My Sunday sermons given at Sellwood Baptist Church in Portland, OR, for those who missed church or just want to see what we're up to. You can also listen to these sermons if you prefer. Just go to our church website and click the "Online Church" tab. Here's the link:

Monday, January 11, 2010

"Handlers of Truth" II Tim. 2:15 - (01/10/10)

"Handlers of Truth"
II Timothy 2:15

This morning our emphasis is on God’s amazing Book, the Holy Bible:
  • The English word Bible comes from the Greek word, bíblos (βίβλος), which simply means, “book, or scroll.” But the Word of God is unlike any other book in all of history.
  • It was written by more than 40 authors from many different walks of life – kings, rich men, poor men, fishermen, poets, government officials, teachers, and prophets.
  • It was written in three languages – Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic.
  • It was written on three continents – Asia, Africa, and Europe.
  • Its writing spanned a period of over 1,600 years.
  • It consists of 39 Old Testament books, plus 27 New Testament books, forming a collection of 66 books, that are really one united book.
  • The Bible is the biggest “Best Seller” in history – over 6 billion copies have been printed worldwide.
  • World sales of the Bible are more than 100 million copies every year.
  • There are approximately 6,800 distinct languages in the world. The Bible has been translated (in whole or in part) into around 3,000 of those languages.
  • Many people died translating it into the common tongues.
  • Countless people have died protecting it.
  • It is the most hated and most beloved book in all of history.
The Bible makes some audacious claims about itself, including that it was written by men under the direct control of God who guided them in writing the very words that perfectly reflect the heart and mind of God himself.
  • II Peter 1:20-21, “But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”
  • II Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is inspired by God [God-breathed] and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”
  • Hebrews 4:12 says of the Scriptures, “For the Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
But today I want us to concentrate on another familiar verse that speaks about the Scriptures, but with a different emphasis. If indeed the Scriptures are the God-breathed revelation of the Living God Himself as we believe, then what is our obligation to that revealed Word? What is incumbent upon us if that is true?

Paul tells us in II Timothy 2:15, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the Word of Truth.”

What do we mean by “accurately handling” the Word of God. Let me tell you a story that illustrates what it does NOT mean:
A man was looking for some specific guidance from God so he prayed and asked God to make his Bible open at the page He wanted him to read. So the man opened his Bible randomly and the first verse that his eyes met was II Corinthians 13:12. It said, “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” A little discouraged he tried again, and this time he found himself at I Corinthians 14:39, “Do not forbid the use of tongues.” Somewhat confused yet undaunted and convinced he was on the right track, he tried again and the first verse he found was Matthew 27:5, “…he went away and hanged himself.” The very next verse “God led him to” was Luke 10:37, “... go thou and do likewise!”
Let me ask you, was that man “handling accurately” the Word of Truth? No! He was using the Bible like an Ouija Board or a deck of Tarot Cards. People twist and torture the Scriptures all the time to try and make it say what they want it to say, but that is not a legitimate way to handle the Word of Truth.

So let’s look at II Timothy 2:15 again to see what it really says:
“Be diligent”
  • That means to spare no effort or expense. We are exhorted to put in the time and study of God’s Word necessary to understand it. See chapter 4 for the same expression used twice. In 4:9, “Make every effort to come to me soon.” In 4:21 Paul writes to Timothy, “Make every effort to come before winter.”
“…to present yourself”
  • This is a military term meaning “to report for duty or inspection.” We need to take God’s Word seriously, like a soldier reading the orders from his general telling him to report for duty.
“…approved to God”
  • Don’t kid yourself. God sees, He knows, and He weighs the thoughts and intentions of the heart. I don’t know about you but someday I want to hear His words, “Well done, Mike, good and faithful servant!”
“…as a workman”
  • As Christ’s disciples we have a task to perform that requires effort. The Christian life is not a pony ride or a walk in the park. It is about working while there is yet time.
“…who does not need to be ashamed,”
  • What are the kinds of things that make a workman feel ashamed?
    • Getting caught being lazy
    • Getting caught being dishonest, stealing, etc.
    • Getting caught doing lousy work
    • Getting caught bad-mouthing the boss
“…handling accurately”
  • KJV says, “rightly dividing,” a phrase that is somewhat confusing but not inaccurate. The Greek word Paul uses here means to “cut straight.” It implies:
    1. Exegeting God’s Word carefully— “What does it really say?”
    2. Interpreting God’s Word correctly— “What does it really mean?”
    3. Applying God’s Word honestly— “How does it apply to me?”
“…the Word of Truth.”
  • Here Paul refers to the Bible, the Gospel, the Word of God, the Law of the Lord, etc.
  • In John 17 Jesus prays to the Father on behalf of His disciples. In verse 17 He prays, “Sanctify them in the truth. Thy Word is truth.” There can be no better testimony than that of Jesus himself.
Many years ago, as recorded in John 18:38, Pontius Pilate posed the famous question, “What is truth?” The world asks the same question today in many different ways:
  • Are there really such things as “right” and “wrong”?
  • Does absolute truth exist?
  • Whose truth sets the standard to follow? Mine? Yours? Some guru’s?
  • Are there such things as absolutes, or is everything relative?
Jesus gives the answer to all these questions in John 14:6: Jesus said [to Thomas], “I am the WAY, the TRUTH, and the LIFE; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.” He was claiming to be the absolute embodiment of truth, as well as its final arbiter.

Pontius Pilate would have fit in well in America, 2010. He was very much like the majority of people around us.
  • People in post-modern America are uncomfortable with the idea of absolute truth. In my opinion we Christians are largely to blame. We have waffled and blinked time and again when we should have stood firm on the truth.
  • The American legal system with its horror stories about dirty attorneys, cops, and judges has left us somewhat jaded and disillusioned.
  • The commonly held belief that we come from pond-scum has led to a devaluing of human life. But on the other hand, everyone is looking for self-esteem and meaning in life. You can’t have it both ways.
  • Fetuses are just tissue with no soul, so it’s OK to “abort” them. But we will spare no effort to save a preemie. That is illogical. Yet when does the soul show up? Two minutes before birth?
  • People are saying that homosexuality is just a perfectly normal alternative lifestyle and they add, “You have no right to judge me!”
  • Our schools are teaching that there are no moral absolutes and we make our own truth. But then, what gives you the right to tell me I’m wrong to beat an old man to death with a tire iron and steal his spare change?
The world is confused and rightly so, because in too many churches the preachers in the pulpits and the Christians in the highways and byways are afraid to speak the truth for fear of offending anyone. The problem with that approach is that the Gospel and the Word of God are by nature, offensive. They present man as sinful and rotten to the core with no hope of salvation by his own efforts. Saying that tends to offend sinners. I would point out that Jesus offended sinners every time He opened His mouth. If we are faithful to the Word of God, we too will offend the world.

TRUTH is kind of like a tiger in a cage. A tiger can be gentle or it can be very rough. It can show love or it can kill. People feel uneasy around both tigers and truth because we can’t really control either one.
  • We work with them
  • We respect them
  • We don’t abuse them
  • We must not take them for granted
That is why Paul exhorts us in Ephesians 4:15 to “…speak the truth in love.” Truth needs to be handled lovingly, carefully, accurately, and precisely because it has the power both for great good and great harm. Just think of some of the expressions we commonly use:
  • “The truth will come back to haunt you.”
  • “The truth will out,” meaning that the truth will be told sooner or later.
  • “Lies, like chickens, always come home to roost.”
The Word of God is TRUE. We need to love it, respect it, and work with it; but never take it for granted. To twist it or ignore it is very dangerous. Jesus is the embodiment of Truth: Truth Incarnate.

The following by an unknown author is a fitting tribute to the Holy Bible.
“This book contains the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners, and the happiness of believers. Its doctrines are holy, its precepts are binding, its histories are true, and its decisions are immutable. Read it to be wise, believe it to be saved, and practice it to be holy. It contains light to direct you, food to support you, and comfort to cheer you. It is the traveler’s map, the pilot’s compass, the soldier’s sword, and the Christian’s charter. Here Paradise is restored, Heaven opened, and the gates of Hell disclosed. Christ is its grand subject, our good its design, and the glory of God its end. It should fill the memory, rule the heart, and guide the feet. Read it slowly, frequently, prayerfully. It is a mine of wealth, a paradise of glory, and a river of pleasure. It is given you in life, will be opened in the judgment, and will be remembered forever. It involves the highest responsibility, will reward the greatest labor, and will condemn all who trifle with its sacred contents. It is the Book of books—God’s Book—the revelation of God to man.” (Author unknown)

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About Me

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Since 1994 I have been the pastor of Sellwood Baptist Church in Portland, OR. Before that I was a missionary in South Brazil for many years. Until just recently I have also served as a police chaplain with the Portland Police Bureau. Now, however, God has a new assignment for us. My wife and I have been appointed with WorldVenture and are preparing to move to Ireland to help plant a new church in Sligo, a small city in NW Ireland. I'm married to Ramel, a crazy, beautiful redhead that I love more than life itself. We have three great kids, Jonathan, Chris, and Simoni who have given us ten wonderful grandchildren. We are truly blessed.

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