It’s Time To Grow Up Part 6
Scriptures: 2 Timothy 2:15; Hebrews 4:12
This is part six of my series, “It’s Time To Grow Up.” Last Sunday I shared with you that Paul told Timothy to take the Word of God and entrust it with faithful men who could take that Word and teach it to others. Paul told Timothy to remind the people of those things pertaining to Christ and to do so without arguing with them because those types of discussions are useless. If you have ever had a discussion with someone who “refused” to listen because they were more focused on what they had to say versus listening to what you were saying then you can understand what Paul was telling Timothy. I am sure most of us have felt this way at one time or another. When you left those conversations I am sure you thought about how much time you had wasted trying to have a conversation with someone who would not listen. This is the image that I see when I think about the direction that Paul had given to Timothy. These are the conversations that we often have with immature/baby Christians. There is always a “why” or a “but” to whatever you’re trying to help them to see. In some instances this is because they sincerely want to learn. However, in a lot of instances they already know what they think about the subject matter and they only want to hear things that agree with what they already believe. Any teaching that contradict their current beliefs if fought against. This is what Timothy was fighting against early in his ministry and why Paul saw fit to encourage him while also pushing him to stand firm.
In order to help Timothy build his confidence and be able to firmly stand on the Word, Paul told Timothy to “Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15) In the Greek, that word “study” means to “make an effort; give due diligence; be diligent; labor. To hasten to do a thing, to exert oneself.” When you do this, there are no Cliff notes or short cuts, just your sincere study of the Word to find the truth – regardless of how that truth exposes sin in your life. This type of studying is more along the lines of the research you would do when writing a paper to justify your position on a topic. A baby Christian does not appreciate this type of study because it takes time away from other things they enjoy much better. A baby Christian likes the Word in small doses with highlights of what they should remember as long as it does not cause too much change in their lifestyle. However, a mature Christian seeks the truth even if it means hours of study and having to change their current thinking because of the truths they are learning. This is the type of study that Paul was telling Timothy to consistently do so that he would never have to be ashamed when discussing the Word. The advice that Paul gave to Timothy is great advice for us also. Let’s examine this verse a little closer.
“Study to show yourself approved unto God…” When we study it is not to please man, but to be approved of by God as one of His workmen. Why is this important? It is difficult to expect that the Holy Spirit of God can continuously help us without our studying and praying. When we study we give the Holy Spirit something to work with. When we study we open ourselves up to be taught by Him. There is a difference between studying and meditating on the Word of God and reading it. Baby Christians read the Word occasionally, but mature Christians study it. Baby Christians read but do not always comprehend because they read in short bursts. They like devotionals because it contains one or two verses and it tells them what they should take from those verses. I am not knocking on those of you who read devotionals because at least you’re reading something, but those are daily snacks. If you really want to eat and get full, you need to study the Word. Babies can get full eating a small snack, but grow-ups need a real meal. As you grow, it will take more than a snack to sustain you. Mature Christians read the Word and allow the Word to change their life. Are you seeing the difference? As a pastor, Paul to Timothy to study to show himself approved before God. Let’s focus on the statement “approved before God.”
When we spend time in God’s Word we grow and mature into someone who can truthfully represent God. Representing God and being approved of by Him is not always about how many Scriptures you have memorized, but how you are living them! When we study we are seeking God versus our own intellectual gratification! We are not studying so we can quote Scriptures to others to show how smart we are, we are seeking Him so that in time we can help others find Him. When we patiently and consistently study God’s Word we will continue finding truths as we continue to grow. I am still learning today so I can testify that the learning never stops! When you begin to understand and accept the truth you are able to verbalize it clearly and with confidence. Your solid foundation will enable you to never have to be ashamed. Paul said that a person who studies becomes “a workman that needs not to be ashamed…” Why, because they are “rightly dividing the word of truth.”
How many of you have ever hired someone to work on your house and they did a really poor job? Their workmanship was sloppy and they did not do the job right? When they returned to your home to fix the problem they were ashamed and could not look you in the eye. Have you ever completed a job or task that you knew was not right and you felt ashamed? This is the image that Paul was painting for Timothy – that by dedicating time to studying Timothy would never have to be ashamed of the Word because he would know he was applying it correctly. When we do a job right and it’s done to perfection we stand back, look at it, and feel proud of the work we accomplished? Likewise, when we are called out for doing sloppy work we are embarrassed and ashamed. No one likes that feeling and that is why baby Christians keep their mouths closed when it comes to sharing God’s Word. They reflect on what they do not know and do not want to open their mouths and let it be known that they do not know. They live by the statement, “It’s better to keep silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” This statement, by whoever said it, was probably based on Proverbs 17:28 which says, “Even a fool, when he holds his peace, is counted wise: and he that shuts his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.” When people are unsure about what they know they will remain quiet. When people think others are much smarter than they are, they will remain quiet. Paul was encouraging Timothy not to be quiet. We must remember that Timothy was a young pastor and he was dealing with “Christians” who questioned him because of his age and possibly because they believed he was not old enough to teach them anything. Imagine dealing with that day in and day out, people questioning what you’re teaching them because of your age and inexperience. He was telling Timothy that his confidence in his knowledge and ability to teach and apply the Word of God accurately will come through his study. His study will lead to the right understanding and understanding will lead to the right application. Let’s examine the phrase “dividing the word.”
When we read the phrase, “dividing the word,” it is a metaphor taken from a father or steward cutting and distributing bread among his children. We must have the confidence and courage to cut a straight line for the truth. You’ve heard the phrase that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line? When we are accurately applying the truths from the Word of God we are drawing people a straight line to heaven. That straight line means that we are not shifting to the right or the left; we are walking what they call “the straight and narrow.” Baby Christians have a hard time with this concept because making straight cuts goes against the world’s values. The world wants us to change the cuts depending on the situation. The world wants us to ease up on the blade when the cut goes too deep. Its okay to scratch the surface, but you can’t cut too deep. The world would prefer that we use a butter knife that does not cut at all versus a steak knife that’s designed to cut to the bone. Baby Christians are okay having the Word scratch the surface of their skin as long as it can be fixed with a Band-Aid. The Band-Aid will “hide” the scratch until it heals and therefore the baby Christians do not have to be reminded of why they were scratched in the first place. Mature Christians allows the Word to cut deep and then experience more pain when they have to get the cut stitched up because through the stitching comes the real healing!
If you have ever had stitches you will know what I am telling you. Some scratches heal and over time even the scar fades away so there is no proof that there was ever any damaged to the skin. This is not so with a deep cut requiring stitches. When you get stitches, it often leaves a scar. When you see that scar you remember what happened that led to the cut. Remember what Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Please listen closely to this. Baby Christians allow the Word of God to “scratch” them. They hear it, knows it true, get convicted, and then justify their actions under grace and don’t change. There was a scratch there and they cover it with a Band-Aid so that it cannot be seen. For a short period of time they would see the Band-Aid that covered the scratch and remember the word that they heard. But as time goes by and the scratch begins to fade, the Band-Aid comes off and they can barely see it. In time, there is no more pain, the scratch disappears and they forget all about it. This is not true in “most” cases for a mature Christian although there are moments when it could happen. Mature Christians allows the Word to cut deeply because they know those cuts leads to life. When they are initially cut, they begin to work on the cut. They begin to search out remedies to heal the cut. Those remedies are found internally as they digest what they have learned and decide to make the necessary changes. As they accept the truth and acknowledge the change that needs to happen, they get the stitches to close the cut. You see, for a mature Christian as long as they refuse to change that cut stays open. They don’t forget the Word that cut them!!! They know what they need to do and they hear the Holy Spirit continuously speaking to them about the change. Their cuts, without change, do not heal because they cannot forget the Word that was sown within them. Their cuts only begin to heal when they begin to change – this, my friends, is called growth! The stitches are applied as they make their necessary changes and eventually the cuts are completely healed. When the change is complete the stitches are removed, but the scar remains. That scar becomes a testament for them that are never forgotten. The scars become part of their story. You see, no one can tell your story like you because you know how you got every single scar that is present. Your “growth scars” are your story!!! Baby Christians forget the lessons because they only allowed the Word to scratch them and eventually the scratches faded away. Mature Christians accepts the cuts and those cuts leave scars. Do you see this? When we rightly divide the Word of truth, it will cut us and those willing to hear it!
Let me summarize this for you. If you are a mature Christian you study the Bible for truth, not for confirmation of some half-truth that you already believe. If you are a mature Christian, when you study your Bible and you read where it teaches something that you disagree with, you continue to search to ensure that what you are studying is accurate. As a mature Christian, once you have studied and proven that your view and understanding of what you have studied is wrong, YOU CHANGE! You don’t decide that the Bible is wrong because you disagree with it, you decide that you will line up with it and change your perspective. As a mature Christian, when you talk to others and they ask you why you believe what you do, you are capable of sharing with them the Gospel of Christ and how that Gospel changed you (and you have the scars to prove it!) You are able to do this because you have studied and accepted its truths. As a mature Christian, you are not ashamed! You are not ashamed to say Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior! You are not ashamed when people talk about how strict or old fashion Christianity is today. You are not ashamed when you see someone bless their food at the table because you have already blessed yours. You are not ashamed when you are asked questions about the Bible because even if you may not have the answer on the tip of your tongue immediately you know where to go to find it. You are not ashamed when you tell someone you do not believe as they do. You are not ashamed to stand up and say the Bible is right and someone else is wrong. You are not ashamed to be called a Christian and can explain why you are one. You are not ashamed to say no because the Bible tell me so! You are not ashamed to stand before your friends and call out their behavior as wrong, especially if your friends are Christians.
Lastly, you are not ashamed of your scars, where the Word of God cut you and you needed stitches. You see, you were able to change your life because the Word cut you. People stop stealing because the Word cut them. People stopped fornicating and committing adultery because the Word cut them. People are reducing their lying because the Word is still cutting them. We change because the Word cuts us! We say “Ouch” because the Word cuts us! We are not ashamed to say that when we compared our life to the Word, we received some cuts. We are not ashamed to explain that those cuts healed over time as we began to understand the truths of God’s Word. We are not ashamed to show them our scars and teach them about our healing process through the grace of God. We are not ashamed to tell them that as we continue to grow, we continue to get cuts every now and then but they heal faster now because we are seeking the truth of God’s Word.
If you, “Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15) then you will recognize through experience that “….the word of God is living, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” When you have this recognition and allow the Word to change you and mature you, you will be on your way to growing up. I will conclude this series on next Sunday (if the Lord wills.)
Until next time, “The Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord lift up His countenance on you and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26)