APPROVED UNTO GOD
By Jeannette Haley
“Study to shew thyself approved
unto God, a workman that needeth
not to be ashamed, rightly dividing
the word of truth.” – 2 Timothy 2:15
A lot can be, and has been, said about the powerless, undiscerning, sleepy, weakened, and ignorant state of the organized church of today, and most of that is due to a failure on the part of God’s people to apply the above verse to their own lives. The first part of this verse says to “study.” Even though this was written to Timothy by the Apostle Paul, it applies to every Christian because the truth is if a Christian cannot learn how to feed him or herself, he or she will become spiritually anemic. Period. We can’t afford to sit back and expect to be fed enough “spiritual food” (even if it’s “meat,” which it normally isn’t) once a week for 45 minutes on Sunday mornings to last us all through the week, let alone cause us to grow and mature in the Lord.
Just how complacent is modern man towards the things of God? A. W. Tozer wrote, “Complacency is a deadly foe of all spiritual growth. Acute desire must be present or there will be no manifestation of Christ to His people. He waits to be wanted. Too bad that with many of us He waits so long, so very long, in vain.”
The question is just what are we to study? First, we are to study God’s Word. That means we aren’t in study mode when we pick up our Bible and breeze through a short portion of Scripture, hoping something pops out at us that makes us feel good about ourselves and our standing in God. Study means dedicated devotion and desire to dig deep, to never be fully satisfied because there is, and always will be, more to learn, and that we are actually more interested in the Person and work of God and what He has to say to us than we are interested in ourselves and our own so-called “wisdom.” To study God’s Word means that we also use study helps such as Smith’s Bible Dictionary, Halley’s Handbook of the Bible, and Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible.
If a person is truly serious about knowing God, understanding His ways, walking in close communion with Him, daily pleasing Him, worshipping Him in Spirit and in Truth, growing in Him, and serving Him, then studying the Holy Bible is not an option. If you are sincere about wanting the most accurate Bible to study, then may I suggest you do your homework and research to learn about the origins of the KJV as opposed to all the other so-called “versions” out there today, and why there are thousands of missing and/or altered Scriptures in the new “versions.” If you can talk yourself into doing a solid, in-depth study on this subject, go to: http://www.jesus-is-savior.com/Bible/1611_authorized_king_james.htm and also check out David Daniels’ books on the subject of Bible versions at: https://www.chick.com/ask/aboutdaniels.asp. If you love your modern “bible” then it is wise to compare it with a KJV Bible and note the differences. You will be shocked at Satan’s attacks on God’s Word through the centuries.
Suppose you asked me for one of my recipes, and suppose I only gave you half of the ingredients. Do you think for one minute that you would end up with the right dish? Of course you wouldn’t, and you would be rightly mad at me! The same is true with the Bible. Those who continually quote and emphasize certain portions of Scripture while ignoring the whole counsel of the Word of God, or who eliminate certain verses in order to bend the Word to “fit” culture, personal preferences, political correctness and questionable worldly practices end up with “another Jesus, another spirit and another gospel.”
The state of the organized church today gives evidence in and of itself that weak Bible “versions” result in weak Christians, and a weak church, just as a steady diet of processed junk food results in a weakened, sickly, dying body. Jesus told Peter to “feed His sheep.” Lambs must be carefully tended until they are old enough to begin to feed themselves. How ludicrous it would be to see a shepherd wrestling with a full-grown sheep in order to shove a bottle of milk into its mouth. Yet, that is what happens in so many of our dulled down modern churches Sunday after Sunday for years on end with disenchanted believers who never get beyond the milk stage of newborn babes in Christ. (Naturally newborn babes must “desire the sincere milk of the word, that [they] may grow thereby” 1 Peter 2:2. The “milk of the word” is doctrine.) BUT then they must go on to follow Christ, work out their own salvation with fear and trembling; that is, work out what God is working in, and go on to perfection (maturity.) Hebrews 5:11-14; 6:1, 2 tells us, “Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing. For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. THEREFORE leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.” [Emphasis added.]
The truth is it is impossible to grow in Christ and overcome the world, the flesh and the devil unless we commit to the study of His Word. This is how we come to know Him, understand the “beginning from the end of all things” and become established upon the Rock. The most exciting and rewarding treasure hunt any of us could ever undertake is when we dig into the real Bible to discover precious gems and nuggets that we never knew or even imagined existed, and then realize that they’ve be there all along, just waiting for us to discover them, and praise God for them, rejoice in them, and cherish them. But, just as in any treasure hunt, if we do our searching and digging in the wrong environment where no real treasure is waiting for discovery, we will be sorely disappointed.
If we fail to study God’s Word we will be like a wanderer, aimlessly roaming about in the wilderness without a compass. If we truly want God to use us, as His servants, and to make a difference in the lives of others, then there are no shortcuts when it comes to diligent study of the Bible. Oswald Chambers taught, “If you cannot express yourself well on each of your beliefs, work and study until you can. If you don’t, other people may miss out on the blessings that come from knowing the truth. Strive to re-express a truth of God to yourself clearly and understandably, and God will use that same explanation when you share it with someone else. But you must be willing to go through God’s winepress where the grapes are crushed. You must struggle, experiment, and rehearse your words to express God’s truth clearly. Then the time will come when that very expression will become God’s wine of strength to someone else. But if you are not diligent and say, ‘I’m not going to study and struggle to express this truth in my own words; I’ll just borrow my words from someone else,’ then the words will be of no value to you or to others. Try to state to yourself what you believe to be the absolute truth of God, and you will be allowing God the opportunity to pass it on through you to someone else. Always make it a practice to stir your own mind thoroughly to think through what you have easily believed. Your position is not really yours until you make it yours through suffering and study. The author or speaker from whom you learn the most is not the one who teaches you something you didn’t know before, but the one who helps you take a truth with which you have quietly struggled, give it expression, and speak it clearly and boldly.”
Some proudly emphasize that they don’t need any teaching because the Holy Spirit is their teacher. This conclusion is a dangerous example of not “rightly dividing the Word of God: it is confusing for the simple reason that it is generally not spoken in the right context. Here is why: First, concerning teaching, Jesus told His disciples to go and make disciples, teaching them to observe (obey) all that He commanded them. (Matthew 28:20). Jesus spent 3½ years teaching his disciples (students) so that they would be prepared to teach others. Ephesians 4:11-15 says “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some pastors, and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head even Christ.” Colossians 1:28 says, [Christ] “Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus” [Emphasis mine.] Teaching was commanded by God in the Old Testament, and by Jesus in the New. The reason the institutional churches are so far removed from true Christianity is because of a failure to teach the unadulterated Word of God. Secondly, the Holy Spirit needs something to work with; that is, the Holy Scriptures that a person is personally studying or being taught. As a person meditates on and studies the Word, the Holy Spirit illuminates the Word, giving it life and confirming it as truth when He imparts it into our hearts by revelation. Seasoned Bible teachers who know how to “rightly divide the Word of God” may impart to our mind facts, truths, precepts, words of wisdom and so forth, but the Holy Spirit is the One who quickens, or reveals it to our spirits and makes it living in our hearts. It is the Holy Spirit who gives us the discernment to be able to test the spirit behind what is being taught, preached, or proclaimed. It is the Holy Spirit who gives us discernment to recognize half-truths, twisted Scriptures, and the spirit behind the self-proclaimed false “prophets” that are so prevalent today that Jesus repeatedly warned us of as did the Apostles Paul, Peter, John and Jude. Thirdly, when people over-emphasize being taught by the Spirit at the expense of being thoroughly discipled in the Word of God by God-ordained teachers, and through personal study and application of the Word (both Old and New Testaments) to their daily lives, then they risk becoming 1) prideful in their so-called “spiritual superiority,” 2) judgmental “experts” concerning the spiritual lives of others, and 3) they mislead hungry sheep into believing that once they are “born again” they have somehow “arrived” and no study and spiritual growth is necessary: that the Holy Spirit will supernaturally “show” them what they need to know without diligent study, and personal application, of the Word of God. All in all, such an error results in an unbalanced Christian who is often open to a religious spirit, and who can do much damage to those in the Body of Christ who are unstable, or immature in their walk.
In these “latter times,” Christians who are weak in the Word are often enamored by self-proclaimed “prophets,” various “winds of doctrine,” “seducing spirits,” and “doctrines of demons.” (See Ephesians 4:14; 1 Timothy 4:1.) We must pattern ourselves after the noble Jews of Berea who “in that they received the word with all readiness of mind . . . searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” Acts 17:11.
- W. Tozer wrote, over 50 years ago, “We now demand glamour and fast-flowing dramatic action. A generation of Christians reared among push buttons and automatic machines is impatient of slower and less direct methods of reaching their goals…The tragic results of this spirit all about us: shallow lives, hollow religious philosophies…the glorification of men, trust in religious externalities….salesmanship methods, the mistaking of dynamic personality for the power of the Spirit. These and such of these are the symptoms of an evil disease.” I wonder what Mr. Tozer would say today if he could see how far the faithless church has fallen into apostasy!
Other evidence that we are in the latter days is the rising tide of secularism in the professing church. Out with the old, and in with the new. The problem is, the “old” that is “out” is the KJV of the Bible, the old hymns, the careful teaching of the foundation of our faith (Jesus Christ);, a faith that will stand the test of time and endure every assault of the enemy; such as, to name only a few: Creation, Satan, sin, the fall of man, Noah’s flood, the Tower of Babel, the covenant of God with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Moses, God’s deliverance of Israel from Egypt through the ten plagues and miracle of the Red Sea, the existence of the nation of Israel in history and prophecy, the Ten Commandments, the Tabernacle and how it points to Christ, the Prophets and fulfilled prophecies, the Virgin birth, the miracles of Christ, and His death, burial and resurrection, and His coming again. Now that the old is out, the new that has come into the secular, modern church is how to be healthy and wealthy, rich and happy; how to get your own way (psychic prayers); how to love yourself (self-esteem); how to get in touch with God through occult practices, eastern (contemplative) meditation, and witchcraft. False prophets and heretics are fawning and falling all over each other to see who can come up with the “latest ear-tickling hair-singeing prophecy” in order to attract followers (and their money) to themselves.
If God’s people through the years had maintained diligence in studying the Word of God for themselves, and had emphasized the importance of Bible study to each succeeding generation, perhaps the influx of false prophets and heretics could have been stemmed; or perhaps at least the sheep may have remained awake and alert, prepared to withstand the evil flood that has since spread over the face of the whole earth, while proclaiming a clear and consistent warning to others. There are, of course, a few steady lights still shining in the gross darkness who do “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” Jude 3b, but they are few and far between as many have been called Home, while others have been silenced through marginalization. By marginalization I am referring to the loss of freedom of speech concerning abominable perverted practices; “political correctness”; evolution vs. creation; abortion vs. life; psychology vs. the reality of sin; public education vs. God; banning the Bible in schools, and so forth. In the church world worldliness and/or Nicolatainism within denominations (and many non-denominational churches as well) has closed the doors to the ministry of God-ordained evangelists and other servants of the Lord whom God has called to do His work among the sheep. “Christian” bookstores no longer stock books that are truly Bible (KJV) based on such subjects as discernment, hell, sin, repentance, holy living, discernment, etc. The prevailing atmosphere is 99% “Christianity lite.” Even “Christian” dvd’s are so weak on the Gospel that nobody (in my opinion – I certainly haven’t seen them all) could get truly saved by watching them.
Returning to 2 Timothy 2:15 we see that the result of study is to become “approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed.” A workman is someone who knows the rules, procedures and protocols of his or her trade or job well enough to produce an efficient or satisfactory result that is acceptable to his or her boss or clientele. No self-respecting laborer, businessperson, artist, or worker in any other profession wants to compromise his or her work and end up ashamed of the results of his or her labor. How much more so should God’s servants be when it comes to their service to the Majesty on High! Isn’t Jesus worthy of more than our “leftovers?” We think nothing of throwing at the Lord God Almighty our leftovers of time, energy, and resources and then expect to be blessed now and rewarded in eternity. God gave His very best, Jesus gave His all, and the Holy Spirit came to continue the work in us. The question to ask ourselves is this: “When I stand before the Judge of all the earth to give an account, will I be ashamed? “Jesus said, “Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
In conclusion, consider this wisdom from A. W. Tozer, “Let every man abide in the calling wherein he is called and his work will be as sacred as the work of the ministry. It is not what a man does that determines whether his work is sacred or secular, it is why he does it.” We do need to beware of our own heart condition and motives behind why we study God’s Word, and why we are His “workmen” lest we fall into the temptation of competitive pride that has to always come out on top, conceited arrogance that makes us “better than thou,” selfish stubbornness that is “always right” based on a few Scriptures taken out of context regardless of what the whole counsel of the Word of God says; or the subtle type of pride that is suave, seductive and sinister.
The question is are you prepared to stand before the Lord, “approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed”?