Do Not Erase

On Sunday, September 11, our nation paused to remember that horrific day we refer to as 9/11. It’s been ten years since terrorists attacked our country, killing thousands of innocent people, and leaving millions of us feeling shocked, grieved, depressed, anxious, and insecure. The message on the anniversary of that day was that we not forget the horror of the actions, the pain of lost lives, as well as the heroism exhibited by those who stepped up to serve, save, and protect.

Our President, speaking to the nation, directed our attention to many remembrances. He began with a Bible verse that we must remember, “Though weeping lasts for the night, joy cometh in the morning” (Psalm 30:5b). He then took us through the remembrances of things learned over the past ten years since 9/11. He also reminded us of the principles and values upon which this great nation was founded. By the time he was finished, I felt inspired, hopeful, and strengthened for the future.

As I thought about his words, I was also reminded of a Bible verse that has carried me through rough circumstances. It was written by St. Paul to Timothy, a young clergyman who was fighting the good fight for the gospel in a congregation that was giving him some problems. This congregation suffered a lot of confusion as well as hostility and suspicion from the surrounding community. I imagine Timothy must have wondered what in the world he was doing there and how it was all going to end. Some days I’m sure he might have even wanted to pack up and leave it all behind.

His older pastor friend, Paul, wrote to encourage him in his ministry. Paul began by reminding Timothy of his upbringing, of how his faithful mother and grandmother had raised him in the faith knowing the gospel. He encouraged Timothy to be strong in the grace that is ours in Jesus and reminded him that ministry is hard and that he’s not exempt from the challenges of life. Then he wrote this simple, yet very profound, statement: “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of DavidÑthat is my gospel, for which I suffer hardship, even to the point of being chained like a criminal.” Let’s take a look at these words.

“Remember,” Paul said. To remember is to bear in mind, keep hanging on to, do not erase from your thinking. There is power for us to experience in remembering. In memories, we can look back and count our blessings of experiences from God. In memories we can look back and see more clearly God’s hand at work. With memories of past graces and God’s faithfulness, we are strengthened to face the present as well as the future.

“Remember Jesus Christ.” The name, Jesus, means He saves. He was telling Timothy to remember that he has a Savior.

In the book of Matthew, the angel told Joseph to “give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). He’s the one that the prophet Isaiah foretold would take our punishment upon himself on a tree, the one who would suffer and die as a sacrifice on the cross as a payment for humanity’s sin.

Then, we have that word Ð Christ Ð tagged onto Jesus. Christ is not the last name of Jesus; it’s his title. It means the Anointed One, the King. He’s the one for whom Israel had been waiting so many years, the Messiah King. When Jesus began his ministry, he announced that the Kingdom of God had come. He was ushering God’s Kingdom into the world, and he was the King. He’s the one the prophet Isaiah described as the “Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.”

This Jesus Ð the Savior, your King, and God’s answer to the prayers of Israel Ð “. . . was raised from the dead.” He died on a cross, but God raised him on Easter morning. He lives! Death is defeated and does not have the final word over the person who trusts in Jesus Christ. Not only do we have victory over the power of death in Christ, but we also have the assurance that he is present. The risen Christ says, “I am with you always to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20b). He will not leave you orphaned, but will come to you. You’re never alone; he’s there to be your strength, your friend, your comforter.

Finally, Paul adds, “a descendant of David.” Jesus is the sign of God’s faithfulness. He is the fulfillment of all God’s promises, the one Micah described as coming to rule the people from the house of David, who would feed his flock. His lineage was from the house of David.

This is a reminder of history in this little aside of Paul’s as he points to Jesus as the descendant of David. He’s reminding Timothy of the big picture of God’s plan. God himself has been faithfully working in history, carrying out his salvation plan, and Jesus is the culmination of that. All who belong to Jesus have assurance that God keeps his promises about the future. He holds our future in his hands. He has the final word.

Timothy, you’re on the right team. You’re in a movement that God himself has begun. Don’t give up. You belong to the God who is faithful. Some day Christ will reappear, and every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. You’ve got to remember that. I know life is complicated. I know that you’re facing disappointments. But remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David.

As I listen to Paul’s words about remembering, I’m finding that I’m not remembering things as well as I used to. Names, addresses, life experiences, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, whether I took my cholesterol medicine or not, even what I ate for lunch Ð sometimes these things just don’t stick in my mind anymore. Life sometimes gets harried, and we worry as it gets out of control, which makes our memories even a little more shaky. We need to constantly be reminded, in the midst of all that chaos, this major bit of counsel from the Holy Spirit coming through the pen of the apostle Paul. Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, victorious, present, foretold by God, the Way, the Truth and the Life, descended from David, God’s sign of faithfulness working in history toward the final consummation. Remember Jesus Christ.

It’s interesting the way Paul then goes on to say, “That is my gospel.” That’s my good news. It has gotten me in trouble, but it is also my hope, and my strength, and my encouragement for the facing of the rest of my days. So, Timothy, remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David, for this is your gospel, Timothy.

Dear friends, those of you listening today who have placed your trust in Jesus Christ, let me remind you: that is your gospel, as well. Remember it. Carry it. Bear it in mind constantly in every circumstance. Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David. It’s so simple, yet so very strengthening and profound.

Dr. Albert Einstein was a world famous mathematician in the past century, who at one point was even named TIME Magazine’s “Man of the Century.” All kinds of stories have floated around about him, but one of my favorites is this: One Friday afternoon, a cleaning person arrived at Dr. Einstein’s seminar room. As she began to prepare the room for the next week, she found sections of the blackboard covered with intricate equations and formulas. Over these equations Dr. Einstein had boldly scrawled, Erase.

Over one section, however, he had carefully written, Do Not Erase. Below it was this equation: 2 + 2 = 4.

What do you suppose Dr. Einstein was trying to say with these instructions? Was he telling his students that the mind can wonder far if it knows its home? Was he reminding himself of the fact? It’s true that it’s often easier to deal with the complications of life if we keep reminding ourselves of its simplicities.

We can apply this principle to our lives of faith as well. We need to remember, in the midst of complicating circumstances, the basic fact of God’s love for us and his promises for us. We need to remember, “Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David.” Do Not Erase.

It’s true that life has its complications. However, this is our gospel: Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, holding us in the palm of his hand for eternity, a descendant of David, the fulfillment of a God who is faithful to us and to his promises.

Yes, life does get complicated and hard. Timothy experienced that reality. So did the Apostle Paul, and so will we. But I encourage you to follow the Holy Spirit’s counsel this day. Let it be your strength and your solid rock in all circumstances life throws at you. Place this verse in your heart and repeat it to yourself day after day, “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David. This is my gospel.” Do Not Erase!