Remember Who You Are

2 Timothy 1:1-14 (NRSV): Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, for the sake of the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus, (2) To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. (3) I am grateful to God—whom I worship with a clear conscience, as my ancestors did—when I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. (4) Recalling your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy. (5) I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you. (6) For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; (7) for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline. (8) Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God, (9) who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, (10) but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. (11) For this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher, (12) and for this reason I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him. (13) Hold to the standard of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. (14) Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us.

The well known phrase, "No man is an Island", first came to mind as I read the passage that we looked at this morning. This week I did some research to find out where that saying originated. It comes from a Meditation XVII written by an English poet named John Donne in 1623. Here is a brief excerpt from that composition:

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main...any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.

The point of Donne's essay is that as humans, our lives are connected and that they are all equally valued by God. And as we'll see this morning, the fact that our lives are interwoven like that means that as followers of Jesus, we can have tremendous influence on the lives of others.
Who are you? Are we in truth independent people? We live in a society that believes in false individualism. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines 'individualism' as a theory maintaining the political and economic independence of the individual and stressing individual initiative, action, and interests; also : conduct or practice guided by such a theory. Meaning that nothing else defines you but yourself. You are the total definition of who you are according to that theory.
Now philosophers sit around and discuss ideas of importance amongst each other Some things that we take for granted and may be true or false. This should concern us if our thinking is false. The Bible is God's Word but more importantly this is a philosophy of life that goes against the philosophies of world. One philosopher is the social theorist and economist Friedrich Hayek. According to Hayek, there are two opposing ideas about how to understand individuals and the society in which they live. A 'False' or 'True' individualism. Since I have read this philosophical discussion means that I am a product of true individualism. I will explain.

True individualism is defined by Hayek as, "True individualism is a social theory that says that individuals cannot be properly understood without understanding the social processes that surround him. As people make individual decisions they contribute to a social order that is not the result of human design." He also said that "if left free, men will often achieve more than individual human reason could design or foresee." By the way his book is free and is found in pdf format. Just google it or I can email a copy to you. I will see if Nathan can place this on the web page.

As an individual, I have been influenced by my parents, church, education, training and all other social influences. In our Scripture reading Paul points out that Timothy should remember the influence of his mother. Remember the influence of his teacher and the laying on of hands. When you remember who you are you cannot forget those who influenced you. That is part of who you are. Those influences are difficult to change because they have become a part of you. Some influences are good and/or bad. There is no such thing as a self-made person. You may have overcome many obstacles but part of you will be the influences that you have in your life. One thing we can change are who influences us. Why do we go to school? Yes to learn but also the relationships that we foster changes us in ways we cannot count or appreciate.

When we were adolescents we start to develop our individual identities and most of the time enter into a rebellious state of mind as we go against the grain that has formed us. Usually we eventually come back home back to our roots. What are your roots? There is a saying that says, "Birds of a feather flock together." This saying has roots from Plato. Some folks have attributed this to the Bible. The exact phrase is not found in the Bible. But we can find similar verses:
Psalms 119:63 (NRSV): I am a companion of all who fear you, of those who keep your precepts.
Proverbs 13:20 (NRSV): Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools suffers harm.

The Biblical difference is that there is a choice involved. Listen: I am a companion of.... Or Whoever walks with...., these are choices.

If you want to be successful, find someone who has achieved the results you want and copy what they do and you'll achieve the same results. Tony Robbins, a successful inspirational speaker. If you want to lose weight don't take advice from a fat person but someone who has lost weight and keeps it off. If you want to be a better Christian hangout with those who demonstrate their faith. See I did not say those who claim to be Christian but those who demonstrate their faith. There are all kinds of folks willing to give you advice. Do they demonstrate faith? Do they do Good works? I am amazed at what Nathan does in spite of his limitations. He does more work for God in a week then some do all year long. James 2:17-19 (CEV): Faith that doesn't lead us to do good deeds is all alone and dead! (18) Suppose someone disagrees and says, "It is possible to have faith without doing kind deeds." I would answer, "Prove that you have faith without doing kind deeds, and I will prove that I have faith by doing them." (19) You surely believe there is only one God. That's fine. Even demons believe this, and it makes them shake with fear.

Who do you keep company with? Who are your friends? What does it say if you have problems going to church? Then who are you? Look at the folks that surround you. You have become or are becoming like them. You also have an influence on that group. If the group is negative then most likely you will be negative. If your group has faith then you probably have faith. A group of people will justify their actions or inaction whether good and bad to each other. There is a sense of being affirmed in a group of common thinking. Does that thinking jive with what Scripture says or do we justify ourselves in that group?

Paul tells Timothy that this is not easy. Our Scripture says, (NRSV): "God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline. (8) Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God."

Do not be afraid, Of what? Paul is in jail. Most folks do not want to be associated by someone in jail. The challenge is to be with the right people and away from people with bad influences. Our Scripture says that God has given you the power and of love (the highest form love-agape love) and self-discipline. It takes work to strive to be like someone.

The CEV says this: 2 Timothy 1:7-8 (NRSV): God's Spirit doesn't make cowards out of us. The Spirit gives us power, love, and self-control. (8) Don't be ashamed to speak for our Lord. And don't be ashamed of me, just because I am in jail for serving him. Use the power that comes from God and join with me in suffering for telling the good news.

God has given us power through the Holy Spirit to change. We cannot do this ourselves. A relationship with Jesus Christ changes you if you stay In that relationship. Our relationships with each other who have faith changes you. This choice is yours now. Have courage to do this.