Sunday, August 11, 2013

2 Timothy 3:14-17 -- The Hothouse of Transforming Discipleship

LINK: 2 Timothy 3:14-17

BACKGROUND


This is a very short passage but it is packed with power!  

The whole of the Holy Scriptures, revealed to and written down by the apostles and prophets, is "God-breathed" in that it comes directly from and is inspired by God (2 Peter 1:20-21). Greek definitions from the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament help elaborate on 2 Timothy 3:16: Scripture contains the "wisdom and dreams of God." It has "advantage, benefit and gain" in the areas of . . . 
  • Teaching - This is the "handing down" of the essential teachings of the Christian life. "In the word of God, the Spirit of God has revealed the true nature of the world we live in, the true nature of man and of God, the ultimate consummation of history, the pattern of relationships and responses to God and to life which corresponds with the way things really are" (Transforming Discipleship: Making Disciples a Few at a Time, p. 163). In his book, Greg Ogden states that most potential disciples have "bits and pieces of Christian teaching interspersed with worldviews from contemporary culture." The Scriptures give us the "body of teaching [that] gives us the set of glasses through which to view reality" (p. 164). 
  • Reproof - Once we have that new reality, we can see the changes we need to make in our lives. Reproof means to "show people their sins and summon them to repentance" (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament). 
  • Correction - Once we have been reproved, we should not be left to wallow in our guilt and self-condemnation! The Greek word literally means "a restoration to an upright or right state." Jesus said to the adulterous woman, 
    “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more" (John 8:11). Isn't that beautiful! God is all about restoration. We saw that throughout the whole Old Testament, didn't we?
  • Training in Righteousness - Once we have been restored, we need to stay on the right path. The Greek words here imply a "curbing of passions" and establishing ongoing patterns of Christ-likeness.  

Warren Wiersbe summarizes this beautifully:
They are profitable . . .
for doctrine (what is right),
for reproof (what is not right),
for correction (how to get right), and
for instruction in righteousness (how to stay right)
(Bible Exposition Commentary:Volume 2, 2 Tim 3:16b, p. 253)
For you visual learners, here is something I learned my junior year in college that I always see in my mind when I read this passage:
©Carol Weaver, 
adapted from Design for Discipleship:Book 2, p. 7, 2008
And the whole goal of all of this is so that we might all be mature in Christ and equipped to serve Him!


REFLECTION 

Transformation can only occur in an environment where we are feeding on God's Word in a context of transparent and accountable intimacy with God and other believers. I tell the honest truth that I wrote this before I read the book I am going to refer to below.


This conviction was really solidified for me when I read Transforming Discipleship: Making Disciples a Few at a Time by Greg Ogden.  He points out the three ingredients that converge to release the Holy Spirit in bringing about the rapid growth toward Christlikeness he calls a "hothouse of transformation":
  • Opening our hearts in transparent trust to each other - This includes affirming one another through encouragement, walking with one another through difficult times, being a reflective listener who assists another to hear God's guidance in life's complexities, and confessing our sins to one another that we may be healed. (Notice all the "one another" statements. This is a Bible study all in itself!)
  • Around the truth of God's Word - This is the heart of 2 Timothy 3:14-17 and what I just talked about in the BACKGROUND section.
  • In the spirit of mutual accountability - This helps us put the above "path of righteousness" pattern in place. It means covenanting together with other believers and giving each other the permission to hold each other to the covenant. It is a "willing decision to abide by certain standards and a voluntary submission of oneself to a review by others in which one's performance is evaluated in light of these standards." This may sound legalistic, but in the climate of #1 above, it is a win-win for everybody.
Greg and I are on the same page because I LIVED this in my early years of growing as a believer!  I feel very blessed to have been part of this kind of transformational environment and was shocked to find most people do not grow up in the Lord this way. These people are my life-long friends and siblings in Christ. (In fact, I just went backpacking with one of those friends from my first discipleship Bible Study in 1979!)

Many small groups are big on intimacy but small on centering it on God's Word and holding each other accountable. Much of the teaching and preaching in the church is big on teaching truth in a large group but has no accountability or intimacy attached. You attend and leave. It does not mean that those are bad, but transformational discipleship occurs when all three are present (see Ogden, pp. 153-171). 



APPLICATION

Memorize 2 Timothy 3:16-17. They are key verses for your spiritual life. Verse 16 is part of the Navigator Topical Memory System (but memorize 17 too). I memorized the 60 verses over thirty years ago, but I come back to them again and again. 


Are you in a situation where all three components for transformation are in place?  If not, what is stopping you? (Read Ogden's book for more details about the size of these groups. He doesn't recommend one-to-one but meeting in threes and fours. His research shows this is the most effective size for growth, but it is based on the US population and wonder if it might be different in other cultures.)

PRAYER


Lord, grow us, mold us, put us in the hothouse of transformation so we might glorify You! Amen. 
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