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Take Hold of Eternal Life

March 26 2023

Book: 1 Timothy

Scripture: 1 Timothy 6:11-21

I was inspired by our men’s Bible study and so next week we will begin a study of Paul’s letter to the Galatians. Galatians was the first letter written by Paul and Timothy was one of the last – written about 15 years later. They are very different letters, and I’m excited to be following one with the other, because I think our church is in a good place to receive the message of Galatians.

But for now, let’s finish our study of Timothy and it is a great text.

11 But as for you, O man of God, (that’s Timothy) flee these things. Remember, Paul was talking about the love of money… Timothy, flee from the love of money. Instead:

Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.

Paul addresses Timothy as a “man of God” – a title not used often in the Bible and He’s calling Timothy to a better life – a godly life. This list sounds very similar to the fruit of Spirit listed in Galatians 5. This is how I want you to live. And that’s not legalism… that’s the result of God’s Spirit at work in Timothy’s life.

It’s also a simple description of repentance. We run from something bad, and we run to something good. Flee! Pursue! With urgency! Without hesitation!

As John Owen famously said, “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.” Run from it.

Paul keeps this energy in verse 12.

12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

Fight Timothy! FIGHT! Take hold of eternal life! “Take hold” is not like gingerly picking up your coffee mug. It means to violently seize or grab something, like a wrestler grabbing an opponent. Like Jacob wrestling with the Lord. Timothy, latch on to eternal life like a dog latches onto a bone. Don’t let go!

It reminds me of Hebrews 10:23 – hold fast the confession of your hope without wavering. In both cases, the writer emphasizes our future hope. We have a better chance of fighting the good fight today if we hold fast to our hope for tomorrow. And that makes perfect sense, because our hope for tomorrow is that the battle is already won.

Christians already know how this struggle ends. And that’s valuable information, right? Imagine travelling 20 years into the future and buying a book that tells you the outcome of every major sporting event for the past 20 years? Every March Madness Bracket. Every Champion’s League winner. You’d make a lot of money!

Imagine knowing today that death is already defeated and that one-day God will wipe away every tear? Take hold of that. Tackle it to the ground! That information is far more valuable if you believe it is true.

And how do we violently grasp eternal life? Paul tells Timothy that he should remember two things: His calling to the faith and his confession about the faith. In other words, Paul says I want you to remember the promises God made to you in Christ and I want you to remember the promises you made to God in public. Remember God’s promises and your promises.

This is why we adopt members of our church by a public profession of faith.

Do you sense the energy starting to build here?

As Paul continues, this sounds more and more like a coach giving a halftime speech.

13 I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession,

14 to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ,

15 which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords,

16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.

Do you see what Paul just did for us in writing? He demonstrated exactly what it looks like to take hold of eternal life… it looks like worship! He starts thinking about Jesus and he breaks into this grand announcement. He sounds like Michael Buffer introducing the heavy weight champion of the universe!

And how do I know he’s taking hold of eternal life? I know because he’s talking about the 2nd coming of Jesus and he specifically mentions the immortality of Jesus. And what is our hope? We will share the inheritance of Jesus because we are united to Him! And Paul can’t handle the thought of it! He’s in rapture over it.

Now… take a deep breath… common sense would tell us that we have come to the end of the letter. That’s how I would probably end it. Except, this is not the end of the letter. There’s more… and it is unexpected.

17 As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.

This is one of those screeching tire moments. He’s already talked about the dangers of loving money. Why does he bring this up again? And why here?

The answer is simple. It’s because rich people have the hardest time taking hold of eternal life. We have the most difficult time remembering and longing for our promised future hope.

Why? Because of our present comfort. Isn’t that exactly what Paul says? We can’t place our hope in wealth and in God at the same time.

And so, Paul adds this command:

18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share,

19 thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.

There it is again… take hold. Rich people can take hold of eternal life too. It’s just more difficult for us – and again, I say us because by the world’s standards we are all wealthy.

And it’s not wrong to have money. The question is, what are we doing with it? Be generous, he says. Be ready to share. And look carefully at the first half of verse 19. “thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future”

We know from context, Paul’s talking about good works and generosity. But if you take it out of context, what does it sound like. It sounds like saving for retirement, right? Storing up treasure for the future? Isn’t it interesting that Paul uses that language to describe what he wants rich people to do… but that he’s not talking about money?

This is certainly not how we think about the future as Americans. But it forces a moment of conviction and maybe a moment of clarity.

If I believe my future hope is eternal life, that this doesn’t end at death, then why am I so focused on providing a secure future for myself in this life? Why am I so worried about not completing my bucket list?

Why am I not far more concerned with the people in my life and the people I want to take with me into the kingdom? Is that not the legacy that matters most?

To be clear, I’m not saying it’s wrong to save for retirement. I’m saying don’t waste your retirement. Don’t waste the resources that God provides on yourself. Not just your money, but your time.

Take hold of eternal life. Store up good works and generosity.

20 O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,”

21 for by professing it some have swerved from the faith.

Grace be with you.

And that’s the end of the letter. Paul makes one last attempt to protect the church from false teaching… to protect the Gospel. And then he ends with a simple blessing… Grace be with you.

About a year later, Paul wrote a second letter to Timothy. It’s the next letter in our Bibles. We aren’t going to study it, but I encourage you to read it later. He says many of the same things in the second letter.

But at the center of the letter is a verse from what we think was an early hymn or creed:

If we have died with him, we will also live with him;

if we endure, we will also reign with him;

It shows us that the life of the Christian is characterized by sacrifice and suffering. The path to life is one of death. The path to glory is one of endurance. No pain – no gain. No cross – no crown. But it continues:

if we deny him, he also will deny us;

if we are faithless, he remains faithful—

for he cannot deny himself.

Some have taken this to mean that even if we renounce our faith, we will still be saved. In context, that’s not at all what this means – because it clearly says that Jesus will deny us if we deny him. Jesus said the exact same thing in Matthew 10:33.

Instead, I agree with John Calvin’s interpretation of this verse:

“Our faithlessness cannot in any way detract from the Son of God and His Glory. Being all sufficient in Himself He has no need of our confession. It is as if he had said, ‘Let all who will desert Christ, for they deprive him of nothing; when they perish, He remains unchanged.’”

Remember that when the New Testament was written, Christians were in great danger of being killed for their faith. Paul himself was beheaded shortly after writing these words.

Remember also the letter Jesus sent to Ephesus through the apostle John many years later. They were not a perfect church, but Jesus wrote this encouragement:

2 I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false.

3 I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary.

This is good news. It tells us that Timothy did a good job and that the church listened to Paul. But they weren’t finished. Jesus continues:

4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.

5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.

Galatians will allow us an opportunity to remember our first love as a church, but for now I simply want to end this way… the Christian life isn’t over until it is over. Keep on fleeing from sin. Keep on pursuing righteousness. Keep on defending the Gospel. Stay generous. Stay humble. Why?

Because Jesus is more than worth it! He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.