The blessed and God-breathed Book (2 Timothy 3:16)

GodBreathed_slide1x_365_y_273This is one of the most breath-taking Three Sixteens, one which you may have already committed to memory. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 is that great statement of assurance about the Bible, the God-breathed book we build our faith upon.

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” (ESV)

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.” (NLT)

I recently read through 2 Timothy with a friend, over several weeks and many great coffees! The whole letter is a call to persevere in the faith, despite persecutions and difficult people. These are (possibly) Paul’s parting and most important words. He wants Timothy to stick to the truth of the Scriptures, which he’d been taught from his earliest days. (For Timothy this would mean the Old Testament scriptures as well as the teachings of the apostles.) There are so many treasures in this 3:16 (and 17), but I’ll focus on just three points:

1. The Word is God-breathed:  Just as we speak with our actual breath, which forms and carries the sounds of our words, so it is with God’s breath. He has exhaled these words, he has breathed them into the minds and hearts of people who have faithfully written them down, carried along by the Holy Spirit who always does the Father’s will. How else could this extraordinary book, penned by so many authors across millenia, have such consistency and unity of message? This is His Word to us and he has ensured that his breath, his voice, will continue to be heard as we await the return of Christ, the Word of God.

I love what Peter Blowes says about the way the words of the omnipresent and eternal God apply across all time and space:
“. . . God had every reader of Holy Scripture in mind at the time of its ‘exhalation’. This means not only that God’s word is inspired and universally applicable, but also that, in it, God is speaking presently to every particular reader (or hearer) of his Word.”
(2011, “Reading the Bible”, Matthias Minizine). 

This leads to my second point.

2. Reading the Word is the most profitable thing we can do.
More than the early morning coffee, jog, paper, news update, more than crossing things off our to do list, more than any amount of television viewing, study or social media, more than relaxing with the family, more than making money .  . . investing in the Word of God is THE most profitable thing we can do. The world shouts at us, calling for our attention, telling us that those ancient words are dead, irrelevant and useless. But as we immerse ourselves more and more in his Word we understand why reading it is the most profitable thing we can do. By reading we come to know our immortal, invisible, all wise, good and gracious God. The Spirit works in us and we grow in confidence of his power, his might and the reality of his work in our world and hearts. We grow in the certainty of our salvation won in Christ.

3. The Word is wonderfully sufficient, equipping us for every good work.
The Bible equips us not by containing enough lists of do’s and don’ts to train us how to do good in every situation. This is the world’s view of the “good book”, but it shouldn’t be ours. Christ has fulfilled the law. Instead the Word of God equips us by making us more like Christ – who is entirely and always about the Father’s good work. The Word changes us from the inside out and drives our behaviour. This behaviour becomes good work, good fruit (like those good works prepared in advance for us, which Paul described in Ephesians 2:8-10). John Piper explains well:
Bearing fruit in “every good work” (see Colossians 1:10 ) means that it comes out on the branches of your life naturally from something that has changed inside. And what has changed is that you are dead to the law as a set of lists to constrain from the outside, and are now united to Jesus Christ in a relationship of joyful trust so that when he speaks—even speaks some of that same law—it comes from within as the desire of your heart. . . .The Scripture, day after day, reveals to us the greatness and the beauty and the power and the wisdom and the mercy of all that God is for us in Christ so that by the power of the Spirit we find our joy in him, and the ways of sin become distasteful—indeed ugly and repugnant. Yes the Bible gives us many specifics as pointers how to live. But most deeply the way the Bible equips us for every good work is by changing what we find satisfaction in so that our obedience comes from within freely, not by coercion from without. It does this when we read it and meditate on it and memorize it and meditate over it every day.” (John Piper from Desiring God)

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The Peace of Christ (2 Thessalonians 3:16)

Peace-With-God“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you his peace at all times and in every situation. The Lord be with you all.”
2 Thessalonians 3:16

There is much comfort from the promises of the Bible which tell us that if we are in Christ we have forgiveness, we have peace with God. (Romans 5:1, Romans 14:17, Philippians 4:7, John 14:27, Galatians 5:22, Colossians 3:15)
This next verse in the Three Sixteen series points us to Jesus, the Lord of peace, the Prince of Peace. If Peace were a country then Jesus is its royal head of State! And from Jesus this peace flows in every direction, at all times and in many different situations.

But why do we need this peace of Christ? Peace is something you only need when there is a time of war, stress, unrest, anxiety, a lack of peace. And such is our natural unpeaceful state apart from Christ.

The peace He brings works on 3 levels:
1. Peace with God.
When we bow to him as Lord we move from enmity with our Creator to a state of peace. Our sin, that the Holy one cannot look upon, has been dealt with in Christ. God’s wrath is removed. We are at peace with Him. This is the greatest treasure in the whole wide world: peace with God! In Christ it is as though a legal or political declaration has been stamped on us. A peace treaty has been signed for us by Christ. He has made peace for us by His blood shed at the Cross.

2. Peace in ourselves.
We need the peace of Christ not just for forgiveness but for each moment. We must choose to let the peace of Christ reign on the throne of our hearts, rather than our sinful desires. Even if we are in Christ we can still lack a sense of peace, due to the ‘wars’ that rage both around and within us in this fallen world. Sinful desires compete within us. But Jesus offers us peace for the moment, applicable to different times and places. Anxiety about health, the future, our children, a car accident, an exam….all can be met with the soothing balm of peace given by Christ. We can respond with a quiet confidence. He is our peace, and He gives us peace. He gives us purpose and wisdom to deal with our innermost conflicts. Sometimes just remembering the name of Christ is enough to bring peace to anxious hearts. He is an anchor for our souls, a mighty fortress, a refuge.

3. Peace with others.
Christian brothers and sisters still have their troubles and conflicts, despite their best intentions and the fact they are united in Christ. In this area the peace of Christ is also called on, to help us live what we are, to sort out our differences and make peace between us.

2 Corinthians 13:11 NLT
“Dear brothers and sisters, I close my letter with these last words: Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you.”

So today whatever troubles are with you, look to the Lord of Peace, and He will give you rest.

Never Alone

“Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (NLT Matthew 28:20)

“Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” (ESV Hebrews 13: 5-6)

Never Alone is a gentle song with a simple melody (which makes it great for church singing) but the lyrics bring us much comfort. Christ is with us! We are not alone . . . no matter how alone we may feel. This song closely echos and explains the reasons for our confidence in Christ, revealed in the bible passages above. In four verses it tells the story of the God-man Jesus coming to earth, dying and rising for us; now he walks with us, in all our joy and pain. He is alive!

Above you can watch a friend of mine with a beautiful voice (Sarah), leading a large group in singing ‘Never Alone’. It was written by Philip Percival & Simone Richardson (2006) from EMU Music – and has appeared on two of their albums: Let All Creation Sing and Songs for Little Rooms. You can buy the lead sheet here.
Whether or not you get to sing this with other people I trust it will be a blessing!

NEVER ALONE

1. We’re not alone, for Christ is here
Immanuel our God come near
We’re not alone, for to our world
Jesus has come, eternal Word.
And as he speaks, our souls laid bare
Naked, ashamed, sin is made clear
And yet he clothes us in his love
Never alone, Christ is with us, is with us.

2. The longest walk, earth’s darkest day
The pressing crowd, his mounting pain.
A heavy load of grief and shame
Breathless that we should breathe again.
“Father forgive them,” comes his cry
Silence from God blackens the sky.
A creeping dread in every heart
Lost in the world now God departs, God departs.

3. The dawn will come, the sun will rise
Out of the grave we’ll see hope’s light.
Tomb opened wide, stone rolled away
Morning has come, a brand new day.
“He isn’t here,” the angel said.
“He is alive no longer dead.”
Our hearts are lifted, souls raised high
Christ is with us, Christ is our life, he’s our life.

4. Never alone, is now our cry
In joy, in grief, in lonely sin.
Never alone, for Christ is ours
He lives in us, we live in him.
And ’til we reach that final day
When fears are gone, cast far away
We’ll live secure, trust in his love,
Never alone, Christ is with us, he’s with us.

Lyrics: © 2006 Simone Richardson Music: © 2006 Philip Percival

We are His People

HelloImSavedByGraceHoping soon to compile a list of new songs that we plan to add to our repertoire at ARPC in 2013. But before I do that I want to introduce you to an older song (if 2002 is old!) from EMU music – a song which is filled with the mercy and grace of Jesus that we have been singing for many years. You will find it to be a fairly simple and lively song. It is based on that great grace passage in Ephesians 2:8-10 (my favourite!). What a great verse for your church to be singing.

The song seems to be based on the wording of the NIV, but I quite like the NLT version: God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

Hope you enjoy the song and find it useful. Sheet music is at Song Select (and from EMU).

1. We, we are God’s people
Once, dead in our sin and
Now, raised up with Christ in heaven
God, rich in his mercy
Made us all alive in Christ
Seated with him forever

Chorus
By grace we are saved through
Faith, not from us but
God – not our works or boasting
By grace we are saved through
Faith, not from us but
God – not our works or boasting – by grace.

2. We, we are God’s people
Once, once who were far away
Saved by the blood of Jesus
Now, we are his temple
Filled, filled with his Spirit
Made – for doing good in Jesus.

© 2002 Philip Percival

Listen here or purchase

Why I love ‘grace’ in the NLT

Since 1997 I have been a great enthusiast of the NLT (New Living Translation). While I still love my faithful black leather NIV study bible with the cracked edges and torn spine, the NLT has helped refresh and deepen my understanding of God’s loving Word to us. The NLT avoids terms that could be considered Christian jargon, and replaces them with more ordinary words that clearly explain the concept. The translation is not simpler, but it is often clearer.

Let’s take for example ‘grace‘ – God’s grace. For some people ‘grace’ means a prayer before a meal, the way you move, forgiveness, or even a girl’s name. I love the way NLT translators have expressed it: as God’s ‘special favour‘. Check out how fully God’s grace is described by the turn of phrase in these verses:

God saved you by His special favour when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8)

“But whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out his special favor on me—and not without results. For I have worked harder than any of the other apostles; yet it was not I but God who was working through me by his grace.” (1 Corinthians 15:10)

“Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.(Romans 5:2)

When using the NLT in Bible study over the years, it has caused many moments of “a ha!” It helps clarify the way other translations have expressed the glorious gospel of grace! I find it really good to use alongside the NIV or ESV, and is helpful when trying to develop song lyrics! If you have never tried it, have a go.
You can go to the official newlivingtranslation.com site here.
Or look it up in biblegateway. Enjoy!

(Note: My verses are taken from the 1996 version of NLT, which has been revised since the first printing. There may be some differences from the most recent printing.)