Every now and then the Lord must correct our behavior, attitude, speech or all of the above, especially when pride is taking over. I just might know something about that here recently. Here’s what God’s Word says He wants of us: “Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work. Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” (2 Tim 2:21-22)
What is Paul referring to when he says, “if anyone cleanses himself from these things”? He is referring to what we discussed yesterday: “avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness” (2 Tim 2:16). And Paul goes on to say that if we cleanse ourselves from worldly and empty chatter, we “will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work” (2 Tim 2:21). Then we’re told what to do instead of participating in empty chatter: “pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (v 22).
We’re to seek out love and peace, which comes out of faith in our Lord, who mercifully clothes us in His righteousness that we can never earn. And then we’re told how to make this pursuit: “refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels” (v 23). Just to get down to brass tacks, here’s the NLT translation of that verse: “Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights.”
If we need to be right more than we want to be able to be used for the Lord’s work, then we have our priorities way out of whack. Again, I might have some recent experience with this. I realized that’s what I was filling my heart with: pride; and pride made me a reviler. “But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man” (Matt 15:18). Because “the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart” (Matt 12:34). Revilers are simply revealing what is in their hearts, and it is the heart that God searches and judges (Jer 17:9-10).
Jesus humbled Himself to come to this earth to offer Himself for us. Who am I to not humble myself? “But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, ‘God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.'” (James 4:6). If I want to receive grace and mercy, I must not only give it to others, but to do so thinking them more important than me. That takes humility! “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.” (Phil 2:3)
The next few verses hit me hard because there are people in my life that I don’t believe know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. If they can’t see Christ in me, will they want to know Him? “The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.” (2 Tim 2:24-26)
Paul gave four positive attributes for us to follow. The first three are found in verse 24, and the first is to be “be kind to all”. The Lord is kind (Luke 6:35) and expects the same from His servants, who aren’t to expect anything in return; people will not always be kind to us. Kindness is part of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22–23) that should be true of every servant of Christ. Servants are also to be “able to teach” (1 Tim 3:1–7;), both in word and by example (Tit 1:5–9).
Servants are to be “patient when wronged”. We are implored “to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love” (Eph 4:1b-2). And servants are to have “gentleness [in] correcting those who are in opposition”. Peter likewise mentioned the importance of this trait: “but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence” (1 Pet 3:15).
The goal of kindness, teaching, enduring evil, and correcting opponents with gentleness is the repentance of lost people. The goal of Christian knowledge and conversation is not to win an argument but to win souls to Christ. “if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will” (2 Tim 2:25b-26). Again I repeat, if we need to be right more than we make ourselves available to be used for the Lord’s work, then we have our priorities way out of order, and we need to look in the mirror of God’s Word (James 1:23-24) to see of what we need to repent.
In addition to repentance, another goal for those we serve as the hands and feet of Jesus is for them to become aware enough of the Devil’s influence to break free. Verse 26 indicates that the Devil’s attacks are often directed toward the mind. Those who hear the truth and repent “escape” from his snare where he attempts to keep them and away from the freedom Christ brings. But they won’t hear the truth if we attack them with the truth; instead we must be kind, able to teach in word and by example, patient when wronged, be gentle in correction, and leave the results to the Lord. Believers are to share the gospel and show kindness, knowing God can change people from death to life (John 10:10) and provide eternal life to those who believe (John 3:16).