January 17, 2021 | Chad Gilbert
Passage: 2 Timothy 3:16-17
It is the beginning of a New Year. Indeed, uniquely for us as a faith family, it is the beginning of a new season of ministry together. New years and new seasons are often times of new resolve, of renewed focus and determination.
Some of us wrapped up 2020 carrying the COVID “19” around our waistline and want to get in shape. We all know that exercise is good for us. But what many people fail to prioritize in caring for their body is focusing on the core. Trainers will instruct you that if your core is strong, you will train more effectively and reduce injuries. If your core is weak, you will likely overload one muscle group, resulting in injury or weakness in another part of the body.
Exercises like crunches, planks, the mountain climber, superman, and others all work your core muscle group, none of which require any exercise equipment, heavyweights, or advanced training. You can YouTube any of these movements and more and quickly begin to strengthen your core. And as your core strengthens many people note that their posture improves, back pain reduces, feel more sure-footed, and muscle groups outside of the core start to strengthen.
For a good reason, God provided us with an understanding of the church by illustrating the church as a body. If the core of the church is strong, then we will be more effective and reduce injuries. If we are weak at our core, we overload one part of the body while another remains weak and unused. Worse, the overworked part of the body can become injured and stops the entire body from functioning.
Today and over the next four weeks, we will focus on the core – our core convictions for First Baptist New Orleans to be a biblically thriving church. I am couching these core convictions in terms of “We must be” because that is what a conviction is – something that must be held. Not something that might be held, or ought to be held, but must be held. Scripture is clear that if we are to be a biblically thriving church, then we must be
First, we must be Scripture-fed.
Today, if you go over the Whole Foods and head back to the meat department, you will find a full narration on what is in your ground beef through descriptions like “grass-fed,” “organic,” and “nitrate-free.” While marketers are always looking for ways to jazz up products to bolster sales, the significance of the descriptions tells the story of what will be in your hamburger this evening. Why does that matter? Who cares if the cow ate grass or something else? You should, because whatever that cow ate is about to be part of what you are eating and impact your health in ways that you might not anticipate.
The same is true for us; what we consume as a church gets into the body and impacts us and those around us in ways that we might not have anticipated. Therefore, we must be Scripture-fed.
Many of us, if we are honest, are currently Facebook-fed. Many of us are Netflix-fed. Many of us are ESPN-fed. We all eat. We all take in content. But what is primary in our intake will significantly impact our overall health, our overall worldview, and our overall focus.
For us to be a unified, biblically thriving church, we must be Scripture-fed.
Please turn with me in God’s Word to 2 Timothy chapter 3. I want to invite you to stand for the reading of God’s Word. We stand in reference and honor of the One who speaks to us through His sacred Word.
Beginning in verse 1 of chapter 3,
Read 2 Timothy 3:1-17
Today in this text, we will see that we must be Scripture-fed because
- Scripture is given from God.
- Scripture is good for us.
- Scripture is good for others.
Scripture is given from God.
See it in the text: “For all Scripture is inspired by God.”
Let’s work our way through these words. First of all, “all Scripture.” Another translation might be “each and every passage of Scripture.” It is not accurate to think that some portions of the Bible are reliable and others are suspect.
But Chad, what about those portions of our Bibles that have a footnote saying, for example, from the end of the Gospel of Mark, “some of the earliest manuscripts do not include 16:9-20”. Shouldn’t such notations weaken our confidence in the reliability of the Bible? This is a great question, a thoughtful question, the kind of question we should all be asking and seeking to understand.
There is no other ancient document more attested than the Bible. We have thousands of ancient manuscripts, some dating all the way back to the early part of the second century BC. Think of manuscripts as evidence. In a trial, if you are seeking justice, you hope for an abundance of evidence. When it comes to the Bible, the evidence is in, and what you hold in your hands today can be trusted as the authoritative, reliable, good Word of God. There are no passages, such as the end of Mark's Gospel, that, if they ultimately prove to be unoriginal to the text, would impact any major doctrine of the Christian faith. The Gospel is true. The Scripture is authoritative. Jesus is Lord.
All Scripture “is inspired.” The Greek word here is θεόπνευστος. This is a word that Paul seems to have coined to communicate a significant idea to Timothy, and thus to the church. It is a compound word in which one part means “God” and the other “breathed.” Paul is not communicating the means of Scripture, but the source of Scripture. Scripture comes from God.
For the past two years, I served at a church in Lake Charles called Trinity Baptist Church. The senior pastor, Steve James, always did an excellent job anytime someone would come to him with a complaint or a concern of saying, “Who?” We all go through this, the situation where one person comes to you and says, “people are concerned,” or “people are saying…” Pastor Steve would always stop and gently say, “Who is concerned?’ or “Who is saying” – the reason for this is because Pastor Steve knows, just like you and I know that there are always going to be some people who are concerned or who are talking. “Who” is speaking always matters.
God is the “who” of the Bible. It is He who speaks to us from every passage of Scripture. It is He who is concerned with us. It is He who teaches. It is He who rebukes. It is He who corrects. It is He who trains in righteousness.
One of the lies today told and embraced about the Bible is Scripture is nothing more than man’s attempt at explaining God. It was men, after all, who wrote the Bible. Proponents of this skeptical view of the Bible seemingly suggest that were part of the Southern Rim of the Grand Canyon were to collapse, revealing undisturbed layers of earth, believed to be hundreds of millions of years old, and there in the oldest layer of earth was a stone with written words representing, let’s say, the opening verse of the Bible – “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” That was such a discovery made in a layer of the earth believed to be millions and millions of years older than the first person to evidence the divine and lead to belief.
But I think we all know better than that. The person who rejects the Bible because man penned it would be the same person to reject, in this example, Genesis 1:1 written on a stone by God Himself 100 million years ago. If He spoke from heaven, they would only hear thunder. At the end of the day, God is the source of Scripture through the means of men is consistent with Scripture itself – this is thowGod has consistently communicated with man. That God is the source of Scripture through the means of men is a compliment from God to man in that He would choose, in His grace, to use men in such a profound way. And that God is the source of Scripture through the means of men shows the control of God over mankind – if God could control exactly what was written through men, then this same God in power and grace is able to bring about conformity to His Word in people – all people, regardless of educational attainment, economic status, family of origin, ethnicity, race, language, or any other distinction.
It is okay to have questions without relinquishing belief. I believe the sun is a ball of fire at the center of our solar system. I have questions about the sun, about solar flares, about life-expectancy of the sun itself, about the internal composition of the sun, and how we can know much of anything about the sun given the fact that we can’t visit the sun or even get within a million miles of the sun without being incinerated. But no one in this room or at home today would affirm me if I said, and because I doubt we can know much about the sun, I no longer believe there is a sun. Such a conclusion is illogical. My doubts and questions do not require me to negate belief in the sun. I simply have unanswered questions.
I have seen too many friends have a genuine question about the inspiration and reliability of the Bible, only to allow those unanswered questions to result in rejecting the Bible altogether. And in some cases, to reject Christianity as a whole. Such a conclusion is unnecessary, not required by careful logic. So, if you have questions, then you are truly human, and it is to humans that God, in His love for humans, gave the Scriptures. The Scriptures are from God.
Scripture is good for us.
See it in the text: “and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete
Just as Scripture is inspired, it is profitable. Some might say, and I agree, that it is because it is inspired that it is profitable, but Paul is making a double-pronged point at this moment – The source of Scripture and the purpose of Scripture. Inspired and profitable. The word translated as “profitable” could also be translated as “useful, beneficial, advantageous.” In his 2012 book entitled The Advantage, author and speaker Patrick Lencioni subtitled the book “Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business.” Lencioni argues that many organizations minimize the value of organizational health, seeing it as a distraction from achieving their goals. However, the data suggests that organizational health becomes a super-highway for achieving outstanding results and exceeding goals.
So why do so many organizations, especially churches, resist organizational health?
My answer to that question comes directly from the text – look at it again – Scripture is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete”. In short, the reason we resist health is because of what it takes to be healthy. Paul is putting forward the Scriptures as what is needed for Timothy and the church to be healthy. In other words, Paul is saying that the church needs to be taught, the church needs to be rebuked, the church needs to be corrected, the church needs training in righteousness.
Have you ever known someone who was not teachable? Have you ever known someone who was not able to be corrected? Have you ever known someone who was not able to receive training? How did you describe that person? Most likely with this one of these two words – prideful or arrogant. And there it is – the root of our sin – pride.
And it is nothing other than human pride that causes us to resist the profitability, the usefulness, the benefit, the advantage of Scripture. We need the humility of Christ if we would rightly be taught the Scriptures, their meaning, their application, their nuance, and precision. We need the humility of Christ if we would open our hearts to being rebuked with the Word of God, protecting us from traveling down the road of destruction. We need the humility of Christ if we would open our minds to correction in not only what we hold to be true, but how we think and why we consider some things and not others, and why some things seem self-evident, while others do not. We need the humility of Christ if we would commit ourselves to a life-long training in righteousness, that we might pursue justice justly, pursue righteousness rightly, pursue love lovingly, pursue peace peacefully, and pursue faith faithfully. Without the humility of Christ, we will cast this truth to the side, always wanting the Scriptures to be more helpful than we find them to be, not realizing our pride has blinded us.
There is no coincidence that Jim Collins, in his book "Good to Great," identifies the most distinguishing mark of a truly great leader as this – humility. It is humility that sets apart the most successful leaders today, and it is humility that shall set apart the most Christ-exalting, biblically thriving congregations. First Baptist, we must humble ourselves and embrace God’s Word.
Church, I want to share an honest part of my own story. People in churches get the wrong idea about pastors, assuming that because we have a church position, our love for God will always burn hot, and reading the Bible is second nature. During my first several years as a pastor, my love for God was weak, and my love for the Word of God was even weaker. I was inconsistent in reading the Bible for any other purpose than preparing to preach it. I didn’t know my love for God was cold, and I did not know what loving God’s Word could mean. Then one day, a friend in my small group, when we were meeting in my living room, looked at another guy in the group and said, “What are you doing to make sure your wife has time to spend with God in His Word daily?” He wasn’t asking me, perhaps trusting that I was already doing just that – but I wasn’t! He shot that question at the guy next to me, but the Lord struck my heart with that question. What started the next day can only be described as a revival. God lit a fire in Cole and I both as we began to read his Word, experience His presence, and have our hearts trained to love Him with His Word. I don’t share that story as if I did something – no, God is the hero of that story. He rescued us through His Word. He renewed us through His Word.
Beyond a shadow of a doubt, I know that there is someone either in this room or at home right now that needs to hear the truth that Scripture is good for you. I mean more good for you than you will ever know. Right now, you don’t feel it. You don’t see it. You question just how good God’s Word really is. Would you be willing to give it a 30 day try? Would you be willing to read at least 1 verse per day for the next 30 days? If so, then I want to challenge you to start reading 1 verse a day of Ephesians. Just open your Bible and pray, “God, I need you. Please speak to me today.” If you are already in the habit of reading the Word, then is your heart still showing up needy before the Lord? Read His Word in humility.
Scripture is good for others.
See it in the text: “equipped for every good work.”
When Cole and I married, we purchased for one another gifts that we exchanged on our wedding day. For her, I purchased a Bible with her new name engraved on the front. For me, she purchased a handsome watch. To that point, I had never worn watches very much, and because this one was nice, I neglected to wear it daily, reserving it for special occasions. Near the end of our honeymoon, we got dressed up to go to a nice dinner, so I put on my new watch. While heading downstairs in our hotel in the elevator, a man next to me asked, “Do you have the time?” I looked at my nice, new watch to tell him the time. It was only then that I realized that while the watch kept perfect time, it was missing all the hour and minute markers, except for little slivers of metal at 12, 3, 6, and 9. So there I am in the elevator with my wife, staring at this new watch, silent as I struggle to figure out what time it was. To make matters worse, we had traveled to another time zone, so I was also trying to do simple mental math, which at that moment might as well have been quantum physics. I think I started sweating as the man waiting for my response stood wondering what was wrong with me. Did I not know how to tell time? Cole was also contemplating her life choices in a spouse, visibly leaning forward as if to say, “This man is going to think you are a moron if you don’t tell him the time right now.” I finally took a stab at the time and was wrong.
Here’s the point – I owned something that worked perfectly, but because I didn’t know how to read it, I couldn’t tell anyone what it said.
Pastor Chad Gilbert examines the five core strengths that a biblically-thriving church must exhibit.