One word keeps appearing throughout United States history. One word that seizes your attention. One word that anchors your emotions to a cause. One word that demands action. ‘Remember!’ Remember the Alamo! Think back to the hundreds of Americans fighting for Texas independence. Envision ruthless Santa Ana slaughtering these innocent men. Put yourself into that setting. Feel their fear. Feel their helplessness. Let rage drive you to grab your weapon and get justice! Remember the Maine! The American warship innocently sitting in Cuba’s port— until Spain blew it up! So many sailors crying. Shrieking. Drowning. Remember the needless violence and let emotions move you to act! Remember Pearl Harbor! Hear the wailing warplanes unleash their explosive loads on unsuspecting sailors. Picture the trapped burning and drowning! Let anger drive you to act! Remember September 11th! Replay the horrific images of hijacked planes and burning towers. Think about the frightened Americans and heroic firefighters sacrificing their lives. Recall the terrible aggression thrust on so many unsuspecting and take action! ‘Remember!’
That powerful word drives purpose. You recall an event. You identify its impact on life. You respond with action. So no wonder that same word appears in our reading from 2 Timothy: Remember Jesus Christ! That resounding theme calls you (and me) to action. The struggles we confront, the depression we endure, the frustrations we carry can blind us from life’s ultimate goal. So, remember! Remember Jesus Christ! and you will (1) Remain focused on your eternal goal. You will (2) Receive strength from his trustworthy promises.
So bring to mind the greatest life-changing event in the history of the world. Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. Keep those two key truths firmly planted in mind. See Jesus and see someone raised from the dead— which means, he once was dead. Heart stopped, no blood pressure. Breath gone, no oxygen to the brain. No twitching muscles, no talking, no hearing. Just wrapped in a burial cloth, placed in a tomb, grave sealed. Jesus died— but now lives! Heart beats! Lungs gasp, oxygen flows! Legs stand! Ears hear! Eyes twitch! Burial cloths removed, grave broke open—and never again in it! See Jesus and see someone descended from David. He has parents— just like you (and I). He has flesh and blood. Ten holy commandments rest on his shoulders (Galatians 4:4-5). He constantly confronts temptation. See Jesus live in your same difficult world. Remember these two tremendous truths about your Savior. Remember Jesus Christ, (1) raised from the dead, (2) descended from David.
Why? Out of God’s many uplifting promises, why remember this simple statement? Paul the apostle writes these words. At the time, he suffer[s] even to the point of being chained like a criminal. Understand, Paul does not sit in some musty, damp castle dungeon. He’s not behind bars watching the sheriff polish his six-shooter. No, soldiers drop him into a cistern and then leave. No windows. No doors. The only light trickling in comes through the hole in the ceiling. No sight of guards. No visitors. Paul basically sits chained up inside a big septic tank. Why? Because he taught Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David and people wanted that teaching silenced.
That does not sound fair, does it? I mean, what danger does that message bring? It is not violent. It does not kill. It does not bully. Still, some want God’s teaching silenced. Their rejection will make your life uncomfortable. Your government will not consult the Bible when crafting laws. So, leaders may label your ‘Man/Woman-Only Marriage’ ‘Hate Speech.’ You could be fined, shut down, jailed, or killed. Many refuse to admit that life begins at conception. So, you will have teachers and professors who label the unborn ‘a mass of cells’ that can be aborted. Others let the pursuit of pleasure steer life. Friends may pressure you to abuse your body, to sleep around, to divorce and move on, to believe what you think is ‘right’ and ‘fair,’ to let greed guide your decision-making. Still others treasure time outdoors instead of time with God on Sunday mornings. People will oppose your Christian faith.
How does that make you feel? Ashamed to speak up for what God calls ‘right’? Embarrassed to repeat God’s teachings? Afraid of insults? …jail? …injury? You (and I) may not be tossed into a prison-hole, but expect opposition because that Word is in your heart and spoken with your mouth and seen in your actions and many do not want to confront it.
That’s where even our hearts can grow hostile to God. You (and I) confront God’s ‘right,’ but the world’s ‘wrong’ feels so much better. You could make the effort to repair strained relationships, but you want to be selfish. An unmarried child lives as though married, but it’s easier to say nothing so that no one gets angry. If you change [so-called] offensive Bible teachings, then no one would hate you. You see, sometimes others will make life miserable because they reject the Word. Sometimes we feel miserable because our hearts push against the Word. Do you see the common denominator? Your God. It may feel as though you will be happier, more popular, and less at odds with yourself if you only dump God from your heart. If you stop speaking up. If only you stop believing everything the Bible says. If only you push the Word out of your heart— and then what? Live without God and how will you enter heaven?
That is why Paul says: Remember Jesus Christ! That powerful word drives purpose. Remember the purpose for clinging to Jesus. Your Jesus, descended from David, stood in your world. He exposes the world’s absolute inability to please God— but few wanted to hear that. Massive crowds literally dwindle down to just a handful of disciples (John 6:66). Many call Jesus ‘demon-possessed,’ ‘Satan’s helper,’ a ‘fraud’ (Mark 3:22). Even Judas, one of the twelve, trades Jesus for money. The world so desperately wants God’s convicting Word silenced that they kill Jesus. Understand, as David’s descendant, Jesus is tempted too (read Matthew 4:1-11). He is tempted to change parts of the Bible people do not want to hear. He could stop correcting sin. He could just say nothing— but then, he would be as sinful as you (and I). His crucifixion would be meaningless.
Jesus clings to the Word because only obedience to God’s teachings brings life! So, Remember Jesus Christ, tempted like you, but never stumbling. The world throws him away, but God raised [him] from the dead. God makes Jesus alive again! He does that because he is pleased with Jesus’ life, with his behavior! (Romans 4:25) You who have heard this wonderful news, you who know that Jesus has filled you with his complete adherence to the Word have obtain[ed] the salvation that is in Christ Jesus.
Remember Jesus Christ! Call that marvelous truth to mind! Remember the purpose for clinging to the Word even when facing discomfort! You cling to the One who has opened heaven! Remember Jesus Christ and you will (1) Remain focused on your eternal goal. Remember Jesus Christ and you will (2) Receive strength from his trustworthy promises.
Here is a trustworthy saying… Completely reliable. Absolutely unable to be broken. God will not lie (Numbers 23:19). If we died with him, we will also live with him… Notice the tense of that first verb? If we died… Past tense, action happening in a previous time. God points you back to your baptism, where water covered your head, covered your love for status and love for worldly pleasures. Just as Jesus died covered in our guilt, but rose again guilt-less, you (and I) also come out of that water without guilt (Romans 6:2-11). Rotting in prison because you repeated God’s expectations may leave you feeling as though God abandoned you. He has not. He cannot. You died with him and therefore you will live with him. [I]f we endure, we will also reign with him.
If we disown him, he will also disown us… You (and I) will face pressure to act first and then use the Bible to justify behavior. Cover up divorce by saying, ‘God wants me to be happy.’ Say nothing to the child who has not worshipped for a long time. We will face the temptation to change the Word to conform to what we want to hear. Maybe we disown God by shaking a fist at him. Assume God has forsaken you. After all, you prayed and you have not seen an answer. You shape your life according to the Word, but people still mock you. It might be easier to join the unbelieving group. God makes it clear: if you consider him too much a burden and dump him, he will let you have your way. He will let you have life forever without him.
Even if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself. God keeps his Word; he will punish those who turn from him. He threatens punishment when we challenge his care for us. He threatens punishment the instant we deliberately set aside God’s commandments for the opinions of the heart. He threatens punishment when we plug our ears to his saving Word. He will do what he guarantees: punish the stubborn and forgive the sorry (Exodus 34:6-7)— including you (and me). Jesus points us back to our baptism, back to his promise of making us his children (Isaiah 43:1; Galatians 3:26-27). He guarantees: ‘You are mine.’ Even when we stumble, God faithfully forgives. Remember Jesus Christ and Receive strength from his trustworthy promises.
It might not be fair when the world labels you a ‘threat.’ It might not be fair when leaders teach ungodly stances on life and marriage and refuse to present God’s teachings. It might not be fair when you share Jesus with your son only to receive resistance. It might not feel fair that you fight to restore a relationship, but the other person does not try. For Paul, it is not fair that he rots in prison because of a harmless teaching. Yet, our reading does not say: ‘Gripe! Complain! Even the score!’ No! It says: Remember Jesus Christ!
That powerful word drives purpose. Recall an event. Remember Jesus who suffered. Identify its impact on life. Jesus suffers because people hate his Word. Jesus suffers because we resist the Word. Jesus suffers so that will suffer forever. Respond with action. Your Jesus lives exalted. Myriads of angels shower him with endless praise. No worldly outranks him. He even hands this status to you—and what a title it is!
The struggles we confront, the depression we endure, the frustrations we carry can blind us from life’s ultimate goal. So, remember! Remember Jesus Christ! and you will (1) Remain focused on your eternal goal. You will (2) Receive strength from his trustworthy promises.