2 Timothy 4: 6-11
Luke 10: 25-37
Ezra 8: 26-28
I would like help to speak about recovery. We often speak about recovery to the truth, but I would like to speak from a different angle: I would like to speak about recovery to the testimony. What do we mean by that? The testimony is living the life of Jesus here in His Name and in His power - to be here as He was here, to be recovered to that; not just to have light. It is a wonderful thing to have light: what we need is the life that goes with it. The Christian life is meant to go with being a believer in the Lord Jesus.
If you go to the book of Acts you will find chapters 27 and 28 are prophetic. They give the history of Paul’s shipwreck, but there is more than that in them. They give the history of the church down through this time period we are in. It is all related to Paul. Why? Paul represents the testimony that God has in mind. The great lesson of chapter 27 is to listen to Paul. When they did not listen to Paul there was disaster; but when they listened to Paul there was recovery, God came in for them. It is really the lesson of the age to the church: listen to Paul’s ministry. There is more in it than just listening to Paul; we need to take account of the kind of man that he was. He was a disciple of the Lord Jesus and one who could truly say, “For for me to live is Christ”, Phil 1: 21; that is the kind of man Paul was. In spirit, he filled up the full measure of his ministry. Coming to the end of the book of Acts, Paul is there in his own hired lodgings, his stay here was temporary. I feel that the passages that we read in Timothy connect with that, Paul at the end. Here we are at the end of a time period, a similar time prophetically, and Paul is writing these last words to Timothy.
He writes, “use diligence to come to me quickly”, and then he goes on to say, “Demas has forsaken me, having loved the present age” - Demas’s name means 'popular', but he loved the present age. I think that is probably a great test in this time in which we live, especially in the kind of country we live in. We live in a very affluent society and how easy it is, and I speak for myself, to get caught up in just living a pleasant life and enjoying things here. Paul was not like that. Paul denied himself because he wanted to follow the Lord Jesus, wanted to be for Him. Throughout 2 Timothy, Paul speaks to Timothy about what it meant for him to be here for the Lord Jesus. He is appealing to Timothy to follow on from him, to be with him and follow on in what he had set on. He speaks in such an appealing way. He knew his man and knew him well. That is how Christianity works, spiritual people that know somebody well, they love them; and they can appeal to them in a way that no one else can. Timothy was a timid man. He was one, it would seem, who was ready to back down, one ready to give up, and Paul does all he can to shore him up.
I was interested in reading through this epistle that he never once spoke to Timothy about the need for repentance. Timothy had been giving up. Paul encourages him to “rekindle the gift of God which is in thee”, 2 Tim 1: 6. He says, “God has not given us a spirit of cowardice, but of power, and of love, and of wise discretion”, 2 Tim 1: 7. He knows his man; he does not reproach Timothy, he simply encourages him. Timothy was the kind of man that needed to be encouraged. Perhaps there is someone like that here tonight, who needs to be encouraged. Paul was recovering Timothy, not to the truth exactly, and not to the light exactly. Timothy already knew the truth, already had the light, but he needed to be recovered to the life of Jesus here. I feel that for myself and perhaps others might feel it too, the need to be recovered to the testimony, to living the life of Jesus.
So Paul mentions “Demas has forsaken me, having loved the present age”. How easy that is to get caught up in the present age and what is open to us for our enjoyment here on earth. Demas had become detached from Paul. Holding right things, representing right things but in some way detached from Paul and what God really had in mind. The other men, Crescens and Titus, must have been a real help to Paul and yet they were no longer with him.
It goes on and says, “Luke alone is with me”; Luke’s name means 'light'. Light is not enough; he needed Timothy and he needed Mark. He says to Timothy, “Take Mark, and bring him with thyself, for he is serviceable to me for ministry”. I feel that the Lord is calling our attention to what is needed at the end of the dispensation, this end time, where the present age is such that it would distract people. It needs people like Timothy and Mark. Paul says of Timothy that there is no one else who cares with like manner, with genuine feeling how God’s people get on, how the saints get on.
Paul is speaking to Timothy and the Lord would appeal to us here tonight. Paul is desirous that others should come in to fill out the testimony. You could maybe imagine him wondering who could fill it out, and his thoughts then coming to Timothy and he writes this letter to him and speaks to him all about the testimony and how Paul had been in it. He appeals to Timothy to be a “good soldier of Jesus Christ”, 2 Tim 2: 3. He warns Timothy not to get entangled with the affairs of life; a good soldier does not get entangled with the affairs of this world, does not end up like Demas being distracted by the present age, he is committed to serving his Master. He appeals to Timothy to be a good soldier. Paul’s life reflected that. He could say, “the world is crucified to me, and I to the world” Gal 6: 14. The whole explanation of Paul’s life could be seen in the cross, in the love of Jesus that was there. He could speak to Timothy and appeal to him, “thou hast been thoroughly acquainted with my … sufferings” (2 Tim 3: 10), and he mentions where Timothy came from, Lystra and Iconium and in other places. He was someone who had lived a life which was solely to serve the Lord Jesus as his Master and to be in the testimony for Him.
People that meet us at work, meet us in business, or maybe meet us at meetings, is there the mark of the cross on us? Paul calls him to take his share in suffering like a good soldier of Jesus Christ, not to look for the easy pathway. How often we can take an easier way, but it does not bring in the blessing that taking the pathway of a good soldier would take.
One of the things that he could say of Timothy was that he cared for the saints with genuine feeling, Phil 2: 20. If something is to be a mark of the testimony in the last days it is genuine feeling. I was drawn to this parable in Luke. The Lord Jesus speaks of the good Samaritan and what comes out in it is genuine feeling. How the Lord Jesus was here, how He was like the good Samaritan in the parable, a man moved by deep compassions. In thinking this passage over, I was interested that it says, “a certain Samaritan journeying”; he was moving with purpose. It said of the priest that he “happened”. There was a certain chance element. When you come to the good Samaritan journeying there was a certain purpose. The meeting with that man on the Jericho road, the man in a half dead state, was part of the journey. If we take it as a picture of the Lord Jesus coming here, it was a meeting between divine compassion and the need of man. I feel that is what is looked for in the testimony today, to be here as the Lord Jesus was here, that there should be the mark in the believer’s life of divine compassion to meet man’s need, whatever that might be. It might not always be a spiritual need, but perhaps a physical need too. Someone said to me once, where you find physical needs or material needs you will find alongside spiritual need.
Here the good Samaritan comes showing divine compassion and does what is needed for this man. How the Lord Jesus has done what is needed for us! How He has taken up our case, helpless like this man at the side of the Jericho road! How the Lord Jesus spared nothing of time and interest to bring you and me to fully recovered health!
If there is any real testimony of Christ here, whatever else is with us, there must be the mark of divine compassion. I would encourage us to be exercised to take that up.
Another thing that crossed my mind was that that the priest and the Levite were positionally right. For their day they were positionally right; but it was the Samaritan who was spiritually right. That is what is needed, people not just holding the truth as a doctrine, but seeking the Holy Spirit’s help to express in their lives the love of Jesus to meet man’s needs. The man recovered in the parable, if he ever met that priest again, would he listen to him? Would you listen to someone who had passed you by when you were helpless? Who would listen to someone that passed them by like that? Or the Levite? But the good Samaritan, you would listen to him, would you not? If you are able to show the love of Jesus really, helped by the Spirit to do it, it will have an effect, it must have an effect. It will gain an opening.
The parable finishes by saying, “Go, and do thou likewise” - the fulness of the parable is the spiritual picture it presents to us of the Lord Jesus coming here, but it does have a literal meaning too which is appropriate, “Go, and do thou likewise”. The priest and the Levite had come back from Jerusalem, perhaps having been at the service in the temple, but what had they really enjoyed of fellowship with God? If they had really enjoyed fellowship with God would they not have been like the good Samaritan? I feel for myself that there is a danger of leaning on what is positional. We might hold to right principles and right things but that of itself is not enough. It has to be a living link with Christ, our Head in heaven.
Ezra is a book that applies to our day very much, an Old Testament picture of days of recovery. I remember hearing someone speak on these two copper vessels; it has stayed with me since. Ezra is taking things back to Jerusalem, but he is bringing back these vessels that are going to have part in the service of God. Young people might ask what we mean by the service of God - think of the service of God as the collective response to divine love. God looks to every believer to have a part in that, the love and the compassion that He has made known to mankind can be responded to. He gives opportunity that each one of us can have our part in that. We could think of these vessels as people who could be used in response to God. It gives this list of the vessels, silver and gold, and yet included with it are two vessels of copper, “shining copper, precious as gold”. As far as I understand they are not mentioned earlier before the captivity; so it suggests what comes out of the captivity, what comes out of Babylon, that place of idolatry, the present world we spoke of earlier where we can be captured by man’s ideals and his pursuits. How men set themselves to pursue their own happiness and how we can get caught up in these pursuits of men. That might become the most important thing in my life, but God works where there have been failures and shortcomings, and He works in the hearts and souls of believers to bring us to something, to bring us to an appreciation of Himself and what He can do. These two vessels of shining copper speak to me of God’s work in moral recovery. People who have come to identify with God in regard to Babylon and regard to God’s things; people who have come to something in their soul and they have gotten the gain of the captivity experience. They are no longer living for Babylon, no longer living for the present age, they are living for God’s testimony and they want to have part in His service. Two people like Mark and Timothy would be like these vessels of shining copper. How precious they are. Whatever failure there might be, think of God, able to recover things to His thoughts and at the same time to add something. In some way there is something added, “two vessels of shining copper”, something added for God’s glory and God’s praise.
It seems to me too that in the context of the passage they were essential for the service of God in their day; and I think we could say today that that element of recovery is essential for the service of God in our day, not just to the truth but to the testimony to living the life of Jesus here.
Might we be encouraged with these simple thoughts so that we can, like Timothy and Mark, be recovered to the Lord Jesus in the testimony.
I trust the Lord can use what has been said that each of us might get something from our time together.
3rd November 2006