The Church at War
The Church at War
If you have a Bible, and I hope you do, I invite you to open with me to 1 Timothy 6, as we prepare to finish out tonight our journey through Paul's first letter to Timothy. We have seen Paul address false teachers, the importance of prayer, instructions regarding leaders in the church, instructions regarding widows and elders and instructions to slaves and masters. He's warned us about the dangers of materialism. As you come to the end of this letter you think All right, as Paul brings this thing to a climax, to a conclusion, what is utmost in his mind that he wants to communicate to Timothy, that he wants to leave with Timothy and the church at Ephesus? What's most important, in a sense? These are the words he writes, 1 Timothy 6:11-21:
But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see, to him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.
As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.
O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called "knowledge," for by professing it some have swerved from the faith.
Grace be with you.
So one key statement in what we just read that I think sums up the essence of Paul's final charge to Timothy is in verse 12. You might underline this simple sentence: "Fight the good fight of the faith." It's the same language Paul used back in the first chapter, the end of the first chapter when he said, "Timothy, wage the good warfare, holding onto your faith." It's almost like he's bookending it—end of chapter one, end of chapter six—saying to Timothy, Timothy, you are in a war. You're in a fight that requires vigilance in order to hold onto your faith. And that's what I want us to realize this morning, to realize this global reality. You are involved in a spiritual war. We together are involved in a spiritual war, and it involves every single one of us in this room.
We all have spiritual battles
The Bible is clear on this one. We are in wartime, not peacetime. This is all over Scripture. We don't have time to turn to all of these places, but Hebrews 12:4 says, "We are at war against sin." 1 Peter 2:11 says, "There is a war waging within our souls." Jude 3 talks about the struggle of our faith. In the very next book or letter that Paul writes to Timothy (2 Timothy), Paul says we are soldiers. In the second letter that he writes to the Corinthians, two times Paul talks about how we as Christians have weapons that we fight with. Ephesians 6:12 may be the clearest when Paul says "We struggle not against flesh and blood but against the rulers and against the powers and against the authorities of this dark world and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."
The reality is every single person in this room is involved in a spiritual war. Get this. Recognize this. Realize this.
It looks different in each of our lives, but there are things going on in every single one of our lives in this room. There are things going on that are attacking your faith. Some of you in this room are in a battle for your marriage at this moment. Some of you are battling as parents with children. There are battles for purity happening in the minds and lives all across this room. Brothers, some of your minds are battlegrounds for lustful thoughts. War is being waged. Singles, some of you are in relationships where there is a daily, weekly battle for purity and holiness. Married brothers and sisters, there are some of you that are in a battle against an affair coming around the corner, which you're inching toward. There are battles over worry and doubt and despair represented across this room. Maybe for some of you it's all of the above, or things we haven't even mentioned. There is a battle for materialism that is raging all around us in this culture that is affecting your soul.
So here's the reality: we are involved in a spiritual war. Whether you're at home, whether you're at work, whether you're on your campus, whether you're alone, whether you're with others, there's spiritual battle raging. You might think, Well, I'm not even a Christian. This doesn't apply to me. Absolutely it applies to you. There is a spiritual battle raging for your soul at this moment. We are involved in a spiritual war, and the enemy in this spiritual war is formidable. There are spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms who desire, who aim to defame God's glory, to distort God's gospel, and destroy God's people. There is an adversary who wants to wreck your marriage. There is an adversary who wants to destroy your relationships, an adversary who wants to abolish your purity, to attack your integrity; at all costs, to keep you from knowing the goodness and the glory of God and spreading the gospel of God. 1 Peter 5:8 says, "The devil is a lion prowling, looking for someone to devour." He is your enemy. And though he is not God, no matter how strong or smart you think you are you are no match for him on your own.
The scope of the spiritual war is universal. It's cosmic in scope. It involves every language, every people, every nation, every tribe, every family, and every life, which means involvement in this spiritual war is inevitable. You do not choose whether or not to be involved in the spiritual war. Your involvement in this spiritual war began the day you were born. You cannot ignore this war. The Bible does not say, "Ignore the devil and he will flee from you." If you try to avoid this war, pretending like there is no struggle to be had or war to be fought, then you will not stand. You will waver. You will falter. You will be defeated by the enemy. Spiritual retreat only leads to spiritual defeat, which is dangerous because the stakes in this spiritual war are eternal. Hear this: casualties in this war do not merely lose an arm or a leg or an eye or even an earthly life. Casualties in this war lose everything, even their own soul is plunged into a hell of everlasting torment. I don't want to over dramatize this, but this is reality. There is, think about it, a God over this world who desires every single person in this room to be saved. There is a god (little g god) in this world who desires every single person in this room to burn in hell. Cosmic battle, you and I are right in the middle of it.
And how we fight this battle, wage this warfare, to use Paul's language here, has implications for every one of our lives for all eternity and the lives of others for all of eternity. So feel this: Paul says, "Timothy, fight the good fight." Now you think Is there such a thing as a good fight? Yes, Paul says that there is such a thing as a good fight. When you're fighting for eternal life, when you fight for joy and for peace, when you fight for confidence and fight for hope, this is a very good fight for you. And not just for you, but for others. For when you fight the fight to live and spread the gospel so that others escape everlasting torment and enter into everlasting life, that's a good fight. So this is a good fight.
I think about yesterday morning. In my life, I think about two brothers in our faith family who I thought were my friends—Mark Whitehead and Forest Walden—one of them an elder no less. And they've been trying for a while to get me to a place called Iron Tribe. It's a CrossFit work out. And yesterday was friend day. So they invited me to friend day. Now when I think of something like friend day I have pleasant thoughts in my mind. I have thoughts of friends smiling, joking, and having fun. Friend day is a happy day. Not this friend day. I get there yesterday morning, and we are told that together as friends we are going to do a simple twelve-minute workout. Twelve-minutes, I think, how tough can that be? So first we warm up. Let me just say that I was winded and sore at the end of the warm up. And then began the longest twelve minutes of my entire life. Running and doing ball tosses and squats and ring pushups. Twelve minutes later I was on the floor. My legs threatening to explode, lying there pale, as people walked around me speaking in hushed tones, asking, "Is that guy okay?" No, I thought, I am not okay. I'm miserable. And when I woke up this morning I was not okay. I can hardly lift my hands above my shoulders. I couldn't even worship tonight. I'm fine sitting down right now, but I am afraid of what might happen when I stand up in a few minutes. There were other members from Brook Hills watching this, and one of their children came up to me as I'm lying there miserable, and this child had the audacity to look at me in the face, this young child, and say, "Pastor David, you're a pretty good preacher, but you're not a good runner." So I look back at that and strangely I conclude that was good. Clearly my body needed that. And so it was a good fight, not an easy fight but a good fight. And I will be going back to fight for more.
So here's what I want us to do tonight. I want us to think about where the fight is being waged in your heart and life right now at this moment. So we're all involved in spiritual war. There are battles raging in each of our lives in different ways. It might be some of the things I mentioned—maybe in your marriage or your parenting or relationships—how this battle is raging in your thoughts and your emotions. So where is the point? I want you to think about your life right where you are sitting. Where is the point, or where are the points where this spiritual battle is raging the fiercest in you right now? What I want you to do is to keep that in the forefront of your mind, and I want to bring the Word to bear on that. I want to comfort you. I want to challenge you. I want to encourage you to fight that fight well. What Paul does is he surrounded the statement to fight the good fight with imperative verbs, with commands for Timothy to know how to fight this fight; and so I've got five of them listed in your notes here. And I just want you to keep those things that are going on in your life right now at the forefront of your mind and let this Word just come right into your lap, into the middle of the spiritual battles that you find yourself in.
Run away from evil
So here's the first thing Paul says.Verse 11, he says, "As for you, O man of God, flee these things." So how do you fight the spiritual battle around you? Number one: you flee evil that pulls you from God. You fight by fleeing. Now you might think that doesn't sound like fighting. That sounds like running from a fight. Brothers and sisters, sometimes running is the best way to fight for your life. If I meet a 300-pound strong man in the street who wants to demolish me, hand-to-hand combat is not going to be the best strategy to fight for my life. Running is going to be the best strategy to fight for my life. So Paul says, "Run from these things." And what he's talking about when he says "these things" is the materialism and quarreling and slander and selfishness that he's mentioned right before this in chapter six. He says, "Run from sinful actions. Run from every temptation to sin." Flee. Don't flirt with sin; flee from sin. Sin. Get this: "Do not be deceived." Sin always starts slowly. Sin always starts subtly. Just one glance. Just one thought. Just one kiss. Just one purchase. Just one minute. Just one whatever. No! Run! Run. But this goes deeper than just actions. Paul says run from sinful desires. Run from these things. And you go back to what he said right before this in verses 9-10 and he's been talking about the desire for riches, the love of money, cravings that pull you from God. Whenever you have a desire that pulls you from God, run.
And then, now don't miss this, take this one step deeper. This is so huge. In the fight of faith we're not just running from sinful actions or sinful desires. Ultimately, we are running from sinful thoughts. Think about it. Fight the good fight of what? Faith. Fight the good fight of faith. And faith at the core is belief. So what the Bible is saying here is fight to believe God. This is huge. After what Paul has said in 1 Timothy 6 about materialism, why do we run after materialism and things? Paul made it very clear. The reason we run after materialism and things is because we do not believe God is gain. We do no believe God is enough for us. And so we fill our lives with more stuff and bigger and better things because we think that's what's going to satisfy us. But if we just believe God, we wouldn't have to run after all these things. So you fight materialism with belief in God. So we realize that all of our struggles with sin are at the core struggles of belief.
Think about it. Why do you lie? You lie because you believe that doing so will be better for you. You lie because you don't believe God who says it is better for you to tell the truth. Why do you give in to sexual impurity? The reason you give in to sexual impurity is because you don't believe that purity is good and best for you. You think you'd have more delight in impurity. And so the way you fight that is by believing God, by saying God knows what he's talking about. Think about struggles with worry or despair or doubt. All of these are struggles to believe God. Worry comes when you struggle to believe that God will take care of you. Despair comes when you struggle to believe that God is good. Doubt comes when you struggle to believe that God is true. So in this fight of faith, flee sinful thoughts. Flee anything and everything that would lead you not to believe God.
This reminds us of the importance of wielding the Word in the fight of faith. In this good fight of faith, our primary weapon is the Word. When you find yourself struggling to believe that God is with you, wrestling with loneliness and not seeing his presence, how do you fight that? You fight that with Joshua 1 and Matthew 28. He said, "I will be with you always." I'm going to believe him. When I don't feel his presence I'm going to believe that he is with me. Fight the fight of faith with the weapon of the Word. You've got things going on in your life. Things are just kind of crashing down all around you. You think Is God in control? Does he care? Is this going to work? There's just no way this can work together for good. How do you fight that? You fight that with Psalm 31:15. "My times are in your hands." Job 42: "Your purpose will stand." Romans 8:28: You will "work all these things together for," my good, because I love you and I'm "called according to your purpose." You fight the fight of faith with the weapon of the Word. You say I'm going to believe this Word.
So, flee. Flee the evil that pulls you from God.
Run to God
Now, you don't just run from something; you also run to something. So you flee the evil that pulls you from God, and you pursue goodness that draws you to God. It says flee these things and pursue. And he gives a list of six different things to pursue—righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. So pursue. Run after these things. Run after righteous thinking and living. Right thinking, right living. Run after that. Run after godly belief and godly behavior. Godliness. This word that we've already seen is one of Paul's favorite terms in the book of 1 Timothy—God-centered belief, God-centered behavior, a life that revolves around God. Saturate your mind, your heart, your life with God first and foremost. This is how you fight the fight of faith. Saturate yourself with God—godliness, righteousness, godliness. Then he says, "Pursue faith." Pursue deeper trust in God. You fight the fight of faith by running after faith. Amidst the struggle and the war going on in and around you, grow in faith. This is where we remember the most difficult times in our lives are the times when our faith has the opportunity to grow the deepest.
Malcolm Muggeridge said,
Contrary to what might be expected, I look back on experiences that at the time seemed especially devastating and painful with particular satisfaction. Indeed, I can say with complete truthfulness that everything I learned in my seventy-five years in this world, everything that has truly enhanced and enlightened my existence has been through affliction and not through happiness, whether pursued or attained.
This is Romans 5."We rejoice in suffering because we know. We know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance character, and character hope." Suffering is going to lead me to hope, "and hope does not disappoint us because God has poured out his love in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us."
So in the midst of your struggle ask God for deeper faith, pursue deeper faith, deeper trust in God. And then run after greater affection for God. Pursue faith and love. Pursue love, love toward God. Nurture your heart's love toward God.
There was something I was wrestling with just a couple of weeks ago. So I set aside some time just for extra concentrated time with the Lord and really wrestled through some things in prayer. And as I was doing that, the Lord led me to John 15:9. Just in a fresh way, I came to those words where Jesus says to his disciples …. Remember what he said? This is an amazing statement. Jesus says, "As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you." Wow. Just think about that. "As the Father has loved me …. " That's a lot. The Father loves the Son a lot. And Jesus says that's how I have loved you? And then he says in the next line, "Now remain in my love." Well yes, of course. Where else would I want to go? Of course. Tonight in the midst of your spiritual struggle just let this soak in. As the Father has loved Christ, so Christ has loved you. So dwell in his love. Remain in his love. You see how in the middle of the fight of faith our hearts are? I just sat there with John 15:9 in front of me on my knees. My heart just being warmed with love—the love of God with love toward God.
Fight the fight of faith. Pursue love, and not just toward God but also flowing from that love toward others. Fight the fight of faith to love your husband, to love your wife, to love your neighbor, your enemy, your coworker; to have greater affection for God.
Pursue patience amidst difficult circumstances. Pursue steadfastness, Paul says. Endurance. Perseverance. The power to press on. Even when it gets harder, even when it seems like the end is farther away, don't give up. Some of you have been in battles that have been raging for a long time, and I simply want to encourage you. Pursue steadfastness. Don't give up. Matthew 24:13: "He who endures to the end will be saved." Hebrews 3:14: "We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end." Pursue patience amidst difficult circumstances.
And pursue kindness toward difficult people, gentleness, Paul said. This is strange. Fight the good fight with gentleness. How do you fight gently? There's strength here, but there's a quiet strength. There's a humble strength. It doesn't play out in harsh, hurtful tones but in kind, gentle demeanor, even toward those who maybe are a part of or causing some of the spiritual struggle around you. This is a good fight. You look at all those things, and those things are worth fighting for. Every Christian wants these things. But the reality is you look at that list and those things are not natural to us. And so this is what I love about what Paul does next.
Take hold of eternal life
He brings us back to the realization that these things have been bought for us in Christ. And so Paul says with the next words in the text. He says, "Fight the good fight of the faith." Verse 12: "Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses." Paul says fight. Flee these things, pursue these things, and then in the middle of it all, fight to experience the life that you have been given. This is such an interesting verse. Paul is telling Timothy to take hold of eternal life. But Timothy had already been given eternal life in Christ when Christ called his name and then Timothy confessed his faith in Christ. But here's the reality. You think about it. In your life as a Christian, as a follower of Christ, you are in Christ. Right? You have his life. But you struggle on a daily basis to experience the fullness of his life in you. You and I know there's coming a day in the future when we will experience fully and completely, free of sin, the life that Christ has bought for us. There's coming a day when the spiritual battles of this world will be over. But until that day, it is a day-to-day struggle, a battle to experience the life that Christ has bought for us.
So I would say to every brother or sister in this room, every Christian in this room, just as Paul said to Timothy, as you fight these spiritual battles in your life, remember these things. Remember that he has called your name. You belong to him. You are his. You are his child. Mark it down. You are not fighting against God. God is fighting for you. That's good news. You're not fighting against God. God is fighting for you. He has called your name. You have confessed your faith. You've taken your stand with him. Like Mallory, earlier in the day she stood and was baptized. You've taken your stand in the presence of witnesses, Paul says that you have died to sin and you live in Christ. You've confessed your faith. So in light of this, in the presence of God, live in light of God's presence. "I charge you," Paul says, "in the presence of God who gives life to all things." Think about it. As you fight this battle, God, who is your life, is with you. You fight with the presence of God, the Creator of all things, the Sustainer of all things. He's the one who is with you, and he is for you. And you know he is for you because of the confession of Christ. Live in light of God's presence. Live in view of Christ's faithfulness. When the life of the Son of God was on the line standing before Pontius Pilate, knowing that he was about to face his death, he made the good confession, Paul says. He confessed his kingship on your behalf, and it cost him his life. This is the Savior who died for you. Check this out. The Savior who died for you stands beside you in battle.
Oh, this is so good. What do we have to fear? The Savior who died for you is also the King who's coming for you. We fight the fight of faith with our eyes fixed on the sky, looking, longing for the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. We flee evil. We pursue goodness, knowing, trusting, and anticipating that he could come back at any time. And he will come back at some time. And when he comes back at that moment we don't want to be found playing around with the things that he has freed us from. He's coming back for the faithful, not the faithless. So fight the fight.
And yet even amidst all those exhortations we still experience struggle and we feel week and we wonder if we go on. We can go on. And this is what I love about what Paul does next. He just erupts into praise to God. And the encouragement is clear. Live in awe of God's greatness. He just overflows into this majestic, glorious ascription of praise to God. "He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see, to him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen."
Do you feel weak, brother or sister? Do you feel weak? If you do, look up. Look, up and see the One who is with you, the One who is for you. His rule is universal. He is the only Sovereign. Cancer is not sovereign. Divorce is not sovereign. Difficulty is not sovereign. Strife is not sovereign. Temptation is not sovereign. Despair is not sovereign. Your God is the only Sovereign over all of these things. He rules them all. His rule is universal, and his reign is invincible. He is the King of kings, Lord of lords. There's only one capital K, only one capital L in all of history. There's no one whose reign even begins to match his. He is immortal. God alone has immortality. Think about it. He is above history. God is beyond time. He is deathless. Psalm 90: "He is from everlasting to everlasting." He is unapproachable, dwelling in unapproachable light. Oh what a great picture. God lives. He dwells in an atmosphere of blinding holiness and purity and glory. He's unapproachable and inconceivable, whom no one has seen or can ever see. Greater than anyone can even imagine or dream. He is totally transcendent beyond us. To him be all honor and eternal dominion. He possesses all power, and he deserves all praise. This is the God who is your life. What in this world can take this life away from you? Nothing. Nothing can. Nothing can steal joy from you when this God is your life. Nothing can rip hope away from you when this God is your life. Just grab hold of him. Grab hold of the life that he gives. Take hold of it. Grasp it. Experience it. It's yours. He is yours. He's yours. It makes this a really, really good fight to fight with him.
Give away material treasure
And now it just makes sense. I've often wondered. It seems like chapter 6:16 "Amen" would be a good place to stop the letter. It would be a triumphant close. And I've often wondered why Paul goes back to this talk about materialism and what to do with riches. But it makes sense when you think about it, when you realize that Paul is, in a very real sense, just reiterating what he said earlier in verse 6 of chapter 6 when he said "There is great gain in godliness with contentment." In God you have gain. You have great gain in God. And so you are free to fight the fight of faith by, next imperative, give away material treasure. Do good. Be rich in good works. Be generous, ready to share, as you put your hope in God. Don't love money when you can love God. Don't desire riches when you can desire God. He gives good things, so receive them gratefully from the Father who gives good gifts. Receive greatly. Be content in them. Live simply.
Just recapping what we've seen the last couple of weeks, knowing this God frees you up. In God we are free to live so differently from the rest of the culture around us, to live so differently. We don't need more, bigger and more stuff and things. We have God. Live simply and we're free to give extravagantly. Believe God on this one. People, brothers and sisters living amidst the greatest wealth this world has ever known, be generous, willing to share. Give it away. Flowing, overflowing from contentment in God to give away and in the process thrive eternally. There it is again. Store up treasures for the future when you will take hold of eternal life.
Here's the reality. Let's be honest with one another, brothers and sisters. As long as we are living in this culture, we will fight battles against materialism. And I simply want to urge you tonight and over the last three weeks based on 1 Timothy chapter 6, I want to urge you not to give up in that battle. It is a constant battle. It is a battle every time you see an advertisement. It is a battle every time you drive by that store. It is a battle every time you see what someone else has. Fight the battle. Fight for great gain in God. Fight to be free from the pursuit, desire, and craving for more riches. Fight it with extravagant giving. There are no easy answers in this battle. It is a day-to-day battle. I just want to encourage you not to give up the battle because souls in this room and souls all across the place are at stake with how we fight this fight. Give away material treasure, Paul says.
Guard all spiritual truth
And in the last exhortation, command to fight the good fight, Paul says, "Guard all spiritual truth." You can almost hear Paul audibly in verse 20 bringing this thing to a close. He says, "O Timothy." This affection and endearment, this emotion. "O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you." And this right here is the essence of the fight of faith. We fight to be faithful to the gospel. We have seen this all throughout this letter from chapter one all the way here to chapter 6. It's been a constant stream throughout. Paul has said: don't teach any different doctrines; hold onto the faith; appoint elders who teach this Word; train yourself in the words of the faith; devote yourself to the public reading of this Word; watch your teaching closely; teach these things; fight the good fight of faith, holding onto faith.
Why is all this so important? Paul says guarding the gospel, not wavering in this gospel is important, first, for our sake. He said it over and over again. People have wandered from this truth. In chapter 1 he said they've been handed over to Satan. In chapter 6 he used the words, "They've pierced themselves with many pangs." Here in verse 21, "They have swerved from the faith." Oh, brother or sister in the church of Brook Hills, I urge you, I plead with you, not to gloss over this. Do not think, Well, I would never waver from the gospel.You will be tempted every single day to waver from the gospel. Paul's saying all of this to Timothy, the pastor of the church at Ephesus, whom he had worked with for years, who had been faithful in all these things that he's warned him over and over again. Hold onto the faith. Hold onto the faith. Hold onto the faith. This should be a wake up call to every one of us in this room, including myself. Not one of us here is immune to the temptation to wander from the faith. Fight to hold onto the gospel until you take your last breath. Whether that's tomorrow or eighty years from now, keep fighting. Don't give up that fight. So fight. Be faithful to the gospel for your own sake, and fight to be faithful to the gospel for others sake.
And I want you to think about this on two different levels. First, I want you to think about this: fighting to be faithful to the gospel for the sake of others who are outside the church. So here I'm thinking about those who are lost, who are perishing, people who are separated from God, dying in their sin, on a road that leads to an eternal hell. There are people in this room who fall into that category, who are not followers of Christ, who have not been reconciled to God through Jesus, forgiven of your sin. There are people you work with that fall in this category. There are people you live next to. There are people that are on your campus, that you sit in the classroom with who are on a road that leads to an eternal hell. And mark it down. The adversary is waging war, and one of his clearest aims is to keep you silent with this gospel. So fight against fear and fight against nervousness and fight against the desire for man's approval or applause, and fight against the desire for man's acceptance. Fight against reputation. Fight against pride. Fight those things in order to share the gospel. You think about the moment when you begin to share the gospel with someone who does not know Christ. There is spiritual battle raging in that moment. And the Holy Spirit of God is in you. "Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world." There's power to be found for spiritual battle. You're not alone in that battle. But don't shrink back from that battle. Fight the battle for the sake of others. Fight to be faithful to the gospel. Don't hoard the gospel. Spread the gospel. Fight to spread it. Fight against the temptation to create a self-centered, self-saturated Christianity that consists in hoarding the gospel, celebrating the gospel in your life but never sharing it with people who are on the road that leads to an eternal hell. Fight against that.
So fight to be faithful to the gospel for the sake of others who are outside the church, and then fight to be faithful to the gospel for the others inside the church. And here's what I mean by that. The church landscape in Western Europe and across the United States is littered with churches that used to preach this gospel and used to hold fast to the Word but since then have wandered into all sorts of liberal theology, questioning the character of God, denouncing the glory of God, diminishing, in some situations totally ignoring the Word of God. There are supposed churches gathering all across this land today who are gathering together to hear man's thoughts and man's opinions, and the Word of God is hardly anywhere to be found, churches that once used to hold fast to this Word. And so let us be warned, brothers and sisters, that this same exact thing could happen at the church at Brook Hills if we do not hold fast to this Word. So for the sake of those who come behind us, hold fast to this Word.
I mentioned earlier, I am not immune to the temptation to fall away from this faith and away from the gospel, away from the Word. And so if I do, if you see that happening, then do not let me remain as pastor. Don't let anyone be a pastor who's not holding fast to this Word. And even if I am faithful to this Word, even if I hold fast to this Word, the reality is there's coming a day, unless Jesus comes back, there's coming a day—could be tomorrow, could be next year, could be thirty years from now—when I will not be the pastor here anymore and somebody else will be the pastor. Make sure that brother is holding fast to this Word. We want our children's children's children to be holding fast to this Word because we guarded it well in our day. We were faithful to pass the baton onto those who came after us, not with our twisting or turning or according to cultural trends. We hold fast to the Word no matter what it costs us in the culture. So fight to be faithful to the gospel for others' sake even in the church.
And as we fight to be faithful to the gospel we fight as we're filled with God's grace. You might think All this fighting, I just don't have the strength to do it. And this is where I love Paul's final words. It's as if he looks at Timothy after all he has said to him, after all these commands and exhortations, and he clearly knows that Timothy cannot do this on his own. And so he looks at him and he says, "Grace be with you." To use the words of Paul in Colossians 1:28-29, he says, "Timothy, you work at all these things, but you work with the power of Christ and the strength of Christ that so powerfully works in you." You need grace to fight these battles.
And this is where I want to leave us in this journey through 1 Timothy. I want to leave us tonight with two simple, significant words of encouragement.
Number one: Know this. We are never alone in this war. We're never alone in this war. Now obviously we know that based on what we've already seen in 1 Timothy 6. We know that God is with us. We know that he is with us and for us. But I want you to see this even in a bit different way. When Paul says in verse 21 "Grace be with you," what's interesting is—you might circle it and put a note in your Bible because this is important—when he says "Grace be with you," that word you is not a singular you. That word you is plural. You might even have a note in your Bible that sends you to the bottom. The Greek for you is plural, which is interesting, kind of weird. When Paul started this letter he said to Timothy, "My true child in the faith, grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord." He's written this letter to Timothy, but he gets to the end and he says, "Grace be with you," and it's not you, Timothy, grace be with you. It's you, church at Ephesus, along with Timothy, grace be with you.
And so when I say to us we are never alone in this war, obviously I mean that God is with us. But also, as you fight this fight of faith, not only is God with you but the people of God are with you. You are not alone in this war. Not one of us is engaged in spiritual battle alone. We are all facing battles all across this room. You're facing battles. I'm facing battles. We'll all face different battles all week long, and we need one another. This is where I want to once again just encourage you. If you are not involved with a small group of brothers and sisters where you are locking arms in this battle to get involved in a small group, brothers and sisters, where you can lock arms with brothers and sisters who know you, who know the battles you're going through, you know the battles they're going through, you're sharing life with each other, you walk through the battles together, spreading the gospel with one another. This is what the picture is intended to be all week long that we are with one another, sharing life with each other in small groups of brothers and sisters, locked arms, fighting the battle together. Then we come together all as one on Sunday, an army of soldiers, brothers and sisters, saying we're tired but our God is great. He's worthy to be praised and glorified and honored. And he's won the battle, and so we're going to rejoice in him. We're going to listen to what he says. Then we're going to go back out to war this week with one another, by each other's sides. This is the picture of the church that you're seeing here in 1 Timothy 6. You together fight this fight of faith with grace amidst all of you. And one of the ways we experience God's grace is through one another. So this kind of battle is not intended to be played out with a bunch of anonymous church attenders or church hoppers. This battle is intended to be played out with brothers and sisters who are on the front line together with locked arms, saying, We've got a mission to accomplish that we're running after together. So we're not alone in this war.
And then the second word of encouragement. The outcome of this spiritual war is irreversible. It's irreversible. The battle, the war has already been won. So that's what this table [communion table] represents. And we're about to have the Lord's Supper in just a second. Christ has taken the penalty of sin upon himself, and he has risen from the grave. He has conquered sin and death, and he has conquered Satan. Satan is a defeated foe, and he will be destroyed. Ha. Will be. Guaranteed. And so what that means is that as we fight this good fight of faith, we're not trying to win. I quoted earlier 1 John 4:4. "You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world." And this transforms our perspective on our battles. Right?
Think about it this way. The morning of April 9, 1865, General Robert E. Lee meets with General Ulysses S. Grant to sign an agreement marking the end of U.S. Civil War. The war was over. Peace accomplished. But interestingly, just south of where we sit tonight from Montgomery to Mobile the battle was still raging. Even though the Civil War was technically over, the battle at Fort Blakely still took place. The fighting was just as real. The guns and bayonets were just as devastating, and death was just as brutal. The war had been decided, but the fighting was still going on. It wouldn't be until days later when full and final peace would reach all throughout the land.
This was not a perfect picture, but follow with me here because I think it captures a bit of the fight of faith that we find ourselves in. The victory has been accomplished. Satan has been defeated. What continues to be at stake, though, is the lives of those who are still fighting. And just as peace had yet to be fully enforced in lower Alabama, Jesus' victory has yet to be completely enforced in this world. The day is coming. It's going to come when he will come, enforce his victory finally and completely, and evil will be totally abolished. But now we find ourselves in the midst of a fight of faith. And as we do, I want you to hear this. Not just hear this. Let this soak in, because this, I pray, will transform your perspective on the battles you are walking through right now. We do not fight this war for victory. We fight this war from victory. And that changes everything. He has conquered sin and death and the grave. He has conquered Satan. And so you are battling a defeated foe this week.
So flee evil that pulls you away from God. Pursue goodness that pulls you toward God. Experience the life that has been bought for you. He's called your name. You've confessed your faith. Live in the light of his presence in view of his faithfulness to you, in awe of his greatness. And guard this gospel as you give your life on the frontlines of a mission to make his glory known to the ends of the earth. That's a good fight worth fighting.
David Platt, formerly the lead pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama, now serves as president of the Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board.