INTRODUCTION: ‘YOUR HAPPY LIST!’
What makes you happy?
A quick answer might be coffee? Chocolate? Ice cream? Or binging a Netflix series?
But seriously, what really makes you happy?
The love of family? The admiration of friends? The success of work or studies? The progress of children? In sport or academics or culturally?
Whatever makes us happy is a give away as to our passions and priorities. What really matters to us.
Now think about this, what makes God happy?
In chapter 2, in Paul’s letter to Timothy, he unpacks what pleases God. And what pleases God, what makes Him happy gives away God’s passion.
Which ought to stir us to prayer.
Which is Paul’s point in these verses.
Some of you are here and you’re not yet followers of Jesus. You’re investigating.
It’s great to have you. Just a heads up. This letter is written to a Christian about how God wants His followers to think and live. Though I’d encourage you to listen in. Engage, and ask any questions.
1. GUARD THE GOSPEL
Paul opens by urging them to pray. Verse 1.
2v1 “I urge, then”; ‘then’ or ‘therefore’ points us back to chapter 1. ‘I urge as a result of, because of what I’ve said in chapter 1.’
In chapter 1 Paul charges Timothy to guard the gospel by silencing false teachers. Teachers who taught salvation through Jesus and obeying the Law. They ended up majoring on minors, teaching myths, endless genealogies, and promoting controversies. Which caused some people to shipwreck their faith.
God’s gospel, is not one of Law. It’s one of grace in Christ Jesus. Who came into the world to save sinners.
And this gospel is precious. It’s to be treasured. And trusted. And guarded.
And so, chapter 2 verse 1. Because of the need to guard the gospel, Paul urges them to turn to prayer.
2v1 “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people ”
Petitions, prayers, intercession, thanksgiving. They’re all prayer. They’re all translated elsewhere as ‘prayer’. Paul urges and emphasises ‘pray, pray, pray. And pray!’
And pray for all people.
2. GOD’S PASSION
Now we’ll come back to what Paul teaches on prayer, but first notice verse 3. ‘cos we’re asking, ‘what makes God happy? What brings Him pleasure?’ Verse 3 begins;
2v3 3this is good, and pleases God ”
The ‘this’ refers back to verse 1 and 2. And to ‘praying for all people’.
a. Inclusive: God’s Desire – Our Salvation
Praying for all people pleases God ‘cos it’s in line with what God wants.
2v3-4 “This [praying for people] pleases God our saviour, [because, end of verse 3, because God] wants all people to be saved ”
I wonder if, like me, when it comes to family birthdays you’re sometimes given a wish list. A list of what they want. What would make them happy?
God has given us His wish list. His happy list.
What God desires / wants is all people to be saved.
Now, in one sense, Christianity is totally and truly inclusive. all people.
Which doesn’t mean all people will be saved. That’s universalism. Everyone, in the end, goes to Heaven. Which is underpinned by the belief that all roads, all religions, lead to God.
But universalism is a huge lie of eternal proportions. This verse doesn’t teach all people will be saved. It teaches God wants all people to be saved.
There’s a difference between God’s desired will, and His decreed will.
However some, on the other hand, will want to limit the ‘all’ here. They argue it refers, not to ‘every single person’, but to ‘all kinds or all sorts of people’.
Though the straight reading of the text is that ‘all’ refers to everyone. In fact, ‘all people’ is the same word used in verse 1 – “pray for all people – and in verse 6 – “a ransom for all people.” Furthermore, it fits with God’s desire expressed elsewhere in the Bible. In Jeremiah (48v31), God says of His enemies Moab, “I wail over Moab, for all Moab I cry out, I moan for the people I weep for you” In Ezekiel (18v32) God declares, “I take no pleasure in the death of anyone” In Matthew’s gospel (23v3) Jesus laments “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks.” And John 3v16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son ”
Christianity is inclusive. God loves all people without exception. That would have been hard for the false teachers to swallow. ‘cos they were exclusive. elitist. And racist. That God’s only interested in the Jews. And orthodox Jews at that – who keep the law so as to be saved. God doesn’t care for Gentiles.
Yet God loves all people without exception.
Now perhaps you’re here and you need to hear that. You think God couldn’t possibly be interested in you. You’re to bad. To un-important. You’ve sunk to low. Strayed to far.
Don’t think God doesn’t care. That He couldn’t be bothered.
God loves you. And He wants you to have a relationship with Him. God wants you to know Him. And to know His love.
God wants you to be saved. He wants you to enjoy an eternity with him. He cares that much.
And notice here what Paul equates salvation with. Verse 4.
2v4 “God wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”
That’s not a 2-step programme.
We’re saved by coming to a knowledge of the gospel.
And ‘knowledge’ here means ‘full knowledge’ or ‘right understanding’ of gospel truth.
b. Exclusive: God’s Son – Our Saviour
Which has all to do with Jesus. Verse 5. And this is where Christianity is exclusive.
2v5 “for [verse 5] there’s one God and one mediator”
‘for’. God’s desire to save all people in verse 4 leads to the action in verse 5.
2v5-6 “5for there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all people”
These verses are a golden nugget. Unpacking the glorious gospel.
There’s one true God.
Some people say all religions lead to ‘God’. That there’s many ‘gods’ and thus many ‘paths’. But who are we to decide that? Isn’t that illogical?
Imagine you go visit a friend whose moved to Adelaide. You arrive in Adelaide. Yet you’ve no idea where she lives. No clue as to which road to take. How will you get there? Guess! Hmmm. You got a better chance of winning the lottery! Ask someone! Hmmm. What’s the chance they’ll know. And what’s up if 3 people tell you 3 different locations. They can’t all be right. Perhaps follow a crowd! But the majority are often wrong!
There’s only one guaranteed way. Phone your friend. She’ll tell you the way. And give you directions.
Don’t leave ‘getting to Heaven’ up to guesswork. Rather ask God. Follow His directions.
There is only one God. And only one way.
Jesus is the way. God says, verse 5.
2v5 “there’s one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus ”
Mediator. Jesus is the ‘go-between’, the ‘middle-man’, the ‘peace-maker’ between God and people.
God and humanity are enemies. Separated because of God’s holiness and our sinfulness. Under God’s judgement.
And the gulf between God and us cannot be bridged by being good or keeping the Law. That’ll never fix the problem.
We need Jesus to bring peace. Verse 6. A mediator is the testimony given at the proper time. At the right time. What the false teachers need to know is that everything beforehand, the law, the priesthood, the temple, was preparation for Jesus’ arrival. It all pointed to Jesus who fulfils all that came before. nothing else, brings God and us together except Jesus.
Now it’s not popular to say this. But there’s only one God and therefore one road. The gap between God and you cannot be bridged by a priest, or a worship leader, or rosary beads, or by good deeds. Jesus alone turns God’s enemies into His friends.
And His able to for 2 reasons.
First, because He is both God and man. Verse 5. The mediator is
2v5 “the man Christ Jesus”
To bring peace in the Middle East between Jews and Palestinians you’ll need someone to mediate.
It wouldn’t make sense to make a mediator a Jew or a Palestinian. They’d only represent one side.
Next best is a neutral mediator. Someone who isn’t either, but will attempt to represent both.
However, the best mediator would be someone who can truly represent both sides because they’re 100% Jewish and 100% Palestinian.
And that’s what we need as a go-between.
Which means Jesus is the only one qualified. ‘cos He’s both 100% man and 100% God. He’s both the human man and the divine Christ, God’s Son.
As fully man, He represents sinful man. As fully God, He represents a holy God.
Jesus is able to save ‘cos He’s our mediator. And secondly, ‘cos He’s our ransom. Verse 6.
2v6 “[Christ Jesus] who gave Himself as a ransom for all men”
A ransom is a debt you pay in order to buy someone’s freedom.
We’re captives to sin. And our debt of sin deserves death.
Yet at the cross Jesus wrote out a cheque, He gave up His life and paid our account. He paid the ransom. In full. In his blood. He died in our place, so we could become friends with God.
And so, as such, Christianity is exclusive. For God to send His Son to die only to provide other ways to be saved is perverse. To say as much is a massive insult to the God whose paid such a cost, and made such a sacrifice.
Christianity is inclusive, God wants all people to be saved. And it’s exclusive, all people must come to Christ to be saved.
c. Summary and Application
Christ Jesus came into this world to save sinners. That’s God’s passion.
Which ought to drive us to our knees in prayer.
Which is Paul’s concern here.
3. OUR PRAYERS
2v1-2 “1I urge, then, first of all”
That means, not the first thing he wants to say. But rather a matter of first importance.
2v1-2 “1I urge that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people – 2for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”
Pray! And pray for everyone.
God wants all people to be prayed for, ‘cos He wants all people saved. So let our prayers reach round the world. ‘cos God desires to save people in Chile, Paraguay, Mexico, Canada, France, Russia, Serbia, Qatar, Iraq, North Korea, Nepal, Sudan, Morocco, drc, Indonesia, Vanuatu. And let’s pray for organisations like CMS and wec International. Who are sending and supporting missionaries all over the world. And let’s pray for colleges like QTC and BST who are training people to go. Let’s pray for our MPC mission partners, the Birchleys in PNG, the Stewarts in Japan, the Cases (here in Brisbane but doing critical work for missionaries globally). And let’s pray for everyone here, for others in your workplace, your school, your family, your friends. Let’s pray to God for them. And let’s pray for each other as we share the gospel.
And who we pray for, and give thanks for, should include kings, people in authority, governments. That’d make a change, won’t it. Praying and giving thanks for politicians! Most of all, verse 2. Pray that
2v2 “that [we’ll be able to] live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”
Our big concern in prayer is not that they’ll control the pandemic, or grow the economy, or keep interest rates down.
We’re praying for them so that we can live “peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness”.
Which is not to be mistaken for the great middle-class suburban prayer; ‘Lord, gives us a peaceful neighbourhood, a big house in a quiet cul-de-sac, no barking dogs and no noisy neighbours.’
Instead, this is a prayer for peace, so we can get on with being Godly. It’s praying that there’ll be no obstacles for gospel work, nothing to hinder making Jesus known.
The ASV Bible, the Aussie standard version, reads verse 1 and 2 as ‘I urge then first of all that grumblings, criticisms, accusations and discontentment be directed at all those in authority, especially government and the Australian Tax Offfice, that we may live comfortable and rich lives in all easiness.’
Nope. We’re to pray for government. Don’t trash talk, or throw stones. Honour. Respectfully disagree, yes. But most importantly pray. Ask God to help them serve well. With wisdom. And justice. And truth.
The government’s not there to put more money in your wallet. The big issue is not what will grow the economy, but what will grow the gospel? Not what is good for business, but what is good for God’s business?
So don’t merely pray for prosperity. Pray for stability. So that we’ll be able to get on with the business of following Jesus. Pray for freedom to tell people about Jesus. Pray for a situation where the gospel can be freely spoken. And freely believed.
CONCLUSION: YOUR ‘GOSPEL’ LIST?
So let’s wrap up. What are the take aways?
a. God’s Passion / Knowing God’s Passion
Christianity is inclusive. God wants all people to be saved God’s passion is saving people.
And they’re saved through Christ, and Christ alone.
Christianity is exclusive. There’s only one God, one Mediator, one ransom for sin. And that’s Jesus.
And so? Have you experienced God’s love and passion for you? If you haven’t, God invites you to give up trying to earn your way to heaven – you can’t – and God invites you trust the One who died for you.
b. Our Passion / Sharing God’s Passion
And if have or you do, will you and I share God’s passion?
Saving people is on God’s ‘happy list’, His ‘wish list’. That’s what He’s passionate about. Is that on your list? Or mine? Is God’s passion our passion? Is that what dominates our thoughts? Actions? Plans? Priorities? And our prayers?
Our ‘happy list’ should be a ‘gospel list’. Wanting to see sinners saved?
And as a church, MPC, that should be our passion. And priority.
Gary and the elders have written the ‘Refreshing Our Vision’ document which we’re all in the process of discussing.
Well, let me share some things that excite me. Listen to this. From page 1. ‘We want to reaffirm our commitment to gospel-shaped discipleship and evangelism as the heartbeat of our church.’ And page 5. ‘We are committed to doing everything we can to re-examine and refresh our strategies for evangelism, and to rethink the future direction of MPC with regard to church planting.’ We want to share God’s passion to save people. And page 6. ‘it is our aspiration that MPC will give more to global mission, pray more for global mission, and identify and send people to work cross culturally with our wholehearted (and material) support.’
Those are great goals to be committed to. Evangelism, church planting, global mission.
And it starts with prayer.
I’m encouraged by the prayer that happens in at MPC. Here on Sundays. At Growth Groups. Through our prayer chain. Our prayer warriors. At prayer meetings.
Though it’s always a challenge to make prayer a priority. And to keep it a priority. And we need each other to help us to do that.
It was good to gather together yesterday to pray. Altogether 35 attended. Which was encouraging. Though it’d be great if it’s 135 next time.
You may not be able to make the advertised prayer meetings. You might perhaps start your own with 2 or 3 others. Some are already doing so. Some of you are meeting up one-to-one to read the Bible and pray.
And let’s make sure we pray for ‘all people’ I fear my prayer list is too restricted. My prayer list needs to be longer. My vision needs to be enlarged. My prayer time, our prayer time should be headed ‘operation world’.
When we talk to God about people, we end up talking to people about God. And when we talk to people about God, some end up saved.
So let’s pray for all people ‘cos this pleases God our saviour, who wants all people to be saved.