Sunday, January 13, 2013

A Form of Godliness

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
2 Timothy 3:1-7 NKJV

We have been discussing these verses in Timothy as a sign of the last days, and exactly what it might mean regarding what individuals, or society as a whole could look like as we approach the return of Christ for His church. Last week we asked the question “who do you love?” because in this passage it tells us clearly that men will love themselves more than others, and love money as a way to measure their self-worth. I also mentioned the possibility that what we see in these verses is a progression of traits that are a result of self-love.

We have looked at the love of self and love of money and if you follow the progression idea, does it surprise anyone that the next three attitudes on the list describing these individuals concerns boasting, pride, and verbal abuse?

Thus says the LORD, "Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things," declares the LORD.
Jeremiah 9:23-24 NASB

Paul tells Timothy that someone who is concerned solely with himself and his monetary riches will certainly tell others about it. Rather than just being content to know what he has accomplished by his own efforts, he wants to make sure you know it as well and is more than happy to let you and everyone else know just how special he is. Yet his boasting is empty according to God because none of what he has accomplished is a result of the pursuit of a loving relationship with the Lord, and the knowledge that comes as a result of that.

For all that [is] in the world--the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life--is not of the Father but is of the world.
1 John 2:16 NKJV

His boasting is a result of pride, which is the attitude that one usually gets when they believe they are somehow better than you, which in this case is a result of having more than you do. The Greek word used here for pride is defined as not just feeling superior, but also actually “despising others and treating them with contempt”. I find it more than interesting how quickly, just two steps down this path, we see that one will start to act or exhibit outwardly the worldly, ungodly attitudes that God truly hates.

The fear of the LORD [is] to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way And the perverse mouth I hate.
Proverbs 8:13 NKJV

The third attitude we come to is that of blasphemy. In the Greek, the word used here is blasphÄ“mos which is translated... “speaking evil, slanderous, reproachful, railing, abusive”. Again we find an attitude which is exhibited overtly in a persons actions towards others. Can you imagine being so proud about your own accomplishments that you actually begin to talk down those around you?

The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable, But the mouth of the wicked [what is] perverse.
Proverbs 10:32 NKJV

It might seem easy right about now to begin to think that these words do indeed describe the “world” and those individuals who have never made the decision to follow Christ, yet before we fall into that trap I would like to point something out that we find in the latter part of this passage. After listing all of these attitudes and the actions they produce, Paul tells Timothy an interesting thing. He also describes these individuals as “having a form of godliness but denying its power (v.5)”. In his teaching on this chapter, Ray Stedman put it this way;

But what the apostle wanted Timothy -- and us -- to know, he clearly outlines: "Understand this," he says, "that these will be dangerous times, times of great stress, times when our faith will be pushed to the limit of its endurance, when we will be under attack and under threat." Furthermore, Paul reveals a rather startling thing, these times of stress will be characterized by and caused by two major factors, which he goes on to describe. The first factor is very startling indeed. The striking thing about this paragraph is not what I read in Verses 1-4, but what is in Verse 5:”... “In other words, Paul says that the primary cause of these repetitive cycles of stress and danger is the hypocritical lives of Christians who outwardly look pious, religious, committed and devoted, but are actually unchanged inside and have no power to overcome evil in their lives. Hypocritical Christianity -- that is the bottom line in these times of stress.”

While it is sometimes easy to read scripture and think that it does not apply to us, I believe we should always be willing to look in the mirror and ask ourselves if it is possible we are the ones God is speaking to with His Word in any given passage. The first step on this road which we talked about last week is the decision to put self above God. Is God our first love? Do we seek only to serve and glorify Him, or in these times are we more concerned with providing for ourselves and doing whatever it takes to improve our situation?

The times in which we find ourselves today are described by many as being “bad and getting worse”. However it is in times of trouble that those around us are watching closely to see how we react. Are you living what you have been preaching? Are you being faithful to love God and serve others even though you may be hurting? As believers we must not only talk the talk, but walk the walk so an unbelieving world can see us and ask the question “why”?

Keep watching.