Jeremiah 29: 1, 4 – 7
2 Timothy 2: 8 – 15
Luke 17: 11 – 19
Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you need advice but time is tight and you wish you’d looked for it earlier? Sometimes, if you’re not prepared, events can overtake you and later you think, “Crumbs! I wish I’d looked that up beforehand.”
That happened to me once when buying a house. We were busy with a host of things and we found ourselves in the lawyer’s office making all sorts of decisions in a hurry. Afterwards I thought, “I’m pretty sure we could have afforded higher repayments which would have helped us to pay the loan off faster.” It took a while before we had the opportunity to increase payments without paying penalties for doing so.
Here’s the thing: if I’d read up a bit more, I’d have been better prepared. It’s always better to read the authoritative information than to ask every Tom, Dick and Harry for advice; because the only advice you can really trust is the authentic kind, and you usually have to pay for that.
Jeremiah was the real deal, with an ear to God’s voice, and gives the Exiles very good and clear advice in a letter: 4Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. Those who read the letter would have known exactly what to do in a puzzling time.
Paul gives Timothy good advice in a letter he wrote to him. 15Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth.
Rightly explaining the word of truth. Timothy was a pastor. For him to function with excellence he needed familiarity with the Scriptures. We know from Paul’s letters to Timothy and Luke’s Acts of the Apostles that he did so and became a significant figure in the Early Church.
Someone else who read the Scriptures, and was very familiar with them, was Jesus. If you read the Old Testament from cover to cover you will encounter virtually every bit of Jesus’ teaching along the way.
12As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, 13they called out, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’ Now Jesus knew the Law of Moses, and the Law said that any leper who thought they may have been healed was to show himself to the priest who would examine him and decide whether he was healed or not. If he was healed, he was allowed back into normal society.
Jesus knew the Scriptures and in the next sentence we read, 14When he saw them, he said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ In Paul’s words, he was rightly explaining the word of truth.
The effect of their obedience is told to us in the next words, And as they went, they were made clean.
Jesus demonstrates the ultimate worker who has no need to be ashamed, and he does it by rightly explaining the word of truth. Quite obviously, in order to know the word of truth, he would need to have read the word of truth. A practical application of the principles of Scripture.
The huge challenge we face today as a church in the 21st Century is to learn to listen properly to people (what we were talking about last week0 and to be familiar with the word of truth (scriptural principles) so that we can be formed by them into the kind of people who can effectively share the good news – the Gospel. The Gospel is the greatest gift given to humankind. It is ours to give away, but we need to know what it is we are giving away and how to do so.
The word of truth to you and me today is this: read and familiarise yourself with the word of truth, so that, like Timothy, you 15Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed,
Sometimes what we need prior to the familiarization, is to ensure our relationship with Jesus is solid, but that is another matter. That comes from having responded to the gospel appropriately in the first place. When we have done that, we are set to be disciples, followers who do our best to present ourselves to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth.
If we are to fulfil the Great Commission (and it’s what god expects of all of us0 we need to both listen intently and have a strong familiarity with the principles of Scripture which both form us and inform us for the task.
Paul, in his letter to Timothy, says he suffers hardship, even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But the word of God is not chained.
Jesus, the Word made flesh, lives within each Christian. Let’s not be guilty of chaining the Word of God. Instead let’s release the transforming power of Christ within ourselves by absorbing the word – the Scriptures – for they have the ability to do just that as we read, mark, inwardly digest and begin to give expression to their principles.