ReConnecting to Sound Doctrine
Topic: Christian Living Passage: 2 Timothy 3:14–4:5
Grace Community Church
February 5, 2017
Re:Connecting with Sound Doctrine
2 Timothy 3:14-4:5 (ESV)
Mike Plant was considered one of the best yachtsmen in the world. Having clocked over 100,000 nautical miles and circumnavigated the globe three times, in the fall of 1992 Plant was sailing his new sailboat, the Coyote from NY to France when something went terribly wrong. Two weeks after he left New York, Plant stopped transmitting messages to his family but it wasn't until he was a week late arriving in France that his friends really began to worry. After being lost at sea for 32 days, Plant's boat, the Coyote, was spotted floating upside down. Mike Plant's body was never found.
When investigators examined the Coyote to determine what went wrong, they found that the hull of the boat was intact, the rudders were operational, the mast, though plunging 85 feet into the frigid ocean waters, was in perfect shape and still rigged with the sails. What had led the Coyote to its disaster was that at the bottom of the Coyote's keel was an 8400 lb lead bulb. It was that ballast, that weight, that provided stability to the Coyote, enabling the sailboat to remain once it did there was no way for Plant to keep the Coyote from capsizing in high winds and heavy seas.
For the Christian, there is a ballast that helps keep our lives and our faith steady, a weight that keeps us upright in storms and keeps us from being tossed to and fro by every wind and wave of false doctrine, a stabilizing influence that protects us from the waters of spiritually flakiness and keeps us from hitting the rocks of error that can shipwreck our faith. The stabilizing ballast in the life of a Christian is what Paul calls sound doctrine.
Title:Re:Connecting with Sound Doctrine
So what does sound doctrine mean, anyway? The word sound means healthy, and doctrine means teaching so sound doctrine simply means healthy teaching. Just as there is food that is healthy to eat, and food that is very unhealthy to eat, there is teaching that is healthy for us spiritually. Taking in healthy teaching leads to a healthy belief system which in turn leads to a healthy life. What we believe has incredible power to direct how we live. Every choice we make, every decision, every action, is in some way connected to what we believe. In fact the Bible tells us that our eternal destiny hinges on what we believe.
Sound doctrine, or healthy teaching, must always be based on and connected to the Bible because the Bible alone is the word of God. Paul says in verse 16 that, "All scripture is breathed out by God…" Every single word in this book was inspired - or to be more precise, expired (breathed out) by God. The various writers did not write on their own power but were moved by the Holy Spirit to write the very words of God. This book speaks to us with the authority of God as if He Himself were speaking the words directly to us. To believe the Bible is to believe God, to reject the Bible is to reject God. Healthy teaching must always be based on and flow from the Word of God.
That's why one of the most important things we must do is stay connected to sound doctrine - to the Bible. Paul urges Timothy and Titus "continue in and hold firm to the word of God". Stay connected to God's word, don't let anything or any teaching pry your heart and beliefs away from the scriptures. There is coming a time when people will disconnect their spirituality from healthy teaching because they have itching ears. Their ears will want to hear what they want to hear and so they will accumulate teachers who teach what they want to hear. Chapter 4:3 says they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions. Their agenda, not the truth, will direct what they believe. This can happen to any of us if we're not careful.
Have you ever had someone come to you with an offer that seemed too good to be true? I remember years ago on Long Island, someone in our church came to our house and tried to get Janice and I to join a multilevel marketing company that he was connected to. It wasn't Amway but it was like Amway where you could develop downlines so that eventually you can have all these people downline making you money. As he was talking about all the money we could make, it hooked something in my heart and I became very excited about getting involved. Where do I sign up?? But to my dismay, Janice had some reservations and wanted time to think and talk it. What's to talk about? Our ship has come in, we're going to miss out if we don't jump at this chance. And an interesting thing happened in my heart: I resented Janice's hesitation. It bothered me that she wanted to press on the claims a little more, that she wanted to examine it more closely. I didn't want to slow down to consider it, I didn't want to hear her concerns, I didn't want to explore too deeply whether it was true, because I wanted it to be true. Eventually I listened to Janice and we didn't get involved - and all that money never materialized for the guy in the church, by the way - but for a time what I wanted was guiding what I believed. Be careful when an agenda, rather than the truth, guides what you believe. Itching ears inevitably leads to shipwrecked lives.
Nothing is more important to our spiritual health as believers, or the health of the church, than staying connected to sound doctrine. I want to suggest three important steps necessary for us to stay connected to God's word.
We need to learn God's word
Timothy had a godly mother and grandmother who taught him God's word. Now, Paul reminds him: But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom[a] you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 2 Tim. 3:14-15
When we come to faith in Christ we begin a life of learning God's word. Learning means more than just knowing the words on the page. Words in the Bible can be taken out of context and distorted to say things God never meant them to say.
There's a story told of a guy who needed guidance from God so he decided to let God's word tell him what to do. He flipped open the Bible and put his finger on the verse that said, "Judas hung himself". He then flipped a few pages and put his finger on the verse that said, "Go and do likewise." If he acted on those two verses, you could say that his action was based on bible verses but you couldn't say his action was biblical.
It takes more than knowing and quoting Bible verses to make sound doctrine. Taking verses out of
context, importing our own meaning into them, twisting them to say things that God never meant them to say will lead to error, not sound doctrine. Sound doctrine is doing the hard work to understand the original meaning of the text, which only comes from understanding what the original author meant and how the original audience would have understood it. Think of it this way: God inspired that author to write words that had specific meaning and intent for the original audience - when we discover that, we discover God's meaning for us today.
The beauty of God's word is that it is so simple that a child can understand it, and it is so profound that a scholar can spend a lifetime studying it and not begin to plumb the depths of truth and revelation in it! The Bible is God's revelation of Himself - in the Bible God shows us who He is and what He's like.
And what we learn is that God is glorious! God is not just a souped up version of us. God is infinite in all that He is. A.W. Tozer says that God being infinite means He has no bounds. He is measureless. That is way beyond our ability to comprehend. Massively large is hard to grasp, but we can kind of wrap our brains about it. I recently read about the largest known star in the universe (at this point) called the UY Scuti, which is about 1700 times larger than our sun and 21 billion times the volume. If it were to swap places with our sun, it would swallow up every planet up to Jupiter.
That's massive, but it's measurable. God can't measured because He is infinite. He has no edges, no place where He begins or where He ends. His being is infinite, His power is infinite, His wisdom is infinite, His righteousness is infinite. God is even infinite when it comes to time. God isn't bound by time - He created time. Time is a finite creation that God transcends. I know it's a poor analogy - but Janice and I watched a movie the other night with Chip and Colleen called Saving Grace- it was a movie that Janice and I had seen in the early years of our marriage. And guess what? It hasn't changed. I knew from memory how it began, the events that would unfold, how the characters would react, and how it would end. The characters in the movie are living out the story, but we transcend it. We can watch it, we can fast forward in their story, we can go backwards in their story, and then we can put it in a DVD box and put it on a shelf for 27 years, where their lives are contained until we want to pull it out again and watch it again. Time is that DVD to God - it's something He can hold and quantify but He is not bound by it. God is infinite.
We also see that God is infinite in justice and hatred of sin and that's pretty terrifying. That's not what we'd believe if left to our own desires. We'd want to believe that God is pretty chill when it comes to sin, because we are sinners. We're ok with God condemning Hitler and Stalin types to hell, but we'd like to believe that He gives a pass to normal people with normal sin like us. But the Bible tells us that no one is righteous, no not one, and that the wages of sin is death.
But the Bible also reveals that God is rich in mercy. God's mercy couldn't negate God's justice, so in His infinite wisdom God devised a plan where mercy and justice would meet perfectly: He would send His own Son as a man, and Jesus would give his life on the cross to pay the debt that mankind owed for our sin. Justice satisfied. Mercy satisfied. We learn this one, narrow path to salvation through the Bible, which is, as 3:15 says, able to make us wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
We also learn about who we are. The Bible has insight into how we tick, what's wrong with us, what's right with us like no other book. We can't make sense out of life apart from the revelation from God about who we are and why we are and what we are to be and do. When we need direction, when our hearts are struggling, when we're making a mess out of our lives, whatever the case, no book diagnoses our hearts and motives and prescribes the steps we need to take like the Bible does. Wisdom comes from a healthy belief system built on healthy teaching. The first step to connecting our lives to God's word is learning His word. Studying, meditating, listening to expository messages, and reading books that faithfully teach biblical perspectives
We need to apply God's word
It's not enough to know the Bible, we need to apply what we know. Some of the worst types of deception come from knowing but not applying God's word. Learning without applying leads us to a dangerous place.
In 2 Tim. 3:7 Paul talks about people who are "always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth." We aren't coming to a knowledge of the truth until we are applying the truth to our lives. 2 Tim. 3:16-17 describes God's word intruding into our lives for the purpose of changing how we live:
All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. Vv. 16-17
Teaching, reproof, correction, and training. These all have to do with applying. Reproof means to be convicted of our sin. Correction means we're going in one direction and scripture corrects us - that way is wrong, this way is right. Training is the long term, patient instruction and demonstration that helps a person learn a skill or grow in character. Parents are to train up their children in the way they are to go and the Bible says in Prov. 22:6 that when they are older they will not depart from it. It will get deep within them and though they may stray for a time, they will come back to it.
I mentioned earlier how healthy teaching leads to a healthy belief system which leads to a healthy life. But this only happens if we apply the healthy teaching (sound doctrine) to our lives. Think of it this way, if you bought the most advanced, state of the art, exercise machine in the world and had it set up in your basement, you'd have the potential to do some serious exercise and enjoy the benefits of working out. But only if you used it. Having it in your basement doesn't do you any good at all if you don't use it. The Bible does us no good if it sits on our shelf, and it doesn't do us any good if it just sits in our heads as information we're not applying to our lives.
Sometimes applying God's word calls of obedience, sometimes applying God's word calls for faith, sometimes applying God's word calls for wisdom, sometimes applying God's word calls for repentance. When we fear, we can apply God's command, "fear not" and seek to walk in a faith-fueled fearlessness. When we feel angry, we hear God's word say "be angry and sin not" (Eph. 4:26) which tells us that we can take productive action motivated by anger, but not destructive action. When we feel condemned we hear Paul say that there is now therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus and believe God's word over our feelings. (Rom. 8:1) When we are hurt we hear the Bible speak and say forgive one another as God in Christ forgave you. (Eph. 4:32) If we struggle with hidden sin, we hear 1 John exhort us to walk in the light by confessing our sin openly and honestly to God, knowing that when we do, He will be faithful and just to forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
To connect the Bible to our lives we need to apply it to our lives. So we need to learn God's word, apply God's word, but there's one more step that is essential to connect God's word to our lives:
We need love God's word
Actually, to be more precise, we need God's word to move us to love God and people. Connecting to sound doctrine always leads to a love for God and people.
3 As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, 4 nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship[a] from God that is by faith. 5 The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6 Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, 7 desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions. 1 Tim. 1:3-7
The aim of the doctrine is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Swerve from this and we're disconnected from God's word - even if we become experts at arguing and debating about the Bible.
The Pharisees knew the Bible better than any of us, but it would be hard to a find a group that was in more spiritual jeopardy or further from God than they were - they hated and crucified the Son of God!
John Piper lists 6 warning signs that our bible knowledge is hardening our hearts to God:
When our hearts connect with God's word in the way that God intended for us to connect with it, our hearts will be softened and moved to a growing love for God, for His people and for the world. If we're becoming hardened towards people and indifferent towards God, we better check our connection to healthy doctrine cause we might be in danger of our faith being shipwrecked.
God wants to draw our hearts to love Him and love others. Two commandments sum up this whole book: love God with everything we have and love our neighbor as ourselves.
As we close, let's commit to these three things as a way of strengthening our connection to the word of God: learn God's word, apply God's word, and love God's word, leading to a love for God and for people. Let's pray together.