Approved Unto God

2 Timothy 2:15 King James Version (KJV)

15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

Study. Oh, how I hated that word in High School. Of course, high school was easy for me. I went through it carefree and casual, rarely bringing home any homework because I worked it out during school time. I pulled A’s and B’s and was second in my class at graduation. I never studied and never developed good study habits. I did enough to get the grades and enough accolades that I landed a full ride scholarship at an upper echelon technical University to study physics. I was into space exploration as these were the years of the Gemini and Apollo projects. It was an exciting time of life. Too bad I wasted it all away. I dropped out of that school due to drugs and booze, and refused a second scholarship because my head was so exhausted from the high. I went to work shredding paper and making copies in a big company’s copy center. Just a day after day, high energy, low thought process job. Perfect for someone who didn’t want to study. I have to admit that I rarely came to that night shift job sober. Bit I always got the work done in plenty of time that I could take a nap before going home.

Then I got saved. This event changed my perspective. I started reading the scriptures. I started counseling with someone who helped me turn my negative life into positive thought. I got my longer-than-shoulder-length hair cut to a “business man’s” haircut. And I started to study. Not the Bible yet, but the computer systems and programs we were working with (COBOL and JCL language at that time). I started studying and got a promotion, winding up on first shift and gaining a lot of respect. I became a very valuable asset to the whole operation, and also started training other department heads how to write programs to generate their own reports. All because I learned to study!

After two years of that I met my wife while on a trip to Iowa (a long story in itself) and the Lord sent me to Iowa with no job and a girlfriend I had only met and been with three times. I got a job at a discount store chain making minimum wage and slowly moved up the ladder because I studied systems, plan-o-grams, ordering procedures, everything. At the same time, I began to see a benefit in studying my Bible and not just reading it. I’m not sure exactly when this portion of scripture jumped out at me, but when it did, I knew I wanted to be approved unto God and worthy of all he had blessed me with. So, I studied the word more and more. I used commentaries and chain-references and concordances to go through the Word with a fine-tooth comb. I wasn’t into memorization, but I was into study! Through the years I have studied many different scriptures many different ways for many different reasons. All have led me to where I am today. I still have no idea the depths and treasures that I have not uncovered yet but I will keep digging. This Word of God is inexhaustible. It will challenge even the most educated student over and over again. That is why this particular scripture is so important. As we grow in our Christian walk, God expects more of us. We constantly must study to show ourselves approved. He will always give us more as we seek more. But if we stop seeking, we will fall behind. There is no middle ground.

So, what is the best way to study God’s Word. There are many different methods. However, none of them are any good if you do not first pray about your study time and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you into all truth, which Jesus said He would do. Too many men, churches, universities and groups have studied without the Holy Spirits guiding, merely depending on their intellectual prowess to understand the Word of God. This has led to false teachings in the thousands and a scattering of people claiming to be Christians into disillusionment. As a friend of mine often says, there is only one Truth. There cannot be your truth and my truth. If you want to stay on the narrow road that leads to eternal life, the only way to get there is with the Holy Spirits guidance.

Now that you have prayed and asked for the right guidance, you have to determine what it is you want to know. One way to study God’s word is to choose a topic to study. Let’s say you want to learn more about the significance of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. You’re a new Christian and you have heard messages on the price Jesus paid for your redemption, but you just don’t understand what that means. You were told if you pray and ask forgiveness for your sins, He will forgive you. You acknowledged that He took your sins to that cross so you would be free from sin. You can feel the new life within you because the Holy Spirit is starting to guide you as you pray. But how does that all work? Why does it work? This is a very big subject and spans the whole Bible. To be honest, the best way to understand His sacrifice is to pray earnestly for guidance, start at the beginning of the Bible and read it all the way through, looking for references to sin, sacrifice and forgiveness along the way. The Holy Spirit will show you that from Genesis to Revelation it is all about the blood. Without a proper understanding of the blood sacrifice in the Old Testament, you cannot possibly understand the blood that was spilled on the cross. You have chosen a subject that will take a lifetime and more to comprehend.

Once you have read all the way through the Bible on this huge subject, then you might want to go back and break it down further. You will now have a broad sense of His sacrifice, but there is so much more depth in Biblical study. It’s not just about the blood being spilled, but it is how that connects to you. Why is a blood sacrifice necessary? How has the blood shown forgiveness and deliverance in the Bible? Why do you even need forgiveness? What is sin anyway? How does the blood cover your sin? What happens when you apply the blood to your life? Why is Jesus so special that His blood cleanses my sin? Do you begin to see how a subject can be broken down further and bring you deeper into the Word of God? Jesus is very clear about wanting us to know the Father’s will for our lives. He said if we ask, we shall receive. Ask God to guide you in your study. Seek His truth every time you open up the Word. Knock on the door of wisdom so God can show you what it means for you. He promises to show you what you are seeking for.

Along the way you may come across a word that you don’t quite understand. Maybe the word love is intriguing to you and you want to understand it better. Again, you have chosen a huge subject that will take a lifetime to learn. When you look up love in a Strong’s concordance, you will see that many words are translated love. It has different meanings in different situations. Greek is a very hard language to understand but it is much more descriptive than English is. Greek breaks down into pieces each word and gives us a perspective that the English just doesn’t quite portray. Your study of this word, or any word, will take a lot of preparation and understanding of how the Greek is applied to each case of the word love that is mentioned in the Bible. Once again, you might want to break this down into studies of each different kind of love. What kind of love did Christ have? How does this love affect me? What should I do as a result of this love? Why does He love me? Looking up each separate word that is translated love and seeing how it is applied in scripture will give you a better understanding of that word.

You can now see that there are many different ways to study the word of God. I use them all. That word approved means that we are received or welcome. It is used of something that has passed the test, or become acceptable because it is genuine. This verse tells us that it is very important we take time in the Word of God. It is not enough to just accept Christ and then sit back and enjoy it. You have a mandate to know God’s word. Get in there and learn it to the best of your ability. You will be amazed at all that God will uncover for you.

Speak Words That Profit

2 Timothy 2:11-14 King James Version (KJV)

11 It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him:
12 If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us:
13 If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.
14 Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers.

I love faithful sayings, sayings that are true no matter what the circumstance, what the trial, what the test. Faithful sayings stand the test of time and can be remembered in our deepest need. Faithful sayings supersede all that this world can offer me for advice and counsel. I know it is a faithful saying if it is backed up by the word of God. There are so many faithful sayings in His glorious word. Paul shares with us just a few of those here.

“If we be dead with Him, we shall also live with Him.” Being dead with Him means burying our sins in the past and pressing in close to Him in the present moment. In Galatians 2:20 Paul says he is crucified with Christ, yet He lives. It’s not Paul that lives, but Christ that lives in Him. He only lives that life by the grace of God. We all only live our lives by the grace of God. He has no mandate to keep us alive. When we turn our lives over to Him, He resides within us to bring us into the perfection of Jesus Christ. I must die to myself, my desires, my lusts, my hopes. I must live in Him, learning His desires and His plans for my life. Paul says he died daily. Daily I must come to myself and put away all those silly things that corrupt my life, turning everything over to Him and dying to self. I should never be offended because it is only my flesh and my pride that can get offended. The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life must go. Humility, meekness, patience, compassion and faithful endurance must abide. This is how we should be living.

“If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him.” Suffering is a foreign concept to most of us. Oh, we may think we suffer. But in these United States, we barely know suffering. Sure we suffer through things like cancer, heart attack, divorce, financial hardship and other such things. But we rarely suffer for the Gospel here. Missionaries overseas suffer for the Gospel. Those who convert from Islam or Buddhism or Hinduism can suffer for the Gospel. They often take to themselves terrible persecution and even death because they will not deny their faith. The suffer for Christ’s sake just as the disciples in the early church did. When we are willing to give all we have, including our own lives, to follow Him, we shall also reign with Him in His kingdom.

“If we deny Him, He will also deny us” Jesus said this as well. There is no more faithful saying than the ones that Jesus said. He told us if we deny Him before men, he will deny us before the Father, Considering He is our intercessor and mediator, that would be a bad thing for sure. We need Him to acknowledge us before the Father. After all, it is He that will sit on the throne of judgement in heaven, and it is His book that has the names written down. We must make sure we never deny Him to others. If someone asks you if you’re a Christian, proudly say yes! The book of revelation says that we overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony. That testimony is that we live for Jesus, that we have been born again and that we have done the will of the Father. In a manner of speaking, we deny Him when we don’t show mercy, grace and compassion. We must do all we can to show others we are Christians.

“If we believe not, yet he abideth still” I used to have a pastor that said “God said it. I believe it, and that settles it”. The truthful saying is “God said it and that settles it” It does not matter if I believe it or not. When God says it, it’s done. We can argue all we want. We can come up with our own theology, our own doctrine, our own religious interpretations and our own Magisterium. All of that does not matter. What God said matters, and it is all written in His book. He left us His will in a neat package and we are to live according to that will. It’s the greatest love letter ever written, filled with countless promises and blessings to those who will follow it, and countless curses to those that will not. He cannot deny Himself, and he regards His word above His name. That is pretty high regard and we had better take note of that!

One of the big problems in the Church today is that we strive about things that really don’t matter a hill of beans to God. He hates religion. Religion is the letter of the law. Jesus came and condemned the Pharisees as white washed sepulchers full of dead men’s bones because they were so good at keeping the letter of the law they forgot about keeping the heart of the law. The heart of the law is mercy. The heart of the law is grace. The heart of the law is forgiveness. The heart of the law is compassion. Here is how God describes Himself in Exodus 34:6-7

6 And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,
7 Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.

We should stick to these things and not silly arguments about doctrine and theology. Paul even tells us to stay away from foolish and unlearned questions because they turn into strife (v23 of this chapter). I have discussions with others about the merits of my beliefs and they are good because they help me to understand another system of faith. But we must keep the main thing the main thing. It’s not my theology and doctrine or their theology and doctrine that matters. It’s not what the founding fathers of my religion or the saints of theirs say that matters. It is what the Bible says that matters. We must strive to speak words that will profit each other, not tear each other down. I am guilty of that occasionally and I am sorry for that (you know who you are). Isaiah 1:18-20 says

18 “Come now, and let us reason together,”Says the LORD,
“Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool.
19 If you are willing and obedient, You shall eat the good of the land;
20 But if you refuse and rebel, You shall be devoured by the sword”;
For the mouth of the LORD has spoken

The Lord Himself told Isaiah what we should reason about. The cleansing of sin and the willingness to obey. This we must do with the purpose of speaking words that edify and minister grace, words that are profitable to the hearer. We will all be much better off when we get to that place!

Endure All Things

2 Timothy 2:8-10

8 Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel:
9 Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound.
10 Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.

What a reminder Paul gives to Timothy! I have to wonder if Timothy really needed to be reminded of the fact that Jesus was David’s seed and that he was raised from the dead. So why does Paul make such a statement. Why would he tell Timothy he needs to remember this?

I have read the Bible over and over and over again. I have read it from front to back, straight through in one year, 6 times. I have studied out subject after subject, book after book, line upon line about mor3e things than I can care to guess. I studied through the book of Psalms for over a year, took months in James, Philippians, Galatians and now Timothy. In line with that knowledge, God has granted me a certain amount of wisdom. He has also given me a wonderful ability to craft my words, both with the pen and with my speech, to help instruct others in the truths I have learned. I am a blessed man in this regard.

I do not say all this to boast, or in a manner of pride. I say all this so the next statement w ill carry a little more weight. I have a lot to learn about the word of God, about Jesus Christ His Son, about the love Christ displayed on the cross and about so many other things. I have to continually remember what Jesus has done for me so that I can more fully understand the rest of God’s word. More than that, I must continually remember the price that he paid for my salvation so that I will be more equipped to endure the hardships that may come as a result of my witness. People will give me a hard time if I am vocal about my relationship with Jesus. Look at all the hardship Paul put up with. ! can’t even imagine living a life lived like he did, always oppressed for the gospel. Yet he was willing to pay the price because he remembered that Jesus was raised from the dead, and he knew he would be as well. This prize was worth all the suffering he might go through. This is why Paul continued to preach despite the hardships he faced.

The word of God is boundless Even if they had killed Paul, there were 12 other disciples preaching the gospel. They all were willing to give their lives for the gospel also, because they knew Jesus was risen from the dead and they would be as well. Paul continued to write letters from prison and he converted prison guards in Rome. He was relentless and as a result we have the mighty lessons that the New Testament contains. His pen became even mightier than his preaching was and I am sure the officials in Rome were not real pleased with all this church uprising going on about their kingdom. They could not keep the word of God contained and that is as true today as it was in Paul’s day. The word of God will endure until the end of time. Jesus said heaven and earth would pass away before His word would pass away. His word is boundless forevermore.

Because of this, Paul was ready to endure anything that came His way. Listen to this excerpt from
2 Corinthians vs 23-31:

23 Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft.
24 Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.
25 Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep;
26 In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;
27 In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.
28 Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.
29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?
30 If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities.
31 The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not.

Paul was an extraordinary man who lived an extraordinary life. He gave up the riches of a Pharisee and one sent by the Pharisees to live a life of great tribulation, wandering across southern Europe (as we know it today) to preach the gospel. He was willing to endure anything that came his way. I have to ask myself what I am willing to endure! I find it hard to go a day without food. I can’t stand having pain anywhere in my body. I can’t swim well now with this neuropathy in my hands and feet. I wouldn’t mind being in the wilderness wandering and hiking, or in the sea in a boat. But I would mind if there was peril in front of me, or if I had gone through a rough time in one of these places. Paul just kept on going, knowing there was another trial or test right around the corner. Nothing phased him!

I don’t know where you are with your faith, but I know where I am. I would not have gotten through one of Paul’s journeys without saying it isn’t worth it. I would have gone home and just worried about my own circle of friends. Why go to all that risk. Let someone else do it! But then I think about the relentless call God must have been pouring into Paul’s life and I wonder if I would have the courage he did if only I would yield more of myself to Him. I think back to a little song I wrote a few years ago and say once again “I’m Yours”

Wherever you ask me to go
I’ll go
Whatever you ask me to do
I’ll do
Whatever you ask me to say
I’ll say

Whatever you want me to give
I’ll give
However you want me to live
I’ll live
Whoever you want me to love
I’ll love

Because I am yours
All yours
I have given all my heart and soul to you
Eternally yours
All yours
Help me live my life to glorify your name

Consider This

2 Timothy 2:1-7

2 Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
2 And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.
3 Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
4 No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.
5 And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.
6 The husbandman that laboureth must be first partaker of the fruits.
7 Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things.

This admonition to Timothy still lives today. We can all take a lot out of this. I have a friend who sometimes tells me that certain passages of the Bible that are spoken to an individual are only for that individual, or group of individuals. I tend to believe that the Bible speaks to all of us in every way. These verses can teach us a lot of wisdom if we read them as if they were spoken to us. Remember that the Bible was given to teach us the ways of God. That is why I entitled this lesson “Consider this” because Paul tells Timothy to consider what he says and asks that the Lord give him understanding in all things. I pray today I can add just a little bit to your understanding, or at least throw a spark into your thinking.

First, Paul says to be strong in grace. Boy, I fall short there. I do not always speak things that minister grace to the hearer (Ephesians 4:29). I can get rash and hasty when trying to make a point and that is wrong of me. I am far from perfect and often the pride rises up in me and wants to prove my point for me. I confirm that I can’t be wrong and that the other must be in error. That is not grace
Grace has compassion and empathy in its language and conduct. Grace is often explained as an acronym – God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. Jesus had compassion and put Himself in our place, giving us the greatest gift ever given, our salvation and eternal life. We should do everything we can to share that gift with others around us. This is also being strong in grace. We should not continue to sin so grace will abound (Romans 6:1-2). His grace provided a way of escape from our sin, and being strong in grace also means we are standing strong in the eternal battle between our flesh and the spirit within. In Timothy’s day, as in today, there are plenty of diversions and evils that can whittle away at our faith. Stay strong in grace.

Paul then tells Timothy to make sure he is faithful to commit his teachings to others. Isn’t this a job for all of us? Isn’t it important that we take Pauls’ teaching and commit them to others, that they might know the mind of Christ? Of course it is! His teaching on love in 1 Corinthians 13 is certainly much needed in our world today. His teaching on the relationship between husband and wife in Ephesians 5, the words about the amor of God in Ephesians 6, the fruit of the spirit in Galatians 5:22-23, the gifts of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12, the teaching on the body of Christ in Ephesians 4 and so many others are there for us to share with others. This is not just to Timothy, but to all of us. Be diligent to help others understand the truth of God’s word.

Then Paul tells Timothy that he must endure hardship just like a soldier in a battle does. I have a friend who served in both Vietnam and Iraq. Living in the jungle, hiking through pouring rain not knowing where the enemy was lurking, the bugs that were everywhere and the snakes that hung in the trees. You never knew when trouble would come. Then they were in the desert, with bombs going on in seemingly the safest places. Trouble all around. You had to be prepared for it and willing to endure it. We, as soldiers of the cross, must do the same. For most of us, the hardest thing we face is rejection and ridicule when we stand up for Christ. People will mock us and make fun of us but we must endure that. Christ didn’t say a word during parts of His trial. Why should we get so boisterous! Minister grace, even in the hardest times!

Paul next compares this walk with an athletic event. We don’t enter a competition to lose, and we don’t compete with the attitude that we will break the rules. I find it fascinating and frustrating how some think they have the right rules and I have the wrong ones. The rules of this race are quite clear and they are in God’s word for all of us to live in and walk in. It’s not just the rules of conduct and character I am talking about. It is the rules of who goes to heaven and who does not, of who has salvation and who does not, of who receives God’s blessing and who does not. Baptist differ from Catholics. Methodists differ from Evangelicals, Lutherans differ from Pentecostal, and so on. Yet we all follow the same God! The rules to be a Christian are simple. Jesus explains it in John 3. Paul goes into it in Romans 8. The rule to keep our salvation is in Matthew 7:22. Obedience is the key. Other than that, all other rules are secondary. Let’s make sure we put first things first!

Lastly, Paul says that a farmer who works hard must partake of the crops first. I like that thought. I planted a garden this year and I hope I can be the first to partake of the fruit in bout 90 days. I am a bit at loss as to how this fits in with the rest of Paul’s admonishment here so I’ll leave this one up to you/ If anyone would like to leave a comment on how this fits, please do so!

These are the things Paul tells Timothy to consider. Be strong in grace, willing to witness, ready to endure hardship and fight the good fight, ending the race knowing that you followed the rules. I’ve been honest with how I am doing on these things. How are you doing? Consider this today!