“I not only want to bring the Bible to life, but to your life.”
I’m not sure where I first picked this up, but I’ve said it so much that it certainly feels like mine. It stays in front of my eyes when I’m doing sermon preparation or writing blogs.
Part of my goal is bringing the Bible to life. To ensure my readers don’t feel the Word of God is dusty and flat, but alive, breathing, and moving.
I want them to taste the sand in the air as the children of Israel left Egypt during the Exodus and they were free.
I want them to shiver in the cold as a young, scared girl named Mary wrapped strips of cloth around the olive-skinned, squinty-eyed, black-haired Son of God lying in her arms.
I want them to smell the freshly cut palm branches on Jesus’ triumphant entry to Jerusalem as the thunderous crowd shout and sang praise to the Lord as the Son of God rode into town on a floppy-eared, knocked-kneed donkey.
Yes, I want to bring the Bible to life. But that’s only half the battle.
We as teachers of Scripture MUST also bring the Bible to YOUR life. We must help show you how to walk out the truth of God’s word.
One could say 2 Timothy 2:15 serves as my “life verse for preaching and teaching”.
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved,2 Timothy 2:15
a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.
New International Version
This verse is probably familiar to long-time Christians. It’s been loaded and used in a variety of situations usually involving the memorization of facts, figures, and verses from and about the Bible. But when we actually see the verse as the Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle Paul to write it to young Timothy, we find valuable insight and focus.
The English Christian world can hardly underestimate the power the King James Version translation of the Bible had on our flavor of Christianity. This verse is one of those times where its influence has been strong. The KJV translates the end of this verse as “rightly dividing the word of truth” while the NIV renders the underlying Greek as it is above: “correctly handles the word of truth”.
Why is this significant?
Because the Greek underlying the English translations doesn’t mean or imply to cut a person with the word of truth. There’s no bludgeoning with the Bible implied in the construction of the phrase.
Instead it means and implies to cut straight with the word of truth.
It’s about cutting a path through the wilderness of doubt, confusion, fear, apostacy, and sin. It’s far more about preparation for building than it is about cutting and dividing.
We handle the holy truth of God’s word wholly. We are careful, honest, and sound in our handling of Scripture. We straighten out confusion instead of adding to it. We bring the clarity of God’s word into the fog bank of life.
An approved worker for the Lord is not one tearing up and wrecking. Nor is an approved worker a theological junkyard dog chasing after every errant word someone might say. Instead, it is sure confidence in the truth of God’s Word who keeps his or her eyes on the prize.
Herein lies another application questions: how best do we present ourselves to God? Is Paul telling Timothy to gain more education? More knowledge? More experience?
Maybe. But not primarily.
When we keep 2 Timothy 2:15 in the context of this paragraph, chapter, and letter we see this is part of the antidote to false teaching going on in Timothy’s assignment in Ephesus.
It wouldn’t be Timothy’s knowledge, wits, personality, or education (alone) turning the tide of false teaching. Instead, it would be what the false teachers couldn’t argue with: Timothy’s own changed life.
Presenting ourselves to God, dear one in Jesus, isn’t about how many degrees you have. It isn’t about how much Bible knowledge you have. It isn’t about how much experience you have. It’s about the life that has been changed by the power of the Holy Spirit.
I’m not against learning the Bible. We need to. But our learning the Bible is less about facts and figures and FAR more about learning to live it out in our behavior.
After all, “knowledge puffs up while love builds up,” the Apostle Paul writes to the Christians in Corinth, “Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. But whoever loves God is known by God” (1 Corinthians 8:1b-3).
The Apostle Paul was teaching Timothy—and I believe he’s teaching us today—what an old poem by Edgar Guest says:
I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day.
I’d rather one would walk with me than merely tell the way.
The eye’s a better pupil and more willing than the ear.
Fine counsel is confusing, but example’s always clear.
The best of all the preachers are the men who live their creeds.
For to see good put in action is what everybody needs.
I soon can learn to do it if you’ll let me see it done.
I can watch your hands in action, but your tongue too fast may run.
The lectures you deliver may be very wise and true.
But I’d rather get my lesson by observing what you do.
I may not understand the high advice that you may give.
But there’s no misunderstanding how you act and how you live.
When I see a deed of kindness, I am eager to be kind.
When a weaker brother stumbles and a strong man stays behind
Just to see if he can help him, then the wish grows strong in me
To become as big and thoughtful as I know that friend to be.
And all travelers can witness that the best of guides today
Is not the one who tells them, but the one who shows the way.
One good man teaches many, men believe what they behold;
One deed of kindness noticed is worth forty that are told.
Who stands with men of honor learns to hold his honor dear,“I’d Rather See a Sermon” by Edgar Guest (Public Domain)
For right living speaks a language which to everyone is clear.
Though an able speaker charms me with his eloquence, I say,
I’d rather see a sermon than to hear one, any day.