Fan To Flame
2 Timothy 1:1-7
“I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God…” vs. 6
Do you ever wonder just how thw church should look? Consider what this family church looked like. Some families make church their home. Others find other uses for the church.
Take the notorious Tate family, for example. Perhaps you’ve met some of them. The chief of the clan is old Dic Tate, who insists on running everything in church. His brother Ro Tate wants to change everything. Aunt Agi Tate has a knack for stirring up trouble; and her husband, Irri Tate, always lends a hand.
The next generation of Tates has its own characteristics. Hesi Tate and his wife, Vege Tate, would just as soon wait until next year whenever a new project is suggested. Aunt Imi Tate would love to create the first generic church. Devas Tate announces constantly that the church is doomed, while her husband Poten Tate promises he can lead the church out of trouble. Today in the Word, May, 1996, p. 8
Obviously this is having a bit of fun with the names but it does make you think a bit about what role some people have in the church as well as what our own role might be. Today we are starting a new study on the book of 2 Timothy which has a lot to say about the church. If you are able, please stand as we read 2 Timothy 1:1-7.
Read Passage – 2Timothy 2:1-7
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, in keeping with the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus, 2 To Timothy, my dear son: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. 3 I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. 4 Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. 5 I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. 6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.
What Lies Ahead
As we approach 2 Timothy it’s important to understand the circumstances of the writer, Paul. It says in verse 1:
“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, in keeping with the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus…” vs. 1
Paul says the “promise of life.” In a sense he is considering what lies ahead for him. 2 Timothy is Paul’s farewell address to Timothy and the church at large. Paul is in prison in Rome waiting for execution. Most likely he is in a very primitive setting with bare walls, maybe a cot or a chair and small table, and chained up. It’s probably cold and damp and he knows what lies ahead, his execution. He probably doesn’t have much in the way of comfort and is left to consider his impending death. If this were me, I think I would be absorbed with that. Not Paul. He is thinking about the ministry, the things he has done and the people he has influenced and left in place, and he is still concerned about the gospel being spread. He uses this time to pass the ministry baton to one of his protégé’s, Timothy. This is important to understand as we read through this book.
This letters that Paul wrote is one of the Pastoral Epistles. When I was a kid we memorized the books of the Bible by some of the categories they fell into like the Gospels, the minor prophets, the Pentateuch, etc. Three books, 1st and 2nd Timothy and Titus make up what are called the pastoral letters because they were written to pastors. First and Second Timothy and Titus make up the Pastoral Epistles. These letters were written for instruction of young pastors but also for the people of the those churches to understand their gifting, their call in ministry, and what the church should be like. They are written for all of us to understand what the church should be.
The Devoted Church Is Devoted To…
As I read through 2 Timothy recently, it struck me that this book has a great deal to say to us about what a devoted church, and by that I mean devoted to God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, looks like and our part in being a devoted church. Keeping in line with that thought I thought it would be a good chance to review our theme. It’s written in your bulletin but it is also on the outline as well. Our theme:
ACC Theme: Passionately Loving God, Life, and Others
I believe much of what is written in 2 Timothy goes a long way to helping us understand that theme and to live it out. In his opening, Paul addresses this idea of a devoted church in these first seven verses. Here aer three things we need to be devoted to.
First, a devoted church is devoted to God. This may sound almost redundant or you may be thinking that this is a given. Don’t overlook this important point. Verse 5:
“I am reminded of your sincere faith…” vs. 5
Notice the reminder to have sincere faith. Sincere have has a genuineness to it. It also means that it is real and true. I take this to mean that we understand who we are and that everything we do is based on the same thing, the foundation of the faith, God himself. In order for our church, any church really, to be the witness to our community and to the world, the foundation must be God. That means that everything we do, everything we say, and everything that unites us and makes us who we are is built on the foundation of God, to bring him glory and to honor him. We devote ourselves to him and seek to glorify him in all things. In 2 Chronicles 22 King David is seeking to build a temple to God and he is preparing everything for Solomon to do this after his death. Listen to part of David’s instructions to the people:
“Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the Lord your God.” 1 Chronicles 22:19
David uses the same idea in this passage about the foundation of the temple and of the church as well. The foundation is far beyond the material things used to build the building, it is building everything upon God himself as our foundation.
Ex. The example I think helps us put this in a picture we can understand is the compass. When you have a good compass, it will always give you your bearings and it is always based on letting you know where true north is. Wherever you are headed, whatever direction you are going, and whatever you are doing, a compass will always let you know where true north is so you always have your bearings.
For the church, God is our true north. Whatever we do, say, whatever ministries we undertake, it should all be about and for God. He is the common bond for the church. We can do things individually but we are all connected to God and that makes us connected to each other. God is the common bond, the thing that ties us all together, the glue to our community and church is God himself.
- Each Other
The second devotion of the church is being devoted to each other. Paul’s words in verse 3 speak volumes to us about this. Verse 3:
“I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers.” vs. 3
A hallmark of Paul and his ministry is his love and care for others and that is brought out in this verse when he talks about his prayer life. His thoughts for his fellow believers go beyond the meeting on the Sabbath. He follows this up with a second devotion to each other in verse 4:
“Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy.” vs. 4
His desire is also to be together, to spend time together. Part of the draw of being a church is the true care and concern we have for each other. It’s more than just being friends. In some ways it is more than being a family even though we use that term. I mean, think about it, you don’t choose your family, you are usually born into it. As a church family, we choose to be together, and we like that even when there are differences. The differences make us stronger and bring different gifts and strengths to the church. This idea is a them through Paul’s ministry. Listen to his words from Romans 12:10:
“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” Romans 12:10
This kind of devotion is seen by being open and honest with each other, trusting each other, coming along side one another when we hurt, when there a re difficulties, when there are joys to be shared and by building a deeper love for each other.
Ex. A great example of this is our greeting time. We love being together and being in each others lives. That greeting time is fun, a chance to catch up and a time to encourage and pray for one another. I know it seems almost funny how I have to corral you back after that time but it really is a good thing.
That depth and joy shouldn’t be limited to Sundays. We have midweek studies, we have events, we have ministry, etc. If our time is only on Sunday then we are more like a club than a family. I want to follow Paul’s example and have that devotion to each other.
And the third devotion is to service. Notice Paul’s words in verse 3:
“I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did…” vs. 3
Service is getting outside of yourself and doing things so that the love of God flows out into others and our community.
We serve each – acts of love, care, concern
We serve outside the church – Operation Shoebox, POH, etc.
In 2 Corinthians 9:13 Paul writes:
“Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ…” 2 Cor. 9:13
Our service allows God’s love to flow out of us an into others and in turn that helps them see God. Active compassionate service, Reaching out to those the world looks down on.
Ex. Tim Keller – Pastor Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, New York
Tony Campolo, a Christian speaker was at a conference in Honolulu Hawaii. He had flown in but because of the time change was wide awake at 3 a.m. He hungry so he goes out to eat and finds a seedy diner and goes in and sits down. Right next to him he overhears a conversation between two women, prostitutes, and one was named Agnes who tells the other that tomorrow is her birthday. Her friend asks if she is going to have a party or anything. Agnes says she has never had a birthday party in her life. Well they finish and leave. Tony goes over to the owner, Harry, and asks if he knows those women. He says he does because they come in every night about the same time, in fact he knows almost all the people that come in there. So Tony says, tomorrow let’s throw her a birthday party. I will bring the cake and decorations and asks if Harry knows her friends. He says he knows all her friend so Tony asks Harry to invite them all and they will have a surprise party for her. The next night at 2:30 a.m. Tony shows up and they decorate the diner and the cake and her friends start showing up about 3 am. Tony notices that all of them are prostitutes. So there he is a Christian speaker in a seedy diner at 3 am with a bunch of prostitutes. At 3:30 a.m. Agnes walks in and every screams, “Happy Birthday!” She was utterly stunned and couldn’t even stand up so she sat down and began to cry. She looks at the cake and tries to blow out the candles but couldn’t through all her tears. Harry hands her a knife to cut the cake but she asks if she could not do that, she has never had a birthday cake and she doesn’t want to ruin it. She wants to take it home and just keep it as long as she cane. She asks if she can run home and take the cake. They are a little unsure about this but they say okay and now Tony is in this diner with a bunch a prostitutes and he doesn’t know what to say do. So, he says “How about if we pray for Agnes?” So he said a prayer for her life, her salvation, prayed that her life would be changed and that God would be good to her. Tony says “When I finished Harry leaned over and said “You never told me you were a preacher. What kind of church do you belong to?” I answered I belong to a church that throws birthday parties for prostitutes at 3 a.m. Harry thought a second and with some hostility in his voice he said, “No you don’t, there is no church like that. If there was, I would go to that church. I would join a church like that.” Harry saw love and good works, good deeds. What kind of community produces love and good deeds that makes the Harry’s of the world want to come?
Keep The Fire Burning
To wrap this up, Paul gives us a great picture of what we are to look like and what to do. It’s founds in verse 7:
“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.” vs.7
Each of us have something in us, a flame that is the gift of God. Fire is another word that many times refers to the Holy Spirit. God has given us part of him, the Holy Spirit to live in us and to guide, direct and encourage us. We have his peace and strength in us. We shouldn’t stifle that. Paul’s word picture here is to fan that fire into flame; to make it bigger, brighter and deeper. Going back to our theme, I think that is the passion we refer to. We don’t want our Christianity to be dull, smoldering, and this little ember that never really turns into a fire. We should be striving to fan that ember into a fire. People build fires to gather around, to warm themselves, to cook and feed themselves, etc. This is an attractive thing that draws others. It’s living the full life, the passionate life, the devoted life.