Looking for Christ’s Appearing

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1 Timothy 6:11-16

INTRODUCTION: We are nearing the end of 1 Timothy now in chapter 6 and have almost completed our series on Doing Church Together. And as Paul prepares to close out this chapter and this letter, he leaves Timothy with some final instructions around the theme of looking for Christ’s appearing.

1 Timothy 6:11-16 – 11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you 14 to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which God will bring about in his own time — God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen. (NIV)

What are you looking for in life? Power? Wealth? Love? Romance? Relationships?

The story is told of an older man who stopped a young man in the park and asked him what he was looking for in life. The young man said he was looking forward to graduating from high school later that year “Excellent!” said the older man. “And then what?” “Then I plan to go to college and get a degree.” “That sounds good,” said the older man. “And then what?” “Well, then I plan to get a good job, find a nice woman and get married. You know, have children and settle down.” “Okay,” said the older man, “and then what?” “Well, after raising a family, I would really like to retire early and do some traveling. You know, see the country, maybe some other parts of the world.” “Very good,” said the older man. “And then what?” “Well, I guess eventually I would come to the end of a full and busy life, and then I would die.” “That’s right,” said the older man. “And then what?”

What are you looking for in life? There are many good and worthy goals that we can pursue while in this life, but unless we are looking for something beyond this life, they will all perish with time because we are mortal.

So is there something we can be looking for that goes beyond this world, beyond this life? That’s what Paul encourages Timothy to do in these final instructions. If there is one thing we should be looking for that affects everything else we do, we should be looking for Christ’s appearing.

Before Jesus left his disciples, he told them, “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:2-3) Jesus Christ is coming again, and we should be looking for his appearing – watching, waiting, anticipating his return. How will looking for Christ’s appearing affect your life?

I. It will help you to live your life for God (verses 11-12)

First of all, it will help you to live your life for God. It is so easy to get distracted in life. There are so many things vying for our attention, and we often struggle with conflicting desires and emotions. Knowing what you are looking for helps you to establish priorities and make appropriate decisions. For example, if the police have a description of a person or vehicle they are looking for, they can immediately eliminate many options and sharpen their focus. When you learn to focus on Christ, when you are looking for his appearing, that will also help you to establish priorities and make appropriate decisions. It will help you to eliminate many unhelpful or unnecessary options in life. It will help you to live your life for God.

Look at verse 11 where Paul tells Timothy: “But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.”

Paul has just been warning Timothy about the false teachers who stir up controversies and quarrels, who think that godliness is a means to financial gain, who love money more than God. And now in verse 11 he tells Timothy to flee from all this, and instead, to pursue the things of God. The word flee means “to run away from,” often in the sense of escape from danger. The love of money and the pursuit of things in this world is a temptation and a trap. God tells you to flee from all this, and instead to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness.

Righteousness refers to right living. Godliness refers to reverence or respect towards God in your life. Faith and love are two of the three great Christian virtues of faith, hope and love. The idea of hope may be picked up here in the word endurance, which means a steadfast, faithful patient waiting during times of trial. Gentleness is probably emphasized here in contrast to the false teachers who were characterized by constant friction and strife.

Did you notice that Paul addressed Timothy as “a man of God?” Timothy does not belong to the world anymore but to God. And as one who belongs to God, Timothy is to escape the traps of the world and to pursue the things of God. Who do you belong to? Do you belong to the world? Or do you belong to God? If you belong to God, then you are a man of God or a woman of God. Now you must act like a man or woman of God.

Look at verse 12: “Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”

God never said the Christian life would be easy. You may belong to God, but you still live in the world, and so you experience a constant struggle or tug of war between the things of the world and the things of God. So what do you do? You fight. You struggle. You never give up.

The word Paul uses for “fight” here is the word that was used for the great contests between the athletes in the gymnasium in Paul’s day. We get our word “agony” or “agonize” from this word. It is a word that speaks of extraordinary effort expended. Remember, some of these contests or games were actually life and death struggles. You did not enter such competition half-heartedly.

If you ever feel discouraged because the Christian life seems like a fight or a struggle to you, take heart. You’re not doing anything wrong. It is supposed to be a struggle. It is supposed to be a fight. Don’t believe it if someone tells you, “Come to Jesus, and all your problems will go away.” Yes, God will help you with your problems when you come to Christ, but God never promises you a trouble free life in this world.

The Christian life is a fight, but notice also that it is a good fight. “Fight the good fight of the faith.” It is a good fight because it is worth it. It is worth the effort. It is worth the labor. It is worth all the pain and sacrifice you endure for the sake of Jesus Christ.

Verse 12 goes on to say, “Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, then God has called you to eternal life. You have a great and glorious future that awaits you when Christ returns. God says take hold of that now. Make it your own. Be looking for Christ’s appearing, and it will help you to live your life for God now.

II. It will motivate you to witness (verses 13-14)

Secondly, looking for Christ’s appearing will motivate you to witness. The last part of verse 12 leading into verses 13-14 brings out the idea of witness. Paul speaks of Timothy making his “good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”

What was this “good confession” that Timothy made, and when did he make it? It would seem to be a confession of his faith in Jesus Christ as Lord. As to when he made this particular confession, there are two main possibilities. It was a public confession before witnesses, so Paul may be talking about either Timothy’s baptism here or Timothy’s ordination. I would lean more towards Timothy’s baptism, as this would be the primary moment in Timothy’s life when he confessed Jesus as Lord before witnesses. Paul also relates this confession to God’s call on Timothy to eternal life, and that seems to relate better to baptism than to ordination.

When you get baptized, you make a public profession of your faith in Jesus Christ. You identify with Christ in his death and resurrection. When you come up out of the water in baptism, it is a picture not only of your new life in Christ, but also an anticipation of the day when Christ will return and your body will be resurrected. It is a picture of the eternal life to which you have been called. Looking for Christ’s appearing will motivate you to witness to your faith, not only through the public act of baptism, but also through a life that is lived in anticipation of Christ’s return.

Paul goes on in verses 13 to talk about Christ’s witness before Pilate: “In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you …”

Just as in baptism you confess your faith in the sight of witnesses, so you live your life in the sight of God and Christ. Paul describes God as the “God who gives life to everything.” God is not only the one who gives you life to begin with. He is the one who brings life out of death and calls you to eternal life through his Son, Jesus. You live your life in the sight of this life-giving God, and you live your life in the sight of Christ, who also made the good confession while testifying before Pilate.

You might wonder, what was Christ’s good confession? When we confess that Jesus is Lord, we are proclaiming our faith in Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah, as the Son of God who came and will one day return as King to rule over all. So what was Christ’s confession? Actually, if you look at the gospels, this was Christ’s confession as well. Matthew 26:63-64 – The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” “Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (Matthew 26:63-64) Jesus also made the good confession. He confessed that he was the Christ, the Son of God who had come into the world, and that he would one day return on the clouds of heaven to rule over all.

Christ witnessed concerning himself, and then he died for it. After Jesus made the good confession, we read: Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?” “He is worthy of death,” they answered. (Matthew 26:65-66) You live your whole life in the sight of God who gives life to everything and of Christ who also made the good confession. This should motivate you to witness for Christ, who died for you and gave you life.

Verse 14 contains a charge: “I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.” “This command” is a general phrase probably referring to the whole of the Christian faith that Timothy and we have been charged to keep. We should witness to Christ not only with our words but also with our lives, as we are told to keep this command “without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Paul adds in verse 15: “which God will bring about in his own time,” which reminds us that we do not know when Christ will return, and so we should always be watching and ready. Once again, looking for Christ’s appearing will motivate you to witness for Christ with both your life and your lips as you anticipate his return at any time.

III. It will prompt you to praise (verses 15-16)

And then finally, looking for Christ’s appearing will prompt you to praise. As Paul reflects on Christ’s return and all that it means, he breaks into praise, as he often does in the middle of his letters. Look at verses 15-16: “God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.”

Look at the praises to God that Paul piles up in these verses:

God is the blessed and only ruler. The word “blessed” carries the idea of happiness. God is the sovereign ruler of the universe in whom all true blessing and happiness are found.

He is the King of kings and Lord of lords. His rule is absolute, and all other kings and lords will bow before him one day.

He alone is immortal in that only God has life in himself. We are dependent on God for our life; God is dependent on no one. God is self-existing from all of eternity, and he is the one who gives life to everything.

He lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. Moses asked to see God’s glory, but God hid him in a cleft in the rock and only allowed him a partial glimpse. The LORD said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” (Exodus 33:19-20)

Jesus said, “No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.” (John 1:18) Only Jesus has seen the Father, because Jesus came to us from the Father’s side and made the Father known to us. And one day Jesus will come back for us to bring us into God’s presence. And so as Paul reflects on Christ’s appearing, he breaks into praise for this great and awesome and mighty God whom we serve. “To him be honor and might forever. Amen.”

There is a great hymn from the 1800’s by Walter Chalmers Smith that is based on these verses in 1 Timothy. We sometimes sing it here, and it goes like this:

Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
In light inaccessible hid from our eyes.
Most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
Almighty, victorious- Thy great name we praise.

To all, life Thou givest- to both great and small;
In all life Thou livest- the true life of all.
Thy wisdom so boundless, Thy mercy so free,
Eternal Thy goodness for naught changeth Thee.

Great Father of glory, pure Father of light,
Thine angels adore Thee, all veiling their sight;
All praise we would render- O help us to see
‘Tis only the splendor of light hideth Thee!

Looking for Christ’s appearing will help you to live your life for God; it will motivate you to witness for Christ; it will prompt you to praise our great and glorious God.

CONCLUSION: When I was a child I remember hanging out by the kitchen window around supper time looking down the street for my Dad to come home from work. We lived on a dead end street with very little traffic, so every set of headlights that suddenly turned up the street made my heart jump. “Hey, Mom, here comes a car. Do you think it’s Dad?”

What was I doing? I was looking for my Dad’s appearing. I couldn’t wait for him to come home. He had been gone all day, and I couldn’t wait to see him again. Are you looking for Christ’s appearing? Does any little sign that he might be coming soon cause your heart to leap in anticipation? Oh how we need to be watching and waiting and looking. What a difference it will make in your life and mine. It will help you to live your life for God. It will motivate you to witness for Christ. And it will prompt you to praise our great and glorious God.

© Ray Fowler

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