Beware of Self!
ILLUS.: There is a well-known story in Greek mythology about a very handsome young man named Narcissus. He repeatedly spurned the advances of women who fell for him. One of these spurned women eventually prayed to the gods that Narcissus would himself experience unrequited love.
Her request was answered in that one day he knelt to drink from a fountain and saw a lovely image peering back at him from the water. He struggled to get close to it to kiss it but each time he got close it disappeared. He was so captivated by the image that he never left the fountain again. Narcissus eventually lost his appetite even for food and slowly withered and died from his obsessive preoccupation with himself.
There is a limerick that sums up his folly:
There once was a nymph named Narcissus,
Who thought himself very delicious;
He stared like a fool
At his face in the pool
And his folly, today, is still with us.
When God created Adam and Eve it was for a relationship with him. They had meaning and significance and dignity in their relationship to God and worship of God. This gave them the ability to relate to each other without any interference / problems and God put them in a material world that they were to care for and use for their good and God’s glory.
BUT when sin entered the picture because of Adam and Eve’s disobedience of God’s instructions they put themselves in God’s place (1st) (“You will be gods” Satan told them) and the whole meaning of life was turned on its head.
We were designed to worship God, love people and use things. BUT if we start worshipping ourselves we ignore God and start loving things and using people!
Paul’s warning to Timothy in this passage is that basically human nature is selfish – the gospel of Jesus Christ challenges this selfish bent in human nature and when people don’t accept Jesus as Lord they stand in opposition to Christ, to Christ’s Church and to Christ’s message.
This is because in stead of seeking to please God they are concerned only with pleasing themselves and will use others to that end / trying to lead some astray.
In you have the New International Version of the Bible you will note that the heading for this section is “Godlessness in the last days”.
2 Timothy 3:1 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. (NIV)
The way this chapter begins is very emphatic. [Remember there were no chapters and verses in the original letter] Paul is imprisoned in a Roman dungeon. Up to this point in the letter he has talked about not being ashamed of the gospel – of suffering like a good soldier – he has warned Timothy that behind the word battles and the godless chatter and the stupid/senseless arguments spread by false teacher there lurks the evil figure of Satan himself.
Why then does he emphasis what Timothy already knows – that there will be terrible times ahead? Because the opposition to the Truth of the gospel is not a passing fad but a permanent characteristic of the gospel age.
Wherever there is witness to the truth of the Gospel in Jesus Christ Satan will be at work, usually through people, to cause trouble and suffering for the Church.
Terrible – perilous / hard / violent / used of dangerous wild animals, fierce and untamed / or wildly raging seas. Times that are hard to endure and hard to deal with.
If anyone is under any illusion that being a true follower of Jesus Christ is easy and comfortable then think again. See how Jesus suffered and remember that “the followers are not greater than their master”. And that Jesus promised his disciples “John 16:33 ….. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (NIV)
It may seem natural to think of the “last days” as that period of time just before Christ’s return but the bible will not allow such an interpretation. For the NT writers the “New Age” or “Last days” arrived when Jesus came.
Acts 2:14-17 [Peter on the Day of Pentecost]…., this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
17 ” ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams. (NIV)
Here referring to the beginning of the church age, not the end of it!
Hebrews 1:1-2 1 In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, ..
Referring to Jesus coming to earth the first time.
What Paul is describing to Timothy is the present situation – there would be little point warning him about something in the distant future that he would not live to see. Timothy was living in the “last Days” as are we. This terrible times will come and go and appear to worsen towards the end culminating in the appearance of the “man of Lawlessness” that Paul refers to in 2 Thessalonians 2.
History confirms that the church has always been buffeted like a ship is a storm – at times with hurricane force.
Why will there be terrible times? Because of people – hostile and godless, selfish and arrogant, resistant to God’s love and God’s law.
We need to recognise that we live in the last Days – Christ inaugurated them.
During these times there will be period of danger / trouble / stress.
The cause of the difficulties will be self-seeking, godless people.
We need to understand this and be prepared for this.
2 Timothy 3:2-4
disobedient to their parents
#1 ILLUS. In his book “Gods that fail” Vinoth Ramachandra uses the following illustration. A £10 pound note. A piece of paper worth very little. Its value is given to it by human institutions – in this case the bank of England. We then use this thing – money – to judge the value of not only things, but people. Money becomes the thing that controls us – money becomes a god. And we laugh at people who worship idols!!
Lovers of money …
#2 – ILLUS.: Film Tea with Mussolini – Luca the young boy whose unmarried mother has died and whose father doesn’t really want him because his present wife doesn’t know. Father calls him illegitimate / bastard BUT Mary Wilson the older English lady who is caring for the boy retorts that “there are not illegitimate children only illegitimate parents”.
Children need to be obedient and respectful and loving and are accountable for their actions and attitudes BUT how will they learn such things from dysfunctional parents?
However lovers of self – tend to raise children who will be lovers of self!
All this unsocial / antisocial behaviour is the inevitable consequence of a godless self-centredness.
Selfishness tarnishes everything it touches. Because selfishness is not only a sin but it is the root of all sin. Selfishness puts ME before all else – including God. This was Adam and Eve’s problem in the Garden – they put their desires and passions before God’s instructions!
When we are selfish our passions rule – and so we look for meaning in experience –I must feel // if I don’t feel it’s not real!!
So we see in our society obsession as we pursue experience – For some its pursuit of the erotic “Every time I feel the power of a sexual urge I feel alive!”
For some it’s jumping off a bridge with a piece of elastic tied around their ankles – For others it is in drugs – for others in eating binges – for other in power in business – For some it is in religious experience —ALL feeding selfish passions and appetites!!
Paul was right – lovers of self
Paul has described an extreme – enemies of the gospel – but there is an element of this self seeking in us all.
A W Tozer “So subtle is self that scarcely anyone is aware of it presence”.
Anon. – “Far too frequently we are interested in only three persons: I, myself and me!”
Anon. –“The man who lives only for himself runs a very small business.”
You know who causes me the most difficult in my life? Gray Robinson!!!
ILLUS.: At Amazon .com – searched for books with word “self” in title – 32000
Then for books with “others” in title – 1930.
A very inexact exercise but illustrates a point !!!
Anyone who is proud, arrogant and conceited is not going to sacrifice for others.
BUT God’s order of things is very clear –Love God first, neighbour next and self last!!
It may come as a shock to discover that these people Paul has described not only lack decent human qualities but can also be religious.
2 Timothy 3:5 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them. (NIV)
Religion and morality don’t always go hand in hand. Look around the world and throughout history and see what problems religion has caused.
The prophets of the OT had some very fierce words for immorality masquerading as religion.
Jesus had a similar complaint against the ultra-religious people of his day – the Pharisees. He called them whitewashed tombs – outwardly clean but inwardly corrupt!
Paul highlights the same problem – having a form of godliness but denying its power.
They attended worship services; they sang the hymns; they said “Amen” to the prayers; they put their money in the box. They look and sounded extremely pious BUT they lacked spiritual power.
There was outward show without inward reality..
“Timothy”, says Paul, “have nothing to do with these religious charlatans!”
What is their modus operandi?
2 Timothy 3:6-8 6 They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, 7 always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth. 8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these men [PEOPLE] oppose the truth — men [PEOPLE] of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected. (NIV)
They are devious, scheming, manipulative and prey on the weak an vulnerable.
weak-willed women – silly women – doesn’t suggest that all women are like this, or that men are not vulnerable to the wiles of false teachers. It is just that in Paul’s day women were susceptible to this as they had a low social status.
These religious charlatans preyed on those with problems and weaknesses.
Who are Jannes and Jambres? They tried to imitate Moses miracles [staff into a snake / plagues] – and succeed up to a point. BUT their power was limited and they were eventually found out.
We can easily become distress but those who for selfish reasons try to seduce the church with weasel words and immoral actions. And rightly we should oppose error.
BUT Jesus did warn that this would be so – The parable of the wheat and the weeds portrays the Devil seeking to corrupt the true church of Christ.
And yes within the visible earthly church of today there are people of immoral character and conduct who may appear very religious on the outside and may fool many. And they usually peddle the philosophies of the day. Individualism / materialism / do as you like as long as it feels good …. “Lovers of pleasure”. Our permissive society tolerates every conceivable deviation from the Biblical standards of righteousness and truth – and we will find these view within the church.
And like, Timothy, we need to be on our guard BUT not paralysed by helplessness!!
2 Timothy 3:9 9 But they will not get very far because, …, their folly will be clear to everyone. (NIV)
God always reveals error, in his time, so there in no need to be panic-stricken!
Timothy is to stand boldly against the prevailing fashion of selfishness. The Truth of God is never popular with those who are self-seeking – whether teachers or followers. False teachers prey on the weak and vulnerable while false followers run after teachers who saying what the want to hear.
The way we can spot false doctrine is by saturating our minds with the Word of God and submitting ourselves to Jesus as Lord.
The way we combat our natural selfishness is by saturating our lives with the Word of God and submitting ourselves to Jesus as Lord.
Beware of Self!
2 Timothy 3v1-9