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Finishing Well - Bible Survey Part 14

So What? / Lon Solomon
The Truth Network Radio
September 18, 2021 7:00 am

Finishing Well - Bible Survey Part 14

So What? / Lon Solomon

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September 18, 2021 7:00 am

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Today we're going to go on and we're going to cover the books of 1st and 2nd Timothy, Titus, and Philemon.

So, are you ready? All right, let's do Philemon first. The shortest of Paul's letters, Philemon was a believer who lived in Colossae, a friend of Paul's, and a man that Paul had led to Christ personally.

We'll show you a map so that you see where Colossae is located. In fact, we learned from verse 2 of the letter to Philemon that the church there in Colossae actually met in Philemon's house. Now, Philemon had a slave whose name was Onesimus. This slave stole money from him, ran away, came to Rome, where somehow he met the Apostle Paul, became friends with the Apostle Paul, and the Apostle Paul led him to Christ.

This is during the time when Paul was incarcerated in his first imprisonment in Rome, 61 to 62 AD. And now, Paul is sending Onesimus, this newly born-again, this newly come to Christ runaway slave, back to his owner, Paul's friend, Philemon. Verse 10, Paul says, I appeal to you, writing to Philemon, for my son Onesimus, who became my spiritual son while I was in chains in Rome.

I am sending him back to you, even though I would love to keep him with me. Perhaps the reason, Paul says to Philemon, that he ran away was so that you might have him back again for good, not as a slave, but as a dear brother in the Lord. So Paul says, Philemon, if you consider me a friend, please welcome him, Onesimus, back as you would welcome me. Now we need to stop for a minute and understand that this was no small thing that the Apostle Paul was asking Philemon to do. The general rule for a runaway slave at this time in the Roman Empire was death. No questions asked. They just killed you because they wanted to send a message to every slave in the Roman Empire.

Don't you even think about it. And so in asking Philemon to take Onesimus back and not kill him, but restore him, this was tremendously out of the ordinary what Paul was asking Philemon to do. Verse 18, Paul says, and if he, Onesimus, has done you any wrong, or if he owes you anything, charge it to me. I, Paul, will pay it back to you, not to mention, of course, Paul said, that you owe me your very life. Paul said, I just want to remind you, Philemon, that if it wasn't for me, you wouldn't be going to heaven, but if you think I owe you something, put it on my bill. I think that's hysterical.

That's a little bit of humor in there. Did you get that? Yeah, okay. And so being confident of your obedience, Paul says, I write this to you knowing that you will do even more than I ask. Now I look at this and I see a great example here of what Paul said in Colossians chapter 3 when he told us to forgive one another as the Lord forgave you and me. And friends, let's just say all of us have Onesimus in our life. We've all got people who've hurt us, taken advantage of us, used us, done rotten things to us, and the message of this book to us is that we're to do the same thing with them that Paul was asking Philemon to do with Onesimus, and that is to forgive them as the Lord forgave us. It isn't easy.

I've got those people in my life, and it's hard to do that, but hey, when I think of how the Lord forgave me fully, freely, without any condition, well folks, that's how I have to forgive other people then. So I hope you'll take this lesson to heart as I do from the book of Philemon. Now, you got that book?

We got it? Okay, let's move on to 1st and 2nd Timothy and Titus now, and when we dig into these books, it's important we know a little bit about the men to whom they were written. 1st Timothy, let's talk about him. In Acts 16 verse 1 at the beginning of his second missionary journey, the Bible says in Acts chapter 16 that there was a certain disciple there in Lystra and Derbe named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer she was, but his father was a Gentile.

Let's show you a map so that you see where Lystra and Derbe are. Paul was there on his first missionary journey, and now on his second journey, he's coming through town to encourage the church there, and he had led Timothy to Christ when he was there on his first journey, but Timothy has grown like a weed. Verse 2, and he, Timothy, was well spoken of by all the believers in Lystra and Iconium, so Paul wanted Timothy to go with him on his second missionary journey, and Timothy did and became Paul's right-hand person for the next 17 years of Paul's life until he died in 66 AD.

Now, by the way, church historians tell us that Timothy ended up becoming the bishop of Ephesus where he was martyred for his faith by Emperor Domitian somewhere between the years of 81 and 96 AD. How about Titus? Well, Titus was a full-on Gentile. His mother wasn't Jewish, his father wasn't Jewish, and Paul had led him to Christ as well, which is why Paul says, Titus 1, verse 4, Paul says, to Titus, my true son in our common faith. Now, Titus's name is never mentioned in the book of Acts, but we do know a little bit about Titus. We know from Galatians 2 that he went with Paul and Barnabas to the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15. We know from 2 Corinthians 8 that he was with Paul on Paul's third missionary journey, and we know from Titus, chapter 1, verse 5, that Paul, after he was released from his first imprisonment in Rome, 62 AD, he left Titus in Crete to oversee the churches there. We'll show you a map so that everybody knows where the island of Crete is, and as far as we know, Titus died there of natural causes, overseeing the churches that Paul had commissioned to his care. Now, the letters of 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus are commonly called the pastoral epistles because Paul wrote them to these two men regarding the pastoral care of these churches that Paul had entrusted to them, and particularly 1 Timothy and Titus are chock-full of information about how God wants his church to be run.

Here at McLean Bible Church, one of the ways we decided how to build this church is we took the Bible, we opened it to 1 Timothy and Titus, we read those letters, and we said, now this is the fullest explanation anywhere in the Bible how God wants his church run, and this is how we try to run McLean Bible Church. So that's 1 Timothy and Titus. Then we come to 2 Timothy, which was Paul's last letter written in 66 AD.

Here's the situation. In 64 AD, July to be exact, Rome burned to the ground, and Nero, Emperor Nero, blamed it on the Christians. Most people think Nero did it himself, but he blamed it on the Christians, and so for the first time, empire-wide persecution broke out against Christians, and as part of that, Nero arrested both Peter and Paul, incarcerated them, and then killed them both in 66 AD. So when Paul was in jail in Rome, this second time, he knew that the end was near. That's why he wrote Timothy and said 2 Timothy 4 6, the time of my departure is at hand. Paul knew it was over and that he was going to be with the Lord, and so the main purpose of 2 Timothy is Paul writing to challenge Timothy to faithfully carry on for the Lord in Paul's absence, and as far as we know, this letter, 2 Timothy, was the last time that Timothy ever heard from the Apostle Paul here on earth.

Now, that is the fastest overview of the pastoral epistles you will ever get, but do you get an idea of what they're all talking about? You with me? Okay, good. Now, it's time for us to stop and ask our most important question, and you know what this is. So, all of you guys at Loudon, all you guys at Prince William, all of you guys at Bethesda, around the world, the Internet, you ready? Everybody here at Tysons, we ready? All right, now listen, you got to make this a long enough so what, so I have time to take a drink of water, so it's got to be a good one. All right, ready? One, two, three, perfect. That was perfect.

All right, now, guys, these letters are full of so much amazing information that we could spend weeks and weeks and weeks talking about the content of 1st and 2nd Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. So, I just had to pick one thing for us to talk about today, and I think it'll speak to your heart because it definitely spoke to my heart. You know, when my boys were young and growing up, I used to always say to them, now, fellas, I want you to listen. It's not how we start the race that matters, it's how we finish the race. They don't hand out medals at the starting line, fellas. They hand out medals at the finishing line.

You guys understand that, right? I mean, everybody looks good at the starting line. They got their little trunks on and they're all shaking their hands and shaking their legs and everybody's ready to go.

Everybody looks great at the starting line. It's at the finish line you find out who really ran the race well. Well, here in 2nd Timothy, Paul is at the finish line.

He said, 2nd Timothy chapter 4, the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith. And it's almost as though Paul was saying, you know, I started the race well on the road to Damascus, and now 30 years later, I, by God's grace, am finishing the race well.

Now, folks, I think all of us recognize this is not the easiest thing in the world to do. I mean, we can all think of people in the Bible, right, who started the race well and finished terrible. People like Lot, people like Samson, people like King Solomon, people like Judas Iscariot. And we don't even have to go all the way back to the Bible to think of these kind of people.

We all can think of Christian leaders in our modern world today who started the race great and finished it terrible. And that's why often people will come up to me and they'll say, what can I do for you? And I say, pray for me. And then they always ask, well, what do you want me to pray for you?

And I always tell them the same thing. Pray that I finish well. Pray that I finish well.

I mean, look, folks, we all understand you can do a thousand great things, but if you do one really bad thing, people forget the thousands of good things you did and they only remember you for the one really bad thing you did. That is not how I want to end my life. I don't want to be remembered for the one catastrophe that happened to me at the end of my life.

And and I'm not kidding myself. You know, I know I'm not a young man anymore. I'm not in the starting gate. I'm not going around the first turn. I'm not going around the back turn. I'm coming all the way around and heading down to the finish line.

I'm 65 years old. You say, well, you don't look like it. Oh, God bless you.

I love you, but I am. And folks, I understand how tragic would it be to trip in the home stretch. How tragic would that be? That's why I say people pray for me, and I mean it with all my heart, that I finish well. And that should be a prayer every one of us have.

I don't care where we are on the track. Lord, please let me finish well. It doesn't matter how I started nearly as much as it matters how I finish. Now in that regard, the Bible has four suggestions to help us finish well, and I want to give them to us, and then we're done.

So here we go. Suggestion number one is if we want to finish well, we need to stay vitally connected to the Word of God. Psalm 119 verse 9, how shall a young man or an old man keep his way clean by taking heed to it according to your word? Verse 11, your word I have hidden in my heart that I might not sin against you. Folks, why do we study the Word of God? Why do we memorize the Word of God here at this church? Why do we urge you to meditate on the Word of God? Because the more we study it, memorize it, and meditate on it, God says the less we will sin against him. God's Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path to keep us from ending up in the ditch. Hey, you can slice it any way you want, but spending serious time in God's Word results in our sinning less, results in our making better choices in life, and maximizes our chance of ending our life well. So let me ask each of us the question, and I ask myself this question, how you doing on this?

Are you really vitally in the Word of God each and every week, or have you gotten sloppy, and just a little bit slovenly, and just a little bit inconsistent? Friends, when we get inconsistent in the Word of God, we are opening ourselves up to go down somewhere on the track. Number two, suggestion number two, want to end well in life? Then number two, don't minimize how evil your human heart is. Jeremiah 17, 9, the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.

Friends, my heart is this way, your heart is this way, and to make matters worse, we all have this amazing capacity to justify what our evil hearts want to do. So my question to us all is, have you, have I accepted the truth about your heart and my heart, that it's our worst enemy, and that only with the Holy Spirit's help can we defend ourselves from our human heart? This is why David prayed, Psalm 139, search me, O God, and know my heart, try me, and know my thoughts, and see if there be any wicked way in me, and show me what that wicked way is, Lord, before I fall prey to it. Psalm 26, David prayed, examine me, O Lord, and try me, test my mind and my heart. Friends, God can expose to us the evil schemes of our hearts before they lead us into disaster, but we've got to be asking God for that.

We've got to be wanting God to do that in prayer, and so let me ask you, when's the last time you got on your knees and said, Lord, examine my heart, test my heart, show me what wicked ways are in there, and don't let me be deceived by my heart? Number three, want to finish well? Then third, don't overestimate yourself. Romans 12-3 says, do not think more highly of yourself than you ought. And you know, God has always beaten on me with this verse, I'm telling you, because I have a bad tendency to do this. God is always saying to me, Lon, do not think more highly of yourself than you ought. Thank you, Lord, I appreciate that. Five minutes later, Lon, do not think more highly of yourself than you ought.

This goes on all day long. This may be my life verse, I don't know, but look, folks, the reason that God stresses this so much is because when we start thinking more highly of ourself than we ought, listen, we start believing that the rules are for everybody else and not for us, and that is a sure formula for spiritual disaster. I'm of the mind that spiritual arrogance is the mother sin of all other sins. Every other sin you can think of gets traced back to arrogance in our own life, which is why God calls us to think soberly about ourselves. That's what the verse goes on to say, but use sober judgment. Friends, the only permanent thing in this universe is the Lord Jesus, not you and not me, and realizing that ought to make us a lot less arrogant than we all are. It's dangerous, and that's why God says, hey, don't think more highly of yourself than you ought.

That is what will knock you off your horse faster than anything you ever saw. Number four, and finally, want to have a chance of finishing well? Then friends, number four, we should think about the consequences of our actions before we act. One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Proverbs 22 3. It says, the wise man sees evil coming and gets out of the way, but the fool keeps going and suffers for it.

Hey, one of the best ways to avoid self-destructive choices is for us to slow down long enough and think what that choice may really mean before we make it. To remember Galatians 6 7, where God says nobody makes a fool out of God, whatever a person sows, that is precisely what they're gonna reap. You know, I've been on the board of Jews for Jesus, as you know, for many years now, and a number of years ago we were having a meeting, a board meeting, in New York City and during the meeting we went to take a like a half-hour break and one of the other board members said, hey, I got something I need to I need some pastoral advice. Could we take a walk around the block? And I said, well, sure. So we went out walking around the block there in Manhattan and he said to me, well, now you got to understand this guy on our board, very well-known Christian testimony, owns a huge company, is on many other Christian boards, has a godly wife and two wonderful godly daughters.

I mean, just, you know, great guy. And we start walking around the block and he said, well, he said, here's where I need pastoral advice. I said, all right.

He said, I've been acting in this community theater nearby my house and he said, and I've sort of gotten infatuated with this lady that has been in the plays and he said, and I'm thinking about leaving my wife and marrying this woman. He said, I need pastoral advice. I said, no, no, you don't need pastoral advice. I said, you don't need a pastor to help you with this. I called him by name. I said, my teenagers could help you with this.

This is so simple. You, you, you, my, my, my boys could tell you the right answer to this one. Don't do it. I said to him, are you out of your mind? Have you thought through what this is gonna mean?

I said, you've got to think this through. Your wife is gonna leave you. You're gonna be estranged from your children. Your Christian testimony is gonna be damaged. They're gonna throw you off all these Christian boards. I said, I'm personally gonna make the motion we throw you off the board of Jews for Jesus.

I just want you to know that. I said, don't do this. This, don't do this. This is not worth it. Think about what this is gonna cost you. You know what he did?

Take a guess. He left his wife, that's exactly right, and went off and married this other woman. You say, well Lon, that's great. Remind me to come to you for counseling next time. Look, it's not my fault. It's not my fault. I told him the right answer. Didn't I tell him the right answer?

Yes, not my fault. And everything I told him would happen did. We kicked him off the board of Jews for Jesus. They kicked him off all these other boards. His wife left him.

His daughters didn't even invite him to their weddings. I mean, it was a disaster. And I learned a really important lesson, folks. I learned that, hey, it's always good to do what I call a fallout study before we do something. To really sit back and say, now if I do this, what will the fallout be in my life? Now God sometimes is merciful and doesn't let all the fallout come that could come, but we have to assume the worst.

What could happen here? And you know when you do that, it has helped me so much not to make terrible choices in life because I'm able, once I take the time to think it through, to say to myself some of the five most important words in life. Here they are. It just ain't worth it. It just ain't worth it.

Yeah. Now let me just say, I wish I could tell you I was smart enough that I can always do this all by myself, but I'm not. Sometimes you get so, you know, like you want to do something that you can't even reason with yourself. And this is why we need friends. This is why we need godly men and women around us. This is why we need godly spouses. And this is why we need to listen to them. This is why if we have godly grown children, we need to be able to go and talk to them and say, give me some advice. Because sometimes we're already so far down the line that we can't pull ourselves back. We need help. And this is why we encourage you to have accountability relationships with other men and other women who can come along and say to you, hey, this is the stupidest idea I ever heard in my life. What are you doing? You lost your mind? You crazy?

And then we listen to them. I tell you, I really thank God for some people like this in my life. One of them is my good friend Gordon Langley. We were in Israel together a couple years ago. He goes with me almost every year just as a friend and as a helper. And there was a thing on the trip that I was thinking about doing. And I had it all worked out in my mind how exactly this was it was right. It was good.

This is the right thing to do. And I thought, well, I'll ask Gordy. And when Gordy heard about it, I said, what do you think? He said, Lon, that's the dumbest thing I ever heard. He said, you're not really thinking of doing that, are you?

And I said, well, yeah, I was. And he said, don't you dare do that. Don't you dare do that. You will regret that the rest of your life. And there will be no way to ever turn it around.

The hurt that you don't you dare do that. Man, I'm so glad I listened to him. I've gone back to Gordy so many times and said, Oh, Gordy, thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much for having the courage to tell me what you really thought. Because looking back, I can see now you are absolutely right. It would have been the stupidest thing I could have ever done. And the damage I would have caused would have been, I would have been lifelong. Folks, have some friends like that.

And then listen to them. Because a fallout study before we act always helps us to make better choices. So let's summarize, shall we? God wants every one of us to finish well, friends, just like the Apostle Paul. He wants us to have the testimony at the end of our life, that, hey, I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. And I have kept the faith.

Wow. Some suggestions to help us get there. Number one, we need to stay vitally connected to the Word of God. Number two, we need to not minimize how evil our hearts really are.

They're our worst enemy. Number three, we need to be careful we don't overestimate ourselves and begin to think the rules are for everybody else except for us. And number four and finally, we need to think through the possible consequences of our choices before we make them. And let me just say finally, we can do all four of these things, friends, and we can still end up in a ditch.

You know that? Because ultimately, you and I making it to the finish line is all about the grace of God. It's just about the grace of God, His mercy to us, His kindness to us, His graciousness to us. And so, yes, these are good suggestions. And yes, we should follow them. But friends, please don't think that if we just mechanically go through these four things that guarantees a good ending.

It doesn't. What guarantees a good ending is the mercy and the ministry of the Holy Spirit in kindness to our life, protecting us from ourselves. So we can get on our knees and say, Lord, help me do this. But don't you ever forget to say, and Lord Jesus above all, just show mercy on me, Lord. Show mercy on me and protect me from me.

And you know what? I believe God loves to answer that prayer. Let's pray. Lord Jesus, thank you for the wonderful example of the Apostle Paul, who ended well in spite of all the suffering and the brutality, the mistreatment that he went through. And Lord, that's our aspiration, is to be able to end like he did and cross the finish line not having disgraced you or ourselves or our family or the faith or our church or anyone else. So God, we throw ourselves on your mercy today. We realize these principles are good, but that no one finishes well apart from the grace and the mercy and the benevolent kindness of Christ.

So Lord, show us that kindness. Help us, Lord Jesus, to finish in a way that you will be able to say to us, well done, good and faithful servant. And Lord, may the credit for that not go to four principles that we talked about today, but may the credit go to the mercy and the power of Almighty God. And we pray these things humbly before you. In Jesus' name. And what did God's people say? Amen. Amen. you
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-06-11 14:58:20 / 2023-06-11 15:09:14 / 11

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