Training in Righteousness

“All Scripture is . . . profitable for . . . training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16).

God’s Word nourishes your spiritual life.

We conclude our study of the character and benefits of God’s Word by focusing on the benefit that ties all the others together: training in righteousness. Everything the Word accomplishes in you through teaching, reproof, and correction is aimed at increasing your righteousness so you’ll “be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:17, NIV).

“Training” refers to training or educating a child. The New Testament also uses the term to speak of chastening, which is another important element in both child rearing and spiritual growth (Heb. 12:5-11). The idea is that from spiritual infancy to maturity, Scripture trains and educates believers in godly living.

Scripture is your spiritual nourishment. Jesus said, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). Peter exhorted us to be like newborn babes, longing “for the pure milk of the word, that by it [we] may grow in respect to salvation” (1 Pet. 2:2).

You should crave the Word just like a baby craves milk. But Peter prefaced that statement with an exhortation to put “aside all malice and all guile and hypocrisy and envy and all slander” (v. 1). That’s the prerequisite. James taught the same principle: “Putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word” (James 1:21). Attempting to feast on Scripture without confessing your sin is like attempting to eat a meal while wearing a muzzle.

Either the Word will keep you from sin or sin will keep you from the Word. Deal with sin immediately so it doesn’t spoil your appetite for God’s Word. And even if you know the Bible well, be regularly refreshed by its power and reminded of its truths. That’s the key to enjoying spiritual health and victory.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for the nourishment His Word provides.
  • Seek His wisdom and grace in dealing with personal sin. Don’t ignore it, for it will diminish your desire for biblical truth.

For Further Study

  • Read Philippians 3:1 and 2 Peter 1:12-15.
  • What did Paul and Peter say about the importance of being reminded of biblical truths you’ve already learned?
  • Do you follow that advice?

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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Reproving Sinful Conduct

“All Scripture is . . . profitable for . . . reproof” (2 Tim. 3:16).

People who aren’t interested in holy living will avoid being exposed to sound doctrine.

Paul instructed Timothy to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction” (2 Tim. 4:2). He knew a time was coming when many people would reject sound doctrine, and “wanting to have their ears tickled, [would] accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and . . . turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths” (vv. 3-4).

That’s certainly true of our day. Many who profess to love Christ seem intolerant of His Word. Often they fall into spiritual complacency and surround themselves with teachers who tell them exactly what they want to hear. If they can’t find a comfortable message, they drift from church to church or simply abandon it altogether.

Such people have exchanged conviction for comfort, and need to examine themselves to see if they are genuine believers (2 Cor. 13:5). Their attitude toward the Word is in stark contrast to those who truly love Christ and come to the Word with an earnest desire to learn its truths and live accordingly.

But even true believers can fall into the trap of negligence and compromise. Perhaps you’ve noticed how sinning Christians often try to avoid exposure to God’s Word. Sometimes they’ll temporarily stop attending church or Bible studies. They also try to avoid other believers—especially those who will hold them accountable to what they know to be true.

But like any loving parent, God won’t allow His children to remain in sin for long without disciplining them (Heb. 12:5-11). Sooner or later they must repent and be reconciled to Him.

An important element in reconciling sinning Christians to God is the faithful prayers of other believers. God may choose to use you in that way, so always be ready to pray, and eager to restore others in a spirit of gentleness (Gal. 6:1).

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Do you know a Christian who is being disobedient to God’s Word? If so, ask God to bring him or her to repentance. Assure the person of your prayers and concern, and be available to be further used in the restoration process if the Lord wills.

For Further Study

  • What does Matthew 18:15-20 say about how to confront a sinning Christian?

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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Avoiding Spiritual Deception

“All Scripture is . . . profitable for . . . reproof” (2 Tim. 3:16).

Scripture is the standard by which you must measure all teaching.

In November of 1978, United States Representative Leo Ryan of California visited the People’s Temple (a California- based cult) in Guyana. He went to investigate reports that some of the people were being held there against their will. The world was shocked to learn that the congressman and his party had been ambushed and killed.

Even more shocking was the grim discovery that followed a few days later. Authorities who entered the compound at Jonestown, Guyana were horrified to find the bodies of 780 cult members who had been shot or had committed suicide by drinking cyanide-laced punch. Their leader, the Reverend Jim Jones, was found lying near the altar—dead from a single bullet wound to the head.

For many, it was the first time they had witnessed the deadly effect of satanic teaching. Editorials and articles for months attempted to explain how such appalling deception and genocide could occur in this day and age. But as tragic as the Jonestown deaths were, most observers missed the greatest tragedy of all: the spiritual damnation that Jim Jones and all other false teachers lead their followers into.

Spiritual deception is a very serious issue to God. That’s why in Scripture He lays down the truth and reproves anything contrary to it. The Greek word translated “reproof” in 2 Timothy 3:16 means to rebuke or confront someone regarding misconduct or false teaching.

If you have a thorough grasp of Scripture, you have a standard by which to measure all teaching. Then you can easily recognize false doctrine and avoid spiritual deception. That’s what John had in mind when he said, “I have written to you, [spiritual] young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one” (1 John 2:14).

False religions will always attempt to distort Scripture because they must eliminate God’s truth before they can justify their own lies. Beware of their subtleties, and be strong in God’s Word.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank the Lord for protecting you from spiritual deception.
  • Pray for anyone you may know who has fallen victim to false teaching. Take every opportunity to impart God’s truth to them.

For Further Study

  • Read 2 Corinthians 11:1-4, 13-15. How did Paul describe false teachers?

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16).

Scripture is a manual of divine truth.

This month we’ve considered many benefits of Scripture. Second Timothy 3:16 lists four more that will be the focus of our studies as we draw this month to a close: teaching truth, reproving sin and error, correcting behavior, and training in righteousness. We’ve touched on each of those to some extent in our past studies, but they warrant additional discussion from this verse, which is Scriptures most concise statement on its own power and purpose.

First, the Bible is profitable for teaching. The Greek word translated “teaching” refers more to content than to the process of teaching. Scripture is God’s manual of divine truth for patterning your thoughts and actions.

As a believer, you have the capacity to understand and respond to Scripture. That’s because the Holy Spirit indwells you and imparts spiritual discernment, wisdom, and understanding (1 John 2:27). You have “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16).

But having the ability to understand spiritual truth doesn’t guarantee you’ll exercise that ability. God said to the Israelites through the prophet Hosea, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (4:6). His truth was available to them, but they ignored it and lived in disobedience.

I’ve heard many people lament that they could have avoided much grief if only they had known the Bible more thoroughly—if only they had taken the time to learn what God expected of them in a particular situation. Perhaps you’ve felt that way. The best way to avoid making that mistake in the future is to faithfully, prayerfully, patiently, and thoroughly saturate your mind with biblical truth, then discipline yourself to live according to its principles. Now that’s the challenge of a lifetime, but it’s the only way to profit from biblical teaching and avoid unnecessary heartaches.

I pray you will be encouraged today as you study God’s Word and diligently apply it to your life.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Ask God to use the circumstances you face today to draw you closer to Him and motivate you to dig deeper into His Word.

For Further Study

  • Read Exodus 24:1-8. What was the Israelites’ response to God’s Word? What is yours?

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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Heeding God’s Warnings

“By [Thy judgments] Thy servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward” (Ps. 19:11).

Heeding God’s warnings brings spiritual protection and great joy.

Psalm 19:11 concludes David’s hymn on the sufficiency of Scripture. How appropriate that it ends noting the value of God’s warning, because guarding His people against temptation, sin, error, foolishness, false teachers, and every other threat to their spiritual well-being is a major concern to God.

For example, God said to the prophet Ezekiel, “Now as for you, son of man, I have appointed you a watchman for the house of Israel; so you will hear a message from My mouth, and give them warning from Me” (Ezek. 33:7). The great tragedy of the Old Testament is that Israel rejected God’s “statutes and His covenants which He made with their fathers, and His warnings with which He warned them” (2 Kings 17:15).

The apostle Paul defined his ministry as that of proclaiming Christ and warning “every man and teaching every man with all wisdom” (Col. 1:28). After exhorting the Thessalonian church to maintain sexual purity, Paul added, “The Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you” (1 Thess. 4:6).

He also warned the Ephesian church, saying, “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish [warn] each one with tears” (Acts 20:29-32). He did that by declaring to them the whole counsel of God (v. 27).

The warnings of Scripture aren’t intended to frustrate or stifle you. On the contrary, when you heed them they shelter you from spiritual harm and bring the joy of knowing you’re in God’s will. That’s the “great reward” David speaks of in Psalm 19:11. May you earn it as he eventually did through heeding God’s Word in every aspect of life.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Overwhelmed with the sufficiency of God’s Word, David prayed, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer” (Ps. 19:14). Make that your prayer as well.

For Further Study

  • Reread Psalm 19:7-11, reviewing each characteristic and benefit of Scripture. Think carefully about how they apply to your life.

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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Desiring God’s Word

“The judgments of the Lord are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb” (Ps. 19:10).

You should value Scripture more than all earthly treasures.

I have a friend who has a beautiful collection of rare Bibles. My favorite is one of the earliest printed copies, dating back to sixteenth-century England. The first time I held it in my hands I noticed that the top third of every page was covered with a dark stain. Tears filled my eyes when I realized it was from the blood of its original owner.

My friend explained that when Bloody Mary ruled England, she delighted in terrorizing Protestants and murdering as many as she could. Her soldiers would execute their victims through some bloody means, then take his or her Bible and dip it into the blood. Some of those Bibles have been preserved and are known as Martyrs’ Bibles. Scientists have confirmed that the dark stains on every page of my friend’s Bible are, indeed, human blood.

That same Bible is well worn from being studied. And many of its pages have water stains on them—perhaps from tears. Obviously it was someone’s most precious possession, and his or her blood is there to prove it.

Psalm 19:10 captures the heart of such people, extolling the preciousness of God’s Word. To David, Scripture was more valuable than the best gold and purest honey. Meditating on it meant more to him than the richest and sweetest things in life. He knew its ability to satisfy every spiritual appetite.

As precious as God’s Word is, many Christians take it for granted and become complacent in their studies. Some go for long periods without gaining fresh insights from its pages.

Perhaps you know someone who is in that situation. If so, ask the Lord for wisdom as you gently encourage him or her toward greater faithfulness in the Word. At the same time be careful not to become negligent yourself.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for the example of those who have loved His Word to the cost of their lives.
  • Ask Him to give you the desire to feed on His truth daily and the drive to satisfy that desire.

For Further Study

  • Read 1 Peter 2:1-2 as a reminder to keep your heart sensitive to the precious gift of God’s Word.

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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Living a Joyous Life

“The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart” (Ps. 19:8).

Knowing your life is on the right track is a source of great joy.

What brings you joy? Your answer will reveal much about your priorities and the direction your life is heading spiritually.

The psalmist wrote, “How blessed [happy] is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. And he will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers” (Ps. 1:1-3).

That psalmist knew that true joy and happiness come from knowing God and abiding in His Word. That was David’s confidence when he wrote, “The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart” (Ps. 19:8).

“Precepts” in that verse speaks of divine principles and guidelines for character and conduct. God created you and knows how you must live to give glory to Him. And He revealed in His Word every precept you must know to do so.

Every divine precept is “right.” It shows you the path that is right and true. What a wonderful confidence that is! While many around you may be discouraged or despondent because of their lack of direction and purpose, God’s Word is a lamp to your feet and a light to your path (Ps. 119:105). It guides you through the difficult mazes of life and gives your life eternal significance. Don’t live simply for your own pleasures. Your life has a high and holy purpose, and each day can be filled with joy as you see that purpose unfold.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Ask God to help you be mindful of your eternal purpose today and every day.
  • Ask Him to direct you to someone who needs Christ and is sensing a lack of purpose in his or her life.

For Further Study

  • Read Colossians 3:1-4.
  • How did Paul describe Christ?
  • What should be the focus of your thinking?
  • Are you heeding Paul’s exhortation?

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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