Stick With God If You Want to Escape
the Coming Destruction
[2nd Timothy chapter three]
Last week when we closed out the 2nd chapter of 2nd Timothy, the apostle Paul was warning Timothy – and ultimately everyone who aspires to walk with Christ – to keep themselves away from Satan’s trap of quarrels and what my New International Bible calls “stupid arguments” (my New Living Translation reads, “don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights”). You know the kind of people the apostle Paul was referring to; ill-tempered, argumentative and sometimes belligerent people who are the happiest when they are in physical altercations. As I wrote last week, these perpetually angry people are called “bullies” (among other less Christian things), and for a good reason. Continuing his train of thought, Paul begins chapter three with a warning that things will become far, far worse in the last days as prophesied in the Bible. He was actually talking about the times in which we currently live when he wrote this. Let’s begin at verse one so you can see what I mean.
“But mark this; there will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God – having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them. They are the kind that worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never being able to acknowledge the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these men oppose the truth – men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected. But they will not get very far because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone.” (2nd Timothy chapter 3, verses 1-9, NIV)
That second sentence is a long one, but that freight train of words is carrying many tons of meaning along with it. Every conceivable sin we can imagine is listed here. Compare this laundry list of sins the apostle Paul has listed to what we see all around us today. These sins are all over the nightly news on TV (which is also the only thing I watch on TV, and even then with considerable suspicion), they are in Hollywood movies, on TV dramas and comedies alike, and the advertising media is similarly saturated with these sins. They offer only idols for sale to the highest bidder, gods who can neither speak nor think, and who are incapable of sentience and spirituality in any form. As the apostle Paul wrote, so I say as well, “Have nothing to do with them”. Also, when Paul wrote about “having a form of godliness but denying its power”, he was writing about religious people. Paul knew what he was writing about, because he was himself a former member of the Sanhedrin, the top religious establishment for the Jews in Jerusalem at that time.
Paul wrote something else worth mentioning here concerning people “who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never being able to acknowledge the truth”. I’m pretty sure that Paul was writing about people that we still see today, those who are regular churchgoers but, once the service is over, they go right back to whatever sinful thing they are addicted to, or whatever holds sway over them. This can be anything from abusing drugs and alcohol, to sexual promiscuity whether married or not, and regardless of sexual orientation (which is actually a side issue as far as I’m concerned), to gambling, pornography and even criminal activity. So it’s no wonder that their Christianity has been compromised, and themselves as well. This reminds me of something Jesus taught in the Four Gospels, “You cannot have both salt and fresh water flowing from the same spring”. We cannot be both salt and fresh water all at the same time. We are either one or we are the other. We must either renounce our ways and repent of our sins, or otherwise we will not and cannot be saved from the eternal fires of hell! And hell is a real place, of that you can be sure. Once again I am reminded of another truism from Christ; “Not everyone who says, ‘Lord, Lord’, will see the Kingdom of God.” As usual for the teachings of Jesus Christ, this is ever so true, and it definitely applies here.
Paul called these dual-natured people “men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected. But they will not get very far because… their folly will be clear to everyone.” We cannot profess our Christian faith on the Sabbath (whenever one celebrates the Sabbath is still another Christian side issue) and be loaded down with sins of one kind or another the remaining six days of the week. We call these people hypocrites, and with good reason. Let’s not be like them. Let’s make ourselves “holy and set aside” as Paul wrote elsewhere. Bearing that in mind, let’s go on to the second half of our study starting at verse 10.
“You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings – what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. In fact, everyone who wants to live a Godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from who you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise in salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2nd Timothy chapter 3, verses 10-17, NIV)
It is crystal-clear in the 10th verse that Paul sometimes had a rough life as a result of his ministry. I wonder what would happen to modern Christians if they had any strongly negative experiences as a result of their Christian faith. What if we had to endure sufferings and persecutions of all kinds for our faith? Would we be able to withstand the test? What if we became incarcerated for our faith? What if the Antichrist came to power tomorrow, next month or next year and began forcing everyone the world over to take his mark in order to buy and sell, meaning those without the mark could not work, pay rent or a mortgage, and not even eat. If that were to occur anytime soon, I wonder how many Christians would be able to hold up under the cracking whip of a dictatorship of the Antichrist. Just pause and reflect on that for a minute. Are we ready to pay what will likely end up being the ultimate penalty for refusing to worship the image of the Antichrist or to take the mark of the beast as foretold in the book of Revelation? Jesus died for me, so it seems only natural that I would be willing to reciprocate if called upon to do so. Besides, if that were to happen to any of us, we would instantly be with the Lord anyway, so it makes little difference to me. That’s why I do not fear death, and neither should anyone who considers themselves to be Christian.
“Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. In fact, everyone who wants to live a Godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse…”. The Lord God Almighty will send his Son and a troop of angels to rescue us from every bad situation, so we need not have any doubts about that – help will arrive, and always exactly on time! If you are being persecuted because of your faith, don’t be discouraged – be encouraged! Being on the receiving end of persecutions such as rejection, exclusion, being ostracized or vilified by our critics and peers means we no longer have a part of the world around us, and that we have become separate from the world – meaning we’re on God’s side and not Satan’s, and that we have become a part of the Light, having left the darkness behind forever. Remember that the heavier the opposition, the closer we are to the target, it’s true 200% of the time. Meanwhile, all the bad people get worse while the Godly become even more Godly. It’s just one more sign that we are living in the end times. “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of…”. Don’t deviate from your faith, and don’t get sidetracked or distracted. If you want Jesus to abide in you, then be sure and make every extra effort that it takes to abide in him. “Abide in me”, Jesus taught, “and my words will abide in you”. I’m fairly sure that it was this particular teaching of Christ that Paul had in mind when he wrote this.
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” The Bible is an owner’s manual for every person on the face of the earth. I once read that fewer than 10% of those who buy a new car ever read the owner’s manual. When it comes to ourselves – never mind your cars – let’s not be like those people. I want everyone to be sure and read your owner’s manual no matter what version of the Bible you are reading. All that stuff about one version being better than another is neither here nor there when it comes to our salvation in Christ. It’s besides the point. Besides, God couldn’t care less what version you’re reading. At least you’re reading the darned thing, that’s more than most people! What does matter is to what extent we are inspired to look for opportunities to share our faith in Christ, and to tell people about all the wonderful things Jesus has done for us. It equips us completely for service to Christ, so each of us can do whatever job He gives us to do. The best part about this is that He never overburdens us, but instead Jesus will give to each of us only what we can bear. And Jesus knows that limit even better than we do, of that you can be sure. And next week we will finish up 2nd Timothy. Shalom!