2 Timothy 2:15
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.
The Bible is full of what are known as “Imperatives” and “Indicatives”. You can not read the Bible for very long without coming to grips with that. You may not realize what they are, but you certainly understand the implications. We use them all the time without thinking about them. What do these words mean? Well, an Imperative, basically, is a command or direction to do something. An Indicative, on the other hand, is a statement informing us of an accomplished task.
An example would be something like this. You turn to your 8 year old and tell them that if they clean up their room, you will allow them to watch TV for 30 minutes. Or you say to your 18 year old, if you want to take the car out on Friday night, you need to mow the yard. You are telling them what you will do (because you have the provision to do so) if they will do what you ask. They are required (the Imperative) to do something and by doing so, will receive from you something (the Indicative) they desire.
So, let me lay it out for you in just one verse from Ephesians. Ephesians 4:32 states:
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
The Imperative in the above passage can be broken down to the fact that we should live changed lives towards others. The Indicative is summed up in the last part of the verse where we are told that we can live a changed life because, “God in Christ forgave you.”
So, what does this have to do with the title? Well, if you don’t study the Bible to find the little snippets like Ephesians 4:32, you probably won’t be much of a Christian. Now, I realize that that is a bold statement. But, go back to my lead off passage. The Imperative is to, “do your best to present (show) yourself to God as one approved,” and the Indicative is that we do that by “rightly handling the word of truth.” Looking at this passage from a negative standpoint, it indicates that “if you don’t handle the word of God by studying it, you won’t be able to present yourself to God as one approved.” This can also be expressed positively, “if you rightly handle (study” the Word of God) you will be able to present yourself as one approved before God. Two ways of looking at the same thing.
So, this leads me to something I listened to this morning. As best as I can tell, what I transcribed came from the sermon entitled Call of Duty 2 by Eric Dykstra from The Crossing located in Elk River, MN. While I am not totally sure of what the title of the sermon is, it was featured on Pirate Christian Radio and the link to the podcast is located here. If you don’t care to listen to the whole broadcast, fast forward to around the 34 minute mark and listen for the next 10 minutes or so. I did not transcribe the whole thing, just a portion. So, I do encourage you to listen in for yourself to make sure I did not take what Mr. Dykstra said to his congregation out of context. It is a sermon that is dealing with the things that distract us from Jesus. Here is the portion I transcribed:
We end up sidetracked from what God has called us too so easily, which is supposed to be Jesus. We know this in relationship to bad things. Bad things distract us. Everybody understands that sexual misconduct will distract you from following God, right? It’s going to mess you up. Addictions are going to distract you, it’s going to get you sidetracked from following God. Makes sense, right? Bitterness, anger, gossip, gonna get you sidetracked from following God. Everybody gets the fact that bad things distract us. But, you know what, I don’t think it’s just bad things that distract us, most of the time I think it’s good things that distract us. Good things that aren’t the main thing become bad things. Let me just talk about that for a second. What are some good things that jack us up and get us off focus from Christ? How about this one; Learning the Bible. Is it a good idea, church people in here, to learn the bible? Absolutely, you should learn the bible, you should know your faith, you should figure that out. But seriously, there are so many church people in particular that get so caught up in, “What’s this verse saying,” “what is this all about” and their nose is in the book all the time and now they are theology nerds. And they are talking about stuff that nobody else on planet earth cares at all about. And here is what I have to tell you, you are out of focus.
This was very confusing to me. It sounds like he is saying that “learning the Bible” causes us to be distracted. Then he says that we should learn the bible because it will lead us to know what we believe. But then he says that we shouldn’t learn it too much because we will become theology nerds who are out of focus. Now, in light of 2 Timothy 2:15, Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit tells Timothy to show himself approved to God by handling (studying) the Word of God, which in Timothy’s case was the Old Testament Canon that was know in that time (The New Testament that we have today was not part of the Bible we have today).
So, what are we to believe by what I have written so far? Are we to do what Scripture tells us, or follow the confusing double speak brought forth by Eric Dykstra, and believe me when I say this, Dykstra is not alone in saying stuff like this. Unfortunately, it is becoming more and more common to hear pastors of church’s that are running thousands on the weekend say very similar things. I kind of have my own hypothesis about this and that is that the pastors themselves are only passing along what they practice.
Since we live in a relativistic day and age, it is frowned upon to call things out in a black and white fashion. But, let someone do you wrong and things become very absolute in your mind! The moment you have the attitude that what someone has done to you is wrong, you have crossed out of relativism and into an absolute, intolerable (in our modern age) mindset. No way, you might say. Let me clarify a bit. You might believe and say that you don’t think there is such a thing as right or wrong, there is just no way that there is a standard of what is morally right, that there is an no absolute truth. But you come home from vacation to find that your house has been broken into and your Plasma TV, your killer surround sound stereo, and several thousand dollars in jewelry are missing. I guarantee that your first thought isn’t, “well, I guess whoever took it needed it more than I did.” No, your first order of business is to call the police and file a stolen property report and hope that whoever broke in to your house left enough evidence that they are eventually caught. See, if you really had a “relativistic” world view that believed no one was right and no one was wrong, you would not do anything but just go on with life. The moment you have the thought that something “should” not or “ought” not to happen, you have just crossed out of relativism into an absolute mindset because, obviously, the person who stole your stuff didn’t think it was wrong. So, who are you to push your values on someone else?
So, having said that, let me ask you when is the last time you heard a pastor tell his congregation that, “The soul that sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:20). Yes, there is forgiveness (just keep reading in Ezekiel 18), but we don’t want to call sin for what it is because doing that makes us look at a standard that we have to live up to. Maybe I’m reading into what Dykstra said, but it seems to me that he is saying we loose focus if we put our noses in The Book. If that is the case, then were does that leave us, what do we who call ourselves Christ followers hold as our standard? What exactly gives us focus. I’m of the opinion that “putting ones nose in The Book” helps clarify ones focus. To me, it sounds like Eric Dykstra is telling his congregation that really digging into the Bible will lead us to distraction, and that is not a good thing. If that is the case, he doesn’t seem to give any suggestion as to what we are to really look towards.
John Piper posted a tweet yesterday that I think pretty much sums it up. He said: “A plea to all Christian book reviewers. Only the Bible is a “must read”. Really. Let’s drop this phrase forever. Seriously.”
Something has to be the standard. I choose to be what Eric Dykstra calls a “Theology Nerd” over the alternative. I’ll take the Bible as my standard and gladly wear the title, Theology Nerd.