There are often times when we find a particular scripture keeps on coming to mind during prayer.
One such passage which has been with me all this last week has been one of Paul’s “Trustworthy Sayings”.
“If we have died with him,
we will also live with him;
If we endure,
we will also reign with him;
If we deny him,
He will also deny us;
If we are faithless,
He remains faithful –
For he cannot deny himself.”
– 2 Timothy 2:11-13
This is such a powerful saying to remember and include in prayer. In essence, this is nothing less than our Gospel hope in Christ Jesus.
We who believe are baptised into Christ’s death and resurrection; Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, through his self-offering of himself in obedience to the love of the Father he died our death on the Cross. Having been crucified, he was buried. Having been buried, the Holy Spirit, the very love of God himself, breathed new life into his broken corpse and now his heart beats, his body is restored to a genuine, living reality which has been established as the reality for all eternity. It is to this reality, to this person Jesus Christ, which we are united to by the Holy Spirit who has drawn our heart and spirits into himself in such a way that we are as intimately and invisibly entwined with him as we are with our own breathing.
Through believing, through being baptised into Jesus’ death, we have in a very real sense died with Jesus, and just as our hope is founded upon the actuality of the resurrection, our lives are entangled with Jesus’.
Just as we have died with Jesus,
Just as we are dying with Jesus,
and just as we will someday die with Jesus;
We will be alive with Jesus,
We are living with Jesus,
And we have been made alive with Jesus.
This is our hope, this is our faith and it is by this that we are able to endure.
Enduring is taking up our crosses and following Jesus, however that looks in each of our lives. Enduring may look like being imprisoned and beaten for some Christians in the world; for others it may look like being called a bigot on twitter; or it may look like somehow providing for and feeding your kids as well as your neighbour’s orphaned children in times of famine; it may look like the self-discipline to be kind to yourself and have a healthy self-esteem and balanced life. It’s easy to ‘objectively’ look at these things and place them on a relativistic scale but this is what we would call: ‘looking at the outward appearances’. Instead of this, 2 Samuel 16:7 reminds us that God doesn’t compare us with one another based on our circumstances or physical qualities but rather looks at the heart.
The great theologian Gandalf acknowledged that we all wish that certain things hadn’t happened to us in our time. “So do I”, said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” Whatever our lives look like, whatever it is time for us to deal with we are to endure. By enduring, we endure with Jesus and as Jesus has now been exalted to the right hand of our heavenly Father, we will reign with him; sharing in his kingdom and glorifying our Lord.
However, this gospel hope doesn’t absolve us of responsibility entirely. We do not say, by any means, that we can ‘earn’ our salvation through doing good things and trying to be good people, but we say that we have been set free from darkness and sin, we have been set free from our inability to glorify and worship our God. We are not just free from restrictions but we have been set free to freedom itself! In this freedom we are to confess Jesus as Lord, but this isnot an easy thing to say honestly. It’s sometimes a very hard thing to say with integrity. Peter Rollins once stunned Christians by saying that boldly and honestly that he denies the resurrection… when he doesn’t serve the oppressed, when he ignores the poor or supports corrupt and unjust systems. There’s something profound about that, there’s something scary about that. We may do our best to endure but we all too often, and more than we would prefer to admit, deny Jesus by our lives and by what we say. And, in all honesty, God should deny us when we deny him. This sentiment is put all too clearly in a song by DC Talk which opens with the statement:
“The greatest single cause of Atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, then walk out the door and deny him by their lifestyle. This is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”
The song has a great refrain which goes:
What if I stumble,
what if I fall?
What if I lose my step
And I make fools of us all?
Will the love continue
When my walk becomes a crawl?
What if I stumble
And what if I fall?
This is a very valid fear in response to our responsibility to endure through all things, to not deny Jesus as our Lord.
(And this is where I get excited)
However, this trustworthy saying does not end here; it does not end with us being disowned by God. Rather, it continues to say: If we are faithless, he remains faithful – for he cannot deny himself.
The root word for deny here is ἀρνέομαι and it is the same word used in the previous phrase. So we see here the same sense between our denial of God and God’s denial of us, and the impossibility of God denying Jesus as himself. In other words, there’s a distinct contrast between us, and Jesus – we may reject him passively when we stumble but he remains actively faithful to first our Father in heaven, and secondly to us who have received his Holy Spirit.
The DC Talk song goes on to say:
I hear you whispering my name
My love for you will never change
This is the truth of the Gospel, though we may be faithless in Jesus alone is the eternally living covenant of love established between God and humanity. Therefore, it is in Jesus that we find and encounter an unrelentingly persistent, if sometimes quiet, love which sustains us through all things and enables us to worship him as our Lord by the power of the Holy Spirit, to the Glory of our Heavenly Father.
This is a trustworthy saying: If we have died with him, we will also live with hum; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful – for he cannot deny himself! Amen!
- I know that Gandalf isn’t really a theologian, but I would argue Tolkien was in the Lord of the Rings.
- Rollins’ comments can be heard by clicking here and read here.
- The DC Talk Song is called ‘What If I Stumble’ and can be heard here
- There are different interpretations of this passage, before the more theologically literate of you complain, this isn’t an exegetical piece per se and I’m aware that there’s a discussion on the last verse however this is my current reflection on it.