Good morning, Saylorville. My name is Andrew Bush. I’m the High School Director here and it’s a privilege to bring the word of God to you this morning.
Something that I like to do whenever I teach is to begin with prayer. And what I like to do is to have you pray along with me. Quietly to yourselves, I’m going to be silent for just about 20 seconds or so up here. Okay? And while I’m silent, I want you in your own hearts to pray for three things. Okay? First, pray for me. Pray that I would be faithful to God’s word, that I would communicate it in a way that’s clear and that exalts Jesus Christ. Second of all, pray for yourselves, pray that you would be free from distractions and able to focus exactly on what God wants you to leave this building with this morning. And lastly, pray for someone who’s hurting. Okay? I’m gonna be quiet for just a few moments. Pray for me, pray for you, pray for someone who’s hurting and then I’ll close our time in prayer. Okay? (silence)
Father in heaven, as we open up Your word this morning, we ask that You would open our eyes. Help us to see wonderful, beautiful things in Your word. Incline our hearts toward Your Word and use it to transform our lives. We pray in Jesus name. Amen.
Well, I was reading in my own personal time in the Word back on September the 29th of this past year, and I was finishing up reading the book of Ephesians. And as I closed out the book, these are the verses that I read:
21 So that you also may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord will tell you everything. 22 I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage your hearts.
23 Peace be to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with a love incorruptible.
I read those verses and to be honest with you, nothing really jumped out at me. Nothing grabbed my attention other than that Tychicus is a weird thing to name your kid. And we were at the time, as we are now, in a series in Ephesians, but we were back in chapter four or five or something at the time. And I thought to myself, I wonder if we’re even going to preach on these verses…Right? We’ll probably just skip it in our series. And there’s not a whole lot there. Or, you know, on second thought, we don’t really skip verses of scripture. But we’re probably going to take it in a larger chunk, go four or five verses, and lump this in at the end, and sort of make some passing comments. And that’s how Pastor Pat will wrap up this series on Ephesians.
Well, the next day I was going for a walk at Riverview Park and as I was walking I got a text from Pastor Pat. “Andrew, are you ready for your toughest assignment yet?” … Terrifying thing to get from the lead Pastor here. I replied, “Obviously, no!” But after saying a quick prayer and taking a deep breath, I said, “Okay. What is it? What’s my toughest assignment yet?” He said, “I want you to ascend the pulpit at Saylorville Church March 12, 2023. And your passage that I want you to preach on is Ephesians chapter 6, 21 through 24.” And I said, “You have got to be kidding me right now! I get to talk about Tychicus!” Woohoo… Right? But after having examined the scriptures and having studied it for myself, I’ve been reminded of a truth that I so often forget. And I want to remind you of that truth as well.
In 2 Timothy 3:16, it says that…
ALL scripture is God breathed, and it’s useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
God had something to teach me with these verses, these past couple weeks, and I’m trusting that he has something that he wants to communicate to your hearts as well. And so as I’ve studied, I’ve realized that when Pastor said it was my toughest assignment yet, he wasn’t referring to that it was a hard passage. He was just thinking about how it’s daylight savings, and we’re all short on sleep right now…Right? Except you guys… I mean third service people, you didn’t just roll out of bed and come here, did you? Maybe a couple of you.
Okay, so as we look at these verses, what I want to start us with, and something that helped me as I read through these verses was to simply ask the question, ‘Why on earth did Paul choose to end the book of Ephesians in this way?’ Right? We’ve had a massive and, I would go so far as to say, an epic series in Ephesians that we’ve been in for quite a long time. This is, believe it or not, our 34th week in the Book of Ephesians. We’ve spent 34 weeks unpacking Ephesians [chapter] 1 all the way to Ephesians [chapter] 6. And so after all of this content, after everything that Paul’s been saying, after everything that we’ve learned, why on earth does he wrap it up by talking about a guy named Tychicus and by telling us that we should love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible? Well, it helped as I thought about the context of what we’ve been studying. It’s always helpful to look at the greater context of a passage. And you can see easily on the screen behind me, the whole series we’ve been doing starting from chapter 6 has been on the topic of the church at war… Right? And so it got me thinking about wars.
Wars are ugly…. Right? Wars are brutal. People die in wars. And as I was mulling that thought through my mind, I read through the passage again, but I read it in the NIV translation this time, which is the one that I most frequently read. And I came to the very last phrase, and this is what it said:
“Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.”
And so, as we wrap up this series, it caused me to think, ‘What does Paul want to communicate to us?’ Well, he’s been telling us about this war that we’re in. He’s been talking about the spiritual battle that we’re fighting and how we’re going up against more than just flesh and blood. [We’re going up] against Satan, and all of his dominions, and principalities, and rulers, and powers in heavenly places. And Paul does not want you to become another casualty on the spiritual battlefield this morning. He wants you to be furnished with a love for Jesus Christ that is truly undying, something that perseveres through all of it. And he does this by giving us an example of faithfulness and a call to undying love, or an example of undying love and a call to undying love.
Let’s look first at that example of undying love, which is found in this bizarrely named fellow named Tychicus… Right? Tychicus. Who is this guy? We know very little about him. His name does pop up in a few other places, though, and I want to highlight two of them for you this morning. First of all, his name pops up in Acts 20:4. And you don’t even have to flip there. His name is simply listed in a short list of companions of the Apostle Paul, companions that went with him from the city of Ephesus after a big riot took place there. They leave. Paul has a tearful goodbye with the Ephesian elders, and then Paul and his companions, including Tychicus, travel down to Jerusalem. And if you read the book of Acts, then you’ll know that this journey for Paul was one of the most intense, challenging, and difficult in Paul’s entire life. It was in Jerusalem that Paul would be mistreated, mocked, beaten. He would be arrested. He would be put on trial before Governor Felix and [Governor] Festus and King Agrippa. He would appeal to Caesar and eventually be shipped off to Rome, shipwrecked in Malta along the way, but eventually landing in a Roman prison cell where he pens the letter to the Ephesian church that we read now. And Tychicus is now the person who has been a companion of his through all of this, that he hands the letter to. Tychicus might have even been the one inscribing the letter, writing it down as Paul dictated it to him. But he hands the finished product to Tychicus and he asks him to deliver it to the Ephesian church. Tychicus was a guy who was a faithful friend of Paul’s through some of the most challenging times in Paul’s entire life.
Another place Tychicus pops up is in 2 Timothy 4. Again, not a whole lot there. It just simply says, Paul is writing to Timothy and he says, ‘I’m sending Tychicus to Ephesus.’ That’s basically all you get. But what highlights this in my mind is that the book of 2 Timothy was the very last letter that Paul penned before his death, which tells you something about Tychicus, doesn’t it? That he was not only a faithful friend of Paul’s through some of the most severe trials in his life, but he’s one of the few people that stuck with Paul all the way to the very end of Paul’s life. He was a faithful and beloved brother as Paul calls him “Tychicus, the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord.” In this way, Tychicus was much like our Lord and Savior, Jesus, who in John 13:1 it says that
“…just before the Passover festival, Jesus knew that his hour had come for Him to leave the world and go to the Father. Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.”
Jesus is this example of love to us. And now, Tychicus exemplifies this undying love for Paul and, in turn, for us. This kind of faithfulness isn’t easy to come by, is it? You can look at our world, you can look even at our churches and faithful people are not a dime a dozen.
I was reading in my Bible just the other day in Matthew 24 where Jesus says,
“Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.“
You’re only saved when you stand firm to the end, when you have a love for Jesus that truly proves to be undying despite the spiritual battleground that we’re in. Don’t become a casualty of the war. Don’t allow your love for Christ to be taken out on the battlefield. You need an undying love. And that’s what Paul wants to furnish us with this morning. And this endurance, this undying love is a true mark of a genuine follower of Jesus Christ.
Jesus tells us a parable, the parable of the sower where He says that the gospel seed is scattered. And some of it lands on rocky soil where it’s picked off by the devil before it has chance to grow. Some of it, however, is put on sort of a shallow soil where initially there’s this time where this person seems to be the real deal. They seem to be growing, but when persecution and trials come, they wither away. It was never real to begin with. Then there is other seed that’s scattered on thorny soil that also springs up for a time, but then it’s choked out by love for the world and the things of the world. It’s a parable. It’s a word picture. But it highlights realities with real people in our lives… Right? People that we know of. some start well, but eventually turn their back on Jesus, denying the faith. Some people care more for a distinguished career or approval from their peers, more than they care for the favor of God, so they’re choked out and they prove that their love is not undying. Some people claim to be Christians, but become so calloused towards God that they allow sin to creep in their lives. And they begin to commit these sins that are just completely incongruent with the faith that they say they profess. And you don’t have to look outside our own Christian circles for this. You can see this in our church and in churches that share similar theology to ours. [There are] people who have been accused of abuse and neglecting the people of God and who have committed these heinous sins… adulterers, all the rest… you don’t have to look far to see people who claim for a time to love Jesus but live lives that don’t mesh with that at all, or who flame out in the end proving that their love for Jesus is not undying. I’m speaking of this in general, but my guess is that many of you have faces that pop into your mind. People that your heart is heavy thinking about some of them are former members of this church. Some of them are your family members, some of them are close friends of yours that you wish more than anything would have a true love that is undying for Jesus Christ and yet they flame out and they don’t make it.
It was in the wake of the whole Ravi Zacharias scandal that came out a couple years ago that one of my friends, who was a few years older than me, wrote on Twitter, and this is what he said as a part of his heartache. He said,
“Twenty years ago, I wanted to change the world. Now I just want to make it to the end, having been faithful to Jesus, my family, and my church.” A wise man commented on that and replied by saying, “That’s how the world changes.”
And Paul knows this, and we need to remember this as well, that the church as a whole, and Saylorville church in particular, doesn’t need celebrity pastors. It doesn’t need prolific authors. It doesn’t need superstar, larger than life people to come and take the reins. What we need is everyday, normal, faithful people who will have an undying love for Jesus Christ that perseveres to the end. Faithful moms and dads that love their kids and raise them up to love Jesus Christ. Faithful teachers that love their students and communicate gospel truth to them. Faithful nurses who care for people and give bible hope to people in their last hours of life. Faithful youth leaders that love the kids in their small group even when they don’t text them back… (not speaking from experience…) Faithful pastors that love the flock that God has entrusted to them, even if there’s no hope at becoming famous or somebody that’s really great that everybody loves, but they’re faithful with what God has given them, and they have an undying love for Jesus Christ that lasts even in the midst of the war that we wage. An undying love for Jesus… That’s the example that we have in Tychicus.
Hardly anybody knows about Tychicus. Nobody names their kid Tychicus… Right? I’m treading on dangerous ground with that quote…Right? Who would ever name their kid Tychicus? But Tychicus was faithful, wasn’t he? And at the end of the day, isn’t that what you want? Isn’t that the desire of your heart, to stand before God and to hear well done, good, and faithful servant?
I was reading and came across a quote from David Brooks who says,
“Beware of focusing on resume virtues instead of eulogy virtues.”
I don’t consider myself an incredibly ambitious person, but I have goals and I have dreams for my life, and the tendency is to focus on these resume virtues where I’m asking myself how many people were at church on Sunday? And how many kids are coming to youth group? And what are the numbers? And what are the accolades that I can garner for myself?… when in reality what I need to be focusing on is eulogy virtues like faithfulness… Right? That’s what people will remember about me when I’m gone, not how many kids came on a Wednesday night, but whether or not Andrew was faithful and did he love Jesus Christ with an undying love? That’s what I want for me and that’s what I want for the people in this church as well. Undying love for Jesus. We see that example in Tychicus.
Now Paul concludes by giving us this call to undying love. He says [in Ephesians 6:24],
“Peace to the brothers and sisters and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus with an undying love.”
The question is, how do we get there? How do I know for sure that my love for Jesus is something that’s going to survive the long haul? How do I know that I’m not going to flame out?
I want to remind you of two things this morning briefly. The first is simply this. Recognize that love for Jesus Christ is a gift. You can’t force someone to love God, can you? …try as you might. And we do try… Don’t we?
Every Wednesday night, either myself or somebody else will be here teaching, and this room is just full of high school and middle school students. And I look into their faces and I see numbers of kids that I know don’t love Jesus. And if I could do anything I would, if I could just go up to them and shake them and say, “Don’t you understand how much God loves you? Don’t you realize that he’s the most beautiful thing in the whole world? Don’t you realize that the love for Jesus is what you need? But I can’t force them to respond, and sometimes their hearts remain hard, and sometimes I feel like I’m talking to people that are just totally dead. It’s because they are. They need God to awaken love for Him in their hearts. It’s not something that I can work up in them. It’s something that God has to do. And that’s hard to accept sometimes, because we love people. You have people in your life that you wish had this relationship with Jesus, or you wish that their love for Jesus was more fired up and more visible. But what we need to remember is that love for Jesus is primarily starting as a gift from God. It’s not something that I can just work up myself.
The nation of Israel, if you read the Old Testament, is famous for having a love for Jesus that doesn’t really last… Right? They’re good for a little bit, and then they fail, and they go back and forth, back and forth. They’re constantly failing again and again. And God says in Deuteronomy 30:6, ‘Listen, you can’t do it on your own. You can’t love Me like you’re supposed to, so here’s what I’m going to do.
“The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, (Why?) so that you may love Him with all your heart and all your soul and live.”
This circumcision of the heart… it’s speaking of a divine gift… something that God does in our hearts where He pulls out the love that we have for ourself and for the world and He replaces it with the love for Jesus Christ that we can’t ignore. And that is what God does for us when we first trust Christ as our Savior… Right? One day [hopefully] you realized Jesus is more beautiful than anything this world could possibly offer. Jesus is worth giving my life towards. Jesus is worth following. And so God awakens love for Him in your heart and you pursue Him.
But even as believers, sometimes our love for Jesus can grow cold… Right? And so, what I want to remind you of if you’re here today and you’re thinking, ‘My love for Christ… it’s there, but it’s waned a little bit.’ I want to remind you that if love for Jesus started as a gift, It will continue as a gift, as well. It’s not primarily something that you work up in yourself, but it’s something that you ask God for. You say, ‘God, I don’t love you like I used to. I wish that I loved you more, but if I’m honest, it’s grown cold in my heart. And so, God, I’m asking you to do what only You can do, and that’s to reignite the flame for Jesus Christ in my heart.’ I have to do this, I have to speak this to my heart regularly… to ask God, ‘God, reignite the flame.’
Now we might be tempted at this place to think, okay, if love for Jesus is a gift, then I guess I’m relatively passive in all of this. If God’s going to give me that gift, He’ll give it to me. If He doesn’t want to, He won’t, and I just kind of sit back and see if love starts stirring in my heart. That’s not how we should think about this, because don’t forget that even though this is a gift, this is also a command. What’s the first and greatest commandment?
“…you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”
What did Jesus say to His disciples in Matthew 10:37?
“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”
And Paul put it about as starkly as you could in 1 Corinthians 16:22 when he says,
“If anyone does not love the Lord, let that person be cursed.”
Love for Jesus is not optional, friends. It’s not something that’s just for the super spiritual Christians, while the rest of us just sort of check boxes. Love for Jesus is at the heart of what it means to be a true follower of Jesus Christ. You can’t expect to survive on the battlefield if you’re constantly checking boxes out of religious duty rather than out of a pure love for Jesus Christ that influences everything you do. So there is some human responsibility here, isn’t there?
And that’s why I want to close with this reminder to you in addition to recognizing love for Jesus Christ as a gift. Knowing that God is the one that has to provide this, you need to keep your armor on. What’s the context, right? What have we been talking about for like 10 weeks now? Spiritual warfare. The church at war. We spent half a dozen Sundays unpacking each piece of the armor of God… Right? We didn’t do that just so that you could learn some answers for Sunday school. We did that because the armor of God is not an optional accessory for somebody who wants to live an extra spiritual life. The armor of God is a necessary, critical piece to your protection in the war that we face. Don’t think that you can neglect the armor and be okay in the fight. You can’t. You have to keep your armor on. Fasten the belt of truth. Put on the breastplate of righteousness. Cover your feet with the shoes of the gospel of peace. Take up the shield of faith. Protect your head with the helmet of salvation and draw the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God… Right? That’s what we need to do. But some of us take our armor off. Don’t we?
In his book, “A Walk in the Woods,” author Bill Bryson describes the experience of hypothermia. He says, “When a person’s internal temperature begins to drop, it starts slow with mild and then increasingly violent shivering. But what starts off as something rather innocuous progresses to something really scary. A hypothermic person’s mind begins to play tricks on them. They start experiencing hallucinations. They have a harder and harder time grasping reality. Eventually, the body actually begins to feel like it’s not really all that cold. It’s not cold anymore. In fact, you start to feel like you’re burning up. And it’s not uncommon to see victims of hypothermia having thrown away their gloves, taken off their coats, crawled out of their sleeping bags, and laying down half naked in a snow bank… dead.”
Spiritual hypothermia operates in a similar way, friends. It starts quietly, not that scary, just growing a little bit cold towards spiritual things. But eventually our minds start to play tricks on us. We start to think, ‘You know, my time in the word has been kind of dry… hasn’t been all that exciting. It’s not all that interesting to me, anyway. And so, you know, I don’t see it as that much of an authority in my life.’ And so they throw away the sword of the spirit. ‘My faith is shaken by various trials. There are people that have let me down. The shield is getting really heavy’ and they throw away the shield of faith. They start to think their integrity isn’t all that important, and that their personal righteousness is not something that they really need to cultivate. And on and on it goes with each piece of the armor slowly coming off until all that’s left is an easy target for the devil. That’s how you wind up dead on the spiritual battleground that you are on. Don’t take off your armor, keep your armor on. It’s an essential piece of your protection against the devil. Is your love for Jesus undying?
There may be some in this room that would say, ‘I do love Jesus. I really do. But If I’m honest, my love for Him has started to grow a bit cold. Maybe you look around you and realize that there are pieces of your armor that you’ve neglected. They’re starting to rust on the ground rather than staying on. Repent of your sin. Turn to Jesus. Remember that love for Jesus is a gift. Call out to God and say, ‘Oh God, help me. Help me to love You like I once did.’ Then take your armor, pick it up, and put it back on. It’s how you stay alive out there.
Maybe there are some of you who would say, ‘If I’m being honest, I’ve checked a lot of religious boxes in my life. I’ve come to church. I’ve done Bible studies. I read my Bible… but all of it, it’s not out of love for Jesus. It’s just duty, It’s just what I thought I needed to do.’ Love for Jesus is at the heart of what it means to be a genuine follower of Christ. If you don’t have love for Jesus, you don’t have Jesus.
“Anyone who loves father, mother, or son or daughter more than Me isn’t worthy of Me,” Jesus says.
So if you feel in your heart a desire to love Jesus Christ, perhaps that’s God opening your eyes, helping you to see. If that’s you this morning, I would urge you to respond. Recognize that love for Jesus as a gift from God, and say, ‘God, I’m sorry for my sin. I’m sorry for the ways that I’ve allowed my love [for You] to grow cold. Please furnish me with a love for Christ.’ Then, in response to that love, follow Him for the rest of your life with an undying love. That’s what it is to be a true follower of Jesus. That’s what it means to be saved.
If you need to be saved, I would urge you to do that this morning. Trust Christ as your Savior. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. Belief doesn’t mean that you’re just checking a box in your mind. It means jumping in the boat with Jesus. Recognizing that He’s the only One who can take you to heaven. He’s the only way that you can be saved… through Christ.
Father, we know that the only reason we love is because You first loved us. Thank you for Jesus Christ. Thank you for His love, proven to us on the cross, demonstrated while we were yet sinners. And as we think about the weight of sin that has been forgiven us, it ignites in our hearts a love for you. We love much because we have been forgiven much. But if there are people here, God, that haven’t experienced that forgiveness, I pray that they would today. I pray that they would recognize that they need to love Jesus. Pray that you would ignite love for Him and their hearts and that they would respond in faith by following Him. We love you, Lord. We thank you for Your word. We thank You for what it teaches us. I pray for these precious people here this morning. Give each one of us an undying love for Jesus Christ. May we not be spiritual casualties, but may we fight the good fight of faith all the way to the end. It’s in Christ’s name we pray. Amen.