Sermon – Easter 7 – "Fight The Good Fight Of Faith" – 1 Timothy 6:12 – 5/12/13

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Confirmation of Daniel Morren
1 Timothy 6:12

The text for this morning’s sermon is 1 Timothy 6:12 and it is directed to everyone here present but especially to you, Daniel Matthew Morren. “Fight the good fight of 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.”

It’s not every day that your pastor tells you to ‘fight,’ and from the pulpit no less. Your parents may not like me saying this because how often have they told you and your brothers, “quit fighting.” But pastor Paul tells his catechumen whose name is Timothy, to “fight.” What do you think about that? Maybe Christianity isn’t the religion of ‘peace’ we thought it was.

James the brother of Jesus says that fighting is bad. “What causes quarrels and what causes FIGHTS among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you FIGHT and quarrel.” (James 4:1-2) James says, “quit fighting!”

When Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter was ready to fight. He drew his sword and started swinging, but all he hit was the ear of the High Priest’s servant. (Which tells you why fishermen shouldn’t carry weapons.) Jesus reprimanded him for ‘fighting’ saying, “Enough. For whoever takes the sword dies by the sword.” (Matthew 26:52) Jesus says, “quit fighting!”

Pontius Pilate wondered why Jesus didn’t fight back against His attackers and Jesus said, “He could call down a legion of angels from heaven to fight for Him,” but He wouldn’t do it. “No fighting!”

And He says, the same goes for you. “But I say to YOU, if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Matthew 5:39).

So what’s going on here? How can Jesus say “don’t fight,” and James say, “what He said,” and yet Paul says, “fight”?

What’s going on here is that Paul is talking about something much different that what I’ve led you to think he’s talking about. When James say, ‘quit your fighting,’ the word is “makomai.” That’s the word for hand to hand combat. Or as James puts it, ‘mouth to mouth’ combat. James says, “quit it,” especially when it goes on between brothers and sisters in Christ.

It’s the same for when Jesus tells Peter to ‘stand down’ and His angels to hold their fire, and you to turn the other cheek. He’s talking about ‘fighting’ that wants to overpower and subdue or hurt or even kill someone… especially not a brother or sister in Christ. That’s “makomai.”

But that’s not the word that pastor Paul uses when he writes to his catechumen, Timothy. The word that Paul uses is “agonidzomai,”and the noun is “agonia.” Or as we would say it, “agonize” and “agony.” “Agonize the good agony of faith.” Paul is talking about the fight that goes on inside of each one of us.

The Christian is constantly surrounded by temptations to deny Christ and live as though he were not a Christian; temptations to let go of “the eternal life to which you were called.”

Paul is talking about those mental and emotional and spiritual struggles that go on within us between that old man that wants only to please himself; and the new man that wants only to please God. One listens to ‘talking serpents’ that are very clever… and say, “you will not surely die.” And the other listens to ‘talking Prophets and Apostles’ who say, “in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

This is the ‘agony’ that Paul knew and described so well. “For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing… For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind…” (Rom. 7:18,23). Oh, what ‘agony.’ Oh, what ‘agonizing.’

On the day that you were baptized, you entered into this AGONIZING AGONY. Before baptism and apart from baptism, there is no agonizing, because there is no ‘new man’ for the ‘old man’ to fight with. There is only the ‘old’… only one voice is heard, because the voice of the Prophets and Apostles is never heard… there’s simply no discussion, no debate, no argument.

A lot of people reject their baptism and quit the Christian faith. A few may disagree with the truth claims that the Scriptures make. But the vast majority “drop out” of the faith simply because they don’t want to “agonize with the agony” that the life of faith requires. They get weary of ‘fighting the fight of faith’ that the Christian cannot avoid as long as he lives in this world. They know what is ‘right’ because they have been instructed and confirmed in the faith just like you have been. But they find the “right” and the “true” to be “difficult,” and “agonizing…” and so they “QUIT FIGHTING.”

So Paul says, ‘don’t you do that.’ “Agonize the good agony of faith.”

This is the “agony” that Jesus “agonized” in the Garden of Gethsemane. “And being in AGONY He prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” (Luke 22:44).

Jesus was ‘agonizing’ with your ‘agony.’ He was ‘fighting the good fight’ for us, because we are weak and the temptations are strong; because the temptations keep coming and we grow weary and wear down; because we simply do not like the “agony” that this life of faith entails, and which is inescapable as long as we are in this world.

Jesus is “fighting the good fight” for you; because we are weak but He is strong. “Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden,” from agonizing the good agony of faith, “and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28). And we find our ‘rest’ in His ‘agony.’

If you love Jesus, you will “fight the good fight”… for His sake. You are not ‘fighting’ for your sake. You are not ‘fighting the good fight’ so that you may win your salvation. He has already fought that fight for you and won salvation for you. You have nothing to gain, you already have it all.

You “fight the good fight of faith” for Jesus’ sake, because in His love FOR YOU, He agonized FOR YOU. And so for you to, ‘agonize the good agony of faith’… this IS your ‘good confession,’… yes, in the presence of many witnesses, but even more importantly, in the presence of Jesus. In this ‘agonizing’ you give glory to God who forgives you all of your sins and credits you with all of His righteousness and welcomes you into His Father’s house saying, “well done good and faithful servant.”

Paul says that it is in “fighting the good fight of faith” that you “take hold of the eternal life to which you were called.” It is in ‘agonizing the good agony of faith’ that you say, ‘this eternal life that Christ my Lord has won for me by “His holy, precious blood and innocent suffering and death” … IS MINE. It is a PRECIOUS GIFT. More precious than anything in this world. Precious, because it comes from God the Father, by God the Son through God the Holy Spirit.

In a few moments Daniel, we will ask you to make “the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” The word for “confession” is “homologia.” “Homo” means “same.” And “logia” as in ‘logos,’ means “word” as in “The Word was with God and the Word was God.” “And the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.” (John 1:1,14). “The good confession” is the word that says that Jesus Christ, who is THE WORD, “is my Lord.”

But I hope that you understand that this “good confession of faith”… is to be made not only made with your mouth, but also with your life. Right words plus right life, equals “good confession.”

And once again, you are NOT making this “good confession” for your sake or for your salvation. Jesus has already made the “good confession” FOR YOU and FOR YOUR SALVATION. Pastor Paul writes to catechumen Timothy saying, 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…” (1 Tim.6:13).

“His Words plus His Life.” “And God said, “It is good.”

His confession is the only ‘good confession’ there ever was, ever is, and ever shall be. And He made His good confession for you, because our confession is never ‘good.’ Our lips and our lives are never “homologia,” the same as the Word. Our confession is only ever ‘good,’ when it is made through faith in Christ… who is the goodness of God.

You will make your ‘good confession’ in the presence of many “WITNESSES.” We’ve had a lot of New Testament Greek thrown around this morning. Maybe too much for some, but here’s one more. The word for “witness” is “martierea.”

We are all fellow ‘martyrs’ with you. We all “fight the good fight of faith” as we daily put to death the desires of the flesh to give into the temptations that surround us and “make the good confession of faith” by striving, agonizing, to live according to His Word.

Today we welcome you to the Lord’s Table, where we eat and drink the forgiveness for our sins and the strengthening of our faith to go and “agonize the good agony of faith.”

As fellow ‘martyrs’ with you Daniel, we pledge to you, that we will pray for you and encourage you, as you join us in this “fight to the death.” The “death” that Christ our Lord has swallowed up for us. The “death,” that by His victory over death, is now the end of all the ‘agonizing,’ and the end of all the ‘agonizing,’ and the beginning of eternal peace.

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