Teach This: Worthless Words

“Keep reminding them of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen.” (2 Timothy 2:14)

For the next week or so, we’re going to learn how to live by reading someone else’s mail. Paul is writing to Pastor Timothy about what the younger preacher should be teaching people in his church.

teachthis_350The idea in today’s verse seems odd to me coming from a writer and a teacher. Under the inspiration of God, Paul wrote a serious chunk of the New Testament. I’m sure he was very careful about the words he chose (and the ones he skipped).

But words are not so important that they’re worth arguing about, he said. In fact, arguments about semantics (word meanings and choices) are a waste of time with the power to do real damage to listeners caught in the cross-fire. Focus on understanding and communicating the truth and the words will take care of themselves.

Think: Do you ever get caught in arguments about words? Things like: “I said this, and you said that!” “That’s not what I said; I said this!” Arguments that become about splitting the hairs of fact instead of revealing real truth. Why are those so dangerous, especially between Christians?

Pray: Thank God for His truth. Ask Him to help you to avoid arguing about words.

Do: Look for examples this week — in and out of church — of people arguing about words.

Teach This: Working the Word?

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

Anyone who spent time in the AWANA program will probably recognize this verse. It’s where the name AWANA comes from — “Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed.”

teachthis_350Paul told his spiritual son Timothy that it matters how we live. And it takes real work — serious effort — to live as God wants us to. “Try hard,” he wrote. “Do your best.” He wanted Timothy to get that it’s worth the hours of study and prayer and the sacrifice of doing easier, funner things to focus on harder, more valuable ones.

And what is this work? For Timothy (but also for us) it involves handling God’s Word in the right way. Not focusing on the words so we can be good debaters, but using the words to pull out the truth God wants us to understand. That takes time, understanding, and effort.

Think: You work hard at a few things in your life. Is understanding God’s Word correctly one of them?

Pray: Ask God to give you the desire to be an unashamed workman when it comes to handling his Word.

Do: If you’ve never done so before, try to memorize this verse.

Teach This: Godless Chatter

“Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have wandered away from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some.” (2 Timothy 2:16-18)

Paul continues to warn Timothy not to let mere words get in the way of the Word, God’s truth in the Bible. First he cautioned against making words too important and arguing over them. Now he warns of treating them too lightly and spouting meaningless, destructive nonsense about biblical truth.

teachthis_350The NIV here calls it “godless chatter.” The ESV interprets the Greek as “irreverent babble.” The NASB: “worldly and empty chatter.” The New King James: “shun profane and idle babblings.” In every case, the result of a career of texting/talking/typing worthless words is to become less and less like our Father.

Why? Because your faith will often follow your words. Paul reminds Timothy of two men who liked to fill the air with worthless chat and ended up believing it and convincing others it was true. Don’t dabble in babble—in giving voice to worthless ideas.

Think: Have you ever seen nonsense talk about serious things turn into something really destructive? How can we avoid that?

Pray: Ask God to help you to recognize godless chatter and to avoid participating in it.

Do: Look for examples this week of what might be considered godless chatter—especially about biblical truth.

Teach This: Why God Doesn’t Need Polls

“Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: ‘The Lord knows those who are his,’ and, ‘Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.’ (2 Timothy 2:19)

Every time another election comes around, you hear a lot of doomsday talk about the economy, the state of the world, the future of happiness. You occasionally hear that kind of doomsday talk about Christianity and the church, too. Every new problem is treated as evidence that the next generation is on a slippery slope in the wrong direction.

teachthis_350And these are serious times for the church and our nations. Paul’s warnings to Timothy about understanding and communicating God’s Word truthfully weren’t just good ideas. The consequences of false teaching and false believing are eternally bad. They bring pain today, tomorrow, and forever.

But the future of God is never at stake. And the future of his children is never in doubt. He doesn’t lose people to false teaching. His people reject untruth about him and his Word; they turn from the “wickedness” of believing lies about who Jesus is and what it means to walk with him. And these inscriptions Paul quotes say they always will.

Think: Are you ever tempted to see bad news about the economy or the rise of false teaching about Jesus as evidence that God is losing control? What’s wrong with that idea?

Pray: Thank God that human sin and ignorance never make him any less powerful. Thank him that he is always strong enough to keep his promises to you.

Do: Listen this week for negative predictions about the future of the government, the economy, and the church. When you hear them, remember that God’s power never goes up and down like election polls or stock market averages.

Teach This: Stop Being a Garbage Can

“In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.” (2 Timothy 2:20-21)

God uses everyone for something. Christian or not, walking closely with him or not, we all serve his ultimate purposes in one way or another. In a sermon on this passage, Pastor Ray Stedman quoted a sign that said, “It may be that my whole purpose in life is to serve as a warning to others.” I think that can really happen.

teachthis_350As a Christian, though, today’s passage says you can do something about the way God uses you in this life. If you want to be used for noble things, you can clean yourself up. That’s not about cleaning your sin away to earn heaven (which you could never do); it’s about avoiding sin once you’re a Christian and embracing obedience to make yourself available to be used by God for great things on earth.

Paul’s metaphor is a little confusing because the trash bucket in your house can’t decide to clean up its act and become a crystal vase. But you can decide to stop filling your life with garbage. With God’s help, you can demonstrate the beauty of his truth by letting others see it at work in your everyday choices.

Think: How important is it to you to have your life used by God for good and important things? According to today’s passage, what can you do about that?

Pray: Thank God for giving you the opportunity to be used by him to accomplish his purposes. Ask him to help you to keep your life clean of sin and to obey the teaching of his Word.

Do: Make a short list of a few people in your life that God has used to do some good and important things.

Teach This: Your Action Movie

“Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” (2 Timothy 2:22)

If Paul made a movie of your life, it would be an action movie. And it would be packed with chase scenes. Of course, in his day the chasing would be mostly on foot. But we can update the story to put you in the vehicle of your choice.

teachthis_350Here’s the question, though. What are you running from and what are you chasing? As with the best action flicks, you’ll have to do some of both. In the early scenes, especially, Paul has you on the run from your own “evil desires.” That would be the stuff you want that will hurt you and those you care about—sex outside of marriage, revenge, way more money than you need, etc.

When you become the hunter, though, you’ll be after serious prey: right choices, trusting God more, true love, and deep peace. And with God’s help, you can catch them and keep catching them right up until the credits roll.

Think: Is your Christian life like a boring, serious movie with way too much talking and not enough going on? What can you do to turn it into an action movie? What should you be running from? What are you not chasing?

Pray: Ask God to help you to want to run faster away from your favorite sins and toward his best gifts for you.

Do: Keep track this week of how many times you feel tempted to sin and—with God’s help—you outrun it instead.

Teach This: Skip Stupid Arguments

“Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.” (2 Timothy 2: 23)

Paul wrote this to Timothy as a pastor, but it applies just as well to people in any kind of relationship—especially relationships that lean toward lots of drama. It happens most often in middle school and on reality TV shows, but sadly it doesn’t end there.

teachthis_350I’m talking about the daily soap opera of who is mad at whom and what she said to her and how that person is giving that other one the silent treatment until he says sorry for talking to that other guy about that one thing. Ugh. Paul didn’t want Timothy to get himself sucked into all those “foolish and stupid arguments.”

Why? Because they’re a worthless waste of time. We believe the lie that it is our job to hold everyone accountable for how they treat us, to protect ourselves from everyone who is unkind to us. What God really wants is for us to forgive, let it go quickly, and believe that our job is to hold ourselves accountable for how we treat everyone and to refuse to be unkind to anybody.

Think: How much time do you spend feeling resentful and thinking about how others treated you unkindly? What can you do to let go of hurt feelings more quickly and start giving away kindness to unkind people?

Pray: Ask God to help you to skip or quickly drop out of any stupid and foolish arguments that come your way this week.

Do: If you’ve been stuck in a stupid argument with someone, make a plan to tell that person you’re sorry, you forgive him or her, and you’re letting it go. Then really let it go.