suffering for the sake of the Lord if that is the will of God for us. Let us rekindle the flame of God’s gift to us. Let us remember that Jesus has been raised from the dead and death has been defeated. We can be faithful witnesses with the help of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. Amen!