Training in Righteousness – Part 2

2 Timothy 3

14But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. 15You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. 16All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right. 17It is God’s way of preparing us in every way, fully equipped for every good thing God wants us to do.
(2 Timothy 3:14-17, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

A few weeks ago, I shared a post with some devotional thoughts from Proverbs 11:17, entitled, “Can Golf Nourish Your Soul”.

The idea behind that post is that we can actually train ourselves to live righteously. Just as a golfer takes thousands of practice swings in order to perfect their technique and ensure proper form when they’re out on the course, we too can train our souls to act righteously by doing the right thing, even when we might not feel like it.

But that begs the question: how do we know what the right thing is?

Paul gives the answer to Timothy in this passage, which includes the popular verse:

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right.
(2 Timothy 3:16)

This verse tells us that there are 4 functions of God’s word:

    1. God’s word teaches us what is true. We know what is right and what is wrong because God’s word tells us. By reading God’s word, we get insight into what God says is right and what is wrong.
    2. God’s word shows us what is wrong in our lives. With God’s word as our barometer for truth, we can determine when and where we’ve strayed off course.
    3. God’s word tells us how to straighten out our lives. When we stray off course, God’s word gives us the blueprint for how to get back on the right path.
    4. God’s word teaches us what is right. Some versions say that God’s word is useful for “training in righteousness”.  In other words, just as a golfer can create muscle memory in his or her swing through increased repetition and practice, so we too can train ourselves to respond the right way through repetition and practice, creating habits that are imprinted upon our character.

We know what the right thing is based on what God’s word (Scripture) tells us.

The Scriptures give us insight into God’s character and direction regarding what is moral and true.

By aligning our lives and our actions with God’s word and its description of moral truth, we can train ourselves to be righteous.

One of the problems in our culture today, however, is that everyone has their own view and understanding of what is right and what is moral. Even many Christians dismiss portions of Scripture that don’t align with their preferred morality in order to support their own life choices.

Whatever standard of morality one chooses to adopt and follow will shape their soul and their character. If we adopt God’s standard as outlined in the Scriptures and consistently obey and follow his guidelines and statues, we will be training our hearts and souls to live righteously.

However, if we adopt some other standard of morality, whether it’s one promoted by the culture, or even a personal standard that is only loosely based on Scripture, we will be training our hearts and souls to live unrighteously.

In some circles, Christians talk about making Christ Lord, not just Savior. The idea is that Jesus, through his death on the cross, saves us from eternal condemnation and punishment. But if we want to experience the full spiritual life that Jesus desires for us, we must submit our will to His, making Him Lord in all areas, including the area of personal morality.

Reflection

What is the basis for your own personal moral views? What is the source for how you determine what is true and right?

Trusting Jesus for salvation is only one component of the Christian life. It “saves” us from eternal punishment but if we want to experience true spiritual life now, we must make Jesus Lord. Is Jesus Lord of your life? If not, why not? What keeps you from submitting to Jesus fully and completely?

In what ways have you seen Christians compromise their morality, dismissing biblical views for their own personal morals that are contrary to the Scriptures?

What are some practical steps you can take to begin to adopt a moral understanding of truth and righteousness that aligns with God? 

 

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

A Must-Read Passage Before Posting on Social Media

2 Timothy 2

23Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. 24The Lord’s servants must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone. They must be able to teach effectively and be patient with difficult people. 25They should gently teach those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will believe the truth. 26Then they will come to their senses and escape from the Devil’s trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants. (2 Timothy 2:23-26, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

If there was ever a passage that should be required for Christians to read before engaging with others on social media, this might be it.

Obviously, Paul did not have social media in mind when he wrote these verses, but there was definitely an issue that was creating some controversy and division among members of the church because Paul writes these same words (“avoid godless and foolish discussions”) four times in his two letters to Timothy (1 Timothy 4:7; 6:20 and 2 Timothy 2:16, 23).

The controversial issue that Paul was addressing was likely a heretical teaching circulating locally that was causing needless arguing and debate among believers.

The key verse, in my opinion, is verse 24, which states that, “The Lord’s servants must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone. They must be able to teach effectively and be patient with difficult people.”

If you’ve spent any amount of time on social media over this last year, you know that kindness, gentleness, civility and friendliness are not words often used to describe the typical interactions people are having. Indeed, quarreling seems to be the norm.

In short, people on social media are often not kind. In fact, many people, including Christians, are the exact opposite of kind. What I mean by this is that it seems that many people engage in social media in a way that appears to be purposefully confrontational.

We are living in extremely difficult and polarizing times. The events of the past year, including Covid lockdowns, mask mandates, economic uncertainty, racial division, protests and riots, as well as the build-up and aftermath of our national election, have all contributed to a growing sense of anger and unrest.

Nobody wants to be overlooked or feel marginalized. We want our voices to be heard and our opinions to matter.

Social media is the digital town square for the 21st century. Therefore, in order to use our voice, we can feel a strong urge to engage in discussions that are happening on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media forums.

But what happens when we engage in those forums and people disagree with us? Or worse yet, what happens when others call us names or marginalize us or even ridicule us because of our beliefs?

The natural reaction is to respond in kind. We want to be right and we want to “prove our point.” But Paul is urging us to be patient with others and kind in our interactions.

Admittedly, this is difficult to do in some cases. But we represent Christ to those around us. Therefore, we have a duty as believers to act in a way that Christ would react if he were posting for us.

Reflection

In what ways have you engaged in “foolish and ignorant arguments” in  your interactions with others?

What topics or hot buttons cause you the most difficulty in being patient with difficult people?

What steps can you take to be more kind and gentle towards others in your communication?

 

Photo by dole777 on Unsplash

About Online Interactions

You should also know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control; they will be cruel and have no interest in what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act as if they are religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. You must stay away from people like that. (2 Timothy 3:1-5, NLT)

Is it just me or do people seem angrier and more polarized these days?

Two hallmark characteristics of Christianity are love and forgiveness. Jesus raised the bar by telling us to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44) and to forgive others an unlimited number of times (Matthew 18:22). Yet even among Christians it’s sometimes difficult to see these qualities of Jesus expressed.

Social media, in particular, has contributed to an environment where it’s easy to argue with and even slander others with whom we disagree. If you spend any amount of time on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Nextdoor, you’ll quickly see conversations devolve into the equivalent of a digital junior high food fight. It often seems as if kindness and civil discourse no longer exist. We can often fall into the trap of arguing with others to prove our point.

Alan Jacobs, in a 2017 blog post (https://blog.ayjay.org/vengeance/) warned about the dangers of vengeance and vindictiveness online:

When a society rejects the Christian account of who we are, it doesn’t become less moralistic but far more so, because it retains an inchoate sense of justice but has no means of offering and receiving forgiveness. The great moral crisis of our time is not, as many of my fellow Christians believe, sexual licentiousness, but rather vindictiveness. Social media serve as crack for moralists: there’s no high like the high you get from punishing malefactors.

Paul’s words to Timothy are especially relevant to us today. Given the environment in our culture and on digital platforms, it’s often easier to look like the people Paul describes than the people Jesus invites us to be.

Reflection

In what ways do you find yourself mirroring the people Paul describes?

What would help you to maintain the loving and forgiving posture of Jesus in your interactions with others?

As we enter 2021, my prayer is for an extra measure of self-control so my  engagements with others will be seasoned with grace, love and kindness!