On Easter Sunday, John Calvin refused community leaders communion because of mistresses. They responded by rushing the communion table. He responded: “Over my dead body.” They backed off but in the afternoon they exiled him. One year and a half years later they asked him back. When he ascended to the pulpit he began on the very next verse he had ended with when he was kicked out. He loved and trusted God’s Word.
We are a people of the Book. We know God through the Book. We meet Christ in the Book. We see the cross in the Book. Our faith and love are kindled by the glorious truths found in that Book. We have tasted of the divine majesty of the Word and are persuaded that the Book is God’s inspired and infallible written revelation. Therefore what the Book teaches matters. Doctrine is important for worship and life and mission. Knowing the truth found there and doing the truth found there will bring great joy to our souls and great glory to our Savior. GR
God created us to glorify him by seeing and enjoying him. But there is a host of enemies lying in wait to rob us of our joy. So, we must fight for our joy. We must fight for our faith. If we don’t prepare for battle is only a matter of time before it will be lost. [Knight]This message is designed to help us fight and win the battle for joy that lies ahead of us.
The battle is over the Word of God. Eve: “Hath God said?” Jesus: “If you are…then…” It is written.” The battle takes on subtle forms. In the 20th Century the battle was over the inerrancy of the Scriptures. Today it is over the sufficiency of the Scriptures. We all say it is the “basis” of our ministry, but do we practice that? Chesterton: “It is not that Christianity has been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.” The nice sounding theories of men have pushed aside the truth of God. If we lose this battle, we have no place to stand.
I. Stand Firm!
That is why Paul is writing to his son in the faith, Timothy. Paul is writing his last letter. He senses that he will not leave prison alive. But he is not concerned about his faith or joy. He is looking forward to seeing Christ. He is concerned about Timothy. He is writing to prepare him for battle after he is gone. He won’t be there to help. Because he loves him he will give him his best counsel. We will be blest if we listen very carefully.
First, Paul warns Timothy of the perilous [demonic] times that are coming that will cause many to depart from the faith. In 3:13, He speaks of imposters and deceivers who will wreak havoc in the church. Paul was no stranger to pressure. His life was one series of battles. His problems stacked up and waited to come in like a series of Pacific storms. He never knew when the next blow would hit or from what direction it would come. After warning Timothy of what was to come he wrote in verse 10:
You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings — what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.
To be a follower of Christ is to enlist in an army. The health and wealth gospel doesn’t have a clue as to what the Kingdom of God is about. Comfort is not the goal of faith. Joy in Christ is. And that means you follow him into the lion’s den and the floor of the coliseum and the burning stake. Paul’s battle for joy took Antioch and Iconium and Lystra where he suffered persecution for his faith.
But he was not discouraged or in despair because he knew that everyone who wants to honor Jesus with their life will face affliction and persecution. But the Lord was there to deliver Paul from all trouble.
Before Paul tells Timothy what to do he tells him one thing he must not to do. Evil imposters will continue to get worse. They will deceive and be deceived. They will follow every kind of deceitful desire that promise them fullness of joy. [“The reason we know God wants us happy is because he gave us beer.”] But, while others are being deceived and getting worse, Paul says, “Not you!” “Timothy, you be different. You stand firm.” Here is how he says it:
“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”
Te key word is “continue.” It is in stark contrast to the wicked “who go from bad to worse.” They are constantly changing and being deceived. But the man of God does not change. He or she “continues.” What does that mean? “Continue” is the word which also means to “abide” or “stay” or “remain”. It is the same word we saw last week where Jesus said: John 15:7 “If you remain [continue] in me and my words remain [continue] in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.”[ John 8:31-32]
Paul is saying that the successful warrior will have one consistent characteristic: He or she will not move. She will stand firm. Will not move from what? She will not move from the truth she has heard in God’s Written Word. Paul’s instructs his young warrior: “When everybody else is a changing, you stand firm. Take your stand on what you have been taught.”
But some of us here might ask is, “Why should I bank everything I am on what I have been taught? What if what I have been taught is wrong? What if it is just one of the many ways to God? Why risk everything on that which may be false? Here is Paul’s response. “Continue [“abide” John 15:7] in what you have learned…” because:
A. Because you are convinced of the character of your teachers.
In 2 Timothy 1:5, Paul wrote to his young disciple: “I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. [2 Tim 1:5] We know that Timothy’s dad was a Greek and probably and unbeliever. So, he most likely was raised in a split household and probably received his spiritual training from his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice.
What blessing to have parents and grandparents that love the Lord and show it by their lives. I am so blessed to have a model like my dad. He was simple but a sold out servant to Jesus. He didn’t do everything right but he did do one thing right: he showed us how to find our joy in serving Jesus. I am here today because I had a dad and mom who really believed the promises found in God’s Word.
I have often been buoyed by the testimony of my parents. When my faith has been tested I would remember the powerful affect their love for Jesus had upon our family and our church. I think Paul would encourage us to do the same thing. He would say, “Look around. Do you want a reason to stand firm on what you have been taught. Look at the ones that have taught you. Look at their love. Look at their joy. Has their faith made a difference in their lives? Have they endured deep pain and disappointment and still have their joy? Then, stand firm. That Jesus will deliver you just like he delivered them.
B. Because you are convinced of the truth of their Scriptures.
Second, he says stand firm not just because of the lives you have seen, but the truth of their scriptures. All of those warriors of faith had one characteristic. They loved God’s Word. There is something totally different about the Scriptures. Why do you think it is the best selling book that has ever been written? It is not just good literature. It is not just entertaining. There is a life to it there is power in its words. Here is what Peter wrote concerning the Scriptures:
Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. 2 Peter 1:20-2:1
The difference between those who are deceived and those who remain is simple. Those that “remain” are those who stand firm on the solid foundation of God’s Word. Those who fall, build their lives stand on the shifting sands of human theories [Psalm 1/Romans 12:1-2]. I think Paul would warn us: “Don’t chase after high sounding philosophies of unbelieving men. Don’t let the lies of this world conform you to its corrupting and disappointing ways. Stand on the truth that is written down in our Bible, that Book that contains God’s words.
C. Because you are wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.
Paul gives him a third reason to remain. He says, “Look at your life.” Paul writes: “you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” Do you want a good reason to “continue” in the face of temptation? Look at your changed life? What happened when you heard the gospel and believed? Was their any change? You are born again by the power of God. You believe because God has given you faith. You have peace and joy and righteousness. You have been delivered form the fear of death and judgment. The sins that bring God’s wrath have been forgiven. Guilt does not rule in you. You don’t need the pleasures of this world anymore.
Have you ever wondered what happened to you? God did a miracle in you. You heard the message of Jesus Christ and the Spirit of God sparked a faith in you that made you alive in Him. You saw Jesus as Lord. You knew he was the Son of God. You placed your trust in him. The things that were written enabled you to receive eternal life. Don’t you see it? Old things were passed away and all things became new!
If God can use the scriptures to make us wise to salvation, don’t you think they are able to make you a warrior of salvation? You won’t get sucked up by the devil’s lies if you continue in what you have earned. As you believed in God’s word for salvation, now believe in God’s word and win battle after battle.
II. A Rock Solid Book: How can we trust the Truth of God’s Book? 2 Timothy 3:16-17
A. It is POWERFUL because it is God speaking His life giving words to the heads and hearts of His people. IT IS THE TRUTH!
Those were the guiding principles. Now Paul gets down and gives the details that will bring about victory in tuff times. Here we have the classic passage that explains why we are a “people of the Book.” Here it is: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” [2 Tim 3:16-17] If you want o be prepared for every opportunity to glorify God with your life it is all centered on the Scriptures.
The reason the Scripture [graphe], is our means to preserving our joy is that in them we hear the very words of God. Paul says that they are God-breathed. He combines two words: theos-God; and Pneuma-breath or wind. The words inspiration, to “breath in”, is misleading. It was used to express the thought that God breathed the words into the writers and enabled them to write his words. But the word actually means “breathed out”. The emphasis is less upon the words going into the authors as proceeding out of God. It is an attempt to fix in our minds that the Bible speaks the very mind of God.
The creation story lies in the background of this text. God speaks and the universe is created. God speaks and the Word is created. When God speaks something happens. God breathed into man and he became a living being. Jesus said, “The Spirit [the breath of God”] gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. [John 6:63-64] 1 Peter 1:23, adds, “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.”
There is a clear and powerful connection with God’s speaking life in his voice and God speaking life in that which he has caused to be written. That Book is not just paper and ink. “The word of God is living and active.” It is alive with God’s creative breath. It convicts of sin. It strengthens the weary. It is alive with God’s purposes and power. That is why Luther wrote: “I do not know it and do not understand it, but sounding from above and ringing in my ears I hear what is beyond the thoughts of man.” God lays a hold of us through His words. Revelation says that God has chosen to reveal himself to men. Inspiration tells us how he has chosen to reveal himself: through the Scriptures. There is no other book like it. It is God’s words in human words.
If we want to know the truth, if we want to build our lives upon that which will never change and never disappoint, then it seems like we should devour every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. It seems like we should be able to stand against any temptation that this world or its prince would throw at us: ‘It is written.” If we are to remain when everyone else are going from bad to worse, then we must get the God- breathed words of God into our minds and our hearts. It is powerful for it breathes God’s life giving truth into our heads and our hearts.
B. It is PERSONAL because it is God’s means for shaping the character of his family of faith. IT FEELS LIKE TRUTH!
God not only comes to give us life but he comes to enable us and show us how to really live. That is what Jesus meant when he prayed: “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” [John 17:17-18] Sanctify means to set apart for holy use. It means to make us like Jesus in his righteousness. The way we are changed from sinful, selfish, self-exalting sinners into holy living, people loving, Christ-exalting saints, is to hear and obey God’s Word.
But, the Scriptures are not designed to make us into “goody two shoes.” We could be very sweet people and very good people and still miss the whole purpose of Christ’s redeeming work. Getting rid of our sins is not the end. It is the means to the end. What is the end? 1 Peter 3:18 give us the answer: 1 Peter 3:18 “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” Eternal life is knowing and enjoying the glory of God, both now and into eternity. So, the Scriptures are used by the Holy Spirit to enable us to grow in our knowledge and experience of God in Christ.
When God’s word is preached or read or heard by humbled and prepared hearts, a seed of life is planted which miraculously germinates into fruit. God’s word brings forth transformation that brings glory to God. So, I hope you see that Scripture is not just dry doctrine and out dated ideas and boring history. In the words of Luther, “The Bible is alive, it speaks to me; it has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold on me. That’s what I am talking about.
1. Teaching: Revealing to us the true path to joy and satisfaction.
Next, Paul shows the three steps that God has ordained to get His word into our hearts so that we will be ready for battle. One of the first things we discover when we hear the Word of God is that it is totally foreign to what we think or want. All of the man-made religions of the world fit nicely within a human framework. We want a god that we can please by own efforts. We want a god who has only one purpose: our happiness, no matter what form that happiness takes. We want a god who makes much of us instead of a God who frees us from self absorption to make much of him. Left to ourselves we just cannot imagine the God of the Bible: Isa 55:8-9
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
We think we know what God wants because we assume that God wants what we want. But His thoughts are not our thoughts. His ways are not our ways. That is why we need to be taught God’s Word. If we are to be a people who live to spread the glory of God for the joy of all peoples, we need God’s revelation of Himself, not our ideas about him. God is calling forth a holy people unlike any other. The Ten Commandments set a part the Israelites from all the pagans that surrounded. And when Jesus taught the Sermon on the Mount it set apart the people of His Kingdom form the people who make up the kingdoms of this world.
The truth is so revolutionary and different we must not be shocked when we teach and the people don’t get it the first time. [Sermon on stealing and the cutting of the logs.] That is why Paul tells Timothy: 2 Tim 4:2 “Preach the Word ; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage — with great patience and careful instruction.”
When we hear the Word taught, and the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to see to see it, and softens our hearts to love it, we understand reality for the first time. C. S. Lewis said it well when he affirmed: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it see everything else.” If we are to be victorious warriors we must know the mind of God. That is why reading and studying and thinking and meditating are so important for Jews and Christians. That is why literacy has always been a priority for them. Where ever the Christians go you will find they built churches for worship, hospitals for healing and schools for reading. We are a people of the BOOK.
In Synagogues and churches children were taught to read because by reading they hear God speak. Schools like Harvard, Princeton and Yale were founded to help Pastors hear and teach God’s Word. Because God has written His will down on tablets and paper we are by nature “verbivores”- word-eaters- whose lives take on the character of the words we digest.
We need to know the word and understand its application so we can fight off the devils temptations like Jesus did. When Satan’s challenge Jesus to turn stones into bread he was ready. He knew the Scriptures. Matt 4:4 “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”
Truth matters to Christians. It sets us apart. That is why we refuse to buy into the post-modern mantra that all beliefs are equal. That is why we refuse to believe that truth is relative. There are absolutes that are true and real and will never change. If you are in the university it is only a matter of time before those assumptions will be challenged. Perhaps you have already heard that if there are no absolutes, then words or what they stand for are not absolute either, so ultimately words are meaningless. Some years ago there was a seminary class in which one of the professor was expounding a relativistic view of truth. He was insisting that language has no absolute meaning. “It means what it means to you, but what it means to you is not necessary what it means to me.” He said that we can never communicate in any absolute sense.
The students were arguing with the professor because, to their “untutored” minds, this did not seem to make sense. One said, “That is not right! It is true sometimes language is ambiguous. That is why we write dictionaries and word books to explain what we mean. That is why we teach and argue points. We go back and forth to try and understand where the other person coming from. But it is not true that language is always ambiguous, and the less ambiguous the better.” Another continued, “For example, if you look out the window and see an airplane in the sky and say, ‘Look, there goes an airplane!’ everybody looks up. Why do they do that? It is because the word ‘airplane’ carries with it objective content. It is not an empty term.”
The professor did not agree. He kept pressing his point. So, finally, one of the students said, “You know, if language is meaningless, then the language we are speaking here is meaningless.” He waited until that sank in. Then, another student asked, “Well, if this is meaningless, what are we going to do with the rest of the hour?” A third student said, “Let’s play squash.” So, the class got up and went out the door, leaving the professor alone, with his theory.
Relativism means that we can no longer say, “Thus says the Lord.” We must say, “It seems to me.” It is not arrogant or prideful to make the claim we know absolute truth. Truth is not a matter of pride or humility at all, but of fact. Islam says Jesus wasn’t crucified. We say he was. Only one can be right. Judaism says Jesus was not the Messiah. We say he was. Both cannot be right. Hinduism says that god has often been incarnate. We say he was incarnate only once, in Jesus Christ, the Logos. We cannot both be right.
No, we preach and teach the Bible with boldness because it is truth, in God breathed words. Words matter. Meanings matter. Truth matters. It is the truth that will set us free and keep us free. That is why the Bible is our source for teaching. It reveals to us the ways of God that we could never have known a part from His revealing them in the Book. So, if you want to know God you have to be taught by it.
2. Reproving: Confronting us when we are derailed by sinful pleasures.
Because the Word of God has been stifled in our lives, because we have been conformed to the beliefs of this world, because we have been deceived by the sinful nature that lies within, we need the Word to confront and show us where we have gone wrong path. Because [Jer 17:9] “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure,” we cannot understand the depths of evil that lie within it? That is why Jesus taught us to judge ourselves before we try to help others with their problems. How do you judge yourself when you cannot know your own heart? First, we pray for help. We ask the Lord to open your eyes so that you can see those things that keep him from being glorified in our life. Then we pick up the word and let it expose the attitudes and thoughts and words and actions that need to be repented of, forsaken and replaced.
Without the word of God reproving our sinful ways we will remain lost and guilty. That is why the first thing God did after Adam sinned was to seek him out with his Word: “Adam, where are you?” he asked that question not because God did not know where Adam was. He asked that because Adam didn’t know where he was. Man’s problem began when he lost confidence in God’s Word. Satan said, “Did God say?” Man doubted God’s word and sinned. Thankfully, God came with a new word, not only of reproof but of correction.
3. Correcting: Showing us what we need to do get us back on the trail.
That is the third useful step in the process of preparing for ministry, and here I have very strong convictions. I believe the Bible, with the prayers, encouragement and support of the Church, is given to help people recover from desperate situations. That is why I am so verbal in my opposition to the way the methodologies of humanistic psychology have subtly invaded and pushed aside the clear and powerful teaching found in God’s Word.
Time and time again I have counseled couples who have come to me after they have been to secular and Christian counselors. When I begin to explain to them the clear teachings of God’s Word I often hear them say, “We never heard this before.” I have had Christian counselors even suggest divorce because the differences were so great. Men and women, good men and women, have bought into a whole different way of counseling because of what they have been taught in seminary and university.
What makes this so dangerous and subtle, is that these teachings are not introduced into the church by atheists, but by popular writers and counselors who claim to be Christian writers. Let me give you just one example of what I am talking about. One of the rising stars on the Christian pop psychological stage is John Eldridge. His “wild band of brothers” has grown large as his book, “Wild At Heart”, has been gobbled up by Church sponsored men’s groups. Here is just one of the “truths” he is giving out to his wild band of brothers. “How your father treated you and answered or not answered your questions will shape you the rest of your lives. You must go and visit your pains in order to deal with it.”
My dear friends, that is nothing more than Freudian determinism. It assumes that when something painful happens in our childhood, it controls us the rest of our lives. Some teach that all you can expect is to be able to cope, with the help of counseling and drug therapy for the rest of your life. Others, like Eldridge, I assume, I think, that we are all victims in some sense and in order for us to have any hope of healing we must identify that event, or series of events, that scarred us and prevents us from finding our healing. Then, we must bring some insight into that past moment.
Where is that taught in scriptures? But you say, “That is science.” No, it is theory. For every “scientist” who is preaching that theory there is one who will challenge it. We are not unthinking, instinctual, unconsciously driven animals. We are thinking, responsible, moral beings. The Bible may call for you to forgive or ask forgiveness for sins done in the past. But it never sends you back in time to sort out all the “wrongs” that happened that made you into the sorry mess you are in now.
Your problem and my problem is sin! Yes we have to deal with sin done against us. And, we have to deal with sinful reactions. But, Christ came to deliver us from sins power and to show us how to live free of its bondage. The old things are passed away and behold all things have become new, in Christ. We have God as our Father and Jesus as our Savior. We have all of the power and promises of God at our disposal. We still have wrong ways of thinking about God and ourselves and life and others. That is why we need to hear God’s word and learn it and be corrected by it. Some one might say, “It sounds like you are saying ‘go home, take an aspirin, and see me in the morning.’
No, I am not. I am saying that we can have very deep seeded sinful and selfish ways of thinking and speaking and doing that keeps us in the pits of despair and depression. But, I affirm, that God has provided a powerful, personal and practical way out of those painful and hurtful pits: God’s Word. It corrects us with more than nice sounding platitudes and diluted generalities. It tells us not only that we must change and that we can change, it tells us in very clear and specific ways how we can change. Are you an angry person? “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” Eph 4:26-27 Put off the old ways of acting and put on the new ways of acting. Put off “all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” Eph 4:31 But, don’t stop there. Put on “kindness and be compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Eph 4:32
Now, I know that what I just read needs practical application and careful teaching and patience and encouragement and maybe even some spurring on. But my point is this: God has provided the resources that bring righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you really want them you can have them. But, you must be willing to hear and obey God’s Word.
I know, from experience, that some of you probably do not believe what I am saying. I understand. You have been raised in a world that is against everything I am saying. I went through the same struggles. You have been told that problems are just too complex and the Bible is just too simple to solve the really deep problems of men. Well, let me call as a witness for Bible effectiveness an expert witness, Chuck Colson. A former convicted convict whose life was turned upside down by the gospel now works in the darkest pits of our society, the penitentiaries. He writes:
My convictions have come, not from studies in Ivory Tower academia, but from life in what may be termed the front-line trenches, behind prison walls where Christians grapple in hand-to-hand combat with the prince of darkness. In our prison fellowships, where the Bible is proclaimed as God’s holy and inerrant revelation, believers grow and discipleship deepens. Christians live their faith with power. Where the Bible is not so proclaimed [or where Christianity is presumed to rest on subjective experience alone or content-less fellowship] faith withers and dies. Christianity without biblical fidelity is merely another passing fad in an age of passing fads. In my opinion, the issue is that clear.
Yes it is clear. If God can transform the lives of convicted murders and felons, who came from the most evil and painful environments, he can do it in your life. God’s word is sufficient for healing and correction!
4. Training: A strategy to keep us on the straight and narrow way to joy.
Finally, not only does the word teach us the true way, reprove us when we go astray from the way, and correct us and bring us back to the way, it trains us so that we can stay on the way. As we devour the word and do the word we are being transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit. We want what God wants. We think God’s thoughts. We say God’s words. And, we do God’s acts. A miracle is happening inside us, not all at once but gradually. I love the words of Henry Clay Morrison when he wrote: “God did not fix me up so that I couldn’t sin. He fixed me up so that I couldn’t sin and enjoy it.” He is giving us a whole new appetite for God and His ways. It is infinitely more precious and tasty and satisfying that the fast foods of this world.
The word training brings with it the image of the athlete and the Olympiad. The power of God’s truth is not found merely in study but in its application. John 7:17-18 “If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.” Change does not come easy. God’s truth will go against our desire to coddle and pity and feed the selfish, sinful self that has ruled for so long. That is why Paul wrote so clearly about the importance of discipline in the life of a godly soldier-athlete. In 1 Tim 4:7-8: He wrote: “Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” And, again he gave his own testimony when he added:
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