In first grade, my class learned about gardening. Our teacher helped us cut off the tops of single-serve milk cartons, fill them with dirt, and push a tiny tomato seed into the soil. We watered the seeds, opened the shades near the window, and placed our cartons on the windowsill.
Then, we waited for them to grow.
About a month went by and the tomato plants had sprouted.
They even had nice green leaves on them.
Our teacher said we should take them home.
But I wanted my hands free for throwing the football after school, so I just took my plant and stuffed it into my desk. I’d take it home the next day.
About three months later…
It was the end of the year and we were cleaning out our desks.
It was then that I discovered my plant.
It was no longer green.
It was no longer even a tomato plant.
I had forgotten that an essential part of plant growth is sunlight.
And attention of any variety.
Without these essentials, the plant died.
Today is our last sermon in our REDO sermon series. Friends, if you want to increase your faith in God’s promises, grow your trust in his plans, and vibrantly trust in God’s love this year…
There is one thing that is essential for spiritual growth.
Before we discover it, a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth. Your Word is the truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see; open our ears to hear what you want us to hear; and open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. The Growth Essential
The lesson for today comes from the book of 2 Timothy. It is a letter written by a senior pastor to a much younger pastor named Timothy.
Timothy needed advice because pastoring hadn’t been as easy as he had thought. Recently he had dealt with:
The busy stress of day-to-day pastoring (2:3)
Financial hardship (2:5)
Pointless arguments among his church (2:14-20)
Temptations to lust (2:22)
The fear of jailtime for preaching Jesus (3:10-13)
Timothy was quickly learning that pastoring wasn’t just preaching, pats on the back, and potlucks.
It was hard.
Cause life is hard.
His mentor, Paul, wrote him a letter to encourage him. In chapter 3, he gets to his main piece of advice.
Continue in the things you have learned and about which you have become convinced. You know from whom you learned them and that from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures… (2 Tim 3:14)
Maybe Timothy expected something different.
Maybe he expected Paul to tell him about a really good podcast to listen to…
…or send him a copy of Seven Steps to Excellent Pastoring.
…or a link to the latest Apple product to download and make 1st century pastoring so much simpler.
Instead, Paul tells him to remain in what he has been convinced of from childhood.
And what was Pastor Timothy convinced of from childhood?
That Jesus died on a cross for our sins.
That Jesus came back to life.
That Jesus would bring him home to heaven.
That Jesus loved him. And….
That the Bible told him so.
Continuing in GOD’S WORD is essential to spiritual growth.
This is still true today.
If you’re nervous about 2021…
If you’re feeling unsure about the pandemic…
If you’re rattled by recent events…
You don’t NEED some kind of exercise class.
You don’t NEED some kind of counselor.
You don’t NEED some kind of relaxation app.
Although all these things may be helpful.
You NEED God’s Word.
God’s Word is essential.
In fact, look at the verb in this sentence.
It says, “Continue in…” This gives you a hint of just how essential God’s Word is.
It doesn’t say, “Get into it for a minute.”
It does not mean, “Get into it on major holidays.”
It does not mean, “Get into it every third Sunday each for about an hour on your phone, while you’re totally distracted by all the notifications from Snapchat that keep popping up.”
Continue means repeated…
It means repetitive….
It means often…
It means being repeatedly, repetitively, and often in God’s Word.
If you don’t stay in God’s Word…
I was talking to a guy not that long ago that had been feeling pretty anxious.
I listened before pastorally reminding him that God was still in control.
That God still loved him.
That God would work all things for good.
He calmed down.
We made a plan to get into God’s Word to battle these anxieties.
About a month later, we met again. Same problem. I talked him down with God’s Word again.
Then, I asked, “Have you been able to spend time in God’s Word?”
He said, “Pastor, I can’t. I don’t have time.”
I wanted to say, “Shall we just schedule your next nervous breakdown appointment then?”
If you aren’t continuing in God’s Word, you cannot expect spiritual growth.
If you aren’t continuing in God’s Word, you can only expect spiritual regression.
If you aren’t continuing in God’s Word, the only thing that will grow is fear, anxiety, and insecurity.
God’s Word is essential for spiritual growth.
II. The Essential part of the Essential
Why is Paul asserting that God’s Word is so essential?
He goes on to describe a variety of essentials that God’s Word provides.
But first, he starts with the Essential essential:
The Holy Scriptures…are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. (v.15)
This is what Jesus was talking about in our Gospel reading.
The Pharisees stood around him and were clamoring:
The Scriptures are essential! You can’t do work on a Saturday!
The Scriptures are essential! Your disciples can’t eat with unwashed hands.
The Scriptures are essential! You must give 10% of your dill spices to God.
The Scriptures are essential! What gives you the right to tell everyone that YOU are so important, Jesus?
And Jesus listened.
And Jesus agreed.
And Jesus said:
You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you have eternal life. These are the Scripture that testify about me. (John 5:39)
In other words
The Scriptures are essential.
Because I am essential.
And I am the CONTENT of Scripture.
God’s Word connects us to the ESSENTIAL SAVIOR.
It’s like how water is essential to water polo.
If there’s no water, there’s no water polo.
Or like how castle is essential to sand castle.
If there’s no castle, there’s just sand.
Jesus is essential to salvation.
Without Jesus, there is no salvation.
And God’s Word is essential to Jesus.
Because without God’s Word, we wouldn’t know Jesus.
And we don’t have salvation.
So yes, Jesus saves you.
But in that God’s Word tells you about Jesus?
God’s Word saves you too.
Making it essential.
III. Essential for Growth
But there’s more essential benefits to time in God’s Word. Check out these rapid-fire blessings of God’s Word in verses 16 and 17: All Scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, and for training in righteousness…
Because there’s no greater teacher than God.
He’s been around longer than anyone else.
He knows more than anyone else.
He knows more about you than anyone else.
God can’t wait to teach you.
Picture it like you are signed into your Google classroom room. It’s after school hours. God’s video screen pops up with a little caption under his picture that says, “Mr. God.” He unmutes himself. He says, “Any questions? I’d love to help.”
That’s what it’s like with God’s Word.
God is ready to give you his undivided attention and answers.
God, I owe a lot of money on my taxes. Should I lie about them?
God says, “An honest witness does not deceive.” (Proverbs 3:5)
I like this person. Should I sleep with them?
God says, “The Marriage bed must remain pure.” (Hebrews 13:4)
I have a neighbor who has these little statues that he gives money to. Should I worship other gods too?
God says: “You shall have no other gods.” (Exodus 20:3)
And, “An idol is nothing.” (1 Corinthians 12:3)
And finally, “There is no God beside me.” (Deuteronomy 4:25)
This Bible is the place God gives you knowledge and instruction.
Therefore, it is essential.
This is the one on the list that doesn’t sound very nice.
Who wants to be rebuked?
Hopefully, the answer is everyone.
Because rebukes are so important.
If your physical trainer tells you that you need to not stick your knees out in front of you when you squat, you might not like to hear that. It could even feel embarrassing.
But if you don’t get rebuked….
…Your muscles won’t get worked like they should, and you’ll lose maximum growth.
…You joints will get stressed improperly leading to all kinds of soreness later.
…your muscles fibers twitch too fast causing your tendons to snap and serious injury to occur.
It’s the same thing with God’s Word.
It contains rebukes.
They may be hard to hear.
But they are vitally important for growth.
In fact, could you do me this favor?
When you read a part of God’s Word and what it says makes you upset.
Can you stop assuming that God must be wrong?
Or that God’s Word must be wrong?
Maybe first, as sinful, imperfect humans, we should consider that we might be wrong?
Take a breath.
Bask in God’s love.
Listen to a God who loves us so much that he rebukes us.
The Bible was originally written in Greek. The word translated in this verse as “correction” in our English bibles is epanerthosin. It a word that’s was used in Greek writings about construction. It literally means “correction of the building” or “restoration.”
Epanerthosin occurs when you caulk the cracks in the foundation.
Epanerthosin occurs when you nail the siding back in place.
Epanerthosin occurs when you scrape, prime, and repaint the master bedroom.
Sometimes our thoughts need restoration.
God. I feel so unvaluable.
2 Peter 2:9 says, “You are chosen, royal, a person belonging to me.”
God, I feel so alone.
Matthew 28:21 says, “Surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.”
God, I don’t see how anything I’m going through will ever work for my good.
Romans 8:28 says, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.”
And with each of those loving words.
God taps his hammer.
God applies some caulk.
God restores your foundation of faith.
(4) Spiritual Proficiency
The fourth and final use of God’s Word is “training in righteousness.” It’s different from the other uses because this is the only one that is preemptive.
Rather than looking to restore what’s already broken.
Or rebuking what already happened.
Or gaining knowledge about the eternal truths of the past.
We are training in righteousness for battles that are coming up.
Did you know that’s what you’re doing when you read God’s Word?
You are training for battle!
You are training for battle against the devil.
You are training for battle against this sinful world.
You are training for battle against your own sinful flesh.
That might sound intimidating.
But perhaps it’s helpful to know, the one teaching you in the Bible?
He’s a black belt in righteousness.
He is the spiritual equivalent of a sensei in Karate, Jujitsu, aikido, judo, apkido, kung fu, capoeira, and crav magra all rolled into one.
Don’t be afraid.
God is the one training you in his Word.
And look very carefully at the end result of all this time in God’s Word. Verse 17 concludes the sentence this way: so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
For every good work.
Is there anything else that is that big of a catch all?
God’s Word equips you for when you’re feeling down.
God’s Word equips you for your family members gets COVID.
God’s Word equips you for when work is stressful.
God’s Word prepares you for when your finances are slim.
God’s Word prepares you for when temptations come.
Whatever may come in 2021…
God’s Word is what you need.
And God really wants you to know that.
Do you know why?
Because according to our Essential Savior.
You are essential.