APPROVED UNTO GOD
By Jeannette Haley
“All scripture is given by inspiration
of God, and is profitable for doctrine,
for reproof, for correction, for instruction
in righteousness.” – 2 Timothy 3:16
In Parts 1-3 we have been considering 2 Timothy 2:15 which states, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” Whenever I read the Bible I approach it to believe, with all my heart, what it says, and that it is inspired by the Holy Spirit. Otherwise it’s like trying to eat by chewing food without ever swallowing it. (That was my experience once with Grape Nut Flakes. I just kept chewing and adding more to it when the sugar was gone, but for the life of me I couldn’t swallow that big wad of dry, tasteless fiber.) Even though I may not understand some things in the Bible, or even feel happy about other things, (like killing all those poor, innocent animals for sacrifices), nevertheless, I need to remember that there is a lot more to it than I can fathom, and that which God has required, commanded, ordained, established and promised is perfect, it is truth, and it is eternal. God is holy, and He never changes, nor does His inspired Word. Scriptures that are corrupted by people who are operating according to their own agenda, causes, beliefs, and prejudices and who add to, or take from God’s Word in order to change the intent, or spirit of the Word do so to the peril of their own souls.
As Christians, it’s important to learn how to let the Holy Spirit bring revelation to us when we read and study the Word instead of coming to our own conclusions based on what we would like it to say, (which is both dishonest and a lack of integrity) or concluding that it doesn’t pertain to modern man because we are so “far advanced” and so “all-knowing” and “scientific”. Oh posh! God and His Word never change, but if we are going to lead a life that is pleasing to God, and stand before Him as “workmen that need not to be ashamed,” then we are the ones who must change regardless of the times and culture in which we live. Man along with his works, his inventions, his faulty so-called “wisdom,” and all his magnificent accomplishments and feats amount to nothing next to the God of the universe. We are only deceiving ourselves. God is not impressed.
We may cling to our “guns and Bibles” in these latter days, but if we don’t know how to properly use our weapons, or how to “rightly divide” and discern God’s Word, then we are not prepared for trouble, either physically or spiritually. It’s not a good thing to end up “shooting yourself in the foot” and it’s not a good thing to be ignorant concerning what the Bible really says about things we ignorantly assume are true. Concerning spiritual warfare, 2 Corinthians 10:4 says, “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds.” Ephesians 6:13-17 tells us what our armor is, and Zechariah 4:6 says “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.”
I’ve learned through the years of pulling down strongholds that the first stronghold to be overcome is ourselves and the way we think, wrong influences in our lives since childhood, our perceptions, decisions, and wrong “interpretations” of the meaning of life, God, and His Word. If we do indeed belong to Christ and are following Him, we find ourselves traveling on a very narrow road. Sadly, some are shuffling along with a stiff, starchy, strict, stringent, seriously sour and sometimes scary and cumbersome super religious walk. Others are flapping along in a flit, flutter, fly, fluffy, and oftentimes, foolish religious walk. Both extremes have yet to come into balance in that place in Christ where by faith they can receive His peace. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” John 14:27.
The peace that Jesus gives is perfect. It has no elements of the world in it; that is, the world’s “peace” is a false peace of compromising promises based on vocalized positive reinforcements that don’t exist in reality. Simply put, it might tickle ears but it’s just a bunch of hot air. Such imaginings never have and they never will become reality because they are based on the original lie in the Garden, “Yea, hath God said?” Lies are designed in the spiritual realm of darkness to appeal to our unfulfilled senses, aborted dreams, discouraging disappointments, and unexplainable longings for something beyond our ability to grasp in our fallen state. But on the world stage the force that overwhelms the human soul to achieve the “impossible dream” by means of subtle seduction to equate belief in the power of the imagination (positive thinking and visualization for example) to be greater than faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His Word is a counterfeit to the real peace that Jesus gives us. It is, in fact, witchcraft, and the power that operates through it is of Satan. The human race is never going to be able to restore the Garden of Eden, the lost Paradise on this earth, yet the longing for such an idyllic place is more often than not the undetected motivating factor in so much of what man pursues and strives for, either by working hard to acquire enough money and power to try and forge out a prototype of “Paradise” on earth; or, by becoming a “revolutionary” against the rich, and/or by trying to establish a “dream world” through the delusion of socialism (which never works, by the way.)
In other words, whether it is the “far right” or the “far left” the final goal of both groups is an earthly utopia. Each side has their own definition of what that involves; therefore, their means of achieving this illusive dream are in stark opposition from start to finish. The result? Civil war. And, in the center of all this stands the organized, institutional, and traditional religion of compromising churches that are neither hot nor cold, but rather lukewarm with no power, no authority, and no solution to the woes of mankind beyond their platitudes and psychobabble. Such churches are “Christian” in name only and will be judged by the God of heaven. Obviously I am not talking about real Christianity, because true Christianity is not a religion, nor is it a denomination, nor is it a “Christian” subculture, but rather it is made up of individuals who have a personal relationship with God through the Lord Jesus Christ.
As born-again Christians we are citizens of the Kingdom of God, the unseen kingdom that Jesus reigns over, the church that Jesus is building, and as such His people make up the kingdom that He and He alone will establish upon this earth at His glorious coming. As Christians, we have no business jumping into the fray and battling on one side or the other to establish our idea of earthly Paradise; rather, we are still commissioned by the Lord Jesus Christ to “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” Matthew 28:19, 20. In addition, in all things of this world (be they the “left” or the “right”) we are to stand above it all, firmly grounded on the Rock of ages, shining forth the Truth and the light of Christ, and faithfully proclaiming the life and liberty He offers to those held captive by sin and Satan.
Christ’s commission should be our first priority; followed by our need to discern how, when and where He will have each of us carry out His will in this regard. Once we have our priorities in line with God’s will for us, according to His Word, then we can begin to discern in what order the Lord would have us, as Christian soldiers, proceed into “battle.” While we all long for the peace of Paradise, the truth is until Jesus comes, we are all in a war of some sort. Even though we may be saved, nevertheless, the flesh daily wars against the spirit; unsaved family members can, and do, reject and even persecute the believer; friends and acquaintances turn away from us; we may be shunned and persecuted in our schools, businesses, communities, as well as by local and Federal governments. Jesus warned, “A man’s foes shall be they of his own household” Matthew 10:36. “For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom” Matthew 14:7a. From our personal lives all the way up the scale to the nations of the world we are, in truth, living in a war zone. Keep in mind Nehemiah 4:18 where we read, “For the builders, every one had his sword girded by his side, and so builded.” First we fight the enemies within, and then we fight the enemies without, with the Word of God in our hearts and on our lips, for it is our powerful sword of truth, and our only offensive weapon.
Concerning peace, the world, the flesh and the devil can offer a superficial “peace” to those who throw themselves into humanitarian works outside of the will of God, and without the Gospel message, and who do good works motivated by emotional zeal, human sympathy, and determination to right wrongs for their own glory and not for the glory of God. Today there are lose and liberal “bleeding heart do-gooders” on nearly every front that may even strip themselves of all their worldly goods, giving their all to save lives, but not souls. Therefore, those who are “fliting, fluttering and flying” in their fantasy, “freedom-loving” brand of “Christianity” will, unless they somehow land and develop a love for the truth, miserably fall, flop and fail to reach their potential in Christ because they will never see Him and recognize Him for Who He is, and be able to embrace the life He has for them in Himself. When good works, and the good feeling that results from them, become the motivating factor instead of obedience to Christ, and good works become more important than “spirit and truth, and genuine love for the Lord our God, and when good works become the end instead of the means through which the Gospel is preached, then we have left Jesus behind and it has become all about us, or the work itself. This is dangerous because it can subtlety lead to judging God for allowing all of the suffering, misery and ills in the world. When we become work-centered rather than Christ-centered (even though He may be occasionally tacked on) the end result is idolatry itself.
I recently finished reading a book about a very much loved and admired woman in Egypt who gave up a privileged life to go and work among the poorest of the poor in the “garbage villages” outside of Cairo. Her amazing story is moving and inspiring. However, towards the very end of the book the author wrote, “When life in the Egyptian countryside became too difficult because of economic troubles or religious persecution—sometimes both—the poorest rural Egyptians would flee to Cairo. Many were illiterate. Almost all were Christian, though many had never actually heard of Jesus.” [Underlining added.] Think about that for a moment! My Bible says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” Romans 10:13-17. It’s interesting to note how “Christianity” is being redefined by the world.
Moving on to the other side of the narrow road are the stiff, starchy, tightlipped, letter-of-the-law legalists who take every word of the Bible literally. As discussed in previous articles, some of the Bible is to be taken literally, but not all of it. This is where the Bible student must be able to discern that which is literal from that which is an allegory, and by comparing Scripture with Scripture discern the will of God in controversial matters as to whether God is being glorified in it or not. Unlike the fantasy types who have stretched and broadened even the most basic biblical precepts to fit into their humanistic, socialist and sometimes New Age leanings, the legalists have stuffed their literal interpretations of Scripture into neat little boxes, hammered them tightly closed and then sealed them with Pharisaical super glue.
This extreme usually results in an uptight, rigid, fearful Christian who can easily become judgmental of other believers who are walking in the joy, peace and love of Christ in the liberty of the Spirit. Such people are often dubbed to be “legalistic” because, in order to avoid the lack of sobriety and fear of God the “flit, fly and flutter” group exhibits, they go to the other extreme and batten down the hatches, throw out the anchor, and huddle in the hold instead of simply staying on deck to enjoy the freedom and liberty of the Spirit in life’s journey.
Here’s an illustration for you: just try, for a moment to picture a three-mast schooner in your mind. This ship is way out in the ocean, but it’s not going anywhere, and it represents three different groups of Christians. On deck are the Captain and crew and those who know the Way, the Truth and the Life. They know the Word, and they know the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. But, then there is the “flighty, flippant, flutter” group that is represented by the sails, flying and flapping every which way trying to catch the wind of the Holy Spirit, but generally falling short into an artificial emotional experience. Their emphasis is not on “rightly dividing” the Word of God. Nope. It’s on feeling the wind, and it’s all about that which has to do with the Holy Spirit, and trying to get the ship moving no matter what. Now picture the anchor that’s way down there bumping along on the ocean floor. It’s not really anchored on the Rock, so it’s “dragging anchor, burdened and heavy and hoping to get everything just right. The anchor represents the sober-sided, staunch, stiff, stifled, stuffy and dead letter Christians who are trying to counterbalance the frantic flying flappers up in the sails. So, here’s the conclusion: The dragging-anchor Christians, and the flying-in-the-breeze Christians both end up missing the boat altogether.
God wants His children to get on board, and let Him be the Captain! And, He wants us to “rightly divide the Word” so we can be “approved by God.” Yes, we are to be sober, but not sad sacks. We are to fear God, but not be fearful. We are to be obedient, and holy, but not fanatical legalists. We are to be filled with the Spirit so that we have the power to be witnesses; but, not so we can fly off with every “wind of doctrine” into “Noo Noo” land. We need God’s love, God’s joy and God’s peace that is predicated by worshipping Him in “spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24.) And, we all most definitely need the simple faith of a little child!
Lord, teach us to truly be thankful and enjoy the life You have given to us; that is, our life in You, not the so-called “life” the world offers. Grant us wisdom to know the difference.
To summarize, watch out for extremism! The narrow road is not made up of “happy-clappy” careless Christians—those who need to “land,” gain sobriety, and become rooted and grounded in Him; nor is it made up of stressed out, legalistic, letter-of-the-law Christians who need to allow the Holy Spirit to fill them with the love, joy and peace of the Lord. The secret of the narrow road is that Jesus Christ is the narrow road. Jesus is the door; He is the “way, the truth and the life.” We cannot walk on the narrow road by our own efforts of trying to be perfect, or by making ourselves holy. It is only as we surrender our lives to Jesus, and make Him the Lord of all that we will find our lives. Jesus is calling His wounded, scattered sheep to Himself. His arms are open wide for them to come to Him and be healed and revived and prepared for His coming.
Is He calling you to Himself today?