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About this series
Jesus Loves Me
Christian Essentials for the Head and the Heart
Do you know the core beliefs of Christianity? Forget what churches, denominations, or notable pastors say for a second - what do God and His Word actually state are the essential truths to being a follower of Jesus? In this 10-part series, journalist, author, and pastor John Dickerson helps us uncover the foundational building blocks of the Christian faith. By using the simple children’s song - Jesus Loves Me - John reveals what these lyrics tell us about God, His love for us, and the reliability of the Bible. So whether you’re a new Christian looking for guidance or you’ve been a believer your whole life - and you need a refresher, John’s words will encourage you!More from this series
The same Scriptures that led me to salvation, those Scriptures will continue reshaping me and guiding me as I follow Jesus the Christ.
So, let’s look at where this comes from in our text. And here’s really, again, Paul is talking to Timothy as a young leader, but these verses just capture so much my heart for you as a brother in Christ and as a pastor and a shepherd.
Look at verse 14 where it says this, “But as for you,” you know, when your world shifts and shakes, God sees it and He is compassionate, and He understands life is hard. And when your world shifts and shakes, it’s hard. And he says: When that happens, “continue in what you have learned. Continue in what you have become convinced of. You have known these Holy Scriptures in a way that led you to salvation. So now, keep knowing them.”
And then look at verse 16, it says this, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful,” for a number of things here. You know God describes in another passage Scripture as a meal that we actually eat. And God talks about this, that when each of us first place our faith in Christ, we are like a spiritual newborn baby. And just like a baby is very hungry, we need to start eating right away.
But babies can’t eat steak, can they? Babies have to start because they don’t have teeth yet, with milk. And there are parts of Scripture that are like the milk. They are just rich, and they are full of life, and we start there. And every time you gather here, we are feeding you the Word of God.
And what we are learning today is that as you keep gathering here, and then throughout the week as you start to feed yourself, you will grow stronger and stronger in this new way of life. And a few things will happen. One, it’s practical for teaching. Teaching is really about knowing the basics, kind of like we are doing in this series.
So, when someone says, “Well, who is Jesus?” you kind of know, “Well, He’s – I don’t remember all the words, but I know He’s God and man, and He had to be that to be the Messiah.
Teaching is knowing the basics. And there is teaching when it comes to being a spouse in a healthy way, forgiving the people around you, living a life of love, overcoming your past shame and guilt and bitterness. There’s basic teaching for all these different areas of our lives.
The Word of God, we are told, also can rebuke us. That’s not a really popular words these days – rebuke. What is the idea of that? Is that a negative thing? It’s actually a very positive thing.
Very often, a rebuke is an expression of love. There’s actually a passage in the book of Proverbs that says this, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” Maybe lately you have had a good friend come to you and they told you something you didn’t want to hear about yourself – they rebuked you and you’ve got this decision.
Because people who don’t love you will never tell you the hard things about you, because they don’t want to deal with the conflict of working through it. But sometimes, a person who really loves you will rebuke you.
And the Word of God, as we read it, it teaches us the basics, but it also, as we are going through life, there’s times where the Word of God grabs us with a strong arm and yanks us and raises its voice and says, “Don’t do that. That will hurt you. That will harm you. That will hurt others.” And so, it’s not always comfortable, but it is good, and it leads to life. It's also the idea of correcting.
And then it says, “The Word of God can train us in righteousness or right living.”
And the idea is this, as you keep feeding on the Word of God, it teaches you the basics, it corrects you and keeps you out of trouble, and then it trains you. And eventually, you will come up to a difficulty or a challenge in life and you’ll realize, you know what? Three years ago, that challenge would have taken me out. Either that temptation or that difficulty, I wouldn’t have been able to make it through that.
But now, I have been training in the Word of God and it doesn’t mean it’s easy, but I was able to kind of jump over that hurdle. I was able to do that. And so, just like the physical body can be trained and strengthened, your spiritual disciplines, your soul, your spiritual muscles can be trained, and the Word of God is a guidebook to train you in your thoughts and in your decisions and even in your emotions and your relationships.
Just as the restoration of a classic car is a process, learning this new life in Christ, being refurbished in every area of our lives, it’s a process. But if we’ll stay submitted to the Word of God, to the repair manual, it keeps us in that restoration process.
And all this works together so that every domain, every dimension of your life gets restored one at a time.
Well, many of you know I grew up in Michigan, and I love walking outside, especially by creeks, by rivers, by lakes, just something about the water. And there’s something I have noticed when I do that. I have noticed that there are often really big trees right at the edge of the water.
Here’s a picture of one such big tree. What does it take for a tree to get huge and healthy like this? Well, we know it takes sunlight. That’s why the branches are reaching up to the sky and the leaves are doing their thing of absorbing the sunlight. We know it takes sunlight, but if you go to the desert where there’s a lot of sunlight, you won’t find these big trees. Why not? Because it takes a second ingredient, and that is water.
And I love this picture because you can see the roots of this tree, they are almost like reaching down drinking that water and that’s why this tree is so strong and so big is because it’s in a place where it’s getting sunlight and it’s getting water.
There’s a verse in Psalm chapter 1. It says, “Blessed is the person who delights in the Law of the Lord,” or the Bible. The person who says, “Whenever I have a decision, this is where I’m going to look.” God says that person will be blessed, and God says that person, their leaves will be green in life. It doesn’t mean they won’t go through storms, but their leaves will be green.
And God says that person who delights in the Law of the Lord, they will bear fruit in their season. And it’s so interesting to me, I mentioned that this book we are reading, 2 Timothy today, was written by Paul the apostle.
Now, Paul started out as a skeptic, which I love, because I started out as a skeptic. His name was Saul and he hated Christians. He knew Jesus had lived, but he didn’t believe Jesus was God. And then God appeared to him, and he had this dramatic moment, and he became a Christian and then he actually became a servant of the Church. And Paul started churches all over the ancient world.
But this 2 Timothy, what we read today, it’s his very final letter, written to kind of his favorite spiritual son, Timothy, a protégé. And he says, “Timothy, I’m about to go to heaven. My race is nearly done. God is about to call me home. My body is going to wear out and I’m going to go be with God for eternity. And, Timothy, here’s my final advice. Here's the most important things for you to know.”
And within those most important things, Paul more or less says, “When life gets crazy, when people around you discourage you, look to the Word of God. It will nourish you; it will be water to your soul, it will keep your leaves green, it will allow you to bear fruit, even in the storms of life.
So, with that in mind, I’ll share with you this second thing. When I choose to submit to it, when I choose to look to it and say, “God, You tell me what to do in my marriage. I don’t feel like loving my wife right now, but You tell me what to do and that’s what I will do.”
“God, I don’t know what to do in this dating relationship. I’m really attracted to this person, but they don’t seem to care about You at all. You tell me what to do in that situation and I will obey You whether I feel like it or not.” When we follow the Word of God, it protects us from evil. It guides us into life. It transforms us for the better. Any area of life where you submit that area of life to the Word of God, you will grow to be a better version of yourself. And it restores us to be what God desires. Restores us to be what God desires.
I showed you that picture of the car repair manual. And to me, it was such an interesting idea, because when you restore a car, you have to take off the old part, restore it, and then put on the new part.
And there are actually passages of Scripture where God says that. He’ll say, “Take off lying. Take off sexual immorality. Take off greed. Take off drunkenness and put on love, compassion, gentleness, patience, self-control.” He tells us what to take off and what to put on so that we can be restored.
Really, the way that you stay engaged with God’s Word so that it keeps restoring you, first and foremost, you keep gathering here like this.
And secondly, when you get a copy of God’s Word for yourself, you can start feeding yourself meals throughout the week and you can start whether it’s if you’re a night owl, you can do this at nighttime before you go to bed. If you’re a morning person, you can do this with your coffee. If you’re neither, if you’re neither a night owl or a morning person, I guess you could read it on your lunch break, okay?
But the point is this: You can start to feed yourself the Word of God. This is called the Life Application Study Bible. And for me, the reason that I love this particular layout of Scripture is there is a topical index in the back, meaning you can look up any topic. So, if you’re wondering, What do I do with my shame? What do I do with my lust? What do I do with my money? What do I do with my marriage? What do I do with my pain?
You can look up that word alphabetically in the back and then it will take you to passages where God speaks about that and then you can choose to apply what we are learning today. If you feel like, Man, that is just a big old book. I’m really intimidated by it. Know that I felt that way for a long time too.
One of the reasons the book is so big is there are actually sixty-six books in there. They are just all compiled in one place. And I remember when I first started really trying to read the Bible for myself, I kind of choked on it, because I started with the steak area, and I didn’t have my spiritual teeth yet.
And I got a little discouraged. And maybe you have done that before. Maybe you have tried to read the Bible and you kind of choked on it.
And so, if that has been you, I want to give you a little guidance of where to start. I would encourage you to start with the Gospel of John. And I’m biased toward that because it’s my name, John. So, but there’s actually a strategic reason for it as well. The Gospel of John is just a great summary of Jesus’ life. And Jesus is really, when you’re restoring a car, you put a picture up on the wall of what it’ll look like when it’s done. And Jesus is that picture. He shows us: Here’s what it looks like to be completely free from sin, free from shame, free from guilt, to find all of your identity in your relationship with God. Jesus models that.
And His Words are so full of life. So, I would encourage you to just get one of these if you don’t have one yet, start in the Gospel of John. And the other thing that really helped me is a friend told me, “You don’t have to read a whole chapter. You don’t have to read a whole bunch. Just read until something makes sense.”
In my case, because I like to write, I got a little spiral-bound journal at, like, a Walmart and I just put it with my Bible and I would just write the date and I would write, “John 1” and I would read until something made sense and then I would write that verse down and I’d just pray a short little prayer in writing. You know, “God help me to do this today.” And then the next day I would pick up, for me I’m kind of a night owl, so I love to do this right before I go to bed at night. Again, if you’re a morning person, have it with your coffee. It doesn’t matter when you do it, but if you’ll do it consistently, you’ll find yourself growing.
Well, here’s the third thing I want to share with you and the final thing. Because we love our God, we love His words to us. You know, a lot of us, we associate the Bible with this, like, you know, ancient, harsh, just kind of list of rules. It doesn’t really affect our lives. But where I want to encourage you is as a follower of Jesus, if you will look to the Word of God as a love letter that guides you, I mean, Jesus said, after He died on the cross, He rose from the grave, He told His followers, “I am going to prepare a place for you. And I’m going to give you everything you need to continue My work on earth.”
And really, the primary things we need are each other, who keep us encouraged; His Word, which is our guide; and His Spirit, which lives in us and gives us power. And with those three things, you have everything you need to follow Jesus. And so, look to it as a love letter. Love it because it expresses the heart of God.
So, three very simple applications. I have kind of covered them. But just think, I’ll list them here. Which one could you commit to? Application one, keep doing what you did today. Wake up on Sunday and come to church. Or on Saturday night, join us. Keep doing what you did today. That is the easiest, simplest application.
Second application, when you get a copy of God’s Word for yourself, you can start feeding yourself meals throughout the week. There’s a great app called the YouVersion Bible, which has reading plans. You can listen to it on audio, it’s a great way to read Scripture as well.
And I’ll give you a third application and that is getting around other believers like you’re doing today, but throughout the week and other times. For example, I love working on old Toyota Land Cruisers. That’s like a 4x4 Jeep kind of SUV thing. And there’s this forum online for Land Cruiser enthusiasts. And so, there have been times in the past where I was stuck on a repair, I didn’t know how to get that part off, and so I would go onto the forum, and I’d have my laptop out there in the garage and I’d figure out what I needed to do based on the experience of other people who had the same passion.
And that’s what our small groups are about here is you get in a small group with some other believers, and you say, “I’m a little stuck. I’m trying to follow Jesus, but I don’t know what to do with this area.” You get in a small group, and they say, “Oh, yeah, we have been there, man. We have been there and here’s the passages of Scripture that helped us. Here’s the practical things that helped us.”
Another way you can get around a community of believers is by starting to serve. And when you do that, you get on a team with those other enthusiasts who will walk with you and say, “Here’s what I did when I was facing that difficulty.”
Well, I just want to close by encouraging you guys, I could tell you so many stories of my life after I found Jesus, or I should say, He found me, that the Word of God met me when I was in a moment of crisis, a fork in the road where I needed help and direction, and the Word of God was there for me.
I mean, I can go back and it’s just story after story in my career, in dating relationships before I was married, in finding my purpose, in finding my identity, in dealing with injustice and what other people had done wrong to me, in my marriage once I got married, in my parenting when I realized parenting is really hard and I have no idea what to do, in my wounds from other broken people, when I have been in the hospital with health struggles.
All these different crises and forks in the road and moments of decision, the Word of God has guided me. And it has never led me wrong. It always leads me to be a better version of myself. So, that’s my heart for you. Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. It’s a lamp to our feet and a light to our path, even when the world shakes and shifts around.