Sometimes people don’t study the Bible because they feel unqualified. I’m here to tell you that you’re ready. You’ve graduated. You’re accepted for the position.
I just finished a 41-part series on how to study the Bible, but that’s not the source of your credentials. Your qualifications go much deeper. Consider Paul’s exhortation to Timothy.
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth (2 Tim 2:15, ESV).
Observe Paul’s command: “present yourself to God as one approved.” The main verb is “present,” not “approve.” We make all kinds of mistakes when we get this wrong.
Mistake #1: Present yourself to God to get his approval.
Sometimes we think we need to be qualified before we can approach the Lord (even through Bible study). Paul says you’ve already been approved, so present yourself accordingly.
Mistake #2: Fail to present yourself, fearing God’s disapproval.
This mistake is the ugly stepchild of the first one. Sinners who think they need God’s approval eventually stop trying to get it. They keep failing, so they give up.
Mistake #3: Present yourself to men as one approved.
This is the classic mistake of religious people. We think that if others respect and appreciate us, we must have arrived. Either we seek people’s approval, or we act superior as those already approved. In either case, we focus on the wrong thing – ourselves.
Mistake #4: Present others to God as one approved.
We make this mistake when we find our worth in the success of those we lead. The Judaizers in Galatia were guilty of this error (Gal 6:13), as am I. Every week in my 5-and-6-year-old Sunday school class, we sing a song with the names of the books of the Bible. Subsequently, parents express amazement at how well their children know all the books. It must mean I’m a great teacher, which must mean I’m gaining God’s approval for my service…
The Challenge: Present yourself to God as one approved.
You don’t need to get approved. You are approved. Notice what Paul wrote to Timothy earlier in the chapter:
You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus (2 Tim 2:1).
Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel (2 Tim 2:8).[The elect] may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory (2 Tim 2:10).
Remind them of these things (2 Tim 2:14).
Paul repeatedly draws attention to the fact that we can’t earn God’s approval. Our reconciliation with God is initiated by grace, accomplished by Jesus’ death and resurrection, and accompanied by eternal glory. Timothy must constantly remind his people of these things.
He must constantly remind himself. We must remind ourselves. “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved.” It’s hard work to remember these things.
So I remind you. Don’t study the Bible to get approved. Study it because you’re already approved.
Jesus died and rose for you to qualify you for a position close to God. Now, do your best to remember it. As you remember it, you’ll be ready handle the word of truth rightly because you’ll see this message of grace on every page.
Miss the message of grace, and you’ll no longer handle the word rightly. But if you trust in Christ you’re still approved, so you can keep trying each day to get it right.
See How to Study the Bible for help along the way.