Alright, welcome back. We’re in round 12 of our 20 days in 2 Timothy, and we are beginning chapter three. And I’ll tell you what’s about to happen here. You know, for a lot of sports teams, football teams, you really want to focus on your strengths. What are we good at? Let’s work on our game plan. Let’s be great. If we’re great at passing, do that. Running, do that. Let’s have a big O-line. Let’s play our game. But as much as you want to focus on honing your gifts and abilities and opportunities, there comes a time when you need to watch game film on the other team. Just so you can know what’s going to come at me when I enter the arena. And as we look at the beginning of Chapter three here, that’s what Paul does. He’s been preparing Timothy to how to be a useful minister of Jesus in the world, and now he’s going to turn and say, But Timothy, let me give you a view of the world you’re about to step into.
So Chapter three verse one, he says, but understand this. That in the last days, there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self. Lovers of money. Proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness but denying its power. Avoid such people.
So it doesn’t sound real upbeat, but Paul’s telling him in the last days it will be difficult. Now what are the last days? Well, biblically you can look at several passages. Acts chapter two, Hebrews 1, James 5, 2 Peter, where it talks about this expanse of time between Jesus’s ascension from after his physical ministry and his return at the end of the age. From the time Jesus left to the time he comes back is called in the Bible the last days or the church age. It’s the time we’re in now. And Paul says, in this time, there will be difficulty. We won’t make things better and better every day in every way.
Why will it be difficult? He says in verse two, for people. It will be a people problem. As gifted as human beings are, we can really mess some things up and human beings are not going to usher in a brighter tomorrow. But there will be some real hurt in the world. And the problem in verse two, the banner over it is, people will be lovers of self.
What’s the greatest commandment in the Bible? When Jesus was asked, he said, That’s easy. Love the Lord, your god with all your heart, soul and mind. But if you choose not to love God with your heart, soul and mind, what’s the next most godlike thing in your view? Yourself. So as humanity abandons a love for God, they will love self. And as soon as you do that, you’ll become a lover of money. I want to exalt myself with things. People will become materialistic. They’ll be proud or boastful. I will exalt myself with words. Conversations will be self-focused. I’ll be arrogant. I’ll exalt myself by looking down on others. I’ll be abusive or a reviler. I’ll exalt myself by cutting down and insulting others. I’ll be disobedient to parents. I will deny any kind of structure that put limits on my freedom of expression. Even if it’s my own family. I’ll be ungrateful rather than caring about what others have given to me and being grateful for the gifts they’ve given, I’ll be so self-absorbed, I won’t be satisfied. I’ll only care about consuming. Right? And therefore after that I will be unholy. I’ll abandon a fear of God as I pursue. That’s the world.
And then what’s the second greatest commandment? I love God, and I love others as much as I love myself. As soon as you cut off that first commandment, we become lovers of self.
And the danger is, as soon as you become a lover of yourself, you become verse three. Heartless or unloving. We abandon a love for other people. Unappeasable, meaning I won’t make peace with other people. Slanders or gossips. I’ll talk bad about people. Without self-control. I won’t try to restrain myself from getting what I want, and that will make me brutal. I’m willing to hurt other people. I will not love good. I don’t care if I do what’s beneficial to you. I’ll be treacherous. I’ll betray people, I’ll be reckless, I’ll be out of control. I’ll be swollen with conceit. I care only about me. And at the end of it all, it’s because I love pleasure more than I love God.
Paul says to Timothy, That’s the world you’re entering into. People say, I want what’s good for me because I love me and I don’t care about God. And then it becomes, and I don’t care about you. And when we become heartless, we become ruthless and the world becomes a dangerous place. And I hate to say this, but you see it so much in the world today. If you don’t believe me, this sounds like it’s clipped out of the news. That the love of many has grown cold. It’s a dangerous place.
But then here’s the crazy thing, Paul says, after all, he says this, he says, having the appearance of godliness but denying its power. He says Timothy, the great danger is that people who are like this, I care about me and I don’t care about you, but still want to hold on to a form or a more fair and outward appearance of religiosity. I’ll keep religious images. I’ll talk about God, generally. I’ll keep some sort of religious language around my life. I want to look like a spiritual person, but I deny the spirit’s power.
What is the denial of its power look like? Romans chapter one, Paul said I’m not ashamed of the gospel because that’s the power of God. In 1 Corinthians, 118, he says the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing but to those who are saved, it’s the power of God. 1 Corinthians 122 it says we preach Christ crucified the power of God in the wisdom of God. To the Philippians, he says that I want to know the power of Jesus’s resurrection. What’s the power of God according to Paul? It’s the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. The centerpiece is understanding we’re not OK, but Jesus did something decisive about it. He took our sin, that’s rightfully condemned, and he bore it. He buried it. He rose. So we would walk in the newness of life.
And he said, there’s going to be people that want to have a semblance of religion, but they’ve cut the heart out.
They’re like a taxidermist model. Instead of being a live animal, they got the outward trappings. But inside is sawdust and death. He said, you keep in mind the heart of the gospel. Of the God man Jesus, who changed us from the inside out. And if you keep a hold of that, at the end here, he says, avoid those who want to discontinue Jesus and go running down a path of selfishness. No love for God. No love for people. The world becomes brutal.
But let me encourage you if you’re going like, wow, this one’s depressing. Those who love Christ stand out in a world like this. Diamonds shine the brightest against the backdrop of black velvet. And as the world becomes hostile and mean, the Lord’s bondservant who is gentle and kind, able to teach, those kind of people? They stand out. There’s never been a greater time to be the church. To hold out the word of life to a world that desperately needs it. But for those who want to take the semblance of religion but deny its power? Love them, pray for them, but be careful who you let in form the way you live and the way you think. Avoid that kind of activity because we have a better calling.
When I do chapels for football teams, it’s interesting. Before the game begins, they go away to a hotel. They sequester. They put headphones on. They focus on their game. They want to block out the critics, the bloggers, the people that want to have all kinds of ideas of how they should play. Block out the noise and center what’s essential. Now that I know what’s coming in the arena. Let me focus on my game. And Paul tells Timothy here. Know that troubles coming. But Timothy, you avoid it. Block it out. You stay centered on what’s important, because that’s how you’re going to make a difference in a difficult day. And that’s the same with us. So I’m praying for you church. I’m cheering you on. Let’s figure out how to navigate difficult days in these verses ahead. I’ll see you next time.