We’re in round 11 of 20 days in 2 Timothy, and I’m excited about this one. Paul has been preparing us for the game of being involved in what God is doing in the world, and now here he’s going to show you what to do when you get there. So imagine being in a conversation with a group of buddies, and some of them are Christians, but don’t really know what they believe. Some of them are Christians, but you would never know it, by the way they live. Some of them believe all kinds of crazy ideas they read online. Some of them don’t know what they believe about anything at all. How do you, as a believer in Jesus, enter into a conversation like that when it starts to turn towards spirituality? What do you say? And know some of you are like Ben. I don’t need to imagine that that’s lunch every day. That’s the world I live in. How do I navigate that? Well Paul’s about to tell us.
2 Timothy, chapter two, starting in verse 23. Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies. You know that they breed quarrels, and the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance, leading to the knowledge of this truth that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil after being captured by him to do as well.
So he tells us a couple of things here. Number one is, he says, have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies. There’s a way to talk about spirituality or really anything for that matter, where it’s ignorant. It lacks gnosis, lacks knowledge. And he says, if you see people that are just fighting over ideas, but they don’t even really know what they’re talking about. He’s like, Christian, back away from that. Have nothing to do with that because, you know, all it produces, all it breeds, all it gives birth to is more fighting.
Some of you know what that’s like. You’ve been in crowds where you go, you know, we keep fighting about this and we never gain more information, more insight. We never end these conversations by going, I learned something today. All we do is get more and more angry. He says, Christian, don’t do it even about spiritual issues. If someone wants to fight, you just say, hey, I don’t fight you when that’s not what I do.
So how does a Christian enter a world where maybe Christianity is more questioned, assailed, maligned than ever? Well, Ben, if I don’t fight about it, if I don’t defend it, what do I do? Well, look at the characteristics he gives us of the Lord’s born servant. How is someone who is bounded to the Lord live in the public square? He says number one, he says, you must not be quarrelsome. We are not fighters that are insensitive debaters that don’t care about people’s feelings or lives just want to win an argument. I just want to win the war, and I don’t care if I win you. That’s not how we operate.
So what are our characteristics? Well, he gives us three positive ones. We are kind to everyone. The Christian is gentle, even with someone who disagrees with you. Even with someone who is mean. We are gentle with them. We’re kind. And we’re able to teach. So we’re gentle and we’re able. Able to teach means that you are informed and you are equipped that you know this book really well, that you’ve understood it, you’ve studied it. You’ve delved deep into the words of your God. If we really believe God inspired these words, let’s get them deep into us. So he says, Christian, you focused your energy on being kind to people and being informed and able to explain what you believe.
And then he says, we’re not just gentle and able. We’re patient and we patiently endure evil or we patiently endure when we’ve been wronged. Why does the Lord’s Bond Servant act like this? Well, our Lord acted like this. I remember when I heard Tommy Nelson teach this, he said. Imagine if Jesus, when he was on trial and they spit on him, if he spit back and said, What do you think about that? Or when the soldiers were beating him, if he started kicking them back or on the cross when they were cursing? And if he said, I’ll see you in hell. Like, what would you do if if Jesus did that in the gospels? It sounds crazy, but it’s crazy when people who say, that’s my Lord, act like that. Are quarrelsome and fighters and mean. No, our Lord was gentle, patient. Father forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing. He could oppose their ideas, but be wanting to save them at the very same time. We’re meant to look like our Lord.
I heard a pastor say it this way once, he said, we’re like seeing-eye dogs. I remember for me when I taught at a college ministry on the campus of A&M called Breakaway. They would train service dogs and you would have students come and bring them to Breakaway. And those service dogs would see people running around. People want to pet them. But the service dog had to stay focused, stay alert. They couldn’t suddenly start barking at every passerby or start chasing after a ball. No, they had a higher calling. So they had to live according to a higher standard. I stay still. I stay composed. I move when my master says Move. I stop when my master says stop. And that’s what he’s saying with us. Hey, other people may be barking at each other, other people may be running after whatever looks interesting to them, but we have a master now and we have a higher calling. So we live with composure in the public square.
The Lord’s bondservant is kind, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents. So there is a place where not only are we informed, but we can tell someone, hey, I think you’re misinformed there. I think you don’t know what you’re talking about there. Actually, could I recommend a book to you that could help you? We’re meant to engage people as we debate ideas, but we do it with gentleness. We’re gentle with people, right? We’re trying to restore them, not destroy them.
But let me close with this. Where does that gentleness and patience come from, especially with someone who disagrees with you? Look at the perspective Paul gives us here at the end. When someone opposes you, opposes your faith. When someone insults or attacks everything you hold dear and believe, how are you meant to handle that and not lose your cool? He says if perhaps God may grant them repentance. Leading to the knowledge of his truth, repent means to change your mind. To turn. He’s saying maybe God will give them the gift. That’s what grant means. Maybe God will gift them with the ability to turn and know the truth. That they may come to their senses, meaning that they’re deranged and they may escape the snare, the trap of the devil who has captured them to do his will.
Paul says, do you want the secret to being like Jesus? Jesus forgave his enemies while they were nailing Him to the cross. Why? He said forgive them because they don’t know what they’re doing. They’re captive into a kingdom of darkness and God I’m asking you have mercy on them because they don’t even know.
And he says that’s the same mentality that will help you have composure in a chaotic day when you see a person who disagrees with you, maybe attacks your faith online. Don’t see enemies. See captive. See someone who the devil has held captive to do his will, and then you can have patience and then you can have gentleness and then you can have compassion. Let me present to you the truth, but I can’t change your mind. It’s God who grants repentance. It’s God who gives knowledge. It’s God who helps you turn. It’s God who makes you new. So I’m going to do my part to hold out the word of life. And then I’m going to ask him to bring you to life. But until that day, I can be patient. I can be gentle. I can be kind. That’s the Christian.
We’re not here to condemn anyone. We’re here to hold forth the word of life. If perhaps, God might rescue them through our work. And so be patient, be kind, be able and be gently correct. Know that God through our work may just grant some people repentance.
And that’s an encouraging thought. So ask the Lord to help you as you enter spiritual conversations in the public square to be someone who is patient and kind. Pray about that now. Some of you. Maybe those ideas come to mind. Some of you maybe haven’t been in that space. But you’re about to. And God’s preparing you here. Ask him to help you be a good picture of Jesus as you talk about Jesus with people out in the world. And I’ll be praying along with you and see you next time.
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