Saturday, March 03, 2012

The Rejuvenating Power of the Gospel: But now has been revealed ...

Anyone who knows me well thinks I am a soccer fanatic. I love the game and everything about it. And while many Americans think soccer is boring given the low scores most matches produce, the truth is that it is this built in sense of delayed gratification that makes the emotional side of soccer so fulfilling. We watch, and wait, and get our hopes up, as the ball is passed with precision down the field. The opportunity for a goal is getting nearer and nearer and then ... well, maybe next time. But each buildup after buildup, with increasing tension as the games wears on, creates a slowly expanding desire for success in us. And then, finally, when the centering pass is made, and deftly handled by the striker who calmly fires the ball into the back of the net, our pent up hopes explode in noisy, fist-pumping, exclamation! Okay, sorry. I got a bit carried away just thinking about it.

So there you have it. The longer hope sits brewing, the greater the joy when at last it is fulfilled.

Perhaps Timothy had forgotten his history. Maybe in all of his pastoral work he had gotten too focused on the present, and had left off marveling about the great faithfulness of God in fulfilling the epic promise of Messiah, the Savior. Paul doesn't mention the reasons this young pastor had fallen prey to spiritual fatigue, timidity, and burn out. He doesn't even ask Timothy to give him reasons. He just dives right into the water of Timothy's theological heart and demands that he recognize once again the majesty of the gospel. He puts it between Timothy's eyes that the good news must wash over him every day, in manifold ways, lest he become weary, lose heart, and maybe lose his way.

I think Paul would have made a good soccer announcer. He's really good at explaining the buildup. Notice that in verses 9 and 10 Paul carefully explains the "buildup" of God's saving work. It starts with God, of course, who has saved and called Timothy with a calling that is holy and demands holiness. This great rescue from sin and Satan hasn't been fueled by Timothy's grand abilities or personal merit. He can't take any of the credit simply because the whole of it has been designed in the mind of God, and carried out fully through his own grace. And it has been a long buildup! Since before time began, God has been working his plan, deftly passing the promise from generation to generation, from Abraham through Jacob, through Judah and David, and on down the field of human history to a field just outside Bethlehem.

As we read the story of God's promise in the Old Testament for the first time, there are many instances when we are sure the promise is being completed. First we see Noah. Certainly here is the "he" of Genesis 3:15, the one through whom the whole world has been cleansed from the toxin of sin by the waters of the flood. But turns out his  shot went wide! Noah wasn't the Savior; he needed a savior. Then comes Abraham, running with great promise only to show his own human frailties on so many occasions.  And so on with Jacob, and Samuel and even the great King David. Time after time the hearts of God's faithful are hopeful only to have fulfillment deferred.

And then, finally, it happens. One day in Jerusalem John sees a man named Jesus walking across the square, and through the Spirit he recognizes the One who alone is the fulfillment of the promise. The buildup is happening again, but in a way never before seen. "There he is, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world."

It was to this buildup that Paul pointed Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:9b, 10a: "...which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus ..."
Timothy, don't you realize that we've been privileged to see the promise fulfilled? All those who came before had hope but we have experienced the joy of fulfillment!

As we read Paul's words today it has been almost 2000 years since the goal was reached, the promise fulfilled. We have to admit that the luster, at times, seems to have been worn off by the passage of time, and the frequent celebrations of that singular event. We've read about it, preached about it, written about it, celebrated it, and all too often familiarity, while not breeding contempt, has certainly created complacency.

With Timothy we may need a fresh engagement with the miracle of the Incarnation. In the simplest terms it demonstrates God's great wisdom, his sovereign power, and his absolute faithfulness. Who but our God could design and accomplish such an intricate plan as God in the flesh? And who but our God could orchestrate human history so that the Incarnation happened in just the right way, through just the right people, in just the right place, at just the right time? And who but our God has proven himself faithful over the entirety of human history? His plan has never been derailed, either by the opposition of his enemies or the disobedience of his friends. Our God is unimaginably wise, unassailably strong, and unfailingly faithful. The incarnation of Jesus has revealed the very nature of God to us even as it has brought into the light of reality the promise of rescue first given in Eden. God's entire buildup of the redemptive plan has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus.

Timothy needed to be reminded of this. You and I need to be reminded of this, every day. May the Lord grant us faithful eyes to see the goodness of his grace in the gospel, for his glory and our daily good.

Hope this helps,



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