February 16, 2020

2 Timothy 3:10-15: Life-on-Life Discipleship

Preacher: Josh Tancordo Series: 2 Timothy: Faithful to the End Scripture: 2 Timothy 3:10–15

2 Timothy 3:10-15: “Life-on-Life Discipleship”

Please turn in your Bibles to 2 Timothy 3. If you’re using one of the Bibles we provide, that’s on page 835. We’ve been working our way through Paul’s second letter to Timothy passage by passage, and today we find ourselves in 2 Timothy 3:10-15. 2 Timothy 3:10-15: 10 You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, 11 my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. 12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 

I’d like to begin this morning by asking you to think back to someone in your life who’s made a significant impact on you. What do you remember the most about that person? What was it about them that made such an impact on your life? If I had to venture a guess, I’d say that the thing about them that impacted you the most wasn’t a particular skill they possessed or even something really profound that they said to you but rather the way they lived and the kind of person that they were. 

For example, I know in my own life, someone who’s made a significant impact on me is a man named Dustin Rife. Dustin was my youth pastor during my high school years at a small Baptist church in rural Virginia. And the thing about Dustin was that he wasn’t what I would call an exceptionally gifted communicator. I mean, he could get a point across, but I’ve seen communicators who were a lot more gifted than him. Dustin also didn’t have what I’d call an exceptionally brilliant mind. Now, don’t get me wrong—he was intelligent. In fact, I believe he now has a master’s degree. However, his intellect wasn’t really something that stood out about him. But I’ll tell you what did stand out: the kind of person that he was. I don’t think I can recall a single sermon Dustin preached or a single Bible study he taught, but I do remember this: he was a godly man. He was devoted to the Lord, serious about prayer, relentless in his efforts to live a holy life, and passionate about ministering to us teenagers and helping us grow in our faith. Like, he really loved Jesus and showed it by living a life that was the real deal. And not only that, but Dustin was also willing to share that life with me. He spent time with me and developed a relationship with me and, through that, taught me how to live as a disciple of Jesus.  

And that’s the idea we find front and center as we look at our main passage of Scripture this morning. The best way to help someone grow toward spiritual maturity is through what we might call “life-on-life discipleship.” That’s the main idea of this passage. The best way to help someone grow toward spiritual maturity is through life-on-life discipleship. And when I say “life-on-life discipleship,” here’s what I’m talking about: discipling others in and through the everyday stuff of life. Discipling others in and through the everyday stuff of life. That means you have to spend time together and get to know each other and build a real relationship—because it’s through that relationship that discipleship happens.

You know, we’ve been talking a lot lately about this idea that God calls Christians who are more mature in the faith to disciple those who are less mature in the faith and help them grow toward spiritual maturity. And I bet some of you have been thinking that in order to disciple someone, you have to be some brilliant theologian and have these incredibly profound things to say all the time. But I’m here to tell you this morning that that’s not true. The main thing that makes you effective as a disciple-maker is the life that you live. Just focus your attention on loving Jesus and becoming the kind of person he wants you to be and serving him faithfully. And if you do that, I can guarantee you’ll make an impact on the people you disciple that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. And that’s what we see here in 2 Timothy 3. Paul talks about the way his life has made an impact on Timothy. And he starts out by describing the general features of his life and then gets more specific and focuses on one aspect of his life in particular. 

So first, let’s look at those general features of Paul’s life that made such an impact on Timothy. Paul writes in verse 10, “You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness….” Now the reason Paul inserts the word “however” into the beginning of this verse is to highlight how different Timothy is than the false teachers mentioned in the previous passage. In contrast to those false teachers, Timothy is following the godly example he’s seen in Paul. And the first thing Paul mentions about himself is his “teaching.” The reason he lists that first is because everything else flows out of that. It’s the foundation upon which everything else is built. And this teaching is primarily the teaching of the gospel. 

Paul aptly sums it up down in verse 15, where he talks about “salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” That’s what his teaching focuses on—“salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” Now, the reason we need salvation is because we have a problem—a very big problem, in fact. You and I and everyone else in this world has sinned against the God of the universe. We’ve done things that God’s forbidden and failed to do things that he’s commanded. And our sinful actions haven’t arisen in a vacuum. They come from a sinful heart. You see, the Bible teaches that our heart isn’t in some neutral state but is rather in a state of active rebellion against God. Yet here’s the amazing thing. God hasn’t responded to us the way we might imagine he’d respond but rather, in his mercy, has provided a way for us to be rescued from our sin. He’s done that by sending his own Son Jesus to this earth on a rescue mission. Jesus lived a perfectly sinless life and then died on the cross as our substitute, suffering the punishment for sin that we deserved. Then three days later, he resurrected from the dead in order to demonstrate that he is indeed the One God the Father has sent to bring salvation to the world. And according to Paul here in 2 Timothy 3:15, the way we receive that salvation is “through faith in Christ Jesus.” That means, instead of trusting in ourselves and in our own efforts at gaining God’s favor, we put our trust in Jesus alone. We look to him to do for us what could never do for ourselves and rescue us from our sin. So that’s Paul’s “teaching” in a nutshell. And he puts that first on his list in verse 10 because that’s what all of the other features of his life are built upon. They all rest on the foundation of the gospel. 

Then after Paul’s teaching, the next item he mentions is his “conduct”—that is, his general way of living. He then mentions his “aim in life.” A person’s “aim in life” is usually something you can tell about that person very early on in a relationship. What’s important to them? What gets them up in the morning? What drives them to do the things they do? Then Paul lists his “faith,” his “patience,” his “love,” and his “steadfastness.” And the clear implication is that it’s these qualities that have really made an impact on Timothy. Timothy saw Paul’s example in all of these areas and followed that example. That’s what life-on-life discipleship is all about. In life-on-life discipleship, we leverage our lives as the greatest teaching tool we have.  

I remember when I first moved here to Pittsburgh in order to start this church, Becky and I attended another church out in Coraopolis that was led by a pastor named Ken Cordray. And Ken and I became good friends. In fact, Ken became something of a mentor to me. I remember one time in particular, Ken and I were helping a woman move. And after we had unloaded everything from the truck, this woman’s mom had made sandwiches for us and invited us to stick around and have lunch with them. So we’re there enjoying lunch together and talking together, and Ken turns the conversation toward the gospel. Now, as far as I know, neither this woman nor her mom were Christians. And so, Ken’s able to share the gospel in a very natural and winsome way in the middle of this conversation. And honestly, I was really convicted by that—because I was the one who actually knew this woman. If I remember correctly, this was the first time Ken had ever met her or her mom. Yet here he was sharing the gospel with them while I, on the other hand, hadn’t even been thinking about sharing the gospel during that meal together. And that was something I really thought about later that afternoon and that caused me to pray for God to help me to be faithful in sharing the gospel with people like Ken was. In fact, I’m pretty sure that seeing Ken share the gospel that day did more to encourage me to share the gospel than any evangelism training class could have ever done. That’s just the way we learn. Most of the things in the Christian life are more easily caught than taught. We learn to live for God by spending time with people who are living for God. And that’s why we encourage discipling relationships so much in our church. It’s those life-on-life discipling relationships that provide the greatest opportunity for making an impact on people.

And here’s what that means: the most important thing for you can do as a disciple-maker is to pursue godliness in your own life. Because, as the saying goes, you can teach what you know, but you’ll reproduce who you are. You can teach what you know, but you’ll reproduce who you are.

And perhaps there’s no area in which all of this is more true than when it comes to discipling our children. If you have children—especially young children who are still living at home—you have a God-given opportunity for life-on-life discipleship of epic proportions. At the end of the day, the relationship you have with them and the things you teach them in the context of that relationship will undoubtedly make a greater impact on them than any children’s program at church or any sermon they hear me preach. Now we do have a Children’s Ministry because we believe it offers us an wonderful opportunity to minister to the children of our church—and, by the way, thank you to all of you who serve in that. I have no doubt that your ministry is going to have a huge impact on those kids. Yet the most significant way by far that the children of our church will be impacted is through the lives of their parents. And so, our church’s central strategy for children’s ministry is to equip parents to function as the primary disciple-makers of their children. For those of you who are parents, that’s the primary discipling relationship to which God’s called you.  

Deuteronomy 6:6-9 gives us a glimpse of what this looks like. It says, 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. This passage is one of the most important passages in the Bible when it comes to discipling your kids. Notice that the majority of teaching that a parent provides for their children happens in midst of everyday life—when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise. Now I do recommend establishing a daily rhythm of some sort of family devotional time where you spend some structured time teaching your kids. Personally, what I do is, just about every evening before Becky and I put the kids to bed, we’ll spend about 5 minutes either reading the Jesus Storybook Bible, which I highly recommend, or doing catechism questions. We usually switch off doing Jesus Storybook Bible and catechism on alternating nights. And then we also pray each night and pray before our evening meal—and that’s pretty much it when it comes to times of scheduled or structured teaching. The rest of our teaching occurs in the midst of everyday life. 

For example, one thing we like to do in order to teach our kids what Christianity looks like is to involve them in serving other people. A couple of weeks ago, some of the men from our church were helping someone who’s new to the city move into their new townhome in Bethel Park. So rather than go to that alone, I brought my 7-year-old son Caleb to help. In the van ride there, we talked the opportunity we had to serve this family and what a blessing it was for to be a blessing to them. And during the move, there were teaching opportunities as well. One of the things that we unloaded from the truck were these boards for playing cornhole that were branded with the logo of the New England Patriots. And so, I knew what I had to do. I was able to take that opportunity to warn Caleb about the dangers of being a Patriots fan. You know, we have to take whatever opportunities we get to instill the right values in our kids. So that move provided numerous kinds of opportunities for teaching and instruction. And I thought it was pretty cool that Matt McCormack brought his 7-year-old son Matthew Charles to the move as well with the same idea. 

Also, another good opportunity to disciple your kids is actually times of discipline. When you discipline your kids, that’s a great opportunity to talk about sin and why sin is so serious and destructive in our lives and the way we can be rescued from our sin through Jesus. And along those same lines, you also have a great opportunity to talk to your kids about those things when you’re the one who does wrong. When you make a mistake as a parent and sin against your kids, be honest about that and ask your kids to forgive you. And as you’re doing that, explain that you also need Jesus. I’ve told my kids more times than I can count that “Daddy also is a sinner who needs a Savior.” That’s the kind of stuff that kids remember. 

So if you want to teach your children well, think about your life in terms of the practical things Paul lists in verse 10 of our main passage. Think about your “conduct.” How do your kids see you acting behind closed doors? Think about your “aim in life.” Is your aim in life simply to acquire as much money and material possessions as you can or to seek and serve God? Don’t think your kids won’t pick up on that. And don’t expect them to have an aim in life that’s any different than yours. Also, consider your “faith,” your “patience,” your “love,” and your “steadfastness.” These are the kinds of things that make the greatest impact on your kids. 

Now, moving forward in our passage, having explored the general ways in which Paul presents his life as a model for Timothy, let’s look at the area of Paul’s life that he focuses on. And that area is actually the last thing on the list in verse 10—his “steadfastness.” Paul mentions his steadfastness in verse 10 and then elaborates on it in verse 11. He writes, 10 You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, 11 my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. Now, even though Paul’s specifically talking about the persecution he suffered for being a Christian, his words can be applied to any kind of suffering a Christian faces. One of the ways we can have the greatest impact on others is how they see us respond to suffering. We might call it “the ministry of suffering well.” You see, when God brings you into a season of suffering, he probably has a number of reasons for doing so, not the least of which is your own growth as a Christian. Some lessons—such as trusting the Lord and surrendering to the Lord—can only be learned through suffering. Yet, through suffering, God’s also providing you with a ready-made ministry. You have an opportunity to minister to others—both Christians and non-Christians—by the way you respond to that suffering. And I really believe that this ministry is one of the most impactful ministries there is. 

A couple of weeks ago, I received word that one of the missionaries we support, named Steve Missios, is facing a crisis in his life. Perhaps you remember praying for Steve and his wife Kathrin during our mission moment a few months ago. They’ve been planting a church in Austria. But just a couple of weeks ago, they found out that Kathrin has cancer. And it’s actually not looking very good at all for her. She’ll be having an operation this Thursday, I believe, and they’re not sure how it will go. So they could certainly use our prayers. And as we think about Steve’s ministry as a pastor, I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that the way Steve responds to this unthinkably difficult time is probably the greatest sermon he’ll ever preach. I’m sure he’s preached many sermons about trusting God and following God through times of difficulty, but I’m fairly certain that all of those sermons pale in comparison to the “sermon” of sorts that he’s preaching to his congregation right now through the way he responds to this. 

So don’t underestimate the impact you can have on the people around you by the way you respond to suffering. Will you continue trusting God and finding your strength in God and even praising God in the midst of whatever trials may come your way? That will make a greater impact on the people around you, including the people you’re trying to disciple, than any discipleship curriculum could ever make. Your own life and example—especially in the midst of suffering—is the greatest teaching tool you have.

And it’s on the basis of his life and his example that Paul instructs Timothy in the subsequent verses. After describing his sufferings that came as a result of persecution in verse 11, he writes in verses 12-13, 12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. So everyone who strives to live a godly life will be persecuted to at least some degree, Paul says. Yet enduring this persecution is still better than being in the condition of the ungodly, whom Paul describes as “deceiving and being deceived.” If you’re a Christian, praise God that he’s rescued you from being deceived. I can’t think of a worse condition to be in than being deceived about the state of your soul and your eternal future. 

Then in verse 14, Paul gives Timothy the only direct command in this entire passage. He says, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed….” Even though many people who claimed to be Christians were teaching things that probably sounded really good and were convincing many in the church to go astray, Paul tells Timothy to stay away from all of that. Instead of giving ground to the false teachers, Timothy needs to continue in what he’s learned and firmly believed. 

And the reason Paul’s words to Timothy here carry such weight is because Paul himself was living them out to an extraordinary degree. Even as Paul was exhorting Timothy to continue in the gospel, Paul himself was sitting in a Roman prison cell because of his gospel ministry. Not only that, but we see in chapter four of his letter that it looked like this imprisonment was going to result in Paul’s martyrdom. So Paul’s situation gave enormous weight to his instructions to Timothy. His life gave credibility to the things he said. And that’s the way it always works in any healthy discipling relationship. We disciple people by our teaching and by our lives. The two work together. Our verbal teaching interprets our life and makes explicit the lessons people need to learn, and our lives give weight and credibility to the things we say in our teaching. That’s why we need both. 

So if you’re mature in the faith, let me encourage you to spend time with the people you’re seeking to disciple. Pursue life-on-life discipleship. And for those who are younger in the faith, let me encourage you to look for someone to disciple you in that way and start spending time with that person. A great way to do that if one or both of you struggles to find the time is to have some meals together. Everyone has to eat anyway, right? So why not eat with someone who’s either discipling you or is being discipled by you? I know that a great time slot is right after our worship gathering on Sundays. I mean, is anyone not planning on eating lunch today? So why not have lunch with someone from the church? It doesn’t even have to be an official “discipling relationship.” Maybe it’s just you meeting together to get to know each other and minister to each other through whatever opportunities happen to present themselves. That’s great. 

Just so you know, my dream would be to not be able to go to any restaurant in this immediate area without seeing at least one person or family from our church having lunch with another person or family. That would be a dream come true for me. Or you could invite someone over to your house for a crockpot meal after church—whatever works for you. The point is for us to spend meaningful time with each other so that we can minister to each other. And that, of course, is a key reason why we have Community Groups as well. Community Groups are probably the most obvious context in which that happens. And hopefully that ministry is happening not just in the Community Group meeting itself but in the relationships that are facilitated through the group meeting. Take advantage of whatever opportunities you have to make an impact on others through the life that you live.

other sermons in this series

Apr 19


Mar 15


2 Timothy 4:6-8: Finishing Well

Preacher: Josh Tancordo Scripture: 2 Timothy 4:6–8 Series: 2 Timothy: Faithful to the End

Mar 8