My Dear Timothy,
I realize you will be serving Christ in a world far different than the one I was trained and first released into ministry. Your methods, dress, your vocabulary, the technologies you use and even the problems you face may have little in common with the world I knew, or even the world in which we both minister today. You will be a faithful servant of Christ not because you mimic my words or imitate my ministry style, but because you live out the timeless values we share – values that come to us from the Word of God and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Concerning the pursuit of God-
Please never stop learning, seeking, and studying to show yourself approved. You are on a lifelong journey of pursuing God. You must stay rooted and established in God’s Word. Read it, meditate on it, memorize it. Be a doer of it, not only a student of it. Head knowledge as an end in itself will puff you up, make you proud, and lead to arrogance. Being a doer means living it out in love. It means taking it to heart, facing the truth about your own heart, humbly repenting in response to what you learn, and joyfully expecting transformation even when it is uncomfortable. God is the glorious changer of hearts. No one is outside the reach of his transforming power.
Concerning the gospel of Jesus Christ –
Remember who you were before coming to Jesus. Remembering will make you more grateful for grace and more compassionate toward those who have not yet found Jesus. You, like each of us, were lost, unforgiven, in need of rescue from the guilt of sin, pretending that life could work centered around yourself and pleasure. Whether in your generation or in mine, that stubborn, sinful, self-sufficiency never changes.
Stay true to the message that was passed on to you. Embrace your role as a herald, do the work of an evangelist. You have the good news and are called to share it faithfully and accurately. Call people to face their sin, confess it, turn away from their idols (whatever it is that they have chosen to worship), and receive the gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Don’t skip the call to repentance. Remember the Thessalonians? They turned from their idols to God. The glory of the gospel is that sin has been dealt with once and for all at the cross by the sacrifice of Jesus. The same power that raised Jesus from the tomb, the work of the Holy Spirit, is the power at work in the life of every person willing to turn from sin and follow Jesus. Remember that everyone is in need of salvation.
Celebrate the changed life that is yours because of the gospel.
Concerning how you spend and invest the rest of your life –
Live as an ambassador. This is not your home. Don’t get distracted by politics, trends, moral decline, or plays for power. They are the way of the world. And your citizenship is now in another place. You represent Jesus as you live a life of humility, servant hood, purity, passion, compassion, and mercy. An ambassador is most concerned with accurately communicating the message and intentions of his king.
Spend your life fulfilling the call God has given you. You are a gift to the church, the cherished bride of Jesus. What you do for the church is never in vain. Your gift and calling is different from mine, but just as necessary for the church to be all that God has called us to be. Risk embarrassment,endure suffering, pay whatever price you must, but do not stop proclaiming the truth and serving others.
View the world through a spiritual lens. We are in a spiritual battle until the day that Jesus comes in power, casts the enemy into the abyss, and establishes His kingdom of justice, peace and righteousness. You have an enemy, Satan, who prowls
Ike a lion looking for someone to devour. You are a threat to Satan’s continued hold over the hearts and minds of people, so expect recognize there is a target on your back, there will be attacks, and you will need the armor of God to endure and walk in victory.
As you and those you lead struggle with sin in ways that enslave and confound, call them to obey the scriptures, call them to change their minds, call them to draw near to God, and call them to resist the devil. Sin always has a seen/visible component and an unseen/invisible spiritual component.
Concerning how you think about the church –
It is Jesus’ bride. Despite its flaws and the struggles that inevitably come as saints in progress impact each other, it is his bride. Cherish, value, and protect her as you would your own wife.
View the church as a flock. The sheep will be attacked and need you to protect and guard them. The sheep will wander. They will need you to seek them out and bring the back. They will be hungry and it is your privilege to lead them into the places where they can find food for their souls. I have never figured out how to drive sheep. So, save yourself the trouble trying. They must be led. That’s motivation enough to give close attention to your life, doctrine, and heart. Model for the sheep what is worthy of imitation.
View the church as a body. There are no unnecessary parts. Every one is needed and knit together in the body by God. Just because he has called you to be a leader! you are not to lord it over those you are called to serve. Instead, serve as Jesus did.
Concerning how you think about those who still need salvation-
View those who do not yet know Jesus as sheep without a shepherd, harassed and helpless. They are attempting to quench the thirst of their souls by drinking muddy water that can never satisfy. You have the Living Water to offer them – Jesus. Don’t be deceived by their outward appearance of having it together and living self-sufficient. At the level of their heart, they are in need of purpose, forgiveness, peace with God, and the knowledge that their life matters to someone. All these are satisfied only in Jesus. The devil will seek to keep them entangled in counterfeits that promise to fulfill these needs but ultimately are nothing but vapor, chains, and disappointment.
Finally, and perhaps most important, live your life and carry out your ministry as a man of grace. It is by grace you have been saved. Nothing about who you are or what you do is to your own credit. Everything about your relationship with God is all by His grace – past, present, and future. Beware taking any credit that rightly belongs to God. Beware starting with grace and then continuing in your own effort. That ends up in self-centered, self-glorifying, self-righteousness. Instead, show grace, magnify grace, and celebrate grace. Extend it to others just as God has extended it to you.
I am confident of God’s work in your life and that He will continue and bring to completion what He has started in you. I am so proud of you and so thankful for the relationship we have shared. For whatever period of time remains until I die, I commit to pray for you, fight for you, love you, and invest in you. I know that you will, in turn, do likewise for the next generation, until Jesus comes.
Thanking God for you,