Live as One Approved by God

by Feb 23, 20202 Timothy, Sermon

Approval is something we all long for, especially from the people who matter most to us. There is something deep inside of us that craves knowing that others are pleased with what we do and who we are. Approval gives us a sense of meaning and significance in the context of relationship, combining two of our deepest needs. This week we are going to look at how to find approval in the relationship that matters most – our relationship with God.


Welcome to Lifepoint Church. My name is Mike Hipsley, one of the pastors here on staff. For those of you joining us in the video cafe or through the livestream we’re so glad that you’re with us. We are in week four of an 8-part series looking at the book of 2 Timothy, and 2 Timothy is the last letter that the Apostle Paul ever wrote. He wrote this shortly before his death to his protégé, to his friend Timothy who was a young pastor heading up the church in Ephesus. Paul was in Rome when he wrote this, and he’s writing his last words to a dear friend, and last words are important words, and the words that Paul is writing to Timothy can be summed up in a statement that we’re using to subtitle, this series: “Remember the Gospel”, Paul is encouraging Timothy in his work in Ephesus in his life to remember the Gospel because in the Gospel, in the Good News of Jesus, we’re reminded of the hope that we have in him. As we remember the Gospel, we are empowered to live in the abundant life that Jesus wants to give us, right now, in our lives, right now.  And that’s what we’re exploring, and this week we’re going to be in the second half of the 2nd chapter of 2 Timothy. Lots of seconds there, so if you have a Bible you want to turn to 2 Timothy 2. We are going to be picking up with verse 14. If you don’t have a Bible, we would love to give you one. We have them free at the welcome desk. We’d love for you to just go and grab one. You can even do that now if you want, but we’d love to just give you a Bible so that you have a copy of God’s word for your own.

 So let’s jump right in. What we’re going to be looking at today is actually going to be a little bit denser. We’re gonna have to dig, but there’s some really good stuff here, so let’s start. We’re going to read just verses 14 and 15. Paul writes this to Timothy “Remind them of these things and charge them before God not to quarrel about words which does no good but only ruins the hearers. Do your best to present yourselves to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed rightly handling the word of truth.”  Okay, so Paul’s first words in this passage are, “Remind them of these things,” and when we encounter a phrase like that in the Bible what it generally means… if we want to understand that, we need to go back a little bit. So, Paul’s saying remind them and he’s telling Timothy “Remind your church, remind the people in your church in Ephesus of these things.”  Well, what things?  The things he had just talked about previously in the chapter which was essentially this: the Gospel of Jesus Christ cannot be bound. It is more powerful than any of our circumstances even if we are bound like Paul was in prison when he was writing this, the Gospel overcomes all of that.  So in light of that what Paul is saying, in light of the power of the Gospel, do not quarrel about words. Another way to translate the word quarrel there is wrangle. So what Paul’s talking about is don’t quarrel, don’t wrangle, don’t argue for the sake of arguing. Don’t just pick fights with people because it doesn’t do any good. It just ruins the hearer. How many times have you encountered someone that was arguing, and you just find it repellent? Like that’s not the person that I want to be around, and argumentative people are not people that we tend to want to engage with. We want to separate from them, and Paul says rather than quarrel, rather than wrangle with words present yourself as one approved of God. Another way you could translate that is live as one approved of God. Seek God’s approval. Approval is a good thing. When we get approval, it tells us that we’ve done a good job. It’s an indicator that we’re doing well. That we’re in good standing with others. The approval, I think, is something deeply ingrained… that we want to see. We want to know that we’re approved. When I think of approval, I think of little kids with their parents, you know? Little kids all the time, Dad watch me.  Mom look at this. I think kids crave their parents’ approval. And I think if we’re honest, even as adults we still crave our parents’ approval. We want to be approved. Approval is a good thing, but it’s also a thing that can get really twisted and sideways in our life. If we can make approval not just something that we want to have or like to have, it could become something that we need to have. And then we start moving into the realm of the co-dependency where we start orienting and directing our lives to get the approval of others. You ever been there? Have you ever gotten sideways a little bit and you started directing your life for the approval of a boss or a spouse or child or whoever it is? That’s not a healthy way to live, so approval can get a little sideways. I think the idea of living for the approval of God, we can also misunderstand that because what the temptation is what we can take that to mean is that we have to do things in order for God to approve of us. That in order to have God’s approval to present ourselves as one approved, we have to do this checklist of things that will make God happy And I think that’s a twisted way of looking at it.

I don’t think that’s what Paul is saying at all. Paul is saying live as one approved, and to illustrate what I think this means I want to just take a quick trip to Jesus parable the Prodigal Son in Luke 15. Right?  ‘Cause I think the son illustrates what Paul is talking about. We have the son of the father who already has the father’s approval. He lives in the house of the father. He’s approved just by virtue of being the son of the father, and the moment we believe in Jesus, we have the approval of the Father. We become sons and daughters of the father, beloved of the father. We have his approval, but the prodigal son, as a son chose to squander his inheritance and to go off  into faraway lands. He wound up in destitution starving in a pigpen. See he had the father’s approval, and we know that he never lost the father’s approval because when he came to his senses and came home, the father runs out and embraces him. The son never lost the approval of the father. He just stopped living in it And I think that’s what Paul is getting at. He’s not saying we need to do things in order to earn the Father’s approval. What he’s saying is as believers in Jesus, as those that are redeemed, you already have the approval of the Father. You’re sealed by the Holy Spirit. God looks at you and says this is my beloved son or daughter, and the invitation of Jesus, and the life in the way of Jesus is to live in that, but living in God’s approval is not earning God’s approval. What Paul wants to talk about with us this morning is how to live in the approval that we already have, and he’s writing to Timothy, a pastor in the church to help him understand how to help his church live in the approval that they already have. We can see this in the contrasting ideas that he’s dealing with in verses 14 and 15. He’s saying okay, there’s the unimproved way. Those that quarrel and argue about words and don’t do any good, and then there’s the approved way. Rightly handling the word of God. There’s the unapproved way that does no good, that ruins the hearer, and then there’s the approved way living as a worker who has no need to be ashamed.

So, he’s telling Timothy, “Look in your church. You’re going to deal with both kinds of believers. People that believe in Jesus and are trying to live in the approval that they already have, and people that get sideways and aren’t doing that.” So, he’s saying we need to present ourselves as one approved, and the word he used for approved there in Greek is Dokimos. It’s a really interesting choice because Dokimos referred to something that was going on in the ancient world involving counterfeiting. The Romans didn’t have very sophisticated coin making capabilities or technology they just struck it with they struck silver coin, silver discs with a hammer. It was really easy to counterfeit their money, and so what counterfeiters would do is they would take copper disks and then coat it in aluminum, not aluminum, silver foil. And then they’d strike their own coins, and they were almost indistinguishable from Roman coins, but the Dokimos were merchants who could spot the counterfeit and what they would do is they refused to accept the counterfeit. They would weigh the coins because they knew that silver was heavier than copper, and so they actually got the name Dokimos, the approved, because they knew how to spot the counterfeit coins. And they would have nothing to do with them. They were too honest to deal with them. And what Paul is saying is we need to be like those merchants, like those Dokimos.  We need to live as Dokimos before God, knowing the counterfeit and rejecting it. So what Paul is saying is that living in God’s approval means knowing His word and doing what it says. Knowing God’s word and doing what it says; this is what Paul means by rightly handling the word of truth. It’s got two parts; first to know God’s word. Because knowing God’s word will help us to identify the counterfeit. The Secret Service, when they study for counterfeiting, they don’t study the counterfeit bills, they study the real thing. And in knowing the real thing backwards and forwards they are able to spot the counterfeit and that’s what we need to do. We need to immerse ourselves in God’s word. So here’s a question. Are we in God’s word every day? Are we committing our lives to it, even if it’s just for five minutes to getting ourselves into God’s word?  But you know that’s not enough. Paul’s saying there’s another step. We need to take what we’re finding in God’s word, what we’re finding in here and make it come alive out here in our lives applying what we learn to our lives knowing God’s word and doing God’s word. Our knowledge of God’s word needs to also shape our character to make us like the Dokimos. Workers who don’t need to be ashamed.

So another question, I think, we need to ask is as we study God’s word, are we putting practices into our lives, or are we implementing things that are helping us to live out the truth that we’re discovering in his word? Because that is what will make us like the Dokimos.

But why is Paul talking about this? Like this is a pretty elaborate illustration because he’s addressing a problem that I think Timothy wrote to him about that he’s dealing with in Ephesus, and he gets into that in verses 16 through 19. So let’s read that real quick. Alright, so Paul writes to Timothy says, “But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus who have swerved from the truth saying that the resurrection has already happened.  There upsetting the faith of some but God’s firm foundation stands bearing this seal. The Lord knows those who are his and let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.” Alright so Timothy is writing about these two people that are causing trouble in the church, Hymenaeus and Philetus. They’ve swerved from the truth, which means they departed from the truth. They had the truth of the Gospel, but they didn’t remember it. They’ve swerved away from it. They’ve kind of gone off the rails or off the road, but I think they’re believers because they had the truth and they’ve departed from it. So, like the prodigal son they’re far away from home but they’re false teachers. They’re preaching that the resurrection of the body of Christ of all the people has already happened. They’re not denying the resurrection of Jesus, but they’re saying the resurrection for everyone has already happened. And I can tell you for a fact, that’s not true because in the resurrection we get new glorified bodies, and I can tell you right now this ain’t it.  If it is, I want a refund. But see, they’re presenting a counterfeit to the truth. But what does that mean? Like what’s a counterfeit gospel? Well just like the money. A counterfeit has the appearance of the truth, but when you go to use it, you wind up in trouble. The real wealth is not there. It just looks like the truth, and it’s upsetting the faith of some. See there’s probably young believers in Timothy’s church that haven’t immersed themselves in the word of God just by virtue of the fact they haven’t been doing it for very long, and so they can’t spot the counterfeits.

So, what they’re hearing is upsetting them, and then we encounter this from time to time. I remember back in the early 90’s I was working with Young Life, and we went away on a fall retreat. And we were there and there was another church that was also using the same Conference Center that we were using.  I had been investing in a group of guys, and they were young believers. They wound up being invited into this worship service for this other church, and they came out really upset and confused because in the service they had been told that the gift of the spirit is to speak in tongues, and that if you can’t speak in tongues you’re not really saved. That’s a counterfeit. It’s departed from the truth. Tongues is a gift of the spirit, but it’s not the gift of the spirit. This was upsetting their faith because they came out and said is believing in Jesus not enough? So they were really upset, and so I did what most people that have invested in, cared about others, would do when they’ve been upset.  I got mad. My instinct was to go into the service and, you know, just find whoever was doing this and just tell him what was what. But the interesting thing is that’s not what Paul says to do. Paul says no don’t do that. Avoid irreverent babble. He gives an entirely different, and I think, when you first look at it pretty confusing response. God’s firm foundation stands bearing this seal the Lord knows who are his and that all who call upon the name of the Lord depart from iniquity. What? How is that a solution to this? Isn’t it better just go in the room and yell at them and let them know why they’re wrong.  And Paul’s saying, no that’s not the best way to respond to the counterfeit. Don’t quarrel. Don’t wrangle. Instead first go back to what is foundational, and he gives us these two foundations. First the Lord knows who are his. See I think the temptation for us when we encounter false teaching, when we see someone teaching things that aren’t true about Jesus that upset others, our temptation is to start speculating about their Salvation. Well if they’re doing false preaching they must not be saved. They can’t belong to God and Paul’s saying, “Look, mind your business. That’s for God to know. That’s not for us to speculate about. If they’ve believed in Jesus, and they’ve departed from the truth, they’re still saved.” That’s not even a question we should be asking. Instead Paul says, “Let all who call upon the name of the Lord or name the name of the Lord depart from iniquity. Move away from the quarreling move away from the counterfeit.” And I also sense a hint of what Jesus said about “If you see a splinter in your brother’s eye it’s time to look for the log or the plank in your own.” When our temptation is to start judging others, then that’s the time we need to take a step back and go okay, I need to do an inventory of me. Paul’s wisdom here is incredibly counter intuitive. Don’t quarrel. Don’t argue with the counterfeiter, and the reason I think he’s saying it is he’s bringing this principle to bear: being righteous matters more than being right. Being righteous matters more than being right. So I think the first step we need to take to engage with the counterfeit well is to abandon our need to be right. We want to be right. Like to abandon that, that is that what we want. We want to be right, and that’s why in the morning we get up and we step into the hypothetical argument simulator, also known as the shower, where we’re undefeated. All of our arguments they carry the day we want these arguments to go forth. We’re right. We want people to know we’re right, and that’s what Facebook is for. We have to be right. So what are those things in our lives where we have to be right and other people need to know that we’re right because what Paul is saying is let it go. Let go of that need to be right because here’s the truth. Most of the time it’s a waste of our breath anyway. You see the counterfeiter. They know that their money’s bogus. They don’t care. It’s not the truth that they’re lacking. Arguing with someone that isn’t interested in the truth is the same as arguing with a toddler. You can be right all you want, you’re never going to win. Paul’s saying don’t get into arguments with people who aren’t interested in truth because there’s no way to win the argument. It’s a waste of our time. Instead be Dokimos. Live in the approval of God. Know God’s word so that you can identify the counterfeit, and don’t get caught by it. And that you also have the wisdom to get away from it. Prioritize being righteous over being right because Paul wants to show us there’s something better than being right as much as that might make us feel good and to show us this he moves us into a new analogy. This is going to be found in verses 20 and 21. Paul’s giving a new analogy about what it’s like to live as the approved of God. “Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay. Some for honorable use and some for dishonorable. Therefore if anyone cleanses himself of what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.” Cause Paul’s giving an analogy of a great house or a mansion, a palace and in that analogy means that’s the Kingdom of God. All those that live in the kingdom, and there are two different kinds of vessels that can be found in this house. This is referring to believers. There’s vessels of gold and silver that are for honorable use. For food and for drink and for giving people life and nourishment. Those are people that are seeking to live in the approval of God and in that same house, and I think also believers because there in the house are vessels of wood and clay and they’re not filled with food and drink. They’re  filled with some things that smell a lot worse but both of them are in the house. One is full of life. One is full of stink. I think this is also Paul’s subtle way of telling us what he thinks the false teachers are full of, but he’s saying for us, we need to set our sights on being a vessel for honorable use, to be righteous rather than right, and when we are a vessel for honorable use we’ll be filled with things that can feed and nourish and give life to others. We’ll be useful in the master’s hands to bring life to others ready for any good work that he might set us to, so Paul’s saying don’t waste time trying to be right with people who don’t care. Instead focus on filling ourselves up with the life of Jesus so that we can give it to others, and it’s found in His word.  What Paul is saying, is living in God’s approval makes us vessels of life for others when we set our hearts on being, living our life in God’s approval, we will become vessels of life that can pour into others to give bread to the hungry and water to the thirsty, to help others find the life of Jesus and live in it, and that’s what we’re called to do. That’s what we get to so much better than being right. Does all this mean that that we don’t offer a response to the false teaching that we don’t ever confront the counterfeit because Paul says that this is hurting people the activities of Hymanaeus and Philetus are hurting people. So isn’t there an obligation to respond when we see people being hurt? And the answer is yes, we are to respond. We do need to respond. Paul knows something- how we respond matters, and it matters a lot. That’s why he wants to frontload with these other ideas, these foundational principles that we have to be rooted in first. That it is better to be righteous than right, and our goal should be to be vessels of life to be poured out for others so we let go of our need to be right. We can be filled with the life of Jesus for others and a poll shows us what the result of this is going to be because what’s going to happen is as we are transformed by the word of God. As it fills us up it’s going to change how we respond to others. It’s going to change us dramatically. We’ll give a different response, and we see this in verses 22 through the first part of 25. Paul tells Timothy, “So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies. You know that they breed quarrels and the Lord servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness.” So Paul’s reiterating what he said earlier don’t be quarrelsome instead pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace.  The things that will fill us with life to give to others, and then he says, “Flee youthful passions. Don’t do what is immature.” Don’t give in to the reflex. Keep the arguments in the shower. Pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace. Don’t confront the counterfeit until you’ve rooted yourself in the authentic, in the real. Then you’ll be functioning as the Lord’s servant, and he goes on to list the characteristics of the Lord’s servant; kind to everyone able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. That’s an entirely different response. Dallas Willard in his wonderful book “The Allure of Gentleness,” he talks about the same thing in reference to Matthew 11 where Jesus says, “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you peace. Take my yoke upon you, for I’m humble and gentle in heart and you will find rest for your souls.”  What Willard says is we need, as followers of Jesus, we need to give an embodied response, where we embody, not just the words in the truth of Jesus, but the nature of Jesus. You see if we represent a gentle, humble Savior, then our response needs to be gentle and humble. Otherwise they won’t see Jesus in it, and far too often we don’t do that.  We failed to do that. Paul is saying if our pursuit is righteousness and faith and love and peace, we’ll become vessels of life. We’ll respond differently. We’ll still confront the error. We’ll still seek to bring what is in darkness out into light, but it will be in a teaching that is wrapped in kindness and patience and gentleness, and the last part of Paul’s passage, the very last half of 25, shows us what this looks like. “God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to knowledge of the truth that they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil after being captured by him to do his will.” I think if you read this part of the passage carefully you’ll hear Paul’s longing, Paul’s not angry with Hymanaeus and Philetus.  He’s grieving for them. He’s longing for them to come back to the truth. Paul’s seeking life for them. He wants them to repent, to turn back, to find the truth, to re-engage with the life of Jesus, to live in the approval that they have as believers in Jesus and see the freedom that he has. You can see it in the word “perhaps.” This is what he wants, but Paul doesn’t need to be right, so he’s content to leave the outcome with God. I will speak the truth and gentleness, I’ll respond in kindness and patience and hope that God will bring you back to himself. I don’t need to be right. See if it’s more important for us to be righteous than to be right, if we pursue faith and love and peace in the way of Jesus and respond in an embodied way with gentleness and with humility, one of the things we’ll find as we confront others, as we respond to others is that all of a sudden our goal has become different. You see the goal of those living in the approval of God is not to win the argument, it’s to win the person. The goal isn’t to win the argument, the goal is to win the person. When we live in the life of Jesus we seek not to be right but to redeem others, to invite others back into the redemption of Jesus.

I’ve been married for 19 years almost And I have never won an argument with my wife, and there’s two reasons for that. One she’s usually right, and that’s really annoying, but two, it’s not my goal. See we both decided together before we even said “I do”, that when we argue, when we disagree, when we’re not united together, the goal is never to win. The goal is to win each other back. The goal is to restore what has been broken in our relationship. The goal is to seek redemption, not victory. ‘Cause here’s the thing, if I win the argument and I lose her, I’ve still lost. It’s not worth it, but in the freedom of Christ, we can be kind and gentle in our response and just leave the outcome to God, which she does all the time just waiting for me to realize that she’s right. But you see this response, the responsive one approved the response of the Dokimos is rooted in deep love for the counterfeiter, it doesn’t desire the punishment of the counterfeiter. It desires their rescue. See what Paul sees is that Hymanaeus and Philetus are in the snare of the devil. That doesn’t mean they’re going to hell. That means that the devil has them captured and he’s keeping them from the life of Jesus that they could be experiencing. It means they’re not living in the approval that they have as believers in Jesus. See counterfeiting cuts us off from what is real. It looks like wealth, but it’s actually worthless and the destination of counterfeiting is prison, and in prison you live according to the will of someone else and you don’t live in freedom and Paul does not want that for anyone.  Paul’s urging a response of love and compassion in the hope that he might win back Hymanaeus and Philetus leaders I think if we want to live as though Dokimos, we want to live as approved. Our response needs to have a gentle and redemptive purpose, to love those who oppose us, even if they’re hurting others because love wants to rescue. You know that’s really hard. It’s really hard to be gentle and loving with people that disagree with us and people that are even opposed to us, but that’s the way of Jesus. That’s what Jesus did, and he did it with gentleness and humility. The way of Jesus is hard, and that’s why we need to remember the Gospel. That’s why Paul writing these words to Timothy so that we can set ourselves to pursue righteousness in faith and love and peace like Jesus did and live as the Dokimos, ready for every good work, ready to respond with kindness and patience and gentleness and be vessels of life for others. That is why we need to remember the Gospel. Let’s pray together, “Heavenly Father, when we were far away from you, you sent your son to rescue us. When we were living in counterfeit, when we were pursuing things that we thought were wealth and were actually worthless, You sent Your Son to die for us so that we could live as the approved of God, that we could have your approval and come home, and then I pray that we would just be captivated by that idea that we have your approval, that you look at us and you say, this is my beloved son, this is my beloved daughter in whom I am well pleased, and that we would set our hearts to live in that approval, to experience the life of Jesus, to be filled with it through your word and through community with others, that it might pour out into the lives of those that are lost and need you. Pray that is who you would make us, who that you would make our church to be. That way we pray all this in Jesus’s name. Amen.”

Discussion Questions

Whose approval (other than God’s) matters most to you? Why?

The desire for approval is good and natural, but it can also be destructive. Can you think of a time when your desire for approval became unhealthy? What happened?

Read 2 Timothy 2:14-16. What contrast is Paul making in these verses? What are the good and bad characteristics he is contrasting?

What do you think it means in v. 18 to have “swerved from the truth?” What is the result of swerving from the truth for a believer?

In Paul’s analogy of the honorable and dishonorable vessels (v.20, 21), where are both of the vessels located? What does this tell you?

What are the characteristics of “the Lord’s servant” listed in v. 24 and 25a? Think about each of these characteristics. To what degree does each describe you?

Further Reading

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