1 Timothy 6:9-12 - But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
If St. Paul's jailer overheard the apostle dictate this farewell letter to Timothy, especially the deliberate appeal of its eighth verse, "Be not ashamed of the testimony of our Lord," that Roman guard doubtless shook his head in bewilderment. He must have wondered how anyone could demand loyalty for Jesus of Nazareth, who died on a cross as a criminal between two criminals. How could anyone not be ashamed of a creed that led to martyrdom!
Even as St. Paul weighed these words, "Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord," he knew that some of his own followers had become ashamed of Christ. Tearfully, it seems, he writes, "Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world." No one understood more intimately than he how insistent and penetrating is the appeal to leave Christ and follow the lure of human ambitions.
Here was Rome with its lavish display of wealth, the imperial palace and its chambers covered with pure gold; studded with costly jewels, inlaid with mother-of-pearl, its dome, which turned by day and night; and there, on a skull-shaped hill, near Jerusalem the unmarked spot where Jesus had died in abject poverty, robbed even in death, of His clothing. Here was Rome at the zenith of its power, its legions crashing through distant frontiers; Rome with its triumphal arches, its tributes wrung from the ends of the empire; and there, as the apostle's thoughts revert to his Savior's first and last days, an outcast Babe, for whom Bethlehem had neither room nor heart; there the thorn-crowned King with scourged back and blood-spattered face. Here in Rome, life to its whirling, dizzy, intoxicating fullness; the Coliseum and its gladiators, the theaters and their sophisticated plays, the schools with their get-what-you-can-out-of-life philosophies, the temples with their dancing girls, scribes from cold Britain, astrologers from distant Babylon, flaxen-haired warriors from beyond the Rhine; here, in short, a riot of color, pleasure, and vice dragged to Rome from beyond the outposts of civilization; and there -- it still rang in the apostle's mind after 35 years -- the stern ultimatum of Jesus, who said: "Take up your cross and follow Me" (Luke 9:23b).
THE PRAYER: Heavenly Father, the charms of this world are legion, and we are faced with them every day. Empower us against their taking hold of our lives and diminishing our trust in what Your Son has won for us -- a treasure of everlasting value. In His Name we pray. Amen.
From "Unashamed of the Testimony of Christ," a sermon excerpt from Walter A. Maier, the first Speaker of The Lutheran Hour
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