Chris Appleby Ministries

Chris Appleby Ministries



2 Tim 3:14-4:5    Prov 1:1-7

Hey Jesus, how can the Bible help me with life now, when it’s so old?

Research carried out some 15 to 20 years ago indicated that while 29% of Australian adults said they read the Bible at least once a year, only 8% said they read it frequently. When it came to school students that number dropped to 4% and they were mostly people who regularly attended church and youth activities. So clearly, even if it is still the best-selling book of all time, the Bible isn’t on many people’s go-to list for help with life.

So why is that? Is it to do with what C. S. Lewis called chronological snobbery? Anything that happened before the invention of the computer is out of date? Or is that the invention of the smartphone? Or Twitter and Facebook? Is it that we know so much more now through modern science, that the ancients didn’t have any clue about, that whatever we read in the Bible must be out of date?

Well it’s true: you won’t find many mentions of computers or smartphones in the bible. They didn’t know much about viruses and vaccines and what they did know was probably tied up with all sorts of superstitions. But you know, it’s interesting how often you read a story in the Bible and you see clear parallels with life as we experience it. You discover that people living back then weren’t that much different from people today. Family crises, joys and tragedies, political wheeling and dealing, personal interactions, were much the same as they are today, even if they didn’t take place over WhatsApp or Zoom.

Is the Bible Out of Date?

In the reading we just heard from 2 Timothy you may have noticed a similarity with our own times. It’s almost as if Paul had a vision of life in the 21st century. Listen to what he says: “3For 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, 4and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths.”

That’s not a bad description of the times we live in, is it? Even leaving aside the spiritual dimension of what Paul’s talking about, think about the sorts of things you’ll find on Facebook (or is that Fakebook?) You’ve probably heard that Covid-19 is caused by 5G phone transmissions; not that you need to worry about that because Covid-19’s just like a mild flu; and even if you do get it you can fix it with an injection of chlorine bleach. (None of that’s true by the way so please don’t try that at home!)

Or think about climate change. For the past twenty years we’ve had people refusing to admit that climate change is real. Forget the scientists; we’d rather listen to Alan Jones.

And the same applies to spiritual things. People would rather listen to myths and forms of spirituality that seem more palatable and that put less demand on their moral life. They prefer to set their own standards of behaviour rather than following those that God has prescribed. So they turn to new age gurus or to Christian ministers who’ve shaped their theology to meet current cultural norms. In fact there’s a new term for this– it’s called Progressive Christianity. Apparently if you throw out all the central beliefs of Christianity you’ve progressed! These people want to tell us that Jesus came preaching love and removing the need to observe God’s laws. But Jesus himself said he didn’t come to abolish the law but to fulfil it. He still expects us to live the way God wants us to live.

As we’ll see in a moment, in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus gave a whole list of instructions for living a godly life: how to live a blessed life; how to shine like a beacon drawing people to God; how to deal with your anger; with your relationships; your marriage; how to act with integrity of speech; how to deal with conflict; with enemies; how to pray; and the list goes on. It’s the most practical set of instructions you could hope for and it’s as relevant today as it ever was.

But let’s think some more about how the rest of the bible might help us with living our lives.

First let’s accept that the Bible isn’t going to help me work out how to operate my smartphone. It won’t tell me how to add a fancy emoji to my text messages, as important as that skill may be. But it will help me to know how to live in a way that pleases God and, interestingly, that will probably help me to live in a way that pleases other people. It will also give me a truer understanding of the world I live in because it portrays the world in both its glory and fallenness.

In that reading from 2 Timothy Paul points out for us just how useful God’s word can be for living a life that will please him.

There he points out how the Scriptures that Timothy has known from childhood are able to instruct us for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Now he isn’t just talking about people coming to faith in the first place. Of course having a good knowledge of God’s word will be helpful as you try to think through the difficult questions that people are likely to ask you about your faith.

But Paul is actually thinking more about maintaining a life that pleases God all the way through to the end. This is important for us at this point in our history because in this age of social isolation we need something outside the social community of Sunday church services, which we’ve lost for the time being, to sustain us in living for Jesus.

What do we get from reading the Bible?

So let’s look briefly at the passage from 2 Tim 3. No doubt many of you have read this before so there may not be anything new in it for you but it never hurts to be reminded of the truth of God’s word, does it? We’re told that God’s word is useful for a range of things.

  1. Teaching

It’s useful for teaching: both teaching myself and teaching others. Truth matters so I need a reliable source of truth. It’s no use being taught by someone who doesn’t know what they’re talking about. I remember when I was at Ridley there was a Chinese student there who got a job as a tour guide for Chinese tourists. She did very well until the time she was taking people around Philip Island and someone wanted to know what the island was in the distance, a few hundred metres offshore, and she calmly told them that that was Tasmania. Well, as you can imagine, that was the end of her job as a tour guide. If you’re a tour guide you need to know the truth about the places you’re taking people to. And here Paul’s saying that if you want to learn the truth about life the Scriptures are where you’ll find it.

  1. Reproof

Secondly it’s useful for reproof. St Augustine in the 4th century wrote an article titled “On Rebuke and Grace”, where he thinks about the question whether the grace of God means that we shouldn’t worry about rebuking wrongdoers. Does God’s freely given forgiveness mean that sin is no longer relevant to our lives? If someone rebukes me can I say that God has forgiven me so why are you worried about it? Well no, he says, because God’s standards still apply to me even if God has overlooked my past failings. And how do I know that? Because his word tells me so. For example, he says, God’s word prescribes that love must be maintained, so God rebukes us when we stop loving. Paul tells us that the law is given so we’ll know where we’re falling short of what God requires of us. In fact God’s word repeatedly reminds us where we fall short and is useful in pulling us up to rethink our attitude and behaviour.

  1. Correction

Next, God’s word is useful for correction. It’s quite easy to get the wrong idea about things isn’t it? Particularly if you listen to the wrong teachers. So much of what we think we know comes from third or fourth hand sources. If you’re like me, when there’s something you don’t know the first place you go is to the Internet. Open up Google or Wikipedia and do a search. But I’m always conscious that what I find there could be wrong. I need to know how reliable the source is. As I said before if I read something on Facebook I always remind myself that this could be a Fakebook post. More importantly when it comes to the moral standards of our world there’s no point looking to the world around us is there? No, I need God’s word to correct the misguidance of the world.

  1. Training in righteousness

Next God’s word is useful for training us in righteousness.

I used to be a regular at the gym before they all closed. Now I realise how good that was. You see, the gym provides instructors who give me a set of exercises to follow each few months, designed to give a different set of muscles a workout each time. So it provides me with a certain discipline to maximise the benefit of my exercise through repetition. 

Well God’s word is like that - if we read it. It covers just about every part of our lives. Now as I said it doesn’t mention the Internet or fast cars or mobile phone technology or computers, so it won’t answer your problems with Microsoft software or the NBN. But it does give you the information you need to train yourself for life in God’s presence. 1 John 3 tells us: “Beloved, we are God's children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. 3And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.” And he goes on to describe what that might mean. God’s word shows us what it means to be pure in God’s eyes. It shows us the sort of character that we need to be working on to prepare us for life with God

  1. Proficient and well equipped for every good work

The aim of all this is that we might be proficient and well equipped for good works. In Ephesians 2 God tells us that we’re “created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand for us to walk in.” (Eph 2:10) Well we’ll only be able to do those good works if we’re equipped by God’s word to know how to do them properly; if we’ve trained ourselves in God’s ways through studying his word; if we’re proficient in Christian living through regular practice. 

    Some examples

Before we finish let me give you some examples of practical help the Bible can give us.

If you’re in a position of leadership in an organisation or a business, or you hope to be some day, then you need to know that the Bible includes a major training manual for leaders. It’s called the Book of Proverbs. It’s a collection of sayings and instructions put together by Solomon and his leadership team to train young people and others for leadership as well as for life in general. We heard the introduction to the book in our reading a moment ago where he tells us it’s written to help us live well and right, to understand life, to know what’s right and fair; it’s written for the young and untried as well as for the old and experienced.

There you’ll find wisdom for leaders: “5take away the wicked from the presence of the king, and his throne will be established in righteousness.” (Prov 25:5 NRSV) “19 The more talk, the less truth; the wise measure their words.” (Prov 10:19 The Message) “18Plans are established by taking advice; carry them out by following wise guidance. (Prov 20:18 NRSV)”

Wisdom for families:

Wise discipline imparts wisdom; spoiled adolescents embarrass their parents.(Prov 29:15, The Message)

“Practice God’s law?—get a reputation for wisdom;

Hang out with a loose crowd?—embarrass your family.” (Proverbs 28:7, The Message)

1Listen, children, to a father's instruction, and be attentive, that you may gain insight;” (Prov 4:1 NRSV)

Financial Wisdom: “2Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit, but righteousness delivers from death… 4Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth.” (Proverbs 10:2,4) “The rich think they know it all, but the poor can see right through them. (Prov 28:11, The Message) “A thick bankroll is no help when life falls apart, but a principled life can stand up to the worst. (Prov 11:4, The Message).

I mentioned at the beginning the Sermon on the mount where Jesus warns us about anger and instructs us if we lose our temper to go and apologise, to restore relationships with the person we’ve been angry with. He warns against adultery by telling us to watch where our eyes wander and where our thoughts go. He advises us not to swear an oath but simply to act with integrity when we say “Yes” or “No”. He tells us to love our enemies, to pray for those who persecute us. He says to keep our Christian piety, our prayers and fasting, to ourselves – they’re not there to boost our reputation they’re to help our relationship with God.

I watched the funeral of our long-time friend, Evonne Paddison last week and was reminded of how God’s word prepares us and helps us with grief and loss, not by taking it away but by reminding us of the living hope we have in Jesus Christ.

I could go on but time is running out. So let me address one last question.

How are we to get this help that we need in our lives?

Well clearly we need to open our Bibles and start reading. We can do this personally, using a study guide of some sort, or perhaps just reading through the Bible from start to finish, a chapter at a time. If you have a Bible app on your smartphone it probably has a daily reading programme that you can follow.

But you might also join a connect group where together you can read the Bible and discuss how it helps you to live your life to the full.

Finally our regular gatherings are always centred around hearing from God’s word so make sure you’re here regularly. Be thankful that God has put you in a church where his word is taken seriously. Similarly large gatherings like CMS Summer Under the Son and Christian conventions of various sorts are great opportunities to hear God’s word presented by skilled teachers. In fact these days many of these are being broadcast online so you can attend them from your lounge room.

Whatever you do, remember that these are God-breathed words that we find in this book. It’s not just a collection of useful philosophy that will help us live useful lives. No, it’s God-breathed. Yes, it’s written by human beings, but they’re people who have been led by God’s Spirit to write things down for our learning, for our instruction. And when we hear it preached, God’s Spirit continues to breathe through that word into our hearts, to change us, to rebuke us, to train us in righteousness, to equip us for doing good works.

So to answer your question, the age of these writings doesn’t matter because the essential things of life haven’t changed as much as we think they have.


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