This morning I want to share a portion of a chapter I read from pastor John Bevere’s book, “Good or God? Why Good Without God Isn’t Enough”.
The apostle Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:16, “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 corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right [good].” This isn’t a complex idea; in fact it’s quite simple. Scripture is God’s Word and can be trusted as the universal standard for evaluating and determining what is truly good.
If you think your own wisdom, or a friend’s, an expert’s, or society’s, is more beneficial than God’s wisdom, please reconsider. For Scripture declares: “God looks down from heaven on the entire human race; he looks to see if anyone is truly wise, if anyone seeks God. But no, all have turned away; all have become corrupt. No one does good, not a single one!” (Psalm 53:2–3 NLT)
God has provided undeniable evidence of the validity of Scripture (Editor’s note: see Chapter 3 in the book referenced above). In these verses the psalmist emphasizes how any wisdom contrary to God’s Word, even if it appears good, is actually corrupt and detrimental to our well-being. Let’s examine the words surrounding Paul’s declaration to Timothy: “But 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. You 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. 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 corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:14-17 NLT)
We must remain faithful to the things we’ve been taught. Paul is not referring to men’s opinions, psychology, sociology, or any other wisdom contrived by this world’s system; he’s referring to the Scriptures. The apostle urges his spiritual son to remain faithful to them. He stresses the importance of keeping them in the forefront of his heart. What a different world we would live in if Adam and Eve had done just this.
Consider this hypothetical scenario. You’re facing a journey that requires you to hike across a massive landmine field. Not only are there hidden explosive devices, but there are also quicksand pits, deadly traps, poisonous plants, and sinkholes.
Before you begin, you’re handed a map that reveals the location of every landmine and sinkhole, as well as clues to look for in avoiding traps, quicksand, and poisonous plants. How would you handle this map? Would you stuff it in your backpack with your energy bars and water bottle, but due to the challenges of your trip neglect reading it? Would you consult it only when the opportunity presented itself? Would you view it as casual reading? Would you look it over at the start and then pack it away, confident you could remember all the information? Would any of these actions describe your behavior? If so, you would probably leave the field severely wounded or in a body bag.
Permit me to state the obvious. A wise person would carefully read the map, study it, ponder the information, and then pack it in such a way as to easily access it. He’d frequently refer to it on his journey, cautiously choosing his route according to what he learned. If you were faced with such a journey, wouldn’t you do the same?
The fact is, we all face such a journey every day, and our map is the Bible. With this truth in mind, listen to God’s counsel in Scripture. I will list a few key verses. Please don’t skim them but vigilantly read each word. They are meant to both encourage and warn us about how to handle the “Scripture map” during our journey across the deadly landmine field of this world. As you read, notice in particular the words careful or carefully. “You must be careful to obey all the commands of the Lord your God, following his instructions in every detail.” (Deuteronomy 5:32 NLT)
Not some, but all of God’s commands. We are to heed and follow every detail of His instructions. He deeply loves us and doesn’t want us seriously injured or killed on our journey. Again: “Listen closely… and be careful to obey. Then all will go well with you…” (Deuteronomy 6:3 NLT)
When we both listen and carefully obey, then all goes well for us. God Himself guarantees this promise! We see the same instructions in Deuteronomy 8:1; 12:28, 12:32; and 28:13. If you look them up, you’ll discover that if we heed God’s commands, we will enjoy full lives, our labor will multiply in effectiveness, and in society we will always be on top, never beneath or behind. Are you grasping how important it is to carefully read, listen to, and obey His words?
You may counter, “But John, these instructions were given under the law; these are Old Testament requirements. We are under the new covenant of grace. Didn’t Jesus free us from this tedious bondage?” Jesus did liberate us from the law, but not from the continuing admonition to carefully heed God’s Word; it remains crucial for us. Listen to these New Testament instructions: “Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet [Jesus] like me from among your own people. Listen carefully to everything he tells you.’” (Acts 3:22 NLT)
Once again we are instructed to listen carefully to everything— not most things— Jesus tells us. Listen to the apostle James: “But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.” (James 1: 25 NLT)
Additionally, we are instructed: “Through the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within us, carefully guard the precious truth that has been entrusted to you.” (2 Timothy 1:14 NLT). And “So we must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it. (Hebrews 2: 1 NLT)
Drifting in life normally doesn’t happen by a conscious choice, but rather it happens unknowingly. When I was a boy fishing on the lake, sometimes my eagerness to get started caused me to not anchor the boat before I began. I’d get busy fishing and look up thirty minutes later and not recognize the shoreline. I had drifted inadvertently.
We drift from truth when we don’t pay it careful attention. It occurs when we’ve not read, listened to, pondered, and obeyed Scripture. What we don’t keep in focus before us eventually fades. We then easily drift, and God’s will is replaced by the influence of people around us and the voices of society. We then embrace what seems good according to our own swayed evaluation.