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The Good, the Bad, the Decision

Date: Aug. 13, 2017

Author: Bob Henkins

2 Timothy 3:1-17

Key Verse: 2 Timothy 3:17

“so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

As I was preparing for this message, drawing up the outline, I could see the description of the good people (are there really any truly good people?) the bad people and it reminded me of an old western movie that I saw growing up. The movie was called “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” and it starred Clint Eastwood. It was a suspenseful movie where there was the classic struggle between good and evil and it all came down to a final showdown, a gun battle in the hot desert sun. Of course, in the movie, good defeats evil and they live happily ever after, as happily as they could in a western movie. That scene is similar to the passage that we will study today. In the passage, there is the classic struggle between good and evil, however it is not make believe like in the movies made for our entertainment, the fight is real and the struggle is continuous and the outcome is eternal.

Take a look at verse 1. “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.” When Paul wrote this letter, it was important to him that Timothy would realize, or understand, what the end times would be like, and to know that terrible times are going to come in the last days. When we hear the phrase “last days” it has an ominous sound as if something is about to happen soon. But in reality, the phrase refers to the entire time from when Jesus ascended into heaven to when he comes again. Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension actually kicked off the last days. Peter’s speech at Pentecost proclaimed this fact (Acts 2:16–39). There is no doubt that today, we are living in the last days, so we should be on the watch because Paul said that we should expect terrible times, but are they really? In our time, we have seen technology advance so far that we can know the weather instantly anywhere in the world. We can know the history of anything we want, anytime we want. We can purchase almost anything we desire, and have it brought directly to us, and in some cases by a flying drone, and we do all of this right from our phones, almost anywhere we are in the world. Isn’t that amazing? Think about it. I was joking with my family on our vacation, right then in our van we had more technology than the first astronauts who landed on the moon. In 1969, the technology the first astronauts had in their command module was equivalent to about a 64K calculator. But in 2017, in our van, our family had a GPS that gave us our altitude, with a live map of where we were and would automatically recalculate our position if we got off course, five iPhones, an iPad, a laptop computer and we were connected to the internet as we zoomed down the highway going 75 miles an hour (sometimes 90), in the middle of nowhere Nebraska on our way to Colorado. My kids were posting real-time captioned videos to their Snapchat accounts as we went along and people could view it anywhere in the world. My kids enjoyed Grace Kwon’s Snapchat as she posted their trip to the Rocky Mountains. Our time is truly amazing. It is an unprecedented time in history. With all this technology, and the amazing power that we have, the world must be a better place, right? Then, why did Paul say that the last days were going to be “terrible times?” It’s because the last days may not be full of just physical sufferings but of mental, emotional and spiritual distress caused by our sinful natures. Make no mistake, our world can be a very evil place.

So, in the battle of good and evil, let’s take a look at the description of the bad. That can be found in verses 2-4. “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—” Here, we see a description of bad people in the end times. Do you think this describes the people of our time? Is it a fair description? What do you notice about this description? In this description, we see the underlying issue, the foundation to all these problems, who can tell me what it is? It’s a love problem. In the end times people will love themselves, and that love, for themselves, will lead them down a path of self-destruction. When God gave us the Ten Commandments he did so to help us live well. Jesus summed up the commandments: to love God and love others, nowhere in there did he tell us to love ourselves. Here, “lovers of themselves” means that they love themselves more than they love God. The NLT says “for people will love only themselves.” Paul warns that “I, me, my” generation would arrive. In others words, people will become selfish and self-centered. The goal of people like this is to is to take care of themselves. In doing so, they become abusive, arrogant, treacherous, unthankful and unholy. Let’s take a moment to compare a couple of different translations.

Lovers of themselves - self-absorbed -

Love money – money-hungry - so they can spend it on themselves

Boastful - self-promoting- boast about themselves/achievements

Proud – stuck-up - look down upon others, think highly of themselves

Abusive – profane - scoffing at God - mistreat people when they don’t get what they want

Disobedient – contemptuous of parents - they think they know better than their parents

Ungrateful – crude - have a sense of entitlement, no thankful for what they receive

Unholy – coarse - They will consider nothing sacred - They are out to serve themselves, not set aside for God

No love – dog-eat-dog - They only love themselves, do not love others or God

Unforgiving – unbending - Self-love doesn’t allow them to forgive others

Slanderous – slanderers - Will spread lies about others for revenge or personal gain

No self-control – impulsively wild - Why limit themselves, eat & drink b/c die tomorrow

Brutal – savage - survival of the fittest

Hate good – cynical - because it rebukes them – They oppose the truth

Treacherous – They will betray their friends - they cannot be trusted – take advantage of others/women

Rash – ruthless - be reckless - make quick bad decisions

Conceited – bloated windbags - be puffed up with pride - They value themselves above everyone else

Love pleasure over God – addicted to lust, and allergic to God - The ultimate form of self-love – depraved mind

A godless person loves money because they think that money can bring them happiness and security. But without God people don’t handle money correctly because 1Timothy 6:10 tells us “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” Verse 3 starts with the phrase “without love.” This means it will be a dog eat dog world where people are “unloving, heartless, and inhuman.” Jesus said regarding end times, “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.” (Mt 24:12) People will be easily angered and emotional without self-control. One of the striking signs of the last times is lovers of pleasure. People seek pleasures that stimulate their sensual desires through indulging in excessive behavior, whether it be alcohol, immoral relationships, drugs, game addiction, watching movies and so on. A few years ago, a new life motto came out called “YOLO” which means ‘You only live once.’ It was a way to rationalize people’s impulsive and reckless behavior but this philosophy is nothing new, the Bible calls it “let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die” (1Cor 15:32). Paul named 19 sinful natures of the last times. It reveals the conditions of people’s hearts when they don’t have God. In this list, the word ‘lovers’ or ‘love’ appears 6 times. Times are terrible when people love the wrong objects or have unsolved love problems. If the object of love is switched into wrong, then spiritual and moral chaos would occupy people’s hearts.

Then what is the right thing that we must love? The last phrase of the list says “lovers of God.” Yes! “Lovers of God” is what people must love first. St. Augustine said that there is a vacuum in men’s soul that only can be filled with God. Our souls wander restlessly until we encounter God personally.

What does the Bible say about the true object of our love? An expert of the law tested Jesus with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’.” (Mt 22:36-38) The order of our love should be God first and others second. Loving God is the most important command in the Bible. When we love God, we love his word. When we love God, we love what God loves and we hate what God hates. When we love God, God’s image can grow in our heart. Then God’s Spirit will dwell in us and bless our lives abundantly through the fruits of the Holy Spirit. May God help us to be the lovers of God in the last days.

Look at verse 5. “Having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.” Paul warns that in the last days there will be so called “Christians” in church who will practice religious life but they will not believe God’s power. They will not depend on God, nor have God’s word in their hearts or pray. Practically, they are godless people in the church. Paul warns Timothy to stay away from people like that.

In Paul’s time, Gnostics invaded the Ephesian church with their false teachings. Women at that time used to invite teachers of new philosophy, arts, etc. into their home. The people of Gnosticism tempted the women through using this custom and poisoned their hearts. Those women were loaded down with sins and evil desires, always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth. Paul compares these false teachers to Jannes and Jambres—Egyptian court magicians who counterfeited the truth against Moses. But their folly would be clear to everyone by God’s power. We must turn away from such people, instead we must hold on the true gospel.

Now that we’ve looked at the bad, let’s take a look at the good starting in verses 10-11. “You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, 11 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.” Paul taught Timothy God’s words correctly, he lived by it, and he was ready to die for it. Paul reminded Timothy of his personal life of faith through his examples. As Timothy joined Paul’s missionary journey team, He witnessed Paul’s struggle to love God, to love God’s flock, and to serve God’s purpose with tears and tremendous sufferings. Paul, in his first mission journey in Lystra, was stoned and thrown away almost dead. But God saved him. Timothy witnessed all these. Verse 12 says “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” Sufferings and persecutions are the marks of godly Christians.

Look at verses 13 and 14. “while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it,” Verse 14 begins with ‘But as for you.’ Regardless of how false teachers and godless people live, Paul exhorts Timothy to continue in what he has learned. Here ‘continue in’ means to ‘remain faithful’. What had Timothy learned and become convinced of? It was the gospel through the holy Scripture (15). And who taught him? Since Timothy learned it from infancy, probably, his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice had taught him. How beautiful it is to see a mother who is teaching the bible to their children. The importance of the spiritual growth of our children cannot be overemphasized. Later, Timothy learned the gospel from other servants of God like Paul Barnabas, Silas. We must also stick to the gospel truth that we have learned and become convinced of and live a life according to it.

Then what is the nature of the word of God? Look at verse 15. “And how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”

First, the Holy Scripture has wisdom for salvation. The Bible is holy. It is separate from all other books. The Bible is holy because it is the word of God. The Bible gives us answers to our fundamental questions- where we came from, who we are, how we should live and where we are going. It tells us God’s plan of salvation. Through Bible study, we can know that we are sinners, and that God loves us, and that Jesus died for our sins and rose again to give us eternal life. Every year, countless new books are being published. However, none of these books - even the best- selling books can give us wisdom for salvation. But, in the Bible, there is wisdom for salvation through Christ Jesus. Roman 1:16 says “the gospel is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.” What can be more precious than ‘salvation’ we have received? What do people need more than ‘salvation’? Isn’t it salvation from sin and death that men eagerly long for? Where can we find the salvation? When we come to the word of God, it enlightens us to have wisdom for salvation through faith in Jesus. Therefore, Bible study is the matter of life and death.

Second, All Scriptures is God-breathed (16a). According to NLT version, it is translated as “All Scripture is inspired by God.” The Bible was written by 40 different authors over a period of 1,600 years. Yet it has a unified theme- the kingdom of God through Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit inspired each writer so that each word and sentence has God’s inspiration in it. The one true God is really the divine Author of the Bible. Since the author of the Bible is God himself, the word of God is the infallible and authoritative word of God.

God speaks to us through the Bible. Through words, we communicate with each other and develop relationships. Through words, we understand each other and express our opinions. Likewise, God has communicated and has developed relationships with humans through his words. When we come to the God-breathed word, we personally come to know God deeper, our spirits are revived and we grow in an intimate relationship with God.

Third, All Scripture is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. The Bible not only leads people to salvation, but also transforms their lives. Only the work of the Holy Spirit through the word of God can truly transform one’s inner person. The word of God convicts people of their sins through the work of the Holy Spirit and let them repent of their sins and correct their wrong ways. But before trying to rebuke and correct others first, we ourselves must be rebuked and corrected by the word of God first. When the word of God grows in power within us, we are ready to train others in righteousness.

The final thought we have is what will our decision be? Which side will you be on? Do we stand on the side of God or not? If you don’t pick a side, you will automatically end up on the wrong side because it doesn’t come naturally. To follow God, will be a constant fight, it’s like swimming upstream, it’s not easy however it will bring eternal life. Verse 2 says they will be unholy, as we heard from last week’s passage, unholy has the meaning to be common, and holy is uncommon and set aside for God’s purpose. So, the question is, will we succumb to our sinful nature and be common (unholy) or do we seek God to live above ourselves and be uncommon (holy)? Sometimes we use this excuse, “This is the way God made me, I don’t know how to be anything else.” But Paul tells us that we are called to be better than that. However, we can’t do any good work because our sinful nature keeps dragging us down. We need to be raised up to live higher. To do that we need to study God’s word so that we may be properly equipped and learn how to do good work. We need to be equipped to be better than our animal nature. Part of being equipped means to be cleansed of our evil nature (2 Tim 2:21). Some may think, “I don’t know how to get equipped?” But the wonderful thing is that we don’t have to worry about that because God is the one who does our equipping. We don’t have to worry the how’s or why’s because through Bible study we grow in faith through being rebuked, corrected and trained. The word of God has power to cut to our heart and expose our sin so that we can heal. Then all we have to do is just go out and do it. In all the superhero movies that have come out lately, maybe Batman is the best equipped. He had his utility belt and all those cool gadgets, but I believe that when we study God’s word from our heart, sincerely, God will equip us better than Batman because we would need all those gadgets, everything we’ll need will be in our hearts and minds.

In the end times, even people’s good works will be selfish because they are always looking for a benefit for themselves. Even a simple thing like giving to charity can be selfish, because it could make them look good, or feel better about themselves, or to get a tax write off.

Thank God for his word, which is alive and active, it finds us out and reveals our sins, it rebukes us when no one else can. Thank God for his amazing grace, for his word which protects, guides and inspires his people. I am so stubborn. I am like our puppy Tibbs, he is so strong willed and stubborn. When I took him to obedience school, the trainer gave me a new type of collar, it’s called the gentle leader head collar. It helps the puppy to be trained gently to do the right thing. I am so thankful that we have the Holy Spirit, who is our gentle leader, who through God’s word gently rebukes, corrects, and trains us so that we may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

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Seek Righteousness, Seek Humility

Zephaniah 2:1-15

Key Verse: 2:3

  Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land,
    who do his just commands;
  seek righteousness; seek humility;
    perhaps you may be hidden
    on the day of the anger of the LORD.

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