My pastor’s sermon this week worked through 2 Timothy 4:1-4.
I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. (NASB95)
As someone who often writes about discernment, I have a particular investment in this passage. I firmly believe that discernment can come only as we study God’s Word and apply it. Although pulpit ministry isn’t permissible to women, each of us can find legitimate outlets for proclaiming the truth. Most of you, being mothers, have the beautiful privilege of preaching to your children, while others of us can teach women’s Bible Studies, write Christian blogs and/or witness to non-Christians. At some level, each believer has the responsibility to preach.
Sadly, many professing Christians (including pastors who care more about enlarging their congregations than about nurturing their flocks) preach anything but the Word of God. How often have you sat through sermons and women’s Bible Studies about improving your marriage, methods of contemplative prayer or positive thinking? I remember women’s Bible Studies about how to change the oil in a car. Sometimes a pastor’s funny stories stayed in my mind long after I’d forgotten the point of his message. The Word of God has become incidental to evangelicals nowadays.
Worse, it’s now popular to say that you love Jesus more than you love His Word. Apparently, the Bible is considered an idol to some people who simply want to “follow Christ” (whatever that means). In his sermon this week, my pastor countered that position by saying, “You can’t really love Christ and not love His Word.”
During our courtship, John wrote a love letter to me. He’d never written a love letter before, so he felt awkward and self-conscious. But he knew a love letter would please me, so he wrote from his heart to show me how much he loved me.
I’ve kept that letter. Maybe it’s a bit rough around the edges because John wasn’t yet used to being romantic (he’s certainly grown in that respect), but I treasure that letter because John wrote it. In its pages, he showed me his heart. I love that letter precisely because I love him, and because he sent it as a representation of himself.
Likewise (only better), the Holy Spirit inspired certain men to write His Word (2 Timothy 3:16-17, 2 Peter 1:19-21). Although Jesus is distinct from the Holy Spirit as a Person, He told His disciples that the Holy Spirit would impart His teaching to them (John 16:12-15). Therefore its reasonable to assert that the Bible represents Jesus. Through both the Old and New Testaments, the Sacred Text reveals Father, Son and Holy Spirit so that we can know our Lord. And His self-revelation causes us to love Him.
A portion of Psalm 119 beautifully describes how loving God’s Word translated into loving Him.
97 O how I love Your law!
It is my meditation all the day.
98 Your commandments make me wiser than my enemies,
For they are ever mine.
99 I have more insight than all my teachers,
For Your testimonies are my meditation.
100 I understand more than the aged,
Because I have observed Your precepts.
101 I have restrained my feet from every evil way,
That I may keep Your word.
102 I have not turned aside from Your ordinances,
For You Yourself have taught me.
103 How sweet are Your words to my taste!
Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
104 From Your precepts I get understanding;
Therefore I hate every false way. ~~Psalm 119:97-104 (NASB95)
Can you see the psalmist’s love for the Lord as he declares his love for God’s Word? He knew that God’s Word gave him the gateway to knowing God so that he could effectively love God.
Without Scripture, we can define the Lord in any way we desire, thus forming Him into a cheap fantasy according to our selfish demands. In so doing, we actually take His place as God, expecting Him to conform to our wills. I believe the tendency to reverse roles with Him is exactly why we gravitate to the notion that we can love Jesus without loving the Bible. We deny the fact that we can only love Him when we know Him. And we can only know Him through the Bible.
The Bible isn’t God, nor is it Jesus. We mustn’t worship it in and of itself. But neither must we divorce it from the Lord as if it’s an optional part of worship. Rather, let’s gratefully depend on it to show us how to love Jesus as He truly is.