************ Sermon on 2 Timothy 3:15-17 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on September 17, 2000
2 Timothy 3:10-17
"God's All-Purpose Tool"
Subtopic: Food for the Soul
Title: Choose Between Two Hungers
Dick Elkins worked as a Wycliffe translator in the southern Philippines. His local helper was Siblian, a stepson of the village chief, and the first convert among his people.
One day Dick and his wife Betty learned that their four-year-old son needed to go to the U.S. within three months for surgery. Dick went to Siblian, telling him that they had only 3 months to finish translating the Gospel of Mark.
Siblian responded that he had just planted his rice field but had not yet built the fence around it. If the fence wasn't built, the pigs and wild deer would get in and destroy the field.
Siblian left to work on his fence, but returned in a few days.
"Have you finished your fence already?" asked Dick.
"No," he answered.
"Then why have you returned?"
"As I was working on my fence all I could think about was the Gospel of Mark," Siblian replied.
"What about your field?"
"I've given it to God."
So Siblian and Dick worked on translating the Gospel of Mark. Weeks later the final translation was approved and the first copies were printed.
Two days before Dick and Betty had to leave, the translator climbed the hill to look at Siblian's field. What a mess! The wild pigs and deer had torn up Siblian's field. His entire crop for that year was only three sacks of rice.
(This story comes from Wycliffe's WORD ALIVE)
Siblian was forced to choose between two hungers: his hunger for rice and his hunger for God's Word. At considerable risk and expense to himself and his family he chose God's Word. Siblian chose God's Word over rice because he knew something that was first said by Moses:
(Deut 8:3) ... man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. Siblian knew that where Scripture is absent or ignored, spiritual starvation and malnourishment can be the only result.
People in thousands of language groups around the world do not have God's Word. They are starving. In contrast, Americans and Canadians do have the Scriptures. However, 82 percent of professing Christians in America do not read their Bible everyday. So they too are starving.
One of the biggest strengths of this congregation is our level of Bible knowledge. One of the things that people from other denominations almost always mention when they talk about us is how well we know the Bible. The credit for this, I believe, has to go to our excellent church education program for children, young people, and adults. Also, I have to mention the large number of Bible Study groups and societies that we have; at the back of our bulletin is a list of our programs and ministries, all of them centered on the Word of God (READ THEM OFF). As well, I can mention our Christian school; I'm always impressed with the Bible knowledge our children and youth gain at the Christian school. And, finally, credit for our high level of Bible knowledge has to go to our strong tradition of family devotions.
I stand before you this morning to urge you to keep up our standard of a high level of Bible knowledge. I urge you this morning to fully involve yourself in our church education program, in our society meetings, and in our habit of daily Bible reading. I urge this so that you are not spiritually malnourished.
A What is so special about the Bible that we spend so much time teaching it and learning it? What is so special about the Bible that we encourage everyone of our members to spend time with it each and every single day?
Paul tells us that Scripture is "God-breathed." It comes from God in the same way that all of life – especially human life – comes from God. In Genesis we see that the creation is God-breathed; by the breath of His mouth God called it all into being. In Genesis we read that man is God-breathed; on the day the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, He breathed into His nostrils the breath of life and man became a living being.
Likewise, Scripture is God-breathed. It is not a bunch of dead words or letters on a page. It comes from the breath of God. Coming from God, it is full of truth, life, vigor, and authority.
B A number of years ago I read a 480 page book entitled "THE UNAUTHORIZED VERSION," and subtitled "Truth and Fiction in the Bible" (HOLD UP ADVERTISEMENT FOR IT). The author, Robin Lane Fox, says he "believes in the Bible, but not in God." Think of what this says about the Bible. Such a statement makes clear that he does not believe the Bible can be God-breathed – for there is no God or breath of God! When it comes right down to it, there is precious little in the Bible that he actually believes. He views most of the Bible as myth, fiction, lie, and distortion. The human authors, he contends, adapted, twisted, and distorted their material with one goal in mind: success or acceptance. If I were to take a scissors and start cutting out of the Bible (HOLD UP BIBLE AND PRETEND I'M TEARING AND CUTTING) everything Fox believes to be false, I would be left with a volume of 40 or 50 pages instead of the present 880 in our pew Bibles.
We disagree with Robin Lane Fox. We believe in the Bible AND the God of the Bible. Therefore, we say the Bible is not myth. We say the Bible is not fiction. We say the Bible is not lie and distortion. We say the Bible is God-breathed. We say the Bible comes from God. We say the Bible is filled with truth, life, vigor, and authority.
II God's Tool
A As I mentioned to the boys and girls, the Bible is God's all-purpose tool just like the machete (HOLD IT UP) is the Mexican Indian's all-purpose tool. First and foremost, it is God's tool for making us "wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus."
From beginning to end, Scripture is about Christ. When you pick up the Bible, you should meet the Savior. And unless you meet the Savior, your reading and studying of Scripture is worthless. Therefore an uneducated person who reads the Bible and meets Christ has a better understanding of Scripture than a scholar who searches the Greek and Hebrew texts but fails to meet the Savior. I think here of what Jesus said one day to the Jews who were persecuting Him:
(Jn 5:39-40) You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, (40) yet you refuse to come to me to have life.
The Bible is first and foremost about Christ. That's how God explains His own words and deeds. And, after His resurrection, Jesus interpreted the Scriptures to His disciples in this way. Remember Jesus walking with two of His followers to a village called Emmaus.
(Lk 24:45,27) Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures ... And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.The Bible is about Jesus. Therefore it is able to make us wise for salvation.
As I told the boys and girls, I urge you, congregation, to go to Scripture. Spend time reading and studying it so that you can meet the Christ of the Scriptures. Spend time reading and studying it so that you may be wise for salvation.
Of course, if the Bible is to able to make us "wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus," then it is able to do the same for our unbelieving neighbor. In other words, it is an effective witnessing tool. By reading its pages many have met the Savior for the first time.
Title: Be Persistent
Perhaps you have heard the story of a man who distributed portions of Scripture for many years on a street corner. Finally, seeing no visible results, he gave up. When he returned to the same spot two years later, he saw another individual handing out Gospel tracts just as he had done. Striking up a conversation, he discovered that the man had become a Christian through a salvation tract given him on that corner about two years before. The convert added, "Many times I've come back here to find that earnest worker and thank him, but he never returned. I decided he must have died, and so I've taken his place!" The first man suddenly realized that his work had not been in vain. Much encouraged he went back to giving out Gospel tracts the very next day.
B The Bible is God's all-purpose tool just like the machete (HOLD IT UP) is an all-purpose tool. Paul tells Timothy Scripture is useful for teaching.
What does Scripture teach? We don't use it to teach math. We don't use it to teach physics or geography. We don't use it to teach electronics or computer science. We would judge the teacher who used it for these subjects to be a very poor teacher indeed.
Scripture is useful for teaching doctrine. The most important doctrines, of course, concern God, Jesus Christ, and our salvation. Correct doctrine is important, very important.
Remember God's cry through the prophet Hosea? With pain and anguish the Lord says, "my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge" (Hosea 4:6). Without the benefit of correct doctrine, without the benefit of truthful teaching, God's people stray from the truth and fall into falsehood.
Only a thorough knowledge of and grounding in Scripture can keep us from being destroyed.
Topic: BibleThe child of God can learn a lesson from this. While it is helpful to study false religions and be fully aware of their dangerous teachings, we should be so familiar with God's Word that whenever we encounter error, we will spot it at once. Today many are being led astray by cults and isms because they don't recognize how they are being deceived. The only way to prevent this is to so indoctrinate ourselves with the truth that we will be discerning. For example, if a person is solidly grounded in the teaching of salvation by grace, he won't swallow the line of the legalists who inject human works into the matter of being saved. If he is well instructed about the person of Christ, he won't accept the error of those who deny the Savior's deity. Knowing the truth of the second coming of Jesus, he'll not be swayed by those who predict an exact day or hour. A thorough knowledge of essential biblical doctrines is the only way to detect the counterfeits!
Subtopic: Study of Commanded
Title: Full Bible Intelligence
When a new FBI agent is hired he is given intensive training. As part of the program, he is taught to watch for counterfeit money. He makes a thorough study of the genuine bills -- not the phonies -- so that he can spot the fake currency immediately because of its contrast to the real thing.
What we need today are FBI Christians – FBI not meaning "Federal Bureau of Investigation" but meaning "Full Bible Intelligence!" We need FBI Christians who read the Word, study the Word, and know the Word.
C The Bible is God's all-purpose tool just like the machete (HOLD IT UP) is an all-purpose tool. Paul tells Timothy Scripture is also useful for rebuking and correcting.
Jesus had more than one argument with the Sadducees because they said there is no resurrection. "You are in error," Jesus said to them, "because you do not know the Scriptures" (Mt 22:29). Having said this, He proceeded to correct them from the teachings of Scripture itself.
I have begun to notice a pattern in my work with those who are wayward. When asked about their relationship with God, they all mention their prayer life; but very few admit to reading the Bible on a regular basis. The reason, I believe, is obvious. God's Word is hard, it is unsettling, it makes us uncomfortable, because it talks about our very lives. It hits us where it hurts. It talks about our wayward sex lives, our flaring tempers, our selfish use of money and time, our questionable priorities, our lack of patience, our me-first self-centeredness. Scripture makes us squirm because there is no way we can read it without realizing we are sinners who fall terribly short of the glory of God. Scripture makes us squirm because there is no way we can read it and study it without realizing there are many things in our life we need to repent of, many things in our life that need to be drastically changed.
D The Bible is God's all-purpose tool just like the machete (HOLD IT UP) is an all-purpose tool. Paul tells Timothy Scripture is also useful for training in righteousness.
Let me ask you something. Do you want to be more loving and joyful, do want a life filled with peace and patience, do you want to be known for kindness and goodness and faithfulness, do you want to exercise gentleness and self-control? Of course you do – or at least you should! God's all-purpose tool is useful for training in this sort of righteousness.
It is only by spending time with the Word that we become "thoroughly equipped for every good work." By spending time with the Word we become equipped to feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, invite in the stranger, clothe the naked, look after the sick, and visit the prisoner. By spending time with the Word we become equipped to show compassion to the fatherless and widow. By spending time with the Word we become equipped to reach out to those suffering from AIDS or other horrible diseases.
God's all-purpose tool – just like the machete (HOLD IT UP) – that's what the Bible is. It is God's all-purpose tool that makes you wise for salvation. It is God's all-purpose tool useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.
Now a question: do you read it, do you study it, do you spend time with it each day?
An anonymous author wrote an article entitled, "The Diary of a Bible." It reads as follows:
Jan. 15 -- Been resting for a week. A few nights after the first of the year my owner opened me, but no more. Another New Year's resolution gone wrong.
Feb. 3 -- Owner picked me up and rushed off to Sunday school.
Feb. 23 -- Cleaning day, dusted and put back in my place.
April 2 -- Busy day. Owner had to present the lesson at a church society meeting. Quickly looked up a lot of references.
May 5 -- In Grandma's lap again, a comfortable place.
May 9 -- She let a tear fall on John 14:1-3.
May 10 -- Grandma's gone. Back in my old place.
May 20 -- Baby born. They wrote his name on one of my pages.
July 1 -- Packed in a suitcase -- off for a vacation.
July 20 -- Still in the suitcase. Almost everything else taken out.
July 25 -- Home again. Quite a journey, though I don't see why I went.
Aug. 16 -- Cleaned again and put in a prominent place; the minister is coming for dinner.
Aug. 20 -- Owner wrote Grandma's death in my family record. He left his extra pair of glasses between my pages.
Dec. 31 -- Owner just found his glasses. Wonder if he will make any resolutions about me for the new year.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
Back to Index of Sermons Page