One Approved

by LA UBF   08/31/2012     0 reads




2 Timothy 2

Key verse, 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.

Good morning everyone and welcome to this morning’s message. The title of my message is One Approved, and it comes from 2 Timothy 2:15 which says: “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”. By this verse, Paul is urging Timothy to present himself to God as one approved, in other words, live the life of one approved by God. Paul does this because Timothy struggled to live the life of one approved by God. Despite Timothy’s sincere faith he had a problem of being ashamed. But Paul does not write this letter to condemn Timothy, but to help him. Paul helps Timothy by describing what one approved by God looks like. One approved by God: 1) Endures Hardship, 2) Correctly Handles the Word of Truth, and 3) Cleanses Themselves of Ignoble Things and Evil Desires of Youth. Therefore, if Timothy desires to live the life of one approved by God, he must carry out these three things in his life. Therefore, if you desire to live the life of one approved by God, you must carry out these three things in your life as well.

Part 1: One Approved by God Endures Hardship (vs. 1 to 13)

Look at verse 1 and 2: “Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses, entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others”. In Allan’s message we learned how important it is to join others in suffering for the gospel. And we must join others not by our own strength, but by the power of God. Similarly, verse 1 tells us that in order to endure hardship, we must first “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus”. And immediately, one of the hardships we will encounter as Christians will be trying to find reliable and qualified teachers of the Word of God.

Now these next few verses clearly illustrate what one approved by God looks like when faced with hardships. Let’s read verses 3 to 7 responsively. Okay I’ll start: “[3] Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. [4]No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs – he want to please his commanding officer. [5]Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victors crown unless he competes according to the rules. [6]The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. [7]Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this”. In each of these examples, a soldier, an athlete, and a farmer we see a commonality. The commonality between them all is that their work entails having to endure hardship. The soldier’s hardship is having to avoid civilian affairs. For an athlete, it’s resisting the temptation to cheat. And for a farmer it’s denying his desire to take it easy. But when these three people continue to endure the hardships of their work, they can honestly be called one approved within their profession. If a soldier continues to join his fellow comrades in battle, he pleases his commanding officer and is a good soldier. When the athlete continues to play by the rules he will receive the victor’s crown. And when the farmer continues to work hard on his crops, he is the first to receive a share of his crops. In our service to God, the same applies. When we endure hardship for the gospel of Jesus Christ, we can honestly be called one approved by God.

Now to tell you guys to endure hardship is one thing, but not many of us have the motivation to start. The hardships in serving God can be just too overwhelming for some. That is why Paul gives us a convicting reason to endure hardship for God. Let’s read verses 8 to 10. And I’ll start: “[8] Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, [9] for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained. [10] Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory”. So the way in which Paul motivates us to endure hardship for God is by reminding us of Jesus. What did Jesus do? Jesus rose from the dead and descended from David. What is the significance of Jesus’ resurrection? It means Jesus fully paid the price for our sins, because before a resurrection, there had to be a death. Jesus died for our sins. And what does descended from David mean? It means Jesus was a man, like you and I. He suffered the same things we suffer. Therefore we are both convicted and encouraged to endure hardship for God. We are convicted by his amazing love on the cross, and encouraged by his overcoming of hardships. This is truly the grace we must be strong in.

Furthermore, when we endure hardship for God, this brings salvation to all people. But it is only when we endure hardship, not shrink back and care for ourselves. Jesus Christ endured hardship for us, so we ought to endure hardship for others. On top of all this, is the power of God’s word. “God’s word is not chained”. This means that all our effort for the Lord, in sacrificing our time and energy to further the gospel, can never be suppressed. 

Lastly, look at Paul’s trustworthy saying in verses 11 to 13. Let’s read these responsively please. Okay I’ll start, “[11] Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; [12] if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; [13] if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself”. So in these verses one is both encouraged and forewarned. We are encouraged because if we endure hardship for God, and maybe die in the process, there is the promise of living and reigning with him in heaven. We should understand that the Lord will stay faithful to his work, whether or not we decide to be part of if. But this is not a place to be if we desire to live the life of one approved by God. So we must pray to stay faithful to God, by enduring hardship, as this is what one approved by God does best.

Part 2: One Approved by God Correctly Handles the Word of Truth (vs. 14 to 19)

Look at verse 14: “Keep reminding them of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words, it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen”. One of the major problems Paul saw in the church, and one of the dangers that could easily hinder Timothy’s ability to becoming one approved by God, was quarreling about words. Quarreling about words was and is still a big problem today in the church because people just have this tendency to want to argue. But this is not what God wants us to do, especially when it comes to his holy word. And what is the result of all this? Paul says that “quarreling about words, it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen”. So, it is a complete waste of time, and only ruins a person’s faith in God. 

So what is going on here? Why are quarrels breaking out? We find out why in our key verse, verse 15. Let’s read this together please. Okay let’s go: “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”. In this verse we see that the reason quarrels are breaking out is because people are not living the life of one approved by God. For if they did, they would do what one approved by God does which is correctly handle the word of truth. When we quarrel about words we are not correctly handling the word of truth. And to correctly handle the word of truth is to present it the way God intended. God intended for his word to build up a person’s faith. We must never subtract, or add to the word of truth. But simply present it in its purest form.

I read an article in Time Magazine with the title, What If There’s No Hell? Apparently, a preacher taught that hell does not exist. He reasoned since God is a God of love, it is against his nature to create a place of torment. But this is crazy! The bible clearly teaches that hell exists. Hell is best described by Jesus himself in Luke 16: 22-224 which says, “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire”. So despite all the descriptions of hell in the bible, why would this preacher teach that it does not exist? It may be that the absence of hell allows him to live a life of sin. What I mean is, if hell does not exist, there are no consequences for sin? If hell does not exist where do all those unrepentant killers and child molesters go? Up into heaven with the rest of us, to enjoy God’s love. Love they so vehemently rejected in their lives. What about Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins? What is the significance of this? No! What this preacher taught is a complete mishandling of the word of truth, for our God is not only a God of love, but also a righteous judge.

One interesting thing to note about verse 15 is that one approved by God does not need to be ashamed. I think this is interesting because the verse lays it out as if shame is not to be a component of a workman. One approved by God, his workman, does not need to be ashamed, because he or she is correctly handling the work God gave them. He or she is correctly handling the word of truth. For example, my good friend Roman is a nurse. What if Roman’s supervisor asked him to take the blood pressure of the patient in room 209? But instead of taking that patient’s blood pressure, he amputated that person’s leg. Clearly a mishandling of the work his supervisor gave him. Not only would he be fired in a split second, but he would be filled with much shame. Don’t you agree Roman? If only Roman had done his job correctly, he would not feel shame. In the same way, when we correctly handle the word of truth there is no need to feel ashamed.

Because of the importance in correctly handling the word of truth, Paul gives us an example during his day of those who mishandled the word of truth. Look at verses 16 to 19. Lets’ read these verses responsively. Okay I’ll start: “[16] Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. [17] Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, [18] who have wandered away from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some. [19] 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”. In this case, two men, Hymenaeus and Philetus, had spread a false teaching that the resurrection had already taken place. This teaching may have started small, with a few arguments here and there, but look what happened. It grew exactly like a type of spiritual gangrene, infecting many people. Do you guys know what gangrene is? I was tempted to put up a picture, but I didn’t want you guys to lose your breakfast. Anyways, gangrene is disgusting. It eats away your bodily tissue from the inside until everything is rotted away. In the same way, the false teaching Hymenaeus and Philetus had spread began to eat away the faith of many people. This teaching was so bad that people began to decide on who was saved and who wasn’t. But look at how Paul correctly handles the word of truth. He says in verse 19: only the “Lord knows those who are his”, for it is “everyone who confesses the name of the Lord”, and “[turns] away from wickedness”. So we really need to pray to God that he may help us to correctly handle the word of truth as this is what one approved by God does best.

Part 3: One Approved by God Cleanses Themselves of Ignoble Things and Evil Desires of Youth (vs. 20 to 26)

Let’s look at the last part of this chapter, verses 20 to 26. Verses 20 and 21 read, “In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some for noble and some for ignoble. 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”. In this illustration, Paul describes us both as a house and an instrument for God. Now if we really want to live the life of one approved by God, then we need to cleanse ourselves of ignoble things. God will not use us for his noble purposes, or make us holy to do his good work, unless we cleanse ourselves. Seriously, how can God work in your life if you a bunch of junk lying around or are clogged up with sin.

You know, ignoble things can seem very innocent at first. What I mean is they don’t always look like their straight out of hell. For example, I had a very difficult time writing this message. And it was three weeks ago that my friend at work asked me if I wanted to join their volleyball team in a tournament which was last Saturday. And if any of you know me personally, you know how much I love volleyball. So immediately, out of my excitement, I agreed to attend the tournament. Oh was this a bad decision. See, I was asked this two weeks ago before the tournament. But the Friday before the tournament I realized my message was very poor. And it was this verse, verse 21, which convicted me of this ignoble thing I was holding on to, volleyball. Playing volleyball isn’t a sin, but, at the moment, it would not allow me to be used by God effectively. Also, compared to God’s work of salvation, volleyball is so ignoble. So that Friday night I backed out of the tournament, and decided to work on my message all Saturday. And, boy, I got to tell you, immediately I felt God working in my life. The next day I woke up refreshed and empowered. Right away I knew God was using me for his noble work of writing this message. And this only came about when I cleansed myself of ignoble things.

On top of cleansing ourselves of ignoble things, Paul mentions in verse 22 that Timothy must “flee the evil desires of the youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart”. So instead of pursuing evil, we must pursue God. Instead of fleeing God’s help, we must flee that which opposes God. This may be the biggest thing in our lives right now, evil desires. But the solution is simple, pursue God only, surround yourself with fellow believers, make no compromise whatsoever.

Now look at verse 23. Paul says, “Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels”. Here we see Paul adding foolish and stupid arguments to evil desires. Both are equally bad. Because remember, the result of quarrels is a ruining of a person’s faith. Rather than arguing, one approved by God is “kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful”, as verse 24 says. In addition, when met with opposition, one approved by God, does not fight back, but rather “gently [instructs], in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth”, as verse 25 says. See this is the hope we need to have, not that others may accept our knowledge but that others may accept the Lord’s knowledge. One approved by God knows that those who argue are under the trap of the devil and only need to come to their senses; therefore, they patiently wait for the Lord to work in that person’s life through his mercy and grace. These qualities are all scene in someone who cleanses themselves of ignoble things and evil desires of youth, one approved by God.

Personally, in my life, I have struggled to live the life of one approved by God. Many times have I avoided hardship when serving God. In the past, I’ve abandoned my coworkers when fishing to avoid the hardships of persecution and harsh comments from unbelievers. Many times have I mishandled the word of truth. Sometimes I will try to tailor the word of God to suit my own evil desires. In addition, many times have I chosen to hold onto ignoble thins like parties and sporting events rather than doing the work of God. So where am I now? What have I learned from this passage? First and foremost, I learned that I must repent of avoiding hardships at Cal State Long Beach, for mishandling the word of truth to satisfy my lust problem, and for choosing to partake in events that have no noble value when I should be serving God. Secondly, I learned that I must keep the goal of living the life as one approved by God as my main focus in life. In order for me to change my life around I must pray to God for his power. So please Lord help me to live a life approved by you. Enable me by your power to overcome hardships in my life and sin. Lord, please strengthen my commitment to change. From this point I will join my coworkers 3 to even 4 day out of the week. I will let your word God correct me, and write down deep testimonies on this. Lastly, I will never again use a personal computer, as this is a venue for evil desires, and decide to join a common life where a holy life is promoted and nurtured. By making commitments like these, I pray that God may form me into his instrument for noble purposes, one approved by him.

So, where do you stand before God? Are you living the life of one approved by God? The life of one approved by God is here. It’s available. The only question is whether you are willing to take the steps to make it happen. In closing, I think we need to understand how important and valuable God’s approval is. The value of God’s approval is scene in what he did to make it available. God sent his one and only son to die on the cross for our sins. So if you recognize this value, you must endure hardship, correctly handle the word of truth, and cleanse yourself of ignoble things and evil desires of you. Do this with all your effort, and all your strength, and you will have no regrets, no shame before God who’s called you to be one approved.

One Word: One Approved