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Growing Strong in Christ

Grace To You / John MacArthur
The Truth Network Radio
August 18, 2020 4:00 am

Growing Strong in Christ

Grace To You / John MacArthur

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August 18, 2020 4:00 am


A dedicated faithful Christian is one who sows the seed because he gets to taste the fruit, which is the great joy in the Christian life, seeing what God does in the lives of others, give your life away to others and enjoy how that tastes when it starts to come back and see how God uses you to change other people's lives.

Welcome to Grace to you with John MacArthur. I'm your host, Phil Johnson, from high school through your 20s.

You typically are at your best physically. But as the years pass, so does that vigor, that strength. Thankfully, the same is not true for your spiritual strength. In fact, the older you get, the stronger and more effective your service for Christ can be if you build the spiritual muscles that you should. So how do you get spiritually strong and stay that way? Find out today as John MacArthur continues his study called A Course for Life. Now, keep in mind, John originally preached the lessons in this study during chapel at the Masters University. But no matter your age, you can benefit from this practical teaching. And with that, here's John MacArthur.

Second, Timothy, as you probably know, was the last letter that the apostle Paul ever wrote. The last inspired letter that he ever wrote at the time he wrote this, he was a prisoner. It wasn't long after this letter that he had to give his life and he entered into the presence of the Lord. So this is his last letter. And he writes it to Timothy, who is about 30 years younger than he is and who is a relatively speaking, a young man.

And in a sense, he's passing on his spiritual responsibility to Timothy. Look at verse one of chapter two. This is basically the general thrust that he wants to get across. You, therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. Paul has already experienced what Timothy has yet to experience. And Paul knows it's going to take great spiritual strength to survive, to be effective.

And so he writes this last letter encouraging Timothy to be strong. Now, why does he say that? Well, to be real honest with you, it looked as if Timothy wasn't very strong at this particular point in his life.

Back in Chapter one.

He says in verse five, I am mindful of the sincere faith within you which first dwelled in your grandmother, Lois, and your mother Eunice. And I am sure as in you as well. He says, I know you're saved. I know you're a believer. I know you have a real faith in Jesus Christ.

I'm thankful for that.

But verse six, I remind you to kindle a fresh the gift of God which is in you. What's that? The gift for ministry. Preaching, teaching, leading the church, doing the work of an evangelist. Everything God had given Timothy to do. And apparently Paul is saying, I know your faith is real, but your gift has sort of dwindled.

The fire of your passion has gone out. And I want you to kindle it. A fresh verse, 70 says. God has not given us a spirit of cowardice, but of power, love and discipline. This leads us to believe that not only had Timothy let his gifts sort of fall into disuse, sort of backing off a little bit, but he was even a bit timid, cowardly. So here is a man who has a sincere faith but is letting his gift fall into disuse. Is losing the boldness that he once said in the cause of Christ. Then it even goes further in verse eight. He says, Do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord. Could it be that Timothy had even manifest shame toward Christ, that he'd been ashamed to speak for Christ, ashamed even to represent Christ? And as we look at this young man, we're begin to wonder whether this is the kind of a person you want to hand the baton to, right. Is it any wonder that Paul said be strong?

Down in verse 13, he says to him, Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me. What is he saying?

Hold on to your theology. Hold onto your doctrine. Verse 14. Guard through the Holy Spirit. Who dwells in you? The treasure which has been entrusted to you. And the treasure was the word of God that had come to Timothy. All that had been here before revealed was given to him as a treasure. So he's saying to us, you know, here's a guy who is supposed to carry on Paul's ministry, the greatest Christian apart, of course, from the Lord who ever lived. And Timothy is supposed to carry it on. And he's not using his gift as he ought to. He's a little bit timid and lacking courage and boldness. He may have been ashamed on a couple of occasions of Christ and of being identified with Paul. He asked to be told to hold on to sound theology and guard the treasure.

It's very possible that we're catching Timothy in a week weak point in his life. Very weak point.

He is under the gun from persecution of the outside world. He's getting heat from the inside world as the people in the church don't like what he's trying to do. Furthermore, in the first letter he wrote to Timothy. He said, Flee youthful lusts. And Timothy was battling the lusts that occupy the mind of a young man and probably saying to himself, Who am I to be in the ministry when I'm battling lust in my own heart? Furthermore, he said to him, Timothy, the servant of the Lord, must not argue and fight. And Timothy probably got in some meetings with church leaders. And let it fly and lost a little of his credibility was really struggling.

Paul says to him, look, be strong.

Now, you've heard that message. Those of you who've been in a church or gone to camp, you've heard a camp spirit get up and say, now you really need to dedicate your life to the Lord. You need a recommits. You're like, we've all been through that. We've all heard those, you know, sort of pumping up messages about commitment, dedication, consecration, re consecration, all that stuff.

But but do we understand what that means?

I mean, is it enough to say, Timothy, be strong? What are you gonna do?

You know, how do I do that?

You know you know, you've heard those sermons that are sort of like pep talks and and there's nothing very concrete. You just sort of you get emotional about it.

I remember being at camp. We said throw a stick in a fire and say, I want to burn my whole life and dedicate my life to Christ. And kids at Parade buy and throw stuff in the fire, throw a stick. And if I remember, one kid went by, took his watch off and it's real emotional. He said, I want to dedicate my time to the Lord. And he threw his watch in the fire.

I mean, that's a nice idea. But it's not dedication, it's bad stewardship. Get that watch. Quick. You don't commit your time to the Lord by burning up your watch. But, you know, a lot of us are like that. We don't know what it means.

Somebody says be dedicated, be committed to Christ. We're not sure what it means. What does it mean to rededicate your life, to consecrate your life to Christ, to be strong in the law? How many times have you gone to a camp or a youth conference or or something like that? A church service. And you felt like you wanted to dedicate your life again or you want to make a fresh commitment to the Lord and and you do that emotionally. But what does it mean? What are you really doing?

Well, you need more than a pep talk. I mean, pep talk. I'll carry you. Just so far.

But Paul wants to do more than give you a pep talk. He wants to be very specific about what it means to be strong in the Lord. So he gives us four pictures. All right. Let's look at four pictures flow out of this text that define a strong Christian. If you're gonna be strong in the Lord. Here's how you see yourself.

Verse two, the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses. These in trust to faithful men who will be able to teach others. Also, the first picture that he wants you to have is that you are a teacher. You are a teacher. Timothy, you have been taught by me. You must teach others who can teach others.

A strong Christian is one who learns in order to teach. If you want to know whether your life is really committed to Christ and to the level of dedication, then ask yourself, how involved am I in the process of learning so I can teach somebody so they can teach somebody?

That's a spiritual image that the Christian bears somebody has taught you. Somebody right now is teaching you. There are people pouring their lives into you with the things of God. What are you doing with them? A committed Christian is a teacher. You're passing it on your disciples, someone. You're deciphering them. You're teaching them. You're instructing them so that they can instruct someone else. There are four generations in verse two first generation, Paul, second generation to Timothy. Third generation to faithful men. Fourth generation. Two others. Also, there's a process here, a process you're in. You're in a relay race. The best way to see it is in a relay race.

Somebody gave you the baton and you are responsible to run your leg and hand that baton to somebody else.

And it all started with Jesus who gave the baton to the apostles. The things that Jesus began to do and to teach, he passed on to the apostles. According to X1 one, the apostles pass it on to somebody. Somebody pass it on to somebody.

Somebody passed it on to somebody and it got all the way down. And somebody has given you is giving you the truth of God and you're in the same process of passing it on to someone else. You say, well, I don't know very much. We'll find someone who knows less than you do and tell him everything you know. Then find somebody who knows more than you do and learn everything they know.

Get in the process. You know, when I was in college, I, I ran on the track team.

I ran the sprints and did some of the jumping events. And then I ran the second leg in the mile relay, which is one one lap, 400 meters or four and 40 yard dash. And we got to the Orange County Invitational finals in the mile relay and we're pretty excited. There were about five, six teams in that final and we thought we had a good shot at it. We had a real good first guy. I ran second. First guy gets a lead. Second guy. Luzie, you have to to make it up. You know, that's where they put me. So I was basically a baseball player, but they'd they'd have me do track as well. And so we we got into that event. We had smoke for an anchor. We had a guy who just really could burn up the track and we thought we could win the whole thing. So the race, the gun went off and the first guy ran a great leg, just a great leg, came in just holding first place. And we having to make a perfect baton pass just as I was taking my last step out of the lane. So us up to speed. And he was still running strong. I got the baton and I got a real good jump coming out of the lane. I can see it vividly even today. And I ran the best leg I ever ran. It came in holding first place and another perfect baton pass slap the thing in the hand of the third guy. Ted and Ted took off and we knew we were sitting pretty because we knew our anchor could could win.

And Ted went down turn came down the backstretch halfway down the backstretch, you know, we're just pumped. He's stopped walked off the track and sat on the grass.

I mean, we we I thought he popped his pant terrorists or pulled a hamstring or I mean, I didn't know what he did or spiked himself or what. Never forget. I ran across the grass. You know, the race is going on. We're out. I ran across the grass and I'll never forget. Look, that was a tad. What happened?

These immortal words came from his lips.

I don't know. I just feel like running anymore.

That's exactly what he said. You know, your first reaction to take your traction. Got ya.

You've got to be kidding me. What do you mean you didn't feel like running? Well, well, what do you mean? There's more in this than you, my friend.

You don't want to run. Don't don't run in your own race. Not ours.

The guy who's waiting to anchor the race is standing over there, you know, wondering what in the world went on. A lot of training goes into the winning.

You're not in this alone.

I look back on that and you say, boy, that's really tragic. Well, it's not nearly as tragic as somebody investing spiritual truth in somebody who fails to pass it on.

Right. You got a tremendous responsibility. Jesus said, to whom much is given, what much is required. There is a mother and a father and a pastor to youth pastor and a lot of folks who have poured the truth into you. And you have a responsibility to stand up for that truth and pass it to the next generation. Right. That's being a teacher. Second picture that he gives is a soldier.

Look at verse three, suffer hardship with me as a good soldier of Christ. Jesus literally suffer hardship along with me. Paul is saying we all do it. I'm suffering, too. And you got to suffer along with me because that's what it's like to be a soldier.

Then in verse four, he says soldiers in active service don't entangle themselves in the affairs of everyday life. And they do what they do to please the one who enlisted them to be a soldier. Three things about a soldier. Number one, a soldier suffers hardship. Number two, a soldier disentangled himself from the affairs of civilian life. And number three, does what he does to please his commander.

Now, you're a soldier.

If you're as a child of God, if you're a believer and you want to be strong in the Lord, then you need to view yourself as a soldier. And a soldier is made for battle.

A soldier is made for warfare. Soldiers made for difficulty. And you say, well, you know, other Christian life's hard. That's what you're designed for.

That's why you have the Holy Spirit. That's why you have the armor of God available to you if he's in Chapter six. That's why you have Christ as your high priest interceding for you, because you do not wrestle against what?

Flesh and blood?

You are involved in a spiritual warfare and spiritual warfare demands soldiers. And that's what you're all about. You can't expect it to be easy. You can only expect it to be a battle. And you have to be willing to suffer what comes as a faithful soldier. You're going to get misrepresented and persecuted and rejected and maligned and mocked and accused.

But you're a soldier and you're on the other side from the enemy.

So you expect the enemy to get his shots in. Just make sure you have your arm, Iran, and you're willing to suffer for the cause of Christ. See, what made Timothy weakened was he wasn't willing to suffer.

He wasn't willing to suffer when it got tough. He got timid when it got tough. He got ashamed instead of being bold for Christ. You have to be a soldier. And the first thing about a soldier is he's willing to take the heat for the commander whose name he bears.

The second thing in verse four is he's not entangled in civilian life. I mean, when you go into the military, that's a total commitment, isn't it? The guy they don't say to you now you're now that you're in the army. Could you show up around here now? And then we would like you to come to the base as often as you can. We know you've got a busy schedule, but show up now and then. And, you know, by the way, put that uniform on from time to time you and get in line when we ask.


When you're in the military, I mean, that's it. They cut your hair. They tell you what to wear. They feed you the same stuff. They put you wherever they want to put you. They control your life. Top to bottom. That's how it is with a soldier. That's how it is with a Christian. When you're in the service of Jesus Christ, it's a total life commitment.

You serve him. You're disentangled from the rest of the world. You've got to see yourself that way.

The clearer that vision is, the more faithful you're going to be. The third thing he says, and this is very important, is that the soldier does what he does to please the commander, the one who enlisted him to be a soldier.

One of the greatest lessons you'll ever learn in your life is do everything you do to please the Lord. Sounds basic, and it is the controlling factor in Christian living. David said, I said the Lord always before me. Psalm 16 controlled his life. I only do it pleases God. Whatever you do, what you eat or drink, do it all to the glory of God. I live my life that way. That controls everything I do. If I'm concerned about what people think, I got problems, reporter said to me one time, for whom do you prepare your sermons? I said to him, For the Lord, for the Lord. I mean, he's the one I have to please that's consciously in my mind, in my service. Am I pleasing the Lord? A good illustration. This when I was in college, in the days that I was in college, it was my sophomore season of football.

And we had our first game was our opening game. We were playing it in the Rose Bowl and we were we were playing a pretty good team, formidable team.

My job on we got to kick off in the first play. The call was 27 power blast, which is an off tackle blast. Where does a double team on the outside guy and then I'm the lead guy through the whole of my job is to take the linebacker out. I saw when I was sitting in the huddle, you know, and it's sort of like everything got into slow motion. They call twenty seven per blast. And I looked over there. This is my first shot at a college football game, you know, and the real thing and I'm looking at this linebacker and a longer I look at him, the bigger he gets like somebody is inflating and he just keeps getting larger and larger. And I'll never forget the situation because the hole opened up nicely and I had to go through. And of course, I didn't know what to do and I was a little bit afraid. I don't want to blow my entire career on this one guy. And he had somewhat of a reputation. So I just kind of nudged him a little bit and he just leveled me and went right through the hole. We had about an eight yard loss, the big pile of bodies everywhere. And you don't want to start a game like that. That is not good. Went back to the huddle figure. Nobody else know what happens right later in the game. And I had about a 70 yard touchdown run, except we won the game. So I thought no one is going to bother with that deal. Well, Monday we went to the gym to get dress practice and the sign on the board said report to the film room. And I went in there and sat down and all I figured out that they'll never be on the film because it's the first play the game and it won't get the thing cranked up. And sometimes it missed the first few plays. And, you know, but anyway, it was on the first part of the film and the camera was on my side of the field, our side. So I was in full view, just full view. And I go, bing, bang, wham.

You know, it's obvious what happened. So the coach had stopped the projector. Let's run that again then. These famous words, man, watch McArthur what he said.

And he ran it five times forward and backward. Five times, five times. And the sad part is I never improved all five times.

I did exactly the same thing.

Greatest lesson ever learned. I went out of there so humiliated for the rest of my career. I had only one guy in mind. I don't care what the cheerleaders thought. My girlfriend, my parents. I cared only about one guy. I was gonna face on Monday.

That's a good spiritual analogy.

When you serve the Lord Jesus Christ, he's the commander in chief that you want to please. What does it mean to be dedicated means to be a teacher who passes on what he learns means to be a soldier who willing to suffer hardship, who's willing to cut himself off from the world and do everything he does to please the commander.

Third picture, third picture in verse five ties in with the analogy I just gave. And if anyone competes as an athlete, he doesn't win the prize unless he competes according to the rules. The third picture is you're an athlete. You have to see yourself as an athlete. Now, there are a couple of things about an athlete. It implies that you make a maximum effort.

Russ Hodge, you used to be on the staff here was a world record holder in the decathlon. One of the greatest athletes in history. The world still holds like five lifetime best in the decathlon. And REST's was a coach of the U.S. decathlon team one year. And we were up in Eugene, Oregon, and I was standing on the Eugene, Oregon track because it was the greatest decathlete meat in the world's history. And I said the rest. I said, Who's the greatest athlete here? And he pointed to a guy who really loves Christ as a good good, fell on a friend. Even visited our college named Freddy Dixon. He said Freddy Dixon's the greatest athlete in the world. I said, who will win? He said, See that little short guy over there? You never heard of him. He'll win. I said, how is it he'll win if he's not the greatest athlete in the world? And he said because he's the most mentally tough competitor I've ever seen in my life.

He will not lose. He refuses to lose.

Sure enough, at the end of the second day, in the twilight when they run, the distance runner came in at a lifetime best. He won that day two years later. The whole world knew about him because he won the gold in Montreal.

His name is Bruce Jenner, and he won because he wouldn't lose.

There's some to be said about that, not only in athletics, but in life. And that's what an athlete does. He has this mental commitment to winning. I've often said that most Christians who don't really reach their spiritual potential don't reach it because they don't care to reach it.

They're not that interested.

It's indifference and sometimes it's indifference that separates the winners from the losers.

Not ability, not ability.

From a spiritual standpoint, you need to want to win. And there's nothing wrong with wanting to win. The Lord says run that you may win. Run that you may obtain the prize. That's what an athlete does. There's no honor in losing.

You don't say to an athlete when he wins the race all you're so selfish. Why don't you let somebody else win?

Now, maximum effort is honored. Second thing, he says he does it to win the prize and he does it according to the rules. If you're going to be an athlete, you have to keep the rules.

You can't be running the race and say, I think it's easier if I just cut right across the infield here and it'll shorten up this shot. You can't do that. Can't even get out of your own lane.

Keep the rules. When the smoke clears, you've done it God's way. You're an athlete. Fourth picture. Last one was six.

The hardworking farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crowds.

You got to see yourself as a farmer. What does a farmer do with plants and harvest and taste the crop? That's one of the most wonderful things about the Christian life is planting, isn't it?

So in the seed and and getting to taste the result, that is thrilling to me just to taste the fruit. I mean, that's the best thing about being in a ministry. That's exciting.

And there I could give you dozens of illustrations of what it's like to taste the fruit of the power of God in the life of the person.

It's phenomenal.

I remember baptizing one of the leading pornographers in Hollywood as he professed his faith in Jesus Christ.

I mean, you got to know that is that's a thrilling thing. I remember baptizing the head of the Houston Hells Angels. I mean, tattoos all over him.

He had been redeemed. His vocabulary wasn't really prepared yet for public testimony. As it turned out, he made the buns on the back of the little old ladies. Heads unravel.

As he was sharing how the Lord had changed his life, he also was very interesting. He also said, you know, the last time I was in church, I rode down the middle aisle on my bike and I threw a rope over the pastor and dragged him out the back and down the stairs and down the road.

And I'm going, praise the Lord, praise Lord, you.

But I mean, it's amazing to see the fruit of the ministry. And you have to look at yourself as a farmer. What does a farmer do? So seed sows the seed, sows the seed, patiently waits and then tastes the harvest. Young people.

What is a dedicated Christian? A dedicated Christian is somebody who teaches what he's learned. A dedicated Christian is someone who sees himself as a soldier, made for hardship, made to be cut off from the world and made to fight to please the commander. A dedicated Christian, is an athlete who runs to the maximum of his ability to win the prize the Lord has promised. And he keeps the rules. And a dedicated, faithful Christian is one who sows the seed because he gets to taste the fruit, which is the great joy in the Christian life, seeing what God does in the lives of others. Give your life away to others and enjoy how that tastes when it starts to come back and you see how God uses you to change other people's lives.

You're listening to John MacArthur on Grace to you. John originally preached today's message during chapel at the master's university, where he serves as chancellor. This is part of a series of lessons that lays out a course for life. John, growing strong in Christ involves increasing your ability to recognize and defend truth discernment. We live in an era where the church seems to be careening down a dangerous slope and people are losing their ability and their willingness to be discerning. Nothing is more important than being discerning, especially for a younger person.

Yeah, you you remember where the apostle Paul says be not children tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine. And he says that in a passage that is familiar to all of us, the Lord gave to the church apostles and prophets, evangelists and teaching pastors for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ. So the role that all of these leaders play in lives is to build them up in the faith so that they are not children pushed around by every false doctrine. Their discernment is refined. In fact, I would say that the mark of a mature believer is discernment. You can ask the question what distinguishes a mature believer? And I would answer in a heartbeat discernment that they can discern the priorities. They can discern the priority of loving Christ, walking with Christ. They can discern the priority if humility. They can discern the priority of honoring God, of pleasing God. They can discern the priority of worship and ministry and use of spiritual gifts. And they can discern the priority of dealing with sin in your life. So discernment is everything and discernment comes to those. The Bible says, who exercise their faith, who learn the truth and grow in the knowledge of the truth. The truth becomes the criteria for that discernment. That's how you grow. A number of years ago, I wrote a book called The Keys to Spiritual Growth. Been around, been around, I guess, for like 30 years, plus keys to spiritual growth. It's everything you need to know to grow, including how to develop discernment, how to glorify God, how to obey God, and how to confess your sin. The role of prayer being filled with a spirit so much more. But here's what I want to say about this. The book, The Keys to Spiritual Growth, is free to any student who requests a copy. If you're a student, we'll send you a free copy of the Keys to Spiritual Growth. That's almost 200 pages. It's a book for life. It really is. It will teach you how to grow to maturity and spiritual discernment. Again, free to any student who requests the copy.

Yes, this book is a great resource for mature believers and for new Christians alike. It shows you how to unlock the door to boundless spiritual blessing in Christ to pick up the keys to spiritual growth. Contact us today. We'll send it to you free if you're a student. While quantities last call 855 Grace or take advantage of this offer at G.T. y dot org.

If you've ever felt yourself struggling in your Christian walk, I encourage you to get a copy of the Keys to Spiritual Growth. Again, it's free to any student who wants a copy while supplies last. Call our toll free number 855 Grace or go online to G.T.. Why dot org. And if you're being strengthened by this ministry or if someone you know has become a Christian through John's verse by verse teaching. Send us your story, won't you? Your feedback is more important than you may realize. And make sure to include this station's call letters. When you get in touch, you can send us an e-mail at letters at G.T. whiteboard or mail your letter to Grace to you. Box 4000 Panorama City, California. Nine one four one two. And our e-mail one more time. Letters at G.T. y dawg. Thanks also for letting us know that you're praying for us and for telling others about these daily broadcasts. And now for John MacArthur. I'm Phil Johnson, encouraging you to be here tomorrow when John continues his series, A Course for Life, with another 30 minutes of unleashing God's truth, one verse at a time on Grace to You.

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