Sunday, January 27, 2013

Bad Fruit

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 this passage for a few weeks now, and considering what it tells us about many in the body living lives that certainly don't reflect the priorities God has in mind for His own. We have also mentioned the fact that this passage describes a negative progression of behavior once the choice is made to love self rather than God. Today we find what the final result of these attitudes are as Paul explains how they are manifested in a persons relationships with those around him.

If you take the time to closely examine the definition of each of the words Paul uses to describe these individuals beginning with “slanderers” and finishing with “haughty” you will find that they all have a common thread which can best be explained as describing a person who has become so consumed with self that he is virtually ungovernable. No one can tell him or show him the error of his ways because he is totally convinced that his direction and decisions are above reproach.

The end result is a person who has made the decision that making themselves happy, “lovers of pleasure”, is more important than pursuing a closer relationship with God, “lovers of God”. What Paul tells us here is that somehow Satan succeeds in convincing believers that they should believe the lie that they can make themselves happy by pursuing whatever they want rather than putting God first in their lives and allowing Him to bring us the true happiness that only He can provide. These people may go to church, say they believe, and try to give the impression they are true believers but because of their choice to chase happiness themselves Paul describes them as “ having a form of godliness but denying its power”.

How many people do you know that fit the picture Paul gives us here? People who want something so much that they totally ignore what God has said in order to be “happy”? By making the choice to love self rather than to love God, they begin to become indistinguishable from the non-believer. Instead of being a light in a darkened world, they blend into the darkness themselves and do harm to the body. All this because they don't really believe that God will give them what they are seeking.  This is denying the power of God and His promises, which is then in reality just giving the appearance of having a true, working relationship with God.  It is because of this that Paul tells us to “turn away” from these types of people. The Greek word for turn away is apotrepō, which literally means to “shun or avoid”. Why is that? 

Paul goes on to tell us that these are the sort of people who can actually turn others away from God by convincing them that there is nothing wrong with what they are doing. Within the body, this is best described as “compromise”. We are told that an even greater harm is done by those who choose this path when they convince others to do the things that they have chosen to do. This can happen when they meet a young believer who is not yet strong or mature in their faith and is struggling with something in their lives. They then convince the immature believer that it is okay to compromise just as they have done in order to bring themselves the happiness they desire. Their advice is to make the choice of “self-love” first rather than “loving God”. These people “talk the talk”, but never “walk the walk”.

Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them. For you were once darkness, but now [you are] light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit [is] in all goodness, righteousness, and truth),finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.
Ephesians 5:6-10 NKJV

God's answer to the question of what choice to make in a situation such as this is perfectly clear.

Then He said to [them] all, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.
Luke 9:23 NKJV

One of the hardest decisions we make as believers is to deny self. It just seems so natural to want something and make the choice to pursue it. What could be wrong with that? Yet God tells us otherwise. Does it not make sense though that if we pursue whatever we feel we need, we take away from God the opportunity for Him to give it to us out of His love for us?

And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:19 NKJV

I find it very interesting to look back at the introduction of sin into the world at the Garden of Eden, and see exactly how Satan accomplished that. Adam and Eve had all of their needs met and were enjoying a life we can only imagine. Yet Satan was able to convince Eve of two things; one, there was something she needed that God had not provided, and two, God really didn't mean what He said when He told them not to eat of the tree. Do you see as I do that Satan hasn't changed his approach at all since time began? Simply convince us that there is something we need that God has not yet provided, and if we need to disobey God in order to get it then that is okay as well.

Do you find yourself in that position today? Do you know of others who claim to be believers but compromise their faith in order to pursue their own happiness? God is a God of forgiveness, and we have His promise that if we repent and turn from our sin He will forgive us. Paul makes it clear in this passage from Timothy exactly what the result will be if we make the choice to love self first rather than loving God. 

What do others see when they look at you? Someone who loves God and proves it by following Him, or someone who is consumed by self love and is lost in the pursuit of happiness?  May we all take a close look at the attitudes Paul reveals in this passage and look closely at our own lives to be sure we are reflecting the image that comes from making the choice to love God first, and trust Him to provide all our needs.

"For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. "For every tree is known by its own fruit. For [men] do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. "A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.
Luke 6:43-45 NKJV

"Therefore by their fruits you will know them.
Matthew 7:20 NKJV

Who [is] wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct [that] his works [are done] in the meekness of wisdom.
James 3:13 NKJV

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