"Whose Approval Do You Seek?"
Most people desire approval. We want the approval of our boss for the work we do. We want the approval of our family for the love we give. But do we center upon living a life that brings God's approval?
Whose Approval Do You Seek?
(2 Tim. 2:14-19)
A. There are many things that get Christians into trouble. Do you ever feel like Satan is on a personal attack against you and that you will not win? Many times Christians lose that battle against evil and Satan gets excited.
B. But if you would seek to try and see what gets Christians into trouble most frequently, you would probably come back to two areas: the tongue and Biblical interpretation. James hits Christians hard about the misuse of the tongue. In fact, he goes as far as to call it “a fire, a world of evil among the parts of our body and that it is set on fire by hell itself.” (James 3:6)
C. I know from personal experience that my mouth, my words, get me in a bunch of trouble. Sometime I know it the moment I say something – that was the wrong thing to say. But sometimes I don’t even realize that my words are getting me into trouble.
D. When the wisdom of Proverbs was written down we were told some things that God hates – things that he find abominable. In that list of seven things three of them deal with the tongue. (Prov. 6:16-19) In the church we find that many church problems are really rooted in the tongue. Things like gossip, slander, mean words, useless debate that has no purpose but to destroy others slip into the body of Christ and when that happens the church suffers.
E. One area the tongue gets misused in the church is in teaching. People who do not know or understand the Bible put themselves into positions of teacher and in doing so hurt the babes in Christ. There is a great danger when false teaching takes place.
F. Paul tells Timothy to keep reminding Christians, to warn them and let God be witness that quarreling about words is of no value and only causes catastrophe to those who listen. During the reformation movement the Germans, led by Martin Luther, and the Swiss, led by Count von Zwingli, divided over whether or not the phrase “this is my body” used by Jesus and Paul in reference to the Lord’s Supper meant the actually body and blood of Jesus or merely a representation of that body and blood. It was so controversial that the two groups divided and the goal to reform became halted over words.
G. This morning I want us to be challenged by the word of God to watch our tongues and to understand good biblical interpretation. When we can learn to work on those two areas we will be workmen who are unashamed.
I. Words That Hurt
A. In our reading Paul wants Timothy to understand how important the words he teaches are. The truth of the matter is there are Christians who get caught up words that hurt. The old saying, “Sticks and stone may hurt my bones, but words will never hurt me” is a lie.
B. It is in words that Christians get hurt. Through arguments and godless chatter the faith of some are destroyed. As the Battle of Trafalgar was about to begin, Admiral Nelson came across two officers of his own flagship who were arguing hotly and about to take sword to each other. Nelson stepped between them and said, “Stop.” Then, pointing to the French fleet, he said, “There is the enemy.”
C. You are not my enemy. I need to choose my words carefully when instructing you. I need to think first and speak last. I am not talking about healthy debate or biblical discussion that encourages you to go and study the Bible deeper. That is good and many times we need to have a little fire set under our seat just to get us thinking. I am talking about pure false teaching that ends with Christians whose faith becomes destroyed.
D. In this chapter Paul tells Timothy that false teaching is like gangrene. What a description. I need to come back to the Bible and understand its truth. I need to teach its truth. I need to not be ashamed of what I teach, because the words I teach should be that of God’s. When I learn to center upon the truth found in the Word then I can be a workman approved by God.
II. The Word that Saves
A. On one hand you have words that hurt, but on the other you have the Bible that Paul calls the word of truth. One lesson we need to learn as Christians is to seek the approval of God, not man. This lesson is not easy. Many of us like to be liked. I want people to say, “Jeffrey is a good guy.” I want and desire close friendship. In doing so, sometimes I get caught up in desiring the approval of those around me. I feel good when people like me and feel bad when they don’t. But guess what – God wants me to seek his approval and not yours.
B. To seek His approval I need to learn that the things I preach, teach or say may not always be to your liking. Sometimes a class I teach a class or a sermon I preach may get upset you. But if my motive is based in God and not your desires or your evaluation of me, then your feelings towards me are fairly irrelevant.
C. How do you and I as Christian gain the approval of God and become workmen who do not need to be ashamed? The answer: you learn how correctly handle the word of truth. Jesus says, “By your words you will be saved and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matt. 12:37) In Paul’s tent-making days he had to learn how to cut in a straight line. It is that word that Paul uses to Timothy. Cut a straight line when using the Bible. Handle the Bible correctly so that no false teaching will come from your lips. People are too precious to God to be lost over false teaching.
III. Do Your Best
A. I want to close with the words that Paul begins. “Do your best.” The phrase is translated different ways in different translations. The KJV says, “Study.” Others say, “Be diligent” or “Work hard.” The word is more a term of speed than anything else. Paul is seeking to help Timothy understand the quick need to become a workman approved of God. Will it require study, diligence and hard work? Yes. It requires you to do your best.
B. Part of your salvation is dependent upon your own understanding of God’s word and being able to handle it correctly. Be in a hurry, take pains, make every effort to show (present yourself) before God.
C. You see, when this life is over there is only one opinion that counts and it is not mine or yours, but God’s. Do your best to present yourself before God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed.
D. Sometimes as Christians we are ashamed of our words. Sometimes we are ashamed of knowledge of the Bible. But all that can change. You don’t have to live in shame. You don’t have life as a lazy Christian who refuses to change. You don’t have wander away from the truth. You can do your best. You can present yourself to God and seek His approval.
A. How do you become that unashamed workman? You let God’s word mold you and don’t be swayed by every doctrine that we men teach.
B. Let the Bible shows you how to be saved. Follow the teachings of the apostles and repent and be baptized. Devote yourself to the apostles teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread and prayer.
C. One day each of us will die and after that will come a judgment. We will one day present ourselves before the throne of God and be eternally rewarded or eternally condemned. You will determine that judgment call by your words and your following of the Bible. If you died today where would you spend eternity?
D. Can we help? Can I or anyone here help you understand the word of God more fully? All you have to do is ask.