Sanctification & Growth
All of us have itchy ears. The question is, how do you scratch?
If you’ve been around church for very long, you may have heard Paul’s warning in today’s Bible reading. “For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will multiply teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear what they want to hear. They will turn away from hearing the truth and will turn aside to myths.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4)
All of us Believers have our favorite Bible teachers and preachers. And we have our favorite Christian music. Some of our favorites are well worth the time to listen to! These are the kind of Bible teachers, preachers and songs that will lift your spirits when you’re down. They’ll feed your hungry soul. They’ll point your eyes to Jesus and the glory of God. They’ll give you a hunger for more of God!
Some of our favorites are OK. I mean, they aren’t bad, but they aren’t really good either. These Bible teachers and preachers will tell you what God says in the Bible. The songs will give you a nice beat to keep your toe tapping. But in the grand sceme of things, they are simply “amusing”.
One of my professors warned about Christian “amusement”. The word literally means “not-thinking”.
And then there are the favorites that shouldn’t be. These Bible teachers and preachers have so little nourishing content, it’s difficult to sort through all the chaff just to get to the wheat. And some are so bad, there’s actually no spiritual nourishment to be gained. And some of the songs have pretty melodies and harmonies, and some of the words are sentimental, but the songs lack anything of real substance.
Paul’s concern was not about the outright “bad” teaching and songs. Yes, bad teaching should be avoided. Yes, bad Bible teachers and preachers should be avoided.
But we should also avoid a steady diet of marginal and questionable teaching. We should avoid a steady diet of one-dimensional Christian music that only looks back at the day we were saved and the day we get to heaven. We should vary our songs so we don’t just sing and listen to songs about God; we should sing and listen to songs to God at least as much as we sing about Him! Now, lest anyone think I’m bashing one type of music and promoting any other type, I’ll just say that there’s good and there’s bad in all kinds of Christian music. Some of the “old” stuff is good and some of it is bad. Some of the “new” stuff is good and some of it is bad.
There are lots of ways to scratch our itchy ears. Some are very good and helpful. Some are OK. But some are to be avoided completely.
So how do you scratch your itching ears? Remember: Don’t be “amused”!
This devotional was originally published on September 21, 2019.
In today’s Bible reading, Paul describes the symptoms of leaving God’s objective revelation of Himself. He also prescribes the remedy.
The Description: “For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, demeaning, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, without love for what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to the form of godliness but denying its power.” (2 Timothy 3:2-5 CSB)
It can’t get much worse than that, can it?
Paul describes the ultimate fallout of a life without God’s Truth. In a word, it’s “anarchy” a word which literally means “no ruler”. If you leave an objective standard of Truth, then you have no basis to discern the answers to questions about everything from the existence of God to defining right and wrong, and defining something as simple as “male” or “female”.
The Prescription: “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed. You know those who taught you, and you know that from infancy you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are able to give you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:-14-17 CSB)
When you live by an objective standard of Truth, you have the tools to answer the big questions and the small questions. Paul says that the Bible can prepare us for everything.
God didn’t give us an objective standard and revelation of Himself so we could sit back and admire the beauty of the standard. No, the Standard of Truth has a purpose beyond itself: to make us more like Jesus, and equip us to live a God-directed life. As we let God’s Word live in us, it spills over into every area of our lives and in concert with the influence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, our lives are changed from the inside, out. (Colossians 3:16ff, Ephesians 5:18ff)
As you read the first part of 2 Timothy 3, did you feel like you were reading a description of our current culture? Only Jesus Christ can satisfy the longings of a restless heart. And every heart is restless!
Ask God to use His Word to teach you, to correct you, to rebuke you, and to set you on a straight path of living for His glory.
This devotional was originally published on September 20, 2019.
Paul gives Timothy some very practical advise in today’s Bible reading. All Believers can relate to the occasional waning of passion for God and for practicing the spiritual disciplines. He tells Timothy to, “rekindle the gift of God that is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.” (2 Timothy 1:6–7)
I spent about ten years as a Scout, beginning as a Cub Scout and progressing through the Ranks of Boy Scouts until I earned the rank of Eagle. I spent another ten years as a Scout leader, mentoring my son and other growing young men. One of the important skills Boy Scouts is how to safely work with fire for warmth, cooking, for sterilizing dishes after meals. Again, working safely with fire, we had to let our campfire die down before hitting the sack at night. In the morning, we often wouldn’t have to start a new fire. Instead, we would use a shovel to turn over the ashes to reveal the glowing embers. We’d kneel down and slowly and gently blow into the embers until a flame erupted. From there we would begin adding small sticks and graduate to larger sticks to logs through the day and early evening.
Paul tells Timothy to turn over the apparent dead ashes, reveal the hidden embers, and fan into flame the gift that God gave him years ago. Spiritual growth doesn’t just happen. The verb tense that Paul uses is not to fan into flame one time, but to keep on fanning into flame his spiritual gift. We don’t know what Timothy’s spiritual gift was; it doesn’t matter anyway because Paul’s point is that he intends that we do the same when our passions wane.
In Ephesians 5:18, Paul tells the Ephesians — the people in Timothy’s church — to not be controlled with wine, but to keep on being filled with the Spirit. Why? Because we leak! One day — or one moment — we may be walking in a spiritual high and the next we may be fighting those indwelling sins that our enemy uses to condemn us and rob us of our joy. Why? Because we leak!
I don’t know a single Believer who constantly walks in a spiritual high. Seasons come and seasons go. Each of us needs to be reminded that we need to keep on fanning the flame of what God has given to us in Jesus.
Practicing the spiritual disciplines can help us to keep on rekindling the embers of passion for God and the things of God. If you’re interested in learning more about the spiritual disciplines, check out these resources by clicking the affiliate links.
Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney
This devotional was originally published on September 18, 2019.
In today’s Bible reading, Paul highlights several solid marks of godly people.
Godly people are known by what they flee from: False doctrine, the love of money, disputes and arguments over words, envy, quarreling, slander, and evil suspicions. Paul argued against these things throughout his letters.
Godly people are also know by what they pursue and fight for: righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness. We dont’ have to agree on everything. Actually, it’s helpful if we don’t agree on everything! But the essentials of the faith are worth fighting for. Unfortunately, too often people don’t know what the essentials are. But godly people are careful and pick their battles. They know which hills are worth dying on.
It’s important to note that Paul didn’t give us a list of dos and don’ts as distinguishing marks of godly people. Otherwise — as is our nature — we would use them as checklists to compare ourselves with others. That’s exactly what the Jewish leaders did in the First Century. They thought they were better than others because of the things they did and the things they didn’t do. Many Christians use checklists in the Twenty-First Century, too.
Instead, Paul gives us character qualities, qualities that we find in Jesus Christ, qualities that frankly we can’t manufacture on our own. As we grow to be more like Jesus, our lives manifest His character qualities.
One mark that Paul didn’t bring out here is love. He spends an entire chapter on the mark of love that distinguishes godly people. (1 Corinthians 13) And Jesus pointed out that people would know His disciples by their love for one another. (John 3:35)
This devotional was originally published on September 17, 2019.
In today’s Bible reading, Paul tells Timothy to guard against people looking down on him because of his youth. We don’t know how old Timothy is. There may have been some concern that this young pastor may not have enough experience or maturity to fulfill his ministry.
There’s a lot to be said about someone with experience in ministry. Years ago as we began our family, we heard someone teach about raising godly children. He had drawn some practical applications from Scripture. But as we pondered what he said, it dawned on us that this man doesn’t have any children. This man isn’t married either. We decided to take what he said with a proverbial grain of salt. Yes, there are truths which any Believer can mine out of God’s Word. Yes, single men can teach a lot from the Bible about raising godly children. But given the choice of a single man with no children and a man with grown, godly children, I’d take the advice of the older man. Most of us probably would.
Obviously, Timothy wasn’t the most experienced pastor, so Paul told him to show himself to be an example of Christian maturity. “Set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12 CSB) Timothy can’t do anything about his age. But he can be an example of how a Believer talks, acts, loves, believes, and remains pure.
There is an application for all of us here. Yes, Timothy was a church “elder”. But don’t think that there’s a different moral calling for the “ordained” than for the “ordinary”.
All of us are called to live a life of integrity and obedience to God through the power of the Holy Spirit. There will always be people younger in the faith than you. Ordained or not, you can show yourself as an example of how a believer talks, acts, loves, believes, and remains pure.
I’m not talking about putting on a “holier than thou” front. I’m talking about living a genuine life of growing obedience and dependence on the Holy Spirit. I’m talking about being a true disciple of Jesus Christ. And everyone is called to that.
This devotional was originally published on September 13, 2019.