Have you ever noticed that a wide variety of sports teams, and even players, have theme songs? If you go to a Brewer’s game, you’ll hear individual songs played for each person up to bat. If you were to go to Camp Randall, the Wisconsin Badger’s stadium, you’d likely be treated to the famous “Jump Around” song at the beginning of the 4th quarter. If you are a pro-wrestling fan, I am not, you’d probably be familiar with the entrance song of John Cena or some other wrestler. Even politicians on the campaign trail have theme songs, songs which are used to define them as candidates and their love for their country. So I thought to myself, today, let’s give our lesson a theme song, let’s pick a song that would describe Paul’s message to Timothy. The song that came to mind, and a song that I think many of us are familiar with, is “Carry On Wayward Son” by the band Kansas, for those of you who are maybe not familiar let me just share with you the refrain of the song.
“Carry on my wayward son, for there’ll be peace when you are done. Lay your weary head to rest, now don’t you cry no more.” Paul tells Timothy to carry on, to carry on by enduring and to carry on by living. It seems like an odd message for Paul to be sharing. Here Paul is once again in prison, he is chained up like a common criminal. Things don’t look good. But instead of complaining, instead of grumbling, instead of telling Timothy that prison stinks and God is being unfair, Paul shares with Timothy a wonderful message of encouragement.
‘Carry on Timothy. Don’t cry for me, but rejoice because I am enduring.’ It must’ve been a hard message to swallow. Yet Paul gives reasons as to why he, and also Timothy, can endure. “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead.” “Remember” Paul says. Paul points Timothy to the most important piece of information he will ever hear or know. That Jesus the promised Savior is just that, the promised Savior. He fulfilled his mission. He defeated death. This was the message for which Paul was imprisoned for, yet Paul didn’t shy away from it instead he boldly proclaims, “This is my gospel.”
Paul calling the gospel “My gospel” reminds me of a young child who has his or her favorite toy and just won’t let go of it. The child takes it everywhere and if someone snatches it away what happens? “Mine, mine; that’s mine!” And the tears flow and the arms reach out grabbing for it. “This is my Gospel” Paul says, “and even in chains, Timothy, it still remains mine; these jailors can’t take away the simple truth that Christ died for my sins. It is mine!” Because of that gospel message Paul is able to carry on as a criminal chained in prison because he knows he is enduring for a gospel that cannot be chained. “But God’s Word is not chained” he tells Timothy.
Do you think Paul would be so willing to sit in prison if he knew it meant the gospel would no longer be spread? No, but Paul rightly recognized that God’s Word is “living and active” and that with or without him it will do its’ work just as Isaiah writes, “so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” Paul knows that God’s word will far outlast him. And that is his comfort to Timothy, not that he will endure, but God’s Word will endure.
“Therefore” Paul says, because God’s Word is not bound, “I will endure everything for the sake of the elect that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus.” Paul’s focus is not on himself, but on all those who are still benefitting and will one day benefit from the gospel. If you think about it, Paul as he is sitting there in prison was thinking about you.
What an example for us as we think about all those who oppose the spread of the gospel today. By the power of the Holy Spirit we can endure even when we hear that in places like Russia there are attempts to chain the un-chainable gospel by outlawing its spread. We can endure as we hear of the thousands of Christians suffering and dying for their faith in the Middle East. We can endure this Christmas when we see billboards like the one I saw last year, that read “All I want for Christmas is to skip church” And we can endure even when stranger and friend alike attack our faith, and ridicule our Savior.
Look let’s be honest, we have an unwelcome message to share with a hostile world. People don’t want to hear that they are sinners who need a Savior. In our sinful nature, even we don’t like to hear that! Yet, it is a message we share because we know of its importance; we know it needs to be told, and so like Paul we endure. We endure out of love for an unbound God who bound himself to us in love, and has given us an unbound Word which removed the bonds of the curse of sin, that is death, and set free our consciences which were bound by a sinful nature that could never on their own please God. And all this rests firmly and securely in the simple truth which Paul spoke, “Remember Christ Jesus, raised from the dead” This is your gospel.
This is your gospel. That Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven after enduring temptation, after enduring betrayal, after enduring persecution, and finally after enduring a death reserved for the worst of the worst, a slow crucifixion on a cross. All so that he could endure the punishment of hell. Paying for your sins; paying for my sins. Jesus endured so that we could carry on. So that we could endure suffering on this earth knowing that this, this is all temporary. We have salvation in Christ Jesus. Bought and paid for by a loving God, a God who one day we will carry on with and live and reign with in “eternal glory.”
It’s the living with and reigning with that Paul points Timothy to at the end of our lesson. “Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him.” It sort of sounds like that song again doesn’t it? Carry on my wayward son there’ll be peace when you are done – although, I will have to admit Timothy is not a wayward son – Yet, the rest is true. Carry on, because in the end there will be peace. “Timothy in the end you will live and reign with your God.”
Think of a long day you recently had at school or work, and how you were done, just done. You didn’t want to do any more work, you didn’t want to think, you didn’t want to talk to anyone, and you had had enough. You just wanted to go home. Why? Because it is a place of rest and peace (usually).That is what we as Christians have to look forward to when we are called home to live and reign with God. The long day of life here on this earth will be done, and we will find an eternal peace and an eternal rest in our eternal home.
But there were two “ifs” mentioned by Paul. Did you hear them? “If we die with him. If we endure.” Those “ifs” don’t sound like certainties do they? But what do we know in faith? They are certainties. In baptism in the faith created in us by the Holy Spirit we have died with Christ. Our old sinful self was put to death and we now live in newness of life. That has happened already! Each of you has received the full forgiveness of sins through Christ and you are living breathing children of God. We also know with certainty that if we remain in our faith we will live eternally; we will reign forever with God.
Yet, Paul gives us a warning; another “if.” “If we disown him, he will also disown us.” These are very similar to Jesus’ words in Matthew “Whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.” We want to carry on and live with our Father in heaven, but here we are warned that living with him in heaven means that we live for him here on this earth.
God isn’t playing games. If we think we can take advantage of his love and mercy, we are wrong. God is serious about sin. He is serious when he says “the soul who sins is the one who will die.” He is serious when he says, “If anyone knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.” He is serious when he tells us to “flee from sexual immorality.” And He is serious when he says, “Your sins have separated you from your God.” Sin is no joke, and if we think we can sit here on Sundays or Mondays and with our lips praise God, but then deny him by living ungodly lives the rest of the week, we are not carrying on as he wants us to but are, instead, disowning him by refusing to live the life he wants us to live. And if we continue to live like this we will not live and reign with him in heaven, but will live for all eternity separated from him in hell.
Yet, what do we read in the last verse of our lesson—one more “if,” “if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” Just as God is serious about sin, so he is serious about his promise to remain faithful. God was faithful when he promised to send a Savior to Adam and Eve, that Savior, Jesus came. God is faithful when he says, “he wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” God is faithful when he says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” God is faithful when says “Come to me all you who are wearied and burdened and I will give you rest.” And, finally, God is faithful when he says, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish”
We have seen God’s faithfulness in our own lives. We have fallen we have failed, we have sinned, and yet when we confess our sins through Christ we are forgiven. We have life! And one day each of us, all of us, will have eternal life with him. The saying is true, “We will also live with him.” Even in our unfaithfulness, God remains faithful to the promise he made to deliver us from death to life through Christ.
Therefore, out of love for a faithful God and the gospel truth that Jesus is our Savior; raised from the dead. Let us all Carry On. Let us pray for the strength to endure when faced with trials and persecution. And let us also live. Let us live here on this earth lives that reflect our faith, until the day we are called home to live and reign with our God for all eternity. This is our Gospel. Carry On!