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Sunday, January 28, 2018

posted Jan 28, 2018, 7:41 PM by Site Administrator

A WORKMAN APPROVED BY GOD

 

2 Timothy 2:15-26

Key Verse 2:15

 

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.

 

            First, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved” (15). In the previous passage, Paul showed Timothy what the gospel was about. The gospel of Jesus is not peculiar or mysterious, but very sound – you work hard for God and you receive great reward – that’s how Jesus lived for his God even to the point of death, and thereby, was glorified. If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure hardship for God’s kingdom work as Jesus did, then, we will receive rulers’ position in God’s kingdom just in the way Jesus received glory. Indeed, the gospel is sound teaching – the good deposit entrusted to us. Timothy, as the pastor of the church in Ephesus must keep reminding all of his congregation this sound teaching so that their life might be rooted and built up in this gospel truth. Now in today’s passage, Paul encourages Timothy to do his best to present himself to God as one approved.

 

Look at verse 15. Let’s read this verse together:

 

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.

 

            God called us to do his work even when we did not do well or even did not do anything for him. While we were wandering in darkness, while we were even living a sinful life, he called us to be his servants. How come? I don’t know. But God knows. Maybe, God saw greatness in us; maybe, God knew what kind of person we could be and what we could do. God considered us worthy of this calling. Or simply, He was expecting something great from each of us. It is indeed, God’s amazing grace upon sinners like us that, while we were still sinners, while we were still weak, before doing anything for him, he called us to be his servants. We must not take this grace of God’s calling casually – it is not something we can find any time we want. Instead, we must really appreciate his grace upon us – how he considered us worthy of this calling, how he gave us this chance to do something great for him. Now then, it is our turn to prove ourselves worthy of his calling. We want to prove that God’s choice upon us was right. So, what should we do? We must do our best to present ourselves to God as one approved.

 

            What does it mean to do our best? Yes, it means that we don’t just sit down and say, “If it is God’s will, He will make it clear to us.” Instead, it means that we make all conscious efforts to do what is right and to do his work. Paul talks about two aspects in regard to presenting ourselves to God as ones approved – “a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” A workman who does not need to be ashamed – this is to check out our practical life and our inner hearts to see if there is anything we have in secret or shame. We must get rid of all kinds of sin and shame so that we shall not need to be ashamed of anything. Keep yourself holy and pure. The other aspect, “a workman who correctly handles the word of truth” shows us what the servants of God mainly do. The main job of servants of God is to teach and preach the word of God. With the word of God, you can save souls; with the word of God you can reveal the beauty of Jesus Christ to people; with the word of God, you can plant the hope of God’s eternal kingdom in their hearts; with the word of God, you can comfort them, encourage them and inspire them to love God and pursue Him; with the word of God, you can instruct, correct and rebuke them; with the word of God, you can train them to live a godly life. With the word of God, you can do all the works God asks you to do in serving His kingdom purpose. All these things, all these works of God can be fulfilled if you handle the word of God correctly. So, handling the word of God correctly is most essential for all God’s servants. This is far more than just memorizing Bible verses, far more than getting even 3 PhDs in theology.

 

            So, what do we do? We study the Bible diligently, with scholarly attitude, struggling hard to grasp what God is talking about in each passage; having some general knowledge of the Bible does not work, but we need to grasp it really, so we struggle hard to dig out the passage through testimony writing, through daily bread, making Bible study notes, and sharpening them continually. We remember the Psalmist’s struggle. He didn’t have John’s gospel or Mark’s gospel, but the laws – God’s laws. At a first glance, the laws look plain – just about “do”s and “don’t”s. But he struggled hard to grasp what God was talking about through the Law, and there, he found glorious things. Through the law, he found God’s will and purpose, God’s love and concern for humans, and God’s perfection. Then, the word of God was so beautiful to him. He shouted, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Ps 119:03) “If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. I will not forget your precepts, for by them you have preserved my life...Oh how I love your law! I meditate on it day and night. Your commands make me wiser than my enemies... I have more insight than all my teachers” (Ps 119) Another psalmist shouts, “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.” (Ps 19:7) They really grasped what God was talking about through his words, even through his laws, and they were overjoyed and strengthened. We remember Dr. Samuel Lee’s struggle. He was already serving great work of God. But he didn’t think that he knew the Bible. So, he started his personal everyday Bible study, and it took for him four years to cover the entire Bible. But he still did not think he knew the Bible. So, he studied the entire Bible one more time, taking four years again. But after eight years’ study, he still did not think that he knew the Bible. So, he did it one more time, taking another four years. Then, after 12 years studies, he finally grasped what the Bible was talking about. He said that the Bible is about paradise lost and paradise regained. Then, through the word of God he served, so many people have been strengthened, encouraged and inspired to go and live for God alone. We need to do our best to really grasp what God is talking about in the Bible. At the same time, we need to teach the Bible to many people so that as soldiers come to really learn how to use their swords through practices and battle experiences, we too may really learn how to handle the word of God correctly. When we are well experienced and learn how to handle the word of God correctly, then, we become excellent for God’s purpose. We become like super spiritual surgeon who can perform very difficult operation successfully, helping many people to repent and turn to God decisively.  

 

            Second, “If a man cleanses himself from the latter...” (16-21). Look at verses 16 through 18. Paul writes, “Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.” This was the first thing Paul mentions about, in regard to doing our best to present ourselves to God as ones approved, showing how important this matter is. If you want to do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, then, do this as the most important matter – avoid godless chatter. Why is this so important? If God’s servants do not avoid godless chatter, but indulge themselves in it, they become more and more ungodly – their interest and concern, their hopes and desires, their value system and how they use their time,... all for those topics and matters – they indulge themselves in godless things, spending such time and effort, desiring for certain things, paying attention to how things go, and then, gathering a lot of information about such things, and then, talking about them with others – indeed, they lose their spirituality and become more and more ungodly. Of course, they still go to church, do ministry things, occupying certain positions and titles in the church, and with knowledge of the Bible. Then, since they become more and more ungodly, they eventually come up with strange ideas and theories and interpretation of the Bible according to their ungodly perspectives and views just like Hymenaeus and Philetus who had wandered away from the truth, saying that the resurrection had already taken place.

 

            Modern day, the most intriguing area is politics. Indeed, people indulge themselves in it, spending many hours every day online, sometimes angry because things do not go as they have desired, and sometimes excited because they find a politician who scratches their itching ears – one time, Bernie Sanders, the other time, Donald Trump; then, they talk with others about them with such enthusiasm, sometimes attacking the other party and sometimes, defending their view wholeheartedly. How do I look, if I, the pastor of the church, enthusiastically, talks about one politician? Not holy at all, but worldly!!! Simply, silly, not proper for God’s work. If anyone does so, then, that person becomes more and more ungodly, and then, eventually, that person comes up with strange interpretation of the Bible passage, not only ruining himself, but also those who are under his care. Another hot area is hobbies or sports or music or even movies. Those who indulge in such things will become more and more ungodly. We never want to go that way. So, avoid godless chatter. We want to do our best to present ourselves to God as ones approved. So, avoid godless chatter. God’s church should be holy and sacred; God’s servants must be set apart to God and for God. So, avoid godless chatter.

 

Look at verse 19. Let’s read this verse together:

 

Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.”

 

            Like Hymenaeus and Philetus, many ungodly people come up with strange ideas and theology, saying that they are real people of God. Sometimes, people are confused – which one is right? But no matter what people said and no matter what theory they came up with, Paul had no problem about it at all, because he knew what the most important thing was – the most fundamental truth – Paul calls it, “God’s solid foundation.” With this, Paul could see who was right and who was wrong; no matter what people said or did, he could measure whether they belonged to God or not with this solid and unchangeable truth of God. What is that unchangeable truth? God’s solid foundation comes with two inscriptions. One is, “The Lord knows those who are his.” In America, everyone looks like a Christian, because everyone says, “I believe in Jesus; I love the Lord” and many of them go to church. But at the same time, no one looks like a Christian, because they do not live like Christians at all. But God knows those who are his; God knows his own people. No one can deceive God with some knowledge of the Bible, or with some Christian activities.

 

            The other inscription of God’s solid foundation is: “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.” Based on this inscription, not everyone who says, “I believe in Jesus,” or calls on the name of the Lord is a child of God, but only those who turn away from wickedness are God’s people. The important thing is not a lip service or Bible knowledge, or doing some Christian things, but turning away from wickedness in their real life. Through this, each person proves that his confession of faith in Jesus is real. Then, there is real repentance and there is real change of life. Paul simply applied this solid foundation of God to people, and could see who were really children of God, and who were not. This is God’s solid foundation. And it stands firm all the time. Let’s read verse 19 once again.

 

Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.”

 

Look at verses 20 and 21. Let’s read these verses together:

 

20 In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. 21 If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.

 

            Here, “a large house” refers to God’s kingdom that is on earth, and “articles of gold, of silver, of wood, and of clay” refer to God’s servants who work for God on earth. God’s kingdom on earth is very large and there are many servants of God. But not all of them are equal in their position, in their roles and in their mission. Some serve great works of God, useful and precious like articles of gold, or silver, but others not that significant like an article of wood or clay. Some people are used by God so preciously in saving souls, in spreading the gospel; they are used in the most important missions. But others are not. Who then become articles of gold or of silver? Are they born great and special? No. Paul says, “If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.” By saying, “If a man cleanses himself from the latter,” Paul shows that the chance to become useful and precious to God is given to every believer. Everyone in Jesus Christ has a chance to become so great, powerful and useful for God’s kingdom work, if that person cleanses himself from the latter. By nature, all men are ugly, useless and worthless like articles of wood or clay due to their sin problems, weaknesses and character flaws. Great servants of God like Billy Graham, Dr. Samuel Lee, or Mother Barry are not born great, but they too had their own weakness and sin problems, but they have cleansed themselves from all their weaknesses and sin problems by doing their best to present themselves to God as ones approved, working hard for God and living according to God’s Spirit. So they became very useful and effective for God’s purpose, and were used by God so preciously. They become God’s treasured possessions – his dangerous weapons for God’s kingdom purpose. Now, the same chance has been given to all Christians, including you and me. If we do not remain in our own weaknesses or sin problems or character flaws, but cleanse ourselves from such things by doing our best to present ourselves to God as ones approved, by giving ourselves fully to God’s work and living according to the Spirit of God, then, we too can become articles of gold or silver, so useful and precious. When the Master, Jesus Christ our Lord has so many articles of gold and silver in his kingdom, so many mighty generals under him, he will be so happy; they will be his pride, and that will be glory to Him. The Master will establish many gigantic ministries that will cover the whole world through them. Think about Shepherds Church becomes so gigantic, covering the whole world! Think about such world class churches rising here and there continually – 7 world class churches in South Bay area, 8 world class churches in Long Beach, 12 world class churches in Orange County, 20 world class churches in Riverside county... What about our shepherds club becoming so gigantic in our campus, and not only our club, but many gigantic Christian clubs rise in each campus!! That will be glorious. Jesus’ name will be revealed to the world through them. Many articles of gold and silver – that’s glory to Jesus. But if we remain in our own weaknesses and sin problems only because we don’t struggle hard for God, we remain as articles of wood or clay. “If a man cleanses himself from the latter...” A chance has been given to all of us; it is all up to now how we respond to God’s call for repentance and his mission. Don’t you want to become articles of gold or silver for Jesus Christ?

 

            Third, “Flee the evil desires of youth” (22-26). Look at verse 22. Let’s read this verse together:

 

22 Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

 

            Now this is the second instruction Paul issued for Timothy about doing his best to present himself to God as one approved. “Flee the evil desires of youth.” KJV simply translates “the evil desires of youth” as “youthful lusts.” It is youthful passion, such as desire for romantic relationships or desire for satisfying the raging hormone. What embarrasses us the most is that, at that time, Timothy was not a college student, but the senior pastor of the Ephesian church. He was well trained, and fully determined to live for God alone – his life had proved this. But still, Paul issued this instruction because this could be still a problem to him. If Timothy the pastor of the Ephesian church must fight against his youthful passion this way, then, what about us? None of us can say, “I am okay with this problem.” We are not exempt from this matter, and we too must fight against it in the same way. We have heard many scandals of great servants of God; they served great work of God, establishing great ministries and saving many souls, but they did not take this instruction very seriously, and thereby, when temptation rose, they gave in, and brought ruin to themselves and to God’s work. Don’t think that these scandalous servants were exceptionally sinful or lustful. No! They were fully dedicated to God. They were wholehearted in serving God’s kingdom work. They had no intention to sin! If any woman came to them and tried to tempt them, they would really rebuke her. But somehow, Satan figured out how to infiltrate all their defense mechanism and destroyed them. This is really alarming. “Flee the evil desires of youth.” This is very real for all of us.

 

            Many people honor and respect Billy Graham not only because of his great success as an evangelist, but also because he did not become a victim to this problem. How could he be free from this matter? The secret was not that he was super spiritual and thereby had no youthful passion, but that he fought against it absolutely. Acknowledging their vulnerability to this matter, he and his whole crusade team established a rule that none of them would meet any woman one on one in any circumstances. Usually, they would have female servants take care of women; but if they had to meet a woman, then, they would be at the meeting altogether or together with their wife. They kept this principle absolutely, even when they become old. Thus, they have been free from this matter, and served God’s work without any hindrance. Job was a righteous man. But it did not mean that he had no problem about this youthful lust. Instead, he was determined to fight against it and struggled hard. He said, “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look at lustfully at a girl.” We also remember Joseph’s struggle. When his mistress tempted him, he refused to do so, because it was a wicked thing. But when she tempted him continually, he did not go near to her at all so that he might not be exposed to a tempting situation. Later, this lady went crazy; one day, she grabbed his clothes, but Joseph just ran away from her; he literally fled from the tempting situation. God’s servants must flee from these evil desires of youth. The word, “flee” shows that we must not play around it. You don’t have to meet that person and explain why you should not meet or talk to that person any longer. Simply, flee from the situation; cut off all communication line, block the number, and close SNS account. Don’t give your enemy Satan a chance to lure you away from God.

 

            Paul shows Timothy what he should pursue instead, saying, “Pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace.” Righteousness means “right relationship with God.” Pursuing righteousness means that you want to have right relationship with God, so you do everything in the way God desires – you do only what is right and acceptable to God so that eventually, you may be in the right relationship with God. When you pursue righteousness, you live a righteous life. Pursuing faith means that in your practical life, especially, in a decision-making time, in the job matter, in the marriage matter, you choose the way of faith that requires your absolute trust in God – usually, it is a harder way. You don’t just want to have a comfortable and problem-free life, but you choose the way of faith, even if it is hard. Paul shares his struggle with believers in Corinth, saying, “That is why I delight in weakness, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor 12:8-10) Pursuing love and peace means that you choose a path that will result in love and peace. Sometimes, you are angry with someone, because that person offended you or humiliated you; you want to retaliate. But instead, you choose to forgive, serve and do the things for that person so that love and peace may be there – that much you pursue love and peace, swallowing the sense of humiliation and sorrows and pains all by yourself. Pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace. Do your best to present yourselves to God as ones approved. 

 

            Paul says, “pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” In this wicked, adulterous and materialistic generation, it is not easy to pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace. Only few people value such things and pursue them. Their value system, their hope and desire, and their lifestyle are totally different than those of the people in the world. While all the college students talk about partying and relationships, they say, “Flee the evil desires of youth.” While all people look for a comfortable life with a career, they say, “I will join in suffering for the gospel.” They are indeed, aliens in this world. Even their Christian family members cannot understand them. Pursuing righteousness, faith, love and peace requires self-denial. It is each person’s lonely struggle to live before God alone. And we need support from each other. So, Paul encourages us to pursue these things together with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. Notice here Paul’s emphasis on “out of a pure heart.” There are many who call on the Lord; but not all of them do so out of a pure heart. Those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart are those who have turned away from wickedness; they are the ones who dedicate themselves to God, pursuing God’s will wholeheartedly. They worship God not to gain some things from God, but to serve Him alone. When we serve God’s work together with such people, we are really encouraged. Such Christian life is really fun and exciting. Even just having a short conversation with them brings such inspiration and encouragement to us. We gather on Fridays and have the testimony sharing meeting. There, by just sharing testimonies and hearing them, we are mutually encouraged; we are so strengthened to love God more that after meeting, we pray so powerfully and loudly. It is really good to pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

 

            In verses 23 through 26, Paul gives Timothy some practical instructions of how he should deal with those who have some conflict with him in the church. Because there were so many people in the church, coming with different background, with different experiences and understanding, there might be some people who did not agree with Timothy; maybe, they didn’t understand his points; or they might have some different views. At that time, how should Timothy deal with them? Paul says, “Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels.” We don’t feel like using the words, “foolish” and “stupid.” But having argument with people in the church is foolish and stupid, because there is nothing to gain. Even if you are right and the other person is wrong, and thereby, you win the argument, you still don’t gain anything; the other person is hurt, and your relationship with that person gets sour – the unity in the church is damaged. So, don’t argue with anyone. Instead, we must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.

 

            In verses 25 and 26, Paul talks about how Timothy should deal with those who opposed him in the church. This is a serious matter, because it is directly related to Satan attacking the church. Paul says in verse 26, “and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captives to do his will.” They are taken captives by the devil to do his will. Is it because fundamentally they love the devil and want to do his will? No! They are Christians. They have no intention to do the devil’s will; but using their sense of justice, or the sense of vengeance, or their own political mindset, the devil has a chance to attack the church through them opposing God’s servants. They are gripped with the sense of justice, saying that the church should be right, and they are determined to correct anything wrong. With this, they oppose God’s servants in the church. That’s how they do Satan’s will. We have seen and heard so many churches going through many conflicts, being divided, having lawsuits against each other, and eventually being destroyed. While such conflicts go on, suing each other, many believers are wounded and sick and tired of their life in the church; many people leave church, not only so, they even give up their faith in Jesus Christ. This is how Satan attacks God’s churches and destroys them – all through those people who oppose God’s servants. We must be aware of this. What is important is not who is right and who is wrong, because eventually, it is God who brings everything to justice. Don’t fall to the trap of the devil only because of your anger or bitterness; don’t give into the sense of vengeance; don’t be taken captives to do Satan’s will. Instead, we must understand what God is doing and what God wants us to do. And with a fearful and trembling heart, we must strive to obey Him and fulfill his purpose upon our life.

 

            Then, how should servants of God deal with those who oppose him? Paul says, “Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, v26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captives to do his will.” Already, Satan’s work is going on; it is a dangerous situation, but these people do not know what they are doing. So, in the hope that they may come back to their senses, God’s servant must gently instruct them with such humility, love and patience. Then, through the servant’s gentle instruction and seeing his sincerity, humility and love, they may soften their hearts toward him and recognize what they are doing, and repent; thus, they would escape from the trap of the devil.

 

            In today’s passage, we learned that we must do our best to present ourselves to God as one approved. God called us to be his servants, considering us worthy of the task. Now it is our turn to prove that God’s choice in selecting us to be his servant was right. Let’s do our best to present ourselves to God as his servants. 1) Avoid godless chatter; 2) Flee the evil desires of youth; 3) Pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart; 4) Have nothing to do with foolish and stupid arguments; and 5) Gently instruct those who oppose God’s servants. When we do these, we will be articles of gold and silver for our Master Jesus Christ, made holy and useful for his kingdom work. God will be very pleased with us.

 

One Word:       Do Your Best to Present Yourself to God As One Approved

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