(2 Timothy 1:15)
You are aware that all who are in Asia turned away from me …
For us today looking back at history, we know Paul was a remarkable apostle, an effective servant of God, a wise master-builder in church-planting
Paul was instrumental in bringing the Gospel to Asia and Europe under guidance of the Holy Spirit, and being appointed and authorized by Jesus.
But in reality Paul was abandoned, deserted by most people towards the end of his ministry life, and only few faithful men of God stood with him and continued his ministry, and the preaching of the Gospel.
Now keeping our focus on the Gospel, why was Paul abandoned, deserted?
If we know God is good, and Jesus love us so much to die for us to redeem us, why would people abandon Paul who was full-time preaching the Gospel?
I want to discuss three main reasons, which we today are faced with the same situation, and we who are called to preach the Gospel to be prepared to suffer the same consequences.
(1). the most important message of the cross is also the most offensive for people
The central theme of the Bible is about God’s salvation plan for mankind.
Salvation from what? And why do we need to be saved?
Judgement of God …
Now wait a minute, did we not believe God is good? Yes
If God is good why do we need to face judgement?
The kingdom of God contains the righteousness, truth, and justice of God.
Sin is lawlessness, sin is against God, sin is disobedience against God, sin is disagreement against God, sin acted in rebellion against God, and therefore God cannot allow sin inside His kingdom.
Adam and Eve were judged by God because of their acts of sin.
We will be judged of God because of sin and lawlessness committed against God.
There will be no forgiveness if there is no atonement!
God showed it to us from the Old Testament, the necessity of atonement for sins.
In the record of the Gospel, Jesus is the Lamb of God who will take away our sins.
Jesus is our atonement for sin.
Jesus died on the cross not just to pardon our sin, but to bring us into the kingdom of God. Means to say, we must walk away from sin that caused Jesus to die on the cross for us!
The complete message of the cross includes forgiveness and repentance
From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
If Jesus preached repentance, let no men no women change that message!
To give people reasons not to repent is to give people excuses not to enter the kingdom of God!
In the days of Paul, there were many who wanted forgiveness but don’t want to repent.
That’s not fair for Jesus!
Jesus went through all the pain and bloodshed because of our sin.
Jesus redeems us from sin and death so that we don’t walk in sin again.
Today we are faced with the same situation. More and more churches have abandon preaching against sin. And this absence of teaching and preaching against sin is not due to ignorance but a deliberate scheme to remove men’s requirement to repent.
Paul was abandoned as people begin to reject preaching against sin.
We are saved by grace through faith, not grace alone.
Faith has everything to do with living in obedience to God and His commandments taught and preached through Jesus and His Apostles.
(2) People’s expectation and desire to interpret the will of God based on material blessing
Long story short, in our days there are issues with “Prosperity Gospel”, and back in the days of Paul they had the same issues with material wealth as well.
There was something about Paul that is not appealing to the masses
(1 Corinthians 4:10-13)
We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.
Paul was not telling stories, not joking, neither saying things to gain sympathy.
Paul was actually homeless!
If we got a time machine and travel back in time to meet Paul at the time he wrote this message, Paul would have looked like any one of those homeless sleeping on the bench out in the park.
While Paul had friends who provided accommodation during his missionary journey, we should know Paul spent a lot of his time in Roman prison for the sake of preaching the Gospel.
The image of Paul is the complete opposite of today’s prosperity gospel preachers.
Who wants to stick around with Paul?
Only those who can embrace the suffering of Christ for the sake of the Gospel, for repentance, for renewal, for transformation, and to live in faith and obedience for the kingdom of God, and to preach the same message through their life.
(3) World influence of meritocracy
The world could not have enough of it and more and more churches are playing catch up.
In one of my previous message I shared about excessiveness of expectations for academic credits and paper credentials that are hindering Gospel outreach.
Adding on to such human demands and expectations, more and more churches today earnestly aspire their leaders to “show off” their credentials and merits better than non-Christians.
Among the most foolish reason I have encountered – “Because our God is good we must show to these non-believer our God take care of us better, then we can be good testimony to win them to Jesus”
Such methods of evangelism, theology and doctrine are foolish and not based on the will of God! How could any church leaders teach such things to the congregation?
(Colossians 3:1-2) – If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.
Jesus died for us to get to heaven, not to establish an organizational branding here on earth!
Christ was crucified for us that we may be born-again to be sons and daughters of God, and that we may enter the kingdom of God, and that we may enjoy eternal life with Jesus.
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.
(1 Corinthians 3:11)
For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
The way to win people to Christ is the way of Jesus!
The only way to eternal life is through Jesus.
The most accurate doctrine of evangelism is to preach the cross of Jesus.
It is very foolish to use material wealth, sugar-coated messages of unconditional blessing, and public show of meritocracy to win people to Christ. This is not what Jesus called us to be witness.
We are called to witness and testify of the death and resurrection of Jesus.
We are called to be living testimony of the complete message of the cross of Jesus.
Paul was abandoned, deserted because he preached the full council of God, the complete message of the cross of Jesus.
In our days there will be people who will abandon and disassociate with you if you follow the ways of the cross of Jesus, and preach like Paul.
(2 Timothy 4: 10-18)
For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry. Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments. Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message. At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
Only those not ashamed of the Gospel will embrace the cross of Jesus