Summary: You cannot keep yourself safe. Your only hope is to entrust all that you are and have to Jesus.
Renewing Your Passion
Today we are beginning a summer series from the little book of II Timothy. People sometimes wonder how pastors choose what to preach on. In this case, I feel like I didn’t choose II Timothy; II Timothy chose me. Last fall as we were finishing up our trip on the “Bible Bus,” we came to II Timothy. Even though I had read the book before, the power of its message grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. It seemed to say, “Preach me! Calvary needs to hear this truth.” So I promised myself that as soon as I had an opening in my preaching calendar, we would go through II Timothy. And now, seven months later, the time has come.
Five Fast Facts
In order to grasp the message of this brief book, we need to know something about its background. Here are five fast facts that will help us.
1) II Timothy was Paul’s final book.
Many people consider it his “last will and testament.”
2) When Paul wrote it, he was in prison, in chains, in Rome.
In II Timothy 1:16 Paul specifically mentions his chains. That’s not a metaphor or a symbol; it’s a statement of his incarceration in Rome. Although the precise details are hard to pin down, the chronology goes something like this. At the end of the book of Acts, Paul is under house arrest in Rome but is able to receive guests and to preach to them. At some point he was released and resumed his itinerant ministry. Later he was arrested again (perhaps at Troas), charged with a crime (perhaps treason for asserting the lordship of Christ, which could be twisted to mean an attack on the Roman emperor), and sent to Rome for trial. This time he was tried and condemned to death. Tradition says he was beheaded by the wicked emperor Nero. Though we cannot be certain, a date of A.D. 66 is possible.
3) The church was in a crisis situation.
Historical background is important at this point. For the first 25 years or so after the birth of the Christian movement in Acts 2, the church spread rapidly across the Roman Empire. Although there were pockets of resistance and occasional persecution, the church by and large found a warm reception in many places. That all changed in A.D. 64 when Nero burned Rome and blamed it on the Christians, ushering in a wave of general persecution across the empire. Suddenly being a Christian became a dangerous and sometimes deadly affair. As a result, many of the hangers-on drifted into the shadows. It wasn’t popular any longer to mention your faith in public. Lots of so-called Christians no longer wished to be “so-called.” It was easier and safer not to get involved with Jesus or his followers. In addition, false teachers had crept into positions of influence in many local churches. These heretics claimed to follow Christ but denied the major tenets of the Christian faith. And a surprising number of believers were taken in by their false teaching. From his prison cell, Paul saw all these ominous developments and knew things would get worse before they got better.
4) Paul had been virtually abandoned in Rome.