Warnings of Apostasy
The book of 2Timothy, Chapter 3 should garner more than a passing interest to today’s Christian whose heart is set on contending for the faith. It is becoming increasingly difficult to stay unpolluted by the world; even if it were easy to do that, we still have our flesh and the enemy to contend with. But I rejoice in that God gives us all we need to know to confront apostasy from without and the flesh failings that arise from within. The battle we are in is something we must fight every day. There is no standing still in this walk, if we are standing still we are probably losing ground. The battle marches ever forward and if you are not in it with armor and sword, you should perhaps question your commitment to your faith. Church is not a social club, not a consumer commodity, but an army of soldiers with their eyes on the eternal, willing to go to the cross and deny self each and every day. Compare this with what we are up against. At least it BETTER be our polar opposite or we have other issues:
1 But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come:
2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good,
4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,
5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!
There is so much to say on these verses, but just a cursory reading of them should yield at least some basic understanding of why these times are the way they are. But let’s go just beneath the surface.
This word ‘perilous’ alone should help us understand the verses even more – it literally means “harsh, troublesome, hard to bear, dangerous, savage.” Yep, I’m there on this one. And as if to underscore and define that word in every way possible, it goes on to list just WHY it is perilous; topping the list and from which all earthly trouble descends, is the curse of humankind in love with self. Watch the news today, tomorrow, any moment of any week and you will be inundated with self absorbed people committing self-driven crimes against one another. Whether they are stealing money, someone’s wife or kids, or pushing some sort of agenda, it all boils down to people wanting something they cannot have – and in today’s society where we dare not deny ourselves anything, we find a way to get it without thinking of the consequences to ourselves or others.
Webster calls this “narcissism”. The definition officially is this: “self-love; interest, often excessive, in one’s own appearance, comfort, importance, abilities, etc.” Not a popular word, narcissism, has a pretty nasty connotation. No one likes to be told they are narcissistic, but the truth is that the Bible says we all tend toward that in the flesh from day 1. Now regarding the last days, note that the Bible takes the time to point it out so it must be important to know and be warned of, and it tells us that it will be cranked up. Oh joy. Six billion people in love with themselves. Does it get any better than that?
Interesting word, narcissistic. It comes from the Greek narkissos, akin to ‘stupor’. See ‘narcotic’. Really. A narcotic is a numbing agent designed to make us even numb and dumber than we are. Ever smell a narcissus plant? They don’t smell very nice. Get my drift? Excessive love of self dumbs us down to the point where we cannot even think clearly about what we are doing. It numbs us to those around us to the point where we are so obsessed with our own interests we end up doing only what we want and pretty much tell everyone around us to go away, to put it nicely.
Now look at what the fruit of selfishness is: loving money (acquiring for self), boasting (of self),
proud (of self), blasphemy (exaltation of self over truth), disobedient to parents (self-interest instead obedience) unthankful (never satisfied), unholy (tainted by self); unloving (of others), unforgiving (eternal victimhood, always someone else’s fault), brutal and despising good (bent toward evil, unrestraint of self); traitorous (handing over friends for selfish gain), headstrong and haughty (over-valuation of self); and lovers of pleasure rather than God (self-explanatory!). Yep, I see this in the world all the time. But is it just the world? I used to think so, that the church could never display these traits and still dare to call itself called-out and sanctified for Christ. But sadly – no, grievously – I call the church on these things now too. I never thought I would say that but it is true. Next verse: “having a form of godliness but denying the power”. The world? A form of godliness? Not the one I am staring at. Ouch.
The church has embraced psychology, through and through, which is nothing more than a replacement for the work of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life. Got troubles? The bible tells us we make our own troubles for the most part by being narcissistic. The cure? Everything but repentance and utter desperate dependence on Christ. Biblical counseling will force us to have a stare-down with self, so in lieu of that kind of pain we prefer man’s wisdom.
The church has replaced sound doctrine with worldly cultural sewage. The church has courted the world and here we stare apostasy square in the eye because we base sermons around summer blockbusters, beer parties, base TV programs and New Age and Catholic practices. All under the banner of appealing to the self-absorbed interests of the unchurched and unregenerate who have no idea what they need spiritually speaking. If we tell them they are lost sinners, they will reject us and laugh at us, so we court them and buy them off at the cost of their everlasting soul, to our shame, and utterly accountable to God for every bit of it. We are so consumed with self and how we appear to the world we no longer are salt and light.
Timothy goes on to advise us as to how to confront apostasy, if there is anyone left in this generation who is convinced we are neck-deep into it:
10 But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance,
11 persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra—what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me.
12 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.
13 But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.
14 But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them,
15 and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,
17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Verses 2-5: MEN WILL BE…. Expect it. AND: “From such people turn away”.
Verses 10-17: BUT YOU…complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. Let us not smell like the narcissus – the world.
Do not be weary in well-doing! Press on, and Maranatha.