2 Timothy 2:8-15 CEB
Remember Jesus Christ, who was raised from the dead and descended from David. This is my good news. This is the reason I’m suffering to the point that I’m in prison like a common criminal. But God’s word cannot be imprisoned. This is why I endure everything for the sake of those who are chosen by God so that they too may experience salvation in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. This saying is reliable:
“If we have died together, we will also live together.
If we endure, we will also rule together.
If we deny him, he will also deny us.
If we are disloyal, he stays faithful”
because he can’t be anything else than what he is.
Remind them of these things and warn them in the sight of God not to engage in battles over words that aren’t helpful and only destroy those who hear them. Make an effort to present yourself to God as a tried-and-true worker, who doesn’t need to be ashamed but is one who interprets the message of truth correctly.
Orthodox, it’s probably a word you’ve heard before, whether referring to the Eastern Orthodox church or as having orthodox, or traditional, Christian beliefs. Perhaps a less familiar word is orthoprax. Both are from the Greek, with ortho meaning “right” and dox and prax meaning “belief” and “action” respectively. Thus, orthodox means “right belief,” and orthoprax means “right action.” I promise that this impromptu Greek lesson has a point: orthodoxy and orthopraxy are at the heart of our reading from 2 Timothy today. The mentor, Paul, shares with his mentee, Timothy, a creed, the basis for his belief, but he does not stop there, as he implores Timothy to also “‘present yourself to God as a tried-and-true worker.’” Timothy’s mentor models what we as Christians today often fail to do: match what we say that we believe to how we act in this world. In other words, our faith is not just the inward reality of belief but also the outward reality of action, as both are necessary to live out our faith unashamed.
Would it surprise you to learn that both United Methodism and Presbyterianism (U.S.A.) are considered non-creedal denominations? In other words, we do not require you to recite and assent to the Nicene or Apostle’s creed to be a member of our church. However, both do have confessions and other statements to express what they believe to be essential to our Christian beliefs. In fact, most Christian denominations have some creed or confession that expresses what they believe to be orthodox. Paul in 2 Timothy shares his creed or statement of faith there in verse 8, “‘Remember Jesus Christ, who was raised from the dead and descended from David. This is my good news.’” Many churches care deeply about this inward dimension as it primarily addresses a key question, “What is it that defines us as followers of Jesus Christ? What makes us disciples?” Of course, we can also get stuck on these definitions, placing too much importance on making sure that everyone feels and believes the same thing.
Paul makes sure not to get stuck on orthodoxy as he reminds Timothy, “‘present yourself.’” Presenting yourself is not staying fixated on the inward but directing yourself outward. Paul says his creed is the reason why he has endured so much, including the suffering that has come with being in “‘prison like a common criminal.’” He has lived out and suffered for his faith. We can get so fixated on making sure we all think and believe the same thing that we forget this important truth, we have to live out our faith! We have to live out what we believe in all that we do. I am reminded of Christian artist Steven Curtis Chapman’s song “Live Out Loud”, especially these lines:
“Think about this, try to keep a bird from singing
After it's soared up in the sky
Give the sun a cloudless day and tell it not to shine
Think about this if we really have been given
The gift of life that will never end
And if we have been filled with living hope, we're gonna overflow
And if God's love is burning in our hearts well you know we're gonna blow
There's just no way to keep it in.
Wake the neighbors, get the word out
So come on crank up the music, climb a mountain and shout
This is life we've been given, made to be lived out
So [...] live out loud [...]
Got to live to live it out loud”
Chapman echoes Paul when Paul tells Timothy, “‘Remind them of these things and warn them in the sight of God not to engage in battles over words that aren’t helpful and only destroy those who hear them.’” In other words, what gives your life direction and meaning? Remind yourselves of that. Live it out loud! It should be as essential to your character as the sun shining and the birds singing!
Unfortunately, our actions do not always match our beliefs. Unfortunately, sometimes we echo Paul in his other letter to the Romans where he says, “‘I don’t know what I’m doing, because I don’t do what I want to do. Instead, I do the thing that I hate’” (Romans 7:15 CEB). Unfortunately, sometimes we fail to make sure what we believe matches what we do and that what we do reinforces what we believe. When we stay stuck on making sure we only believe the right thing, sometimes there is no room for failure and doubts. However, when we try to live out our faith, the truth comes out as Paul revealed it to us, sometimes I do what I do not want to do. In other words, I meant to do the right thing, but it ended up going wrong. Luckily, we always have a chance to turn it around because a strong faith has room to make mistakes. We are not a people of perfection but of grace and forgiveness. We hold onto a God where even if “‘we are disloyal, he stays faithful’ because he can’t be anything else than what he is.’” God is faithful even in the midst of our mistakes because that’s God’s character.
Thus, today’s a new day, our day to turn our lives around and be unashamed of our good news. We can start fresh. What is essential to our life and direction as Christians? What defines our good news of following Jesus Christ? In your bulletin this morning there is a strip of paper, on one side I invite you to write down all of the things that make up your good news. What is essential to your beliefs? This is the inward dimension of your faith. Take a few minutes to do this. At the same time, we need to figure out how we disciple or present ourselves to God and to the world, so on the other side of your paper, write down how you live out your faith. Go ahead, take a moment to jot some things down. This is your outward dimension. Now twist the strip once and join the two sides of the paper until it looks like this:
Do you see how they feed into each other? Now, there is no only outer or inner edge, both blend together. What you do impacts what you believe. What you believe impacts what you do. The inward and outward both matter to live out a complete life of faith. They feed into each other and each shapes the other. We always have a chance to change. We always have a chance to take what is inside and live it out loud! We always have the chance to present ourselves to God as tried and true workers, faithful disciples, letting the evidence of our salvation through God’s grace be present in every aspect of our lives. Amen.
Pastor Paul Grossman