Sermon Series: Lord, I want to be better
2 Timothy 3:10-17
10 You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, 11 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. 12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
How strong is your foundation? The most important part of any structure is the foundation. The strength and durability of any structure depend on the strength of the foundation. The role of the foundation is to support the structure that rests upon it. If the foundation of a structure fails, the structure itself no matter how strong it may be will also give way along with the sinking foundation. When we see the failure of a structure, in most cases it can be attributed to the failure of the foundation.
Again, I ask you, how strong is your foundation? Foundations that are pre-made can be laid in place or those that are made on the spot are poured into the designated area. In either case, they both need time to settle and become anchored to the surrounding soil. Such is the case with us, our foundation is the result of someone else’s pouring into us that has settled over time and become an anchor for the way we live, operate, and do business. If we want to check our foundation in any area of our life, all we have to do is take a quick three-question self-assessment. Ask ourselves, a) what have we been taught? b) what do we believe, and why? c) in what areas do we struggle? For me, one of the areas I struggle with is what happens to us after death? The apostle Paul says, “Absent from the body present with the Lord.” This is what I want to believe, but then in the Old Testament we read that every time someone died, they rested with their father’s. That’s one of my struggles, what about you? We all have things we struggle with and have difficulty reconciling, the question we need to answer, are we aware of our areas of struggle?
The truth is that much of what we believe and know to be true we have received from others. How many of you remember film? You know that thing they used to use in cameras. Essentially, we would point our camera at an object and as we pressed the button the shutter would close capturing a reflection of the light from the object. That light would then make an impression on the film allowing us to freeze a moment in time. Of course, the image still needed to be processed and developed. As we listen and interact with others the things they say, the way they handle their business and the feelings they convey regarding life and issues in life leave an impression on us that we process and develop over time. This impression will either stay with us or be modified, but it becomes a part of us.
Perhaps, this is one of the reasons why in verses 10 & 11 the apostle Paul reminds his protégé Timothy of the importance of knowing something about the people who are pouring into us. Paul points out that there are specific things Timothy has learned about him. While Timothy has been with Paul, he has had an opportunity to lean about Paul’s teaching, way of life, how he lived, purpose as a preacher of the gospel, his faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings, and life experiences. Timothy has also had the opportunity to observe how God delivered Paul from the trials he has faced.
This raises the question, what do we know about those who have poured into us? Do we know anything about how they lived, what they have been through and experienced? What about whom they studied under and were taught by, not to mention what was the source of their teacher’s teachings? What do they believe and why do they believe what they believe? What has God delivered them from? If others are shaping our person, faith, and walk then it would be wise on our part to know something about those that are pouring into us.
Have you ever wondered why the godly are persecuted? The desire of all people is to avoid persecution. However, the apostle points out those who desire to please God should expect to experience challenges, hardships, and difficulties in life. Some theologians and Biblical commentators would suggest that the apostle Paul was a bit of a martyr and took especial delight in showcasing the fact that he experienced what some would term as extreme suffering in his work to advance the gospel. From the rendering of verse 12 “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” I think that Paul is advising believers to prepare for life’s difficulties so that when they happen we are not caught off guard. The reality whether we want to believe it or not, we all have the capacity to handle anything that we have prepared for and know is coming. The stuff that generally gives us the greatest difficulty is that which catches us unaware and unprepared. It would seem as though the apostle is informing believers that suffering and persecution is part of the job description. Usually, the last line of any job description reads “other duties as assigned.” This means that stuff we do not like, care for, or want to do can be thrown at us at any time and we need to be prepared for it and prepared to handle it when it comes. It is interesting that when our bosses ask us to do stuff we really do not want to do, we often look around at others feeling persecuted and ask why me?
Imagine being engaged in a conversation with someone about the economy, family, or some other topic of the day. Now, imagine out of the blue the other person begins to talk about their corns and bunions. In verse 13 the apostle Paul appears to off on a tangent. He digresses and interjects a comment about evil men and imposters. Within every digression there is a message. Paul offers Timothy a message in a message. It would seem that the salient points of Paul’s message to Timothy in verse 13 are that not everyone is what they seem or appear to be, we need to not only listen to what people say, but also pay attention to how they live, and watch out for foreign objects. Foreign objects are things that have no substance or place and if they are allowed to settle they will over time compromise the integrity of our foundation. They say, those who can, do and those who can’t teach. Much like politicians, there was a statistic that said 47% of congress are millionaires compared to one percent of the total population of the United States. Talk about being out of touch with regular people. Whatever we hear it must be filtered through the screen of what we see. A good rule of thumb is, do they practice what they preach? The apostle Paul uses the words imposters, deceiving and being deceived. An imposter is someone who pretends to be something they are not, and to deceive is to intentionally promote something that is false or not true. Beekeepers are interesting people. Beekeepers use smoke when they are working with bees. The smoke basically helps to disarm the bees so that the beekeeper can work in and around the hive without getting stung. People who promote and practice deception are actually a lot like beekeepers blowing smoke to disarm their victims. The truth is hidden behind a cloud of smoke and only after the smoke clears can you see the truth. Paul encourages Timothy to watch out for these kinds of people. As we listen to those who proclaim the gospel let us inquire of what we are hearing, a) am I receiving the word or the world? If I want the world I can watch the news; b) am I receiving the breadth of the word or personal baggage? One builds up and the other weighs us down; c) do I see the sermon or am I only hearing a sermon? Is it practical or preachy? People who practice and promote deception usually are good at offering medicine to others, but have tremendous difficulty taking their own medicine. Do they take their own medicine?
The apostle Paul comes back in verses 14,15 & 16. He says, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it.” Paul encourages Timothy to stay the course because the foundation that has been poured into Timothy has been tested and proven to be strong. It is no secret that Paul was the one who helped to lay the foundation for Timothy, but Paul does not place the emphasis on himself, but rather on the ingredients that were used to shape, mold and form Timothy’s foundation. In verse 15 the apostle reminds Timothy of those ingredients. He says, “from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. When we take verses 14 & 15 together, we see that the four ingredients that were used to form Timothy’s foundation are:
a) Consistent teaching – Timothy’s teachers lived what they taught, they were templates that modeled their own teaching
b) A steady diet of Scripture – While there are many things we can omit from our diet, the word of God is not one of them
c) Applying what he learned to his own life – Any Bible teaching or sermon that does not contain a how to section that can be practically applied has missed the mark – The purpose of teaching is instruction and the purpose of preaching is application
d) The primary source used was the word of God – While we may consult other source material for reference purposes, the word of God should be the primary source for godly living
Now that the apostle has laid out the materials we need for a solid foundation, the question is how do we use them? Have you ever noticed that shovels, picks, and rakes, do not come with instructions? The presumption is that the buyer already knows how to use them. Fortunately for us, Paul explains how to use our ingredients. In verse 16 he states, “All Scripture is God-breathed.” This is a very curious statement but it is meant to assure Timothy of the authority of Scripture. It is easier to receive something from a trusted source than a source that is unreliable. The Scriptures can be trusted because they are the words that God spoke and still uses to speak to us today. They are formed from the breath of God. Paul then points to four ways we can use the Scriptures as our primary source:
1. Teaching – the goal of teaching is to provide instruction in a specific area, the Scriptures offer instruction in all areas of life
2. Rebuking – have you ever gone off course and not known that you are off course? The Scriptures provide us with God’s established boundaries and parameters for what is acceptable, unacceptable, right, wrong, moral and immoral – they help to keep us accountable
3. Correcting – the truth is that we all make mistakes and for as long as we live we will make mistakes, the Scriptures help us to fix what we have broken, get back on course if we have gone off, and right the wrongs we have committed – part of being accountable is making the necessary corrections and adjustments after they have been pointed out
4. Training – athletes who want to be the best in their sport engage in a series of repetitious exercises and drills called training, the Scriptures, like training, help us to hone the things we do well and strengthen those areas we need to improve upon. They offer godly reinforcement for godly living
One of the essential questions this text answers is how can I become better? The answer according to the text is, I can become better by using the word of God as my primary source of instruction. When we use the word of God as our foundation for life we not only become better but we also will be better equipped to handle whatever life throws at us.