May 2, 2010 2 Timothy 3:14-4:2 The Study of Scripture Core Value #2
We consider the study of scripture to be essential.
God’s Word has historical basis but speaks to each generation and to each person.
We want to apply God’s Word to our daily lives and desire to provide opportunities to enhance each person’s spiritual growth, including group study, discussion, prayer and the preaching of God’s Word.
There’s nothing that’s too surprising about that statement, right?
We are a church, and as a church, we strive to take scripture seriously.
But what’s that really mean, that the study of scripture is essential?
It’s been a long time since we translated the Bible into English. The printing press and the ability to read have made reading the Bible one of the easiest things to do in the world! (for most of us at least)
In fact, most of us probably have our own personal copies…bound in leather with our name etched on the front in little gold or silver letters.
Maybe we’ve taken a pen or a highlighter to the pages, so we can easily and quickly find the verse that we’re looking for.
Or maybe you’ve scribbled notes in the margins—nuggets from sermons or Bible studies, or funerals, things that we didn’t want to forget.
Or if you’re like me, your Bible also serves as a kind of personal filing cabinet, filled with notes or pictures or other little trinkets that act like bookmarks here and there.
And all of that is good! It’s a good thing! It’s a good thing not to rely on priests or popes to tell us what the Bible means, or how to live our lives.
It’s a good thing that we can see what the Bible says to us in real time—that we can turn to a psalm when we need comfort, to a gospel when we need a challenge…it’s a good thing that we can turn to Proverbs when we need wisdom or a letter that Paul wrote when we need hope or encouragement!
But you know, there is a dark side to having our own personal copies of the Bible.
And that’s exactly why the study of scripture is so essential, like the core value says.
See, one problem with owning our own personal copy is that it’s there, on our shelf to use whenever and wherever we want to.
It’s a good thing, but it’s easy to take something for granted when it’s there all the time.
When was the last time you purchased some air? Have you paid your Sunlight bill lately? How much do you value Sunlight and oxygen?
Sure, we know and understand that Sunlight and oxygen sustain us, but we don’t value them in the same way we value…say…cable TV or cheap gas, right?
It’s easy to take Sunlight and Air for granted, because they are freely given and freely to be used. They’re available in some form, even on the cloudiest, rainiest day we can imagine.
But that’s part of the danger in having your own Bible!
They say familiarity breeds contempt. But maybe the more dangerous thing when we’re talking about the Bible isn’t contempt as much as mis-use or apathy.
You already heard the passage for this morning—where Paul writes to Timothy, saying
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
He goes on to say: All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.
Now, this is a familiar passage to at least some of us. It’s one that had special significance for me early in my Christian journey, as I struggled with how and why understanding the Bible is an important part of following Jesus.
But it’s also been a passage that’s been really misused over the years. It’s commonly used as a kind of ‘proof text’ to support an idea or a belief, often with very little love or care shown towards those who might disagree.
When I use the term ‘proof text,’ I’m talking about anytime we use our personal Bible like a personal ammunition dump. I’m talking about any time we lift a verse out of it’s context and use it like ammunition, defending our stance on an issue often at the cost of the fellowship that I talked about last week.
So this passage in Timothy is commonly used to support and allow proof-texting like that—after all if all scripture is useful and inspired by God, then it goes to follow that I can use some obscure passage from a minor prophet to tell you how stupid you are, or how wrong, or how foolish.
After all, if I just begin by using this passage from 2 Timothy, I’ve just demonstrated that I have the very Word of God on my side!
That’s the kind of Bible study that I’m not real excited about.
It’s the kind that treats it like a tool rather than a living, breathing organism that has a life of its own.
Let me put it another way. One unfortunate consequence of the printing press is that we can start to feel like we own the Bible rather than the Bible owning us.
When we own the Bible, we can feel free to use it however we see fit. Whether it’s propping up a coffee table that has a leg that’s too short, or defending and promoting certain codes of conduct that keep women in their place.
We can do that because it’s sitting on our bookshelf and we have learned to read it for ourselves.
But just maybe the Bible ought to own us instead of us owning it. Maybe it’s more like a seed than a weapon.
What I mean is, maybe God intended us to be like fields, receptive to the seed that’s been sown among us.
Paul says to Timothy, ‘remember from whom you learned these things.’
Can you remember the person who first told you about Jesus?
Can you remember the teacher or the pastor or the friend or the family member?
Can you remember the first group of people who took you into a deeper understanding of who God is and the Love that He had for you?
That’s the scripture in action! Those seeds are meant for our salvation!
The Kingdom of God is not a head-game. It’s not about mental submission to an eloquent argument that can’t be defeated. It’s not about having the ability to contain the sum of all wisdom in our minds so that we can understand all there is to know about the Bible.
Rather, ‘in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.’ So ‘The word became flesh, and dwelt among us!’
When I talk about the Bible owning us—I’m not talking about the physical words on the page—I’m talking about the Living and Active Word of God that is sharper than a double-edged sword. I’m talking about the Spirit of God that is and was and forever will be breathing new life into the forgotten places, bringing resurrection hope into each heart, cultivating our lives into fruitful fields, ready to yield their harvest.
Here’s the thing—the Living word of God is like a living seed.
The deeper you plant it within yourself, the deeper you fall in love with Jesus. And the more you love Jesus, the more that seed grows, producing fruit after fruit after fruit…kind of like a Zucchini plant!
Last Summer, we planted some Zucchini in our garden. I love growing Zucchini because it’s invincible. You don’t have to take care of it at all! The deer, the rabbits, and the groundhogs don’t like it. It gets really big, and produces all kinds of Zucchini.
So I like Zucchini, but after the first couple of weeks, it soon became clear that we couldn’t keep up with the harvest.
By the end of the summer, I remember thinking about bringing a bunch of Zucchini to church and just sticking them in people’s cars to get rid of them! (Lock your doors this summer if you don’t want Zucchini)!
That’s how it is with scripture. When you plant it in your life and let it own you rather than the other way around. It produces the kind of harvest that you just can’t keep up with. It brings a harvest that’s so big, that if you try to keep it to yourself, it’s going to rot and mold and smell really bad.
The fruit of God’s word, planted in your life, is meant to be shared and given away, not horded for yourself.
The word became flesh and dwelt among us, the body and the blood of Christ, the Son of God who reigns in heaven.
And that same Word is still dwelling among us! It’s here, in our hearts, in our fellowship. That’s how it still speaks in fresh ways to each generation, and to each person.
So, In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you: proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching. (2 Timothy 3:14-4:2)
In a couple of minutes, we’re going to serve communion. Reading the Bible and listening to a sermon—these aren’t the only ways to ingest the Word that came and dwelt among us.
And in eating this flesh and drinking this blood, we are changed. Take it in, take it deep. Plant it and let it grow.