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Feb 21 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

February 21, 2021

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But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:14-17

Intro: We have been on an eight week excursion in the sacred writings

I thought it would be good today to return to where we began
– Paul encourages Timothy to continue in what he had learned and believed
• his spiritual education was rooted in the sacred writings
◦ “sacred,” because they come from God and reveal God
◦ “sacred,” because All Scripture is breathed out by God
• what I want to emphasize in this talk: the sacred writings are profitable
◦ for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness
◦ and by the sacred writings we are fully equipped for every good work
– one difficulty we have with scripture is that we do not know how to read the sacred writings
• reading other writings we question, we argue, we disagree with the author
◦ it’s okay to read Bible that way when we’re studying it
• but as sacred writings, we must suspend judgment
◦ we accept these writings exactly as they are, letting God speak to us
◦ but having said that, a mere reading of the sacred writings is not the endgame

We read the sacred writings to prepare ourselves for action
– to be taught, corrected, trained, and equipped for every good work
– the goal is not to read and study the Bible,
• the goal is to what God does in us through his sacred writings
• and what we go and do afterward, and as a result of, reading them

If we are disciples of Jesus, what completes our training?

Jesus was once approached by a man well-versed in the law
– he asked what he had to do to inherit eternal life — Jesus asked him,
“What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live” (Lk. 10:25-28)
• Jesus proved that the lawyer already knew the answer to his own question
◦ but then, like all skilled lawyers, he raised a technical issue
(paraphrased) “You need to define your terms, Jesus. Just who is my neighbor? That is not just a simple question.”
• Jesus then told him the famous story of the Good Samaritan
◦ in it, which one of the three men depicted proved to be a neighbor?
“The lawyer said, The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “Go and do that!” (Lk. 10:29-37)
– what completes our training? Two words: “go and do”
• the fullest recorded teaching of Jesus is in his Sermon On the Mount
◦ Jesus concludes that talk with a story of two builders
Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock (Mt. 7:24-27)
• the value of the words of Jesus includes personal stability and safety
◦ but only if we act on them

All through scripture, God’s word is a creative and life-giving force

It is compared to a seed
. . . you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God (1 Pe. 1:23)
– but if so, how come people can hear it and not be changed?
• Jesus told a parable that answers this question
◦ it is a story about a farmer scattering seed
◦ as he did, seeds landed on different types of soil:
a well-worn path, rocky ground, a weedy patch, and fertile soil
• in the first three examples, there were specific threats: birds, the sun, and weeds
Jesus explained, The farmer plants the word
◦ it fails to penetrate the compressed soil of the path: the threat here is Satan
◦ it fails to flourish where it cannot sink roots: the threat here is tribulation or persecution
◦ it fails to bear fruit where plant is choked by weeds: the threats here are the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and desires for other things (Mk. 4:14-19)
– the emphasis of the parable is not on the word that’s planted,
• but on the soil of human hearts
• what happens to the word after a person hears it

The sacred writings can make our lives productive and effective
– it’s God’s desire that we live productive lives
By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples (Jn. 15:8)
• but for the sacred writings to have this effect,
• they have to sink roots deep into the soil of our hearts

We learn from this parable how to receive the sacred writings

First, from the hard path soil we learn to hang on to what we read
– we cannot lose the word before it has chance to come to life
• we’ve learned from neuroscience research that a thought must be held for at least fifteen seconds for it to wire any kind of memory into the neurons of the brain. For the thought to for it to produce any significant results it must be held considerably longer or be repeated several times fairly frequently
◦ James tells us,
be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves . . . For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he looks like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing (Jas. 1:22-25)
• there’s a kind of self-deception that can occur with Bible study
◦ reading God’s word is not same as doing what it says
– in Jesus’ parable of the vine and branches there are two key words:
fruit and abide (or “remain”)
Abide in me, and I in you; my words abide in you; Abide in my love
– stay with the scripture you read by meditating on it
• read slowly and ask it questions
◦ if a particular verse speaks to you, read it over several times emphasizing every word
• see if you can put what the verse is saying to you in your own words
◦ do other verses or quotes come to mind?

Second, from the rocky soil we learn make space in hearts for it to root
– let go of every anxious thought, every fear
• remind yourself that God is your strength
• and that because God is for you, nothing else stands a chance
– open the deepest places of your soul to receive the sacred writings

Third, clear out all worldly distractions from your mind
Therefore put aside all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word which is able to save your souls (Jas. 1:21)
– set aside everything else
• take several cleansing breaths and center yourself
• take a moment to wait for God’s Spirit – focus attention on his presence
– read the sacred writings the way we’re to love God
with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind

After reading the sacred writings, DO something

Capture what you have read
– write down your thoughts, pray your thoughts
• draw a picture, sing a song
– if God has put something on your heart,
• take a first step in that direction
Joel Green, “I observed that biblical texts are never complete on their own but invite readers to actualize their meaning, that texts are characterized by gaps that must be filled by the readers, and that different readers will actualize the text’s clues in different ways.”

I’ve heard Christians say, “Good works are good for nothing”
– what they mean is that we don’t get to heaven by good works
• but they’re wrong, because good works are good for many things
◦ I’ve also heard Christians criticize what they called “the social gospel”
◦ what they had in mind were typically the social services “liberal” Christians provided (food, clothing, and housing for the poor; work among alcoholics and drug addicts; joining civil rights marches and so on)
◦ in the Scriptures there is no distinction between a spiritual gospel and a social gospel — both are included in the salvation gospel
◦ through the prophets God persistently called his people to justice and righteousness
◦ the Lord Jesus shared this concern (cf. Lk. 4:16-19)
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven (Mt. 5:16)
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law; justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, with neglecting the others (Mt. 23:23-24)
• in the New Testament letters we’re told to do good more than twenty times
(see below*)
– some preachers always include a “life application” point in their sermons
• but the most authentic application of a passage, is the one the Spirit speaks to you
◦ that one will be empowered

Conclusion: Charles Spurgeon described reading scripture with two images

He said sometimes it is like walking in a garden, picking flowers
– at other times it’s like laboring in a mine, digging for gold
– it can feel like work at times,
• but once the word gets inside of us, it works on its own
◦ Jesus described this hidden process in a parable about a farmer who planted seeds
He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed spouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade then the ear, then the full grain . . . (Mk. 4:27-28)

When you read the sacred writings,
it won’t help you if you tense all muscles in your body,
if you grit your teeth or grimace as if in pain,
if you concentrate so hard that you give yourself a headache
Human energy can be graced, but it is not grace, it is work
Grace flows
and grace flows when you trust God
for what he places in your heart
when you abide in his word and in his love
After all,
if you cannot walk,
is it really so difficult to let God carry you?

*There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek (Rom. 2:10)
And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work (2 Cor. 9:8)
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith (Gal. 6:9-10)
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Eph. 2:10)
And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God (Col. 1:9-10)
See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone (1 Thes. 5:15)
Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word (2 Thes. 2:16-17)
As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good (2 Thes. 3:13)
They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share (1 Tim. 6:18)
waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works (Titus 2:13-14)
The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works (Titus 3:8)
And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful (Titus 3:14)
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works (Heb. 10:24)
Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God (Heb. 13:16)
Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evil doers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation (1 Pet. 2:12)
For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people (1 Pet. 2:15)

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