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  • Paul Reich

The Life-Changing Power of God’s Word (Part 2)

Updated: Jul 26, 2022

God's Word is a master teacher guiding us to Christ, moral uprightness, encouragement, and sound doctrine.

 
 

Illustration by Jim Lamb. From Discussion Manual for Student Discipleship, written by Dawson McAllister and Dan Webster, pg. 70.

 

Teachers wield powerful influence on the minds and lives of their students. It is not uncommon for the influence of teachers to last a lifetime. In recognition of this fact, quotes that highlight the life impact of teachers are plentiful:

“The influence of a good teacher can never be erased.” – Unknown “Teachers plant seeds that grow forever.” – Unknown “A teacher affects eternity: he can never tell where his influence stops.” – Henry Adams “Teaching is the one profession that creates all other professions.” — Unknown

It is precisely because teachers are so influential through their words and example that James writes, “Do not become teachers in large numbers, my brothers, since you know that we who are teachers will incur a stricter judgment” (James 3:1 NASB 2020). With greater influence comes greater accountability. Since teachers exert life-impacting power, they will be held accountable for the influential power they wield in the lives of others.


In fact, Jesus warned the disciples against the leavening influence of teaching by the religious leaders (Matthew 16:11-12), and He warned anyone who would be a stumbling influence in the lives of children who had placed their faith in Him (Matthew 18:6). The power of influence comes with great responsibility.


It also requires great discernment by the listener. Because teachers wield the power of influence, it is imperative that we allow the right teachers to influence our lives, the lives of our congregants, the lives of our children, or others under our care. On a personal level, it is vital that we learn to filter out false teaching and destructive ungodly influences. On a leadership level, it is crucial that we warn those under our care against the leavening influence of wrong teaching even as Jesus warned His disciples.

Photo from Amazon.com


In our formative years, the modeling and instruction of our parents were the greatest influences that shaped our thinking and behavior. Then teachers, peers, and media eventually stepped more and more into this teaching role. A problem arises when the shaping influence of our “teachers” is incongruent with God’s truth. Worldly forces on our minds can plant faulty values, ideologies, and ethical standards, and influence us to embrace ungodly thinking and behaviors.


Most are familiar with Lenin’s famous words, “Give me a child for the first five years of his life and he will be mine forever.” His words demonstrate the power of shaping a child’s mind in the formative years. Certainly, these foundational years are critical, but they are not the only years that shape and influence one’s thinking and behavior. Years of instruction under teachers, daily influence by peers, and the constant messaging of media all have their impact and can derail a child from his early instruction.


As children grow to maturity and individuate, they must personally choose to embrace the values taught in their formative years for these values to become their own. It is well known by those who peddle their ideological wares in universities that the values that one embraces during the young adult years will likely be the ones carried throughout the rest of life.


Yet even this is not guaranteed. I have seen Christians whom I thought were solidly grounded in biblical truth even during their young adult years still become derailed later in life because of the relentless bombardment of society’s messaging and the wearing down of moral resolve. In every case, they have not countered these worldly influences by maintaining personal intimacy with Christ and by being constant in God’s Word. Eventually their spiritual vitality waned, and their minds began to embrace the world’s narrative and values. Consider that even the wise Solomon was seduced to worship idols later in life by the pervasive influence of his foreign wives (1 Kings 11:4-13).


In my previous series, “You are What You Think,” I established that ‘what your mind consumes controls your life’. If you want to change your life from the inside out, God’s Word needs to be a daily essential. As you ingest God’s Word, it will not only provide the spiritual nutrition necessary for growth along with a host of other benefits, it will also be an agent of transformation in your life, bringing you to spiritual maturity and equipping you for Christian living and service.


To protect yourself from the constant bombardment of the world’s messaging, you must screen the voices you allow to influence your life by staying under the constant instruction of God’s Word. There is noteworthy insight in D.L. Moody’s adage, “The Bible will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from the Bible.”[1] God’s Word is a faithful teacher and guide that will keep you on the right path.


THE BIBLE IS A MASTER TEACHER


One of the passages that best demonstrates the indispensable instructive value of God’s Word is 2 Timothy 3:15-17.


2 Timothy 3:16–17 (NET)

16 Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,

17 that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work.


In this passage we learn that every scripture is inspired by God – literally, they are “God-breathed.” In other words, the Scriptures convey the Spirit-infused thoughts and words of God.


As God’s inspired Word, the Scriptures are "profitable" for our lives. The Greek word translated as “profitable” or “useful” in our English translations carries the sense of “being beneficial” and “promoting well-being.” In other words, God’s Word is GOOD FOR YOU! The apostle Paul then describes the powerful instructive influence of God's Word to shape our lives and equip us for "every good work." God's Word serves as a master teacher that benefits our lives through . . .

  • Teaching

  • Reproof

  • Correction, and

  • Training in Righteousness.

Over my next posts we will look at each of these benefits in sequence. In this post we will begin with “teaching,”


GOD'S WORD IS PROFITABLE FOR TEACHING

Illustration by Jim Lamb. From Discussion Manual for Student Discipleship, written by Dawson McAllister and Dan Webster, pg. 70.


The Bible is beneficial for "teaching" (Greek: didaskalia, from which we get our English word "didactic"). Translated “doctrine” in the KJV, the Greek usage incorporates more than a set of beliefs. Though correct doctrine is often included when the Bible refers to the teaching of Scripture, this Greek word is also used more broadly in the Bible, in particular to convey an emphasis on moral instruction. Here in 2 Timothy 3, it broadly refers to divine instruction that imparts knowledge, wisdom, and understanding, and would include both doctrinal and moral teaching. The Bible has broad instructional value for our lives. Through the teaching of Scripture . . .


1) We can know the way of salvation in Christ


2 Timothy 3:15 (NET)

15 and how from infancy you have known the holy writings, which are able to give you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.


In just the previous verse to our select passage, Paul refers to Timothy’s training in the Old Testament Scriptures from childhood. Even the Old Testament writings are able to lead to salvation through faith in Christ (Consider Jesus’ words in John 5:39-40, 46-47; His conversation with the men on the road to Emmaus, Luke 24:25-27; Peter’s words in Acts 10:43; and OT passages such as Isaiah 53). How much more easily, the New Testament Scriptures can lead us to salvation through faith in Christ (John 20:30-31; Romans 1:16).


The Scriptures are a window through which we can see Christ and come to know Him. The purpose of a window is not to draw attention to itself, but to reveal things beyond itself. Except for stained glass windows, windows are not designed to look at, but to look through and to let light into the building. If we study the Bible and miss Christ, we have missed one of its primary purposes. Both the Old and New Testaments are Christo-centric and are meant to lead us to a growing knowledge, intimacy, and faith in Christ; and thereby letting "the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” shine in our hearts (2 Corinthians 4:5-6 NASB).

2) We can receive moral instruction


1 Corinthians 10:6, 11 (NASB)

6 Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved.

11 Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.


In this passage to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul describes lessons that we can learn from the Old Testament accounts of the wilderness wanderings. In addition to spiritual insights that he outlines in verses 1-5, Paul focuses on moral lessons we can learn. Between the bookends of verses 6 and 11, both stating that " these things" provide a moral “example” for us, Paul expands on what he means by “so we would not crave evil things as they also craved” and lists four sins we should avoid.

  • “Do not be idolaters, as some of them were” (10:7)

  • “Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did” (10:8)

  • “Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did” (10:9)

  • “Nor grumble, as some of them did” (10:10)

After each of these admonitions, Paul describes God’s judgement for their sin and reminds us once again that these experiences served as “an example” and were recorded “for our instruction.” Here, the Greek word used for “instruction” (nouthesia) emphasizes a cautionary admonition or warning. Paul then concludes with further admonitions and instruction on temptation.


1 Corinthians 10:12–13 (NASB)

12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.

13 No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.


So, God’s Word can teach us valuable moral lessons, warning us of sin and providing helpful keys for understanding and overcoming temptation.


Examples of moral instruction abound in the Scriptures, but this example is sufficient to illustrate that one of the key purposes of the Scriptures is to teach us right from wrong and establish the ethical behavior that Christ desires for His followers.


3) We can experience encouragement


Not only do the teaching portions and historical events of the Bible provide moral instruction, they also give us encouragement and hope.


Romans 15:4 (NASB95)

4 For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction [didaskalia], so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.


Many of the Bible’s accounts are of men and women of faith who trusted and obeyed God in the midst of life’s many and diverse challenges. In fact, the writer of Hebrews features an extensive roster of men and women from the Old Testament, who by faith followed God in great hardship, many at the threat of their own lives. Because of their faith and steadfastness amidst great trial, they become witnesses to us of God’s faithfulness and trustworthiness so that we too will not lose heart but will run our own Christian race with faith and endurance (Hebrews 11:1-40, 12:1-3).


Further, many Bible passages are written specifically to inspire hope and faith in God (Romans 10:17). Though plentiful, I only include one Old Testament passage and one New Testament Passage to make my point. Consider the great encouragement that comes from these two passages.


Isaiah 43:1b–3a (NASB)

1b But now, this is what the Lord says, . . . “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine!

2 “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you.

3 “For I am the Lord your God, . . ..”


Romans 8:35–39 (NASB 2020)

35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or trouble, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?

. . . .

37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.

38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,

39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.


These passages both affirm that God is with us in all circumstances and that even life’s most difficult experiences or powerful spiritual forces cannot separate us from His love. Knowing this fosters great hope and faith in God when going through times of personal trial. These and many other Scriptures, in particular the Psalms, have been a great source of encouragement for me personally in the low moments of my own life.


Check out all the inspirational and encouraging Scriptures at PslamsQuotes.com


4) We can learn sound doctrine and refute deception


Throughout both his letters to Timothy, a young pastor, Paul repeatedly stresses the importance of sound teaching and doctrine.


1 Timothy 4:6 (NASB)

6 In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine [didaskalia] which you have been following.


1 Timothy 4:16 (NASB)

16 Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching [NIV – “Watch your life and doctrine closely” – again didaskalia is used]; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.


Paul exhorts Timothy to be very conscientious with his personal life and his teaching/doctrine. Moral failure, emotional collapse, or spiritual defeat in his personal life would have devastating effect on the church, and so would teaching false doctrine. In fact, Paul had just previously warned Timothy of the danger of false teaching leading people astray from the faith.


1 Timothy 4:1 (NASB)

1 But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines [didaskalia] of demons,


Paul further warns Timothy to guard against those who promote a doctrine that does not agree with the words of Jesus and teaching that leads to godly living.


1 Timothy 6:3–4 (NASB95)

3 If anyone advocates a different doctrine [heterodidaskaleō] and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine [didaskalia] conforming to godliness,

4 he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions,


Because false teaching and heretical doctrine were such critical and pressing issues for the church, Paul repeats his warnings to Timothy in his second letter, exhorting him to “preach the word.”


2 Timothy 4:1–4 (NASB95)

1 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 [didache].

3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine [didaskalia]; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires,

4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.


God’s Word (in particular, the Gospel and teaching of Christ) is the source of sound doctrine and needs to be at the center of all our preaching and teaching. That’s why Paul reminds Timothy in our key text that the same Scriptures that led him to faith in Christ are inspired and beneficial for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:15-17).


All believers, but especially Christian leaders, need to be grounded in the Scriptures and hold fast to its teaching in order to instruct others in what is right as well as to refute those who promote false doctrine. Paul makes this clear to Titus when he establishes the qualifications for church elders. It is required of a church elder that he is “holding firmly the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching [didachē], so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine [didaskalia] and to refute those who contradict it" (Titus 1:9 NASB 2020).


The idea of “sound words” or “sound doctrine” or being “sound in the faith” is a repeated theme in Paul’s pastoral letters to Timothy and Titus. The Greek word for “sound” is hygianō and is part of the word family from which we get our English word hygiene. It means to be correct, healthy, and accurate. In other words, sound doctrine or sound faith is free from infirmity, disease, or contamination. Healthy teaching leads to a healthy faith. You are what you think! What your mind consumes controls your life! [2]


Closing


God’s Word is a divine instructor that will transform your life. It beneficial for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness so that you as a dedicated follower of Christ can be adequate and equipped for every good work. The teaching of Scripture can lead you to Christ, provide moral direction, give encouragement, and instruct you in sound doctrine.


As you spend regular time in the Word of God, be sure that getting to know the God of the Word is at the forefront of your reading and study. Flowing from this deepening relationship, the Holy Spirit can then lead you to understand the Bible. The more you prayerfully reflect on and study the Word, the more it will shape your thinking, influence your values, establish your beliefs, govern your morals, and transform your behavior. In my next posts, we will look at the vital instructive role of God’s Word for reproving, correcting, and training in righteousness.


REFERENCES

[1] Though this quote is attributed to Moody (1837-1899), he likely got it from John Bunyan (1628-1688), who had the following words handwritten in the cover of his Bible: “Either this Book will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from this Book.”


[2] In future posts, I will discuss the content of sound doctrine. At that time, we will look at "Essentials" and "Non-Essentials” of the Christian faith and of Christian ethics. Some of my thoughts on these areas will have to wait for that future time. My purpose for this post is to show the incredible instructive value that God’s Word has for our lives.

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