The Quest for Character: Words to Live By

2Ti 3:14-17 NASB You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, (15) and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. (16) All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; (17) so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. 2Ti 4:1-5 NASB 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. (5) But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.


There are certain sermons that as a United Methodist, I simply can't do without looking to John Wesley for some insight. But in a sermon on this very same text, Dr. Maxie Dunnam, retired President of Asbury Theological Seminary, took a unique twist. Dr. Dunnam noted that there is in fact a problem that has come from one of Wesley and it is this, “As to all opinions which do not strike at the root of Christianity, we think and let think.”

Dr. Dunnam went on to say that he wished Wesley had never said those words and I think I must agree. It has led far to many to believe that you can believe anything and be a Methodist. Granted, I don't believe that is Wesley's fault – it is at the root of what Paul was writing to Timothy when he said, “For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths.”

When I moved the middle of my junior year of high school, just months after making the decision to follow Jesus Christ, I was just a baby in my faith. I knew that if I did nothing, if I sat ideally by, then this new relationship that I had with God would not last. At our new church, I picked up a copy of a little book called, “The Upper Room” and I began the habit of reading from the Bible everyday. Today, The Upper Room is my homepage on my computer for the very same reason.

Maybe the difficulty here is the idea that somehow the words of the Bible are stagnant. In terms of how this passage is normally taught, there is little reference to it beyond using verse 16 as a means to berate others to believe the Bible is the authoritative Word of God. As Professor Dirk Lange (@ workingpreacher.org) puts it, “... faithfully continuing what we have learned does not mean quoting Scripture ad infinitum on any subject or controversy until we are blue in the face (or our opponents run away!).”

Look at theses verses again. My problem with school and learning was always that it had to do with regurgitating information for a test of a paper. But the truth is that isn't about learning – it is about living. And here lies a central point in Wesley's words - “The Spirit of God not only once inspired those who wrote it, but continually inspires, supernaturally assists, those that read it with earnest prayer.”

People will reject the Bible but are quick to believe and put their trust in practices of witchcraft or UFO's. How quick will we dismiss that God might have spoken something of relevance to our lives that we ought to change but are quick to listen to a politician or media personality. We prefer entertainment and contentment to righteousness and holiness. And we wonder why the world, our country and the Church is in the state that it is in?

The monk, Thomas Merton, wrote, “The Bible is without question one of the most unsatisfying books ever written – at least until the reader comes to terms with it in a very special way (pg 11, Opening the Bible).” Likewise, Eugene H. Peterson, whose works include, “The Message” Translation, places clergy in the cross hairs for “...turning their studies into “stills.”

“The great attraction for distilling Scripture into truths and morals and lessons is simply laziness,” Peterson writes (pg. 134, Working the Angles). This moonshine gospel, this 100 proof stuff, are empty calories that strip all the nutrients and life from the narrative that is the Bible. As long as we treat it merely as another book, then it will remain unsatisfying – and we'll live with tickled ears or in this case, throats warm to little more than snake oil.

Paul's words are clear and the tradition of the Church universal echoes through the centuries – ALL Scripture is inspired by God. It applies at once to the Old but by consideration of the Church also applies to the New. We do not seek it out for a word. It is The Word and the Word seeks us out.

Yes, the Word has given every follower of Jesus has their good work to do. (3:17)
Yes, every pastor is accountable to the Word in fulfilling their ministry. (4:5)
And yes, the Word is living and not stagnant – the Word “put on flesh and moved into the neighborhood (John 1:14, The Message)" and the Word is available for you and me today to follow and be changed into His likeness.

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