Serving God with a Clear Conscience

1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God according to the promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus,
2 To Timothy, my beloved child:
Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
3 I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. 4 As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. 5 I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. 6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, 7 for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. (2 Timothy 1:1-7)

Today we will begin a new book, 2 Timothy, together. We finished 1 Timothy last week and now we will move on through 2 Timothy. While it is a new book, it has some similarities to 1 Timothy. It was written by Paul to Timothy, that is the same. It is considered a pastoral epistle, that is the same. But I don’t want us to think we will be looking at all the same truths as we did in 1 Timothy. It is not all the same, it has fresh truths for us that should help us in living this Christian life today.

I’m not going to spend a lot of time on the first two verses which make up the salutation of the letter. It is very similar to others we have looked at, but let me just mention some brief things that should be helpful for us.

Paul introduces himself as an apostle of Christ Jesus. This is a statement that indicates authority. He is an apostle of Christ and was that by God’s will. God chose to make Paul His special ambassador. Paul did not chose this position, he was appointed to it. God chose to make Paul His spokesperson. He chose to give Paul words to write for Timothy to hear and for us to hear. An apostle, an ambassador speaks on behalf of another, and his words carry the weight of the one being represented. So what we have in this book are words written by Paul, but they were given to Paul by God. If we believe this then we should take all that is written here as God’s Word.

For people who begin to pick apart the Bible and begin to choose not to believe some parts of it, they will usually begin with Paul’s letters. You may hear some say, “Well, I believe what Jesus said, but not what Paul said.” Paul becomes the point of contention. However, we need to know that the Bible is not here to be believed in part but in whole, and Paul’s words are consistent with Jesus’ words, and in fact in many instances it is Jesus’ words that are the more radical.

It was Jesus who called Paul on the road to Damascus and set him apart for this task. Paul’s writings carry the full weight of Scripture.

Paul’s calling was “according to the promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus.” This is a way of saying the gospel of Jesus Christ. In other words, Paul was called according to the gospel message of Jesus Christ.

His primary and stated recipient was Timothy: “To Timothy, my beloved child:“. Timothy was a dear and beloved spiritual child of Paul. Paul had poured his life into Timothy, raised him up, so to speak, as a child of God.

Paul says: “Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Timothy needed these things in order to live out the Christian life where he was. He needed God’s grace, God’s unmerited strong favor in his life. He needed God’s mercy, the deliverance from what he deserved as a sinner. And he needed God’s peace. Peace or tranquility from God even while living in what seemed to be chaotic circumstances with difficult people. If Timothy were to continue on in the faith, as an influential Christian, then he needed so much more than his own strengths or perceived skills or merit – none of that would carry him through what he would face. He needed God’s constant involvement in his life, he needed God’s grace, mercy, and peace.

The man or woman of God must recognize this. I have too often, and I see this in many others, we too often think we somehow have the ability to straighten up and simply work harder to live in this world for God, when God is telling us again and again in His Word, “No! You need me! No, you can’t on your own, you can’t live for me on your own, you need me every step of the way! Every step!” We cannot change on our own, we weren’t made for that, we need God, desperately need God. And so when we see these introductions to books in the Bible or we see similar words at the conclusion of books with these words – grace, mercy, peace – don’t fly over that, stop and take that in, we need these to live the Christian life at all!

Paul begins in verse 3 with the body of this letter: “I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day.”

We see three things:
1. Thankfulness to God
2. Service with a clear conscience
3. Constant prayerfulness

Paul begins with perhaps the most important and the most neglected of disciplines that should mark the Christian’s life.

Paul Tripp wrote an article for Thanksgiving in which he contrasts the “entitled complaining” person with the “humble thankful” person. Either we are being a person who thinks he or she deserves more or better and so we complain, or we are being one who knows we deserve nothing good and are therefore thankful for what God has given us. Do you think you deserve more or do you know you deserve less? Are we satisfied with what God says is right for us or do we believe that God has gotten it wrong and has failed to give us what we want or need?

Do you remember Paul’s confident words to the Philippian church about their needs? In Philippians 4:19 Paul said this to them: “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Paul said this to them just after stating that he himself was well supplied, that he had received plenty for himself. He was basically saying that he had all he needed, this of course while sitting in prison and suffering physically more than you and I would probably understand. He was in fact in a perfect sort of situation that would call for complaining. But he refused to and instead acknowledged that God was supplying his needs, that he could be content where he was. And so he passes those thoughts on and reminds the church that God will also supply their needs.

You know, we say this all the time. We say things like, “God will provide” or, “God knows what is best and gives what we need.” We say things like that, but do we mean it, and can we say that and be truly content and even joyful? Or are we saying those things and grumbling or fretting on the inside? It is not enough to say what is true. We are to believe what is true, really believe it!

Some of you are in really hard places in life right now, I know that. Money is tight, relationships aren’t what you had hoped for, the future looks bleak, physically you are not well, for many reasons life may be hard for you, I understand that. We all have trials going on, some more severe than others. But where is God in our trials? Is He really supplying all of our needs? Is He really doing what is best for us? If He is, and He is, and if we really believe that, then we will live contented lives and we will be thankful.

I know it can be a struggle, believe me, I know. But as soon as we take our eyes off of our gracious God, we fall into complaint and into an entitlement mentality. That is a miserable place to be, if you are there then you know that. There is perhaps nothing more frustrating than thinking we really deserve something that we are not getting. The truth is, for the Christian, this does not happen. Well, that is not exactly true. We aren’t getting some things that we really deserve. We aren’t getting God’s wrath, we aren’t getting God’s just sentence against us, we aren’t getting hell. But as for all the good things in life, we are getting what is good and what is best for us.

Tripp in his article gives thirteen questions to consider for self-evaluation. Thirteen questions to ask that can help us see where we are regarding being thankful or being a complainer. Here they are:

  1. Would the people who live nearest to you characterize you as a complaining person or a thankful person?
  2. When was the last time you sat down to literally count your blessings?
  3. When was the last time you spent time grumbling, moaning and complaining about life?
  4. When you look at your world, are you pessimistic about everything that’s going wrong?
  5. When you look at your world, do find yourself celebrating God’s common grace?
  6. Do you view yourself as one who has been constantly short-changed and neglected?
  7. Do you view yourself as one who has been unfairly showered with blessings?
  8. How often do you fill in the blank with grumbling, like “If only I had _____” or “I wish _______ was different”?
  9. How often do you fill in the blank with gratitude, like “I can’t believe God has given me _________”?
  10. In your relationships, are you encouraging friends and family to continue their grumbling?
  11. In your relationships, are you encouraging friends and family to find reasons to give thanks to God?
  12. In your relationships, do you find yourself frequently tearing others down?
  13. In your relationships, do you find yourself frequently building others up?

Living in a spirit of thanksgiving toward God will help us to serve Him with a clear conscience.

Paul said, “I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience.” How does that work? Well, think about it. Think about if we were always thankful to God for everything. That in all things we are looking to Him and acknowledging His hand in our lives and acknowledging His wisdom in His provision for us and always saying, “Yes, my God is supplying all my needs.” If this is us then wouldn’t we be more likely to live from a desire to serve Him and do what is pleasing to Him? I think this is the connection. Thanksgiving lends itself to heartfelt faithful service to God. I don’t think we will willingly, joyfully serve a God whom we believe is treating us terribly and holding back blessings that we think we deserve.

Paul said he served with a clear conscience. This does not mean that Paul was perfect, that his conscience was not ever affected by sin or that it had not felt the burden of sin. This simply means that it was his desire to truly serve His Lord.

Paul at this point was near death. And yet as an older man he could say this. His conscience did not condemn him. He knew he was forgiven and he knew it was his desire to serve God in holiness.

If you think about Paul’s tumultuous life of much pain and suffering, it was important that he let Timothy know that all the trials he had faced were not due to consequences of sin or an unwillingness to serve Christ faithfully, but just the opposite, it was his faithfulness that led to his suffering. His conscience was clear on this matter.

For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you. (2 Corinthians 1:12)

And looking intently at the council, Paul said, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.” (Acts 23:1)

What a tremendous testimony!

Paul’s clear conscience also included constant prayer, and in this case for Timothy – “as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day.”

Paul was not under any illusion that his words or Timothy’s own abilities would be enough to carry Timothy through. Paul appealed to God on behalf of Timothy. Paul loved Timothy, wanted Timothy to serve well, and knew that it would take the very power of God to make that happen. So as a brother in Christ he did all that he could do, and that certainly included prayer, constant prayer, prayer night and day. That is significant.

This is an example of us. We can wrongly believe too often that we are somehow self-reliant. We may think that others should be too. And yet we are told to pray, to pray for others. Prayer is a reminder of our own weakness. Prayer is a reminder of our helplessness. Prayer is a reminder that God is both strong and able to intervene. Paul was not with Timothy physically, but Paul knew that God was near Timothy.

We often hear of needs that we cannot meet physically. We hear of someone in the hospital and we can’t be there. We hear of financial problems and we cannot help financially. We hear of emotional strain and physical illness. We cannot be everywhere, we cannot help in every case, but we can always pray. Prayer is a grace of God, it is an incredible privilege for God’s children, and it is effective.

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. (James 5:16)

Paul knew the power of prayer and so Paul prayed fervently for His friend.

Paul’s beginning of this letter shows us a man who loved and trusted in God for all of life. He believed in God and believed in God’s message. He believed that God was able to give him and others grace and mercy and peace. He believed that God provided good for him as he was a man who was thankful. He believed that God was worthy of his tireless service and he believed the God listened to His children, heard their prayers and answered them. He was a man of faith and his faith was evident in all aspects of life.

So here we are as those who call God our Father and Jesus our Savior. Are we trusting in Him as Paul did? Do we just talk about our faith or are we living it too? Do we believe in God’s message to us? Do we believe that God gives us grace and mercy and peace? Do we believe that God provides for us what is good and are we thankful? Do we believe that God is worthy of our tireless service and that He listens to us and answers our prayers? In other words, are we living out our faith?

This is my prayer for us as we walk through this book together, my prayer is that we will be men and women and children who so adore and trust God that we will not be satisfied with the Christian life in name only, but we will dare to walk radically with Him. Will you make that your prayer as well?

1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God according to the promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus,
2 To Timothy, my beloved child:
Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
3 I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. (2 Timothy 1:1-3)