Follow in Faith and Love

2 Timothy 1
8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, 9 who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, 10 and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, 11 for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, 12 which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me. 13 Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 14 By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.

As Christians we are called to be followers of Jesus Christ. What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus? A follower has a leader. For the Christian, our leader is Jesus, we are called to follow Him. It is not just follow in the sense of go where He goes, but to also embrace Him as our leader and follow Him, even in our heart in the sense of wanting to be like Him. It is a following in order to be more conformed to who He is.

It is an awesome and really stunning thought that we are to be conformed to the image of Christ, that our path in life is to be more like Jesus. It is awesome and stunning because we have such a long way to go, and so much so that it may seem unreachable to the point of wanting to even give up. It is not like we can say, like in sports, “Just one more yard and we win,” or “One more basket,” or “One more hit,” or “One more goal.” It is not like a sport that we know we can win with the skills we have. It is more like we have to get to the moon without a spaceship.

The truth is, it is impossible to follow Christ, moving to be more like Him, without the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit of Christ in us. And so we take our eyes off of Him and we lose terribly, but we keep our eyes on Him and He takes us places that seemed impossible.

But along with way, even with Christ as our leader, there are challenges. There are always challenges to growth and change. But the challenges we face are not without purpose, and the purpose is good. I want to show you this from 1 Peter 1:3-7, and then we will come back to our passage in 2 Timothy for today.

1 Peter 1
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Now all of that is really fantastic, it is glorious, it is what is true of us and of our future. It tells of why we are drawn to Christ, why we desired to believe, that is all very good news, it is the good news of the gospel. Who doesn’t want these things? All of this is ours and will be ours. But Peter goes on to explain our current reality that includes testing and trials, and he helps us to make sense of them.

1 Peter 1
6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Peter is simply saying that we can expect hard things, and they are trials of testing. We understand testing, right? You study a subject, you learn all you can, and then comes the test! What does the test do for you? It tells you if you really know the subject well or not. That is the purpose of a test.

In life, under the sovereign hand of God, we are regularly facing tests of trials. And the tests, for us, either prove to our own mind that we are really in the faith, or that perhaps we are not. The tests are not for God’s benefit, they are for our benefit. We come away from a trial with either a sense of, “Yes, surely I do belong to God, He carried me through, I believed Him through it, I walked with Him through it,” or we may come away accusing God, angry with God, even walking away from God. In this case we have, at least potentially, informed our own heart that our faith is not real, we are not in Christ, we don’t belong to Him. I think that is what Peter is saying when he says, “you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

Our faith is tested by trials, and the genuineness of our faith is proven in them. And so with every trial, with every test, we can be more assured of the genuineness of our faith in Christ and drawn even more closely to Him.

And so yes, life can be hard with much testing, but the testing has purpose, and the purpose is building, strengthening our faith.

Spiritual growth is a bit like road construction. Living in North Texas we all know about road construction. I used to get from my house to church in twelve minutes. The time now can easily double that. Why? Because of road construction. Tearing up old roads and building new roads. It can be a real pain. Every time I drive through all that construction I have a choice: I can complain and gripe, I can get frustrated with the construction workers for making my trip longer, or I can be thankful that they are working hard to eventually make my trip much faster and safer. I can focus on the moment of inconvenience, or I can focus ahead to the finished product which we will all some day enjoy. Road construction can be hard, but it has a good purpose.

Trials are hard, but their purpose is good. And so when we read verse 13 of 2 Timothy 1, it makes sense.

13 Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

Here is what Paul is saying. Follow the words of truth that he has taught, but do it in a certain way. Follow the words of truth in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. There are very important components that are necessary to living according to sound doctrine. They are faith and love.

We cannot obey and subsequently face the associated trials of life and grow in Christ apart from faith in Christ Jesus. Faith is the first component.

True obedience requires faith. What is meant by faith here? Faith is an attitude of trust in Christ Jesus. In other words, we do what we do, act as we act, obey the Word because we believe that God is God, and He has spoken, and His ways are superior to any other way, and we trust Him.

If these things are not true, if we don’t believe that God is God and His spoken ways are superior and we don’t trust Him, then we will choose our own path, making ourselves out to be superior.

Faith is often living in ways that don’t make sense to our human flesh, but that are clearly described as superior in God’s Word. For instance, the Word of God tells us this in Matthew 5:11-12:

Matthew 5
11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Rejoicing in the throws of persecution does not make sense in our flesh, but it is a superior way according to God’s Word, so to do it, to live that way is to live by faith saying, “Yes, God’s ways, I believe God’s ways are best.”

Matthew 5
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.

To love one’s enemy is not what we long to do in our human flesh. But God says we should, and so if we obey it will be according to faith, faith that God has spoken and we, though not otherwise inclined to do so, will obey because we believe God’s ways are superior and we want to please Him.

If we obey, we obey by faith. If we follow God’s Word, we do so by faith.

Hebrews 11
6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

Hebrews 11 is all about faith, living by faith.

Hebrews 11
1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the people of old received their commendation. 3 By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

We live by what we don’t see, we trust in God whom we have not seen, we believe because He has taught us to believe, revealing Himself to us through His Spirit. Our living here is according to a heavenly mindset, it has to be for the Christian. Our trust must be in God and His everlasting Word.

A second necessary component to living according to the truths of God is love.

2 Timothy 1
13 Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

Christians are those who love Jesus Christ.

1 John 4
19 We love because he first loved us.

The love that flowed from our relationship with Christ provides sensible, compassionate direction in our work of teaching and directing others, or just relating to others (see Ephesians 4:15–16). It would enable Timothy to teach the truth in love. Paul realized that Timothy’s faith and love were fruits of his union with Jesus Christ.

Love is to be chief and to drive us in the way we interact with other people, whether they be those who are easy to love, or those who are our enemies. Christ is our example. He loved His enemies, that was you and me, and He loves us still as His brothers.

Love is a missing component among Christians in many cases, both in the public square and in private interaction.

How many of us are careful to love our neighbors as we talk about our political positions or moral convictions? When we talk about politics or morality are we doing so to prove a deeply held point, or are we doing so in order to also encourage and edify those who may disagree? Are we about winning an argument or winning a soul for Christ? Are our private conversations about building relationships or getting our way? Are we concerned with our own rights or are we appropriately standing for the rights of others? These are hard questions, but they are important because if we are not loving others out of a love for Christ, then we will not be concerned with obeying God’s Word.

We know this because of the first and second great commands, which are love God and love others. These are necessary and crucial commands, these commands of love, if we are to obey all the other commands of our Lord.

2 Timothy 1
13 Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 14 By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.

God gives us power to guard what He has entrusted to us. God has power to keep us and He has given us power to persevere in His work. It is all of Him.

What is this good deposit? It is the word of truth. And the only way it can be guarded well is by the Holy Spirit who is in us as believers. We are so prone to deviate from truth, especially when things get hard in our lives. We are weak in and of ourselves to stay the course of truth. It takes the Spirit of God in us to keep us on track.

We talked a few weeks ago about the necessity to pray always. If we will walk with Christ we must be in communion with Him through prayer always. We must ask for His help.

Is your life, my life, marked by that of living by faith and living by love in Christ Jesus? Is our focus so much on Christ that we live in ways that are radically opposed to the world’s philosophies, and even to our natural tendencies, because we believe that God’s way is best, right, and wise? Do we love Christ so much that our actions reflect His very character? Or are we simply going our way, doing our thing, and looking out for what seems right in our eyes? Can we talk about our loves, our concerns, our passions from a biblical perspective, or are we just carving out our own way by our own will?
Whom are we living for? Is it Christ?

2 Timothy 1
8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, 9 who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, 10 and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, 11 for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, 12 which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me. 13 Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 14 By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.