I can see clearly now

The Word for today:
2 Timothy 3

mark this:
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)

and this:
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Both Peter’s and Paul’s final thoughts—found in 2 Peter and 2 Timothy—emphasize the Word of God and the gospel.

When it came down to their final thoughts, these two great apostles did not emphasize prayer or good works or fellowship or worship. Their parting advice was to hold tenaciously to the Word of God (from whence all of those things will issue.)

I want to re-echo their sentiments today. Moreover, I want us to develop a biblical worldview—a habit of mind that places the Bible not only at center stage, but at the center of a far wider stage…

Because ultimately the Bible will not be thought of in the narrow way it is thought of now—as a religious book. The Bible will, ever more and more so, come to be recognized as the lens through which all reality is to be comprehended, if it is to be comprehended at all.

By all reality I mean all of it. What we normally think of as secular—let’s say the stock market and the Super Bowl–can not be seen for what they are until they enter through the aperture of the Word of God.

That may sound crazy, but only because we have been trained to think that the stock market and the Super Bowl somehow occupy a sphere that is outside of scripture’s purview.

They are not. The Bible is as infinite as its author, as all-encompassing as He who IS; who is the all in all (1); who is the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End who has no beginning and no end.

***

The Bible teaches us that Jesus holds everything together:
He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:17/NIV, NASB, ESV)

The New King James Version says it in a way that permeates even deeper:
He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. (Colossians 1:17)

Without him factored in, no equation is relevant—on any topic whatsoever.

I have a great deal of respect for the intelligence of my readers. I don’t dumb down scripture and people who want it dumbed down soon stop reading Stand in the Rain. What I’m left with are some serious heads. So I want you to take your serious head and wrap it around a quote from Graeme Goldsworthy, an Aussie Bible commentator and a hero of mine. I will only help you with vocabulary: hermeneutical (I looked it up!) has to do with interpretation, as I’ve inserted. For all the rest you are on your own, so read slowly and gather as much as you can from what I consider the most all-encompassing paragraph of commentary that I have ever encountered:

The hermeneutical (interpretive) question about the whole Bible correlates with the question, ‘What do you think of Christ?’ … The hermeneutical (interpretive) center of the Bible is therefore Jesus in his being and in his saving acts – the Jesus of the gospel. … We can say that, while not all Scripture is the gospel, all Scripture is related to the gospel that is its centre. … The Bible makes a very radical idea inescapable: not only is the gospel the interpretive norm for the whole Bible, but there is an important sense in which Jesus Christ is the mediator of the meaning of everything that exists. In other words, the gospel is the hermeneutical (interpretive) norm for the whole of reality. 
–Graeme Goldsworthy, from “Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics”

I’m not smart enough to know what Jesus thinks of the stock market, or the Super Bowl, or Facebook, or the presidential primaries, or casinos, or the Constitution, or Mozart, or Mickey Mantle, or Mickey Mouse, or Dickens, or Dostoevsky.

But I am smart enough to know that until we relate all of the above to him, we have untethered them from any meaning at all.

We as Christians may or may not be right on this issue or on that issue, but we are smart enough to know that until we filter everything through the Word of God, our ignorance on those issues is guaranteed.

We must—deliberately and proactively–cultivate a habit of mind that Jesus himself cultivated:
“I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge.” (John 15:30)

Jesus enforced, for himself, a biblical worldview—an outlook that consults the Word of God on absolutely everything.

On our own, we see through a glass darkly (2). But scripture doesn’t. So let’s emulate Jesus’ way of looking at things. We will never see what he sees until we look through the same lens.

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(1) 1 Corinthians 15:28; (2) 1 Corinthians 13:12

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“Remember Jesus Christ.”

The Word for today:
2 Timothy 2

mark this:
Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained. (2 Timothy 2:8-9)

2 Timothy is the last will and testament of Paul, with notes of sadness and triumph not found in other epistles. The dark cloud of apostasy is gathering in the background as Paul writes from a prison in Rome, where he is soon to be beheaded.

Paul is normally a man of guarded heart, but the dwindling days and his memories of Timothy combine to bring his guard down.

In a sort of spiritual relay race, he passes the torch to Timothy and challenges him to keep the flame burning:
For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. (2 Timothy 1:6)

He reminds Timothy that defeat is not the norm for Christian living:
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (1:7)

He exhorts him to unleash the truth.
So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. (2 Timothy 1:8)

Then he wraps everything he cherishes into a couple verses and leaves it all to Timothy:
Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained. (2 Timothy 2:8-9)
***
Currency is just an agreement that one piece of paper is more valuable than another.
I don’t have a lot of money, and from what I gather, neither do most of you. Paul had none. But what he left Timothy was a Savior whom death cannot detain, and a Word that cannot be confined.

The Bible is a long letter, written to God’s children. I and billions like me have agreed that the paper it’s written on is literally more valuable to us than all of Warren Buffet’s billions of dollar bills and all his stock certificates. (I’ll gladly take a few billion off your hands, Warren–if you happen to be reading–but I’m not trading.) What Warren’s got is chicken feed next to what I’ve been given and what I can give.

If you leave to someone what God left to Paul and Paul left to you, then you will have bequeathed “currency” incalculable.

Take a check. Write Remember Jesus Christ.  Sign it. Hand it to someone or toss it in the air and let the wind deliver it.  Make someone very, very rich.

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“But who do you say that I am?”

The Word for today:
2 Timothy 1

Yesterday, we looked at “doctrine” in general. Today we conclude with the specifics of sound biblical doctrine.

***

Paul thought sound doctrine was of ultimate importance.

He warns Timothy, repeatedly, that he must insist upon true doctrine. In 1 and 2 Timothy, the word “doctrine” appears 11 times. (1)

He warns Titus just as emphatically. In the three short chapters of the letter to Titus, “doctrine” shows up four times.

Jesus warned the disciples to beware “the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” When they didn’t understand his figure of speech, he told them, plainly, that he was talking about doctrine:
Then they understood that He did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees. (Matthew 16:12)

In Matthew 13:33, in a one-sentence parable (which some commentators believe to be the key verse of Matthew, which is the key book of the Bible) Jesus illustrated how false doctrine would work its way into his kingdom:
Another parable He spoke to them: “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.” (Matthew 13:33)

(Leaven in the Bible is a principle of evil. Unleavened bread can be seen as the Word of God, which is food for the child of God. When the woman in Matthew 13 mixed in leaven–unsound doctrine–then it makes the Bible palatable to the natural man. The true Word of God–unleavened bread–is unpalatable to the natural man.)

So what is sound doctrine?
Because Jesus is the issue (he’s the question and the answer) in the universe, crucial doctrine has to do, of course, with him:

“But who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15)

There is interpretive leeway in many biblical matters, but doctrine concerning the person (who he is) and work (what he has done) of Jesus Christ cannot be trifled with or compromised or watered down. Most good churches, somewhere on their websites, will list a statement of their doctrine. Boiled down to their essence, they look like this:

The person of Jesus Christ:

He is God, the eternal Son of the eternal Father. He divested Himself of heaven’s glory, to become like one of us–born of woman, born under the law–so that he could take my place on a cross that I had earned. Seed of the woman, Son of Man, Son of Abraham, Son of Promise, Son of David, Son of a virgin named Mary, he was baptized in identification with us as we are baptized in identification with Him. Coming up out of the water, driven by the Spirit, he withstood temptation by wielding the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, against the devil in the wilderness. In the power of the Holy Spirit he lived a sinless life.

The work of Jesus Christ:

He personified the grace and truth of God. He performed miracles, the Creator with the means to direct his creation to his chosen ends. He set his face like flint for Jerusalem, where he died at the hands of secular government and organized religion for the sins of the world, then rose from the dead in accordance with–and fulfillment of–scripture. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead. Of the increase of his kingdom and peace there will be no end.

That’s who He is, and upon this Rock we make our stand. We give no ground. We take no prisoners.

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(1) word count taken from the New King James Version

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Beware the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

The Word for today:
Titus 3

mark this: 1 Timothy 4:16
Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.

and this: Titus 2:1
You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.

Over time, words take on certain tinges and tints and overtones. “Doctrine,” for example, is considered to be a word tinged with narrowness, exclusivity, and fundamentalism.

To which I say, “Hallelujah! There’s still a word which means what it’s meant to mean!”

Doctrine is exclusive! It excludes error from creeping into our minds, just like walls keep the cold out of the house. Which is a good thing, unless you’ve got something against keeping warm.

Correct doctrine means that what you are taking from the Word of God are the things God meant when he said them.

False doctrine means that you are taking from the Word of God something other than what God meant when he said it!

Just because someone is quoting the Bible doesn’t mean he has your best interests at heart. The devil quoted Genesis 2:17 (to Eve) and Psalm 91 (to Jesus) in an attempt to topple the moral order of the universe.

Luke (author of Acts) said, in Acts 2:42, that the early church devoted themselves to just a few things:
1. the apostles’ doctrine
2. fellowship
3. the breaking of bread
4. prayer

Throughout his letters (sometimes in terms that make us wince) Paul insists upon none other than the apostles’ doctrine:
I wish the people who are bothering you (with doctrinal error) would go the whole way and castrate themselves! (Galatians 5:12)

He warns Timothy, repeatedly, that he must insist upon true doctrine. In 1 and 2 Timothy, the word “doctrine” appears 11 times. (1)

He warns Titus just as emphatically. In the three short chapters of the letter to Titus, “doctrine” shows up four times.

Jesus warned the disciples to “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” When they didn’t understand his figure of speech, he told them, plainly, that he was talking about doctrine:
Then they understood that He did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees. (Matthew 16:6, 12)

In Matthew 13:33, in a one-sentence parable (which some commentators believe to be the key verse of Matthew, which is the key book of the Bible!) Jesus illustrated how false doctrine would work its way into his kingdom:
Another parable He spoke to them: “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.” (Matthew 13:33)

(Leaven in the Bible is a principle of evil. Unleavened bread can be seen as the Word of God, which is food for the child of God. When the woman in Matthew 13 mixed in leaven–unsound doctrine–then it makes the Bible palatable to the natural man. The true Word of God–unleavened bread–is unpalatable to the natural man.)

So what is sound doctrine?

We’ll boil sound doctrine down to its essence tomorrow. See you then.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
(1) word count taken from the New King James Version

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out of this world

The Word for today:
Titus 2

Today we behold one of the most beloved passages in scripture. It presents an exquisite picture of what we refer to as the “Rapture”–
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. (Titus 2:11-13)

We hear a great deal about the Rapture. Stand in the Rain, about a year ago, devoted a 2-part article to the subject, which can be found here and here.

Some people make fun of the Rapture, and in the case of unbelievers, I can understand why. If you don’t know God, the Rapture is just too miraculous to even imagine. So most of the unbelieving world just snickers.

Some believers also find the Rapture unbelievable. (I know this because I used to be one of them.) They either can’t see it in scripture; or else, saved as they are, their Jesus is too little to pull off such an outrageous, outlandish, outstanding, out of this world (literally!) and outta sight (literally!) miracle.

First, let me say that salvation does not depend on your belief in miracles like the Rapture. Salvation depends on whether you believe that God died for your sins (just like scripture said he would) and rose again from the dead–just like scripture said he would:

For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures. (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)

What I am trying to slyly infer is that if you believe that God became a man in order to die for your sins, and (to verify that the plan worked) rose from the dead, then what in tarnation could keep you from believing some of the less spectacular miracles–like a virgin giving birth, or the parting of the Red Sea, or the time when that virgin’s son (who’d been engendered by the Holy Spirit, no less) did Moses one better and walked right over the top of the water without bothering to part it!

***

My intention is not to tease you or belittle your faith. Remember, I’m that guy who was saved — as saved as I ever will be — for years and years before I would, before I could, before I did stop questioning some of the Bible’s more miraculous moments.

But, over time, Jesus—just as the Bible says (1) — grew in stature! He just kept growing and growing in my eyes until one day it was impossible for the virgin birth not to have happened! And of course he could feed 5000. That’s a piece o’ cake when you can make an infinite cosmos out o’ nothing! And when you don’t owe sin any wages (like the rest of us do) then of course you can tell death (in the case of Lazurus) to go take a hike. (2)

***

The Rapture is foreshadowed throughout scripture. Enoch was raptured way back in the Bible’s fifth chapter. Elijah was raptured. The Apostle Paul was caught up into heaven and came back to tell us he was forbidden to tell us about it!

The Apostle John was raptured into heaven and (lucky for us) was told to tell us everything he saw there. He called his report “The Revelation of Jesus Christ” and you’ll find it at the extreme other end of the Bible. So Enoch, Elijah, Paul, John, and (you thought I forgot) Jesus were all taken up—raptured.

The Rapture is simply the resurrection of the church. The Bible calls Jesus the “firstfruits” (3) and we, of the same seed, will follow in kind.

Through Jesus, God restored his image in us:
Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. (1 Corinthians 15:49)

He gave us his righteousness:
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

He made us his sons:
To all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. (John 1:12)

Given all that, it is perfectly logical that we would emulate his resurrection as well.

If the desire of your heart is to be like Jesus, and to follow Jesus, then you will — right out of this world.

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(1) Luke 2:52; (2) see Romans 6:23, John 11; (3) 1 Corinthians 15:20

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