The Quest For Character: Conformation

2Timothy 2:1-15 NASB You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. (2) The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. (3) Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. (4) No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier. (5) Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules. (6) The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops. (7) Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. (8) Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel, (9) for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned. (10) For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory. (11) It is a trustworthy statement: For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him; (12) If we endure, we will also reign with Him; If we deny Him, He also will deny us; (13) If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself. (14) Remind them of these things, and solemnly charge them in the presence of God not to wrangle about words, which is useless and leads to the ruin of the hearers. (15) Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

I like to do things my way. I like to eat my cereal with a tablespoon not a teaspoon. I like to mow my grass in a routine way. When I clean the bathrooms, I have my routine and cleaners that I like to use. I like my week's schedule to go just so. When I get up in the mornings, I have my routine and the same when I go to bed at night. I really like to do things my way.

The lion liked things his way too. One day he met a monkey in the jungle. The lion pounced on the poor monkey and said, "Who is king of the jungle?" The frightened monkey replied, "You are, O mighty lion." So the lion let him go. The next animal the lion met was a zebra. He pounced on it and roared, "Who is king of the jungle?" "You are, O mighty lion." So the lion let him go. The lion next met an elephant and asked the same question. The elephant grabbed the lion, twirled him around the threw him 50 feet. The lion picked himself up and huffed, "Just because you don't know the answer is no reason to get so rough."

The Old Testament reading from 2 Kings 5:1-3, 7-15, tells the story of Naaman who was someone who liked things his way too. As general over the armies of Aram, he knew had plenty of power and knew how to get his way but he had one flaw. He was leper and his leperousy was taking it's toll on his health. From a slave girl he learned of the prophet Elisha in Israel and so journeyed to seek healing. When he arrived at Elisha's house, Elisha's servant came out to Naaman and told him to wash in the river Jordan seven times and he would be healed.

But Naaman wanted more! He wanted a show and a ritual! He didn't want wash in the nasty, dirty Jordan River! (5:13) But his servants approached and said to him, "Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, 'Wash, and be clean'?" 95:14) So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean. (5:15c) Then he returned to the man of God, he and all his company; he came and stood before him and said, "Now I know that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel...”

Oswald Chambers, author of the devotional, “My Utmost for His Highest” wrote, “My vision of God is dependent upon the condition of my character. My character determines whether or not truth can even be revealed to me. Before I can say, “I saw the Lord,” there must be something in my character that conforms to the likeness of God.”

Paul to Timothy says, Conform to the Gospel! (v.8) 2Ti 2:8 NASB “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel.” Paul is addressing here that we can't go around teaching something different than the gospel of Jesus Christ – what Paul was in fact in teaching. Verses 17-18 speak of Hymenaeus and Philetus who were preaching a different message, one that was stealing the hope from people.

Paul goes on to share from what appears to be an early hymn of the church. Our hope is not in Christ crucified but in Jesus resurrected from the dead. It seems to me that if I consistently want things my way, it is going to be hard for my character to ever look like Jesus'. For us to discover the trait of conformation of Character, Paul says

1. Die to your way (v.11)
John Wesley noted here it means we have to become, “Dead to sin, and ready to die for him.” This is precisely the path Naaman had to travel. Naaman struggled with pride. So do I. What is it that is keeping you from conforming?

2. Endure His Way (v.12a) It will be hard.
Enduring the way of Jesus Christ is not going to be easy. Ya think? This is what Paul is talking about in his own testimony. He is called a criminal though he broke no law. Naaman had to endure the humiliation of bathing in the Jordan river.

3. Don't disown The Way(v.12b) –
There are far too many zombies in the Church. What do I mean? We Christians preempt our dying. It takes place when we gloss over the point of Paul in the previous verse that being a Christian exempts us from difficulty. Rather than bathe 7 times we do it 1 time and then 6 times we take a sponge bath and think we followed directions. We got up and started walking around before the work was done and there is nothing pretty about it.

4. Your faith may falter – His faithfulness never will (v.13)
But losing faith isn't the same as disowning The Way. Like Peter, we may take our eyes off of Jesus and look at the waves. We might slip back into our pride as Naaman did before someone corrects us.

What is it you need to die to? What is there for you to endure? Have you disowned? Faith faltered? Today offers you another chance to conform to the character of Jesus. Character begins at the Gospel – Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again.

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