What are you seeking when it comes to Bible teachings on the Internet? Are you looking for answers to address felt needs? For me, I needed help in overcoming anxiety, depression and a crappy sense of self-worth. How about you? When it comes to the Internet, there is a confusing sea of solutions and dangerous pits to fall into
For the purpose of this article, I am talking about biblical teachings and the Internet is filled with all kinds of biblical teachings. I’ve been travelling the Internet for decades and I can attest to the variety of teachings that is out there. I’d like to share some insights that would help you heed the warning given by Paul in 2 Timothy 4:3-4.
In Paul’s second letter to Timothy, the goal was not to scare the crap out of Christians. I am talking specifically about 2 Timothy 4:3-4. Here is what Paul says beforehand and it set the stage for what the young pastor.
4 I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.2 Timothy 4:1-2 NASB ’95
Timothy is a young pastor and he is being told to share the whole counsel of God. I suspect Timothy probably had people suffering from depression, anxiety and a lot of the same issues that we face in our own society. At the same time, people were likely asking for solutions for other problems. Do you think I am reading into the text?
16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.2 Timothy 3:16-17 NASB ’95
Do you see what I just did? I did not just read 2 Timothy 4:1-4. I checked to see if anything came bore this chapter. Plus, I knew Paul had reminded Timothy that all Scripture is profitable for any who would take the time and listen or read.
Today, the world is very different from what the young pastor had to deal with. In the 21st Century, everyone has access to a sea of information and no guidance on how to process the huge volume of biblical teachings and competing insights on the Word of God. On the one hand, it seems believers have been liberated to pursue biblical teachings on their own. Yet, a serious problem has arisen.
Do you know why writers and pastors take the time to set the stage for the teachings? It is not to waste your time. It’s to help you to better know where I am going. The same idea applies hopefully to your pastors. Context is key understanding any Bible teachings. I am not a fan of throwing out isolated Bible verses.
Here is a more direct tip for you. Did you open your Bible and checked to see what your Bible translation says? It’s a good habit that is worth getting into; especially when it’s a new teaching. It’s also a great way to grow in confidence that the Word of God can definitely help you.
Would you like some real help in deciphering the Word of God or the teachings found on the Internet or in your church? I’m not talking about a private tutor and you don’t have to pay any money for this help. If you haven’t guessed, I am talking about the Holy Spirit. Here’s what John wrote in his first letter.
27 As for you, the anointing [the special gift, the preparation] which you received from Him remains [permanently] in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you. But just as His anointing teaches you [giving you insight through the presence of the Holy Spirit] about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as His anointing has taught you, you must remain in Him [being rooted in Him, knit to Him].1 John 1:27 Amplified
You can rely on the Spirit of God to help you in reading the Scripture and understanding what is being taught online or in you church. Speaking from experience, the Holy Spirit is quite capable of teaching through pastors, Bible teachers, books and the Word of God. Yet, we are not exempt from applying critical thinking to what we read or hear.
Don’t be afraid to ask Jesus your questions on what you’re receiving. The Holy Spirit is the one person that can handle your one million questions. So speaks the guy who’d bombard his human teachers with a ton of questions in class!
Let’s return to what Paul says in 2 Timothy 4:3-4. Though I have the gift of the Holy Spirit, I am not exempt from errors. I’ve had plenty of false beliefs and it took time to learn the truth. Yet, I have the gift of the Holy Spirit. In case you missed it, we are not puppets. Each person is free to choose what they believe. Yes, we have free will.
Here’s 1 Timothy 4:3-4:
3 For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine and accurate instruction [that challenges them with God’s truth]; but wanting to have their ears tickled [with something pleasing], they will accumulate for themselves [many] teachers [one after another, chosen] to satisfy their own desires and to support the errors they hold, 4 and will turn their ears away from the truth and will wander off into myths and man-made fictions [and will accept the unacceptable].Amplified Bible
What is Paul warning Timothy about? The warning is not meant to scare followers in Christ. Rather, it a warning about human nature that is not submitted to the leading of the Spirit. We want teachings that answer our needs or fix a problem. There is just one problem. A doctor who treats himself has a fool for a patient.
In our zeal to fix our problem, it is easy to fall into the trap of picking and choosing Scriptures that seem to fit our needs. Yet, we would miss out on the original context of that favorite Bible verse. Here’s a concrete example and it centers on a popular Bible verse. It’s Jeremiah 29:11.
11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.Jeremiah 29:11 KJV
Why was this beautiful verse wrong? As a person with disabilities, my job opportunities were very slim and I felt like it was the end of the world when it came to the sheltered work program. It seems I was being told to live on poverty.
Do you know what really would have helped me? The answer starts in 29:10 and it continues to 29:14. You see, I needed the whole counsel of God and not an isolated verse. Here’s what I’m talking about.
10 For thus saith the Lord, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place.
11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
12 Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.
13 And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.
14 And I will be found of you, saith the Lord: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the Lord; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive.Jeremiah 29:10-14
You see, I needed to know that God would be with me in a time of great difficulty. I needed to hear that God is not abandoning me to a life of poverty and that was a real future. But first, I needed to draw nearer to Jesus and let God help me through this time of difficulty. Sadly, I’d learn this truth, years later.
Do you see how I came to the truth of what the Holy Spirit was saying? In time, I’d learn to check the surrounding verses before diving into commentaries and cross references. It can set the stage for discovering God’s full counsel on a matter. The next step would be to do what is found in the last two verses that I shared.
That is right. I needed to earnestly seek God though meditating on the Word of God, prayer and worship. I don’t think that I was doing a good job of it, at the time. It would have helped to talk with my church’s pastor or someone in pastoral counseling. I say this because my pastor could have pointed to my need to know how God sees me.
Yes, I am talking about my identity in Christ and that God didn’t look down on me because of how I was born. Yeah, I was a mess and needed to know that God loves me. I was a perfect candidate for the Bethel Church crowd. Because I was already a believer in Christ, I really did need to see that my Father sees me with the eyes of love.
Here’s where my Baptist friends can be a blessing. They would be correct to say God is not thrilled when his children sin and they need to change their behaviors. We learn by the reading of Scripture and discovering what God hates and what God approves. Of course, it needs to be through the eyes of grace and looking to the Cross.
The Holy Spirit can help you in that endeavor and avoid the trap of legalism. You can trust Jesus to speak to your specific needs and it will be backed by the Word of God. Don’t be afraid to seek after God the Father and ask for God’s full counsel on any issue. Ask Jesus to direct you to the right source. If you are willing to listen, the Holy Spirit can easily let you know the right way and the wrong way.
Are you surprised by how approach 2 Timothy 4:3-4? It is likely not what you’re expecting. I am aware of how this warning is being used. Sadly, I’ve not found it helpful to warn about false teachers. How about heading Paul’s warning to Timothy and seek to help believers learn how to avoid the pitfalls of human nature.