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June 17, 2017
Fit for Use
Pastor Philip De Courcy
2 Timothy 2: 14-19

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There are no more tragic words than a useless Christian. Because think about the implication of that phrase, a useless Christian. It speaks of a life purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ, beloved of God, and yet living for a purpose other than God's glory and kingdom usefulness. What a tragedy. What a travesty. What a transgression. In this passage we will see the picture, the purge and the pursuit. We will see the distinction between honorable or dishonorable instrument and vessel, the good leader and the bad leader, and the faithful teacher and false teacher. You see, the man in ministry matters. In ministry your: leadership, character, integrity, and life counts. Your holiness is required above everything else. Are you serious about your sin? That's what basically Paul is saying. Get serious about cleansing yourself of indwelling sin and pockets of disobedience and resistance in your life. Don’t play with it. Don’t toy with it. No matter how long we're in Christ and how down the path of discipleship we have traveled, here's a new call, to be more than you are so that you might be more than you've been. Are you a life that God, at any moment, can pick up and use. Is it clean enough? Are you prayed up? Are you in the Word? Are you walking in the Spirit? Are you under biblical leadership? Are you part of a local church? Is yours a life that's serviceable, usable? Or yours is a life that's out of service? We must be in hot pursuit of righteousness, faith, love, and peace, which speaks of a right behavior, a right perspective, a right attitude, and right relationships with others. It's for an incorruptible crown. It's for eternal happiness, it's for eternal reward, it's for the smile of God. And that can only take place if we flee youthful lusts and desires, and we pursue and we chase, if we're in pursuit of a Godly character, because that equips us to be men here, sanctified, fit, and serviceable for the master's use, prepared for every good work.

More From This Series


Philip De Courcy (00:00):
Let’s take our Bibles and turn to 2 Timothy. If you’re visiting with us, we’re in a series of sermons on 2 Timothy. And one of the key words in 2 Timothy is unashamed, and so we’ve entitled the series, Without Apology. We need to be men of God and followers of Jesus Christ who live our life and our commitment to Christ without apology.
We live in a culture that’s trying to beat us into submission. We live in a culture that’s trying to silence our witness, trying to push us out of the public square into a kind of private corner. And we’re not going to let that happen. We’re not going to go quietly. We’re going to live a life without apology for Jesus Christ.
So here we are in 2 Timothy chapter two in verses 20 through 22. It’s a sermon I’ve entitled, Fit For Use. Fit For Use. Follow along, 2 Timothy 2 verse 20. But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some for honor and some for dishonor. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel of honor, sanctified and useful for the master, prepared for every good work. Flee also youthful lusts: but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. So reads God’s word.
Just recently I was reading the story of Bishop Taylor. Bishop Taylor was a bachelor bishop within the Church of England several, several years ago. He was well known throughout the British Isles. He often spoke at the Kazakh conferences in England.
And on one particular preaching tour, he was staying with a kind Christian woman who offered him hospitality. And following a very hearty dinner, she gave him a ripe and juicy apple for dessert. And with the apple, she gave him a fruit knife. But this thing turned out to be rather blunt and ill-fitted for the job, and he was trying to peel off the skin with not much success. So he turned to his hostess and with a twinkle in his eye, he said, “You know what? This knife is just like so many Christians I know, stainless but useless.” What an awful thought, a useless Christian.
There are no more tragic words than a useless Christian. Because think about the implication of that phrase, a useless Christian. It speaks of a life purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ, beloved of God, and yet living for a purpose other than God’s glory and kingdom usefulness. What a tragedy. What a travesty. What a transgression.
The opposite ought to be true of every man at this breakfast this morning. We should be driven and defined by a burning desire to be used by God. Whatever the place, whatever the plan, whatever the price. We want to redeem the time, don’t we? We want to discover what the will of God is and do it. Ephesians 5, verses 15 to 17, we want to yield our body as a living sacrifice to God, that we might prove what is that good and acceptable will of God. Romans 12, verses one and two. That’s what we want to do with our lives. We want to be instruments, vessels, useful for the master, prepared for every good work.
So I want us to come and look at this passage this morning, 2 Timothy 2, verses 20 through 21, because here, Paul describes the kind of person that God uses. Someone fit, suitable for Jesus’ use. I know that’s what you want. That’s what I want. We know that we often fall short of that. We know that we’ve got room to make up in the pursuit of that. But our heart’s desire is to live a life of usefulness.
Remember reading the story of a proprietor of a little country store who had a clerk named Jake, who, frankly, was probably one of the laziest man on God’s earth. And after a time, one of the regular customers would come in to find that Jake wasn’t there anymore, and the proprietor told him, “Well, you know what? Jake retired.” And he said, “Well, what are you doing to fill the vacancy?” To which he replied, “Jake left no vacancy.” That’s not what you want or I want to be said about our lives. If God was to take us out tomorrow, would we leave a vacancy? Would we leave a hole of gospel witness and Christian influence? I hope so. That’s what we ought to aspire to, to be vessels fit, usable, suitable for the master and prepared for every good work.
Now, listen to this, guys, as we get into the text. The instruction of this text and the implication of this text is that God uses cleansed vessels, those who flee sin and those who pursue godliness. That’s clear from the text, isn’t it? But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also wood and clay; some of honor and some for dishonor. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful, prepared. And then he goes on to say, “Flee youthful lusts. Pursue righteousness.”
Look, if you want to be used for God, don’t worry about being brilliant. Don’t worry about being eloquent, able, educated, relevant. Worry about being holy. Worry about being clean. Worry about having a life marked by integrity and character, because that’s what matters in the things of God.
So let’s come and look at our text. Let me just put it in its context. Paul is introducing to us another image. If you’ve been following along in 2 Timothy, you’ll know that Paul has introduced several images that speak of Christian leadership and Christian service. He has talked about the Christian being a trustee, a teacher, a soldier, an athlete, a farmer, a workman, and now a vessel, an instrument in God’s hands. And that vessel or that instrument has to be clean.
In fact, that’s the thought that surrounds this idea of the clean vessel. Look at verse 19. Where does it finish? Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from inequity. That’s a call to holiness.
Then scroll down to verse 22. Flee youthful lusts. Pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace with all those who call on the Lord Jesus with a pure heart.
So the context is a life that’s serviceable to God is one that departs from inequity, is cleansed by the Spirit of God and the word of God, and is a life in pursuit of righteousness. So three things I want us to see, the picture, the purge, the pursuit.
Let’s look at the picture. The picture of a vessel, one of the many images employed by Paul in 2 Timothy. Now, like every good preacher, Paul borrows pictures from everyday life to connect with people and to connect spiritual truth with everyday life. Remember the Lord Jesus would often use a phrase, something like this, “And the kingdom of God is like…” And then he would draw something from life and then he would connect it to the kingdom of God. And Paul is a good preacher and he likes to turn ears into eyes. So he takes this image of the vessel, the utensil that you’ll find in a great house. And that image is plain and simple and accessible, that we can identify with this. And look what he says. In a great house, in a mansion, you’re going to find two kinds of vessels. The Greek word can be translated utensil also, or an instrument. And he says, typically in a house, there’s two kinds of vessels or instruments. There’s the honorable instrument or vessel, and there’s the dishonorable instrument or vessel.
The idea behind that is there’s the vessel that’s precious, and there’s the vessel that’s common. So the idea would be this, kind of to go to the extremes of what Paul is talking about. In a big house, you could find on the one hand, gold and silver goblets out of which people would drink wine and it would be set before a guest as an offer of hospitality. There might be a vessel that’s an ornament and it’s precious, it’s a family heirloom. It’s honorable. It’s esteemed and considered valuable within the house. On the other end of it, you’d have wooden buckets. It would carry out family rubbish or human waste. That’s a dishonorable vessel, an unclean vessel. So Paul draws this analogy and it’s quite simple.
But the issue for us is, now, what’s he talking about? What’s he getting at here? Well, I would say this, in the context, he’s drawn a distinction between a good leader and a bad leader. The distinction between the honorable vessel and the dishonorable vessel is the distinction between the good leader and the bad leader, the faithful teacher and the false teacher.
Remember when we were together the last time, we looked at the preceding verses? And here, Paul warns about false teachers in verse 16, who advance profane and idle babbling, who increase ungodliness, whose message spreads like a cancer, verse 17. And then he names them. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, who having spread concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already passed, have overcome the faith of some. They’re bad. Bad teachers who teach bad teaching that’s bad for the church. They’re dishonorable. They’re useless to the church, even dangerous to the church. But you, Timothy, you be a vessel, you be an instrument in God’s hands that’s holy and serviceable, and one who, according to verse 15, rightly divides the word of truth. So that’s the distinction that’s being made.
And that would remind us, just by the way, that the visible church, sometimes there’s a mixed bag, is often a messy place. As much as we seek to guard the purity of the church, Paul seems to be at least admitting it at times, the church can be made up of people of varying spiritual commitments and level of spirituality, can even be a place that suffers the incursion of false teachers and heretics.
In fact, one anonymous critic said of the church, “The church today is like Noah’s Ark. If it weren’t for the storm on the outside, you couldn’t stand the stench on the inside.” Well, I think that’s a bridge too far. That’s too harsh. But it is a recognition that at times even inside the church, you can be dealing with the honorable and the dishonorable. That seems to be the case here.
Now, let’s move on to what we call the purge. So we’ve kind of set up now the picture. Paul has drawn a distinction between the honorable vessel and the dishonorable vessel. Within the context, we’ve got to assume that he’s dealing with, “Hey Timothy, you be an honorable leader, not a dishonorable leader.” And then he goes on to tell Timothy how that can come about. So we move from the picture to the purge.
Although a chosen vessel, Timothy had to make a choice, and it was to choose to be cleansed and clean. Look at verse 21. Therefore, he’s picking up the image of the picture and now he’s taken it to its logical conclusion. You want to be an honorable vessel, a clean vessel. Therefore, cleanse yourself from the latter, from the dishonorable, and be a vessel of honor, sanctified and useful for the master, prepared for every good work.
See, the man matters in ministry. If you’re in leadership, your character, your integrity, your life counts, and so much the more in the Christian ministry. You’ve got to model your message. You’ve got to live what you teach. And holiness is required above everything else. That’s why when you go to 1 Timothy 3, verses one to seven, and Titus 1:6-9, where you have the qualifications of a pastor. I mean, that should be the head of the list of any pastoral search committee. Is he like this? And the first thing to be said of him is he’s to be blameless. That doesn’t mean sinless. It means but a life without controversy. He’s a Teflon man. Nothing sticks to him in terms of accusations or scandal, because he’s got a life that’s a life of integrity, a life underwritten by a good and godly character. That’s what Timothy is to aspire to. He’s to cleanse himself, purge himself.
In fact, this is a Greek word that gives us our English word, catharsis. If someone has a cathartic experience, it’s something that indeed cleanses them emotionally. Some moment that their life turns in a better direction. They have a cathartic moment. That’s our word. It speaks of thorough cleansing, a thorough scrubbing, a thorough purging. This is a strong verb, and Paul is saying, “Timothy, you need to purge yourself of that which is dishonorable.”
Now, we’ve already identified what the dishonorable is, at least in the immediate context. It’s false teachers and false teaching, and that always leads to false behavior. If you listen to a false teacher and you follow what he teaches, you’ll end up doing the wrong thing. None of that’s good. So Timothy is to purge himself of false teachers and false teaching. He’s to rightly divide the word of truth. He’s to live it so that he might be in a state of godliness, cleanliness, and holiness.
There’s an interesting verse in Isaiah 52, verse 11. Write it down. I’ll read it for you, but it’s so appropriate to what we are talking about. Here’s what the Lord says to his people. Depart, depart, get out from there, touch no unclean thing; go out from the midst of her; be clean, you who bear the vessels of the Lord.
We need to get serious about sin. That’s what basically Paul is saying. Get serious about cleansing yourself of indwelling sin and pockets of disobedience and resistance in your life. Get serious about it. Don’t play with it. Don’t toy with it. You’ve heard me tell the story again and again, but it’s appropriate here, of the guy who gets up every Wednesday night at the prayer meeting and says, “God, would you blow the cobwebs from my heart?” He’s asking for a change. He wants a fresh start with God. “God, God, blow the cobwebs from my heart.” He says it every single week. And he’s praying for change, but there never seems to come any change to a point where one brother on a Wednesday night follows him after he has prayed, “Lord, blow the cobwebs from my heart,” he stands up and says, “Lord, kill the spider.” Let’s get down to business. Enough talk. Let’s really blow the cobwebs from our hearts. Get to the issue, kill the spider.
Sometimes we can pietistically ask the Lord to cleanse us and, “God, I want to be a better man. I want to follow Jesus Christ.” And that’s great, guys, but sometimes it’s just words. Where’s the killer instinct? Where’s the desire to put the flesh to death? That’s what Paul’s after here.
You know what? What I find encouraging about this, Paul is speaking into the life of a minister who’s already serving the Lord with some effectiveness, but there comes this fresh call, this fresh challenge to be more than you are. Timothy, purge yourself, son. And guys, I know many of you, and you encourage me because you are seeking to follow the Lord and you’re seeking to be men of God, but here comes a challenge to you and me. No matter how long we’re in Christ and how down the path of discipleship we have traveled, here’s a new call, to be more than you are so that you might be more than you’ve been. That’s the call.
Someone has said, I love this, “No one can go back and have a new beginning, but everyone can start now and have a new ending.” That’s what Paul is saying to Timothy. Let me say that again. No one can go back and have a new beginning, but anyone and everyone can start now and have a new ending. That’s true of your family, your marriage, your walk with God. We need to purge ourselves.
Now, if we will purge ourselves, it’ll show up in several things. Let’s just look at this description of the purged life. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, that’s the dishonorable, he will be a vessel of honor. Now notice this, sanctified, useful for the master, prepared for every good work. Let’s unpack those for a few minutes.
The word sanctified is in the perfect tense. In the Greek, it means a past action with continuing results. You could translate it having been sanctified. And see, when you and I get saved, when you and I put our trust in Jesus Christ, at that moment, we become sanctified or we are sanctified. It’s a position. Listen to what we read in 1 Corinthians 1, verse two. To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who are in every place called on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Same kind of thought in 2 Thessalonians 2:13, where we are sanctified by the Spirit the moment we get saved.
Now, what does the word sanctified mean? It’s in the family of words, holy and sanctified. At its root, it’s very simple. It means to be set apart. Set apart. So when you and I seek to cleanse our lives, it’s because we want to be set apart for God’s use. We want to be different from the average guy. We want to stand head and shoulders from the culture. And this idea carries the thought of something that is set apart for a special or exclusive use. That’s why the Sabbath in the Old Testament is called what? The holy Sabbath, or that God in that first week sanctified the seventh day and made it holy. Now, that day wasn’t any different from any other day, but it was different in this sense, it was set apart for a special use, to rest. Six days you’ll work, and on the seventh, rest.
And guys, just get that image in your head. That’s why the clothing of the high priest, the furniture of the tabernacle were called holy. Not because the cloth was holy, the thread was better thread than any other thread. It was that that tunic was used for a special purpose. That furniture was used for a special purpose.
Maybe the best way to think about this and just get this idea in your head, you go out tonight to a restaurant here in Anaheim Hills or down at the Orange Circle or whatever. You walk in, look at a table, and you get your eye on a nice table. Maybe you want to be over in the corner with your wife or your friend, but a quietness. But you go over there and what’s sitting on the desk but a sign that says what? Reserved. You can’t touch it. You might want it, but you can’t have it because that’s reserved. That’s being set aside. That’s being sanctified for another family or another couple.
Hey, you go into Ashley Furniture, you’ve been looking in their catalog or whatever and you’ve got your sight set on a nice dining set or a bedroom set, and you walk over and you know what? You find out that there’s only one set left, but to your disappointment again, there’s a piece of paper sitting on the table and it says, “Reserved.” Can’t have it. Somebody else got it. It’s been purchased, it’s theirs, it belongs to them. You can argue all you want, but you’re not getting it. It’s reserved. That’s the idea.
And to think about that. That’s a great image and it’s a simple image and it’s something that you should meditate upon every day. Every day you’re waking up, if you’re a man who desires to be used by the master, you need to be sanctified. You need to say to yourself, “I’m reserved for the purposes of extending God’s kingdom. That’s what my life is about. I’m going to use my life to this special end.”
Secondly, not only a life that is sanctified, a life that is useful for the master. That’s the next phrase. The adjective here speaks of that which is easily used, or that which is serviceable. In fact, this word will be used if you go to the end of this book, chapter four in verse 11, we read of Paul’s imprisonment. Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me in the ministry. Now, that wasn’t always the case. In fact, Paul had a parting with Barnabas over this young guy. For a time in his life, Mark was a bit of a mommy’s boy and went home in the middle of ministry. And Paul said, “Hey, ministry’s too tough. We can’t have this guy. He’s a liability.” And Barnabas says, “Hey Paul, have you forgot we’re all weak and we can become strong? Let’s nurture him.” And there was a bit of a disagreement, all of that.
When you get to the end of 2 Timothy, Paul’s last letter, something has transpired. Either Mark has got better and Paul has kind of softened on the issue, or maybe a bit of both. And he says, “Hey, go and get Mark. He is serviceable. He is useful.” It’s a wonderful thought.
That’s the idea here. Guys, here’s the idea. A life that God can pick up and use. Is yours a life that God, at any moment, can pick up and use? Is it clean enough? Are you prayed up? Are you in the Word? Are you walking in the Spirit? Are you under biblical leadership? Are you part of a local church? Is yours a life that’s serviceable, usable? Or yours is a life that’s out of service?
I mean, you’ve all had that experience and it annoys you to no end. You’re in the office on Monday morning. You go over to the photocopier and there is a piece of paper stuck on it, “Out of service.” You’re in a mall somewhere, you’re thirsty. You go to a vending machine to quench your thirst. There’s a piece of paper hanging on the front of the glass, “Out of service.” And you and I could go on making those analogies. You drive into a gas station, there’s hanging on the pump, “Out of service.” It’s kind of annoying.
How do you think God feels when he comes to look at your life and theoretically there’s hanging around your neck, this notice, “Out of service.”? I’m just kind of not in the place, Lord, where you can use me. I’m not reserved for you the way I should be. And God has to move on to someone else because at this moment, you’re not ready, you’re not useful, you’re not serviceable for the master’s use.
So you’ve got a life that is sanctified, a life that is useful for the master, and a life that is prepared for every good work. That’s a similar thought to the thought we have just outlined, but slightly different. This speaks of a life ready to do the works that God has prepared for them. Ephesians 2, verse 10, right? God has prepared works for you to do. We’ve heard of different things here today. Men from all kinds of walks of life, truck drivers and councilmen and businessmen and doctors. Those are works that God wants you to do for his glory. Then there’s service in the church and there’s service out in the community. The question is, God wants to use you in a particular way to glorify his Son, bless your neighbor. Are you ready to do it? Are you serviceable? Are you reserved for God’s use?
Edmond Hebert in his commentary on 2 Timothy says this of this phrase, “It speaks of a life fully equipped and ready to take advantage of each opportunity for service which presents itself. Life in a state of readiness for every kind of beneficial activity in the Lord’s cause.” Is that the kind of life that yours is and mine is this morning, reserved, usable, serviceable, and ready to jump at the Lord’s command?
Paul’s writing this, isn’t he? And he exemplifies what he’s preaching here over in Romans 1, verse 14, we read, “I am a debtor both to the Greeks and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and the unwise. So much as is in me.” Man, that’s passion. “So much as is in me, I’m ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also. For I am not ashamed of it.” And he was just waiting for the opportunity to get to Rome. He would get there not the way he thought, if you study the book of Acts. But he gets there and he’s ready to get there and he’s ready to preach. He’s serviceable, he’s ready, and he’s set aside and reserved for the master’s use.
Is that true of you and me? Whatever the place, whatever the plan, whatever the price, Lord, I’m ready. I’m at a place in life where I’m seeking you, loving you, and I’m ready for something new in my life. I want you to do a new work in me and I want you to do a wider work through me. I’m ready.
The military speaks about a state of preparedness. There’s been some questions in the latter years here about the state of our military. Are we ready for the threats that we have in the Middle East and North Korea? President Trump has spoken to that and trying to address that in a new way by new funding for our military. We need to get our jets serviceable. We need our troops to be prepared and ready, trained and with the best of equipment. That’s what we’re talking about here, that state of preparedness.
In fact, Bob’s here today and a couple of years ago, his son invited us down to Coronado Island to spend the day with the Navy SEALs. His son was a lieutenant in the Navy SEALs then, and we got the privilege of enjoying a friends and family day, and so we hung out with the best of the best. Got to see some of their equipment, fired some of their weapons, and we got shown around.
And I remember, as I thought about this text, I remembered an incident where we went up to the second floor of the building there on Coronado Island on the SEAL base, and his son took us into an area and there were just cages, lines of cages, and he had his own cage. He opened the door and inside were all kinds of equipment, desert boots, winter boots, all kinds of equipment so that when he would be in San Diego somewhere, get the call that SEAL Team 7 was going somewhere, he would go to his cage, get his gear, because he was prepared for any eventuality. There was a preparedness there. Every SEAL on that base had their own cage and they kept their equipment in good repair. They bought some of their own equipment. They were always in a state of readiness so when the call came, they ran to the station, grabbed their gear, and boarded the helicopter.
Now that stuff gives me goosebumps. I love that kind stuff. But I’ve got to bring that into my spiritual life. That’s what Paul’s saying. Are you reserved? Are you on the Lord’s side? Are you marked out for his use? Are you ready for combat, ready for service at any moment? I hope so. Hope that’s true of you, hope that’s true of me.
Finally, you’ve got the picture, you’ve got the purge, and then you’ve got the pursuit. Verse 22 and we’ll wrap this up. Flee also youthful lusts: but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace, with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. He now elaborates. He’s kind of given us the big picture of what it means to be a vessel that’s honorable, one that the master can use. But he moves from the kind of metaphor to direct commands.
Here’s what William Hendriksen says here, “The way to cleanse oneself is to become detached from that which is evil, and attached to that which is good.” Because you see, sanctification is negative, but it is positive. You need to remember this. Sanctification is when the Lord separates us from a certain life, and separates us onto a certain life. So there’s a turning from the flesh to a walking in the Spirit. There’s a putting off of the old man, and there’s a putting on of the new man. It’s an about-turn. That’s what repentance is. But while it’s an about-turn, it’s a forward march.
So in this pursuit, we’ve got two things. There is a fleeing and there is a following quickly. Verse 22, “Flee.” Now, guys, this is interesting. This word is really the word for a fugitive. Love the movie with Harrison Ford, Fugitive. And that’s the idea. A fugitive is someone on the run. And in the case of a fugitive, generally speaking, on the run from the law. Kind of a negative picture in that sense. But Paul takes it and he says, “No, I want you to be a fugitive from lawlessness, from sin, from the things that offend God.” What is a fugitive? A person on the run. Write that down. You need to be a person on the run. On the run from sin, anything that pollutes your soul, contaminates your mind.
Youthful lusts. Now, some would argue this could probably speak to sexual desire. Timothy was a young man. At this point, one would assume he was single. He was red-blooded, and so Paul was saying, “Hey, guard yourself, Timothy, sexually and morally.”
But I think that is too narrow a thought. I think youthful lusts or youthful desires speaks of the headstrong passions of youthfulness, which are dangerous in leadership. That’s why Paul will say in 1 Timothy 3:6, “Don’t let a novice, don’t let a young believer into leadership,” because they can be given to pride. Young leaders bring something to the table that’s excellent. They bring passion and new ideas. But they can bring headstrong desires that are marked by impatience and pride and, “Get out of my way.” They can be often independent and not a team player. And Paul’s kind of saying that to Timothy, “You know what, Timothy? You need to fight pride, money, ambition, impatience, and competitiveness.”
Whatever the case. Whatever this youthful lust is, whether it’s sexual desire that goes to a place that’s outside the will of God or those things that can mark a young man, pride and competitiveness, Timothy’s not got to linger in the presence of those things. He’s got to run. He’s got to take to his heels. He’s got to give no quarter to sin’s advance.
Does God find you and I this morning running, or lingering in the presence of sin? Good question. Are we a fugitive or a friend to sexual or sinful temptation? Do we make it hard for temptation to get ahold of us because we’re running from it? Or do we make it easy for temptation to grab us because we’re staying within arm’s length? We need to be running from others and running from our own selves, because sin is an inside job.
Now, there are people we need to run from, Hymenaeus and Alexander would be two in the case of Timothy. There’s false teachers, there’s bad people that can contaminate us. “Bad company spoils good morals,” says Paul to the Corinthians.
So there’s people we need to run from and there’s situations we need to run from. But you know what? We need to run from ourselves, because our flesh, our sinfulness is what the Puritans called the traitor in the castle. The traitor that opens the door and lets the enemy in. And our sin nature, our indwelling sin, our flesh that has an appetite for those things, other than thirsting for God and righteousness, it sometimes acts like a spy in our castle. You know what? You need to be very distrustful of yourself. You need to run from your old self, because sin is an inside job.
Doesn’t James tell us that? James 1:13-14. Let no man say when he is tempted, I’m tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does God tempt any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away by his own desires. It’s an inside job, guys. We’ve got to sit on ourself, police ourself, watch ourself, run from our old self. Flee that stuff.
When I was back in the UK, I was there around the time of the Falklands War, when the UK engaged in combat with Argentina. And we owned the Falkland Islands. And Mrs. Thatcher was one of my heroes, and I remember her putting out the order to the British troops that were under threat from the Argentinian invasion. She put out the order, “Bomb the runway.” They were in Port Stanley and ultimately, it would fall to the Argentinians for a while until the British recaptured it. But Mrs. Thatcher said their own troops about their own runway, “Bomb the runway.” Why? Because it was going to fall into enemy hands. They weren’t going to be able to use it to launch further attacks against the British who were coming to liberate the Falkland Islands, which belonged to Britain.
And you know what? That’s what Paul is saying to Timothy, “Bomb the runway.” Whatever area in your life is a landing strip for sin, bomb it. Don’t let the enemy land, whether it’s par, pleasure, possessions.
So there’s a fleeing and finally there’s a following. There’s a following. Notice the conjunction, flee youthful lusts or desires, but… This is moving from the negative to the positive. So we’re to turn from sin, and we’re to pursue righteousness. Pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace with all those who call upon the name of the Lord Jesus. There’s a running from and there’s a running after.
In fact, this is a strong word again. In the New Testament, it’s used to describe the Egyptians pursuing the Jewish people as they leave Egypt and are caught up against the Red Sea. It’s used of a hunter. You guys that hunt, you chase. You’re after some prey. You’re on its trail. You’re stalking some deer for the kill. And that’s the word. And we’re to take that passion, that focus, and we’re to target righteousness, faith, love, and peace.
Let me put it like this, we’re to be in hot pursuit of godliness. When I was in the police, I got the opportunity to be in a couple of hot pursuits. A lot of fun. Although not too much fun in an armored Land Rover that can only do about 55 miles an hour. And if you turn a corner too fast and belt fast, it goes over on its side. But we had an attempt a couple of nights to chase a guy. That’s not the vehicle to do it in, so we would call in perhaps a faster car. But hot pursuits. That’s the idea. We’re in hot pursuit of the life that pleases God.
I’m not going to explain these terms in any depth, because we’ve got to wrap up here and I think I can just summarize what we’re after here. Righteousness. Well, that speaks of godly conduct. That speaks of behavior that complies to the law of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ. Faith. Well, that’s a confidence in God’s promises. That’s a seeing the unseen. That’s looking at a situation, but not through the eyes of perception, but through the eye of faith that sees, “You know what? This seems impossible, but God is able.” Love is an action and an attitude towards others that seeks their highest good at the cost to yourself. Puts others first. Peace. Well, that’s living in harmony and unity.
See, here’s what Paul is saying as we wrap up. Guys, be in hot pursuit of righteousness, faith, love, and peace, which speaks of a right behavior, a right perspective, a right attitude, and right relationships with others. That’s what you need to be pursuing right now. And guys, I hope you are.
Football season’s almost on us. We can’t wait for it to start. Go Bucks. So here’s the deal. 2015, my beloved Ohio State wins the national championship. But you know what? The story of that, I was reading it recently in a book called Above the Line, which was written about the year that the Buckeyes won the 2015 championship.
And Urban Meyer writes this book and he says that that night in January 2015 when they beat Oregon, the genesis of it was two years earlier. He was in his first year at Ohio State. They had been dealing with a bull band on that first year. So during bull season, Urban Meyer was brought on to be like a commentator with ESPN. And he was part of the crew that give commentary on the national championship back then between Alabama and Notre Dame. And he said that was the night that changed everything for him. As he watched from the sidelines, as he commentated, he was struck by how good Alabama was. Crisp snaps, commitment to every play, working as a unit, and on and on he went. And it was proved in the fact that they crushed Notre Dame 42 to 14.
And as he left the Sun Life Stadium that night, he realized that if ever Ohio State was to get to a national championship, they would have to go through Alabama. And he concluded that night that Alabama was the best college football team in the country. Not the Buckeyes, not anybody else, Alabama. And you know what? They looked like they were going to be like that for a while, and if you’re going to get there, you’ve got to go through them.
So that night, he texts all his coaching staff and every player on the Buckeye roster. Here’s what he texted them that night, two years before they would ultimately win the national championship, “The chase is on immediately, because we are not the best team in the country, Alabama is.” And the next season, they had a large flag draped on their playing field and in some of their gym and training facilities with those words, “The chase.”
And if you Google or you go to YouTube and you watch the night the Buckeyes beat Oregon, you’ll hear Urban Meyer say, “The chase is completed.” And in the book, here’s what he said, “It was a chase to close that gap. The chase to beat the best so we could become the best. It was purposeful and intentional. And everything we did, we hoped to do to that end if we were to be fully aligned and giving all for each other, driven and committed to pursuing the shared purpose, which was ultimately to become national champions.”
Guys, the chase is on for every man in this place this morning. And you know what? It’s for an incorruptible crime. It’s for eternal happiness, it’s for eternal reward, it’s for the smile of God. And that can only take place if we flee youthful lusts and desires, and we pursue and we chase, if we’re in hot pursuit of a godly character, because that equips us to be men here, sanctified, fit, and serviceable for the master’s use, prepared for every good work.
This knife lady, just like so many Christians I know, stainless but useless. I hope you’re not a useless Christian. I can’t think of anything worse. A useless Christian man bought by the blood of Jesus Christ, loved by God, called to works that God has prepared for each of us to do. Amen? Thanks for listening, guys. Let’s pray.
Lord, we realize the chase is on. And this morning, men will get up and they will pursue careers, they will pursue political acclaim, they will pursue notoriety, they will pursue victory on the sports field. And Lord, some of that’s not necessarily evil, but we take all of that thought of chasing and pursuing, and we apply it to our Christian life. And for us, we get up this morning and we are chasing, pursuing maturity, likeness to Jesus Christ, a life of godliness so that our lives can count, so that when we leave this earth, we leave a vacancy. Lord, keep us from the tragedy of becoming a useless Christian. For we pray and ask this all in Jesus’ name, Amen.